Welcome to my Romans 15:8 blog for August. I would like to begin by thanking everyone who visited the June blog page, as we had the most monthly visitors in the history of this blog (the first blog was posted back in April 2018). Also if you are visiting the blog and have not signed up to the Romans 15:8 network please consider doing so, as it is important to build up the network and to encourage supportive contacts between leaders on the network.
I know these are testing times for many of us, and I would greatly value your prayers as we in CMJ UK try and navigate how best to oversee staffing arrangements (currently 5 colleagues are on long-term furlough/government work retention scheme) and how to continue with ministry events during times of COVID-19 related restrictions. One great success was our first ever virtual (online) conference which was streamed live on July 4th. The feedback was very encouraging and if you have not listened to the conference reports and talks there is still time to do so via our website.
Teaching reflection of the month (August)
Earlier this month I was asked to contribute by colleagues in Israel to a prayer resource called “Days of Awe”. This resource is aimed to help us pray wisely and effectively for Jewish people as they approach Yom Kippur (28th September). The Bible focus in this resource is from Ezekiel, and below are some of my comments based on Ezekiel 20:23-32. The printed and online version of this resource will shortly be available from CMJ UK. Please visit the website or phone the Office on 01623 883960 to order your copies.
Reflection on Ezekiel 20:23-32
These verses belong to the section of Ezekiel (from 20:1-44) which offers a review of Israel’s past history and of God’s future redemptive plans for Israel.
In this section we are reminded that as Bishop John B. Taylor (former patron of CMJ) so elegantly taught “all Biblical prophecy begins with the character of God who inspires it.” Here we see once again God’s holiness at work, shown in both terms of grace, mercy and judgement as the people of Israel continue in rebellion, a rebellion which leads the people into desiring that they may fully assimilate into the practices of the surrounding pagan nations (:32). This will not be allowed to happen because of God’s character - His faithfulness and His calling (election) of Israel (see the following verses 33-44) in which the emphasis moves from judgement to restoration.
The key question is in verse 30, namely; “Will you defile yourselves the way your fathers did...?” The key point is in the light of the past history and past actions, how will the people of Israel act now? This appears to be a key moment of decision.
Throughout the Bible key moments of decision and opportunity arise for the people of Israel, see for example Deuteronomy 30:11-20 and Acts 2:37. Often also in our own lives, we face a crisis or a moment of important decision making - again how will we act? Pray that in such times we will all know the guidance of the LORD and be able to make right choices and pursue good actions in accordance with the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Read also Romans 1:24-32 which many commentators link back to this section of Ezekiel.
Ministry news Update
In addition to contributing to the Days of Awe resource (see reflection above) I have had my third (series of 4) teaching article published in the current issue (258) of the British Messianic Jewish Alliance magazine Chai (bmja.net/chai-quarterly-newsletter/). The subject of this article is “Why and how should we share our faith? I hope some of the readers of Chai will find it helpful. Also, I am very pleased to say that my new book - 60 Days with Romans has been published. If you wish to get a copy, please visit the new CMJ Shop Page on our website.
Currently I am working on a major new advocacy with a team from the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism. I am also planning to take part in a CMJ deputation/preaching tour of Churches in Essex and Kent next month (I am covering for my colleague Rosa) - most of the plans are in place, but there is still some decisions to be made due to covid-19 restrictions. Please pray for wisdom and flexibility in this ongoing decision making process.
The next Olive Press Research Paper is now at the printing stage. This paper is by Frank Booth and is a wonderful insight into the use of language in the Scriptures. Hopefully this paper will be sent out in the next CMJ members mailing.
One piece of pastoral team staff team news is that Jonathan (CMJ community based Evangelist) moved house with his family a few weeks ago. Please pray that he settles into his new home - and it will be a place of peace and hospitality.
I have been discussing with a number of members of the Romans 15:8 network key films about the Holocaust (and related issues). This is not an easy subject and much sensitivity and discernment is required in watching and promoting such films, especially in an educational or ministry context. Also, these films cover such a huge range in terms of style, focus and purpose. However, the following list contains all such films network members have found ‘helpful’ and ‘insightful’. The date next to the film refers to the date the film was released in English or with English subtitles. Some of the films have been on general release while others have had much more limited circulation. I would invite your comments/reviews on any of these films listed, and on any film you believe should be added to the list:
Life is Beautiful (1977)
Shindlers List (1993)
Son of Saul (2015)
Europa Europa (1990)
Enemies : A love Story (1989)
The Reader (2008)
Fugitive Pieces (2007)
The Pianist (2003)
The Pawnbroker (1964)
A Hidden Life (2020)
Secret Lives (2002)
The Devil’s Athemati (1999)
The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas (2008)
The Windermere Children (2020)
Jo Jo Rabbit (2019)
In Darkness (2011)
Having referenced Bishop Taylor in my teaching reflection for this month I want to warmly commend to you his commentary on Ezekiel - Ezekiel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), John B. Taylor (Inter-Varsity Press, 1969).
Although it was first published back in 1969, it still remains in my view the most helpful and detailed (yet assessable) commentary on Ezekiel. The focus is mainly on exegesis, and it provides great insights for all those called to preach or teach from this key prophetic text.
Monthly Memory Verse