The secret of a good all-age talk

Here are my Ten Commandments of speaking in an all-age context. What are yours? 1. Don’t call all-age services ‘Family Services’ However nicely you put it, using the term ‘family’ in any title will put off the (on average) 40% of your congregation who are not in a nuclear family. Even ‘Church Family’ does it. … Continue Reading

The secret of making all-age services work

There is nothing that quite gets opinion going as the subject of all-age services in local churches. I think there are some really good reasons for doing all-age worship, both practical and theological, but I won’t go into those here. The chances are, especially around Christmas or during the summer, you are going to be … Continue Reading

Why does God allow people to do evil?

This article was printed in the Winter edition of New Wine magazine, and is reproduced here by permission.

We are confronted almost daily with the reality of evil people at large in our world. Robert Mugabe is the latest in the long line of villainous leaders to dominate headlines. President of Zimbabwe since 1980, he has inflicted untold misery on his people—so why has he been allowed to continue? It is striking that Western policy in recent years has often appeared to be shaped by response to individuals, evil leaders who need to be toppled. So the second Gulf War in Iraq was directed specifically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. And it was seen to be a triumph of Western action that Gaddafi was deposed as leader of Libya. However evil certain systems or cultures appear to be, it is evil people that we feel the need to focus on.

Questions in Scripture

Scripture appears similarly to be concerned with evil individuals, and the challenge they offer to our understanding of God’s love and power. What will God’s response be to evil and obstinate Pharoah, oppressing and enslaving God’s people? asks the writer of Exodus. What will God do about a succession of kings of Israel and Judah who ‘do evil in the sight of the Lord’? asks the writer of 1 and 2 Kings. How can God not only allow the foreign leader Cyrus to flourish, but actually make use of him in liberating his people? asks Isaiah. What sense can we make of the tyrannical kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius as we face tyranny in our own day? asks Daniel. The questions continue to haunt us.

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What is wrong with gay ‘marriage’?

There continues to be very active debate about whether the historic term ‘marriage’ should be redefined to include covenanted relationships between two people of the same sex, and not just ‘a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman’. The latest comment on this has come from the newly appointed Dean of St Paul’s, David … Continue Reading

How should Luke 16.19­–31 shape our view of heaven and hell?

The story of the rich man and Lazarus appears on first reading to depict a detailed ‘map’ of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, but is this the right way to read it?

First, it is worth noting that the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ themselves do not occur in the parable. The NT talks about post-mortem life in a range of ways, not all of them easy to reconcile with one another. Perhaps the most controlling one would be the idea of ‘sleep’ as used by Paul in, for example, 1 Cor 15. ‘Heaven’ in the NT mostly appears to refer to the realm of God’s presence, reign and reality, and the central NT hope is not that we will leave the earth to go to heaven, but that God’s realm will come down to the earth (see Rev 21). (See Tom Wright’s Grove booklet for the most accessible exposition of this.)

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