God doesn’t have a blueprint
Jessica Kelley’s book, Lord Willing (Herald Press) is a poignant testimony to one mother’s faith in the midst of unbearable loss (‘Did God give my 4-year-old son brain cancer?’, December). But the great bonus of the book is its chapters which graciously and clearly refute the proponents of the blueprint theory of God’s will. God doesn’t meticulously plan every detail of our lives, we have genuine freedom. And many other wills are at work apart from God’s. Though limited, the forces of evil are a reality, and we are in a real battle.
The good news is that Jesus is with us in whatever scenario we find ourselves. He is an ever-present help in times of distress. If we are his people, all shall be sorted out at the end of the age, but in the interim we should not be surprised if things go horribly wrong. We must fight on in prayer without passively and falsely attributing calamities to God’s perfect will.
God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” is not displayed in the details of our circumstances but rather it is demonstrated by the Holy Spirit through us when we no longer “conform to the pattern of this world” but are “transformed by the renewing of [the] mind” (Romans 12:2).
When our attitude is transformed, we become a transformational force in the world and God can often step in to answer prayer in unexpected ways. I suspect that many Christians believe 2016 was a year when many things in Western democracies did not go God’s way. I cannot emphasise enough that we should not sit back and accept it. God has called us to demonstrate and advocate an alternative to the corruption, greed and self-interest we see. But the huge difference is that we are to do it in the Christ-like power of loving non-violence. Revd Mark Warner
Rather than trying to work out the theology for myself, in reading Jessica’s story I was caught more by the pain this poor mother was going through. Maybe that is something Jesus wants from us. When being tempted by the devil, Jesus was told that all he could see belonged to Satan. Jesus did not deny that. In 1 John it says the world is being controlled by the evil one. This means we are in this world and not of it, which means the pain that is here could well be satanic. I am so thankful to Jessica for her bravery in sharing a tremendously painful time in her life in order to help the rest of us. Tom Dawson
I tire of the continual assumption that the leaders of our churches are under more pressure than those in other professions (‘How to (not) burn out your pastor’, December). Those in some professions such as teachers and doctors believe they have more pressure than others. But many Christians (myself included) in a whole range of professions and walks of life work six-day weeks – holding down pressured jobs not to mention volunteering for the church and other organisations. It is about calling. If God calls us to be a church leader we need to acknowledge our gifting and live and work in that. Other parts of the job need to be done by others – who have those gifts. Many leaders believe they have to either be good at everything, or are so insecure in their calling that they want to control everything that happens in the church. Leaders, I urge you: Listen to what God is calling you to do and release others to use their gifts so that the whole body of Christ can work as one. Jo King
My friend the JW
Listening into Thomas and Carl’s conversations in ‘My Friend the... Jehovah’s Witness’ (November), I came away with the feeling that the one thing they both had in common was a dogmatically judgemental view about those in the other camp. Evangelicals don’t think Jehovah’s Witnesses are in the kingdom and JWs don’t think most traditional Christians are.
I wonder what God thinks? Thomas thinks it must be hard for Carl belonging to a “separatist, no compromise…religion”, but evangelicalism often is not much different – apart from the specific dogmas and doctrines! I wonder if one day, when people from all of these strands of Christianity, stand together in the Lord’s presence, will we still want to argue with God about who is in and who is out? Does God judge us according to the doctrines we hold or does he see something much more important than that? Perhaps we will realise that we all got some things wrong but the Lord is not nearly as bothered about these things as we are!
Revd Bob Short
Don’t screen us out
Like David (‘In my opinion’, November) I found Sally Phillips’ documentary A world without Down’s syndrome? so sad. One of the people Sally spoke to said that having a Down’s syndrome child would be an “intolerable burden” to some parents. I thought of my friend at church, who happens to have Down’s syndrome, yet prays for me and so many others on a regular basis. He brings joy and fun to those around him and his life and those of others like him bring a greater richness and diversity to our society.
I was moved by Sally Phillips’ documentary. But I think it is worth noting that she said she supports women’s right to choose. The question of whether there would be something wrong with a world without Down’s is a different question from whether abortion is wrong.
Suppose that you could know in advance that by having sexual intercourse on a particular occasion you would conceive a child with Down’s syndrome. Would it be wrong to avoid having sex on that day? If everyone did this, it could eventually bring about a world without Down’s. Would that be an inherently bad thing?
I cannot speak enough of how much I enjoy witnessing the exchange of marriage vows before God. Weddings are beautiful and moving occasions. Sadly, at this time of year, there are not many of them to attend (not that I usually require an invitation; churches should be buildings open for Christians at all times, after all). This saddens me, as I have quite the surfeit of confetti at the moment, although this is only because I was so angry with the last edition of your magazine, I tore it up into tiny pieces.
I am always very enthusiastic when new people come to my church at Christmas, as they would testify. At least, I am sure they would if I saw them again. But the range of suggestions outlined in your article ‘Christmas worship ideas for your church’ (December) was the reason for my spontaneous destructive outburst.
Beer and carols? A Flash mob? Christmas is a solemn and important time of year requiring the sober, careful singing of old carols, and continued staring at an old model of a wooden stable. There is no time for fun or frivolity, as I told our vicar when he smiled at people at the carol service. Did Jesus smile in the manger? Did Joseph enjoy a pint of lager that blessed night? Was the Virgin Mary coordinating a group of people who suddenly burst into singing and dancing at a railway station? Of course not. Incidentally, I needed to look up that last one. I initially thought a flash mob might be something else entirely, and in that at least, found myself feeling quite relieved. Yours seriously Rev Roger D Votional
@CJohn_Wright Laughing about Christianity magazine’s beard-o-meter with Richard Chartres in the Peer’s dining room at the House of Lords. Surreal stuff
@SSBullivant Just got my first copy of @Christianitymag. It’s great; hugely impressive all round. Only sorry it took me so long, @UnbelievableJB!
@JessInProcess Excited to be in the December issue of the UK’s leading Christian magazine, @Christianitymag! #LordWillingBook
@Glenn_Myers The churches in the UK fed 100,000 hungry families last year #foodbanks @PeteGreig in @Christianitymag
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