Jesus, Sermon in the Mount, Love, Enemies
This headline caught my eye, “‘Bionic legs’ for military amputees” (BBC website). The courage of these men and women inspire me. They have sacrificed so much for little personal gain. Soldiers of war have much in common with soldiers of the cross. What can we learn from them?
Here is the audio for a talk I gave recently on Archaeology and the Bible. This one is focussed on the writings of Luke – both the Gospel and the book of Acts.
The next talk is on Monday 25th February, 1pm.
The Church Of St Edmund The King, Lombard Street, London EC3V 9EA
Nearest tube: Bank
We are buying a house in Croxley Green. A frustratingly slow process. Croxley is a lovely spot, and we are looking forward to moving there, but it is not often in the national news.
However, a story caught the attention of many last year. Someone made a noise complaint against All Saints Church. The bells were silenced, and much controversy ensued. The church considered appealing, but according to the Watford Observer they are dropping the case.
Whatever our personal views about church bells, all Christians can agree that our witness needs to be ‘clear as a bell’. What does this look like? Here are three ways to make sure we sound sweet.
My friend Ben is a Villa fan. For those of you not interested in English association football, that’s a team from Birmingham. They are rather poorly at the moment. Considering that they are led by an ex-Norwich manager they could be said to be sick-as-a-canary (sorry about that, it’s a bit of an obscure joke).
Anyway, in a more serious way my friend Ben is not too well himself. After two brain tumour operations he has a number of health challenges. I just spent the weekend with him in Edinburgh, where he serves as an Evangelist.
I can’t help but write about his courage. Not once during my visit did he complain about his limitations or fears for the future. His demeanour was one of joy. His conversation was filled with excitement about what God is doing and going to do.
I was refreshed by his spirit and not a little chastened in reflecting on my own tendency to complain at the slightest health challenge. What keeps him encouraged? I must ask him next time I see him. But I have a pretty good idea. There are many examples of people in the Bible who rose above their problematic circumstances. What can we learn from them? Let’s have a look at two people in particular – Paul & Silas, and learn three things from them. The context is what happened when they went to Philippi:
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Acts 16:22–24 NIV11-GK)
I am a wheat-free person. And I am a hopeless optimist. Hence I found myself on a train from London to Edinburgh anticipating that train buffet cars might have moved on a little. 5 hours of travel requires a little refuelling along the way. Lunchtime found me at the buffet bar searching in vain for wheat-free sandwiches, jacket potato options, even chips. But no.
Making the best of a bad job I set about putting together a wheat-free selection of whatever was at hand. Lunch consisted of: porridge, crisps, popcorn, a nut bar and coffee. Not my normal repast. At my seat I prayed a rather ungrateful prayer of ‘thanks’ and got on with it.
Surprise, surprise, I enjoyed it, and was satisfied. God taught me a parable of discovering that what I wanted was not what I needed. So much of the Christian life is like this. We pray for one thing, and God gives us another.
We pray eagerly like the Psalmist, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalms 5:3 NIV11-GK) Eagerness in prayer is good, but are we open to the idea that God will answer, but differently?
Paul knows how this feels. What did he pray? “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8 NIV11-GK) To take away what? “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7 NIV11-GK) I think I would pray with passion if a messenger of Satan had been sent to torment me. So would you. But it was not taken away. God answered the prayer, but differently. Three lessons from this incident: