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JULY 2006

Confidence is a subject behind the headlines this month.
The two-minutes’ silence in London on the 7th was a reminder that confidence is required by those working and travelling in the city. The death of British troops in Iran and Afghanistan requires a brave attitude of their comrades maintaining peace-keeping patrols. In the World Cup a positive belief was required by those chosen to take decisive penalties. But what of religious confidence?

As a young person I belonged to a church that denied a personal experience of God. You couldn’t say, “I am saved” or “I’m going to heaven”. This kind of knowledge, I was told, is in God’s hands and could only be known after one’s decease. Strange, I thought, and contrary to the “I know”, “I believe” and “I have” confessions of Scripture. Didn’t the psalmist confess, “The LORD is my shepherd”?

The Gospels were written that we might “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing (we) may have life in his name” (John 20:31). Faith in Christ brings a confidence for living and dying. As Paul confessed to Timothy: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim.2:12).  Can we make the same confession?


This month I am concerned about hypocritical leaders of evangelical churches.
In 2003 a newspaper article featured a London pastor as 'a sexual predator'. The married father with four children appeared before the Old Bailey charged with sexual assault and rape. The church oversight failed to examine complaints about him.

In 2004 a self-styled bishop claimed to produce miracle pregnancies through prayer. But international police investigations revealed that the preacher was probably responsible for babies being stolen from hospitals in Kenya. He still appears on TV!

This year the pastor of an evangelical church with a congregation of 800, was jailed for flying illegal immigrants into Britain to renovate his luxury house. They worked for as long as 16 hours a day on his home, earning as little as 1.36 an hour. The pastor faked immigration documents. We must learn from these stories.

First, we must pray for church leaders, as those who must give an account to God (Heb.13:17,18). Secondly, leaders should have a 'covering'. Thirdly, churches should examine bad reports and be prepared to apply discipline to any church member. Fourthly, because a preacher appears on TV or has a large congregation does not indicate divine anointing or authority. Non-biblical doctrines should be questioned, and bad lifestyles must be judged. Mark false prophets (Mt.7:15-20).


My personal note this month is painful.
I’ve been suffering from toothache! The experience reminds me that Paul likens the church to a body: “The body is a unit... if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Cor.12:1,12). This analogy is applicable to the local church and the universal church.

Today we need to pray for the suffering church in China. Sometimes the Chinese authorities appear to accept the Christian witness, but the fact is, Chinese Christians are still being persecuted as members of an ‘illegal structure’. Chinese police broke up a peaceful demonstration on 29th July by several thousand Christians who watched them demolish an independant church building. Police used electric stun batons to beat the Christians in Dangshan township, Xiaoshan. Local authorities repeatedly deny believers' requests to rebuild the church, even though they had met all the registration requirements.

Churches have been growing rapidly in suburban Dangshan. There are more than 100,000 Christians and 120 unregistered house churches in Xiaoshan district, according to a Chinese scholar familiar with the area. With about 1,000 attendees, Dangshan Church has roots extending back to Watchman Nee's indigenous Little Flock movement.

         Vernon                                                                     Bible

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