Galatians 5:1 & 13 -25

What is freedom? Does it really exist? People think they are free but really they are conforming in one way or another – some good and some not. Keeping the laws of the land as we have to means we are not free to do as we may want – speeding is a good example! To be historic, back in the 60's, people claimed that they were free to do it all, wearing flower shirts, flowers in their hair and the whatever but in the end they were conforming to the same ideals. There will always be someone or something pulling our strings. If those who pull our strings are at work or at home, in a comfortable/loving environment, we do not mind it because we love them and want to please them. When you are watching advertisements on TV do those who produce the adverts really think people are free? Obviously some people are more influenced than others.

Paul talks of the freedom in this passage to love: 13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself." 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

He compares the life in the flesh [we are back to Adam's basic instincts] and see how he illustrates it in verses 19-21. Note he says ‘the acts of the sinful nature are . . . ‘ to the life in the Spirit and he outlines the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and hence original sin is part of our nature. Through redemption, Jesus-Christ sets us free 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

See above and then he goes on to say that we have got to keep in step with the Spirit (v.25). In John 14:16, Jesus says: 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever. Counsellor = paralete = one called alongside to help etc. in the place of Jesus. Keeping in step means walking in accord with the Spirit. We are not walking on our own ways.  As the Son sets us free, we should be free indeed, that is the restoring process but we live in a world marred by sin. It's only in eternity that we will be perfected.

I wanted to share my notes on what Steven talked about last Sunday. Blessings, Yours in Christ.


Is Jesus your King?

Jesus is my King. Alleluia! Is he yours?


Ordination of Jason Phillips, Curate of Mid Trent

Last Sunday, we attended the ordination service in St Mary's church in Stafford. The church was packed with family and friends who came to support the three priests-to-be. I'd love to share with you the thoughts expressed by Paul Thomas, our Rural Dean.
Sermon for priestings (part I)
The heart of this afternoon’s service is the making of promises. Each of the candidates will renew their dedication to Jesus Christ and promise to serve him as priests in the church of God.

 And if this service works as it is meant to do those promises will stand as a powerful landmark in the lives of those being made priest. Hopefully, they will also make a deep impression on all who witness them. After all, the scene is set for the promises to take on great significance. The candidates have spent a year of their lives as Deacons. They have just been away on retreat to prepare for this solemn pledge of themselves to God. Family and friends have gathered in large numbers to support them. And then there is the service itself: as it progresses we can expect the atmosphere to build up - with fine music, a loud volume of singing sweeping across the building, a fine oration from the preacher (!), all the dignity of an episcopal presence, and the careful wording and ritual of the liturgy.(....)
 And precisely because the atmosphere is so charged with emotion and longing and best intention we might easily forget just how fragile our human promises can be. Hannah Arendt gave this some thought in her writings. She believed that there were two factors which affected the keeping of promises – the ‘basic unreliability’ of human beings and ‘the impossibility of foretelling what the future might hold’. The major threat to promises though was, she concluded, ‘the darkness of the human heart.’ Likewise Paul Ricoeur saw a real problem with promise-keeping. Human experience teaches that there is ‘a secret break at the very heart of commitment.’ I suppose the popular saying ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ points to much the same conclusion. And a great deal of popular drama –  for example the TV Soaps – take their clout from repeated instances of people going back on their word.
 The fact is we live in a world of broken promises. People say things they don’t mean. They pledge themselves to commitments they don’t keep. Fast on the heel of so many promises comes betrayal and bewilderment. So what are we to do? Give up making promises altogether? That might seem an easy answer but it is well-nigh impossible. Human beings live a significant part of their lives orientated towards the future. And faced by the uncertainty of the future we feel the need for some security and part of that comes from our promises to be constant, reliable and trustworthy people who can be counted on.
 But knowing what a risky and fraught business making promises can be how do we do it with any credibility? The simplest answer is to say that we cannot uphold our promises on our own. We need help and support – and inspiration. As Christians instead of supporting our promises with the words ‘Here I stand’ we need to expand that statement to ‘Here I stand before God -’with all the difference that can make. To make a promise before God does not guarantee that we will keep it. Those who believe in God are still prone to the same human weaknesses and failures as others who do not believe. But to make a promise before God means that if failure comes that need not be the final word. If we try to live before God then we should be aware of the rich resources of restoration that God makes available to us. We should know about God’s mercy and forgiveness; we should be conscious of God’s help and strength; and we should be recipients of God’s life-changing Holy Spirit. And because we possess that sense of God’s renewing power we know that when we falter or fail there is at least the possibility of a new start and a re-establishment of the promise. This is so not because we are trivialising the promise, nor because we are indifferent to the hurt a broken promise might bring to another. Rather it is because we recognise the infinite resourcefulness of God and God’s ability to lift us out of the quagmire of failure and set our feet on a firm path.

Sermon for priestings (part II)

In a sense therefore the Ordination promises which we will hear in a moment take us to the very heart of the Christian experience of God. They remind us that the whole dynamic of Christianity is one of rescue. Rescue of the helpless in the first instance – as we acknowledge that we can do nothing to put right ourselves or our world; only God can do that. Then rescue of the struggling as we see how weak our response always remains towards the generous and undeserved love of God. We are promise-breakers, all of us. Full of good intentions and great ambitions but highly inadequate in fulfilling any of them. By contrast God is a promise-keeper, always hurrying to meet us in our confusion and compromise, and offering to trust us and affirm us no matter how many times we stumble and fall and disgrace ourselves.

None of the promises you hear uttered today will remain unbroken. There’ll come a time when these new priests will falter; every priest does. And a time when they fail completely; every priest does. But those times will also be marked by God’s grace – by the reality of God’s forgiveness and forbearance. Because God is totally constant and consistent He will meet them from the other side of the promise and when their resources run out God’s never will. This is what Paul is proclaiming in 2 Corinthians 5 v 14 when he says ‘The love of Christ compels us’. The Greek behind ‘compel’ is ‘sunekei’ and means ‘to drive forward’ – sending us outwards towards people; but it also means ‘to hold fast’ – giving us a sense of the strong reassuring love of Jesus Christ for each of us.  And what is true of priests can be true of anyone. All of us can experience the remarkable love and compassion of God, coming to us when we feel empty and lost and filling us with a peace which passes understanding.

In that context - the presence of a gracious and healing God – promises, even promises that falter - are worth making. They are given expression with no illusions of grandeur – but with a humble awareness of God’s unfailing love. Even so, I want to add a further word about how we transcend the moments of failure in the priestly life and keep trusting in God’s grace.

One of the temptations we face when things go wrong and we find that we have compromised our best intentions is to go in on ourselves. Or just as bad these days, to go in on our computer. Whichever form it takes, we start to live in an introverted way and we become preoccupied with our own concerns. But that is a recipe for disaster. And the anti-dote lies in the promises we make today.

The word ‘promise’ comes from the Latin ‘promittere’ which means ‘to send forth’. To resolve something or intend it is to be involved in an inner and hidden process but to promise it means to be involved in a commitment to another person or persons. It is about an outward movement, a sending forth of the self and becoming no longer self-centred but other-centred. I want to suggest priests need to look outside themselves in three ways.

First, in God’s praise. Worship is not about how we feel but about God’s worthiness to be praised. It is about expressing gratitude for God’s grace. It is about seeing beyond the present moment and looking out towards the vistas of eternity. It is about celebrating the unerring purposes of God made known in Jesus Christ. And priests in saying their Daily Office and regularly attending the altar for the Eucharist are pointing themselves and others to the over-arching love of God. In administering baptism or marriage they are highlighting God’s delight in sharing our human journey; in officiating at funerals they are gently but firmly proclaiming that not even death can separate us from the love of God. All the time they are putting God, not self, at the centre – moving outwards even when it is costly and sacrificial to do so. A missionary priest returning from India after twenty years was asked ‘What was the most difficult thing about being in India?’ ‘Rising at 5 am to say the Morning Office before the day began’ he replied. It’s that kind of tough  commitment that priests need to show regarding God’s praise – and my experience has taught me that it begins with the Daily Office.

Second, in God’s people. Members of the church set great store by their priests. They want them to make God real by the lives they live and the teaching they give. To neglect regular study and attentiveness to the Scriptures is to short-change the congregation committed to your charge. And indeed to short-change yourself. Hoskyns a great New Testament scholar said ‘I have often buried my head in a lexicon and arisen in the presence of God.’ Such study never produces instant results but is never wasted. But also to hold back from visiting people and really getting to know them is to rob them of the care they deserve. To be inattentive or even indifferent to those who want to unburden themselves at the church door or over the telephone – because you ‘have more important things to do’ is to put selfishness before Christian compassion. And the effects will show. ‘Endue thy ministers with righteousness’ says the old versicle. ‘And make Thy chosen people joyful’ is the response. Where there is joy among God’s people you can be sure that the priest is doing his or her job.

Third, in God’s parish. When a priest becomes an incumbent they are not described as the Vicar of  let’s say St Peter’s Church but the Vicar of Rickerscote. They engage with the whole community, not just the church community. And that is vital. They  become Parish Priests. The word ‘parish’ comes from two Greek words ‘para oikos’ – which mean ‘alongside the house’. So part of a priest’s work is to be responsive to the needs of people who live ‘alongside the house of God’ – who may have little or no inkling of what Christianity is about - but who being made in the image of God and lying within the reach of Christ’s outstretched arms on the Cross are included in the scope of God’s love and deserve the time and availability of their priest. As an Oxford student I took part in a parish mission and one afternoon a man stood with me on a fork in the road. ‘See that road?’ he asked. ‘It leads to the middle class area of the parish’. ‘Now see this road – it leads to the Council estate. Know the difference? You’ll often see the Vicar’s car going up the first road but never up the other.’ We must strive to be inclusive in our outreach and not simply go to those who are like-minded or supportive.

Promises, then, are about the sending forth of the self. They invite the priest to put aside any temptation to be self-indulgent and to become instead other-centred whether that means centred on God, the Christian congregation, or the parish community. But not just the priest. What we have learnt about promises could apply to any one of us, ordained or non-ordained.

So let me finish by reiterating the facts about human promises – the kind of promises we will hear in today’s service.  Human promises are fragile and easily broken. But God can restore and renew us. Are there promises you and I have made in the past which now desperately need God’s healing and help? They might be the promises of baptism or confirmation. They might belong to a marriage. Or they might be part of a family history or a significant friendship. Whatever their original setting if those promises have been broken then we will know it. And maybe this afternoon as we hear other promises made in humble confidence that God will help, we may want to whisper a prayer for help too. We may need God’s forgiveness or the forgiveness of another person. We may need God’s strength to stay true to a demanding promise. We may need to renew our commitment to a promise made long ago.

Whatever it is, let today be an occasion when new priests make their promises and when all of us take stock of those promises we have made or need to make – trusting in God to uphold us and bless us in our best endeavours.  Amen.

Paul W. Thomas



Happy Father's day!

The roses are in blossom, our neighbours are sunbathing in the front garden, children are outside kicking the ball or on their bike. We are definitely getting closer to the summer..

After a truly enjoyable service in Salt, I picked up Camille at the station in Stafford. Steven came back from Stowe at about 1. To celebrate Father's day we went to the Wolseley Arms nearby at about 1. You don't have to book which is handy. Good selection of food with a bit of a difference and Imogen who is a (fussy!!) vegetarian loved her Goat cheese and nut wellington.
...just affordable (well i am bankrupt now, lol)  as somebody suggested (guess who!) there would not be any starter nor pudding! In the end, the no starter was in, however the girls shared a desert, a banoffee (ugh, i had to check the spelling) cheese cake! Looked good but lethal if you are trying to shed some pounds, hence i avoided it! The service was excellent.

Dependant on God alone!

Since moving to Mozambique in 1995, and giving away everything they had, Heidi and Rolland Baker have learned to depend on God for everything.

“If God does not show up, we are dead,” says Heidi.

Living among the poor has allowed Heidi to see firsthand how when they embrace the life of the Beatitudes, they are truly blessed.

“The Beatitudes are God’s recipe for revival. They are a portrait and description of Jesus. When we walk as Jesus walked, we will be blessed,” shares Heidi.

She believes God is calling a generation forward to be “laid-down lovers for Him, to walk in the ways He walked, and to follow His Sermon on the Mount as their instructions for their Christian walk.”

Heidi says there is something about the poor that delights the heart of God. The reason God breaks forth in Mozambique in great power is because the people are poor in spirit.

“I believe Jesus meant that poor in spirit is a posturing of the heart where one is wholly given, fully yielded, completely desperate, and totally dependent on God alone.”

Heidi shares one of many occasions in which God showed up right on time. It was a 110-degree Christmas Day. There were hundreds of children that were awaiting a Christmas party at their center. These children included girls who had sold their bodies, bandits, rascals, and children from the village. All had all been invited. The challenge was that there were so many children, but only a limited amount of toy bags available. So, Heidi began to give the presents out first to those children who had never received a present before. Finally, it came down to the older girls, but all that was left were bags with stuffed animals in them.

Heidi asked the girls, “What would you like, sweetheart?”
And the girl replied, “Beads.”
Heidi’s friend and co-worker said “There is nothing in the bags but old stuffed dogs.”
Heidi asked her friend to check the bags again. When the lady reached her hand into the bag of stuffed animals she started screaming, “Beads! There are beads in the bag!”
All of the girls got beautiful, bright beads for Christmas.


Heidi received a prophetic word by a man named Randy Clark.

She was told “the blind will see, the crippled will walk, the dead will be raised from the dead and the poor would hear the good news of Jesus Christ.”

After she returned to the mission field in Mozambique she began praying for the blind but not getting good results. Until about a year later, when a blind beggar lady came to church. Heidi was thrilled to pray for her because she wasn’t going to give up on the word that she had received from the Lord. As she prayed for the lady, her eyes began to turn from white to gray and then to brown. The next day she prayed for another woman who was blind since the age of eight. This lady received her sight too. On the third day, Heidi prayed for yet another woman who was blind from birth and she received her sight. All three of these women were named Mama Aida. In Mozambique, Heidi’s name is also Mama Aida. Through these healings God opened Heidi’s eyes to see how the Bride in the West is blind, poor, and thirsty for God’s Word.

Although she had worked with the poorest of the poor she says,” I could not understand and I could not see that people in the Western world were poor and starving too, that they were starving for the things of God. And then God opened my eyes.”


In 1995, Heidi arrived in Mozambique, the poorest country in the world, with her family. The government offered them a horribly dilapidated and neglected "orphanage." After many years of brutal civil war, thousands of children had been left as orphans, displaced and abandoned.

There were 80 children and God poured down His love and provided food day by day. A church was planted and hundreds began to turn to the Lord. The former communist directors of the government orphanage were furious ever since Heidi and her husband took over since their extreme corruption and thievery had been stopped. Scheming together with an equally corrupt faction of the government, they concocted accusations and issued a legal decree against Iris Ministries that forbade prayer and worship, Christian singing, and all forms of "unapproved" food and clothes distribution and medical assistance.

Since Heidi and the children did not obey the new rules, they had 48 hours to leave the property. Heidi was told there was a contract out on her life. So, they evacuated to their office in the capital city of Maputo. The children gathered in the dining room/church began to sing praise and worship songs at the tops of their lungs. They were beaten and told they could not worship God. One by one, they began to walk the 20 miles to the city office. Reunited, Heidi, Rolland and the orphans called out to God in total desperation.

They had lost everything and there was no place for them to go and no food to eat. A friend from the American Embassy came with chili and rice for the Bakers and their 2 children. They prayed over the pots of food and told the 80+ children to sit down. Everyone ate and was full! God has rewarded their faith, and now their property in Pemba is over seven times what was lost in 1997.

“Government officials who once persecuted us and beat our children are now thankful for us staying in the country,” says Heidi.


Heidi was called to the mission field when she was 16 and living on an Indian Reservation as an American Field student where she was led to the Lord by a Navajo preacher. Several months later she was taken up in a vision for several hours and heard the Lord tell her to be a minister and missionary to Africa, Asia and England. Heidi met her husband Rolland at a small charismatic church in Southern California and married six months later. They left for the mission field two weeks after they were married, with simple instructions from the Lord, one way tickets and thirty dollars in their pockets. They spent 12 years in Asia and saw thousands come to Jesus.

After meeting Jackie Pullinger-To and working with her ministry to drug addicts in Hong Kong, their hearts were increasingly broken for the poor and unwanted. In 1992 they left to do their PhDs at Kings' College, University of London.

Want to find out more, follow this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgGu782dNX0&feature=related



Who made God?

These days I hardly watch tv during the week. For some reason, last thursday, I took a pile of books to mark and sat down in front of Revelation TV, one of my favourite tv channels.
As it happened, there was an interview of Professor Edgar Andrews who is physicist, author and Emeritus Professor of Materials in the University of London.  He is also a Christian who has written a book called Who made God? Searching for a theory of everything.  I must say that this interview was so interesting as he destroys all atheists' arguments.
I always meet people who tell me they run out of arguments for God and Jesus when talking to their 'scientifically-minded' spouse / children (whether teenagers or mature) so in the end they give up. 
Professor Andrews was saying that he has written it in a way that can be understood by everybody. 
I can't wait to read it that book. 

If you have already read it, I welcome your comments!  

Watch Edgar on Revelation TV (UK), Thursday 10 June from 9 to 10 p.m. Sky Guide 581 and Freesat 692. The program can also be watched on-line on www.revelationtv.com.
Why don't you visit the Professor's website : http://whomadegod.org/  Welcome to ‘Who made God?’, a website dedicated to answering unanswerable questions about God, science and the Bible.
Blessings. Yours in Christ.


Still bothered about the meaning of your LIFE ? ring your VICAR and/or discover Alpha

You must have heard of Bear Grylls. Here is a snippet of the biography you can find on his personal website. Bear is a man who has always loved adventure. After breaking his back in three places in a parachuting accident, he fought his way to recovery, and two years later entered the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest, aged only 23. He has since led ground-breaking expeditions across the world.
But for Bear, it is not just about pushing his limits. It's about overcoming challenges, and living your dreams. This belief, and Bear's gift for communication, have led him to become a world class motivational speakerauthor and tv host...
You work a lot as a motivational speaker. What puts the grrr in Grylls? 
My Christian faith is a real backbone and I am no longer scared to say that I depend on it. I read a lovely quote a few days ago: “There is no such thing as an atheist on the Arctic Ocean.” That’s true.
Of his faith, Bear says: ‘Life is sometimes quite fluffy and when everything’s going well we don’t necessarily need our faith... but I’ve learned over the years that my Christian faith has been such a backbone through so many difficult times.
‘My faith is quite simple in the sense that for me Christianity is about being held; it’s about being forgiven; it’s about being loved; and it’s about being strengthened. I’m no longer afraid to say that in the way I was, maybe, however many years ago.
He spoke about going on an Alpha course with his wife Shara at Holy Trinity Brompton. He said, ‘It was lovely to be able to come and do it in a very non-pressured and unjudgemental and very honest environment, which I think you know is what you guys do here.
What about you, have you ever been to an alpha course ?  I have kept very fond memories of mine. Let me know what you think about it. Blessings Nicky