A eunuch for Jesus?

There is a curious conversation recorded in Matthew 19 which is often overlooked, although it is the follow up to some oft-quoted teaching on divorce. You’ll recall that the disciples asked Jesus where he stood on divorce, and when he says you can’t get divorced except if your spouse has committed adultery, the exasperated disciples exclaim  “It’s better not to get married then!”

And Jesus says “Duh!”

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To Lent or Not To Lent?

Let it be said, that in many ways, I’m about as non-conformist, non-liturgical as you can get. Instinctively, I rebel against the idea of the church year and its associated festivals. I won’t unpack my reasons for this, just take it that I’m an old Free Evangelical curmudgeon.

However, while I’m a natural iconoclast, I am enough of a historian to recognise that something would not have survived for as long as the concept of the church year if it did not have some value. I can see that in pre-literate societies, the rhythm of the church year, combined with the rolling of the seasons would have a value in teaching the message of the Gospels through a process of repetition. However, in an urban, literate society some of this value would undoubtedly be lost.

That being said, over the past few years, I’ve begun to think that churches in my tradition are missing a trick by not celebrating Lent. Let me explain.

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False gospels, poverty and justice

I don’t see his face. I know he is wearing a blue shirt and shorts, I guess he is about 10 or 12 and I think he is thin. Why do I know so little about him?  Because he is just in the edge of my vision. I am walking quickly out of the shopping mall amidst a cloud of boys.  They are asking for dinero (money). I am feeling stressed – are these guys genuine or were they sent out to beg by gang leaders? Or is that just my excuse not to stop, to give, to get involved? He isn’t asking for money, just lying on the floor, perhaps the poorest of them all. I don’t know.

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What is my purpose?

This is a question I’ve asked myself for years and I imagine one that plagues the minds of many. In the past I would have answered it with something like “to help people” or “to tell people about Jesus” or perhaps a more vague “to serve God”. Those are great aims in life, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think they’re quite there. As a church worker, I’ve tried to do those things. I’ve worked very hard at helping people. I’ve told lots of people about Jesus. I’ve tried to serve God through giving talks, writing studies, organising events, hosting parties, driving people round, baking cakes, brewing tea, mopping floors and being a shoulder to cry on. But somewhere in the midst of all that, I forgot that my primary purpose in life is to glorify God, and that starts with simply knowing Him (John 17:3).

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Overhelpful?

Being helpful is a notable Christian trait, though something we often carry to excess. Even more so for mission workers. We care, and we hope to change things. We see people hurting and our compassion drives us to improve things for them. We want to solve problems. We want to make things better. We need to see healing. It’s a trap we can easily fall into. One of the hardest things for compassionate people to do is sit and watch someone struggle with pain, confusion and need.

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The Crowd and the Finishing Line

Like many runners, I was transfixed recently when Eliud Kipchoge ran a marathon distance in under two hours. I know it wasn’t a race and it doesn’t count as a world record, but it was still impressive. When he broke away from his pace makers and sprinted to the line, I was in bits. Frankly, I could run half a mile at the pace he managed, much less a marathon.

Of course, this was his second attempt at a sub-two hour marathon. His first try at the target was on Monza race course and he missed his goal by a very narrow margin. One of the things that he identified as a problem at Monza was that he was too far from the cheering crowd, so in Vienna the route was chosen so that people could be close to him and cheer him on his way. Crowds do help. Even running in a small, local half-marathon, it gives you a little spring in your step when kids hold up their hands for a high-five as you go past.

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Hope does not disappoint

The Evangelical Alliance has called the UK to believe for a hopeful future following the outcome of the General Election which returned a majority Conservative government.

In a statement responding to the election outcome, Gavin Calver, CEO, said: “I am hopeful for the future of the United Kingdom as we head into 2020.

“Not because one party has won and another has lost, but because we believe in a God who is powerful.

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