The sin-bin for church

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I enjoyed playing rugby union more than any other sport. It is a brutish physical game where no quarter is given or asked. Foundational to playing was the idea that you always respected the officials – no talking back to the referee, only the captain asked questions (politely) of him.

Last weekend a French national player Louis Picamoles was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes by the referee for illegal play. He has subsequently been dropped by the team for one match with his coach being scathing in his criticism of the player. The BBC reported it like this

France number eight Louis Picamoles has been dropped for next week’s Six Nations match against Scotland for showing disrespect to a referee.

The forward appeared to mockingly applaud Alain Rolland after the referee sent him to the sin-bin against Wales.

He also gave a thumbs-up gesture as he left the pitch during Friday’s 27-6 loss to the reigning champions.

Coach Philippe Saint-Andre said: “Certain attitudes have no place whatsoever in our sport.”

He added: “Respect is the foundation of our values. It is important to send a signal to all players who have the privilege of wearing the jersey and remind them it imposes duties and obligations.”

What about doing that in our churches? How would it sound if we took a strong stance against ungodly speech, against gossip and slander, back-biting and all malicious words? What would happen if we sent someone in church to the sin-bin for 10 minutes to think about their speech when they have been offensive in what they say?

We come to the Bible, Ephesians 4:29 says,

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (ESV)

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (NIV)

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. (Msg)

I know we are people of grace and forgiveness – or at least should be if we want God to forgive us Matt 6:14-15 – but just occasionally I wonder if God wants more from us, sacrifice, self-death, purity, Christ-centred living and a tongue that is kept in check?

I realise most churches are reluctant to speak out take action about such sins. I can only conclude that I have to listen to the Holy Spirit as he convicts me and send myself to the sin-bin for the good of the Body of Christ.

God's not dead

no miracles

I haven’t been posting cartoons on Saturdays recently but the one above did make me chuckle and think. Then I asked a question of myself, “Where does the power of the gospel start and end in my [your] life?”

Many people I know say that the greatest miracle is someone getting born again. On one level I find that hard to disagree with and yet I still find myself asking questions about the power and reality of God?

I believe God does miracles today, he heals the sick, delivers the demonised and breaks bondages. The God who made the universe still has a role to play in it.

Peter and John obviously knew God’s power on that fateful afternoon as they walked to the temple for prayer, see cartoon above and Acts 3.

Paul seemed to think God’s power was an essential part of the gospel, 1 Cor 2:4,5; 4:20 (ESV)

“my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God…For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.”

Most strikingly, and challengingly, Jesus told us to expect God’s power, Jn 14:12 (Msg)

 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it.”

Some Christians suggest we no longer need miracles, after all we have the Bible. My problem is that my Bible tells me to expect miracles.

A work of art

Following on from CS Lewis’ observations about the church I read this quote on Facebook,

“The problem with our churches is that they are PRODUCTION LINES. When someone doesn’t meet the standard, they are considered ‘rejects.’ Our churches should be more like ART GALLERIES, where every person is subject to observation that leads to appreciation!”

Manny Velante

What does my church look like?

army-with-banners-words

I rarely take proper time to think about the question in the title of this post. I do realise many people immediately think about the superstructure, what the building looks like physically, and give little thought to the spiritual appearance and to the foundation that is Christ.

I am reading C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece The Screwtape Letters – it is many years since I have read it and I had only a distant recollection of the power of some of Lewis’s insights. The book speaks of a junior devil, Wormwood, who is being apprenticed by his uncle, a more senior devil, Screwtape. At one point early on in the book Wormwood’s patient becomes a Christian and in an attempt to divert their attention from Christ this attack on the church is suggested,

One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of ‘Christians’ in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial.

Terrible as an army with banners comes from The Song of Solomon 6:10, Matthew Henry offers this comment on vv4-10

All the real excellence and holiness on earth centre in the church. Christ goes forth subduing his enemies, while his followers gain victories over the world, the flesh, and the devil. He shows the tenderness of a Redeemer, the delight he takes in his redeemed people, and the workings of his own grace in them. True believers alone can possess the beauty of holiness. And when their real character is known, it will be commended. Both the church and believers, at their first conversion, look forth as the morning, their light being small, but increasing. As to their sanctification, they are fair as the moon, deriving all their light, grace, and holiness from Christ; and as to justification, clear as the sun, clothed with Christ, the Sun of righteousness, and fighting the good fight of faith, under the banners of Christ, against all spiritual enemies.

Lewis and Henry made me question how I think about the Church and how I look at them.

To the Lord Jesus Christ the church is never a building, but a collection of lives radiating his beauty and being ever changed from one degree of glory to another. It is not a place but a people showing the manifest glory of God in this age. When you greet one another, when you stand and sing you are, and are surrounded by, bearers of glory, majestic warriors, mighty warriors, servants of the Most High God.

During this week at many times you and I shall join with other believers. It is a time not to focus on the outer frailty but the inner glory, it shall be a time to stand in awe and celebrate your King!

What does the preaching you hear sound like?

I read a page of quotes for preachers – here are three of my favourites,

“I would say that a ‘dull preacher’ is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull he is not a preacher. He may stand in a pulpit and talk, but he is certainly not a preacher.” ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Preach not calmly and quietly as though you were asleep, but preach with fire and pathos and passion.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

“Apostolic preaching is not marked by its beautiful diction, or literary polish, or Cleverness of expression, but Operates “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” ~ Arthur Wallis

I hope the preaching you hear this Sunday might be in the same spirit as that offered by the men of God quoted above.

801 MEV: Evangelism Section 6, Demonstration

Robert E Colemans book The Master Plan of Evangelism is considered a classic and will be the foundation for our teaching on the subject of evangelism.

Section 1 and 2 of the class notes are available on Scribd and Slideshare:

801 MEV: Evangelism Section 6, Demonstration