Author Archive

Shine like stars!

Instagram can be a place of beautiful, breath-taking photos, funny videos and courageous self-expression.

It can also be a place of unimaginable darkness.

A recent report relates how the Instagram account of a teenage murder victim (whose killer posted photos of her brutal death) has been flooded (via tagging) with horrific images.

How do you extinguish darkness?

One group of Instagram users have had a solution – they spend their time (as volunteers) flooding that tag stream with harmless, cute or happy images to drown out the unpleasantness.

You shine light.

From “Light of the World” (John 1) to “Shine like stars” (Phil 2), the message is consistent: followers of Jesus are to live out His life like bright lights in a dark world.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16

When your cause isn’t “sexy”

It was a privilege today to support a member of All Souls, Esther Sweetman, at the launch of a unique resource she has edited on the behalf of the Christian charity Restored.

The manual is for “female Christian survivors of domestic abuse” and the launch was hosted by Bishop Rachel of Gloucester in the House of Lords.

Esther heads up the survivors’ network for Restored and writes regularly (and beautifully) about issues such as forgiveness or ‘spiritual abuse’.

Restored is a remarkable and hugely important organisation, focusing on an issue which is (and, most importantly, on people who are) so often ignored in church circles, not least because “surely that couldn’t happen here, in Christian marriages?!”.

It was something that Jill McLachlan, Chair of Restored, said at the end of the reception that struck me: that it’s really hard to raise money (or profile) for charities that focus on “unsexy” causes – and domestic abuse certainly fulfills that description. It’s something that unsettles us, especially in the close knit ‘family’ of the church. It’s something that’s hard to admit might exist amongst us – and it’s hard to raise money for, when there aren’t moving photos or easy-to-tell stories to communicate.

So, if you can give to Restored, can I suggest that you consider doing so? Your small donation will be making a big difference – not least in making this manual available to any woman who needs it for free. But also because it should not only be the “sexy” issues that get the focus… and our money.

Restored has a really helpful new video worth a three minutes of your time.

No one is waiting to hear from you

It won’t take very long on this blog to realise I’m a fan of Seth Godin‘s thinking and writing (a writer on leadership and marketing of rare insight).

A couple of months ago he blogged on “Get your memo read” – a piece stemming from a disastrously ignorable memo left outside his hotel door (which he critiques and rewrites) – and suggests 5 approaches to writing “to be heard” that I’ll come to another day.

But what struck me immediately is how precisely true to the act of preaching his opening words are about how difficult it is to write a memo that might actually get read:

Read On…

(Uncle) John Stott on (My!) Baptism – 15th November 1970

I’ve got several things to post and comment on from Revd Dr John Stott (one of the great Christian leaders, preachers, evangelists and writers of the last hundred years), but the place to start is with a personal connection.

As I blogged the previously, I was baptised by ‘Uncle’ John on 15th November 1970. I was nine months’ old, in case you’re wondering… and I screamed the place down (‘the place’ being All Souls Langham Place in London)!

I had the real delight of being sent a scan of Stott’s handwritten notes from that very service by a friend of mine who was working through Uncle John’s extensive collection papers and notes on behalf of his estate (what a wonderful task!) and happened to spot my name!

The background is that some of my extended family came from a church background that led to them being very negative about a baby being baptised and so my parents asked John if he might give a few words by way of explanation before that part of the service (not as the sermon, but standalone remarks). So these are his handwritten notes behind him explaining why he felt it was biblically appropriate (or as he puts it in the notes below: “Is it right and proper?”) to administer this sacrament to an infant.

1970 11 Richard Frank Baptism - John Stott talk - for web

Here’s my transcription of what he wrote down – I’ve stuck with his note form, including abbreviations, though I’ve added bullet-point for clarity at one point. Many thanks to my father, Tom Frank, for helping me do some more deciphering on one or two places where I struggled with the handwriting…

Is it right and proper to baptize infants, when too young to repent, believe, profess?

Answer to this Q depends on another: is there a Biblical doctrine of infants? In particular: is there evidence child of Christian parents stands in different relationship.

We believe there is, multiple evidence:

  • OT practice of circumcision indicated children could be members of God’s covenant
  • Jesus received little children: and said Kingdom of God belongs…
  • Apostle Paul said children with one Christian parent are ‘holy’, belong to people of God
  • Whole scripture emphasises the family. that God chooses families

So then the children of professing Christian parents, during the years of unconscious childhood are included within their parents faith and in that sense may be regarded as Xian children.

In baptizing them, or in baptizing adults, we’re not so much conferring a status upon them as recognising a Xian status ahead of profess. Not of course that their birth of Xian parents makes them permanent / (provisionally)

So Bm looks back to child’s birth… forward to child’s personal commitment. Parents are asked whether they themselves believe & will bring the child up.

Context, context, context… First Steps to Understanding Baptism

What does the New Testament say about baptism and what does it mean for us today?

I

t sounds a straightforward question to approach: find the relevant verses, go back to the original Greek text, pour over commentaries and look at the passages the verses appear in. Then stir it all together and ‘hey presto!’, you’ve a theology of baptism to apply to our church life today.

Not so much…

When Jesus addressed his disciples telling them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” [Matt 28:19], he didn’t explain what he meant. Nor do we usually have to explain every word or concept we use in conversations. Communication is based on (in fact, is only possible because of) a shared set of understandings, concepts and experiences. Read On…

What does the Bible say about Baptism? A brief survey.

T

here are 100 occurrences across 76 verses of words directly stemming from the NT Greek word “To Baptise” – once one has filtered out references to ‘John the Baptiser’.

We might usefully break this down into these sorts of headings (with a single example of each):

1. Instructional

Jesus or Peter telling people to be baptised.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’
[Matt 28:19-20 – NRSV]

Read On…

Baptism: Why it matters so much

H

aving written in my first post on here about why CofE clergy in similar churches to ours can feel so jumpy about preaching on baptism – or really engaging with it in church life – I want to explain some of the reasons why I’m so passionate about restoring baptism to the very heart of Christian discipleship and church life.

[An aside – I’m not trying to ‘prove’ anything here and this blog is primarily a place for me keep track of my thinking, so there’s no claim being made for completeness… I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this stuff.]

What makes baptism – its practice and theology – so rich, powerful and dynamic if it’s taught and practiced biblically? Read On…

Baptism: Elephant in the Room?

G

iven that I’ll only have one more period of Study Leave (if I’m lucky) before I retire – and given that I’ve never managed to set aside time in the course of ‘normal’ life to ‘read and write’ – why focus on the area of Baptism?

[If you’ve not read my intro page about the site, do go read it before you plow on…]

Do you want the good news of the bad news first?

Read On…