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Christian LivingWorld

4 observations on the US election from the US

10th November 2016 — by stevepalf

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In the way things have worked out I happen to be in North Virginia with our friends at Sterling Park Baptist Church during what turned out to be the momentous presidential election. Here are 4 observations on those events from this side of the pond.

  1. The UK media paint a different picture of Clinton to that held by many US Christians. While I’ve not met many fans of Trump it’s fair to say that lots of people here were very suspicious of Clinton. Not just because of the email scandal which was in our news but also because of her views on abortion, especially her support of the horror that is partial birth abortion. Much of that was new to me and seemed to escape the UK media coverage. 
  2. Democracy has shown us again how the rapid liberalisation of our cultures is not universally supported. The surprising result in the UK election, Brexit and now the US presidential election show us if nothing else that there are significant parts of our society that don’t share the views of the mainstream media. There’s no reason our media should represent all views equally but clearly it hasn’t won the argument in the way that it thinks it has, Trump knew that, the rest of us were shocked.  Away from the election issues that also means that as a Christian I should not be afraid to share the gospel with confidence knowing that when people on the TV tell me that every thinking person is an atheist they may well be wrong.
  3. Christians can say they trust God when they don’t mean it. This year I have travelled to places where citizens routinely (and with good reason) don’t trust their police or their governments. Christians I’ve met in those places steadily preach Christ and long for heaven with a clarity that often escapes those who think that trusting God and building heaven on earth are compatible positions.  I wonder if some of the apocalyptic and hysterical social media reactions show that we have much to learn from them.
  4. The unifying power of the gospel is unique in our world. Fear of minorities, shock and disbelief at the views of others, bitterness, and anger are what happens when God is usurped and replaced. We really have become the fools of Romans 1 who think we know what we’re doing but show otherwise at every turn. Into that world is preached the good news of a real saviour who has the unique power to reconcile God and humanity and humanity with one another. Praise God and come Lord Jesus!

World

Three things I learnt last week

18th October 2016 — by stevepalf

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Last week I was traveling in Belarus and Ukraine with Radstock.

Here are three things I learnt…

1. The world is a complicated place 

Understanding these places is difficult. Belarus lives under the shadow of Europe’s “last dictator” (who is of course democratically elected by >90% of the country). Stalin and Russia saved these countries from the Nazis but then subjected them to terrible things. Minsk and Kiev are familiar feeling modern European cities yet extreme poverty is there to see in every subway and street corner.  Complex doesn’t even cover it.

2. The world is a broken place

Vast countries with huge natural resources, well developed education systems and rich histories of innovation are wrecked by corruption, oppression and selfishness. True you don’t have to go to Eastern Europe to find that but there’s something painfully obvious about the brokenness when you walk in Kiev’s central square among the memorials to those who were killed in the revolution 3 years ago. The world is a brilliant place ruined by our sin and these countries paint that picture in vivid colours on large canvases.

3. Salvation is sought in faulty places

Living in these places it’s instinctive to seek solutions to the obvious problems. Two saviours are on offer: young people tend to look to the west. An evangelistic Bible I was involved in one evening got two new attendees simply through small notices on social media which mentioned native English speakers were speaking. Conversational English is a ticket to a good job, money, a visa and salvation.  Less expected was the commitment to the salvation offered by the orthodox church. I spent quite a bit of time standing in several different churches as literally hundreds of individuals filed in quietly to light candles, pray and kiss the icons. There is no good news in these places just a superstitious hope that God might smile on religious duty and be found in ancient relics.

I returned home with a deep respect for those planting churches in these places. Praying that God would strengthen them and equip them to preach about a true saviour for lost souls in a lost world.

You can find out more here:

World

A gospel for the nations

6th October 2016 — by Jonathan Clark

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[SP – Jonathan Clark is one of our mission partners working with students in Athens. This is his first post on aigblurt showing us how taking the gospel to the nations is central in Paul’s theology.]

We’re just kicking off a series in Romans in our student Bible studies. Our plan is to run through the whole letter – this being Athens we have to be realistic about that so we’re aiming on 14 studies between now and May. Obviously we can’t cover the whole weighty epistle, but we’ll try and land on key passages in each of its four main sections.

I’ve just prepared the first one this week – Paul’s introduction in 1:1-7. They’re fairly well-known verses – but we’re often inclined to sort of skim over the intro to get to the main point. That’s unwise: the introduction sometimes takes us right to the main point, and I think that’s true of Romans, because you see what Paul’s message is and where it takes him.

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David  according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Have a quick look – it’s Paul, the apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (vs 1)…so far so standard.

Look where this takes him: verse 2 shows us that this gospel, Paul’s message – God’s gospel – is the one that was always going to be the message because it was in the Old Testament – promised beforehand. Verses 3 and 4 flesh out the content of the message – it’s about Jesus, who is David’s son and so God’s promised king, and who is powerfully God’s Son as the now resurrected King – with his implied universal reign!

But look where the sharp end of Paul’s apostleship takes him: his mission is that all the nations might believe and obey (‘to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations’ – verse 5).

That includes the Roman Christians – verse 6 – and probably us too, seeing as we fit under the umbrella of ‘all the nations’!

In other words, Paul’s gospel – which is God’s gospel after all – is inherently, fundamentally, foundationally, primarily FOR all the nations. It’s where such a gospel takes Paul, and it’s where such a gospel should go, must go – indeed does go. It’s not an afterthought, but the first-level application of the gospel! Believe the gospel and take it everywhere!

One introduction might not convince us, but just flick to the end and you see the same ideas again. 16:25-27 have precisely the same agenda: Paul’s gospel, about Jesus, promised in the Old Testament, to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations!

All that Paul writes in this oft-preached letter, that teaches us so many of our foundational doctrines – all of it comes to us in the context of a message that has as its heartbeat an imperative that all nations obey the command of God that comes to us in the gospel! These truths are not limited to the seminary, the personal quiet time, the pulpit, or weighty tomes, but belong out there, wherever ‘out there is’ – in other words, wherever there are people not believing and not obeying!

World

Introducing the World Mission Group

3rd October 2016 — by stevepalf

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God’s passion for the nations is unmistakable. The Bible begins with a promise to bless all the families of the earth and ends with a picture of every individual Christian as part of an innumerable gathering of people from every nation, tribe and language.

So it follows that taking the gospel to the nations is not a side interest or a sign of commitment beyond what is really necessary.  Nor should there be a local church without world mission involvement.  The gospel going beyond the borders of our community, our country and our language is ordinary, faithful, Biblical Christianity for us all.

Those convictions have made us resist the conventional ‘mission committee’ idea at Aigburth as we’re persuaded the church is the mission committee and a few selected people should not take that responsibility away from the rest of us. However as time has gone on and our with an eagerness to move things forward in our support of world mission we have gathered what we’re calling our “World Mission Group”.  A team of people with a concern to help all the church engage in world mission.

Success for the WMG will be every church member being more aware of how to pray for our mission partners and the church as a whole being more responsive to their needs.   We also want to be clearer as a church over why we support what we do (and what we don’t) and more focused in encouraging individuals and couples to consider going short or long term overseas.

The WMG is being led by Tommy Farrell and is made up of Sarah Farrell, Gemma Saint, Naomi Grindey and currently me.  Pray for them as they set about this important task.

Working with othersWorld

Partnership in the Gospel

18th July 2016 — by stevepalf

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This Sunday was partnership Sunday for our church.  The Sunday when we think particularly about giving financially to the church,  taking time to thank God for providing for us financially and for the ways he’s used our finances to be a blessing to others.

In both the morning and the evening we watched a short video of our mission partners thanking us for our involvement in our work.  Amidst all the joy and delight in the ways that God is working round the globe I was mostly humbled.  Humbled that our small gifts, words of encouragement, visits and prayers are treasured so much.  Time and again we were called “fellow workers” “partners” “it’s a joy to do this work with you” by people who most of our congregation have never met.

In the evening we read these words together from Philippians 1:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6)

 

World

Should we bomb Syria?

1st December 2015 — by stevepalf

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On Wednesday the British Parliament will vote on whether UK forces should be permitted to bomb targets in Syria.  With Labour Party MPs being allowed a free vote and only a small pocket of opposition in the Conservative Party it looks likely that air strikes will go ahead.

Those in favour of the air strikes have two main arguments: firstly we’re currently bombing Isil in Iraq so it makes no sense to stop at a border that Isil don’t even recognise and secondly, Isil trained terrorists pose a real threat to our security in Britain.  Those opposed to the air strikes point out that bombing campaigns rarely help and may even strengthen the anti-west rhetoric of Isil and lead to more terrorism rather than less.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?  In all honesty I find that almost impossible to say.  It’s difficult to argue from the Bible that war is always wrong but it’s certainly impossible to argue that war is always justified.

Helpfully in 1 Timothy 2 Paul tells us with four different words that we should in effect pray, pray, pray, pray for those in authority so that we might lead peaceful lives. His concern is that as God’s instituted governing authorities Kings (and Parliaments) have a difficult job for which they require help beyond themselves.  More than that their success at doing that job has a direct bearing on the church’s ability to live out and proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus, the gospel which really is the only hope of eternal peace for our war torn world.

I suggest that given the complexities of the situation now facing the world if ever there was a need to pray, pray, pray, pray for our government it’s now.

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If, like me, you’re struggling to get your head around what’s happening in Syria and who’s who in the conflict then this video gives a brief (5min) overview it’s really helpful and will certainly highlight the need to pray for wisdom for our Parliament.

 

World

Sing a bigger song

22nd October 2015 — by stevepalf

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Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.

That astonishing song is being currently sung in the throne room of heaven and it tells you that Jesus is a world saviour.  That means there is not a people group on earth into which the ransoming power of his blood cannot or will not reach.  No-one’s culture is too dark, no-one’s language is too obscure, no-one’s nation is too far away, God’s glorious redemption plan will fill the world.

Now here’s the thing: when I sing about Jesus I tend to sing about what he’s done for me, how he’s my saviour, my rock, my Lord.  None of those things are wrong of course but compared to that song of heaven my songs are a bit, well, small!

You see if Jesus is a world saviour then I should be a world Christian!  A Christian with a passion beyond my own life and my own nation, a passion that changes what I sing about, pray for, give to and work for.

 

photo credit: via photopin (license)

Church CommunityWorld

The gospel and the middle classes

28th September 2015 — by stevepalf

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20Schemes are working in Scotland’s most deprived communities seeking to plant, reinvigorate and support gospel churches. Founded by Mez McConnell 20Schemes now has partners all over the world, including a certain Mark Dever.

There’s lots of great content on the 20Schemes website so get over there and have a look, but I’ve picked this video out because I think is particularly helpful for us in Aigburth.  In lots of ways much of our community are the middle-class “building bigger barns” people described, and while this is not exclusively the case Dever helpfully explains why wealth can be a barrier to the gospel and why God is not intimidated by the mess and brokenness of our world.