Keeping Up Contact

In the absence of anything useful to say, I thought I would play around with some ‘buttons’!

On the sidebar to the right, you will have noticed over the last few days I had a ‘Twitter’ micro-blog. Complete waste of time. Now removed.

An addition that will remain is a button to sign up for a SPC (Solihull Presbyterian Church) email newsletter. I have been in the habit of writing to a number of contacts regularly, telling them of what we have been studying in morning worship. Some recipients are believers from other churches who can pray. The other recipients are contacts we have made who are not Christian. 

Someone recently suggested that we could use an online email service to do at least some of this work, so I am trying it out. It should save us money and time and deliver a better quality result. 
If you want to receive what we are publishing, then feel free to sign up but be aware that the content is geared towards the latter category mentioned above. If you do sign up, as well as keeping you informed,  it will help us road test the service during the ‘Free Trial’ period which runs for another 5 weeks or so.  Any feedback would be welcomed. 
Keeping Up Contact

International Development

Interesting meeting this evening. A few days ago I received an email through our church website inviting me to a meeting with Andrew Mitchell MP, the Shadow Minister for International Development. The meeting was supposed to be a round-table discussion with leaders of churches and Christian charities about International Development (ID).

To be honest, what I know about ID can be written on a postage stamp. Like most people I have some sort of emotional reaction to the inequalities that are apparent in the world. So, no news there then. The only thing I feel reasonably strongly about is the need to reform international trade. Subsidy systems such as the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy or the US’s system are disastrous to the economies of developing countries. Those protective practices need reform.

Mr Mitchell spoke for about 20 minutes to the assembled group of about 20 people – church leaders, Christian charity leaders – outlining Tory policy. It had three heads: reform of the trading system (good), aid (0.7% GDP target), and conflict resolution. While interesting, to be honest I began to wonder why I had been invited. I was not alone.

The ensuing discussion was interesting. The Oxfam (a Christian charity?) guy was very keen on channelling funds through governments on the basis that only governments were able to sustain development. This was challenged by another person who works very closely with local projects in Nigeria who took the opposite view. Local, person-to-person development work is sustainable. I have to admit, I was sympathetic to the latter view, with my innate suspicion of impersonal and ideological governmental bureaucracy.

(Of course, there was someone who spoke up about global warming. In case, you haven’t got it: I’m a skeptic.)

As a Christian, I cannot see ID without the lens of the gospel. Transformation of economic circumstances is an empty shell without transformation of lives brought to Christ. It is corruption of the heart leads to corruption of systems. Tim Keller speaks of the gospel bringing ‘Shalom’ to life, which he understands as ‘interwovenness’ of life, where relationships with God, others and self are restored. I find this view attractive. Any ID system without a gospel foundation which seeks to restore those relationships (which can only be done through Christ, not some general ‘spirituality’) will always be limited leaving an unfinished ‘fabric’. It may only be rearranging the threads. Can it really be called a ‘solution’ to merely create more individualist, consumerist regions around the world ?

I may have strayed beyond the postage stamp, but there it is, for what it’s worth!

International Development

Puritan Challenge

I have noticed a few people issuing the “Puritan Challenge” on their blogs. I think it is a great idea – read a puritan classic each month. Your schedule might look like this…

January: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (128 pp)
February: The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel (221 pp)
March: The Godly Man’s Picture by Thomas Watson (252 pp)
April: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks (253 pp)
May: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (225 pp)
June: The Mortification of Sin by John Owen (130 pp)
July: A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge (287 pp)
August: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs (228 pp)
September: The True Bounds of Christian Freedom by Samuel Bolton (224 pp)
October: The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie (207 pp)
November: The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (256 pp)
December: A Sure Guide to Heaven by Joseph Alleine (148 pp)

Now, that doesn’t look too hard, does it?

(Thanks to Steve Burlew for the above list.) 
Puritan Challenge


Happy New Year!

As we were clearing up after the service yesterday, someone came up to me with a pile of sheets of paper saying, “These look like rubbish.”
I said, “Those are my sermon notes.”