James’s Blog: A Preaching Odyssey

James’s Blog:  A Preaching Odyssey

The only thing that I miss from when I was a minister is the preaching. I think it’s because it’s the only part of the role where I ever felt competent. It’s taken me many years to get to the point where I feel comfortable acknowledging that I am a good preacher. My reluctance to do so came from a combination of insecurity and that common Protestant brand of pride – false humility. I know now that if God has made you good at something, pretending that you’re not very good at it is just extremely disrespectful.

I preached my first sermon on Boxing Day 1993. I was just short of my 17th birthday and had been a Christian for about six months. I don’t know many churches that would have given someone like me a chance in the pulpit, and I will always be thankful to Peter Taylor for taking that risk. Every now and then, during my A-Level years, I would turn up at some village chapel to preach. The congregations were always kind, because I was something of a novelty. I don’t think anyone else in my school was investing their youth in that particular way. What it means is that, as I approach my 40th birthday, I have had nearly 25 years of preaching experience. That’s very helpful, because sometimes it can take you that long to figure out what, how and why you should be preaching what you’re preaching.

At some point I will probably share some of my thoughts on the art of preaching, probably on this very blog. Preaching is an art, and a responsibility. Those of us who are doing it should take the development of our skills seriously. I have very high standards for preachers, I’m afraid, but that’s OK. Now that I’ve finally managed to divest myself of false humility it frees me up to start working on developing the real deal.

James’s Blog: I Am Not a Christian.

James’s Blog:  I Am Not a Christian.

They call me a Christian.

I am not a Christian.

They tell me that I am a Christian and that I should not be ashamed to be a Christian.

I ask them what it means to be a Christian.

They tell me that a Christian is one who has, at one point in their life, asked God to forgive his sins; has asked Jesus into his life.

If that is all it means then I am not a Christian.

A single “Yes” may make a Christian, but it cannot make a disciple. A man may be a Christian if he bows his head to Jesus once in his life, but a man can only be a disciple if he bows his head to Jesus every day.

I am not a Christian.

Call me a follower of Christ, one who hopes to walk so closely behind that he is covered in the dust that is thrown up as his master walks.

Call me a slave to righteousness, one who has relinquished all rights to himself but instead allows Jesus to live through him.

Call me a joint-heir with Christ, one who inherits what was not his, and seeks nothing more than to announce his brother’s kingdom to the world.

Call me free indeed, and one for whom it is no hardship to submit that freedom to Him who makes me free.

Call me a New Creation, God’s Workmanship, a Living Stone, a Holy People, a Saint, a Son of the Living God.

But do not call me a Christian.

James’s Blog: For Sale.

James’s Blog:  For Sale.

I’ve written briefly about the concept of Christian horror in my blog on Charles Williams and I’ve also mentioned my dalliance with Microfiction.  The two intersect on a website that I occasionally contributed to – MicroHorror.

MicroHorror is now no longer live, and I hadn’t written anything for it in nearly four years, but buried on there is my one attempt to communicate something meaningful through horror.  It’s a mere 200 words, and it’s called ‘For Sale’.

Come… on… MOVE… you… son… of… a…

Muscles bulged but the jar lid remained unrepentant. This was getting embarrassing. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, such a simple idea. Offer to open the new jar for the girl in the kitchen. Impress the girl of his dreams. She didn’t look impressed right now. She looked bored.

I… can’t… believe… this… is… happening…

Still no movement. Not even a fraction of a fraction. The girl had stopped looking bored and was now beginning to look faintly amused. He didn’t know which was worse.

She’s… laughing… at… me… please… open… please… I’ll… do… anything…

Suddenly a hissing, slithering voice whispered in the silence, in the deepest backdrop of his mind.

“Anything?”

***
In the darkness of the under realm, the two demons put the finishing touches to the contract.

“…for the ability to open a jar of sun-dried tomatoes? Really?”

The first demon sounded shocked and a little disgusted. The second demon nodded dolefully.

“There’s no challenge these days. It’s just not fun anymore,” he moaned. The first demon finished the document with a flourish of his pen, and slowly shook his head.

“You know what I reckon? I reckon those humans have stopped taking their souls seriously.”

James’s Blog: Tolstoy’s Greedy Farmer.

James’s Blog:  Tolstoy’s Greedy Farmer.

There’s a story by Leo Tolstoy about a peasant farmer who had done well in life, but wanted more. One day someone made him an offer. For 1000 Roubles the farmer could have as much land as he wanted, provided that he was able to walk around it in a day. The only condition of the deal was that he must be back where he started from by the time that the sun set.

Of course, he set out early the next morning moving as quickly as he could. At midday he decided that he would keep walking, and simply make sure that he moved faster on his return journey. By mid afternoon he had walked a great distance, but he realised that he would lose it all if he didn’t get back and that he hadn’t left himself much time. He retraced his steps, running and running, trying to return to the starting line before the sun went down.

Just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon he came within sight of where he had started, so he pushed himself for the final few minutes, despite his complaining body. He staggered across the line, just as the sun set, and then promptly collapsed and died of exhaustion.

His servants dug him a grave, about six feet long by three feet wide. Tolstoy called his story ‘How Much Land Does a Man Need?’