Friday, March 16, 2018


I half heard The Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth on BBC Radio Four's Thought for the Day this morning. He spoke about Ken Dodd and humour. 
Humour sometimes depends on incongruity, and that is to be seen all over the show in our world and in the Scriptures. 
Human beings are made in the image of God and yet they are totally depraved. They have an infinite goodness and an all pervasive badness. They are broken gods. They are capable of wonderful achievements and unbelievable folly. Human pride deserves a good laugh. 
The infinite God became a baby. He who feeds all things hungered. The ever blessed one cried. As he held the stars in his hands he could not even form a fist. 
And God died.
And the lifeless body of the Son rose to life immortal. 
A man reigns on the throne of heaven.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Getting Christ Better

The church has sometimes flip-flopped between word and sacrament. Some prefer one over the other. Of course both are essential and are good. The sacrament depends on the word and the word seals the sacraments.

Some have denigrated the sacraments as unnecessary appendages, as if the word alone ought to be enough for us.

It is said, "We do not get a better Christ in the sacraments, but we may get Christ better."

Well, perhaps. We get him in a way that is adapted to our creaturely touch and taste and sense of smell.

But of course we should not use this to deprecate the word. The word too is physical and creaturely and perfectly meets our need and God's purposes for it and us. 

It is just that we need both word and sacrament. And thankfully God has given them to us.

The false reporting of sexual assault and sexual abuse

As law Professor and abuse survivor Julie Macfarlane, B.A., LL.M. (London), Ph.D. (C.N.N.A.) told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, it is worth knowing that:
 "the false reporting of sexual assault and sexual abuse cases consistently throughout jurisdictions, if you look in the US and Canada and England and Wales, at the police numbers, it's consistently 5 to 8 per cent.  In other words, it's extremely low."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

An illustration for the Lectionary readings - Numbers 21 and John 3

I'm afraid I forget where I cut and pasted this from!

In 19th C, Revd William Haslam, was apparently, by the way, converted by his own preaching!

He tells of "a quaint mediaeval illustration of Moses
lifting up the serpent in the wilderness” which he saw. 

Haslam describes the picture:

the cross or pole on which the serpent was elevated stood in the centre, dividing
two sets of characters, and that there were serpents on one
side, and none on the other.

Behind the figure of Moses, Is a man standing with his
arms crossed on his breast, looking at the brazen serpent.
He has evidently obtained life and healing by a look. On
the other side, I observed that there were four kinds of
persons represented, who were not doing as this healed one
did to obtain deliverance.

(1) First, there is one who is kneeling in front of the cross,
but he is looking towards Moses, and not at the serpent,
and apparently confessing to him as if he were a priest.

(2) Next behind him is one lying on his back, as if he was
perfectly safe, though he is evidently in the midst of danger ;
for a serpent may be seen at his ear, possibly whispering
" Peace, peace, when there is no peace."

(3) Still further back from the cross there is a man with a
sad face doing a work of mercy, binding up the wounds of
a fellow-sufferer, and little suspecting that he himself is
involved in the same danger.

(4) Behind them all, on the background, is a valiant man
who is doing battle with the serpents, which may be seen
rising against him in unabating persistency.

I observed that none of these men were looking at the
brazen serpent as they were commanded to do. I cannot
describe how excited and interested I became ; for I saw in
this illustration a picture of my own life. Here was the
way of salvation clearly set forth, and four ways which are
not the way of salvation, all of which I had tried and found
unavailing. This was the silent but speaking testimony of
some unknown denizen of a cloister, who lived in the
beginning of the fifteenth century, in the days of ignorance
and superstition. But notwithstanding this darkness, he
was brought out into the marvellous light of the Gospel,
and has left this interesting record of his experience.

Like him, I also had fought with serpents, for I began
in my own strength to combat with sin, and strove by my
own resolutions to overcome. From this, I went on to do
good works, and works of mercy, in the vain hope of thus
obtaining the same for myself. Then, I relied in the Church
for salvation, as God's appointed ark of safety ; but not feel-
ing secure, I took another step beyond, and sought forgive-
ness through the power of the priest. This I found was as
ineffectual as all my previous efforts. At last, I was brought
(by the Spirit of God) as a wounded and dying sinner, to
look at the Crucified One. Then …, I
found pardon and peace. Ever since it has been my joy
and privilege (like Moses pointing to the serpent) to cry,
*' Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of
the world" (John i. 29). *' I have determined to know
nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified ;" that is, to tell
only of the person and office of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lent Course 1: Praying with Paul - 2 Thess 1

Praying with Paul - Lent Course 2018 - Session 1

Diocesan Year of Prayer – a topic we almost certainly all feel we could always do with some help with! ‘Vicar, I think I’m praying too much!’?

Prayer! – “Lord, teach us to pray!”

Book recommendation: Don Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Baker / IVP, 1992) – not required reading for the course but on which much of what follows depends!

Feel free to but in, make comments, ask questions!

Our prayers and Paul’s

What are your prayers like? What do you pray about?

Let’s think about our prayer life both individually and as families / groups / a whole church. (Some of these questions might be good for personal reflection) See also the questions at the end of each chapter in Carson ACTSR

To what extent do you think the Apostle Paul’s prayers should be models for our prayers? Why?

The big question to keep in mind in all these studies, to which we’ll return in the final session is: how might Paul’s prayers reform our prayers?

The format of contemporary, ancient and Biblical letters: From, To, Greeting, Thanksgiving / Blessing … Concluding Prayer / Praise / Blessing

2 Thessalonians 1

How much do you pray for yourself and for others? In what way? When? Why?

Notice this is a thoughtful, specific prayer for others relatively far away. No doubt there were many other calls on Paul’s thoughts and prayers. We might understand if he were taken up with his own often difficult circumstances.  

Carson’s Chapter 2: The Framework of Paul’s Prayers (vv3-10)

V11, “with this in mind” – Greek eis (into) kai (and) – ‘Wherefore also’ – all the preceding leads into this

Are there particular things you keep in mind when praying? What preoccupies your mind and shapes your thinking?

What does Paul say he keeps in mind here?

What ought wo to want to keep in mind when praying?

Perhaps one great difference between Paul’s prayers and ours is the extent to which they are theologically informed and saturated with God’s mission?

How would you sum up verses 3-10? What are the big things that shape Paul’s prayers?

(1) Thankfulness for signs of grace

Are your prayers always thankful? Should they be? What things could you give thanks for (especially in other believers?) How could we cultivate thankfulness?

Cf. The Book of Common Prayer Prayer of General Thanksgiving or An English Prayer Book p46

Giving thanks for others might have very positive effects in overcoming resentments, envy etc.

It is harder to hate those for whom you pray (thankfully)!

What is Paul thankful for? (vv3-4)

1. Paul gives thanks that the believers’ faith is growing (v3)

What does it mean to grow in faith? What are the alternatives / barriers to this?

Faith – increasing trust in the Lord, fidelity, faithfulness, growing in knowledge, strength, maturity, depth etc. as an antidote to anxiety or self-dependence or trust in other things

2. Paul gives thanks that their love (everyone for one another in the church) is increasing (v3)

‘everyone’ not just the PCC / keenies / spiritual elite! Even the odd balls / hard to love etc.

Cf. John 13:34-35

Notice that the standard here is progress not perfection – growth not having arrived.

This Christian love in churches is especially remarkable if they are also marked by significant diversity cf. e.g. the Golf Club or Conservative Association! We must keep in sight our primary allegiance to Christ and an awareness of his gospel.

Are you / we growing in these areas? Do we risk being self-satisfied / indifferent / defeatist / complacent?

How might we seek this growth?

3. Paul gives thanks that they are persevering under trial (v4)

What does Paul boast about (v4)? Is he right to do so?

What would we rightly be known for among the churches? (v4)

Are love, faith and perseverance your priorities?

Do we take a special interest in the persecuted church? Resources e.g. Barnabas Fund / Open Doors / Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Do you tend to be positive or negative about others? Do you find it easier to see faults or to see things for which to be thankful? What could you do about this?

Could you use the church prayer diary / electoral roll / notice sheet / magazine to help you give thanks for others?

Do our prayers seem too focused on our material well-being compared to Paul’s? How could we counter this? Cf. Colossians 3:1; Matthew 6:19-21

These things are primarily God’s work in us. That is why Paul can thank God for them. This should spur us to pray for God’s work in ourselves and others.

(2) Confidence in the prospect of vindication (vv5-10)

The importance of a future focus on the final consummated kingdom of God for believers

1. For believers there will be vindication (v5, v7, v10)

Evidence of God’s work in them, not of merit – salvation not earned

2. For others, there will be retribution (v6, vv8-9)

Justice – note the context of unjust persecution – the gospel and substitutionary atonement! Romans 3:21-26

Are we too focused on the present? On our own local concerns?

How might a fuller grasp of the gospel and a focus on the ultimate future shape our praying?

Carson’s Chapter 3: Worthy petitions

Paul’s petitions (vv11-12)

What types of prayer are there? Do you know the ACTS mnemonic? What types of prayer are these in vv11-12?

It is good to pray prayers of adoration, confession and thanksgiving but it is striking how much petition there is in the Bible. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it or super-spiritual about it. God is the mighty king and we are rightly needy supplicants before him. Petition is a way of acknowledging our need and expressing our trust and allegiance.

What do you think Paul means by saying he prays for them constantly (v11, literally, at all times, always, ever)? 24/7?!

How constant are your prayers?

What encourages you to give up or keep going?

(1) Paul prays that God might count these Christians worthy of their calling (v11)

What is the Christian calling? (v11)

Matthew 22:1-14; Effectual calling – Romans 8:29-30; Galatians 1:13-15; Ephesians 4:1 – Be who you are / are meant to be in Christ, as children of God etc.! – The priority of godliness / holiness / heaven-ward orientation – we constantly need God’s help in this, not just try harder!

How will your life / prayer / values seem 30 years or 40 billion years from now? In the light of eternity, what should our prayer priorities be?

(2) Paul prays that God by his power might bring to fruition each Christian’s good, faith-prompted purposes (v11)

What good thing(s) are you purposing for Jesus? What is your faith prompting you to do?

What is God’s power (v11) like? Do you find that encouraging?

What is the relationship in v11 between our plans and their fulfilment?

Psalm 127:1; Philippians 2:12-13

The Goal of Paul’s Prayer (v12)

(1) Paul seeks the glorification of the Lord Jesus (v12)

What does Jesus’ “name” mean?

This is the ultimate goal of life! – cf. Westminster Shorter Catechism: ‘What is the chief end of man?’

Yet, how much do we seek our own glory / praise / love to be noticed etc.?

Colossians 1:16

(2) Paul seeks the glorification of believers (v12)

Isaiah 42:8; Romans 8:30; 2 Corinthians 3:18 – not a zero-sum game, rather the opposite!

The Ground of Paul’s Prayer (v12)

What seems to be the ground of Paul’s prayer here?

What does that mean?

Saved by grace and sanctified by grace – our complete dependence on God

(Could you turn the other headings into things beginning with “g”?!)

What difference might this study make to you in the week ahead?

Are there one or two things you could focus on?

For next week

We will begin by reviewing this week and asking if it has made any difference!

Please read and think about 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13. Come with any questions.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Easter Sunday musings

Having had Valentine's Day on Ash Wednesday, we are about to have Easter Sunday on April Fools' Day.

Glen Scrivener's new evangelistic book is going to tell us about Christianity as comedy in the technical sense - not so much ha ha as happy ending.

I have begun to wonder what one might say at the all age family service to make April fool's day and Easter Sunday talk to one another.

Easter Sunday is not a trick but a life changing reality

Easter Sunday is not a joke but it is good news of great joy

Easter Sunday is not a practical joke but it is practical

If the resurrection didn’t take place, Christians would be miserable fools, to be puttied, wasting their lives on a lie.

Easter Sunday shows how foolish it is to think that Jesus could be defeated

Sunday, February 18, 2018

He was in the desert for 40 days

Mark 1:13

What Mark fails to mention is strange, but so are the details he includes.

There’s that funny chronological note.

Oh, Jesus was there for 40 days, you know.

And notice the geography.

It was desert – a wilderness, a lonely place.

The desert can be a place of solitude, isolation and vulnerability.

You might face hardship, depravation and danger there.

It can be associated with demons.

In the Bible it could be a place of conflict and testing, of trial and temptation – but also a place of hope and deliverance.

God was said to have met Israel, his bride, in the desert and wooed her back there.

Good news would be heard in the desert.

The desert would blossom in the end.

Jesus faced this conflict in the desert, alone.

Jesus is the only one who could face the devil like this.

It was a one on one conflict.

It shows us Jesus’ uniqueness.

He alone did for us in our place what we could not do.

But isn’t there more to it than that?

40 days in the desert.

40 days could just be a round number for a long time but perhaps your Bible alarm bells are going off now?

Where have we seen this kind of thing before in the Bible?

It could be Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai.

Or the 40 days for which Elijah was led to Mt Horeb.

But it’s surely meant to recall Israel’s 40 years under Moses of being tempted in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt and before they enter the promised land.

God led them into the wilderness by the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire.

And now God the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert.

Israel was called the Son of God.

And Jesus is the Son of God incarnate, God the Son come in the flesh.

The nation of Israel has funnelled down onto one man.

The king of Israel in the Old Testament was also called the Son of God.

He represented the nation.

And Jesus here is our king.

He represents us.

He does this on our behalf.

Indeed, he is our substitute.

He does it in our place.

Where once there was a whole nation, now there’s just one man.

Jesus is the faithful Israelite, God’s person.

He is the only truly, fully, perfectly faithful man.

Jesus is a fresh start for the people of God.

Now, if you want to belong to the people of God, the key thing is not to have Jacob’s DNA but to have faith in Jesus.

Israel had come through the waters of the Red Sea into the desert and Jesus has come through the waters of the Jordan into the Desert.

Jesus will bring a new and better Exodus:

He will set us free from slavery to sin and death and hell.

And he will bring us through the Jordan into the promised land, ultimately of the New Creation.

He will bring in the Kingdom of God one day in all its fullness, of which the Old Testament monarchy was only a picture, a shadow, an imperfect pattern.

Jesus’ victory over the devil is ours.

Imagine yourself watching the football.

Connor Goldson heads it in and you shout, “We scored!”

When of course really you didn’t score at all.

You’ve not left your seat until after the whistle went.

In fact, if you’d been there, you certainly would have missed.

But his goal is ours.

“We did it! We won!”

So it is with the Lord Jesus.

He wins for us.

“We’re saved!”

We want to be on his team, united to him by faith, benefitting from his victory.

He was with the wild animals and the angels attended him

Mark 1:13

Mark tells us next to nothing about Jesus’ temptation, but he does say to us, “folks, don’t forget the wild animals and the angels!”

Why, I wonder?

The wild animals emphasise the desolate location.

Here is Jesus far from all human help.

His only companions are wild animals.

And they’re potentially dangerous ones.

They can stand for the enemies of God’s people.

Jesus is kept safe and he overcomes this danger.

Jesus is like a new Adam who named the animals.

Maybe too he’s like a new Noah, who was with animals of all sorts.

Like the shepherd boy David, who was to be God’s king, he had faced the lion and the bear and overcome them.

Part of the vision of the New Creation in the Bible is harmony throughout creation, the wild animals getting along together and submitting to human beings.

Perhaps in Jesus’ victory over the devil we’re meant to see a foretaste of that new creation which Jesus has come to bring.

It is appropriate that Jesus as God’s king, indeed as God, should be served by the angels.

Again he is the new Israel because Israel had been fed on Manna in the desert, the bread of angels, and had received the law from angels.

Friday, February 16, 2018

On Plastic Righteousness

Plastic reduction seems to be the cause of the moment. It has even been advocated by The Church of England for Lent. Although this is something of a bandwagon, it is presumably a good one, provided that it is recalled that plastic is a good gift of God. How many life saving medical procedures, for example, involve the use of plastic?

No one would of course be foolish enough to think that plastic use is necessarily sinful. Nor that it is the only or the most important sin.

Sure, seek to use less plastic, great. But remember that doing so does not constitute Righteousness. In fact, it is a small and probably *relatively* unimportant aspect of loving God and loving your neighbour. We should seek to use less plastic, but we must not neglect the weightier matters of the Law.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Homily on Love and Duty

for Ash Wednesday on St Valentine's Day.

Look away now if you are coming to tonight's service.

In which I channel The Revd John Piper.

 Ash Wednesday 2018 notes

Luke 17:1-10 (page 1051)

The boffins amongst you will know that Ash Wednesday is 46 days before Easter Sunday and that the date of Easter is determined by the lunar calendar, so of course, rather inconveniently, Easter moves around each year.

Ash Wednesday can be as early as 4th February or as late as 10th March.

This year, of course, Ash Wednesday is also St Valentine’s Day.

I hope you’ve remembered that if you needed to!

Well done for being here, especially if you’ve passed up a hot date!

Or even better if you’ve brought your Valentine with you!

This is the first year Ash Wednesday has coincided with Valentine’s day since 1945.

The two dates also overlapped in 1923 and 1934 and will coincide again in 2024 and 2029.

So it seems a good opportunity to ask what Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day might say to one another.

I imagine if we did word-association with Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day we would get wildly different answers.

Ash Wednesday, that’s austerity, discipline, the mortification of the flesh, self-denial, dust, humility, death.

Valentine’s Day that’s: love, romance, flowers, chocolates, and a much-needed boost to the restaurant industry.

Perhaps we could sum up the two days in two words:

Ash Wednesday: duty

And Valentine’s day: love.

At least, let’s go with that and think about those two for a few moments today:

Duty and love.

What is the relationship between them?

And what is their place in the Christian life?

To some people “duty” is a dirty word.

Perhaps to you it’s not the most attractive idea in the world – I could see that.

Doing your duty almost implies you didn’t want to do it – but you screwed up your self-denial muscles and you forced yourself to get to the Ash Wednesday service, or to visit that elderly relative, or do the ironing, or whatever it is.

Maybe you hated it, but you did your duty.

I’m told that when one hands over the Valentine’s Day flowers and chocolates, it is much better to say, “I love you” than, “see, I have done my duty!”.

But duty is undoubtedly a good thing.

God is king.

He is your maker.

He owns you.

He is your rightful Lord.

It is your duty to do his will, whether you want to or not.

Love, of course, is a much nicer idea!

We all want to love and be loved.

What could ever be wrong with love?

But our human condition might be described as a love sickness.

We love the wrong things.

Or we love them for the wrong reasons.

Or we love them in the wrong ways.

Or we love them in the wrong order.

We do not love as we ought.

Ideally, of course, love and duty go together.

Love is in fact a duty.

One problem with our notions of love is that we’ve forgotten that.

But God, Jesus and the Bible think love can be commanded.

The first commandment, our prime duty, is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

And the second commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves.

In the wedding service we don’t say to the happy couple “Do you love one another?”, though we hope they do.

Rather, the minister asks, “Will you love her?” / “Will you love him?”

Love is not just to do with the emotions or feelings.

It isn’t just something that spontaneously comes over us and which is entirely beyond our control.

Wonderful to be in love, but far more important to love.

We promise to love.

We resolve to do so.

To seek to love.

And indeed, we commit ourselves to love in action even when we don’t feel like it.

Love is a duty.

But we should also love our duty.

God is beautiful and lovely.

He commands what is good and life-giving.

The way of God’s commands is delight.

All around is death.

The attractive confections of sin will kill you in the end.

Wander from God’s will and you risk ruin and loss.

Love and duty go together.

In our Communion liturgy we often say:

“It is right to give [God] thanks and praise”

It’s our duty.

It’s the right thing to do.

We say, “it is indeed right,

It is our duty and our joy”.

Our duty and our joy.

The two go together.

Yes, we ought to do this.

But we also ought to want to do it.

We should love to praise God, to delight to do so.

It is our joyful duty.

Delight is a duty.

Rejoicing is a command.

A perfect person would never act from duty alone, because he or she would always want to do what it right – he or she would love righteousness and hate evil.

Certainly we should do good even when we don’t feel like it.

Sometimes we have to act from duty alone but such duty is always a crutch because our love legs are not working as they should.

And we shouldn’t settle for permanent spiritual disability.

We long to love aright.

We should pray for God to close the gap between ought to and want to.

Lord, help me always to do my duty.

But may doing your will be a joy to me.

May I delight to do what is good and right and pleasing to you.

Help me to see sin as the stinking, rotten trap that it is and to flee from it.

Holy Spirit, re-wire my loves.

So this Lent, let us pray for goodness that is heart-deep:

Goodness that is not merely a matter of our words and actions but also of our loves.

How can we cultivate delight in our duties?

We should meditate on Jesus Christ.

Look at him in his Word.

Behold him in the Scriptures.

Linger on him in prayer and song and reflection.

Significant looking at Jesus is the key to loving Jesus.

Do not neglect or forget him or take him for granted.

Remember your first love of Jesus.

And ask yourself what the maturing of that love would look like.

Jesus is lovely.

He is delightful.

Delight yourself in him.

That is your duty, and it is a delightful one.

May it be a joy to you this Lent, and may this love motivate and empower your service, for Jesus’ name sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

2 Corinthians 4 - a handout


2 Corinthians 4 (page 1160)

Inclusio – vv1, 16

We do not lose heart because…

(1) … despite appearances, we have the wonderful light-giving good news of Jesus Christ the Lord, who gives us the knowledge of the glory of God (vv1-6)

(2) … treasure in jars of clay, power through weakness, is God’s plan so that the glory goes to him (vv7ff)

(3) … we are focussed on the future God has promised us and not on the present (vv16-18)

(a)   V16:

(b)   V17:

(c)   V18:

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2 Corinthians 4

Here is a first stab at some snappy sermon headings:

(1) We do not lose heart because despite appearances, we have the wonderful light giving good news of Jesus Christ the Lord, who gives us the knowledge of the glory of God. (vv1-6)

(2) We do not loose heart because treasure in jars of clay, power through weakness, is God’s plan so that the glory goes to him (vv7ff)

(3) We do not loose heart because we are focussed on the future God has promised us (vv16-18)

Friday, February 09, 2018

2 Corinthians 4

If you are an obedient disciple of the CW Lectionary, you might be preaching on 2 Corinthians 4 on the Lord's Day. Or this may be of interest or use to you sometime.

Here are some headings for 2 Corinthians 4 from the commentaries what I have what go in for headings:

Paul Barnett, BST

2:14-7:4 – The ministry of the new covenant

4:1-6 – The Face of Jesus

This ministry: it’s method (vv1-4)

This ministry

The god of this age

This ministry: its content and effect (vv5-6)


Jesus as Lord


Gospel light

Eternal Glory (vv7-18)

Power in weakness (v7)

Deliverance (vv8-9)

Death in us (vv10-12)

Motives for ministry (vv13-15)

Eternal glory (vv16-18)


Outwardly and inwardly


The God who prepares

* * *

Jonathan Lamb, Crossway Bible Guide

2:12-7:16 – Pl describes his ministry

Realistic ministry (vv1-6)





Life in Chris (vv7-15)

Weakness and Power

Union with Christ

Why it’s all worth while

The real world (vv16-18)

Outward decline and inward renewal (v16)

Present trouble and future glory (v17)

The seen and unseen (v18)

* * *

Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone

Vv1-6: Light out of darkness

Vv7-12: Treasure in earthenware pots

Vv13-18: The God of all comfort

* * *

Murray J. Harris, NIGTC

Ch. 1-7: Paul’s explanation of his conduct and apostolic ministry

The Apostolic Ministry Described (2:14-7:4)

The light brought by the gospel (4vv1-6)

The Sufferings and Glory of Apostolic Ministry (4:7-5:10)

The trials and results of apostolic service (4:7-15)

Glory through suffering (4:16-18)

* * *

Thursday, February 08, 2018

3 or 4 types of Quiz Player

Parish Magazine Item stolen from a talk what I heard.

From The Rectory

I notice that a number of quizzes have taken place locally recently, including our own quiz in Bodle Street Village Hall during our Guest Weekend with the team of students from Oak Hill Theological College. I thought Phil’s talk that evening was so good that, with his permission, I wanted to share the gist of it with you here. Phil suggested that the same characters always seem to emerge at a quiz. If you haven’t spotted that, perhaps you’re one of them! Here are three or four to consider:

First, there’s the “Our Team’s Obviously Not Winning At This Point So I’m Just Gonna Try And Have A Good Time-Player”. There’s also the “Please, Please, Please, Please, Please Let No One Figure Out That I Know NOTHING- Player”. Then finally we have the worst kind of player – the player no one wants to be at a table with – the “Overly Confident but Usually Wrong–Player”.

Perhaps you’re not exactly like any one of those players but to be honest I think there’s something about them that rings true with all of us – maybe not in our attitude to quizzes, but in our attitudes and thoughts in so many areas of life – and even our attitudes and thoughts about God.

Maybe for you, when it comes to thinking about life and God, you’re like the “It’s Obviously Not Going Well, So I’m Just Gonna Try And Have A Good Time-Player.” Maybe you think, “it’s all a mess anyway – my life, my family, this country, our society, so all that’s left to do is to enjoy myself? What else is there? It’s all too far gone. And if there is a God, well it’s obviously too late for me to do anything about that now. All I can do is drown out my hurts, my frustrations, my expectations of the way the world should be and enjoy my life as best I can, however I can.

Or maybe for you, when it comes to God, you’re in the “Please, Please, Please, Let No One Find Me Out-Player” category. Maybe you’re the person who’s hoping there is no God because if there were a God, then you’d be exposed. The idea of a God who made you, sees you perfectly and knows you intimately terrifies you. He would see, he would figure out, he would know for certain – who I really am, and I know that’s not entirely pretty. And what kind of God would want anything to do with a someone like me?

Or maybe you come to the question of God with the bravado of the “Overly Confident But Usually Wrong–Player”. You’re sure that somehow, someway, when it comes to you and God, you’ll be okay. If God accepts anyone, I’ll pass muster. If anyone can be assured prize from God, surely, I won’t miss out. Though you might be too polite to say so, perhaps that’s how you feel. After all you go to church once in a while, you give generously to charities, you pay my taxes, you’ve never done anything really terribly wrong! I’m the Overly Confident Player!

But as we know, there’s always a humbling moment ahead for a player like that, that moment when they find out that confidence alone is just not good enough. Presumption and relying on yourself just won’t wash. Players like that are always left humbled. The Bible says that the same is true in life. Those who are “overly confident in themselves” before God will ultimately be humbled before him.

But of course, unlike a quiz, with all its little prizes and little losses, the stakes in life and before God are much higher. If we could score perfectly before him, it would be untold blessing and glory for us, but if we fail it’s untold horror and humiliation. And to make matters even more tense, before God, it’s not a matter of who does best – it’s only a matter of perfection: God’s standard of absolute holiness.  

Thankfully, there is hope because there is a fourth kind of player: The Lord Jesus Christ. He answers every question perfectly. He is the one who carries the team. He offers to sit down at your table. Or rather, he invites you to join his team. With him, the test of life and of the judgement to come are nothing to fear. Victory is assured because Jesus wins for us. If we trust in him, we can be sure we will share in the prize he has secured.                                                                                   

The Revd Marc Lloyd

Good and Evil Bible Study / Discussion Notes

Rather hasty and no doubt inadequate notes owing a debt to Frame and Grudem and Facebook correspondents, in case they are of any interest or use to anyone:

Good and Evil

Bible Study & Discussion

The Big picture of the Bible: Creation – Fall – Cross – Resurrection – Ascension – Return of Christ – New Creation

What exactly do we mean by good? Desirability, perfection


Luke 18:19; Psalm 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; Psalm 34:8

God perfect, complete, without defect – Matthew 5:48 - God’s ways perfect – Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30

God supremely excellent, perfect

Moral perfection, sinlessness, holiness, absence of all evil

Goodness as righteousness – Genesis 3:5; Leviticus 5:4; Numbers 24:13; 1 Samuel 12:23; 2 Samuel 14:17; Psalm 25:8; Romans 2:10; 3:12; 7:18; 2 Corinthians 5:10

Goodness as benevolence – acting for the good of others – Psalm 73:28; Numbers 10:29; Deuteronomy 30:5; Joshua 24:20; Judges 17:13; 2 Samuel 16:12; Mark 3:4; John 10:11; Acts 14:17

Plato’s Euthyphro Problem: is piety whatever the gods say it is, or do the gods command things because they are intrinsically pious?

By what standard? Is there a rule of goodness to which God conforms or does God decide what is good?

Cf. Does the King make the law or is the law above the King?

God always “feels” and thinks and wills and speaks and acts and in conformity to his own perfectly good nature


Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31

1 Timothy 4:4

Original goodness as well as original sin

The image of God in human beings (Genesis 2:26-27) marred but not totally irradiated

Total depravity – every aspect of us affected by sin, none of our thoughts totally pure – Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Romans 3:9-18; 8:8

Sinful people still do things that are relatively good – 2 Kings 10:29-31; 12:2; Luke 6:33


Some e.g. Christian Scientist sect, some forms of Hinduism claim evil is an illusion

? evil not a created thing – a falling away from the good – a privation / deprivation / lack

The devil and demons – fallen angels created good by God who rebelled against him – 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6

The devil only perverts and corrupts – parasitical - he cannot create

The Fall of Man – Genesis 3

Creation under the judgement of God – Genesis 3:17-19

The Bible can speak of God creating / causing evil – Isaiah 45:7; Lamentation 3:38 – certainly the Bible sees evil as under God’s control

God is not the morally responsible author of evil – he permits it / governs it but is not to blame for it

God must have good enough reasons for allowing evil

God allows and uses evil for his own good purposes - Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28

The cross – good out of evil – Acts 4:27-28

God uses suffering and hardship in our lives – James 1:2-3


Good and evil are not equal and opposite forces locked in battle – Good has priority over evil – God created the devil – cf. Job, the devil has to seek God’s permission to test Job

Jesus has decisively defeated the devil

The good news of God’s judgement – evil will be punished

The New Creation – Revelation 21:1-5

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Jesus the New Samson, The Stronger Man

From James R. Edwards, Eerdmans Pillar Commentary, p58f. In Mark 1:24 an unclean spirit calls “Jesus of Nazareth … the Holy One of God.” The only other person to be called “Holy One of God” in the Bible is Samson the Nazarite in Judges 16:17. The comparison is appropriate because Jesus is the one who is able to enter the strong man’s house, bind him and plunder his possessions.  (3:27)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guest Weekend Events

Guest Event Weekend

2nd – 4th Feb 2018

From 2nd – 4th February, we will be joined by 4 trainee vicars, students from Oak Hill Theological College in London, for a series of Guest Events. We look forward to welcoming you and your friends to some of the following:

Friday 2nd February 7:30pm Warbleton Church Rooms

Meet The Oak Hill Team – Any Questions?

Hear from the trainee vicars about their lives and faith and put them through their paces! Come and ask any question however simple or challenging or just listen. Coffee and biscuits provided. 

Saturday 3rd February 8:30am White Birch Farm, White Birch Lane, Warbleton, TN21 9BE

Men’s and Ladies’ Breakfasts with a joint speaker

Saturday 3rd February 2pm Warbleton Church Rooms

Walking Group followed by tea and cake and a short Christian talk. Walk approx. 1 hr. Dogs welcome.

Saturday 3rd February Meet at 4:30pm at Warbleton Church Rooms or at 5pm at Freedom Leisure, Hailsham

Ten Pin Bowling, food and a short Christian talk

For young people aged 10+, members of The Club With No Name, friends and any guests welcome.

Contact Tony Welford / 01435 812514

Saturday 3rd February 7:30pm Bodle Street Green Village Hall

Quiz Night with a short Christian talk

£1 per person - cash prize

Licensed bar. Nibbles provided

Teams of up to 8 or just come along and join a team on the night

Sunday 4th February – our usual church services where the Oak Hill students will speak:

9:30am Holy Communion, Bodle Street Green

11am Service of the Word, Dallington

11am All Age Family Service, Warbleton