For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

Paul loved the church at Thessalonica and they were, it seems, drifting from recognising his authority among them. This grieved Paul deeply and he sort to win them back by reminding them of the nature of he and his team's ministry among them. It is here that he reaches for the rich image of fatherhood. He says- his ministry to them was reflective of the way in which a father deals with his children. Of course- in reaching for this imagery he is reaching for the best versions of such a relationship and thankfully he gives us a picture of what "the best versions" might look like. So what did it look like? Well- his ministry and by implication, his ideal picture of fatherhood, was a relationship that consisted of encouragement, comforting and urging ones children to live lives worthy of God. This for Paul is the "mission of fatherhood".

Jacques talked about remodelling our marriages by embracing the mindset of Christ from Philippians last week. Paul likewise here is, by implication wanting to remodel fatherhood/ministry and in doing so he articulates the goal- "a life worthy of God", and something of the pathway to that goal; encouragement, comfort, and urging. Many Christian parents prepare their children for many worthy things in life; things like the workforce, a place at university, for friendships- but our "chief task" as fathers is surely discipleship. We are called to pastor our children and help to live lives worthy of God.

May God grant you grace to encourage, comfort and urge your children to live lives worthy of the Lord- this after all is God's will for you.

Grace and peace from Marcus

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8

The Holy Spirit is a missionary. That is, fundamental to his work and presence in the world, is the task of Christian mission. You can see this in the fact of his presence in many of the bible's great commissions. So in Matthew's gospel in "the great commission," the disciples are told to go into the nations making disciples and as they do, they are told that Jesus will never leave or forsake them. This of course is on par with a promise of the Holy Spirit's presence. John in his gospel assures us of the Spirit's presence in his great commissioning in John 20:19-23. Earlier in John, Jesus tells us that it is the Spirit who convicts people of both their own personal sin and of the judgement to come. To him- the Spirit's presence is imperative to mission. Luke shares his great commission in Acts 1:8. In this example, the Spirit is promised as the fuel of mission. The believers are told that they will receive power and they will be witnesses to the nations. This promise is fulfilled soon after in Acts 2. The Spirit falls on the disciples and there are some strange manifestations- and Peter is asked for an explanation for these signs and he preaches the gospel and people are cut to the heart, repent and join the church.

Perhaps this is why Michael Frost lists- "listening to the Spirit," as one of the five practices of highly missional people. The Spirit is a missionary and we are the instruments of that mission. So give yourself to the discipline of "listening to the Spirit," with a missional ear. Ask the Spirit; what are you up to in the lives of friends and family who don't know Jesus? Listen and follow his leadings and promptings to show God's kindness, through blessing and hospitality directed toward those God has called you too. May the Spirit fuel a missionary zeal in us.

Grace and peace from Marcus

(Acts 1:8, Acts 4:23-31, Acts 9:31, Acts 13:1-3)

It’s not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission- God’s mission. Chris Wright- The Mission of God page 72

So it’s May Missions Month again- a time when we as a Baptist Church Movement choose to focus on missions in a special way. Perhaps it’s also a time in which we ask ourselves again- what is the mission of God’s people or for what purpose do those who call themselves the people of God exist?

To answer that question perhaps we have to go back one step further and ask- “whose mission is it anyway?” Of course, the answer to this question must be that the mission belongs to God. God himself has a mission- he has a goal for all creation, a purpose for all that he has made. And as part of that mission, God has chosen to call into existence a people who will participate with him in accomplishing his mission. Mission arises from the heartbeat of God himself- a God who is on a mission.

All that to say- mission is about God. He is the one who owns the mission, inspires and sustains his mission in the world, he is the one who will ultimately bring about its completion. So in this May Mission Month, ask yourself; “what is God’s mission and what is my place in it- what is our churches place in it?” In what ways can I truly become a sent one- so inspired by nothing less than the mission of God in his world that everything in me wants to know and to engage in the Mission of God?

Grace and peace from Marcus

(Some exerts from The Mission of God’s People by C.H Wright)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

It is easy in life to get discouraged, and to lose heart. You might have a hard time, face strong opposition, or be battling to be productive and you just feel defeated or discouraged or ready to give in. At these moments it hard to see a way forward, a way through the fog but the author of Hebrews here is speaking directly into this problem of losing heart, of being discouraged and he is showing us the way out. How does he do this? He does it by pointing toward the “great crowd of witnesses” and toward the “author and perfector of our faith.” Let’s start with the great cloud of witnesses? Who are they- they are people mentioned in chapter 11. People like Abel, and Enoch, Abraham and Moses. What is special about them- they lived their lives “by Faith.” They did extraordinary things based on nothing but bold active faith in an invisible but powerful God. They banked everything on his, trusted his word and did as they were directed by him. They are a witnesses in the sense that their lives of loyalty, faithfulness and endurance over the long haul are a witness to us of the possibilities of a life lived by faith. Their lives resound with the lesson- God can be trusted, he is faithful so throw your whole life in with him, Don’t be discouraged, don’t look down but trust in God.

Of course that is not the whole story. We are also invited here to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” The whole life of Jesus was an example of unbroken and unquestioning faith in his heavenly Father. This of course found it ultimate expression in Jesus prayer- “not what I will but what you will” and Jesus’ willing walk toward the cross without faltering or flinching from the path- simply because God the Father had said to him-“this is the way walk in it.

Grace and peace from Marcus

God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. That water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 3:20b-21

Bruce Milne says baptism is an act of faith by which we are “bought into” and experience the benefits of God’s grace, justification and salvation.

Alister McGrath says the physical element (water) is authorised by Christ to represent salvation and which is “capable of conferring the benefits to those who partake.”

Wayne Grudem says that baptism symbolised the astounding truths of passing through the waters of judgement and having our sins forgiven and washed away.

Joseph Nally says “spiritual realities occur in conjunction with baptism, but the Scriptures do not explain in detail how baptism and divine grace are connected.”

Nine times in Acts baptism immediately followed conversion (Acts 2:38-41, 8:12, 8:36-38, 9:18, 10:48, 16:14-16, 16:33, 18:8 & 19:5). Thought spot: Is there something about this intimate connection of the visible sign and the invisible grace (that is signified) is lost when there are often a considerable number of years between conversion and baptism, whichever may have come first?

Have I quoted something that does not sit comfortably with you or that you have not thought of? My aim is just to prompt you to think more deeply about what baptism means or could mean for you.

Grace and peace from Paul