‘Straight to the heart of ACTS’ is one of a series of books written by Phil Moore who is the Lead Elder at Kings Road Church, Wimbledon. These books are written in an easy to read style, each chapter is usually only three or four pages long and is packed with sound biblical teaching accompanied by contemporary illustrations and anecdotes. Phil draws upon his extensive skills as a bible student to offer up digestible nuggets of truth. Each short chapter is a wholesome meal in its own right and you will want to linger and pray over the insights that he brings. At heart Phil is an evangelist and this is reflected in his writing which is direct and designed to draw a response from the reader.
This volume looking at Acts takes the reader through this unique era of church life from the outpouring of the spirit at Pentecost, through the growth of the Jerusalem church as it then expanded into Judea and Samaria. We then discover how the Holy Spirit opens the apostles’ eyes to the truth that the gospel is for the Gentiles and travel with Paul as he plants churches in Asia Minor, Europe before finally getting to Rome. Read a chapter a day and in two months you will have experienced New Testament church life for yourself in a refreshing way.
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Following the vote in Parliament on the 5th February, the media frenzy surrounding the government’s bill on same sex couples marriage has quietened down for now. There are several stages for it to go through before it becomes law, and the public debate will doubtless continue to be robust and heated. However, regardless of the final outcome, it’s worth taking time to consider what our position should be as followers of Jesus.
Debate about marriage law is not new; indeed the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking him a question about divorce cf. Matthew 19:3-12. Jesus’ answer did not appeal to tradition, to Old Testament law, or even to social convention. His answer was firmly grounded in God’s creation plan as revealed in the early chapters of Genesis. According to Jesus, God’s plan was to create human beings as ‘male and female’. God ordained that in marriage ‘a man would leave his father and mother and be hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. His conclusion so far as divorce was concerned was: ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’
The Pharisees were not satisfied with Jesus’ answer, and even his disciples found Jesus’ teaching hard to accept, so we should not be surprised that a biblical understanding of marriage between a man and a woman is unpopular in contemporary society, and even some wings of the Christian church. Jesus himself said that ‘not everyone can receive this saying’.
The challenge we face is to uphold the creational principle that biblical marriage is a union between a man and a woman that is exclusive, permanent and sacred in the sight of God. Does that mean there is no place in the church for those who have not attained this high standard? Of course not! We show compassion and love to the broken. We seek to bring healing and reconciliation to those who are hurting. We offer grace and forgiveness to the fallen. There is a safe place in our church family for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. At the same time we affirm Jesus’ teaching that any sexual activity outside marriage between one man and one woman is sin and needs repentance if we truly wish to follow him.
This blog post featured in the March 2013 edition of Lifelines
During World War II a group of Scottish soldiers were captured and forced to build the Burma Railway. Conditions were harsh, the guards’ treatment of the POWs was brutal and the death rate was high. Ernest Gordon, in his book ‘Miracle on the River Kwai’, recounts the true story of how at the end of a particular work party the guards counted the shovels back in as they did each evening; only on this occasion the count was short, a shovel was missing!
The officer in charge was furious and began ranting at the prisoners demanding that the person responsible for stealing or hiding the shovel should step forward. They stood silently in line; no one moved. Incensed, the guard shrieked “All die! All die!” and began to aim his gun at the defenceless men. At that moment one man stepped forward and the officer beat him to death right before the eyes of his colleagues.
The survivors were permitted to pick up his bloody corpse and carry him, along with the shovels, back to the camp. Here the guards carried out a second tool check and found that all the shovels were accounted for, there had never been a missing shovel! The first check point had simply been a miscount. News of the incident spread quickly through the entire prison camp. The realisation that an innocent man had been willing to die to save others had a profound effect, binding the prisoners together in deep loyalty.
Before his death Jesus told his disciples: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” [ John 15:13 (ESV)] He knew that he would shortly be betrayed by a friend, arrested in the middle of the night, stood before a kangaroo court and condemned to death on a cross. He also knew that he could turn and walk away from his destiny but he chose to embrace death. Jesus’ death is far greater than a good man dying for the benefit of others. At Easter, Christians across the world celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection; confident that in his death Jesus received the punishment that we deserve and so we can receive forgiveness, assured that through his resurrection the power of sin and death is broken and we can look forward to eternal life with him. Why not join with us during this Easter season and experience for yourself the liberation that Jesus offers you.
This blog post featured in the March 2013 edition of Hook Focus