Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, April 26, 2013

5th Sunday of Easter: Having the Love of God Shed Abroad in our Hearts

How do the people around you know that you are one of Jesus’ disciples?

Being a Christian, born again, saved, disciple, Spirit filled – all mean the same thing in the sense that it’s not possible to be one without the other. So, how do the people around you know that you are a Christian, born again, saved, a disciple, Spirit filled?

Let me make it more personal – how do you know that I am a Christian?
Perhaps you've just assumed that because I am a minister, I am a Christian. I think that’s a silly assumption to make.
How do I know that you’re a Christian?

What makes us come to the conclusion that a person is a Christian?

I’ve made a list of some of the ways we might answer that question:

1.    He goes to Church every he must be a Christian. 
2.    She reads her Bible and can quote she must be a Christian. 
3.     So and so prays beautifully....... must be a Christian. 
4.    He goes from door to door telling people about Jesus.......must be a Christian. 
5.    She has been on Alpha course.................must be a Christian. 
6.    He works in the feeding scheme Monday to Friday............must be a Christian. 
7.    So and so is such a good person, keeps all the commandments, has never harmed a fly.......must be a Christian. 

How about this one –

8.    He says he is a Christian – he gives a beautiful testimony about how bad he was, how he met Jesus and invited Him into His heart.............he must be a Christian.

How do we know someone is a Christian?

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about Judgment Day and He says in Matthew 7:22  ‘When Judgment Day comes, many will say to me;  Lord, Lord, in your name we spoke God’s message, drove out demons, performed miracles.’

Do you see that.......... preaching God’s message, driving out demons,  doing many miracles, all in Jesus name..............You and I might think such people must be Christians, must be born again and full of the Spirit of God – we’d be wrong – says don't have to be a Christian, or born again, or Spirit filled to do these things.

If a person who has been blind since birth comes in here now and I lay hands on them, get my anointing oil and proclaim “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, receive your sight.” And they receive their sight, would that say anything about me?

No. It says a lot more about the Jesus I pray to, than about me.

So Jesus says in these verses – you witnessed, healed, exorcised demons but… I never knew you as one of the saved, as a Christian, as person of faith, so… go to hell or ‘get away from me you evildoers.’

How do we know if someone is a Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Jesus gives the answer in our reading (John 13:35) ‘If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.’

How do you know if someone is a Christian? By their love… for… one another.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas once wrote in his provocative style, "one of the hardest commandments is that Christians are to love one another—even if they are married." Loving others is always a challenge. And if we're honest, at times this challenge is actually heightened by proximity and familiarity. So goes the old maxim, "familiarity breeds contempt."
Yet in the thirteenth chapter of John, Jesus is speaking with his disciples, those with whom he is closest. And it's in this context that he gives this difficult commandment. "Love one another." Perhaps Jesus is anticipating the challenge of carrying forward the Gospel: its difficulties and conflicts for his friends. He knows that among those seated at the table significant disagreements will arise. 
Perhaps this is why Jesus also reminds his friends that this love they are to share has only been made possible by Jesus' love for them, not by their own efforts. Here we are reminded that loving one another—especially those with whom we are close—is made possible only by the closeness of God's love given to us in Jesus Christ. 

When we love one another, we glorify Christ because His love is made visible through us, and when Christ's love is made visible through us, God is glorified. Isn't this amazing? It is often the case—rightly or wrongly—that we assess the love of parents through their children's behavior. If a child shows respect for nature, we assume that his or her parents must have taken him or her on walks in the forest and told him or her the names of the birds. If a child develops compassion for the poor, we assume that his or her parents have talked to them about poverty and given him or her an opportunity to know those who are struggling. What's remarkable about such an assumption is that we tend to believe when we make such assessment that it has almost everything to do with the parent and little to do with the child. I think this is especially true when we come across a very well mannered and polite child, we credit the parents...the glory goes to them.  
Jesus calls his disciples little children. This strikes me as apt. God's love is so profound, so great, that it cannot be hidden away in us. God loves us so much that God will be glorified through us as we love those around us. Thanks be to God.

How often do we say, "Oh so and so ‘loves the Lord’" ...... so what? The command in Scripture is not only to love the Lord your God but also and at the same time.... to love your neighbor.

A new commandment I give to you… you must love one another.’

Is it possible to love the Lord, but to not love others?
I suppose it is possible – but Jesus doesn’t give us the option.
He says....if you love me, you must love the people I love.

Christians… love.
This is our defining characteristic.

Yes, they also go to Church, read the Bible, witness, pray for other people,..... and they’ll do these things to different degrees.......but according to the word of God, the Bible, according to Jesus, what  all Christians have in common, what it is that defines a Christian, a.. saved person… they love.

At the end of the day, well at the End of the Age actually, when Jesus sits on the Judgment Throne (every week our judge’s weigh  evidence and give a verdict) ...... when Jesus does that (judges) it’s not so much – I kept the commands, I never hurt anybody, that He’s interested in – His question will be: ‘But who did you help? You lived a good life, but that’s not what gets you into Heaven. Who did you help…? Who experienced my love… through you? Who experienced a bit of Heaven here on earth, through you?

Many of us ask, "How do I get to heaven?" We live amidst suffering and uncertainty, and, to many, heaven represents a better possibility. The question suggests something that is often held in many popular expressions of Christianity: that it is our job to get to heaven. 
Yet in John's vision, he does not see people 'getting to heaven,' but the New Jerusalem, the dwelling of God, coming to people. In this stunning image, we discover that God's new creation descends to us. Here we see heaven getting to us. 
In the descending of the New Jerusalem, there is a promise: God has come near to us and will never abandon us to suffering, uncertainty—to the forces of death. God's kingdom has come and is coming to make all things new—not just up there, but here; not just later, but now. And the main way that God's kingdom comes and His will is done, is as we commit ourselves to the difficult task of loving one another.

A new commandment I give to you: love one another.

I close with a question:

Does your Christianity compel and enable you, yes, within the limits of your powers and opportunities, to be thoughtful and compassionate and helpful and unselfish towards others round about you – in the Church, on the street, in the home, at school, at work.

Our whole case before God stands or falls by this:

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Questions based on Having the Love of God Shed Abroad in our Hearts

Read the sermon here

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another

Is there a difference between any of these terms: Christian, disciple, born again, saved, Christ or Spirit filled? Is it possible to be one of these without being any of the others?

What (usually) makes us come to the conclusion that someone might be a Christian?

Read Matthew 7:22. How is it possible to preach, prophesy, heal and drive our demons and yet not be a Christian?

‘One of the hardest commandments is that Christians are to love one another.’ Discuss.

Discuss whether it is possible to love the Lord, but not love one another?

What is love?

Read Revelation 21:1-6. How many of the things mentioned:
Have already come about?
How many are busy coming about?
How many are yet to come about?

Friday, April 19, 2013

4th Sunday of Easter: Your Works Testify to Jesus

Acts 9:32-43

Your works testify to Jesus

Our theme for this, the 4th Sunday in Easter, is ‘Your works testify to Jesus’.
St. Francis of Assisi, the name that the new pope has chosen for himself, becoming Francis 1st, is credited with saying: ‘Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.’

Our actions, our deeds, will always speak louder than our words. The great Jewish prophets, the forerunners of Jesus, had a common message which went something like this: The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land and the quality of justice in the land will be judged by how “widows, orphans and strangers” (biblical code for the three most vulnerable groups in society) fared while you were alive.

In His ministry, Jesus didn't disagree. When He describes the Last Judgment at the end of Matthew’s gospel, He tells us that this judgment will not be, first of all, about right doctrine, good theology, church attendance, or even personal holiness or sexual morality; but about how we treated the poor.

Nobody gets into Heaven without a letter of reference from the poor. Jesus and the great Biblical prophets make that clear.

Now, this challenge to justice doesn't negate other religious and moral obligations, but it does remain always as a fundamental, non-negotiable principle: We are going to be judged by how the most vulnerable groups (widows, orphans, strangers) fared while we were alive and practicing our faith. The challenge is a strong one.

It seems to be a challenge which Tabitha, in our reading, grasped with both hands and I want to suggest this morning, in the context of ‘your works testify to Jesus’ there is a Tabitha in each of us and the challenge is to let God fire up the Tabitha within us.

To fire up within us works, good deeds, actions, which testify to the Jesus who is in us and working through us, works which have the result that people don’t say: ‘Wow, what a great guy Cedric is’ but rather “Wow, what a great God Cedric serves.”

Your works testify to Jesus’.

Tabitha’s works testified to Jesus – the first thing we are told about her is that she was a disciple of Jesus. What an amazing start to her eulogy at her funeral. When someone stands up to speak at your or my funeral, will their first words be: “He/she was a disciple of Jesus.”? (It occurred to me while preparing that you and I are actually writing our eulogy up until the day we die.)

Tabitha, we are told, was a disciple. What is a disciple?
A disciple is someone who chooses to come under and submit to, the influence and teaching of another person in order to become like that person.

Tabitha was a disciple of Jesus, which means that she was a person who was becoming like Jesus. Who was Jesus a disciple of?
He was a disciple of His Father in Heaven which is why He could say on one occasion ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father  because I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’(John 14)

We as disciples can say: “I am in Christ, and Christ is in me.” We sing a song:
‘It’s not longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me.’ But does the world see the Christ who lives in me, and in particular, do the poor, the widows, orphans and strangers, see Christ in me, in you?

Our works testify to Jesus.

Tabitha’s did. After being told she is a disciple, her eulogy goes on: “She was always doing good and helping the poor.” She knew the poor, and the poor knew her.

Her faith, which saved her, led her to the poor. As she became a disciple of Jesus, she became like Jesus, and so, like Jesus, she developed a heart for the most vulnerable in society – the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger/foreigner/alien. Our faith should do the same. It’s one for the reasons why, as Jesus prophesied, we will always have poor people among us, so that they can provide God with a reference for each one of us.

Living here in Alberton, you and I all ‘know’ poor people, vulnerable people, outcasts from society. You can perhaps see them in your mind as I speak.

You can’t get into or out of the shopping centre next to our campus, or through the intersection on our corner, without seeing the type of people that Jesus had the most time for… poor, rejected, outcasts,...... sinners, prostitutes and drunkards. These are the people who Jesus was accused of spending His time with, and the respectable people of the day hated Jesus for this.

When Tabitha died, God could go to the poor of Joppa and say ‘Tell me about Tabitha’........and they no doubt provided Him with a glowing reference.

When you and I die… never mind you… when I die… if I die tomorrow… God won’t come to Alberton Methodist Church and say ‘tell me about Cedric’ .....No… He’ll go to the streets around us, to the most vulnerable in Alberton, and say: ‘Tell me about Cedric, did his faith make him more like my Son?’ 

You see, in the world's scheme of things, survival of the fittest is the rule. In God’s scheme of things, survival of the weakest is the rule (Alphonse Keuter) and for survival of the weakest (here in Alberton), He has given birth to His church (here in Alberton), where hopefully followers of Christ become disciples of Christ whose works testify to Jesus.

Now, perhaps you're tempted to ask: ‘So tell me God, must I now reach out to every suffering or vulnerable person in Alberton?’

It’s probably not possible to create an Alberton where no people suffer, or where no one goes hungry or cold,..... but with the power of God it is possible to create an Alberton in which fewer people suffer, or go hungry or get cold.

Peter got down on his knees and prayed and then he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet.

And while it’s not recorded for us, we know what Tabitha did with the extra time she was given until she died again.
We know, don’t we?

She lived a life whose works testified to Jesus.

May we also.

Questions based on "Your works testify to Jesus"

Questions based on Your works testify to Jesus
Read the sermon here
1. Are “widows, orphans and strangers” the most vulnerable groups in society?  Discuss this especially in our S.A. context.

2. Read Matthew 25:21-46.  What light does this passage shed on our belief that Salvation is by faith alone?

3. What is a “disciple”?

4. What does it mean to sing/say: “It’s no longer I that liveth, but Christ that liveth in me”?

5. How does the world, and in particular, the people of Alberton, see the “Christ who lives in me”?

6. “It’s not possible to create an Alberton where no people suffer or go hungry and cold; but it is possible to create an Alberton where fewer people suffer, go hungry, or get cold.”  What part can you play in the creation of such an Alberton?

For personal reflection:  In what ways is your faith 
in Christ making you more like Christ?

Our recent Leaders Meeting unanimously decided to explore the possibility of establishing a soup kitchen in the winter months where church members can get together (probably just once a week), 
make soup, butter bread, etc. and place them in the hands of those who are hungry.  If you would like to get involved, 
please contact the Church Office on 011 907 2807 

An Amazing Story JW believes is True

Mon 19 Apr 1784: I went on to Ambleside, where, as I was sitting down to supper, I was informed, ‘Notice had been given of my preaching, and that the congregation was waiting.’ I would not disappoint them, but preached immediately on ‘Salvation by faith.’ Among them were a gentleman and his wife, who gave me a very remarkable relation. She said,
She had often heard her mother relate, what an intimate acquaintance had told her, that her husband was concerned in the Rebellion of 1745. He was tried at Carlisle and found guilty. The evening before he was to die, sitting and musing in her chair, she fell fast asleep. She dreamed one came to her and said, ‘Go to such a part of the wall, and among the loose stones you will find a key, which you must carry to your husband.’ She waked but, thinking it a common dream, paid no attention to it. Presently she fell asleep again and dreamed the very same dream. She started up, put on her cloak and hat, and went to that part of the wall, and among the loose stones found a key. Having with some difficulty procured admission into the jail, she gave this to her husband. It opened the door of his cell, as well as the lock of the prison door. So at midnight, he escaped for life.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter: Christ Calls You Beyond Yourself

Christ Calls You Beyond Yourself
Acts 9:1-6      Revelation 5:11-14      John 21:1-19

Our theme today, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the season when we look at the Resurrection appearances of Jesus, is:

Christ calls you beyond yourself.

And as we work through the readings set for today, we are going to see that those whom Christ truly calls (and that is all of us), Christ truly stretches.

In fact we are going to see that in the Christian life, stretch is the norm. Loving God with all our heart, mind, body and strength… stretches us.
Loving others… stretches us.
Loving enemies… stretches us.

Stretch is the norm as Jesus constantly calls us to live beyond our comfort zones and beyond our expectations.

The Resurrection of Jesus stretches not only our beliefs… the Resurrection of Jesus stretches our behaviour, our hopes, our worship, our everything. Stretch is the norm.

John 21:1-19
‘Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way:  Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. ‘

They have seen and believed, but that doesn’t make their work or their life any easier. They've worked all night, with no success...nothing to show for it! You and I know that feeling, don't we?… Jesus calls you beyond yourself.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.’

They have seen and believed, but they don’t see Jesus in the midst of their struggle. You and I (after all we've seen and come to believe) often don’t either. The Jesus who calls us beyond ourselves, is always with us, we just don’t always see Him.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” Now you may have heard in previous preaching on this text that a person standing on the shore, especially if a little elevated, could perhaps have seen a school of fish that the fisherman couldn't see...... Jesus could see the fish, so He tells them to cast out on the other side...but this is unlikely. More likely is that in the desparation, they will try anything...we all know that feeling, don't we?

“When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.”

Peter swam.... a hundred yards, that is a long swim for anyone… Jesus calls you beyond yourself ......and sometimes to do "crazy" things.

“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself  but like that net, even when stretched, you won’t be broken. You will never be stretched (in pain, in suffering, in workload, in trial) beyond what our LORD knows you can bear.

“Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself. He sometimes wants us to really think and not just to say, so He will ask us over and over. Let me ask you: Do you love Jesus?....................Do you love Jesus?..................Do you love Jesus?

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

Jesus calls you beyond yourself. ‘Peter as you follow me, things are not always going to go your way. Serving me is going to take you (take us) to places, to people, to decisions, that you (we) will not always like.’

Jesus calls us beyond ourselves – to that place, essential to discipleship, where it’s no longer my will be done, but YOUR will be done.

Acts 9:1-20
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

There is no other word for Saul at this point then: Evil. He is looking for Christians in order to kill them. He’s a Hitler, a Saddam Hussein… he was there when they stoned Stephen… like a Muamar Gaddaffi watching a person being tortured to death.

Isn't it annoying who God calls, who God sees as useful........ before we change. Jesus calls us beyond ourselves to see the best in unchanged people.

“The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

Jesus calls us beyond ourselves even to go to dangerous people who we fear. He stretches us, doesn't He? Stretch is the norm. When last were you stretched because of your belief?

“But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.  I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Saul changes his mind about something that he has felt very strongly about. He believed he was doing God's will as he persecuted Christians.....but he was wrong. How easy do you find it to admit you were wrong? From fighting against the Way (vs 2) in synagogues, Saul is now fighting for the Way in synagogues.

This is the true meaning of repentance – it means to change direction, to turn from our old way to God’s new way. Yes, it has something to do with sin, but it has far more to do with lifestyle - which leads us to our final reading.

Revelation 5:11-14
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”
 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

The ‘I’ in verse 11 is John in prison on the island Patmos. The Robben Island of the day.
Remember, in following Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, we will find ourselves in places we don’t want to be.

"Then I looked and heard" 
Jesus calls us beyond ourselves to see and hear things… as they really are.

In prison (Peter and John and most of the disciples and millions of Christians since then), in solitary confinement (like John), in our struggling workplace (like the fisherman), in our weakness (hauling in fish with our left hand or being thrown off our horse in the midday sun, or blinded by the events of life), in our being led where we don’t want to go, (Peter, John, Saul , Ananias) in our fear, (Ananias and the early Church and like many today who live out their faith in fear of persecution)… in all these things, Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, who perhaps right now is calling you beyond yourself, stretching you so that perhaps you are feeling that unlike those fishing nets, you actually are close to breaking, in all these things, Jesus, who calls us beyond ourselves, wants us to see things as they really are… and in all these things, what is it that we really need to see or to hear…

It is this: 
The Lamb who was slain, is on the throne.....
 The Lamb who was slain, is on the throne.

Hear that.....see that...because that is how things really are

Your God… rules. 
Your God… rules.
Your God… is in control. 
Your God… is in control.

Nothing is happening to you that is beyond God’s will or beyond God’s power to use for good......Nothing!
The Lamb who was slain is on the throne, and that, in our reading from Revelation, calls us to worship.

So let’s worship.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Questions based on "Christ calls you beyond yourself"

Read the sermon here
Readings – John 21:1-19; Acts 9:1-20; Rev 5:11-14

“Christ calls you beyond yourself.” Discuss whether this has been true in your life, especially as you have grown in grace and love.

“Those whom Christ truly calls, Christ truly stretches.” Discuss this.

“Stretch is the norm.” True or false? Discuss your answer.

Loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind stretches us. Read through the readings and find examples of each of these 4 being stretched.

How should the Resurrection of Jesus stretch our behavior (Mt 25:31-46 and Mt 5:48)?

How should the Resurrection of Jesus stretch our worship?

When last were you wrong about something?

When last did you admit that you were wrong about something?

“Nothing is happening to you that is beyond God’s will or beyond God’s power to use for good.” Discuss and then pray for one another.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher

While I never met Margaret Thatcher, I for some reason remember her first election success very clearly. I was making the trek from Virginia back to Johannesburg after Easter to continue my second year dental studies at Wits University and the whole journey was punctuated with news coming in of her Conservatives winning more and more seats until a majority was reached......the rest of course is history.

Born into a very strict Methodist home, a lay preacher's daughter, they evidently worshipped several times on a Sunday and stuck to some of the Methodist requirements of the day dancing and no theater going. Although married in London's Wesley Chapel, she later joined her husband's Anglican church.

“Methodism is the most marvelous evangelical faith and there is the most marvelous love and feeling for music in the Methodist Church which I think is greater than in the Anglican Church. But you sometimes feel the need for a slightly more formal service and perhaps a little bit more formality in the underlying theology too.”

She identified three “distinctive marks” of Christianity. First, that man has been “endowed by God with the fundamental right to choose between good and evil.” Second, that as creatures in God’s image “we are expected to use all our own power of thought and judgement in exercising that choice,” with divine guidance if we “open our hearts to God.” And third, that “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when faced with His terrible choice and lonely vigil, chose to lay down His life that our sins may be forgiven.”

Some of my favorite Thatcherisms, not all of which I agree with:

On Power
“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”

On Convictions
"I am not a consensus politician. I'm a conviction politician."

“Consensus: “The process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner: ‘I stand for consensus?”

"If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing."

On Society
"There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.''

“It used to be about trying to do something. Now it's about trying to be someone.”

“Do you know that one of the great problems of our age is that we are governed by people who care more about feelings than they do about thoughts and ideas.”

On Character
“Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
My father always said that... and I think I am fine.”

On Work Ethic
“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it.”

“I do not know anyone who has gotten to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but it will get you pretty near.”

On Perseverance
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”

On Patience
“I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”

On Leadership
“Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”

Sources: Margaret Thatcher the Methodist and Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Dies Today at 87

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter Pastoral Letter

Easter 2013

Dear Alberton Methodist and my wider JohnWesleyProject Family,

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

This is called the Easter Anthem and is a wonderful prayer to pray daily during the Easter Season, which runs from Easter Sunday until the Sunday of Pentecost. It is based on 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Romans 6:9-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22. Can I please encourage you to use it in your prayer life? Some congregations have a Paschal Candle which they light each Sunday during Easter Season and if you want to light a candle in your home each day or at special meals and pray this prayer, you will be blessed. You will notice that I've italicised some of it so you can pray it responsively ...parents and children or boys and girls....whatever suits your situation.

Easter Day is the beginning of the season, not its climax. Easter Season is about the resurrection of Jesus, yes.  But it is also and perhaps especially about the new life He opens up for all in the body of Christ and the unstoppable mission on which He sends us as His disciples. That mission wasn't just for "those people back there." It is for all of us here and now, in the places and among the people with whom we live and work, and everywhere and everyone our communication, influence, and resources can reach around our communities, nation, and world.

May we all be blessed as we continue in our journey towards wholeness and holiness.

Much love,