Is the Bible still worth the effort?

Listening to some Christians (and Christian preachers) you would start to believe that the Bible is so old and hard to understand that it isn’t worth the effort any more. I’ve heard scholars who seem to suggest that the Bible is nothing more than a set of historical documents that are interesting but offer nothing more. This attitude is usually followed up with a claim to a belief or practise that the Bible says is wrong.

However, despite the claims of some the Bible seems to be in pretty good shape to me. I still find that it speaks about situations that the modern world faces and that both as a preacher and a disciple I find there are often so many messages to take from it that it is hard to know where to begin.

I’m am also convinced that despite the obvious problems of language differences in translation and cultural differences in the stories there is usually a very clear message that shines through. Perhaps the real issue is that because we find the messages uncomfortable we like to claim we struggle to understand and use the language and culture as an excuse. I’ve never found the Bible that hard to understand.

Do you think the Bible is worth the effort?



Farewell to good friends

It’s moving time again in the Methodist Church. In my current ciruit we have said goodbye to our Super Rev Bruce Thompson. I always find goodbyes difficult. Any relationship that is worth something must cause some degree of pain when a forced seperation occurs. Bruce has been a good friend to me as well as being my boss. We did not see eye to eye on everything but this never became a problem for us.

I am sometimes disturbed by the way the church doesn’t seem to like to ever say it disagrees with anyone. Are we allowed to say that we think someone is just wrong about something? Of course we are encouraged to think this way in a post-modern world. I like many things about post-modernism but I don’t like the way we can’t now say that something is wrong. We have to simply say that we are all equally right or all equally wrong  – it all depends on your perspective. This is true for some things – e.g. art, literature, films, etc. Whether such things are good or bad is all down to perspective and personal choice but I can’t accept this is true for other things. Mathematics for instance. Say I have two pound coins in my hand and I say that means I have two pounds is not a matter for personal preference. Saying I have three or ten pounds would be wrong.

There are some things we can say about people that are a matter of personal choice e.g. they are funny, or attractive. But other things are not e.g. they are 6 feet tall, have brown hair, etc.

The same is true of God and religion. Some things are a matter of personal preference e.g. the way we pray, the words we use to express God, but some things are not e.g. whether or not Jesus is God. Of course it is a matter of personal choice whether we believe it or not but either it is true that Jesus is God or it is not true.  So for a Christian to say that they believe other religions are wrong about Jesus is not in itself wrong – as some want to claim. Isn’t this what other religions say about Christians anyway?

But, to come back to my main point, it should be fine to say that someone is wrong but still be friends with them.


Methodist Church

My heart strangely warmed

I can’t let today go unmarked by me in some way. May 24th is the day that John Wesley went to a meeting in Aldersgate Street in London and there he had an experience that would change his life forever. Before this he had been a strong follower of the church, committed to serving God to the best of his ability. Yet he felt he lacked something in his Christian life. He had seen that others had a faith and love for God that made a difference to them. It was that visit to Aldersgate that brought years of searching to a head and he discovered God in a new and exciting way.

That moment began a life dedicated to helping others experience what he had experienced. So many people were helped that the Methodist Church, that he helped found, is now a church that stretches around the world and touches many lives.

I pray that the Methodist Church today rediscovers that heart of John Wesley and commits itself to realising the vision that God gave to John and which has since been passed to many susequent generations.


World does not end

Oh dear (yet again).

It’s time to pack away the emergency rations and un-board the house. It’s time to say sorry to the boss for the things that were said on the understanding that we wouldn’t be coming in to work on Monday. It’s time to go back to the bank and ask for a loan to tide you over. It’s time to ring the Insurance companies to get the Insurance activated again. Only kidding of course. But I’m sure like many people you were not surprised when the predicted end of the world never came.

Now, I’m all for the end of the world myself and one day it will surely come but God didn’t write the date for it into the sub-text of the Bible. Sadly too many Christians (past and present) have been sucked in to believing that there is something hidden in the text of the Bible that just needs a little calculation and all will be revealed. In some ways it would be good if this were true but in my experience and from what I know of the Bible it isn’t.

If the people who ‘found’ these secrets just let us all know they had and then we all ignored it things would be fine. Unfortunately, there are many people who get sucked in by the charisma or seeming authority of the people in question and then the trouble starts. Of course this isn’t something that is limited to religion and there are plenty of times in history that people have supported political nutters. In fact I have to say that in every election I’ve witnessed countless people get suckered by the politicians on offer (quite often these politicians get elected in this way) – but that is a subject for a different kind of blog I think (I’m not anti-politics by the way, just anti political salesmanship).

You will not find any predictions of the end of the world on this web site. I’m afraid Jesus just never told us when the world would end and so we are stuck having to live each day as if Jesus were going to return tomorrow – not a bad way to live anyway.


Moving House

We are in the process of moving house and there is just so much to do. Since the middle of November I’ve spent nearly all the spare time I have (not that there is much of it) working on the house we are going to move in to. It’s the local Methodist Manse and has been fairly well looked after but with tax rules, etc. it means everything has to get done before we move in.

I’m sure this kind of thing wouldn’t bother yourselves but it has tested every stress management techique I know.

One of the victims of the move has been the blog – sorry if you were hoping to read more. I’ll try to do better after the move.

At times of moving I like to remember what Jesus told the disciples after the resurrection.

“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; they will see me there.” Matthew 28:10

In any new venture Jesus goes on ahead to prepare things for us and all we have to do is to follow on behind. It’s good to now that Jesus will be waiting to meet us at the Manse.


If things don’t change they will stay as they are

Change is always a tricky subject for a church and yet nearly every church I have ever encountered has a dream about how things ought to be. Most churches say they want more members. Nearly all would like to see more of the clergy person. Many say they would like better preaching or better worship. Nearly all say that they would like to make a positive impact on their communities. However nearly all of them also don’t want any change (even if they won’t admit this to themselves).

Yes they want more people, especially more young people, but they want all the new people to fit in with them.

Yes they want better worship but usually of a kind that fits in with their own idea of proper worship.


I think I’m probably coming across as a little mean here and I don’t mean to be. I’m not bashing churches who think this way they are just being people and you find the same thing in all organisations.

However, the truth is that if you want something to be different then something, somewhere has to change. If you continue doing the same things then you will get the same results. So if a church continues to put on its round of social events and outreach events etc then that church can expect to get the same results. If we want a different result then we have to try something different, even if that is going to make us uncomfortable.

Same applies to a Christian life of course. If we want a deeper relationship with God then we have to change something to make that difference, we can’t expect to get deeper with God just doing the same things we are already doing.

Perhaps the first change to make is in the way we think. We need first to think that we need to do something different.


Justifying ourselves over money

There is something in all of us that wants to justify everything that we do. Just recently I heard that a survey had shown that what most people think will make them happy is more money. However, the research suggests that money is not what actually does make people happy. I wonder if the idea of lots of money (or possessions) making us happy is an attempt to justify all the effort that we put in to try and get it.

I’m not against work, even hard work, in fact I believe that satisfying work is a great help in being happy, but we seem to spend nearly all of our time trying to earn more of it. It seems it really is money that makes the world work for us. Government, business, leisure, health, science, maybe even religion, seems to only work because of money. Without money we would be stuck for how to make things work.

Yet it isn’t money that really makes us happy. Perhaps we claim it is because the admit that money is not important would be to admit that all the effort we put in trying to get a good job and all the hours we worked to try and get more money, and all the time we spent trying to earn enough to treat our children, would turn out to be wasted time. Maybe we would start to think that our lives have actually been about nothing. So we persuade ourselves that more money is what we need for happiness.

I think Jesus wanted to break this idea. Money can be useful but it is not what we should worship. We worship what we think about the most and what we spend most time on. How many of us spend most of our time either earning or spending money? What is your life built on?

I encourage you to try and think a little more outside the box and put money in its proper place.


Prayer is a funny kind of thing

Do you ever find prayer difficult? I don’t mean because you are angry with God or doubting your faith, but just ordinary prayer. One day it’s easy and another it’s really tough. I do.

I’ve also nearly always found it hard to pray. I don’t mean those quick prayers that you fire off in the hopes of getting something or just because something amazing has happened and yo want to share that with God – I mean the time when you settle down and pause to spend some time with God. What is really strange is that if I persevere then the praying gets easier and I usually find that in the end I have enjoyed myself as well as doing something meaningful. You would think that something I know I will enjoy would be something that would be easy to start but for me it doesn’t seem that way – at least not often.

In the past I’ve used all kinds of methods to help. I have found that discipline and a liturgy to use are both very helpful. I think there is no mistake that the more traditional churches developed such things as liturgies because they do help – the problems come when liturgy becomes the only way.

So I say to myself, as much as to anyone who reads this , that you need to persevere in prayer – it really is worth the effort.


Frustrating Memory

Do you ever get frustrated by your memory? I do.

I’ve always struggled with names, for instance, and spellings for that matter. No matter what technique I use it just never seems to work. At school I hated spelling tests and did all I could to get things right but just could not succeed. I would know how to spell them for about an hour after practice and then in the test I couldn’t remember. The same thing with names.

One of the other things is when I know something but I can’t for the life of me remember why I know it. For instance at a Local Preachers day in the Circuit I was trying to explain that I thought the magnificat was like a desperate release – it all kind of gushes out of Mary. Of course trying to justify this from the bible is hard because Mary is told her own news when Elizabeth is 6 months old and then visits Elizabeth and 3 months later John is born. This doesn’t leave much time for thinking or getting frustrated (on Mary’s part).

However, Mary does travel from Nazareth to the hills of Judea (presumably avoiding Samaria as most travelers did it seems). This is about 70 miles I believe. This would have taken at least a few days and probably more. Ample time to feel frustrated in your own thoughts I think. But could I remember this detail that I had obviously noticed before? No! I wonder how many times this has happened to me? More than I can number.

There were several other things just like that which frustrated me as well.

So it’s back to the books and reminding myself of everything that I have forgotten – how nice it would be not to have to do this – perhaps this is something I can look forward to in the next life.

Methodist Church

Spare bridegroom at a wedding but one that was welcome

Yesterday I was welcomed back into full connexion in the Methodist Church. No longer seen as a maverick rebellious type (I never was really) I’m now back in the fold of the Methodist Church.

The service itself was good and I enjoyed being around all the ordinands (those who were being ordained that day – I am already ordained) but I did feel a bit like a spare bridegroom at a wedding. They knew each other well and spent much of their time chatting with each other (this is a good thing by the way) but I felt a little bit left out of it all. Thankfully there were a few others who were being received into the Methodist Church from other churches and one of them was in a similar position to myself – so I had someone to share the experience with.

As part of the event I had to stand with the others on the stage for a standing vote. It was good to know that I was welcomed back by the church. It did remind me of my first time and subsequent ordination. It is always hard to say what an ordination means but it does mark a significant point in life and affirms the ministry that you feel God has called you to. In some ways it does make you feel different because it takes years to reach that point and getting beyond that point makes a difference. I also like to think that God sees you in a different way. The church lays hands on you and prays for God to help you in ministry. It’s an example, perhaps, of the importance of the physical in expressing the Christian faith.

Now I can get back to being a minister – even if I am one who is in an appointment over which the Methodist church has no control (Methodist talk for the job I do).