Monthly Archives: July 2009

Latest Additon To The Maxfield Family In Kosova

Ari

So as those of you on Facebook have probably seen, the Maxfields have a new member of the family in Kosova.

A couple of nights ago, Angela discovered a small puppy by the river down the lane from the Smile Centre.  The puppy had no obvious mum around and appeared to be on his own.  A couple of hours later, I told Angela that, if he was still there and was indeed without a mother, that we could bring him up to the Centre to see how he fares.

Ari Shadow

So this small bundle of fur arrived and immediately melted a few hearts.  He’s an outside dog so he doesn’t come into the Centre (despite his protestations).  We made a little box for him in the shade out front where he sleeps.  We left him there overnight the first couple of nights to see if he would stay, and each morning I found in round the back under the balcony in one of the buckets.  As he has settled in he appears to have gotten used to his box and we find him there in the mornings now.

Ari's New Home

We’ve named him “Ari”, which is Albanian for “gold” (or “bear” depending on who you ask).

We had his first road trip as we took him to the vet to get him checked out and he got a clean bill of health.  We have no idea what breed he is, but he’s probably a mixture of everything as most dogs run wild round here (so he’ll fit in with the family 😉  He got a little car sick en route but managed to keep it in his box then dealt with in true doggy fashion (he ate it).  So he got his worm tablet and is scheduled for his first vaccination on Friday.

He’s taken to the new guests arrivng at the Centre and appears to be comfortable with the coming and going of normal Smile Centre business.

He’s a bit of a nibbler, and currently enjoys toes and trouser bottoms.

And most importantly, his little bark is progressing nicely.

Let the training begin 😉

 

Ari Learning to Chase

Ari Caught it

Ari Missed

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What is a Pastor/Elder?

What is the “job description” for a man who would be a pastor/elder?

Taken from Ed Stetzer’ blog, where you can find the video of this sermon.

What’s a Pastor to Do?

Our church faces a decision that some of you have never faced before. It is one that is filled with excitement and tension.

To fully grasp the weight of this decision, turn to the 3 T’s of the New Testament: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.

We will move through these 3 letters Paul wrote to early church leaders.

The role of pastor is a rare one. Few positions exist so few are called to fill them.

Though everyone in this room serves a place of importance in their family, company, and in the church, the role of the pastor is unique.

And it is referred to with a rare word: noble

1 Timothy 3:1– This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.”

Noble is not a word we use any longer. It sounds like something reserved for the King Arthur and the knights of the round table.

But the work of pastor is a high calling. It is something which most will never do and most can never understand.

A few things it is not:
-Not just a job<
-Not the only one “called to the ministry”
-Not superman
-Not “the minister”

1. Unique Qualifications

In the letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul lays out the character and characteristics that are required for pastors.

Titus 1:5-9
1 Timothy 3:1-7

These are non-negotiables. A pastor may be a sports fan or not. A pastor might be young or old. A pastor could be any nationality, any ethnicity, and from any station in life.

But a pastor must be biblically qualified to serve in such a position for the church headed by Christ.

Now I could go through the qualifications for a pastor/elder word by word, but I believe I can summarize it effectively with a few ideas.

a. True

All of the characteristics listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 describe a pastor whose life matches his calling.

Titus 1:5-9
The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town: someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. For an overseer, as God’s manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:1-7
This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy–one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.

Qualifications given are temperate, self-controlled, respectable, a good reputation, blameless, upright, holy, and disciplined.

There is oversight here and tied in to family and children.

Titus 1:5-9 someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible,
1 Timothy 3:1-7
must be above reproach,
the husband of one wife,
self-controlled,
sensible,
respectable,
hospitable,
an able teacher,
not addicted to wine,
not a bully but gentle,
not quarrelsome,
not greedy–
one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)

 b. Spiritual

A spiritually appointed office must be filled with Spirit-filled pastor.

1 Timothy 3:1-7:
He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil.
Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.

Titus 1:5-9:
righteous,
holy,
self-controlled,
holding to the faithful message as taught,
so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.


2. Unique Responsibilities

The primary task is to provide scriptural leadership to the church

a. Teach the Scriptures

“Before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, I solemnly charge you: proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

Titus 4:9 – “holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it”

The unique work of guiding an entire congregation to understand and follow the scriptures is unlike any other responsibility on earth.
b. Lead the Church

Titus 1:5 – “The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you…”

Titus was the lead the new congregation forward. This included the appointment of additional leaders, directing the ministry of the church, holding believers accountable for sin, and teaching the gospel.

“… one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

As a pastor, you lead. Now all fathers are supposed to lead. But a pastor must also lead a church. In Paul’s words, “take care of God’s church.”

You are not hiring a preacher, but a pastor. Pastors lead.


c. Equip Believers

“And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Your job is to do the ministry. The pastor’s job is to equip for that ministry.

This changes the view of success.

Many of you will measure success by if the pastor met your needs, visited you in the hospital, and does a good job on the stage. And, I will tell you, that a pastor can do all those things, and not be a faithful pastor according to God’s job description.

We will call a pastor soon and we need to remember the job to which he is called. His job is to teach, lead, and equip… and, I want to tell you, that he won’t be able to do all those things and still live the expectations that many of you have.

If pastors do for people what God calls them to do, they get the praise and the work of God gets hindered.

So, let’s be sure that we recognize the unique qualifications and unique call.

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Please Pray For Our CEO, Clive Doubleday

 

Clive Doubleday

Below is a letter from our chair of trustees:

Some of you will know that Clive has been unwell recently and has had to undergo a number of tests. I am sure you will all be concerned to hear that the doctors have confirmed that Clive has Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, High-Grade, which is cancer of the lymphatic system. His treatment and recovery are expected to take at least 6 months.

I am sure that your first reaction will be to pray for Clive and the family at this difficult time. They are all putting their trust in the Lord they love and have served so faithfully. Those of you who know Clive well will realise that one of the greatest hardships for him will be his inability to be out and about meeting supporters, visiting churches, or monitoring Smile’s projects overseas.

Clive and Ruth’s dearest wish is to ensure that this situation will not stand in the way of Smile’s continuing ministry, and all of the Smile Trustees share that desire. In the next week or so (July 2009) we will be discussing priorities with Clive, Ruth and the staff and delegating responsibilities where possible. Where Clive has been booked for preaching and speaking engagements, we will try to find substitutes. Offers of help to fill such gaps would be greatly appreciated.

We trust that all of you will continue to give Smile your prayerful support.

Please pray

For full healing for Clive and for the strength to endure the treatment;
For Ruth, Milly and Astrit, Tim and the rest of the family, that they will know God’s peace at this time;
For all the Smile staff, in the UK and overseas, that they will handle the extra pressures well;
That the work of Smile International in helping those in need can continue and that the people and resources required will be forthcoming;
For the Trustees, for wisdom and strength at this time.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” John 14:1

In order to enable the staff to focus on Smile business, we have set up a special email address for personal messages to Clive and Ruth. This is cliveandruth@smileinternational.org It would be really helpful if you only used their normal office address for Smile business matters. Similarly, if you would like to send personal cards or letters to them, please send them to the Smile office, PO Box 3, Orpington, Kent, BR5 1WZ, but mark them “Personal”.

Smile International is, and always has been, a faith-based ministry and we pray that with your continued prayerful support it will continue to be so.

Geraldine Alliston
Chair of Trustees

Read our regular update on Clive’s health situation on Smile International’s Prayer Partners page.

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What is the Curch? (Part 2)

(cont’d from here)

5.  Unified by the Spirit

THE LOCAL CHURCH SHOULD BE UNIFIED BY THE SPIRIT AROUND THE CORE CENTRAL BIBLICAL DOCTRINES.  This does not mean we agree about everything, but means that we agree to disagree agreeably.  Distinguish between core central doctrines worth fighting over (ie: inerrancy and authority of Scripture, bodily resurrection of Christ, penal substitionary atonement) – closed hand; and will discuss/debate but not fight/split over doctrines which are peripheral (ie: style of music, style of building, etc) – open hand.

6.  Church Discipline

Are there Biblically-based policies in place for actual, functional, practical church discipline of the church members? If the Word of God is preached, and it is shown in communion, THEN IT IS DEFENDED THROUGH DISCIPLINE.

7.  Obey the Great Commandment to Love:

THE CHURCH MEMBERS SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER, DOING LIFE TOGETHER WITH A SPIRIT-LED GENEROSITY.  If you are not seeing that, you don’t have a giving problem, you have a gospel problem.  The goal is not to emphasise service, but the gospel that Jesus is a generous giver and that we are stewards of His generosity and we want to be good stewards:  to be loving givers of finance, time, possessions and serving one another. GOD DOES NOT GIVE TO INCREASE OUR STANDARD OF LIVING BUT INCREASE OUR STANDARD OF GIVING.  Love in the Bible is not just sentimental and what people feel, it is efficacious and what they do because God has demonstrated His love for us.  How can we facilitate this?  His church has a social network site for church members where they can advertise needs i.e: single mum looking for car.

8.  Obey the Great Commission to Evangelise and Make Disciples

The church exists to reach the nations.  Jesus says many times in John’s gospel that the Father has sent him.  John 20:21 As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.  As you go, make disciple of all the nations.  THE GOAL IS TO SEE PEOPLE MEET JESUS.  TO SEE THEM ENJOY REGENERATION, TO SEE THEM FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, TO SEE THEM BECOME DISCIPLE-MAKING-DISCIPLES.  THIS IS THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH.  But people will want to change that, make it a safe place for there family, a political place for social issues, an open place for those with emotional baggage, these “single issue” missions may not be bad, but they are not PRIMARY.  If they become primary, then that church becomes an idolatrous community pursuing that which was not commanded by Jesus.

How does this Church function?

The church is GATHERED and SCATTERED.  If a church is only a gathering church, everything (services, events, classes) happens at the church building – “they spiritually eat a lot but don’t exercise spiritually”.  If a church is only a scattered church, it doesn’t function as the church, no preaching, sacrament, sound doctrine. These two groups usually argue with each other ie: Emergent (liberal) guys vs Mega church guys.

The church is both ATTRACTIONAL and MISSIONAL.  You want to attract people to the church building and the church people, so that they can love their neighbour, serve their community and practice HOSPITALITY (loving the stranger –  FELLOWSHIP is with believers) when the are scattered.  The attractional people, invite friends, family, co-workers, strangers, enemies, to some of the events and church meetings.  The pastor is not the missionary, the pastor is the missiologist. The people are the missionaries. The pastor studies the culture and the context and equips the people with the gospel to scatter to be the missionaries.

The mission has an AIR WAR and GROUND WAR.  The air war is the preaching from the pulpit, teaching events ie: Sunday gathering.  The ground war is the small groups where the gospel teaching they received from the gathering is discussed and applied, lived out in community with relational accountability for confession, repentance and evangelism.  If the preaching is about Jesus and connected to the small groups’ discussion/curriculum you won’t need “seminary” group leaders.  This becomes like a series of networked house churches that come together for a large celebratory meeting to be trained in the gospel and to enjoy God’s grace together.  The groups come together on mission to serve their communities so that the front door to the church is both the on Sunday, the attractional gathering, and in the groups, the missional scattering.  Preaching should be the air war which leads everything you do, and the ground war comes in behind that – the groups, the counselling, the shepherding, the relational evangelism.

Distinguish between BIBLICAL PRINCIPALS (as in the above 8 marks of a church) and the CULTURAL METHOD (1 Cor 9).  The Bible gives us principles (i.e. sing to the Lord, preach the Word, fathers to raise their children) and the church leaders get to figure out the method in their cultural context.  If you confuse Biblical principal with cultural method you start to believe that your way of doing church is the ONLY way.  Be creative with the cultural method but not the Biblical principles, you don’t want to be so creative you become a heretic.  If you have to choose between faithful and cool, (if you can do both – do it) but go with faithful because that’s always cool.

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What is the church? (Part1)

I watched an interesting sermon the other day, Mark Driscoll, speaking at the Advance ’09 conference, on the topic of “What is the Church?”.  Growing up an atheist, I never entered a church voluntarily until my late teens, attending my first Alpha Course in the 1990’s.  At the time, although I was unaware of it, there was much talk across the West on how to do church.  It turned out that not all churches were organised in the same way and this was happening not just in the MANY different denominations, but within denominations themselves (and the so-called “non-denominationals”).  There were all sorts of models of how to do church springing up, from the small house church structures to the large mega church models.  And each of these models was seemed more of a reaction to someone else’s way of doing church rather than a well thought through model based on Biblical principles from the whole counsel of Scripture.   No matter what the starting point or model, the church would inevitably end up with a central pastor, elevated by choice or put there by the congregation, doing all the work.  Sometimes this would be due to proud pastors who enjoy the status/position, or sometimes it would be due to consumeristic congregations who were unwilling/unmotivated to get on mission.

And the other thing I noticed:  Where were all the men? The male: female ratio was skewed and the churches were full of “spiritual” women while their “pragmatic” husbands stayed at home (or went to the football).

 So these were my notes from the talk:

Dictionary definition of church:  a sacred building – Wrong.

In order answer the question, “What is the Church?” we need to back up and ask “who is Jesus?” in order to avoid theological confusion:

Genesis 3:15 Proto evangelion – messiah is coming

Old Testament  – looking for the messiah

New Testament – messiah humble incarnation = Jesus sent as a missionary, dies as our substitution, rises, conquering Satan, sin and death and reconciles us to the Father, gives us the Great Commission to continue Jesus’ ministry on the earth, but tells us to wait for the Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit commissions the church in the same way He commissioned Jesus’ ministry at Jesus’ baptism.  So the church is doing what Jesus did by the power of the Holy Spirit; it is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit for those who belong to Jesus.

Acts 2:14-47: Peter preaches with authority through the Holy Spirit and the church is born; everything flows through the correct preaching of God’s Word (= preaching about Jesus risen and in glory as He is now, not the humble Galilean peasant as He was), ALWAYS AND ONLY ABOUT JESUS, not 7 steps to a better you, be all you can be, not as a means to an end but AS THE MEANS AND THE END

“We are a band with one song, and we play it till we see Him!”

Fear of preaching =Fear of man issues:  results in either no preaching or preaching ineffectively (mere suggestions not commands); 

Greek word for church: Ecclesia = assembly or gatherings

The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture, they organise under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness and scatter to fulfil the commission as missionaries for the world for God’s glory and their joy” Driscoll & Breshears, Vintage Church

From this statement, they get 8 marks of that distinguish a church from other gatherings:

1.  Regenerated Church Membership:

Non-christians should be welcome to participate in the life of the church but official members of the church (servants, leaders, those with varying degrees of authority and responsibility for representing God as His people) SHOULD BE REGENERATED BELIEVERS.  Regeneration is the key mark of a believer.  Justification is Jesus work for us (2 Cor 5:21).  Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit in us: New life, new heart, new nature, new desires, new passions, new pleasures, new Lord, a new creation.  Regeneration is the opposite of religion.  Religion is what you do for God; regeneration is what God does in, through, for, with, and in spite of, you.

2.  Qualified Leadership:

Peter is always listed first among equals in Scripture when it lists the disciples who shepherd the believers.  In the Trinity, there is equality but functional authority/submission between the Father, Son and Spirit.  All of God’s people are equally God’s image bearers, but there are leaders, those who are in authority, to shepherd believers in functional submission.  Authority can either be sinfully and cowardly diminished\relinquished; or it can be abused by sinful overbearing (1 Peter 5:1-3). Qualified leadership is humble, male elders/pastors with male & female deacons.  1 Tim 3 & Titus 1 lists the CHRIST-LIKE QUALIFICATIONS OF CHARACTER, COURAGE, AND COMPETENCY OF THESE MEN TO BE SELECTED.

3.  Gathering for Preaching and Worship:

God’s Word should be preached and JESUS SHOULD BE THE CENTRE-PIECE OF EVERY SINGLE SERMON.  No differentiation between sermons which are evangelistic and those which equip the saints.  If the sermon is about Jesus then it’s good for everybody.  Scripture should be the final authority.  We should receive before we go out.  We stop doing and receive what Christ has done, and then, out of love for God and thankfulness, not to earn it or act out of fear, we go do.

4.  Sacraments (Communion & Baptism) rightly administered

Communion every week?  If it takes too long, is there really a problem with taking the time to gather and receive from Christ?  What is our priority? Again, we should be gathering to receive from Christ before we go out.

(to be continued)

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The Gospel vs. Religion: The A to Z of the Christian Life is the Scary Gospel of Grace Alone

After hearing a sermon in church once a friend of mine asked me what I thought of it.  I replied that it was a good talk, well spoken with some good advice on better living, but it seemed to be lacking something.  The gospel.  She then said something that still hangs with me – “you’re not one of those people who thinks the cross needs to be in every sermon, are you?”

How can you claim to be a Christian and the gospel not be central to everything you do?  The gospel is not something you begin with in order to be saved, and then you “graduate” from it as though now you have matured beyond it.  And what would you graduate to? 

“O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.  Let me ask you this:  Did you recieve the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Galatians 3:1-3

Apart from the gospel, everything else is religious, moralistic works designed to merit/earn your way back into God’s good books as if He were some kind of score-keeping Sky Pixie, to be feared but not loved.  Only religious people (including atheists) believe in this kind of god.  Thank God He is not like that.  But many Christians say they believe in the God of the Bible and the free gift of saving grace that was accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but they behave as if they believe the opposite, as functionally religious people.

I know in myself that I must continuously preach the gospel to myself in order to avoid committing this error, to daily (hourly?) come back to the foot of the cross in repentance.  The gospel is the only cure for this religious idolatry.  As I remind myself that I am saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the Holy Spirit takes that understanding and transforms my heart and mind so that my actions flow out of a love for Christ, rather than because it is “the right thing to do” or being afraid of the penalty of getting caught doing the wrong thing.  A Christian should operate out of his God-given love for Christ, not a fear of Hell.

Perhaps there is another way to put it:

“What makes you faithful or generous is not just a redoubled effort to follow moral rules.  Rather, a change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart.  Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world.  Behavioural compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.

The gospel therefore is not just the ABC’s of the Christian life, but the A to Z of the Christian life.  Our problems arise largely because we don’t continually return to the gospel to work in it and live it out.  That is why Martin Luthor wrote, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine….Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

“Wait”, I have heard people object.  “You mean that in order to grow in Christ, you keep telling yourself how graciously loved and accepted you are?  That doesn’t seem to be the best way to make progress.  Maybe the motivation of religion was negative, but at least it was effective!  You knew you had to obey God because if you didn’t, he wouldn’t answer your prayers or take you to heaven.  But if you remove this fear and talk about free grace and unmerited acceptance – what incentive will you have to live a good life?  It seems like this gospel way of living won’t produce people who are as faithful and diligent to obey God’s will without question.”

But if, when you have lost all fear of punishment you also have lost incentive to live an obedient life, then what was your motivation in the first place?  It could only have been fear. 

What other incentive is there?  Awed, grateful love.

Some years ago I met a woman who began coming to Redeemer, the church where I am a minister.  She said that she had gone to church growing up and she had always heard that God accepts us only if we are sufficiently good and ethical.  She had never heard the message she was now hearing, that we can be accepted by God by sheer grace through the work of Christ regardless of anything we do or have done.  She said, “That is a scary idea! Oh, it’s good scary, but still scary.”

I was intrigued.  I asked her what was so scary about unmerited free grace?  She replied something like this: “If I was saved by my good works – then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through.  I would be like a tax payer with rights.  I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life.  But if it’s really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace – at God’s infinite cost – then there’s nothing He cannot ask of me.”  She could see immediately that the wonderful-beyond-belief teaching of salvation by sheer grace had two edges to it.  On the one hand it cut away slavish fear.  God loves us freely, despite our flaws and failures.  Yet she also knew that if Jesus really had done this for her – she was not her own.  She was bought at a ransom.

Over the years I have heard many people say, “Well, if I believed that I was saved by sheer grace, not because of good works, then I could live any way I wanted!”….God’s grace is free, yes, but it is also costly, infinitely so.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was appalled at how many in the German church capitulated to Hitler in the early 1930s, and in response he wrote his great work The Cost of Discipleship.  There he warned about the dangers of “cheap grace”, the teaching that stresses only that grace is free, so it doesn’t really matter how we live.  The solution, he said, was not to return to legalism, but to focus on how seriously God takes sin and on how He could only save us at infinite cost to Himself.  Understanding this must and will profoundly reshape our lives.  We will not be able to live in a selfish, cowardly way.  We will stand up for justice and for our neighbour.  And we won’t mind the cost of following after Christ when we compare it to the price he paid to rescue us.

A Biblical text which conveys this is Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matthew 13The preacher of God’s word, the gospel, is likened to a sower of the seed.  There are three groups of people who “receive” and accept the gospel, but two of the groups do not produce changed lives.  One set of people do not have the patience and endurance to handle suffering, while another group continues to live an anxious, materialistic life.  The only group of people who produced changed lives are not those who have worked harder or been more obedient, but those who “hear the word of God and understand it” (Matt 13v23).  Bonhoeffer insisted that people whose lives remained unchanged by the God’s grace didn’t really understand the gospel.  They had a general idea of God’s universal love, but not a real grasp of the seriousness of sin and the meaning of Christ’s work on our behalf.

In the end, Martin Luthor’s old formula still sums things up nicely:  “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by faith that remains alone.”  Nothing we can do can merit God’s grace and favour, we can only believe that he has given it to us in Jesus Christ and receive it by faith.  But if we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbours.  If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that we need to add work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.”

Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God – Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Pg 118-124)

Does the gospel need to be in every sermon?

I would say yes.

“My [God’s] people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of God, revealed by God through Scripture];

because you [false priests/prophet/teachers] have rejected [this] knowledge,

I reject you from being a priest to me.”

Hosea 4:6

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Back In Kosova

With Doug & Di in the South of FranceSo we’re back in Kosova now, having had a great time with friends for two weeks in Scotland.  The first week we got to hang out with our generous friends in Stirling.  I took 10 hours of driving lessons to gather the basics while Ang had a lie in!  Managed to get the hang of the clutch control but still have to work on reversing and junctions. The second week, in between being taken out for meals by friends, we spent 48hours with Ang’s folks in France.Chez Taylor  They were living in a caravan 5min walk from a beach in the south of France.  Picture me in a caravan – felt like Gandalf visiting Frodo!  We had a great (but short) time with them before we were back in Scotland visiting my relatives in Dundee.

 

Kieran & Sarah's WeddingThe weekend in between we attended the wedding of our friends Kieran and Sarah, which was an excellent excuse to break out the kilt.  It was great to be able to be there for this important day in our friends lives and celebrate with a crackin’ ceilidh!Wedding Ceilidh

 

We spent the last weekend in Glasgow where I got to catch up with friends from church and get along to the Men’s breakfast meeting where we were encouraged by testimony of Christ’s work in the life of Garry Brotherston.  This was a man found Christ while he was in prison serving a sentence for stabbing and killing a man in a street fight when he was 19, that was fifteen years ago.  Jesus saved him through the work of a prison ministry and now he is involved with musical and youth ministries, and working with police officers and schools to try to reach out to problem youth in gangs.  Please pray for Garry, that God would continue to work in his heart and through him in this important ministry, as well as for the family of his victim, who are having a hard time coping with and believing in the amazing example of God’s grace at work in this man’s life.  You can read their response in the Daily Recod newspaper here.

A Dip in the LochWe landed safely, if a little bumpy, back into Kosova to find that because the changeover of flights was to close together (again) our luggage was still in London!  Thankfully, I had packed all the important books and dvds into my hand luggage so we survived the next two days until it caught up with us.

We returned to find the Centre in good nick after being entrusted to the capable care of Astrit and Emily Morina (the boss’s daughter, works part-time for Smile, married to one of the local pastors).  Both of the old vehicles needed repairs when we got back (as usual) but the new one drove like a dream (according to Angela – I don’t think she wants me to learn to drive now.  The Nissan had been driven over and entered Kosova on transit insurance, so we got that sorted out ASAP.

So, on our first day back, we hosted a day conference for LUK (one of the two Evangelical Alliances in Kosova) and took the bedding used by the team of 35 (who used the Centre the previous week for a retreat) to the laundry. We organised the cooks at the Centre, local Kosovan ladies who we employ when we can, and worked out the budgets for the summer.  We spent some time arranging an area that each of the teams can use for sorting of materials and games for the kids clubs they will be running this summer.  I sprayed the weeds on the grounds, which had had a massive growth spurt due to the heavy rains while we were away – yes, this is the glamorous missionary life!

The first of the Smile/Girls’ Brigade teams has arrived and they have started their work with the local fledgling Girls’ Brigade at Eternity Church.  They have had a great week and are looking forward to next weeks kids clubs.  We took a delivery of cornflour from our friends in Podejeve, which will be supplementing our regular delivery to the sponsored widows.

Please pray for the relationships and planning of:

  • As the summer teams are mostly comprised of Girls’ Brigade this year, they will predominantly be doing kids clubs with the local churches and schools, we hope that their time here will draw them closer to Christ and that the Kosovars meet will see Christ through them as the teams serve and spend time with them;
  • We’ll be planning a summer Widows Day at the Centre as well as visiting them in their homes with aid;
  • The distribution of aid for this summer/autumn

Thank you for your prayers

😉

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