Welcome …

August 16, 2009

… to the Vicar’s Blog. Why another blog, I hear you cry? Well, our main blog says what’s happening in our churches, and the ministry blog provides the sermons. But how does all this come about? What’s it like to be responsible for two churches, 70 church members, and 8000 parishioners? Indeed, what does a vicar do?

IMG_5727I can’t say all will be revealed here, as lots of what I do is confidential. But I hope some of what I say will be useful, and maybe even encouraging! Comments and feedback, as always, more than welcome.

Every blessing,

Rev Tim

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To the church in Devonport

June 18, 2018

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus
by the will of God
and Timothy our brother

To: The holy and faithful believers
in Christ
in Devonport

Grace and peace to you from God our Father!

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ when we pray for you:
because of your faith in Christ Jesus
because of your love for all the saints
because of the hope stored up for you in heaven

We thank God you are part of a growing global movement and you are not alone

We give thanks for those who brought you the gospel and handed it on down the generations.

So we are praying for you that God might fill you with knowledge of His will, in order that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way:
bearing fruit in every work and growing in the knowledge of God
being empowered by His Holy Spirit so you may have great patience and endurance
joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has called you into His kingdom

And as you live for Jesus, don’t forget what the good news is all about!
You have been brought out of darkness into light
You have become members of God’s kingdom
You have been redeemed
Your sins have been forgiven

Grace be with you all,

Paul

(From Colossians 1:1-14)

 

 

 

 


Six things I’ve learnt from Thy Kingdom Come

May 23, 2018

Once again we have had another busy time of outreach from Ascension to Pentecost and I want to thank all those who have helped out in so many ways, as well as those who offered prayer and support behind the scenes.  It’s now our third year of TKC, and as always, I find the Lord always uses such occasions to teach us some important lessons about the mission He has given us.

So what can we learn from this year’s TKC?

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Our mission field is vast A few of us worked alongside the chaplaincy team at the CFE, and it was a great privilege to be asked. Even though we may not have many profound conversations, simply seeing the vast number of people passing through in the foyer reminded me how much work is needed even just to make connections with those who have never thought about the spiritual side of life.

Unity in prayer is a must It was a great encouragement to see so many people turn up at our Ascension Day prayer party, To me, it seems right we set aside an evening a month to eat, pray and praise together, and I believe that they could and should become a central feature of our church’s life. The Lord loves the unity of His church and He loves to hear our worship, and the feedback I have received is that we need to grow these worship events.

Our community needs help We had a lot quieter morning at the Indian Inn this year. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact this year TKC didn’t fall during half-term. But from all my conversations the closure of the Post Office and the library has really affected footfall through Stoke Village. We need to pray for the Lord’s blessing on our area, and consider how best we can engage with our neighbours.

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We need to unite with other churches Only a few of us were able to make the Monday evening prayer walk from St Aubyn’s to St Michael’s but during that walk we covered so much in prayer, from the local churches themselves, to the bingo hall, to the police station, to schools, to the shops in Marlborough Street, to the local parks and houses. Again, how can we make the time to come together and really intercede for our communities? If we don’t do this, who will?

Testimony is powerful It was a wonderful end to TKC to have Kelly’s baptism and her words made a powerful emotional impact on all who were there. I know the Lord spoke to others at the Ladies’ Quiet Day and we need to share our stories and make them known. They are proof that the God we talk about is real and working in and among us by His Holy Spirit.

The spiritual opposition is real  We weren’t able to stay long at Devonport Park but even the brief time there made me realise the necessity of our presence at these events. To have a stall openly selling ouija boards reminded once again that the evil one would love to claim authority over Devonport and Stoke and we need to be a visible witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

I wonder what next year’s campaign will bring? It’s never too early to start planning and praying!

 


How do we talk about it?

April 28, 2018

In my last post I gave six reasons why we need to talk about sex and relationships in church. So how exactly we do this?

In one sense, the answer is as for any other issue – in our Sunday morning teaching, in our small groups, and in our personal discipleship. Let’s think a little more about each of these areas:

Sunday morning One of the guiding principles of St Michael’s and St Barnabas is that we teach the “whole counsel of God”. That means we aim to cover every part of the Bible. When we do that, we will find inevitably that we will cover passages that talk about sex and relationships. We don’t force the issue, but we aim to let the Bible do the talking.

This isn’t always easy, because on a Sunday morning we teach people with a whole range of backgrounds, some known, some unknown. This means our teaching has to be gentle and winsome, and connect with the gospel of repentance and grace. At the same time we always need the conviction that what the Bible says is of the Lord, and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring about real change and transformation in people’s lives as they hear. That is, incidentally, one reason why gathering before the service in prayer is so important. We need to pray that all of us don’t just hear the word, but really listen and act on it.

It may well be of course that as people hear teaching about a subject that deeply affects them they will have all kinds of reactions and questions. Sunday mornings are rarely the appropriate occasion on which to meet such questions.

This is where small groups come in. We need networks of small, safe gatherings where anyone can in confidence ask questions and share their experiences. These don’t happen overnight. We need to work hard at developing bonds of trust and security, and we need to work hard against sins such as gossip and slander which can destroy these bonds so easily.

But when someone is asking questions about sex and relationships, in my experience this shows that the Holy Spirit is touching their lives at the very deepest level. As I said in my last post, the greatest challenge people face to their faith is this whole complicated and messy area of relationships, and it is incredibly hard to face up to the fact, for example, you need to stop sleeping with somebody, or you need to break this or that bad habit. So in our small groups we need to have the real gift of friendship to support and encourage, through listening, through wise words, and above all through prayer.

This is where inevitably personal discipleship will come in. We need wise, godly men and women who can invest time and energy in those who are broken and hurting. This requires immense love, care and patience, and also wisdom to make sure proper safeguarding is in place. And the aim in all of this of course is to see how Jesus can be Lord over every area of our lives, even those that are most private and most difficult to deal with.

So much for the theory – what about the practice? I am at this point reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well recorded in John, chapter 4. It took place on neutral ground in the middle of the day. The woman would no doubt have known from the teaching in the synagogue what was expected of her life. But all the teaching in the world didn’t stop her from having a series of disastrous relationships. The disciples wouldn’t have understood why Jesus would want to speak with her, so they are not on the scene when the meeting takes place.

When Jesus tells her to fetch her husband, the whole sorry story comes out (verses 17-18).  Jesus doesn’t judge her. But He lets her know He knows all about her, just as indeed we need to be always that no matter how private we think our lives are, Jesus knows already everything there is know about us. The woman’s reaction? She goes on a tangent about the right place to worship God. But Jesus lovingly and patiently leads her to the point. What this woman needs is an encounter with Him that will change her at the place where she is most broken and, dare I say it, most sinful.

And the result is, that having recognised Jesus as the Messiah, the woman returns to her village and spreads the good news. For this is the good news we all need to take on board, that in Jesus change and transformation is possible. Yes, we may find it hard to admit our need of change. Yes, we may not know how to change. But there is no area where Jesus cannot work by His Spirit to bring repentance, healing and transformation.

 

 


Let’s talk about it!

April 21, 2018

As a church we talk about so many different things – faith, sin, heaven, prayer, the weather, Plymouth Argyle… But when was the last time we had a really good discussion about the whole subject of sex?

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The elephant in the room

Well, I realise this whole subject is intensely personal and for many people extremely difficult. I am not exactly that comfortable bringing up the subject. Yet in our discussions last Thursday evening it became very clear that this was an area we simply can’t simply avoid. Somehow we need to find a way to approach the whole topic in a healthy, open and honest fashion, so that Jesus becomes Lord over every part of our lives.

But why mention it at all? Let me give you six reasons for starters:

First of all, the Bible says a lot about sex and relationships.

It starts with the story of Adam and Eve who are joined together in one together in marriage. It goes on to tell how the Fall affected their relationship, and has affected relationships ever since. As the Bible goes on, we hear tales of adultery, incest, rape and prostitution, which are definitely all signs of a fallen world. But the Bible is not wholly negative about sex. The book of Song of Songs is a wonderful erotic poem about human love. Jesus Himself affirms the goodness of marriage, and the Bible ends with the image of the church as the bride of Christ.

Secondly, sex is the issue that is dividing the church at the moment.

There are some, like myself, who remain committed to the teaching of the Bible as the supreme authority in this area. There are others who while respecting what the Bible says would redefine what is and is not permissible for practising Christians. Because the church has so often failed to teach in this area, many folk are simply confused as to what they should or should not believe. Too often debates boil down to one person telling their story, or someone sharing their feelings. That is the not a good basis for any kind of reasoned discussion.

Thirdly, we live in a culture that is obsessed by sex.

I have been watching some episodes of Grey’s Anatomy recently. It is an American drama set in a hospital where the main characters have sex first, and then work out the consequences of their actions. It is very much in step with the times where sexual freedom is seen as good and healthy, and the act of intercourse a bodily function simply to be enjoyed. The motto of our age is “if it feels good, do it”. But as the characters in this drama, and I suspect many people in real life discover, acting on your impulses never brings the fulfilment you are hoping to find. There is still a God-shaped hole which no amount of pleasure can fill.

Fourthly, the digital age is promoting all kinds of unhealthy behaviour.

When I prepare couples for marriage, one thing I always says is that when you make your vows, “forsaking all others” doesn’t just mean avoiding other physical relationships. It also means being very careful what you watch or enjoy on social media and the Internet. The percentage of people who are addicted to online pornography is truly staggering, and the number of children who are exposed to it from an early age is heartbreaking. Virtual reality is very good at promoting fantasies, and the deeper you get into these fantasies, the more harm you are doing to yourself and potentially to others. Yet where is the church clearly and forcefully addressing this issue?

Fifthly, those who come to faith bring all kinds of baggage with them.

We all fall short in the area of relationships. Some are very damaged. Others are trapped in ungodly patterns of behaviour they cannot easily escape from. We need as a church not talk about sin and forgiveness in abstract, cold terms. We need to talk about the saving power of Jesus Christ and the liberation that repentance brings that actually sets people free and enables them to become all that God wants them to be. As a church we have the good news that others need to hear.

Sixthly, without discipleship in this area people will fall away from the faith.

It is sometimes said that the last part of a person to be converted is their wallet, and we often use this slogan when we want to encourage more giving. However the greatest challenge folk find in their faith is when someone new enters their life, who may not share their faith, who seems to offer the happiness they are looking for. It can be so easy as a church to condemn, but how are we training folk to think Biblically about relationships and to remain faithful to Christ? If we are not, then we should not be surprised when some of our number fall away.

So how and where do we start this conversation? I would love to hear your answers. In the meanwhile, I will be putting down some thoughts myself in my next post. Contributions will be welcome!

 


Happy Easter!

April 3, 2018

Yes, I know this is a couple of days late. I know that on Sunday Facebook was full of posts witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus, and all I can say is “Amen! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

But I wanted to delay wishing everyone a happy Easter until now, because it is as we go back to our everyday routines that the resurrection of Jesus needs to make a difference: as we return to work, as we look after children during the school holidays, as we care for our nearest and dearest, or whatever it is we usually do during the week.

After all, for those who believe and trust in Jesus, Easter can never be over. We have been raised with Christ (Col 3:1). We have been become members of His body, the church (1 Cor 12:12-13). Living in us is the deposit of the Holy Spirit guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor 1:22), through whom we have been given the hope of an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Pet 2:4).  I could give many more Bible verses and tease out many more implications of the resurrection. But my aim is not to simply quote Scripture. It is to show that the resurrection of Jesus should transform us at the deepest level in every area of our lives, in such a way that we can give a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Pet 3:15).

So today or next week when you return to your everyday lives, remember Jesus is still alive and with you no matter what stress and strain confronts you. Remember you have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain, guide and comfort in every circumstance. And remember you have been reborn into a living hope, even when situations may appear so difficult. You are, thanks to Jesus, adopted as a child of your Heavenly Father and nothing ever take away or diminish that identity.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Cor 15:3-5)

Happy Easter!

 


A thought for Easter Eve

March 31, 2018
The reason why

The reason why

Over the past two days we have been on a long and gruelling journey with Jesus. We have been with Him in the Upper Room pondering on the mystery of His body and His blood poured out for us. We have followed Him to Gethsemane and witnessed His agonising prayer to His Heavenly Father. We have felt the betrayal of Judas and identified with Peter’s denial. We have sensed the injustice of Jesus being condemned to death. We have covered the agonising, painful journey to the cross, and pondered why Jesus should endure so much for us. We have passed through the darkness of the crucifixion and stood with women watching Him die. And finally we have watched as His body has been committed to a dark, cold tomb.

Rightly today we pause and rest, and we reflect on just how much Jesus plumbed the depths of our human experience. But as believers we do so at least with the awareness that Sunday is coming. We know that the sealing of the tomb is not the end of the story, and we wait and pray for the time when we hear the words “He is not here. He has risen!” However so many people who have been betrayed, abused, tortured and falsely imprisoned have no assurance of a better future. They are living in a perpetual Easter Eve where their story has been put on hold by suffering and injustice, and they have no prospect of a better day.

This is why today is also an occasion to reflect once again on our mission as a church. Sometimes when we celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead we overlook or ignore the brokenness of the suffering of the world as an inconvenient truth that intrudes upon our festivities. But we need to make connections between what we know is true of Jesus and the reality that those without Jesus face.

In short, we need to learn to be a community of joy. Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, but it is one that is so often misunderstood. Let’s be clear – joy is not a superficial happiness that ignores the pain and suffering all around us. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that is produced by facing up to the reality of Good Friday, of being able to face all that is wrong in the world, and yet being able to say, like Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” (Job 19:25). It stems from the understanding that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God. And for that reason it is less of an emotion, than an attitude that perseveres in faith and trust in hope even when there seems so little grounds for hope.

Many years ago when I lived in Austria, I would often pass wayside shrines of Jesus still on the cross. I could at least understand these as reminders of all that Jesus went through on our behalf. What I found less easy to understand were the shrines that depicted Jesus still in the tomb. A joyless Christianity really has little to offer our world. A Christian who clings onto every tragedy and knows little of the transforming power of Jesus is not a good advertisement for our faith.

So today as we prepare for Easter Sunday, one very practical way to do this is to reflect on those extraordinary words of Paul in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” As believers we should not be defined by our successes or our sorrows; our achievements or our failures. We should be defined by our relationship with Jesus and we should live in the knowledge that Sunday is coming. So how far is my identity defined by the one who gave up everything for us on the cross? And how far is my life, day by day, shaped by the prospect of a better future when He returns in all His glory?

 


The gift of generosity

February 17, 2018

I love it when themes come together.

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Sackcloth and ashes

Last Sunday we talked about the new covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah. We saw how it was realised through the life and death of Jesus, how He was able to bring about the complete forgiveness we all need, and how when we say “Yes” to Him, He comes and lives in our hearts and minds by His Holy Spirit. Read my sermon for full details.

Then on Ash Wednesday we looked at the theme of repentance. We explored various prayer stations which caused us to consider what repentance means not only for us individually, but also for the life of our church, our local community and our nation. I explained that repentance is not so much what we do as what we receive – a new heart and mind from God which transforms how we see ourselves and the world around us.

Which is all very well, but what does all this mean in practice?

The answer came on Thursday when we looked at the first group study produced by 40 Acts for Lent this year.  (If you haven’t signed up for their individual Lent challenge, then may I encourage you to do so.) The sign that we have responded to the incredible love and mercy of God, and that we have been renewed in heart and mind by His Holy Spirit is clear – it is a pure and simple generosity that flows through the life of every believer and through the life of the church.

So, for starters, the Lord wants us to be generous in our time  – being willing simply to be with one another, to support, encourage and listen, and to make deep Christ-centred relationships. We cannot be the church of Jesus Christ if we do not really know one another.

He wants us to be generous in our money – not giving what is left over, but the first of what we receive and holding nothing back. Too often we say our security is Jesus, but do we believe in our hearts that our Lord blesses those who give whatever they have?

He wants us to be generous in our welcome – drawing in the newcomer and the outsider in simple, practical ways that make them want to come back. Most people make the initial step towards faith not because of what someone has said, but because of the love someone has shown them that has pointed to Jesus.

He wants us to be generous in our hospitality – not giving out the cheapest tea and biscuits, and then demanding payment, but freely giving the best of whatever we have.  We have a God who invites us in to share in His goodness. In some small way we need to reflect that invitation through eating together and sharing fellowship one with another.

He wants us to be generous in our gifts  – every church member has been given some kind of ability by God to use in His service. We cannot properly function as the church of Jesus Christ if some are holding back on the gifts they have been given. To be the body of Christ, all need to be encouraged to contribute in some way because it is only as we work together that the Kingdom of God is truly built.

No doubt there are other ways that the Lord is calling us to be generous, but certainly all the above points certainly challenged us on Thursday evening. We’ll be continuing our series from 40 Acts next Thursday evening – why not join us? And let’s pray we continue to grow in our generosity as a church, and so show others that the Holy Spirit really is at work among us.