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I hope that, whatever difficulties you’re facing today, you take a moment to let this photo put a smile on your face. This image of a child rescued from the rubble of the 2010 Haiti earthquake is one that has stuck with me. The picture is grainy, taken from a video filmed of the US rescue team’s operation. As he is pulled from the wreckage, the boy raises his arms and grins.
It’s interesting to compare the slightly different ways in which the story was reported at the time. In one newspaper, he was beaming with sheer triumph that he had survived his ordeal. According to another, the boy, initially overwhelmed by the sea of unfamiliar faces crowded around him, smiled upon catching sight of the familiar figure of his mother (or aunt, or neighbour…) Either way, the pure joy on the child’s face as he is lifted to liberty is is heartwarming—his grin is infectious.
But when did we last celebrate our salvation with the same delight? We were utterly and helplessly trapped by the wreckage of our own sin, with absolutely no hope of being able to claw our own way out, until God wonderfully and miraculously intervened. But it gets so much better: not only does God save us from calamity, but he’s also the loving Father who waits with outstretched arms to embrace us (Luke 15 v 20).
“I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.”
Psalm 40 v 1-3
The sense of panic is starting to rise in many a quarter this week. Just two weeks to go and countless Christmas presents are yet to be bought.
When all else fails, my default is chocolate. There are few who dislike the opportunity to indulge in a spot of quality, melt-in-the mouth delight. But there are more wholesome ways to feed our friends this Christmas (and no, I'm not suggesting wrapping up an avocado instead).
Whether you're buying for an adult, a teenager or a child - a gift subscription to one of our daily reading products could be just what you're looking for this festive season. It's a gift that keeps on giving all year round as each day your friend or family member is provided with great gospel-sustenance direct from God's word.
A year's subscription to Explore (adults) - just £14.95
A year's subscription to Engage (14-18 year olds) - just £15.95
A year's subscription to Discover (11-14 year olds) - just £13.95
A year's subscription to XTB (7-10 year olds) - just £15.95
A year's subscription to Table Talk (families with children aged 4 and over) - £12
And you can buy the Explore Prayer Diary for just £2.99 when you purchase any gift subscription.
Simply give us your friend's contact details when you purchase the subscription online and we will make sure their daily Bible reading notes arrive promptly at the start of each quarter of 2014. And there's a voucher that you can download and tuck into the Christmas card you're sending to show people what you've done. So go on, feed a friend this Christmas - with the food that matters most ...
Homosexuality is perhaps the biggest area of conflict between Bible-believing Christians and the world at the moment. It is a subject close to my heart as I have many close Christian friends who have wrestled with this over the years. In any sizeable church there are likely to be a significant number present for whom same-sex attraction is an issue in some way.
Part of the difficulty these brothers and sisters face is the need for secrecy. It is only relatively recently that “the love that dare not speak its name” has become normalised in society as a whole. Sam Allberry articulates the problem compassionately in his book Is God Anti-Gay?, there are still many believers who feel unable to share the nature of their particular temptation for fear of being judged, rejected or misunderstood by others in their fellowship.
Now, Sam and others including Vaughan Roberts and Jonathan Berry from the True Freedom Trust have got together to build and launch a website: www.livingout.org. The contributors are all men and women who experience same-sex attraction and yet are committed to what the Bible clearly says, and what the church has always taught, about sex and marriage. They say:
"We’ve set up this website to articulate a perspective that is not often heard – that of men and women who are honest and open about their same-sex attraction, but who have discovered that obedience to Jesus in this area of life is fulfilling, healthy and authentic. We want people who experience same-sex attraction, those who self-identify as LGBT or who are just questioning, their family and friends, their churches and pastors, and those investigating Christianity, to find here a plausible way of living out what Christians have consistently believed about marriage and sex.
The website is simply excellent. There are professionally-shot videos and testimonies, telling the stories of those who wrestle with this temptation, and are committed to remaining faithful. There are answers to some classic questions that anyone will find helpful in articulating a Christian response to contemporary debates on homosexuality.
Living Out beautifully demonstrates through personal stories what we believe as Christians – that all human life is precious and equal. And it models how the church will develop a more compassionate pastoral approach – by listening to stories of its own, real people with same-sex attraction who are already Christians. Do visit it and spend time thinking through how we can be a church that can speak the truth in love, and be a place where there is encouragement and support for everyone.
I am praying that the message of this website, as it is read and used by whole congregations will start to remove the fear and ignorance which many of us have – and make our churches more intelligently caring in this area.
1. If You Could Ask God One Question - half price until midday Thursday
Until midday on Thursday, If You Could Ask God One Question by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper is available for 50% off, that's just £2.50! (UK customers only).
2. John's Gospel
A new website designed to help you read through John's Gospel.
3. 12 Reasons You Should Pray Scripture
Andrew David Naselli looks at these 12 reasons.
4. How to write a great book review
5. Tom Daley and the search for safety
Our very own Carl Laferton reflects on the recent news about Tom Daley.
6. And finally…
Be sure to come back next week for the On to a Good Thing Christmas Special!
Found something that you think should make it on to the On to a Good Thing round-up? Send it to: email@example.com
The billboard caught my eye as I was waiting at the lights. The new Batman game for PS3, Arkham Origins, loomed large to my left.
I don’t usually pay much attention to ads like that, I don’t tend to play computer games – partly because I have some ethical qualms, largely because I am unspeakably inept at them - but the blurb for this one got my mind whirring.
The plot is simple. An evil villain escapes a high security prison, along with some equally vile accomplices, and together they place an enormous bounty on Batman’s head. Carnage ensues as Batman tries to round them up before they kill him and the population rips themselves apart. The concept isn’t literary rocket-science but what intrigues is the strap-line: your enemies will define you. Set at the start of Batman’s career, the thesis is that his struggle against these particular embodiments of evil defines who he later becomes.Read More
The "festive period" - Christmas and New Year - often bring a time of reflection for many people. How did the last year pan out? What does the coming year hold? Is it all really worth while?
Perhaps for some Christians it also brings thoughts of how we perceive we have been blessed (or not) by our Sovereign God.
We will inevitably be asked by our non-Christian friends a whole variety of questions at this time of year. Are we ready to answer them?
A book that might help with all these things is If You Could Ask God One Question. A great book about common questions. And there are answers too. Answers from the lips of the most powerful, insightful and extraordinary figure in all of human history: Jesus Christ.
Read more and buy it HERE for just £2.50 (65% off) - use code question1213 at the checkout.
There are a lot of people grumbling about Christmas at the moment. There are the family politics to deal with and the manic drive to buy the "right" presents. There are financial pressures and battles with exhaustion, not to mention the emotional assault that the end of December brings - if it's not relationship tensions in the present, this time of year throws into sharp relief those relationships we have lost. Bereaved people often hurt most at Christmas. And all this when we are "supposed" to having the time of our lives. Wandering around my local shopping centre recently, eavesdropping on conversations as I went, I came to the conclusion that many of us are quite frankly making the Grinch look chirpy!
Even if you are someone who adores Christmas, there are inevitable sacrifices to be made. With the diary over-packed with family events (or disturbingly lacking anything that remotely resembles a normal routine) there are bound to be moments when life is not as you would choose it to be. And human beings tend to struggle with that at least a bit ...Read More
"[Jesus Christ], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."
Philippians 2 v 6-11
One of the projects at the top of the Christianity Explored translation list is to make the 3rd edition course materials available in French. The guys at CE have been working closely with us, here at the Good Book Company, to make it happen and things are progressing well ...
If you are involved in ministry to French-speaking people (whatever country that might be in), the Christianity Explored team would be interested in hearing from you. Getting in touch will give them a sense of how the planned translation could be used and it will enable them to keep you up to date with how things are going.
Please click HERE to complete their contact form.
And even if you are not actively involved in this kind of area, please do be praying for those who are reaching out the 110 million French-speakers across the globe - that God would be opening eyes and unchaining hearts.