Tag Archives: salvation

Freedom – taking personal Responsibility

With ‘freedom day’ upon us, I’ve been thinking a bit about the word freedom and what we may mean by it. I typed ‘freedom’ into an open source image site and found it quite ironic that freedom was depicted almost entirely in terms of isolated individuals in nature – not a crowded bar or theatre in sight! (a sample of the images offered to me above!) 

Words like freedom are a bit like onions with layers of meaning…  but perhaps also like a kinder egg… because if we unpack what it may mean for us we may be surprised at the diversity of meaning among us. 

Freedom is a deeply theological concept for us as Christians, strongly driven by scriptures story. Much of the bible comes from people and communities seeking freedom, but restricted from it by the geo-political and social structures of the day. Ruth and Naomi restricted by famine and grief yet subverting the cultural restrictions of the day. The Israelites enslaved in Egypt , longing for the promised land. Paul, Peter and many others imprisoned writing to inspire the early church… 

Some parts of the Old Testament are packed with rules for the community of God; don’t eat unclean animals, no mixed fibre clothes, rules for bathing… there is even an instruction not to boil a baby goat in its mothers milk. There’s all sorts of ways to explain why these rules may have been necessary at the time, some very practical – for example some rules may have helped stop the spread of disease.

By the time Jesus came, these rules had become so restrictive to the people of God they had become a mill stone around the people’s neck, and the religiosity of the system had taken away any sense of freedom. So Jesus comes and turns everything upside down, freeing God’s people and all the world from restriction – God did not send the son into the world to condemn it, but that it might be saved (John 3:17) , and offering freedom ‘if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed’ (John 8:36).

But what do we do with that freedom? Do we go off and do whatsoever we like? That is the choice we have. That is the personal responsibility we bear. But how do we bear it? What does Christian personal responsibility look like? 

These quesitons are not new questions – it seems that the early church asked them too, and while maybe not in the context of a pandemic, Paul writes to the Galatians that as God’s people we are called into freedom. Not merely earthly freedom (e.g. from mask wearing and social distancing), but to the Spiritual freedom of belonging not to the kingdoms of earth but the kingdom of God. To be called into freedom is to embrace the liberating, redeeming power of salvation we find through belonging to God’s kingdom. 

But, says Paul, we are also called to choose use our freedom responsibly – to take personal responsibility and not keep our freedom for self-indulgence, but to live out God’s law that Paul and Jesus both sum up in one phrase ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ 

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Galatians 5:14-16

In light of the emphasis on ‘personal responsibility’ for mitigating covid risk, moving away from laws that dierct us, I’m minded that personal responsibility is not about only thinking about self, but also taking personal resposibility for ensuring our personal actions also love our neighbours. 

As we enter this new phase of pandemic, I encourage you to reflect on 2 things:
1, reflect spiritually and on your relationship with God: what does Christian freedom mean for you?    
2. reflect practically, how do you demonstrate to the world the personal responsibility we are called to exercise?  

Weekly Reflections from Rev Dan, also published in Tues News 20/7/21.
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Interrupted…by Joy

What has given you joy this year?
What is giving you joy today?

This week I had a bit of an interrupted week, because the car broken down while doing shuttle runs for Bognor Foodbank. It was about 1:30, I called the RAC and they said 90mins to 3-4hours.

Louise was working til about 5, so I thought I didn’t have much option but to wait, the car was on double yellows, and wouldn’t be easy to move, and I’m no mechanic, I had no clue what the problem was.

Well, 90 mins came and went.
3 hours came and went.
4 hours came and went.

Every 30 minutes or so I would get a text saying, we’re on the way, sorry for the delay, we’ll be in touch within the next half hour…
It was hard to keep waiting and waiting….

By the time it had been 5 hours, I called again, they couldn’t tell me how long it would be, and said they’d escalated the breakdown and someone would be in touch shortly.

This few hours of waiting reminded me of the thread of God’s story and love for the world we find in the Bible. The Bible is filled with promises that God is faithful to us, loves us, cares for us.

Well by 7:30 my rescuer, the recovery truck, still hadn’t turned up and I was starting to get a bit hopeless. I’d called a number of times and they couldn’t give me an ETA, I was starting to get quite cold, and my phone battery was on 8%. I realised I had jump leads in the boot and thought maybe it’s worth trying to jump start the car to see if it is the battery.

At which moment, a friend pulls up – totally unexpectedly – we wire the cars up, they gave me a jump – the car starts – and then they followed me home.

My waiting was finally interrupted by Joy – in a way I didn’t expect!

I wish now I’d look for the jump leads earlier,
I wish now I’d taken more action,
I wish now I realised I had the tools I needed to journey onwards, and journey home.
But I kept sitting and waiting, because ‘it’ll just be another 30 minutes.’

I talked last week about John the Baptist who was a cousin of Jesus, who God called to prepare the way for Jesus to arrive. John kept telling people the promised one was coming, but the people had been waiting for so many years, they’d got so used to life in the waiting, some were losing hope, others started thinking John was the coming one.

No-one seemed ready for God’s promises to come true in the way they did.

Jesus came to earth, interrupted the world, in such an unexpected way – as a little, vulnerable baby – to rescue us, to show God’s faithfulness to us. To journey with us. To give us joy.

So don’t be like me, don’t keep waiting thinking rescue is coming.
Jesus has already interrupted the world.
Friends Jesus is here, Jesus has rescued us.
And Jesus is with us, journeying with us, and that wonderful truth, gives us joy.

May your life be interrupted… by joy.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings, give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.[1]


[1] Words of Timothy Dudley Smith, based on the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55

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Hope to come: Colossians week 4

I took a tumble this week. Walking home from school with my daughters I caught my foot in a ditch in the grass and twisted my ankle – resulting a sprain and chipped shard of bone.

Given so much of ministry is based at home at the moment it’s perhaps not been such a major issue, I can continue to work from office with my foot elevated, ice pack and painkillers. 12 months ago I’d have had a whole host of diary engagements to have to rearrange.

Things in life don’t always go to plan.
Things are not always perfect or ideal.
Life isn’t always without its pain and suffering and struggle.

As we’ve journeyed through the book of Colossians and dipped our toes into some of its riches, we’ve seen these last few weeks the fullness and joy and abundance that a life in Christ offers now, today, in the present.

Jesus, the gift we receive without catch or terms and conditions.
Jesus is hope for today.

But yet, the letter recognises that even while Jesus is with us, giving joy and fulness and abundance in our lives today, life is still life, and things don’t always go to plan.

As we receive the gift of Jesus today, we not only have fullness and hope for today, there is a greater hope, a greater inheritance to come.

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.                                                         

Col 3:23-24

On receiving Jesus, not only are we offered fullness and hope and abundance of love and grace for today, there is an inheritance, a hope to come, where things do go to plan, where the abundance of God’s love and grace is made more fully known.

A transformation to come that we cannot fully comprehend, that will be even better, brighter, lighter.  Receive Jesus today, hope for today, and a hope to come.

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Need a hero? Colossians week 2

“I need a hero! I’m holding out for a hero to the end of the night!”[i]

Are you looking for a hero?

Yes? No? Not sure?
I think, truthfully a lot of us are, though we may not always realise it, or coin it in that way.

Society loves a hero.
Someone who will save us, a figurehead to give hope.
Film and TV is full of hero’s we love – from Marvel to Harry Potter to Poldark to Doctor Who,
We love a hero, and especially love a hero that appears an underdog, that rises up to save the day against the odds.

Even in the real world, away from sci-fi and fiction, we like to look for a hero.
We’ve spent a significant part of 2020 putting a ‘protective shield around the NHS’, trying to maximise it’s potential to save life.
But of course we have to also cope with the painful reality that life one earth cannot always be saved.

I wonder if sometimes we expect our politicians to be hero’s too.
Decisions have to be made, based on the best knowledge they have to had,
but there will always be alternative choices that could have been – and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it can also be a curse.

I’m not wanting to defend all political choices here,
but to remind us that we need be aware of our human propensity to create hero’s.
Aware of who and where we place our hope.
Remembering that we live in this world – not the world of sci-fi and fiction.

The letter to the Colossians is written to a group of Christians who are facing pressure.
Pressure to put their trust, hope and faith in new ideas, alternative hero’s and unrealistic portrayals of salvation.

But here in Colossians we are reminded that there is someone who really did come to this world to save.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Colossians 2:6-9, New Living Translation

If you know you’re looking for a hero – enjoy your sci-fi and fiction – I do – but look to Jesus.
If you’re not sure if you’re looking for a hero – still look to Jesus.
If you said you weren’t – still look to Jesus.

Jesus Christ was an underdog, and hung out with human beings like you and me.
People with doubts and questions and uncertainties.
People who were anxious and broken and unsure.
People living with guilt and shame.
People looking for truth, and disillusioned by the way of the world.

Jesus comes not to irradicate that. But to live in it.
To experience it. To live with us.
Jesus came to earth, living and walking in our shoes.
Jesus understands what it is to be human.

These words from Colossians tell us Jesus wasn’t simply human, Jesus was the fullness of God in human form. Jesus is human, and Jesus is God.

I believe Jesus is our Saviour – who came to save the world, you and me, because of God’s love for the world, for you and me.
And to point us to a way of living that is filled with hope and truth.

But – Jesus isn’t a hero who comes to save us because we’re helpless.
He’s not that sort of hero.
He’s the hero who knows who we are, knows our potential, and so wants us to grow and be built up. Need a hero? Let your roots grow in Jesus.


[i] Written by Jim Steinman with Dean Pitchford.

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More on Colossians

Life Jacket

This hi-viz belongs to one of my daughters – a bit small for me! They often wear them when they ride along the pavement on their bikes.

They don’t call it a hi-viz though They know it helps keep them safe and so they have always called it a life jacket.

What do you have that keeps you safe?

Of course we’re familiar with face coverings, keeping distance from one another, we have speed limits and breaks on bikes and cars. We are surrounded by things that are there to keep us safe.

As Christians, sometimes we talk about Jesus saving us.
We call Jesus the Saviour of the World.
Saviour – literally means someone who saves someone else from danger.
Jesus is, in many ways, a life jacket for us, for me, for you, for all the world.

In John 12:46-47 we read Jesus say:

‘I have come as light to the world, so that everyone who believes in me will not be in darkness, I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world’

I have come as light to the world: A bit like a fluorescent jacket, Jesus offers light. Jesus light is not for a limited group people Jesus has written down on a list – Jesus says this light is for all the world – whoever believes will not be in darkness There’s no limit to who can be saved by Jesus’ light – simply believe Jesus is who he says he is – the light of the world, the son of God.

Know the Jesus is not here to judge – but save I would look prettyridiculousif I went out trying to wear this wouldn’t I – I may get a few judgmental looks!

Well we’re reminded here that Jesus doesn’t judge us, and Jesus doesn’t judge you – Jesus doesn’t look at us and criticise us – Jesus came because of God’s love for the world, to save the world.

And if you’re watching this from the world – then my friend that includes you!

If you want to know more about Jesus do get in touch via social media, email, old fashioned telephone – we would love to talk with you.

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COVENANT: Living without the full picture

Adapted from a sermon preached at Covenant Services in January 2020 at Westergate, Bognor Regis and Felpham Methodist Church, West Sussex.

During the 2020 Christmas break we took our first ever family trip to the cinema to see Frozen 2. If you want to watch a movie that includes songs that will undoubtedly get stuck in your brain forever… that’s the film to go and see…

We sat in the cinema, waiting for 12:30 to arrive… and when it did, the sound came on…be we had no picture. At first we thought the film must be starting off with some radio adverts, but after a while of listening and hearing some adverts that made no sense without pictures, and I was convinced I’d seen on the telly in recent days we began to think something might not be quite right.

Continue reading COVENANT: Living without the full picture

Tackling the tough stuff…

Soon after I arrived in Circuit, one of the churches under my care asked if we could start a bible study/fellowship group, because it was something they longed for but hadn’t had for some time.

I willingly obliged, encouraged by their enthusiasm for study and fellowship and I confess slightly indulgently – because I always enjoy conversation about faith, scripture and God.

Continue reading Tackling the tough stuff…