water

Washing HandsThis week we have had some plumbers working on our house. In order to plumb they have had to turn off the water. I didn’t think it would be a problem… but it has become one as the day has gone on.

The kettle was filled with water before they started. The coffee machine was filled with water before they started.

But (and I will try to be delicate) there are other uses for water in a house that were not available to me that became more important during the day… ahem.

In addition to that, the first day was an ideal day for doing loads of washing (sunny and breezy) and the dishwasher was ready to go.

But it all had to wait until the water could be turned back on.

It made me pause for a moment in gratitude that usually water is readily available to us.

It made me pause for a longer moment and think of those on this planet for whom fresh drinking water is a luxury, never mind anything else, and then recognising that there is something I can do about that. (Time to make a donation to a charity making a difference in such countries).

It made me pause and reflect on how privileged I am and how much I take that for granted.

It made me pause and reflect on the way we use water in Believer’s Baptism.

It made me pause and reflect on Jesus saying he is able to give us living water and what that means for me – essential for life, thirst-quenching, taken for granted.

Be blessed, be a blessing

making another splash

A long time ago (well, eight years) I put together a book to help prepare young people for believer’s baptism. It was called ‘Making a Splash’ and was published by the Baptist Union of Great Britain. It was written in collaboration with for youth workers (who wrote some of the sections) and proved to be rather popular. In fact we found that churches were using it to prepare people of all ages for believer’s baptism, not just young people.

Earlier this year I was asked if I would rewrite the text for ‘Making a Splash’ as BUGB was looking to reprint it. I was very happy to do so and am really delighted that it has now been published, following some excellent design work that gives it a contemporary new look (Great work, David). This morning a copy arrived in the post and I’ve had a chance to look at it for the first time in its finished form. I am simultaneously…

…grateful, chuffed, proud, and excited.

I’m grateful for the hard work by the designer (David Elcock), the team at Baptist house and those who contributed to the original version.

I’m chuffed because it looks so good and while it has remained true to the original concept now looks even better.

I’m proud because for the first time it has my name on the front cover. Previously, when I imagined/wrote/edited the initial book, I was working for BUGB and it was the practice that employees did not get a named credit on any publications (they didn’t want us to get big headed I guess). I was really pleased that the 4 youth workers (Helen Bellamy, Claire Earl, Gary Bott and Andy Levett) were credited inside and am equally pleased that they have retained that credit in the updated version (thanks again guys!). But, if I’m honest, I was a little bit miffed at the time that my name was not credited or associated with the book. When I was asked to rewrite it I did ask (lacking humility) if it might be possible to have a named credit and there it is: my name is on the front cover!

But mostly I’m excited because this book will be used to help people prepare for one of the most significant, special, profound and memorable days of their life – the day of their baptism. On that occasion they will not only declare their faith publicly and get very wet into the bargain but they will also experience God’s, “Well done!” To have contributed to that in a little way is awesome.

No autographed copies will be made available (I don’t want to devalue the book) but you can buy your copies from the Baptist Union website. And if reading it helps you as you prepare to be baptised, then WOOOOOHOOOO!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

pithy saying

bucketInspired by one of the testimonies from three amazing ladies who were baptised at our church on Sunday:

Don’t leave what God wants you to do on your ‘to do list’… it may end up on your bucket list!

Be blessed, be a blessing

34th anniversary

It was a momentous day. I was not aware of just how momentous it was. Indeed I am still growing in my appreciation of that.

25th May 1980. Torquay. It was a Sunday morning and I was about to get wet. Very wet. I was baptised by immersion as a follower of Jesus on that day. I had known him as my friend since the age of six, but my awareness of him had grown and the sense that I needed to be baptised grew irresistible.

I found Baptismal services very moving. A number of times before then at the end of a Baptismal service I had wanted to respond to the Minister’s invitation for anyone who wanted to be baptised themselves but had been kept back. But at the Baptismal service before this one I knew I had to respond and I made the very long journey from the balcony in our church down to the front.

I had written a poem as my ‘testimony’ – quite a primitive but sincere statement of my desire to follow Jesus through my life. I remember one line in particular because my Mum had typed it up for me (yes, young people, typed on a manual typewriter (look it up!)) and instead of “I’ll follow him through baptism…” she had typed “I’II follow him through baptism…”

You can’t see the difference can you? Well the second one has three ‘i’s and we joked that I should read “eye eye eye follow him through baptism”.

I can’t remember too much about the baptism itself, it happened rather quickly. Our two Ministers, Peter and Nick plunged me under the water and back up again “on my profession of faith in Jesus.” Then they read out a Bible verse that they had chosen for me which they felt was appropriate.

20140603_095001 (2)It was 2 Timothy 4:5. Before you read it bear in mind that I was only 13 and had no idea at all that God was going to call me to become a Baptist Minister. These are the words in the version written in my Baptism Certificate:

“As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.”

Those words did not mean too much to me at the time but very soon afterwards God brought them alive to me and they have been with me ever since. They are now on a poster on the wall of my study as a reminder of that call, in a slightly more contemporary version:

“Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Same meaning, different words.

Why all the reminiscing? Well 25th May 1980 was Pentecost Sunday that year (it’s a moveable feast dependent on the date of Easter). This coming Sunday is Pentecost this year. It will be the 34th anniversary of my Baptism. And even though I have not always followed Jesus as closely as he (or I) would like, he has always been there for me. He has never let me down. It has not always been easy. In fact sometimes it has been [insert extreme adjective here] hard. But I have always known that Jesus has been with me by his Spirit.

This Sunday morning we are baptising someone who has only been a follower of Jesus for a couple of months – it is so exciting. We will also have a couple of people renew the promises they made when they were baptised a number of years ago – that is so exciting. And we will have one lady who wants to share her testimony decades after she was baptised because she didn’t have an opportunity to do it then – that is so exciting.

If you can possibly be there, do come. Come to support those who are sharing. Come to celebrate with us. And come to meet with Jesus by his Spirit.

 

essentials

So… the Baptist Union of Great Britain has a new logo. That’s bad news for Baptist Churches that have the old one embedded into their architecture! The old logo contained a cross, water and a fish. The new logo is explained in this diagram:

NewLogoElements

(You have to recognise that the fish is swimming downwards).

Oh yes. A cross, water and a fish (plus a ‘b’ for ‘baptists’). In some ways nothing has changed, but in others plenty has changed. On Sunday evening I am preaching on Acts 15, where the early Christians had to work out what was unchangeable about being a Christian, and what God wanted them to hold lightly and be ready to change.

Questions were raised about whether being circumcised was essential for being a Christian – thankfully they discerned that this was not essential.

They discussed what sort of food could be eaten (including that which had been sacrificed to idols and was now being re-sold (probably discounted) – they felt that it was best that they avoided that (along with  a few other items of food and sexual immorality – interesting how it is last in the list!). In essence I think the advice was for them not to get mixed up in the cult worship of the surrounding culture: if it was about worship they should focus only on worshipping God as revealed in Jesus and not be distracted.

It does make me wonder what is still essential to being a Christian and whether there are things God wants to hold more lightly and be ready to change. At the risk of being hauled before a religious court or stoned by a mob I am going to try a few ‘essentials’:

Is it essential to accept that Jesus, God incarnate, died on the cross for you and receive the forgiveness God offers us, following him for the rest of our life?

Yup.

Is anything else essential?

Nope.

[cue sounds of rocks being gathered and ecclesiastical gavels being banged].

Let’s go back to the changing / unchanging logo of the Baptist Union of Great Britain:

The cross is essential and was probably the earliest Christian symbol.

The fish was an early Christian symbol too. In Greek the word for fish is ‘ichthus’ and in Greek this is also an acronym that means ‘Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour’. That is pretty essential.

The water represents believer’s baptism, one of the things that made our foreparents (forefathers and foremothers) distinctive when they started forming Baptist churches just over 400 years ago. Believer’s baptism is an early Christian event too (Jesus told us to get wet) that expresses faith in Jesus and affirms our commitment to him as his followers. (Yes there’s a lot more here, but I will save that for another day).

Did the early Christians get thrown to the lions for believing more than that? Would you be willing to die for anything more than that? Is anything else essential?

Answers on a postcard (preferably not wrapped around a brick) – or you can give some feedback on the blog page by clicking the link at the top of this bloggage.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

spiritual landmarks

If you look back over your life what significant events do you remember? What are the highlights? What are the days that are etched firmly in your memory as significant moments?*

This coming weekend has the potential for awesomeness because it is full of such events.

On Saturday I will be conducting a wedding at our church. We do not have very many weddings at our church in a year so they are always very special occasions. On Sunday we will be holding two separate services of Believer’s Baptism: one in the morning and one in the evening, and another local churches using the pool in the afternoon to baptise some of their members. and in the morning service we will also be celebrating communion and welcoming more new members into the church.

I love the way that people can celebrate significant moments in their life in the church – it is wonderful that our church family can be the context for such significant moments that are landmarks in people’s lives. These are some of the moments that I love and cherish as a minister and I hope will be moments that these brothers and sisters in Jesus will also cherish. I hope and pray that they will be wonderfully joyful, exciting, encouraging times for everyone, especially those getting married, baptised and welcomed into membership (different people).

Without diminishing any of what I have just said I also want to point out that these spiritual landmarks are not normal life. They are not the everyday occurrence. Those who are married do not live every day as if it is their wedding day. Those who have been baptised do not get immersed in water in a church each morning. Those were welcomed into membership are not welcomed into membership each time we share communion.

But those occasions can also remind us of when they happened for us. Weddings remind me of my wedding, baptising people reminds me of my own baptism, welcoming people into membership reminds me of my own membership in this church. And remembering those spiritual landmarks helps us in the normal everyday life. We can get distracted and embedded in routine and everyday activities and forget those amazing moments that have occurred.

Mountain TopIf you read the Old Testament narrative you will find that often places were renamed or altars were built where significant encounters with God had happened. These were to be tangible reminders of God’s presence and involvement in people’s lives. They were reminders of God’s covenant promise to his people. people would see the altar or remember the name of the place and be reminded of God and his involvement in their lives. Whilst we do not do that today in the same way there are spiritual landmarks that can serve the same purpose. 

In each of the three different events this weekend, promises will be made. The happy couple will make promises to each other in the sight of God. Those being baptised will make promises to God. Those being welcomed into membership will make promises to the church and the church will make promises to them. We can all use such occasions to remind ourselves of the promises we have made in the past and renew our intention to keep them. And most of all we can remember how we encountered God and all that he has done for us. And those promises and memories are for the every day, normal life.

And that is where the fourth event that I mentioned at the start is full of godly awesomeness: sharing bread and wine with fellow believers reminds us of Jesus’ death and resurrection and all that that means for you and for me is a regular reminder of God’s amazing love.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*Apologies to anyone who read the earlier version which was done with my speech unrecognition software!