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All articles in category Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Article

December 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Making sense of terrorism and tragedy

How are Christians to respond to recent tragic events in the UK? There have been bombings at Parsons Green and at the Manchester Arena. There was the attack in Westminster. And, barely had the police cordons been lifted in Borough Market and London Bridge, when another cordon went up around Grenfell Tower, because of its horrific fire. We all have firmly etched on our memories images of those and other horrific happenings. Yet these are not the first nor the last time such things will happen. Sadly, we know yet another tragic story will soon emerge and dominate the headlines. As Christians, it is vital...

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October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Reformation 500: ‘Here I stand!’

On 31 October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses on the door at the Castle Church, Wittenberg, Germany. Thus began the Reformation. As we will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of his act this year, it is a good opportunity to reflect on why the Reformation was needed and what message it says to today’s church. Enslaving sins Although Luther is credited as being God’s man to start the Reformation in Europe, he was part of a process that had been going on centuries before him. Sadly, the church in the Middle Ages had lost its earlier purity. Ignorance of the Bible and...

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Article

October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The very practical Reformation

When people today think of the Reformation, they tend to picture Luther in monastic robes nailing a large amount of paper to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg. Or, they think of the wonderful ideas of the Reformation: justification by faith alone; Scripture alone as our supreme authority; salvation by grace alone. These ideas revolutionised the church, brought freedom to ordinary Christians living across Europe, and changed the world we live in today. But the Reformation was also an intensely practical movement. The great doctrinal discoveries of the Reformation meant change, not only for what Christians believe, but also how we do things. And this...

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Article

October 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

North America and Reformation in the Netherlands

Perhaps the Reformation’s most lasting impact on the American church has come from the Netherlands. The Reformation came later to the Netherlands than Germany and England, perhaps because of extreme persecution. The German states retained some autonomy, but there was no such protection in the Netherlands. During the Reformation era, over 50,000 Protestants were martyred for their faith. When Philip II ruled over the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg), he persecuted the Dutch, through his Spanish bishops and veteran armies. He also stripped the nobles of their power and imposed heavy taxes on the people, thereby solidifying the Dutch against the Spanish, politically, economically...

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Article

September 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Christmas — an opportunity for the gospel

Christmas means a lot of different things to different people. For some it is a time of drunkenness, debauchery, and crime. Others feel lonely because someone forgot them. Some are weighed down under the burden of many activities and the pressure of shopping. Then there are those who are dismissive of the whole thing. They point out that Christ nowhere in the Bible commanded us to observe his birth. They remind us that many of the customs of Christmas, including that of setting up an evergreen in the house, are of pagan origin. A few go so far as to say that the whole business...

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Article

September 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Answering difficult questions (2)

Continued from Answering difficult questions (1) Jesus’ enemies often tried to trap him with ‘clever’ theological questions, such as the one about marriage and the resurrection in Mark 12:18-27. ‘Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to [Jesus]; and they asked him, saying: Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. ‘Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring. And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring. And the...

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Article

September 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Talking to yourself

I have heard it said that talking to oneself is the first sign of madness. Well, if that is the case, then I am mad! And, I sincerely hope that there are many more mad people who are reading this article! I have often talked to myself. Is that such a bad thing? I know that there are people who suffer from schizophrenia, which is defined as a ‘mental disorder involving deterioration of or confusion about the personality’. Now, I am clearly not meaning this, nor am I seeking in any shape or form to be flippant about it. But there is biblical warrant to...

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Article

September 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Home alone: a Christian widower’s struggle

‘You don’t get married to live on your own!’ Yet, in this world of disease and death, that loneliness comes to many men and women who have spent much of their adult working-life in the joy of a deeply satisfying Christian marriage. About two years ago, my wife for four decades fell asleep in Jesus, after a fairly brief illness. Wrench Sue was the delight of my life, my best friend and my soulmate. Her passing has left a huge hole in my world. Nothing is the same now. Nothing is as good as it was with her around. I miss her in a myriad...

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Article

September 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Humility: a neglected Christian virtue?

‘I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think’, wrote the apostle Paul (Romans 12:3). An apocryphal story relates how, at the funeral of a successful businessman, tribute was paid to him, saying, ‘Bob was a self-made man, and he worshipped his maker’. Humour apart, such pride is antithetical to the faith of the Bible. When the Israelites were about to enter and inherit the promised land of Canaan — a land which, in contrast to the desert-wilderness, was characterised by great abundance — God warned them, ‘Beware lest you say in your heart, my power...

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Article

August 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

The art of raising spouses

Shortly after our second child was born, we were at a fundraising event. I was sitting at the back of the hall, having just finished feeding my new-born, when a lady came over to me and said, ‘Oh what a privilege and a blessing to raise a son for the Lord!’ I looked at my sleeping baby and beamed with pride. Yes, I am indeed raising a son for the Lord. What a privilege! Later that same evening, while tucking my first-born daughter into bed, I began to wonder if raising a daughter for God is any less of a privilege than raising a son....

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Article

August 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

Teach us how not to pray

‘But He has to do it; it says so in His Word!’ I’m pretty sure it was the worst prayer meeting I’ve ever attended! A friend had mentioned how people in the flat above were making life intolerable with their door-slamming, aggressive language and loud music. At the end of her tether, she needed prayer. Our hearts went out to our friend. Then another church member leaned forward. ‘Right! We all know this has gone on too long and their behaviour is totally unreasonable’. We nodded. ‘So, as we’re all in agreement, let’s pray the landlord throws the people out. The Bible says when two...

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Article

August 2017
Articles > Ecclesiological & Pastoral

How are the mighty fallen!

David hears of the death of two of Israel’s heroes, and exclaims three times that two mighty men have fallen. He laments, ‘Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon’ (2 Samuel 1:19-27). He is ashamed that such news is proclaimed among his enemies. At the same time, he asks how such a thing could have happened. It has been terribly sad recently to hear of serious moral lapses in Christian leaders. These have been reported in our national press, ‘published in the streets of Ashkelon’, and believers now find themselves ashamed by the subsequent mocking of Christianity. Another repercussion...

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