Who is Jesus?

Our church is currently doing a course called “Christianity Explored” which is based on the gospel of Mark. During this course we have discovered that Mark is really asking a question in the first half of his gospel: Who is Jesus?

Jesus himself asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am?” and Peter responded to this question by saying “You are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29).

One of the things that has struck me as we have read through Mark is the number of miraculous signs and healings that Jesus did. The following are all recorded in Mark’s gospel before Jesus asked his disciples the “Who do you say I am?” question:

  • Driving out an impure spirit (Mark 1: 21-28)
  • Healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31)
  • Healings and driving out of demons (Mark 1:32-33)
  • Healing a man with leprosy (Mark 1:40 – 45)
  • Forgiving and healing a paralysed man (Mark 2:1-12)
  • Healing a man with a shrivelled hand (Mark 3:1-6)
  • Healings and driving out of demons (Mark 3:10-11)
  • Calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41)
  • Healing and restoring a demon possessed man (Mark 5:1-18)
  • Raising a dead girl and healing a sick woman (Mark 5:21-43)
  • Healings (Mark 6:5)
  • Feeding the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44)
  • Walking on water (Mark 6:45-52)
  • Healings (Mark 6:55-56)
  • Driving out of a demon (Mark 7: 24-30)
  • Healing a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:31-37)
  • Feeding the four thousand (Mark 8:1-9)
  • Healing a blind man (Mark 8:22-26)

It’s amazing when you consider all those wonderful miraculous acts that Jesus performed in the first half of Mark’s gospel. For Peter there was no other way to respond to the question: “Who do you say I am?” than to declare that Jesus was the Messiah.

I wonder if we perhaps are sometimes guilty of losing the amazement of what Jesus did due to the familiarity of the gospel readings to us? When we ponder the wonderful works that Jesus did let us allow ourselves to be amazed at what he did.

Also, like Peter let us answer confidently and boldly the question: Who is Jesus?


Church Online: Social Media

People have different attitudes towards social media. Some love it, whilst others hate it. There are those who feel indifferent towards it and others who are baffled to understand its popularity. However you might feel about social media we cannot fail to notice the influence it has on people, both good and bad.

Therefore, the church cannot ignore social media, as that is where many people spend a lot of their time.  Instead the church must learn to engage with it. For some though that is a scary thought and they do not know where or how to begin. If that describes you then the book “Church Online: Social Media” by Laura Treneer may be a useful resource.

This book is published by BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship) and is one of four books that form part of the Reach Out Church Communications series.

There are four chapters in Church Online Social Media which cover:

  • Why it matters
  • What to consider first
  • Essential next steps
  • Toolkit

The author raises some important questions in her book that churches need to ask themselves when they are looking to start a new social media venture. These questions include:

  • What is our current reality?
  • What is the core message that we are communicating?
  • Who is our focus – Who is this really for?

For those who are totally new to social media there is a very useful section in the Essential next steps chapter about choosing your tools. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn are all included in this section with a brief description on each which covers:

  • That’s the one where – this is a brief description of each one.
  • Seems to be particularly popular with – this describes the demographic group that use each one mostly
  • Churches could use it for – provides ideas of how churches use each one.
  • And if you want to go further – sets some ideas and projects that your church could do with each one.

The author also provides some good tips on planning your social media year, finding the right team in your church to engage in social media and ideas for posts.

Whether you are completely new to social media or a seasoned user, you will find this book an excellent resource. Although it is only a small book, less than 100 pages long, it is packed with so much useful information. It’s certainly one that can be read a number of times and I would strongly recommend it.

In closing I want to quote from page 66 of the book which says “We don’t do it for the likes. We do it for the love of God.” Something for all Christians to ponder who engage in social media.

A New Day

My alarm clock goes off. I switch the alarm off and get out of bed, a new day has begun.

After walking downstairs I switch on the BBC News and make myself breakfast. Some people never eat breakfast. I’m the opposite I never miss breakfast!

It’s time to head back upstairs and shower. I then go into the spare room and read my bible and pray. A new day is here and it’s important that at the start of this day I spend time with God. I need to feed my soul and prepare prayerfully for the day ahead. There are of course other people and situations that I need to pray about too.

This new day is important because it is a fresh opportunity to serve and know God. What happened yesterday has past. There is nothing I can do to turn the clock back to yesterday. I must leave my yesterdays in God’s hand. The good yesterdays and the bad yesterdays. Those days are gone. It’s now a new day.

I do not know what is going to happen on this new day. Perhaps if I did I might stay in bed instead! However, I can approach the new day with confident because it’s a fresh start with God. I know that God’s compassion, mercies and faithfulness are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). Therefore, this morning I can rest in these wonderful promises from God.

It’s a new day. It’s not just another dreary boring day. Whether I have a difficult meeting at work today or a quiet day planned, this new day is one in which I can shine for Christ. I have fresh opportunities to be salt and light in this world. The question is will I make the most of this new day?

Martin Luther King

When the name Martin Luther King is mentioned I guess most people think of the civil rights campaigns he led, his famous speeches and his assassination in Memphis.

However what was he really like? What and who influenced him theologically and politically? Why did he choose to use non-violent tactics instead of a violent approach that some other groups did at the time? Was he a good leader and what is the everlasting legacy that he has left America?

Godfrey Hodgson in his biography of Martin Luther King explores these questions and more as he traces the preacher’s life. The book is only 231 pages long but is an excellent introduction to Martin Luther King’s life. The author met King a number of times and so has firsthand experience of the actual person. Like all good biographies Hodgson presents an honest account of his subject’s life and does not ignore his shortcomings and mistakes.

This book reminds us of the full horrors of life in the South with the segregation and hatred that the white population had for their black counterparts being clearly illustrated. No-one matter how many films I have seen about this era e.g. Mississippi Burning and A Time to Kill, I still find it difficult to comprehend the hatred and prejudices that existed in the South.

There are also some interesting comments in the book relating to the Kennedy brothers which has portrayed them in a new light for me.

The author shows some of the disagreements in policy there were between the various civil rights groups as not all of them agreed with the nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King. In fact there were various jealousies between the groups. However whatever one thinks of the tactics that King used, no-one can deny that he was a very brave man who courageously fought against the inequalities the black community faced.

In the last chapter Hodgson analyses whether King’s dream of equality has been achieved and again is honest in his findings.

This is the first book I have read on Martin Luther King and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about this brave man’s life. The depth is good but it’s not too deep as to leave the reader confused with unnecessary detail.

What Would Jesus Post?

What would Jesus Post? This is the question that David Robertson addresses in his book that endeavours to outline a biblical approach to online interaction.

The book contains 18 chapters which cover a range of topics including: Pray before posting, A covenant with the eyes, Stewards of a digital tongue, Always in the presence of God, Wisdom and discernment, A digital sabbath, Dealing with digital gossip and Engaging with community.

Each chapter introduces the theme and encourages the reader to engage with biblical themes which arise from this area. There are questions throughout each chapter which give an opportunity to look at how we might respond to the subject matter under discussion.

One of the key bible verses that the author feels is very important throughout the book is Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

The chapters are short with most of them no longer than 8 or 9 pages. However, there is so much to ponder and consider in each one. This is a book that is best read one chapter at a time rather straight through from cover to cover. Due to the many different areas being addressed it will also serve well as a reference book that the reader can return to.

I would highly recommend What would Jesus Post? Many of us spend a great deal of our time on the internet and this book will serve as a valuable resource to challenge, encourage and inspire us to post in a way that honours God. It is a welcome addition to my bookshelf!

A Digital Sabbath

A digital sabbath is the title of one of the chapter’s in David Robertson’s book: What Would Jesus Post?

For Christians the sabbath is a day of worship in which we specifically endeavour to focus on worshipping God. Some might describe it also as a day of rest from work. Although in our modern culture there are many who do have to work on that day.

David Robertson aims in this chapter to get the reader to focus on the idea of a digital sabbath. He asks us to consider how we might change our online behaviour on the sabbath to mark the day out as holy to God.

I expect that the idea of a digital sabbath is one that many of us have not previously considered. We naturally go online every day without thinking anything about it. This comes as naturally as breathing to us! Should we though try and make this day different and have a break from online activity?

One of the problems we face is that it’s very easy for us to start making up “thou shall not” rules to govern behaviour both offline and online on a day of rest. However, I don’t believe that this is the right way to approach this. Instead a better way is to ask the questions that the author ponders:

  • How should we use our time on this day?
  • How do we make this day different?
  • How do we use this day to reflect the nature of God?

The author challenges the reader with the thought that if our sabbath day is no different to any other day then we are being conformed to the world. Whereas we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

He also asks how quickly do we expect replies to emails and postings we make on a Sunday? I must confess if I email someone or message them on a Sunday I do check regularly for a reply.

From a personal prospective I think it is good to consider having a break from the online world. There will of course be occasions when that is not possible for various reasons. For example: we may be awaiting an urgent message from someone or we might be using our phone as our sat-nav whilst on a car journey.

Last Sunday I decided to have a digital sabbath and apart from replying to a text I received the phone was left alone. I found it very liberating to be free from my phone and enjoyed the experience. I am hoping to do this on a regular basis as it’s so easy to be addicted to our smartphones. It’s nice to have a day that is different.

I think David Robertson has again raised some important questions in his book which would be wise for us to ponder and act upon. Hopefully more of us will consider now taking a regular digital sabbath.

Pray before Posting on Social Media

I’m currently reading an interesting book by David Robertson called: What Would Jesus Post? The second chapter is entitled pray before posting and it contains some wise advice which I thought I would share this week in relation to our social media use.

The author believes that there are no occasions where prayer is not appropriate. He reminds us that Paul told the church in Ephesus to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18). He also mentions Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4v6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

With these verses in mind it’s only right for David Robertson to ask us the following questions:

  • When do you pray about your online life?
  • How much do you pray compared to how often you connect online?
  • What view does God have on what we are about to post?

It might seem a strange idea to pray about our online life. However, those two verses mentioned above remind us that we should pray “on all occasions” and “in every situation.” Therefore, it’s not just our offline life that requires prayer but also our online life too. These days we spend so much time online that if we don’t pray about this then that is a big part of our life that we are prayerfully neglecting.

In our church services do we pray for our churches website and social media pages? We believe that it’s important for churches to have a web presence but how often does this become the subject of corporate prayer?

The second question above is obviously very challenging to many of us! I think if we are being honest with ourselves we know that this is an area where there is room for improvement. When we awake in the morning do we connect online before we pray? Likewise, as we go to bed is the last thing we do pray or check our social media feeds? Jesus started each day off in prayer and that’s an example we can all aim to follow.

We have all seen posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that we feel should not have been posted. However, does it occur to us that God will have a view on what we are about to post? It is very important that we always pray before posting on social media. Is the thing we are about to post edifying? Will someone be blessed or encouraged by our post? Alternatively, will our post be making fun at someone or belittling them?

Of course, we can delete our postings on social media but unless we do this immediately someone will probably see it. It’s better to pray before posting to avoid regret and embarrassment.

When we look at our social media feeds we are encouraged to like and share the postings of our friends and followers. Do we just click on the like or share button without either thinking or praying about it first? No doubt if we are honest with ourselves we have probably all liked posts on those platforms that we should not have done. There have been occasions when I have liked a post and then a few minutes later cancelled the like as I realise that I have made a mistake!

In closing lets us remember the importance of praying before we post on social media and asking God for wisdom in what we share online.