Call to prayer – from the Church of England

Dear friends

As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic.

100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.

We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.

We therefore encourage everyone who is feeling scared, or lost or isolated to cast their fears on God. We also know that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities have been afflicted disproportionately and cry out for the healing of these inequalities. During this pandemic, we encourage everyone to do all they can to live within the guidelines and constraints given by government following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. We show our commitment, care and love for one another by ensuring we do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.

None of this is easy. Very many of us are experiencing isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Our economy struggles. Also, the necessary restrictions we live with have also prevented us from being alongside loved ones as they died, or even at their graveside. All grief profoundly affects us, but this pandemic grief is so hard.

Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness.

One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love. A number of resources will be made available on our website.

Finally, we write of hope. We are grateful for the hope we have because of the service of our NHS and social care staff. What a blessing and lifeline for our nation. We are grateful for the service given in local communities by clergy, other frontline workers and so many good neighbours. We are grateful for the hope of the vaccine. It is a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers. We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.

Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.

Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.


Christian nationalism

Like others I have been shocked, astounded and concerned about some of what I have been reading regarding the evangelical church in America. In particular their apparent support of activities and attitudes that do not seem consistent with my Christian faith, things that appear to bring the gospel into disrepute and causing me to distance myself from them as a representative of Christ.

This has caused me to do a lot of reading, thinking, and praying to help me clarify what I think is going on and what I feel about it.

I have concluded that the issue is “Christian nationalism” and that this is a form of idolatry. Idolatry defined as making a good thing the ultimate thing. Let me go on to explain what I mean by Christian Nationalism.

What is Christian nationalism?

When the future of America (or any other country) as a “Christian nation” becomes the most important thing, that is idolatry and Christian nationalism. When America (or any other nation) is confused for the kingdom of God that is idolatry. When articles of state, such as the Bill of Rights or the Second Amendment, are revered and held as sacred as the Beatitudes or the command to love your neighbour as yourself that is idolatry. When democracy is seen to be as important as the Kingdom of God, we have got it wrong.

When being a good Christian and being a good American are seen as the same thing, we have got it wrong. When being a good Christian means supporting a particular party, it means that earthy citizenship has been exalted over heavenly citizenship. When allegiance to Jesus become mixed up with allegiance to a nation or party, we have got it wrong. Let us be clear this does not just happen in America; I have seen instances where this has happened in the UK.

The history of Britain includes periods where we too confused earthly kingdom with the kingdom of God. This happened regularly during the years of Empire, it is still proclaimed in some older hymns, e.g., the old favourite Jerusalem. It can still be found today within the UK church. Some during the Brexit debates got confused over this issue.

How widespread are these views?

Research in America suggest that 78% of self-identified evangelicals believe in Christian Nationalist to a certain extent. There are a much smaller number of hard-core adherents who spend their time thinking about this, praying about it, advocating for it, writing to politicians about it. These include several high-profile Christian leaders (e.g.,  Franklin Graham, and Pat Robertson) who are beginning to be called out for their views.

Where has it gone wrong, what is it a distortion of?

There is nothing wrong with patriotism and being proud of our nation. However, when we are in church, we should be celebrating our citizenship of the kingdom of heaven which includes people of every people, language, and nation on earth.

Neither America, nor any other nation, is the new Israel. That position is held by the people of God gathered from all nations. If anything, maybe, America is better seen as a kind of biblical Babylon, a superpower that seeks to encroach upon the sovereignty of God. Early Christians recognised that allegiance to empire was incompatible with the confession that Jesus is Lord.

There is nothing wrong is seeking to encourage our nations to adopt Christian values and for us to be involved in the public arena. We should advocate for justice based on the Bible. However, when our goal is earthly power then we are missing the mark.

Why is it such a problem now?

America, like many European nations, has become less Christian and less white, although the one is not necessarily the reason for the other! This has put certain parts of the population on the defensive, feeling the world is against them and their power is shrinking. It happens when we feel that “our nation” is being taken away from us and we are being persecuted. This is clearly impacting white people in the American church and causing them to support “Christian Nationalism”, wanting to return to the golden age where America was a white Christian nation that they imagined existed in the past.

As a result, issues of racial justice are not addressed; they are not even acknowledged because one culture is seen as better than another. Systemic factors that cause injustice are denied and therefore not addressed, causing victims of injustice to be alienated. Christians are called to be peacemakers in society, however what we see is that in many areas Christians are causing greater polarisation both in the church and wider society.

The danger is that white evangelicalism has its own distinctive way of seeing the world that it equates with Christianity. It can be a narrow, provincial community advocating for its own perks, power, and privilege. All this is far removed from the sacrificial community described in the New Testament.

It means that Jesus Christ is not being glorified.

How do we counter this?

The church must be proactive in confronting false teaching. Many are starting to do this, both in America and across the world. We need to preach about the kingdom of God, that is not limited to a nation or political party, that Jesus is king, and his kingdom is not of this world. We need to preach that we are in the world but not of this world. We engage as responsible citizens but do not take our identity from it. We are called to be salt in the world, engaging with activities that allow us to bring our distinctive whilst at the same time being light that shines truth and challenges darkness.

We need to do more than just preach truth; we also need to build healthy communities that give meaning to people beyond their political lives. Many are involved in Christian nationalism because of loneliness, fear, and anger of alienation. The church community is where these feelings need to be healthily addressed. The church community is a place for accountability. The church is not just a place you go to for a good lecture about the Bible. It should be a place where you go to live out the gospel in community with others, where you serve the church, and you serve your neighbourhood in love.

We should pray for

  • justice and peace.
  • clarity and truth. It seems to me that we are in a moment where again, pride is taking precedence over truth. We need humility to hear the truth.
  • the rebukes that need to be spoken, to be spoken with courage, but also with love.
  • gentleness in how we reach out to not the leaders, but the followers of this movement. Pray for gentleness and how we reach out to them and lovingly plead with them to steer away from the danger of this movement.


Other recent blogs on this subject.

What’s ‘new’ about the New Testament? Part 2.

posted in: Bible 0

By Rob Lampard


This blog continues my series entitled What’s ‘new’ about the New Testament?  In part 1 we considered why this is an important question for us and looked briefly at how the New Testament itself answers our question.  In this part we’re going to take a more detailed look at the following topics: the new authority with which Jesus taught, the new covenant, and the new life which his ministry to people results in.

A New Teaching, A New Authority

Mark chapter 1 records for us an incident early in Jesus’s Galilean ministry:


21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’

25‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ 26The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching – and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’

The first point to note here is the ordinary people’s surprise at the confidence with which Jesus taught.  The extended passage known as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), contains a number of examples of such teaching.  The Old Testament prophets constantly used the introductory words, “This is what the LORD says”.  They spoke to the people in God’s name.  But in this sermon, Jesus repeatedly uses a different introductory formula: “I tell you”.[1]  Whilst fully aware that he only ever says what the Father has commanded him to say,[2] he nevertheless also consistently speaks on his own authority.  His hearers were fully aware that this was something new.


The second point is that this authority was demonstrated by the effect Jesus’s words had in the spiritual realm.  Not only did his words convey to his hearers his confidence in what he was saying.  They also had an observable spiritual impact.  Evil spirits obeyed his commands (v26).  And they also knew that he was somebody special, unique even, ‘the Holy One of God’ (v24).  More than a few commentators have noted that this was not imparted, second hand knowledge on the part of these spirits, but intuitive, first hand knowledge.  All this is certainly new.

The New Covenant

The topic of covenant in the Bible is a substantial one.  Simply put, a Biblical covenant between God and man can be defined as follows: God says, “I promise to do A for you; and in response I expect you to do B.”


The New Covenant is initiated by Jesus at the time of his arrest, execution, resurrection and ascension (Luke 22:20, 1Corinthians 11:25).  This covenant is first explicitly spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34:


31“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,  “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  32It will not be like the covenant which I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, and I turned away from them,” declares the LORD.  33“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.  34No longer will a man teach his neighbour or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the LORD’.  For they will all know me from the greatest to the least.  For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”


The first thing to notice here is that this covenant is declared to be ‘new’ in contrast to the one God made with the people of Israel (through Moses) when he ‘took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt’ (v32).  (See the entire book of Exodus and Hebrews 9:19-20.)  There is no suggestion that this ‘new covenant’ in any way replaces or supersedes the covenants God made with/through Noah, Abraham, or David, all of which are declared to be everlasting.[3] [4]  Hence, when Hebrews 8:13 says: ‘by calling this covenant ‘new’, he has made the first one obsolete,’ that can only be referring to the Mosaic covenant.


This contention is confirmed when it is noted that the first characteristic of this new covenant will be a new location for the law (v33).  No longer will it be written on tablets of stone as it was in the time of Moses.  Instead it will be written by the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts.  For more on this, see Paul’s extended exposition in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3.


Its second characteristic will be fellowship with God.  This is expressed in the common covenantal statement, “I will be their God and they will be my people,” which in itself is nothing new.[5]  What is new is that all participants in the covenant will ‘know God’ (v34a; cf John 17:3).


The final characteristic will be total forgiveness of sins (v34b).  How this improves upon the forgiveness extended to sinners who employed the extensive sacrificial remedies detailed in Leviticus 1-7 is the subject of the lengthy passage in Hebrews 9:11-10:18.

New Birth, New Life, New Life-style, New Creation

Jesus’s conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus is probably one of the more well known passages in the New Testament, especially so because it contains the famous John 3:16 verse, which reference has commonly been displayed on banners at football World Cup matches in the past few decades.  Earlier in the same conversation comes the saying, “You must be born again” (John 3:7b).  In the same context Jesus three times refers to this process as being ‘born of the Spirit’.  The new birth that he speaks about is a spiritual rather than physical birth.   In his first letter, Peter says that this new birth results in God’s elect receiving a living hope, a new inheritance and new joy (1Peter 1:3-8).  Further, since he directly connects this new birth with Jesus’s resurrection (v3), it would be reasonable for us to describe this new birth as a type of resurrection as well.  On this point, see also Romans 6:4.  Later, 1Peter adds that ‘the living and enduring word of God’ also plays an essential part in the bringing about of this new birth (1:23).  All this is a fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 36:25-27.


It is no surprise to find that this new birth results in new life.  An angel instructs the apostles, “Go and stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Acts 5:20).


Nor is it a surprise to find that this new life must and does bring about a new life-style in the born again person. The New Testament writers spell out the details of this new life-style in considerable detail and such teaching occupies at least ⅙ of the entire New Testament.[6]  Detailed examination of this material is beyond the scope of this article.  The briefest summary is presented in the next paragraph.

This new life-style includes, but is not limited to, the following characteristics.  Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated in the church (1Corinthians 5:7).  Truthful speaking, not allowing anger to cause us to sin, abandonment of stealing, wholesome talk, kindness, compassion and forgiveness are all enjoined (Ephesians 4:21-29, 32); bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice are all forbidden (4:31).


Such a life-style is possible because the new birth makes believers ‘a new creation’ (2Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15).  And though applying at an individual level, this new creation also operates on a corporate level.  Those who were formerly hostile to one another become ‘one new man’ in Christ (Ephesians 2:15).


In its original context Ephesians 2:15 applied specifically to the breaking down of the centuries long divide between Jew and Gentile, the godly and the heathen.  At least 2000 years before the time of Jesus, God had promised to Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3).  More than a thousand years after the time of Abraham, God spoke several times through the prophet Isaiah about one he called his servant.  Here’s one of his statements:


“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”  (Isaiah 49:6)


So in itself, the idea that Jews and Gentiles alike and together would equally share in experiencing God’s salvation was nothing new.  The new thing was that, as a result of the ministry of Jesus, the things promised to Abraham and prophesied through Isaiah began to be seen to be happening in practice.  To the Jews of Jesus’s day, the meaning of these prophecies had become so veiled that they had no understanding of what their fulfilment would look like.  Hence Paul was able to observe later in Ephesians that this was a mystery (or secret) who’s meaning the Holy Spirit had not previously revealed:


‘This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.’ (3:6)


Further, in the new society God was establishing, the breaking down of barriers equally applied to other long standing divisions between peoples, whether racial, religious, gender-based, or societal-role-based (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).

[1] Matthew 5:18, 5:20, 5:22, 5:26, 5:28, 5:32, 5:34, 5:39, 5:44, 6:16, 6:25, and 6:29.

[2] John 12:49-50

[3] Genesis 9;6, 13:5, 17:7,48:4, 2Samuel 23:5, 1Chronicles 16:15-18.

[4] This fact calls into question the helpfulness of us dividing the Bible into only Old and New Testaments, since doing so suggests that the New Testament has replaced or superseded the whole of the Old.  Detailed exploration of this thought will need to wait until another document.

[5] This phrase, or variations thereon, occurs repeatedly throughout the Bible.  See, for example, Genesis 17:17-18, Exodus 6:7, 2Samuel 7:14, Jeremiah 7:23, 31:33, 32:38, Ezekiel 11:20, 14:11, 36:28, 37:23, 37:27, 2Corinthians 6:16, Revelation 21:3, 21:7.  As the last two examples, amongst others, show the exact word form in which this idea is expressed keeps changing so that it is not easy to identify the complete set of such references.

[6] The New Testament comprises 27 books: 5 historical books, 21 letters, and one prophetic book.  By word count, these three sections comprise approximately 60%, 33.5% and 6.5% of the total respectively.  (Detailed word counts for each book of the Bible are available at  Using the assumption that about half of the material in the letters is instruction on how to live the Christian life gives us the ⅙ figure quoted.   This is of course only a rough figure.  And it excludes any such teaching in the other two sections.  Hence, my statement, ‘at least ⅙’.  This figure is, I submit, adequate for the purposes of this article.

How Islam hangs together

posted in: Uncategorised 0

By Rob Lampard

Islam claims to be God’s final revelation to mankind, made known through the prophet Mohammad.  This revelation comes partly through Mohammad’s way of life, known as the Sunnah; partly through his sayings and teachings, known as the Hadith; and supremely through the book of Islam, the Quran.  This Quran was imparted, in a manner with similarities to direct dictation, to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel.[1]


The six pillars of faith in Islam (not to be confused with the five pillars of Islamic practice) are:

  • belief in God,
  • belief in angels,
  • belief prophets (those who convey God’s message to us),
  • belief in books (scripture revealed to us by the prophets and recorded so that its message might be preserved for future generations),
  • belief in judgment,
  • belief in the hereafter.[2]

In more detail, Islam holds that throughout history there have been two types of prophet: the nabi and the rasool.[3]  The latter term is often validly translated ‘messenger’ or ‘apostle’.  The difference between the two is this.  ‘A messenger is one who receives the revelation of a new law and a prophet (nabi) is one who is sent to confirm the message of the one sent before him.’[4]


In accordance with this definition, Jonah[5] is a clear example of a nabi.  He is sent by God to the people of Nineveh to warn them that God is about to bring judgment on them because their way of living does not conform to God’s previously revealed standards.  He brings no new revelation.  He simply calls people back to adherence to the message which previous prophets, especially Moses, had revealed.


On this basis an interesting exercise to ponder who in Judeo-Christian history was a rasool.  Islam itself holds that there have been 124,000 prophets, ‘among whom the messengers were three hundred and fifteen, a large number.’[6]  al-Ashqar goes on to list five whom he designates ‘messengers with firm determination’.  These are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad.[7] In the author’s experience, these five are commonly named as rasool by present day Muslims.


The alert Bible student will note that the common defining characteristic of the ministries of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus is this: they are all prophets with or through whom God made covenants.  On this basis, we would want to add Adam and David to the above list.  It also begs this question: what is the content of the covenant which God made through Mohammad and how does it exceed those made through Jesus?  Consideration of this question is beyond the scope of this document.

[1] It is interesting to note that the most obvious parallel to this mechanism in the Bible is the book of Revelation – see the introduction to that book (1:1-2).  On this basis, the equivalent messenger to Mohammad in Christianity is not Jesus, but the apostle John.

[2] See for example, section: The Six Articles of Faith

[3] Both are mentioned in Surah 22:52.

[4] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, The Messengers and the Messages, International Islamis Publishing House, 2005,
p 37; quoting in turn Tafseer al-Aaloosi, 17/157.

[5] The book of Jonah is the fifth of the twelve minor prophets whose books finish the Old Testament.  He is mentioned in 4:163, 10:98 and 37:139 in the Quran and Surah Yunus (Surah 10) is named after him.

[6] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, ibid, p 41.

[7] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, ibid, p 47.

What is new about the New Testament? Part 1.

posted in: Bible 0

By Rob Lampard


What’s ‘new’ about the New Testament?  For anyone interested in the message of the Bible, this is a question worth considering.  Here’s another reason why it should provoke Christians in many parts of the world.


Islam claims to be God’s final revelation to mankind, made known to us through the prophet Mohammad.[1]  If that is so, an obvious question is this:  How does the message of the Quran improve on that of the Bible?  That, of course, is a question for Muslims to answer.  But this is not a credible question for Christians to put to Muslims if Christians don’t themselves know how the message of the New Testament develops and exceeds that of the Old.

A Summary Answer

On a simple level, the answer to our question might seem obvious: Jesus is new.  The promised Messiah has arrived in person.  That which was foreshadowed in the Old Testament has become, or more accurately begun to become, a reality.  On another level, the Old Testament is a very large document.  So surely we might be able to develop this theme in more detail – probably considerably more detail?  And how does the New Testament itself answer our question for us?


Here’s a simple list of ‘new’ things which the New Testament itself references, listed in the order it mentions them:


  1. New wine (Matthew 9:17 = Mark 2:22 = Luke 5:37)
  2. New treasures (Matthew 13:52)
  3. New teaching (Mark 1:27, Acts 17:19)
  4. New languages (Mark 16:17)
  5. New Covenant (Luke 22:20, 1Corinthians 11:25, 2Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, 8:13, 9:15, 12:24)
  6. New birth (John 3:3-8, 1Peter 1;3)
  7. New commandment (John 13:34, 1John 2:8)
  8. New life (Acts 5:20, Romans 6:4)
  9. New access (Romans 5:1-2, Hebrews 10:20)
  10. New way of life (Romans 7:6)
  11. New life-style (1Corinthians 5:7, Ephesians 4:23-24, Colossians 3:10)
  12. New creation (2Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15, Ephesians 2:15)
  13. The New Order (Hebrews 9:10)[2]
  14. New Heaven and Earth (2Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1)
  15. New name (Revelation 2:17, Revelation 3:12)
  16. New Jerusalem ((Revelation 3:12, 21:2)
  17. New song (Revelation 5:9, 14:3)
  18. New everything (Revelation 21:5)


Beyond that, there are doubtless many allusions to new things where the exact word is not used.  This is perhaps especially so in the books of Hebrews and Revelation, to which we’ll devote specific consideration in part 3 and 4 of this blog.  Before that, part 2 will expand on the topics of the new authority with which Jesus taught, the new covenant, and the new life which his ministry to people results in.


[1] For a more detailed description of how Islam hangs together, see my separate blog of that name.

[2] Some readers might detect echoes of the film Star Wars 7 here.  Unlike in that film, the New Order mentioned here is a wonderful rather than threatening thing.

The importance of Sabbath.

posted in: Bible, Living Faith 3

One of my daily scripture readings this week was Ezekiel 20.  I was surprised by what I read.

God speaks through His prophet explaining the reasons for his judgement on the people of Israel.

He explains what he had done for Israel,

Therefore I led them out of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live. Also I gave them my Sabbaths as a sign between us, so they would know that I the Lord made them holy.

And then how Israel responded

They did not follow my decrees but rejected my laws—by which the person who obeys them will live—and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths. So I said I would pour out my wrath on them and destroy them in the wilderness. 

He keeps repeating this throughout the prophecy, again and again he says he gave Israel the laws and the sabbath, but they have continually rebelled in each generation by ignoring the law and desecrating the Sabbath.

What surprised me was the emphasis on the Sabbath, how important keeping the Sabbath holy, not desecrating it, was to God. It caused me to reflect on is it as important to me? To the church?

I considered what does it mean to keep the Sabbath? Is it just about not shopping on a Sunday, and spending a whole day at Church or at least focusing on God? All I have read over recent years have convinced that is not what it is about.

Israel whilst in Egypt were slaves, they had to work every day to survive. They were now free. However, it is not straightforward to live in that freedom, their only experience was as slaves. Hence the Sabbath, a day when you no longer work. A day when you live in freedom, no longer wanting or needing to earn money, or status or respect or anything else we work for. A day where you celebrate that you are no longer a slave.

Israel did not live in that freedom; they were unable to celebrate what God had done for them. That was what was so important to God, that they no longer lived as slaves but as people living in the freedom won for them by God. That is what this prophecy and others means when it gives such an emphasis on the Sabbath.

This brings me back to how important is it to me? To us? Do I live in the freedom that Christ has won for me? Am I able to celebrate that or am I continually drawn back to live as a slave? Do I feel I have to spend all the time working for money, status, respect, value etc? Embracing Sabbath is an indication, a sign that I am living differently to those caught up in the madness, the slavery of our world.

God thinks this is important. I need to ensure I do too.

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