This book by Tom Wright investigates the resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus and ‘heaven’ from a thoroughly biblical point of view and explains how first century Jews would have understood Jesus’ teaching. It smashes commonly held misunderstandings by putting teaching back into its original context.
Wright also looks at the commonly held misunderstandings of today’s UK/US cultures and helps us go back to the biblical grounds for our theology of Christ’s return, where He is now and what happens to believers after death.
As I read it for the second time, I’m realising how deeply engrained my wrong understandings can be, as I’m still getting it wrong even though I’ve read the book before!
Today I’ve been reminded that Jesus’ parable of the talents is about the first coming of Jesus not the second. Wright explains that, although early Christians quickly reinterpreted it to refer to the second coming, the original hearers heard it to be about God coming back to the Jerusalem temple after the exile, in the person of Jesus.
I’ve learnt so much as I’ve written the Bible study on Halloween. I’ve changed my mind on how I think Christians should approach this day which has strongly Christian roots, now lost in commercialism. Here’s a helpful little Youtube clip about Halloween from Glen Scrivener
We’re halfway through Christianity Explored with a group of 12 women in a local jail. They’re really keen to learn and committed to coming. We have an excellent translator, Louie, and are really enjoying helping these women to know Who Jesus is, Why he came and What it means to follow him.
New Bible Study resources available from Time For Change Ministries
Time For Change Ministries offers 3 new Bible Study series, on Luke’s gospel, Romans and James, all written specifically for use with small groups in the prison environment.
The studies aim to help participants understand the Bible through a series of questions relating to what the passage says, what it means and how this applies to our lives today. These studies are free to download.
A Prison Chaplain says, referring to the studies in James, ‘It just hit the spot’.
John Piper has a ministry called ‘Desiring God’ and he has written various books about desiring God that I haven’t read. This one caught my eye because it’s about when we don’t desire God – something that we may find hard to admit and even harder to do something about.
Piper says that ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him’ and he calls the doctrine surrounding this ‘Christian Hedonism’ (don’t stop reading because I used the hedonism word!). In his words, ‘Christian Hedonism is a liberating and devastating doctrine. It teaches that the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him. Therefore it is liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy. And it is devastating because it reveals that no one desires God with the passion he demands.’
He opens by telling us why he wrote the book. He had had an ‘unbiblical bondage of fear that it was wrong to pursue joy.’ Having understood that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, ‘What had once seemed like an inevitable but defective quest for the satisfaction of my soul now became not just permitted but required. …I was free to pursue my fullest joy in God without guilt.’ The flip side of this, he explains is that we are not just permitted to pursue joy in God, we are commanded to and therefore not doing so ‘would be indifference to the glory of God, and that is sin.’
That was all on the first page, and having read that maybe you are thinking what I thought – ‘Well now I’m kind of committed to reading the rest of the book to find out what the pursuit of joy looks like, because I sure don’t know…’
Perhaps I should stop here, and just let you read the book! I’ll give you a few ideas of what’s in it first… Having unpacked the difference between desire and delight and reviewing the gospel message, he helps us to see how reading God’s word can satisfy us in him (and thus bring glory to God) and how prayer can do the same. He also devotes a chapter to how our 5 senses help us to sense God if we are listening to them, an experience of the glory of God that we maybe missing out on. He ends with a chapter about depression and spiritual darkness, which is really helpful. This book is a good primer on all these subjects, and worth reading just for that (but please don’t read it just for that – read the whole thing!).
I haven’t read many books on addiction, but of those I have, this is certainly the best. The title refers to Proverbs 9 v 13-18. Whether you are struggling with your own addiction or with that of a family member or friend, this book will really help you to understand the spiritual war that is raging over the addict and how Christ can set them free.
Welch describes the nature of addiction and recovery from a Scriptural viewpoint and the book is filled with quotations from Scripture that are incredibly relevant, but which most of us would of we brainstormed it together.
Relevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour, this isn’t the usual type of book we review here at the Highfields Book of the Month slot, but I understand that the author is a Christian and the topic is relevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour. So here we go…
This book aims to give you a general understanding of two broad generalisations of the world’s cultures, so that you can avoid making simple cultural mistakes. Lanier says that there are ‘hot-climate’ and ‘cold-climate’ cultures, and you can pretty much work out which one your country is in just by the climate.
Sam Allberry’s book ends with the question, ‘Why on earth would I not bother with church?’, and by the time you’ve read it, it seems a very reasonable question.
One of the Good Book Company’s ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series, this little book is jam-packed with what the Bible says about why we should bother with church.
Allberry begins by explaining what church is: it’s not a gathering of 2 or 3 believers over a latte, a building or a denomination. It is God’s family. He reminds us that the local church is not a part of the universal church but that it is the church of God in a particular locale. ‘Church is… not a meeting you attend but a body you belong to.’ (p30). He addresses some tricky questions, including ‘Hasn’t the church done more harm than good?’ and ‘Why are there so many denominations?’ and gives very clear answers, which we would do well to be able to articulate, since they seem to come up so often in ministry to prisoners.
When I pictured my depression there’s always one thing I could see
A 1950’s gangster slowly walking after me.
He would wear a long black overcoat
That would reach down to the floor
His back was broad, his neck was thick
He stood taller than a door.
His wide brimmed hat was pulled down low
Above his soulless eyes
His face carved out of granite
Always void of smiles.
We visited the Wea village today, which POC has been supporting since a mudslide destroyed several houses, killing 9 children a few years ago. POC supporters have enabled POC to help the Wea people to build breeze block houses, on high ground – more stable structures away from the sea front. A team from POC go every Wednesday morning for a time of ministry and children’s work.
Today we went to Angeles and PPJ jails, where I spoke about the shepherds who visited Jesus. The people judged shepherds as dodgy characters and so they weren’t recognised as legal witnesses, but God sent them as the first witnesses to the birth of his Son! God was breaking down social barriers as soon as Jesus was born! And the shepherds went to ‘see the thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. They didn’t sit down and discuss how many angels would fit on the head of a pin, or save up the visitation as a good story to tell the grandchildren, they obeyed God and went to see the Lord. That’s what we are called to do. To respond.
We’ve finished the Christianity Explored course in the local jail today. First thing this morning we thought we wouldn’t be able to run the last 2 sessions but the Lord answered prayer and opened the way!!
We had a graduation for the ladies this afternoon, giving out certificates, and sang ‘Mahal na mahal kita Paginoon’ (I love and I love you Lord). They were a lovely group who really looked after each other well and were hungry to hear the good news about Jesus.
We’ve had a day off today, with a lazy morning and then out to the mall for frappes, pootling and lunch.
It’s been a really busy week, CE all day mon, weds and thurs, jail ministry all day tues and fri morning, and medical mission at the jail after ministry yesterday. We’re seeing prisoners who present with healthcare needs and offering what we can, seeing about 20 ppl between 2 of us yesterday, some new and some follow ups from last week. All communication goes via a translator in both directions.
The CE course in a jail is going really well, the ladies seem really keen and are faithful in attendance. We will have a graduation and certificate giving on Monday afternoon.
It’s been lovely to see old friends, particularly ppl who have been in prison on previous trips and are now free!
We’ve started the Christianity Explored course in 164 jail today. 12 women are in the group, some of whom did the Guilt and Forgiveness course with us last year.
Its a different dynamic to running the course in your own language; the personal conversations are missing, and the depth of understanding of an individual’s journey of faith. But that’s not a problem for God, he knows all those things anyway!
I’m here with Rachael from Integritas Healthcare, and Amy who is a junior doctor. They are running health care clinics for prisoners and POC staff, which I am able to join in with sometimes.
We’re now all sitting in my bedroom, having mossie sprayed the rest of the building. It will take 15 minutes for it to become habitable for humans again. Realised we’ve trapped ourselves in the only room with living mosquitos…
Been to Iba jail today. I spoke on Colossians 2:6-7, about Jesus being our Lord, not just our Saviour. Knowing that Jesus is your Saviour, that he has forgiven you for all your sins, is a wonderful blessing! But knowing that He is your Lord, the One who has authority over your life, mind and heart, can be very inconvenient!
We considered the scenario of spending an afternoon chatting with Manny Pacquiao, who was very interested in you, and you both had a wonderful time. But then you never spoke to him again, even tho he wrote you letters (that you never read) and called you often (but you didn’t answer). You were happy to live on just the memory of that afternoon. That would be crazy! But we often treat Jesus this way.
Had an easy day today to recover from jetlag and unpack. I was reminded of something amazing on the way – Jesus lived a life of complete obedience to God and in the greatest swap in history, he took my sin and paid for it and he gave me his righteousness.
10 sleeps to go till Rachael and I fly to the Philippines where we work alongside Philippine Outreach Centre Ministries. I’ll be running Christianity Explored in a women’s jail and speaking in jails. I’m currently adapting the CE DVD talks as there’s no DVD player in the prison and everything has to be translated so takes twice as long to say!
These walls of bricks and iron bars that a prison do make
Constrain and constrict me physically and my liberty do take.
My soul though belongs to the Lord, so make no mistake
That my spirit nor powers of hell or even Satan himself can break.
For a man seeking liberty leaves prison life only to find
Himself still trapped inside the dark recesses of his own mind.
On the other hand, a man of faith seeking God can plainly see
Though his body is in chains, Jesus sets his heart free.
I’ve been painting a gate this weekend. As I did it, it occurred to me that if gates could cry, this one would have been bawling at the pain of change. It was happy being red and looking scruffy, getting on with life and serving it’s purpose well enough. But it’s owner decided that in order for it to survive another winter, change was required – a new coat of paint. The quickest and least painful way to do that would have been to slap a coat of paint on top of the existing one and call it an improvement. It would have looked better for a while. Until the winter when the problems under the surface would reveal themselves in the storms, as old paint continued to peel wrecking the new, allowing the rot to continue.
The Guilt and Forgiveness course finished well this afternoon! 12 women graduated and each received a certificate. They have heard the good news about Jesus Christ clearly and the group said that doing the course has helped them to forgive themselves and others. It’s been a great week, Louie has done marvels with translating and lives have been changed. Praise God!
I have to admit it’s been incredibly hot at times though! (35C under a tin roof!).
We’ve done session 1&2 of the Guilt and Forgiveness course with a group of women today – it’s going well! We’ve defined guilt and forgiveness and heard the good news about Jesus. Rain stopped play for 5 mins when the washing had to be got in – never had that happen before!
Thank you for praying – please don’t stop!
We’re back with them on Weds, when we’ll be looking at King David’s sin with Bathsheba / arranging a hit on her husband and his repentance / forgiveness from God.
We went to Iba jail this morning, our first jail visit of the trip. I explained to the prisoners that I was glad to be back with them, but I know that they were not so glad to be there… Gave a talk on Romans 6, translated by Louie, hard to tell how it was received, but I could see that some were following it.
Looking forward to running the Guilt & Forgiveness course next week in 164 jail – I’ve discovered that there’s no word in Tagalog for guilt, so I’ve had to re-jig Session 1 already, to teach what guilt is, rather than ask the group to tell me what it is!! I foresaw some issues to running the course in another language and culture, but that wasn’t one of them!!
Went to the boys house today to play with the boys and chat with some of the house parents. Played scrabble with a group of boys, some really young, and their English is so good that they were finding words to play that I couldn’t see on my board! Connect4 also seems to be a hit. Both games were very fluid in who was playing them – the scrabble players changed completely somewhere during the game!
We went to the Wea village this morning. Mid 2103 there was a mudslide that crushed the houses of a Wea community on the shore and killed 9 children, who were involved in the POC children’s outreach. POC have since been supporting the families, including helping them to build houses, now up a hill. A new village has sprung up.
Chrissy and her team meet every Wednesday with the Wea people, and we joined her today. We spent some time worshipping in Tagalog, and then some of the women spoke about how God is helping them at the moment. Then I spoke about ‘Hunger for the word of God’, explaining that ‘Word of God’ has 2 meanings – it means ‘the Bible’ and it is a title of Jesus, who is God incarnate. Louie is my translator.
Finally arrived in the Philippines after a LONG journey! Got to Subic at 10pm and went to bed almost immediately. Middle of the night woke up, wondering why I’m here, so read some Bible. Got an answer, thank you Lord, Isaiah 43:6-7, ‘Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’ It’s for God’s glory.
The pain of guilt is something that no medication can relieve,
the drugs will only blind you, your lack of sight you cannot perceive.
Just embrace the truth of the Gospel, in Jesus repent and believe,
the Father’s arms are open, through His Grace forgiveness you achieve.
The debility of guilt with time will leave you totally incapacitated,
With no amount of alcohol drunk, will your thirst ever be satiated.
The cloud in your head clears, and coldness within is accentuated,
the only Spirit that warms the soul is Holy, and from the Father,
through the Son, forgiveness is radiated.