Dear Theophilus… September 2015

Dear TheophilusJesus once told a parable about two men who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14). One, a Pharisee, felt able to stand in God’s presence and thank God that he lived a good, religious life; unlike some of the others in the temple!

The other man, a tax collector, stood some distance away from the Pharisee, head bowed, ashamed of the wrong he had done in his life and asking for God’s mercy.

One, a religious man, confident in his own self-righteousness, the other a social outcast, fully aware of his unworthiness. Both men went home, but Jesus tells us it was the tax collector and not the Pharisee who went home justified before God. Why was that?

The reason is that none of us can stand before God and claim to be righteous in and of ourselves. Compared with God’s awesome majesty, glory and holiness, everyone of us is a sinner – Pharisee and tax collector alike, and so we can all only approach God a the tax collector did, and say ’God have mercy on me, a sinner’.

But the amazing thing is, that when we do that we find that we are justified before God. God, who is abounding in love and mercy, forgives us. The word ‘justified’ can be interpreted as ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’.

The Pharisee was not justified before God because his claim was based on his own relative goodness, as compared to his neighbour. However, the tax collector was justified before God because his claim, recognising his own shortcomings, appealed to God’s infinite mercy.

In our Christian lives, let us remember that we stand before God as sinners who need God’s mercy. But let us also remember that, having received God’s mercy, we go on our way rejoicing, forgiven, just as if I’d never sinned.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus – Aug 2015

Dear Theophilus

Jesus’ ministry on earth was characterised by the preaching of the Kingdom of God and the healing of the sick. Not surprisingly then, when he sent the twelve disciples out on their first mission, he told them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And this command remains in place for us today, as the church that God has entrusted with his continuing plan of salvation for the world, until he comes again.

Jesus came two thousand years ago to bring in the Kingdom of God. He demonstrated this by healing the sick, forgiving the sinners and raising the dead. Today the Kingdom of God is found everywhere where the reign of sin, sickness and death is overcome by the reign of Jesus. And healing the sick is a sign of the Kingdom of God now, as it as with Jesus.

The result of Jesus’ victory on the cross is that, through faith in him, we can be forgiven of the sin in our lives, we can be healed of our diseases and we can receive eternal life. Jesus’ death and resurrection paved the way for all of this. But the Kingdom of God will not come in all of its fullness until Jesus comes again. Then there will finally be no more tears and no more death.

In the mean time we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’ as we work together to see the principles of the Kingdom of God established in our world and as we demonstrate this by healing the sick. Evil will still happen in our world and not all of the sick will be healed; this is all part of the ‘now and not yet’ nature of the kingdom of God. But this should not deter us from our calling to continue to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

Our world can still be transformed community by community, the sinner can be still be forgiven and find new life, and the sick can still be healed, if we all play our part in preaching the kingdom of God and healing the sick. If Jesus commanded it, it must be possible. He may ask us to perform miracles, but he doesn’t ask us to do the impossible.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus – July 2015

Dear TheophilusEarly on in Jesus’ ministry Simon Peter and Andrew returned to the shore after a notably unsuccessful night’s fishing and Jesus commandeered their boat as a make-shift pulpit from which to preach to a crowd of people. When the sermon was finished Jesus instructed Simon Peter to put out into deep water and to have another go at fishing, whereupon he and Andrew caught so many fish that he had to get help from James and John to bring the catch ashore. Later on these fishermen respond to Jesus’ call to follow him. (See Luke 5:1-11).

There are some interesting things going on here, not least the fact that a carpenter is telling a fisherman how to fish! But there are also some helpful parallels for the Church today. The first is that God is interested in the whole of our lives. Jesus asked Simon Peter to surrender his work to him, but in doing so, Jesus blessed him with an amazing catch of fish. God will bless the whole of our lives, spiritually, physically and emotionally, if they are surrendered to him..

The second is that God has something to say about the way we conduct the whole of our lives. When he says ’It’s best to do things this way…’ it is important that we pay attention, and when he says ’ No, not that way’, he has his reasons, reasons that will bless us and bless others.

And thirdly, as a Church, and as a team, we can feel, like Simon Peter, that we have laboured all night and not caught anything, but God is there to encourage us not to give up, but rather to put out into deeper water where there will be such a catch of fish that we will need the help of the other churches in the team to bring it ashore.

Small changes to the way we do things, made in obedience to God’s call and with a degree of sacrifice on our part, will open the way to great blessing for us and for the communities that we serve.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus…May 2015

Dear Theophilus

In the Church today we have a tendency to see the crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead and the coming of the Holy Spirit as three distinct events. I think we should see them more as one event with three stages, or three steps on the same journey.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples in the upper room on the evening of the first Easter Day he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. To the disciples, full of fear and doubt, this was a simple act to confirm who he was. But behind this simple act is a greater truth – the risen Saviour bears the wounds of crucifixion. He doesn’t try to hide the wounds; he certainly doesn’t deny them; rather he uses them to reach out to others and to identify himself to them. The wounds of suffering and the resurrection life belong together.

The same is true for us. We all carry the wounds of suffering in one form or another. By the grace of God they heal just as, through faith in Jesus, we receive new life. We don’t need to hide or deny our wounds, instead we can embrace them, and use them to reach out to others.

But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. In John’s gospel we read that he then breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, seven weeks after Easter, but here we see the wounds of crucifixion, the resurrected Lord and the giving of the Holy Spirit all in one event. Three steps, one journey.

But there’s a fourth step; Jesus then sends the disciples out to continue his mission, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:19-23).

As Christians today we are part of God’s mission. With our wounds healed but visible, with the new life of faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, God is sending us out. Four steps in God’s purposes for your life.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus…April 2015

Dear Theophilus

Have you ever gone to meet someone and they’ve not turned up? Maybe they changed their mind, or one of you got the wrong day or time. Or maybe they told you but you just forgot. This happened to the women who went to tend to Jesus’ body on that first Easter morning. He wasn’t there.

Instead there was a pile of grave clothes and a couple of angels who said to the women, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen, just as he said! (Luke 24:5,6).

There are probably times for all of us when we look for God and it seems that he is not there. While the truth remains that God will never leave us or forsake us, sometimes it seems he is notable by his absence. He may not be far away, but he is not where we expect to find him.

All that the women had was the evidence – the empty tomb and the neat pile of grave clothes – that Jesus had been there and had now gone. Later on, in Jesus’ own time, they and the disciples would all meet him, but for now the evidence had to be enough. He is not here, he is risen!

Sometimes for us there are times when God seems so real that we can almost touch him and hear his voice, but then there are also times when it seems he has gone walk-about. Such times don’t mean that God doesn’t love us, or that we have done something wrong; they are simply times when we are called to trust him, to grow in our discipleship, to mature in our faith and to rely on the evidence of the resurrection. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and with that belief, everything else will fall into place.

Jesus may sometimes be notable by his absence, but the evidence of the empty tomb and folded grave clothes tells us that very soon he will be notable by his presence. He is not here, he is risen!


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… March 2015

Dear Theophilus

Never forget, the devil is a great tactician and a brilliant salesman: he looks for our weak spots and then wraps his offers up with layers of hype. Just look at the way he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Thankfully Jesus wasn’t so easily taken in, and in this there is a lesson or two for us.

Jesus had been alone in the desert for forty days and now he was hungry and vulnerable. And what does the devil do? He attacks Jesus’ vulnerability through his sense of identity by saying ‘If you are the Son of God…’ and he offers another way to satisfy his hunger, by turning stones to bread. But Jesus doesn’t need to prove he is the Son of God; nor do you need to prove you are a child of God.

Jesus came to teach the Kingdom of God, saying that true power and authority come through service and humility. The devil, persistent salesman that he is, comes again and offers Jesus power over the kingdoms of earth if he will just switch allegiance and worship him. Jesus was not fooled.

When Jesus came to earth he laid down all the glory of heaven. In his third temptation the devil offers Jesus an enticing short cut to regaining his glory through a cleverly orchestrated stunt, for which God would provide the safety net. He presented this as an alternative to Jesus regaining his glory through obedience, rejection and a painful death. Why make life difficult for himself?

Temptations come to all of us, usually when we are weak and vulnerable, and they usually come enticingly wrapped up in plenty of hype and nice sounding promises. We convince ourselves that we need what is on offer, that it’s our right, that it won’t hurt us – just this once, that we’ve earned it or deserve it, that no-one’s looking. But don’t be fooled. They are lies, and the best weapon to deal with the lies is the truth – God’s truth.

And the truth still remains, as Jesus demonstrated, that true power and glory usually come through suffering and humility and ultimately belong to the humble and the obedient.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus – February 2015

Dear Theophilus

If asked who you are, you would probably reply giving your name: “I am Theophilus”, for instance. Following the recent atrocities in Paris, millions of people have identified themselves as ‘Charlie’, “Je suis Charlie”. When, however, Moses asked God who he is, in Exodus 3, God simply answers “I Am”, emphasizing his divinity and his eternal nature; the same yesterday, today and forever.

John, in his gospel, quotes Jesus using the same phrase, ‘ego eimi’ in the Greek. This is usually translated into English as ’I am’. Indeed the phrase is more emphatic than that and is better translated ‘I myself’ or even ‘I, I Am’. Amongst his use of ’ego eimi’ are Jesus’ familiar ‘I Am’ sayings: I am the light of the world, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life etc. In using the phrase ‘I Am’ so many times in John’s gospel, Jesus is clearly making a statement about his divinity, a statement which the Jewish leaders both recognized and resented.

But it is not only in John’s gospel that Jesus makes these thinly disguised claims to divinity with the phrase ’ego eimi’. Luke tells us that when Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection he said ‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself (I Am).’ See Luke 24:39.

The ‘I Am’ sayings of John tell us about the nature of the one true God, of whom Jesus is the ultimate revelation, and for which his resurrection from the dead is the ultimate demonstration. His use of ‘ego eimi’ after his resurrection clearly underscores the truth that he is both God and man.

In a world where people are looking for identity themselves and debating the identity of God, let us remember that we worship God who is ’I Am’, God who has no identity crisis, God who is revealed to us supremely in Jesus and who himself said, “I, I Am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” It is in Jesus that we too find our true identity. Through Him we are.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus – December

Dear Theophilus

I’m not sure when it happens, but I think there comes a point in most of our lives when we get as much enjoyment out of giving
presents as we do from receiving them. And yet, even as adults, I also think that deep down we all still enjoy receiving gifts. They are, regardless of their cost, tokens of love and reminders that we are valued and appreciated.

I think all of this gives us a glimpse into the heart of God who gives to us beyond what we could ever deserve and yet who also, amidst all the glory of heaven, still loves to receive the small tokens of love that we are able to show him.

Jesus actually takes this thought further still when he says ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35); words which St Paul quotes, and which are not found in the gospels themselves.

It is central to the teachings of both Jesus and Paul, that there are blessings associated with giving. Jesus tells us that as we give, so it will be given back to us ‘pressed down, shaken together and running over’ (Luke 6:38) and Paul tells us that as we give, so we will have enough for ourselves and more than enough for every good cause (2 Corinthians 9:8). This is all part of the outworking of grace, which starts with God giving to us the life that we receive at birth, eternal life which we receive through faith in Jesus and every other good gift that we receive in this world and in the world to come. It is into this economy of grace that God invites us to participate as we give of our time, our skills and our money to help others and to support the Church.

So let us use this time of giving to reflect on the wonder and enormity of the love of God for us in the gift of his one and only Son, and let us also join fully into his economy of grace and give generously so that we can be a means of blessing others, in the knowledge that we can never out-give God.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus – October 2014

Dear Theophilus

As Jesus caught sight of Jerusalem, at the end of a long journey that would eventually result in his arrest, trial, death, he wept. But the tears that he wept were not in the anticipation of his own suffering but for the suffering of the people of Jerusalem. (See Luke 19:41)

I think that today, if Jesus was to approach Rotherham, or maybe if he was to look over the town from a vantage point like Boston Castle, he would weep again. I think he would weep for the plight of Rotherham, grieve for the pain of the hundreds who have suffered abuse and despair over the breakdown of communities. The same could also be said for the situations in Iraq, Syria, Israel, Gaza or the areas of Africa affected by the Ebola virus. Jesus was, and is, full of compassion.

The horror of the exploitation has rightly brought an outcry both locally and nationally and the problems must be addressed and lessons must be learnt. In response to these events it was good to be able to take part of a time of prayer when over 400 Christians from a wide range of churches gathered in the Minster to pray for the victims, their families, the perpetrators, our communities, the police and the borough council.

It is obviously right that we should continue to pray for all of those involved in this dreadful situation, and it is also right that we do all that we can to bring about healing and justice in Rotherham. But before we do any of this, maybe we should first draw apart with God in order to sense his grief for the people, and for the town, and to weep. St Paul tells us to weep with those who weep, and sometimes the tears and the groans express more of the heart of God than long prayers and impassioned speeches.

And in situations in our communities which are potentially volatile, let it be compassion and godly grief, rather than anger and righteous indignation that spurs us on to bring about healing and change.


Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

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