Free to be God's people

(Sun 16-Jun-2019)

First in a series on Philippians. Phil Barber, Potters Longton

Philippi was a city on the edge of Europe, controlling a pass between Europe and Asia. Colonised by Roman soldiers when they retired.

‘So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.’

Acts 16:11-15 ESV

The church at Philippi was probably the first church in Europe. Founded around Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman. Strict religious Jews (as Paul had been) would not associate with women outside their family. This church, led by Lydia, became close friends of Paul.

Paul normally starts his letters with credentials, authority. Philippians does not:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Philippians 1:1‭-‬5 ESV

Much more informal, friendly tone.

Love and affection should be the hallmark of any Christian gathering. We fall out and disagree too often – and this is sin, failing to live as God instructs us to. Having love affection for each other displays God’s love to outsiders.

Love and affection make a big difference when we are struggling – and we all go through times with struggle and difficulty.

“A person with friends is never poor”

Friendship forms the heart of this letter.

Friendship is at the core of building the church.

The only successful way to build to church. Other forms of evangelism are only effective if there is a befriending process along with it. It is difficult to enter a church on your own as an outsider, so very few people do.
Revival comes from people being enthusiastic and sharing with their friends. The church in Lydia’s home became a group of friends that spanned classes and ages. They cared and provided for Paul, and almost certainly did for each other.

Friendship takes time and sacrificial investment to build.

Shared experiences are necessary and take time. We are slaves of Jesus Christ – we don’t have the right to quit where God has placed us. Stay in the place of service and sacrifice.

Friendships should be open.

No exclusive cliques or cold shoulders. Worshipping alongside her servants and slaves would have been strange and counter-cultural to Lydia. There is no status in the church. We are one, and all here because Jesus loves us – equally.

Treasure your friendships, make new ones, build them up. Use them for the kingdom. Thank God for them.

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The Good Attitudes (beatitudes)

(Fri 1-Mar-2019)

Antony Clewes – Potters Longton

Give God not just our Sunday praise, but also our Monday praise, serving God every day.

Matthew 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7 NLT

Shamina Begum – how to respond?
“She’s made her bed, and now must lie in it”
“15 year old make mistakes”
Where is justice? Where is remorse? Where is mercy?

Forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve it – a situation we all find ourselves in. We will face injustice.

Offering forgiveness is the way of Christ, is the way of the cross.

How will work for us in our daily lives? Sometimes we have to make the first move, even when we’re the victim.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Ephesians 2:4‭-‬5 ESV

We have all needed, and received mercy from our master, to a far greater extent than we need to show. How can we expect mercy if we don’t live a merciful life? God demands we show mercy.

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6 NLT

There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.

James 2:13 NLT

Showing mercy will lead to happiness in your life. You benefit yourself when you show mercy to others. We need to act when we have a chance, even if it’s just a small act.

Compassion has now helped 2 million children since it was started in 1962 after a businessman saw street children in South Korea and wanted to do something to help.

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Tories announce new tax?

(Fri 2-Nov-2018)

The Conservative Party have the mistaken belief that I’m a supporter, and every so often illegally email me (I never opted in to get these emails from them), trying to get me to join, or buy a tea towel. I tried replying to the latest, but their email server rejected it.

Here’s their latest, marked as coming from Philip Hammond, with some comments from me.

On Monday I delivered this year’s Budget, and I want to let you know what this means.
Austerity is coming to an end.

Oh good. An end to the cuts, public service salary freezes?

That means more money for the NHS – and a tax cut for 32 million people. Back these policies? Then join the party delivering them.

The “more money for the NHS” is the same money that was announced back in June, when the government announced an “extra” £20 billion by 2024 – having introduced £22 billion in cuts. FullFact covered this back when it was announced in June, when they noted “Health experts have said this money will “help stem further decline in the health service, but it’s simply not enough to address the fundamental challenges facing the NHS, or fund essential improvements to services that are flagging.”” (health.org.uk) and “In 2013, NHS England said it faced a funding gap of £30 billion by the end of the decade, even if government spending kept up in line with inflation. So it needed that much more to deliver care to a growing and ageing population, assuming it made no savings itself.” (PDF)

Together, as a country, we’ve had to take some tough decisions. To sort out the mess left by Labour.

And that’s taken nine years? And “left by Labour”, rather than banks, who you have continued to fail to regulate?

But because of our balanced approach, the economy is growing and debt is falling.
So we can spend more on the public services we all use every day.

“Can” spend more, not “will”.

Like the biggest cash boost in the history of the NHS. We’ll be committing an extra £20.5 billion every year by 2023-24. Making sure the NHS is there for us when we need it.
And increasing the National Living Wage. Giving a £690 annual pay rise to some of the lowest paid.
We’re able to increase our spending – while giving a tax cut to 32 million people. So if you back these policies, then why not join the party delivering them?

The very lowest paid – those only getting part-time work, unreliable hours on the minimum wage – don’t benefit from this, but those earning over £50,000 a year (nearly twice the median average of £27,531) benefit more.

We’re raising the personal allowance next year. That means a tax cut of £1,205 for a typical basic rate taxpayer since 2010-11.
And we’re freezing fuel duty for the ninth year in a row. Saving the average car driver a total of £1,000 by 2020.

Again, a bigger gain for the wealthy with big cars, big engines, and who do lots of traveling than for those who can’t afford a car or only a small car. The fuel duty escalator was introduced to help encourage people to move away from burning more oil products, because of the impact on the environment and to prepare for increases in oil prices. The Conservatives have turned it off.

Don’t let Labour put it all at risk. Jeremy Corbyn wants to raise your taxes to the highest level in peacetime history. He’d undo all the hard work we’ve done together, as a country.

The highest band of income tax was around 90% in the 1950s and 60s, and reduced to 75% in 1971. Labour’s plan is to put the top rate back to 50% for earnings over £123,000 (the Conservatives reduced it from 50% to 45% in 2013), and for the rest of us promises:

95 per cent of taxpayers will be guaranteed no increase in their income tax contributions, and everyone will be protected from any increase in personal National Insurance contributions and VAT.

Some interesting things not mentioned, but in the Government’s Budget 2018: 24 things you need to know

The government is providing £500 million of additional funding for departments to prepare for Brexit for 2019-20. This is on top of the £1.5 billion already announced for that year.

Despite other government ministers and former ministers promising us Brexit would give us money.
And then there’s this:

A £28.8 billion National Roads Fund, paid for by road tax, includes £25.3 billion for the Strategic Road Network (motorways, trunk and A roads). The largest ever investment of this kind.

Given that road tax was abolished in 1937, announcing what is effectively a new tax in this was is somewhat burying the lede. There’s also no detail about how this will be set or collected.

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Copper pans at Shugborough Hall

(Sun 18-Mar-2018)

Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire

In the kitchen, servants’ quarters, Shugborough Hall

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Self-reliance

(Mon 5-Mar-2018)

Lauren had me read from the Bible study she is working through at the moment. The main reading was Exodus 18 v1-27, in which Moses’ father-in-law Jethro visits and advises Moses to appoint people to help him with the work of resolving disputes – ‘“This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. ‘(Exodus 18:17 – 18 NLT) and additional readings from Deuteronomy 17 and Acts 6

The readings are all about seeking help, and sharing the work, not relying entirely on ourselves:

Don’t miss this: The concept of self-reliance is wholly foreign to the Christian faith. We are created to need God and others. We are designed for interdependence and community. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. It matters that we understand this as we listen for the echo of our own story in that of Moses.

Self-reliance is so often held up as a goal we should all be aiming for and should all be able to achieve, but these passages show how Moses, other old-testament time leaders, and the apostles leading the early church not only needed, but were actively told to seek help from their communities.

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