Disciple, follower or ?

Most people when asked will profess to a faith, but statistics suggest theirs must be a passive one, given low levels of attendance in developed countries. 

But Christians have a further challenge beyond ‘attendance’, (ok, that has just turned away many potential readers), in that Jesus very specifically laid down what defined his disciples and followers. In Matthew 10 and Mark 16, the Commission was to go out and tell the world, and to deliver his signs and wonders.

It does not make comfortable reading as there was no room for wriggling. One either does it, or one does not. No room for ‘attendees’, ouch!

So what are you going to do, really get involved, or just hope….?

Happy Christmas…..

As the excitement of the annual festival starts to fade, it is that time to pressure children to write/email their letters of thanks or otherwise express gratitude for all their presents.

But how many of us have given our thanks for the greatest gift of all, that of our Father sending His only Son to be our Saviour and Redeemer? Ironic that so many of us are so ready to celebrate His birth, but forget to personally thank our Father.

It is never too late to correct this!


Having supper with some inspirational friends a few nights ago, the discussion came round to the subject of God’s gifts to us as individuals. The context was that Jesus commissioned his followers to ‘do as he did’, ie, to perform the signs and wonders in His name, to the glory of God, that others would see and believe.

Now this does tend to fly in a different direction to the expectations set by the principal Christian faiths, but these miracles did not simply cease with our Lord’s ascension. Search and you will discover that they continue today, evidencing that Jesus is by our side, here, now, today, and so His commission stands just as valid today as it did 2,000 years ago.

He also instructed us to ask, and it will be given. So the onus is on us to have faith, and ask for His gifts of the Spirit.

Back to our supper, Neil posed the thought about passing to the next world, and being greeted at the entrance. Before being judged, a door to one side is slightly opened, revealing a pile of gift-wrapped packages. “What are those parcels that you are showing me?”,one would naturally ask.

“Those are the gifts that were waiting for you, but you never asked for them” comes the response.

The story deeply resonated with me, for yet again it emphasised the difference between active and passive faith.

So thank you dear friends, Neil and Eleanor, for helping to expand our horizons and for reminding us how much there is to be asked for. It is so easy to just feel inadequate to challenges, but we need the courage to step out, knowing that He will give us the tools for whatever He asks us to do.

So I beg you to search your heart, and have the courage to ask for the spiritual gifts that are there waiting for you.

Thank you Dear Lord


Now here is a controversial thought……

The Bible is pretty clear on the subject of giving. No, not the dropping of the smallest coin you have into the collection basket on Sunday! Let us be more direct, there is no ducking the issue of tithing, the principle of giving 10% of your income away, usual taken to mean that the church should be the recipient. Whether or how much you give is a matter for you alone, but here is a question.

What is that money used for? Sadly, all too often it is used up in the upkeep of the church buildings, particularly the older ones. It leaves little for ‘mission’, the process of reaching out to spread the Word in our communities and help others to faith. Ok, that should not need major investment, until for instance, it comes to bringing in children’s teachers or youth leaders.

But have you ever thought of spreading your giving between Mission and Maintenance? Does your church have separate accounts for this? No?

How about asking your church leaders for such a facility, and shaking up the status quo a bit?

What are you?


Is it not more than a little ironic that we are asked about which religion do we belong to, rather than which faith? Which twig rather than which tree?

For does not dividing ourselves into ‘sects’ undermine the tenet of being ‘one body’ in Christ? This week the thought occurred that the more prescriptive we get about how we should worship and conform, the closer we get to becoming the ‘Scribes and Pharisees’ of the New Testament.

Which all serves to remind that it is our own very personal relationship with Christ that is so critical, not mere attendance at the church of your choice. How about doing some internet research, starting with the meaning behind Mark 16, verses 17-20. What were we tasked with, and what are we doing?

As ever, there is so much more for us if we ask. Have you asked?

The God of Abraham

A group of men seek to establish a religious state, with a barbaric sweep of ethnic cleansing. In the name of (their interpretation of) Islam, Christians are forced to flee, convert or be murdered. Not so very far away, another religious group engages in a near genocidal assault on men women and children of another faith, albeit provoked by an infinitely less effective continuing firing of homemade rockets.

The saddest aspect of all of this tragic slaughter is that all these groups believe in the same God of our forefather, Abraham. When the day comes that each of those engaged in the slaughter of their neighbours is set before God to be judged, do they think the Almighty will be impressed by their explanation for their actions?

Sadly man’s ability to create a bespoke religious interpretation that justifies his own actions continues undiminished.


The Warmth of Welcome

As a traveller in both life and faith, one has to step outside of the comfort of the familiar. And yet visiting new churches and attending services is a source of such joy. Here in the Caribbean, there is an abundance of churches, of all flavours and persuasions.

Indeed today we were told that Barbados has over 500 churches, (and also over 1,000 places to buy rum!). In most towns there is a multiplicity of options, from the familiar to the less common. We have enjoyed such welcomes that a return becomes inevitable. To be direct, even when we were almost the only white attendees, the open greetings and exchanges of peace were uninhibited.

For our skins are only our outer clothes, and to those of faith, we are all brothers and sisters. It was clear that the risk of prejudice was seen as a probable affliction of white people, for when we expressed this view, the smiles grew so much wider.

Universally so far, at some point visitors are invited to stand and make themselves known, usually by also saying your name and where you come from. A special greeting is given, and in one church, a momento pen was given, (St. Mary’s, near Jolly Harbour, Antigua).

The worship is determined and heartfelt, and the singing is exuberant. The services are quite a bit longer than those in England, but you simply do not notice, a lesson perhaps?

And yet today we were surprised. Attending a different mainstream denomination for a service, no books were provided for visitors, and it was apparent that many of the congregation were similarly hampered, leaving singing to the choir and part of the large congregation. The sermon was good, and the welcome of our neighbours was appreciated, and yet somehow there was something missing.

Familiarity can lead to complacency, and to somehow assume that all will come equipped is to segregate out visitors, the inquisitive and potentially the poor. It is unlikely that this was a financial constraint, for the denomination is one of the world’s largest, and wealthiest.

A cause for further sad reflection was the inability to take communion, given the known restriction against Christians of other faiths being allowed to do so. At the risk of inciting controversy, are not all committed Christians brothers and sisters? How do you think Our Lord might describe such segregation and distinction?

Guarding against restrictive or ingrained thoughts, behaviours and actions is the duty of us all. In the Commandment to love one another, is it not implicit that we should all do everything we can to help others to share in the sheer joy of our faith and communal worship to the greatest extent possible?

Do you show your faith?

A visit to Dominica is a bit of an eye-opener for the average European. Only the most unsighted person could fail to see the Christian messages around them. Most of the local transport minibuses carry stickers on the windows or sides proclaiming Jesus or God.


Now this could be just a reflection on local driving standards, let’s face it, neither the roads nor the driving is perfect, but it is much deeper than that.

The Church Wall & the 'JC Power Wash' ad

The Church Wall & the ‘JC Power Wash’ ad

Sundays bring out the faithful. There are numerous churches of all flavours, and the people mainly turn up smartly dressed. Churches are frequently filled to overflowing, with open windows and doors. The Anglican Church we eventually were directed to had a lively service, with a heartfelt sermon on the beatitudes.

By contrast, passing the Christian Union Church, the sermon was just starting, easily heard from the street. This was much more fire and brimstone, but in truth, we

lost the plot after 10 minutes…….

Visiting other churches takes you away from the familiar, and is a great source of joy. Have you tried it recently?

To Walk on Water…


….. first you have to step out of the boat!

You have a lot of time to reflect when sailing across an ocean. During a couple of days of stormy weather, one remembers Jesus calming the waters and a prayer for calm does not go amiss. In quieter seas, the mind turned to Jesus inviting his apostle to join him walking on the water as a test of faith.

How would you fare? Would you have the faith to step off the boat?

It is probably even more difficult to do so from a modern well-found boat with all the safety gear and twenty-first century ‘logic’ influencing the mind. And that is a fair reflection across a wider spectrum, for it is our innate conviction of ‘knowledge’ and self-reliance that makes that commitment all the more challenging. When you have nothing, there is little to risk.

Most of us have so much more to distract/restrain us….

Could/would you step off the boat?

What is our role?

It seems odd that one should have one’s eyes opened in Johannesburg by a blind man from Wales. But Mike Endicott is a man with a mission that challenges some of our received wisdom. He is a otherwise known as the Blind Healer, endorsed by no lesser person than Rowan Williams, the last Archbishop of Canterbury.

Far from accepting that healing by faith is a fringe activity within the Christian fellowship, he places it much closer to the core by reminding us that Jesus commissioned His disciples to go out and do likewise, and gave them means to do so. The ability to deliver this was and still is intended to be a fundamental demonstration of God’s love and power and is within us all. Mike commends us to pay close attention to the Cross, and place ourselves in step with Jesus, rather than just simply relying on a stream of requests to Our Father.

Such few words do not do justice to His calling, so I recommend to you Mike Endicott’s book, The Blind Healer. Read it, and may your thinking never be the same again…….