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A PARABLE OF PARABLES
The content of belief is important: Jonathan Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, "What do you believe?"
"Well, I believe the same as the church."
"And what does the church believe?"
"Well, they believe the same as me." Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, "And what is it that you both believe?"
"Well, I suppose the same thing."
Theological belief is sometimes a murky matter. A candidate for ordination as a minister was asked, "What part of the Bible do you like best?"
He said: "I like the New Testament best."
Then he was asked, "What Book in the New Testament is your favorite?"
He answered, "The Book of the Parables, Sir."
They then asked him to relate one of the parables to the committee. And a bit uncertain, he began...
"Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves; and the thorns grew up and choked the man. And he went on and met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man, Sir, a thousand talents of silver, and a hundred changes of raiment.
"And he got in his chariot and drove furiously and, as he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging here! And he hung there many days and many nights. The ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink.
"And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he fell on stony ground. And it began to rain, and rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave.
"Later he went on and met a man who said, 'Come in and take supper with me.' But he said, 'I can't come in, for I have married a wife.' And the man went out into the highways and hedges and compelled him to come in!
He then came to Jerusalem, and saw Queen Jezebel sitting high and lifted up in a window of the wall. When she saw him she laughed, and he said, 'Throw her down out of there,' and they threw her down. And he said 'Throw her down again,' and they threw her down seventy-times-seven. And the fragments which they picked up filled twelve baskets full! NOW, whose wife will she be in the day of the Judgment?"
The story didn't say what the committee decided, but I have hope.
(From a sermon by Bobby Scobey, If the Church Became Unchristian # 4 - Behavior More Important Than Belief, 6/22/2010)
A HOLY MINISTER IN THE HANDS OF GOD
We must heed the memorable words written by Robert Murray McCheyne to the Rev. Dan Edwards on 2 October 1840 after his ordination as a missionary to the Jews: "I trust you will have a pleasant and profitable time in Germany. I know you will apply hard to German; but do not forget the culture of the inner man--I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his sabre clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword--His instrument--I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God."
John R. W. Stott, The Preacher’s Portrait, Some New Testament Word Studies (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1961), p. 120
PHIL SHELDRAKE'S STORY
At the age of 14 Phil Sheldrake was invited by a school friend to attend an event called Festival ’89. The event was being held on Sun Corner in Billericay and hosted by the preacher J. John. That night, Phil came to find a personal faith in Jesus.
With his best friend, Phil attended Pathfinders and other Youth groups here at Christ Church. A member of the staff team here a man called Ron Bradford was instrumental in Phil’s growing faith, and Phil himself takes up the story: "I won’t say I was the finished article at this point. Who is? The pressures of adolescence kept me on the fringe of church from 16 to 18; yet I still attended youth club and the occasional Sunday service. What I will say though, is that the patience and love shown through the members of Christ Church was priceless. I didn’t have a family who loved and spoke to me about Jesus; but here in Billericay there were people who did. At university I got hooked into a loving Church that gave me opportunities to explore leadership, develop skills and talents, make mistakes, celebrate success and be discipled."
"After college, I went out into the world and worked in various places in my early 20s...later studying Theology, Music and Worship at the London School of Theology. I then went on to become Music Director of a church in Central London, and then worked for three years alongside the songwriter and worship leader, Graham Kendrick ...
"I look back at my early teens and thank God that there actually were a set of people bothered to take an interest in my life. In their own small way, they set me on my big adventure in Christ. Don’t underestimate what might sometimes feel insignificant input into the lives of your teenagers--both compliant or unruly! I was an unruly one, and look what you did for me."
Those words were published on our website and in Spotlight in January 2008. They’re still there. Phil is married to Abigail and they have 2 children, Elijah and Keziah. They are now coming to the end of their time in Bristol, with Phil’s Ordination training finishing in early June, after which Phil will become Curate at St Faith's, Maidstone.
Watering, waiting, praying, persevering is worthwhile!
Excellent Congregations: Excellent Protestant Congregations, by Paul Wilkes and published by Westminster John Knox Press identified the following 26 common traits among the "excellent" protestant congregations.
1. A vibrancy about living a Christian life...living on the creative and holy edge of the New Testament...being a Christian is not a leisure activity but an adventure.
2. Entrepreneurial...risk-takers, self-starters, use what works and put aside that which does not.
3. Draws philosophically, rather than geographically or denominationally, by the spirit of a living and present God.
4. Reach beyond their comfort zone...not afraid of being uncomfortable and ask tough questions of themselves.
5. Regularly evaluate themselves...for effectiveness.
6. Have a clear, yet changing, sense of mission...a vision of where they want to be and willingness to redirect energies to be effective in their community and people’s lives.
7. Willingness to break up and reassemble...put aside old structures and coalitions when necessary to move forward.
8. Unafraid of being vulnerable and making mistakes.
9. Laity are integral in leadership...competence and a desire to serve, the ability to learn, the humility to admit mistakes and the courage to continue despite setbacks are more important prerequisites for leadership than formal training and ordination.
10. Preach and practice forgiveness and acceptance.
11. Relationship evangelism...personal contact is the key...most new people come to the church through word of mouth...friend, co-worker and neighbor.
12. See themselves as a unique community...not as a franchise of their denomination or even Christianity.
13. In transforming the culture, hold government, agencies and institutions accountable...see their work as not only serving their constituency but also transforming the world around them.
14. Believe in partnerships with other churches, agencies and interest groups.
15. Offer an ascent to God, a relationship...provide the tools and support to forge a real, living and enduring relationship with God.
16. Traditional without being traditionalist...their tradition is a beginning, a springboard, not a wall, not a barrier.
17. The Bible is at their core.
18. Innovative about different spiritual approaches.
19. Tailor liturgies and programs to various constituencies...reject one-size-fits-all approach.
20. Powerful, life-situation preaching...pa...
Catholic youth think the Pope is hot, but favor ordination of female priests, allowing priests to marry and see no problem with premarital sex. (Foster Letter 3/99)
G. Campbell Morgan speaks of it like this, “Luke thus gives us a graphic suggestive picture of the time and conditions, as he introduces His forerunner. The king is there, degenerate. The Temple is there, desecrated. The priesthood is there, degraded. The people are there, debased. Nevertheless, God proceeds upon the line of His own ordination. He comes to the Temple, though it is desecrated. He comes to the priesthood, though on the whole it is degraded. He did not come to the king. He did not come to the people, save through the appointed channel of the priesthood… God comes to the priest, but not to the high priest, not to the priest degraded and debased by a false thinking about God, but to a priest fulfilling his service. All the old was being linked up to the new.”
The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.
At my ordination service, my friend Pastor Don Bradley gave the ordination sermon. In it, he urged me to “Remember Dorothy.” It’s all right, I didn’t know what he was talking about either.
He told us a story about a woman who was in nursing school. One day the Prof. came in and said those 7 words students hate to hear, “We’re going to have a pop quiz!”
She made it through the quiz, until she got to the last question. It read, “What is the name of the woman who cleans the school?” She thought she read it wrong! She had seen an older lady who cleaned, but how was she supposed to know her name?
After the quiz, one student asked, “Is that last question going to count?”
“Yes, it’s going to count. You’re going to meet a lot of people when you get out in this field. You may be tempted to treat them as diseases instead of as people. But each one is important and each one has a name. And by the way, her name is Dor...
On April 23rd, 1978, in a small seaside chapel in San Juan, La Union, in the Republic of the Philippines, my father, speaking the local dialect of Ilocano, baptized me, his son. He said I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. On that day, the heavens didn’t open, no dove flew down and lighted on my shoulder, no disembodied voice said, “this is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” But on that day, I became not only my father’s child – but I became God’s adopted son as well.
You would think that this was an important day in my life. You might actually think that I would celebrate it annually. I should be able to tell you what day it was, how it happened, and who was there. I would think that too. That is, until I got a letter from the Concordia Historical Society, which keeps tabs on Lutheran pastors, asking me to fill out important dates like my birthday, the day of my ordination, and…oh yeah, my Baptism date.
Going through the form, I was stymied by the blank after baptism date. I knew it was in April. I was even pretty sure it was close to my dad’s birthday, April 22nd, but I couldn’t pin down the exact day until I had sent a text message to my mother who had to go look in a box somewhere in our basement. Without that record, I could have never said authoritatively, I was baptized in April 23rd, 1978.
THE HARRY WILSON STORY
When I came to faith in Jesus in 1985 the vicar at the church was another Wilson, Harry Wilson, not Harold Wilson! He told us his story of believing in Jesus, being selected for ordination training and heading off to college. Whilst at Bible College he realised that he was empty and powerless to do or change anything. One night in his college bedroom he got down on his knees and asked the Holy Spirit to fill him, change him, and use him for the glory of Jesus. From that night onwards he too was a changed man, leading several churches into renewal and growth.