Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Different Slant to Mothers' Day

Millions of Britons will be dashing around petrol forecourts and supermarkets today scrabbling to snap up blooms for their Mums! And don't they deserve them? And more! Parents are some of the unsung heroes of our society today and Mothering Sunday is just one of those occasions when we can say thank you.

Mind you, I read that the sales of gin have doubled in the last two years in the UK, and that there is usually a surge in gin purchases during the run up to this weekend. That is amazing when you consider that in the 18th Century it was called 'Mother's Ruin' due to the huge social problems being caused by alcoholism and over indulgence in the spirit at that time.

The origins of Mothering Sunday, though, are far from the way we celebrate the day today. Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or 'mother' church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit their 'mother' church - the main church or cathedral of the area. Most historians think that it was the return to the 'Mother' church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their mother and family.

 Maybe this Mothering Sunday we might spare a thought - and perhaps a prayer - for another 'mother church', the mother of Parliaments at Westminster. It certainly does need prayer, and although Teresa May does not have children of her own, she could really do with a bit of Divine help too this Mothering Sunday.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Crisis? Now that's what I call a crisis.

Rescue workers are continuing the search for survivors of Cyclone Idai, which swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe last week, destroying towns and villages in its path. My good friend Pastor Pious Munembe, General Superintendent of the Elim Churches of Zimbabwe, reports that the area of Chimanimani, just south of Mutare where we used to live, has been cut off from rescuers by roads and bridges being swept away. Around 300 people are missing in Zimbabwe, along with around 100 dead, and many more are reported to be unaccounted for in Mozambique and Malawi. This is what the UN says could be "one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit the southern hemisphere".

Dr Munembe tells me that a town called Ngaone the Elim Church together with the pastor's house was damaged. I know that other townships and villages nearby where there were very basic facilities anyway prior to this catastrophe have been even more heavily affected. In Mozambique there is a desperate need for more helicopters, food aid, shelter and clean water. In Malawi, a good friend of ours Jackie Griffiths has said: “82,725 people have been displaced with many camping out in schools or one of the 187 camps that have been set up in all 14 of the affected districts… Many of our Elim members have been affected as well as church buildings damaged or destroyed.  As well as loss of life or injury due to falling buildings and damage or destruction of buildings, crops which were just a few weeks away from harvest, have been totally destroyed.  This is going to have a long lasting effect.”

In addition to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal in the UK ( the Elim Churches are organising a financial appeal which will coordinate the spending of funds through our own contacts, missionaries, church leaders and workers on the ground. If you would like to give to that Elim Relief Association appeal you can do so now by clicking here. Let's give them a hand to get out of this time of deep trouble.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Prayer that provokes hatred - a spiritual phenomenon

The desperately sad events in Christchurch this week where 50 people have been brutally murdered as they prayed in a Mosque have shaken the whole nation of New Zealand. Like Guernsey, it appears to be a gentle, if somewhat perhaps a little out of date, enclave of old fashioned values. It was a haven of refuge for refugees from civil war in places like Syria and Afghanistan and it is tragic that those escapees should perish in the land of their refuge. I am praying that there will be no retaliatory attacks on churches in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Northern Nigeria where tensions are already running high.

That people should be attacked as they pray is no surprise. Apart from the obvious cowardice of the thug involved - after all it takes no courage at all to slaughter innocents who cannot fire back - there is a demonic hatred in the world towards people who pray. Extremists regard such actions as repugnant, as if the prayers of ordinary people are invested with something that scares them. Of Christian prayer, the Bible says that the "the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:14). And that is scary to those whose life consists of conspiracy theories and hatred. St Paul teaches that our spiritual weapons, including prayer, "have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). There is an old bit of poetry which says:
"The devil trembles when he sees
the weakest saint upon his knees."

I hope that Christians will take this opportunity to express love and grace to Muslims they may know or meet. But I also hope that this spotlight on Islam may provoke more fervent prayer for the Muslim world. Muslim immigration in the West is a real opportunity for the church to reach out and bless them with the good news of God's love. Maybe that's one reason why the devil filled one man's heart with hatred and the desire to slaughter them. But he will not win.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

"God is generous beyond all measure or comparison. God's inexpressible generosity, however, does not stop at saving us: it provides for all our needs and blessings throughout our entire lives". (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, 55). In preparing my Sunday talk about "A Journey into Generosity" I have been struck by the awesome giving of God to us. No wonder St Paul wrote "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!". In the same chapter he also urges followers of Jesus to be generous in their lifestyle as a reflection of the heart of God. Such generosity is a real advertisement for the faith - and the flip-side of that is that there is probably no worse advert for Christianity than mean, greedy, self-seeking disciples.

How Much is Enough?

Our expenses can be roughly divided into two camps: needs and wants. Needs seem fixed and non-negotiable, while wants can fluctuate. Though even in meeting our needs there are daily choices - named brands or standard, luxury or basic? It’s logical that if our income can cover our necessities, everything else becomes a choice. Enough is not a number – it’s a state of mind or heart – an attitude. Needs and wants will fluctuate, income will rise and fall – God calls us to a commitment that does not depend on plenty but is consistent whether in want or in abundance. (Luke 21:1-4 – the widow’s mite).

C. S. Lewis said "I'm afraid that biblical generosity is more than merely giving away that which we could afford to do without anyway". It's an issue of the heart - after all, the bible says that God loves a cheerful giver and that each of us should determine in our hearts what to give (2 Cor. 9:7). And we can only really be generous when in our hearts we are trusting him - leaning on God to be true to his promises. Jesus said that our heavenly Father knows our needs and that if we seek His kingdom first of all, then he will make sure that our genuine needs are met (Matt.6:32-33).

"Give and it shall be given to you" is also a bible challenge and a promise. Let's choose generosity in every aspect of our lives and see what a difference we could make as we pass through this world.