Wednesday, 14 December 2011

On Being A Pastor

Being a pastor is not a job, it is a way of life.

'I can be hired to do a job, paid a fair wage if I do it, dismissed if I don't.  But I can't be hired to be a pastor, for my primary responsibility is not to the people I serve but to the God I serve...In our present culture the sharp distinction between a job and a vocation is considerably blurred.  How do I, as a pastor, prevent myself from thinking of my work as a job that I get paid for, a job that is assigned to me by my denomination, a job that I am expected to do to the satisfaction of my congregation?  How do I stay attentive to and listening to the call that got me started in this way of life - not a call to make the church attractive and useful..., not a call to help people feel good about themselves and have a good life, not a call to use my considerable gifts and fulfil myself, but a call like Abraham's "to set out for a place...not knowing where he was going," a call to deny myself and take up my cross and follow Jesus, a call like Jonah's to "go at once to Nineveh, "a city he detested, a call like Paul's to "get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do"?

How do I keep the immediacy and authority of God's call in my ears when an entire culture, both secular and ecclesial, is giving me a job description?  How do I keep the calling, the vocation, of pastor from being drowned out by job descriptions, gussied up in glossy challenges and visions and strategies, clamouring incessantly for my attention?'  Eugene Peterson, The Pastor p 165

I am a pastor, a minister of the gospel.

I am not a business man.

I am not a strategist.

I am not called to be successful.

I am not called to be powerful.

I am not called to run a business, make money, plan strategies, do five point plans or be ambitious.


I am called to be pastor, a minister of the gospel.  I am called to be a friend, a servant, a sign of love and voice of hope.  I am called to love, care and support people.  I am called to help the helpless and be a person of peace and justice.  I am called to be person who puts relationship and people first.

I am called to love and worship God with all that I am and walk with Him in obedience, faithfulness and love.  I am called to be a blessing in what He is already doing.  I am called to share His Story through the life of the church, inviting people to become a part of the Great Story.

I am a pastor, a minister of the Gospel.  

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Junia Is Not Alone - A Book about woman leaders

I have begun reading Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight: Breaking our silence about women in the Bible and the church today.

It is excellent.

The book contests that woman in the Bible and throughout church history have been overlooked, neglected and left out of our retelling of the Grand Story.

Junia is a woman apostle who is mentioned in Romans 16:7, 'Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.'


Now throughout church history woman have been told that they cannot be teachers within the church because that is a role that is exclusively for men.  It is argued that apostles are only men.  In the New Testament and early church apostles taught the Scriptures, planted churches, evangelised, discipled and were key to the life and growth of the early church.  Many have argued that this was a male only office.


Junia was a woman.  However somewhere in church history Junia was turned into JuniaS.  Junias is a man's name.  And so those who promote male only eldership and teaching have partly been arguing from Romans 16:7 believing that Junias was a correct translation.  McKnight shows that it is a mistranslation and that the New Testament Greek shows it actually to be Junia and the early Greek speaking church fathers always translated Romans 16:7 as Junia, a woman.  A woman apostle.  A woman apostle who is outstanding among the apostles.


I haven't read it all but it seems that McKnight is calling the contemporary church to repent of its mistreatment of woman.  Many churches today still do not think woman should teach in church or have the 'eldership' role or be Ministers or Bishops.  This book goes a long way to debunking that notion and proving from the Bible, through not only Junia but many other notable woman, teaches that woman should be in these roles.  If we are to be faithful to Scripture and the will of God, then woman MUST be in these roles.  The church must wake up, repent and sort itself out so that woman are no longer silenced and ignored.


Not only that but we must encourage our daughters, sisters, granddaughters, mothers, grandmothers and woman throughout the church to lay hold of God's call in their lives and pursue it without hindrance.  We must tell stories of the amazing woman of faith who have been silenced in church history.  We must teach about those amazing woman in the Bible whom God used.  We must readdress the balance and make sure woman are being encouraged, helped and supported to be the leaders that God has called them to be.


I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Joseph, a man of faith

At the beginning of this time of Advent, this time of waiting for the birth of Christ and looking forward to the return of the Crucified, Risen and Ascended Christ, I have been reflecting and reading the accounts of Jesus' birth in the gospels.


This man seriously stepped up and acted with real integrity, godliness, faithfulness and honesty in what must have been extraordinarily difficult, confusing and scary circumstances.

It made me reflect on our own society and the how we today could learn so much from the character and behaviour of Joseph.

It made me think about how he didn't cry that he was a victim and throw out his dummy and walk away.

It made me think how he saw the need to be a man, not a boy, and act with honesty and integrity.

It made me think how he did what ever he could to protect Mary and Jesus, how went to great lengths to ensure their safety and to live within the will and heart of God.

I see in Joseph a man who put the needs and love of others ahead of himself.

I get concerned when society gets into the blame game and we always see ourselves as victims.

I get concerned when church lacks integrity and honesty and we don't speak truthfully and honestly about who we are and who God is.

I get concerned when church gets turned into a marketing machine, when woman are sidelined, when men won't grow up, when the gospel is not preached, when selfish desires are put ahead and above the community.

At the Christmas time the church and the community can learn much from the story of Joseph and his response to a terrifying, unique and history changing event.  HIs story enables us to see what truth, honesty, authenticity and faithfulness looks like.  We see love in action.  And that is a valuable and needed truth to hold onto this Christmas time.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Diversity, disabilities and the church

Having become a Christian within evangelical, British, charismatic Christianity there are a number of things that I have never been prepared for when the church is trying to navigate itself within the reality of modern life.

Before I was a Christian I encountered these things and simply got on with life, but once I had become a follower of Jesus these things were either pushed to one side and ignored, or a wholly inappropriate response was given to these events and realities.

An obvious one was sex.  It continues to be something the church gets itself tangled in knots over.  Before I was a Christian I had sex and didn't even think about it and the consequences.  Once I committed my life to God I realised that I needed to be transformed in my attitude to woman and sex.  Yet honesty, openness and good advise were lacking.

Another one was woman.  Before I was a Christian woman were objects of desire and second class in my eyes.  I became a Christian and encountered all kinds of mixed messages.  I heard the church saying abusive things like woman are equals but couldn't be in leadership.



I saw the church practising bad attitudes saying woman could be in leadership but then were never preaching or obviously in leadership.  So I wasn't sure what was going on.

And then there is people with disabilities.

You see in many evangelical charismatic churches there is the belief that God will physically heal.  And I go with that belief having seen God physically heal people in the most remarkable ways.

Yet God does not always heal.  And actually there are many instances where the word 'healing' is deeply unhelpful and wrong.  Because some people do not need to be healed because they are who they are and don't need to be physically changed.

So when someone who cannot walk, talk or move their limbs comes into the life of the church we struggle to know what to do, think or say.

Yet without such people within the life of the church we miss out on the diversity of humanity and the insight into who God is through them.  They reveal to us something new, challenging and beautiful about the Crucified God.  And so the church needs people of all backgrounds and diversity in order that we can truly and fully be the church.



I hate churches where everyone looks the same.  You have this homogenous looking group where people say the same thing, look the same and act the same.



Local church needs people of all ages.  The older have wisdom, have seen it all before and are able to be a voice of beauty.  The young have the enthusiasm, insight of modern culture and gifts that surprise us.  All the ages in between bring something unique, special and needed.  When we are lacking in a generation the local church will struggle and suffer because we do not have the beauty of diversity.

The local church also needs all kinds of different people from all kinds of backgrounds.  We all bring something different and a perspective that reveals something fresh of who we are, what the world is like, and who God is.

I hope and pray we can all be involved in churches that have people who are so different to us that we all challenge each other, learn from each other and grow together in love for God and love for each other.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Modern Warfare

The Modern Warfare games are the biggest selling computer games of all time.

MW3 set a new record for most copies of a game sold in the first 24 hours of its release.

People love the game.

Without doubt it has sold so many because people love it. They love the way the game looks, plays and makes them feel. So its popularity is in one sense very superficial. And the game developers have been able to make maximum gains by the way they have advertised it, making sure they get people to buy it.

But I think there are other reasons why it is so popular.

It taps into a part of western human psyche.

One part of that is violence.

We love violence in the West. It comes from a love of power, coercion and manipulation. Violence is the way we control. And we believe that violence is actually the only real way that we can deal with the problems of the world. We use terms like 'just war' and 'war on terror' and 'justice' to justify our violent nature in the West. We think that violence is the best way to deal with evil. Violence is not simply physical, it is also a mental and spiritual problem.

Films, tv and video games all use violence as the main way to deal with the bad guy.

This does worry me. The use of violence will quite simply bring more violence. And if our thinking is so filled with violence as the best way, then the road ahead looks bleak.

Another part that makes MW so popular is our desire to live forever.

We are numb to death and constantly fight to stay alive, almost as if we believe that death is not actually going to happen.

MW puts us in a fantasy world where we are in control of our lives and destiny. It puts us in power. It means that we could live forever. And all of this made possible through our imagination in a game.

We don't want to believe we will actually die, so games like MW helps us pursue and believe this.


We need to be a people of greater imagination. We need to live in the new reality that violence, power and immortality are not our truth and not our reality. We need to believe in alternative ways to live in this world.

As we approach Christmas we are confronted with a God who does not use violence to heal the world, but comes to the world in total vulnerability in order that he would transform it.

Are we willing to give up all our desire to violence and live a new reality?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Punishment

Punishment.

It is a term Christians have lost the meaning to and have allowed society to dictate to sections of the Church what it means.

It seems that a lot of people understand punishment to be something to do with breaking the law.

You break the rules and you are punished.

Some within the church have argued this in regard to God and the death of Jesus.

You broke God's law and so deserve to be punished, but Jesus' death means that he took the punishment etc etc.


If punishment was about us breaking the law, then God would be under our control.  Think about it.  If God had to punish us for breaking the law, then we could control God.  We could purposely break the law in order that God would have to punish us, thereby making us the ones who controlled what God did.

That can't be right...

So Christians need to think again about what punishment is and what that looks like within the life of the church.

To begin with punishment is not something done by God to us because we are 'rule breakers'.

It is not that we are not punished for our sins but that sin IS our punishment.  Punishment therefore is always self-inflicted.

The church therefore needs to help the world see where their punishment stems from and help them move into a new reality.

Beginning thoughts of an ongoing reflection...

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Remember 11.11





I've seen a few of these comments flying around on the internet, much as they did last year:


'SENDING STAFF HOME FOR WEARING A POPPY! IF IT WASN'T FOR THE MEN AND WOMEN OUT THERE AND THE MEN AND WOMEN LOST, YOU WOULDN'T BE SITTING IN YOUR POXY SHOP. YOU'RE PURE DIRT. SET THIS AS YOUR STATUS IF YOU SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. WEAR YOUR POPPY WITH PRIDE!'




Over the next couple of weeks as we get closer to 11.11 these kind of messages will be all over Facebook.


There will be messages against shops for not allowing staff to wear a poppy.  There will be messages against young people for lack of respect over memorial sites.  There will be messages against Islamic extremists for burning poppies in the street.


I believe it is right to honour those who have given their lives in war.  It is right to remember them and to show our respect to their memory, to show our respect to their loved ones, and to show our respect to those who are currently away fighting.  
I have tried to explain to Grace about the two World Wars and give her an idea and understanding of Remembrance Day.


11.11 must be a day that we uphold and continue to be a part of.


Yet the more I think about it and study it, the more I am becoming a pacifist. 


My concern however is that 11.11 will be made a mockery by US if we respond in hate and violence to those who do not care about 11.11 or who want to offend with their actions over 11.11.


The more that messages like the one above are shared on Facebook and the like, the more fear of the other and hatred of the other will be instilled in the hearts and the minds of society.  


Trash like the Daily Mail will do its best to make you fearful and hateful of anyone who is not white and British, and 11.11 is always a time when they seek to do this to the extreme.


Do not allow yourself to be swept up in the propaganda in the media and social networking.


People will do things that offend you and the memory of others, but real strength and beauty lies in responding in love and forgiveness.


It is power and hate that leads to war, and when there is war we have always lost in some way.  Those who have died in war I'm sure would have rather that there had never been war.  We must do what we can to be a people of peace, looking for ways to be peaceful.  If we allow hate to fill our hearts then war will happen, and 11.11 becomes pointless, because those who lost their lives fought for peace.


Surely the best, the very best we can do is to stretch out our hands in love and forgiveness, seeking to make enemies our friends and so avoid the spiral into destruction.  


And surely those that lost their lives are urging us on to give ourselves in love and forgiveness so that what happened in the past will never happen again.


This 11.11 pray for those who offend you, seek peace with those who are filled with hate, love the loveless and be a sign of hope to the hopeless. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Death Penalty

'For us it is with regret that capital punishment is not an option for his sentence.' Jo Yeates family.

Today Vincent Tabak was found guilty of the murder of Jo Yeates and was sentenced to at least twenty years in prison. Jo Yeates mother and father openly hope that during his time in prison his life will be made a living hell.


I have two daughters and the thought of them suffering and dying at the hands of someone like Tabak makes my blood run cold. It would destroy me. I cannot imagine how Jo Yeates' parents and family feel.

But I feel deeply uneasy when statements desiring the death penalty are made.

This desire will cause a constant dissatisfaction, will grow hatred within and will take the pain, suffering and hurt from the loss and grow it in your life becoming a soul destroying bitterness that will eat you alive.

The death penalty is not justice, it is vengeance.

I truly believe that God is the God of all justice and hope and that he will be God in every situation.

I write very cautiously as I have never experienced such crippling loss, but I believe that Jesus took the ultimate death so that humanity could one know freedom from death, suffering, hatred and sin.

I pray that the Yeates family might know the nearness of God and close support of great friends.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Move On

The Bishop of Londa has urged the Occupy Movement to move on from St Paul's Cathedral.

The first mistake was to shut the cathedral.

The second was to moan that £20,000 a day was being lost.

The third was to urge that they move on.


Church and power destroys.

Church and expensive buildings can be a real problem.

Church and image looks really ugly.


Followers of Jesus living in the freedom of going wherever the Spirit blows, fighting injustice, standing with the poor, living in the moment, praying on the streets, breaking bread in the middle of our communities...
Now that is something to urge...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

No Answers

'When Christianity is assumed to be an "answer" that makes the world intelligible, it reflects an accommodated church committed to assuring Christians that the way things are is the way things have to be.'  Hauerwas, Hannah's Child p 207

Christianity is not an 'answer'. All to often we can look at the world around and desire or even demand an answer to why things are the way they are. And so the church can all to easily roll out answers and platitudes as to why the world is the way that it is. Yet in doing so we deny the truth if the gospel that the way things are will not be the future reality. Not only that, but we try and makes things 'tidy' by having all the answers. And in doing so people become hurt and disillusioned because the truth is that life is not tidy.
Furthermore, we live in a world that wants answers, targets and goals. Yet the wind of the Spirit will blow where He pleases in ways we had never expected or imagined, blowing our thoughts and answers completely away. And we need to live like this as God's people because we have become too accommodated, trying to answer all the questions and aligning ourselves with those in power and manipulation.

God does not give us the answers, he gives us his Son. It is in knowing Jesus that we discover the Way to live, love and die in this world.

The Occupy Movement seeks to say to the world that the way things are are not the way things have to be, and I salute them for that. Things can be different. It would be good if the cathedral would grasp this and join the powerless.

The earthquake in Turkey has seen people giving of themselves in a bid to rescue those trapped. People have gone without food and sleep to do what they can in the midst of such pain and suffering.

Answers are not what is needed in both these situations, what is needed is people giving of themselves.

Answers will not do.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dale Farm

The news is covered with the eviction of those who live on Dale Farm.

For those who are unaware, Dale Farm is the largest travellers site in Britain and the police have been called in today to evict them from the site. This has been a long process that has been to court a number of times and now the council have the ruling to evict the residents from this site.



Without doubt, travellers invoke all kinds of feelings and emotions among people.

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding was a show aired fairly recently that a lot of people watched, such is the fascination and strong opinion on this community of people.

I heard some people speaking on the radio today who live in Basildon and there is clearly a long history of ill feeling, distrust and anger between both sides.

And the media are doing their best to whip this whole thing up.

However...

Those who live on Dale Farm are people.

It is a community with people of all ages.

Jesus called us to be a people of mercy, love and forgiveness.  We are called to act in grace even when everything within us wants to act in another way.

And the people on Dale Farm need homes and places to live.

Could there not have been ways to have resolved this situation before it reached this point? I understand that there is a lot of pain and anger, but surely there is another way?

A lot of people keep speaking about living by the law and that they should be no different.

Sometimes we need to look past the letter of the law and see how this is impacting and affecting real people.

There is a history and a culture and a way of life going on here that is deeply entrenched.  It is not a simple as moving people on.

We need the creativity of the Holy Spirit to help us here.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

An Alternative



Church Growth churches will probably be 'successful' for about fifteen years.  After that they will probably struggle to know what next because they will be needing to re-create themselves.  The other problem will be that the speed in which they have done things, the cultural similarities in which they have done them and the creation of a group of people who who look the same, may well result in unrest and something that looks other than church.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Let's talk about sex

On Radio 5 Live this morning they were discussing sex education in schools and the problem's with teenage pregnancy, STD's and sexual activity among young people.

One of the problem's with the phone in was that there was an assumption that better sex education in school would combat the problems that are caused by young people having sex. Now I believe that schools should provide good sex education and help young people know their own body and treasure it as theirs. It is important that urban myths around sex are exposed and young people can learn the truth about sex and the dangers with having unprotected sex and having sex too young. But sex education in schools is just one of a whole number of things that needs to happen in order that the problem's with underage sex and young people having sex can be dealt with.

As a nation we need to learn about the value of relationships and commitment.

There is a breakdown in strong family life and so our young people see modelled multiple partners, family breakdown, sex as a recreational act and a lack of trust for another. No matter how many lessons are taught about sex, if it is not being modelled in their communities then nothing will change. Not only young people, but our communities need to see that there is another way that we can be in relationship.

We need to see how people trust and respect each other.

We need to see people putting the needs of another ahead of their own in order that both will flourish in that relationship.

We need to see people treating their own bodies with respect, understanding that their body is a gift from God.

We need to see people being authentic and transparent in relationships.

We need to see married people revealing the beauty of marriage and how in the good times and the bad times they stick together, learning through it all and loving unconditionally.

We need to see people not giving all of themselves away in such a hurry, but seeing that in waiting and learning to love each other will build a strong and beautiful base in their relationship.

Sex education is but one aspect in this complex and difficult time. We need to see a radical shift in the way relationships are viewed and how strong committed relationships between families, loved ones and friends can help change the problem of underage and inappropriate sex in the UK.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Our fathers have bailed...

*WARNING* BAD LANGUAGE



I love this clip from Fight Club.

I love what it says and how it says it.

And it intrigues me how within our churches we can adopt the very essence of our culture believing that we are being counter-cultural.

'Our fathers were our models for God.  If our father's bailed, what does that tell you about God? ... You have to consider the possibility that God does not like you.  He never wanted you.  In all probability, he hates you.'

There is serious breakdown of relationships in our communities.  And these breakdowns hurt.

I have heard from various people over the years that the loss of a father figure in their lives was a massive source of pain in their lives.

This loss of a father figure is one of the reasons people have got involved in gangs.

An absent God, who hates us is not the God of the Christian faith.  Yet all too easily the church can share this kind of message.  I think that is why I am so opposed to penal substitution because strip it down to its core we are left with an absent God who hates us.  This is the message of our culture, not of the Christian faith.  The Christian faith declares a God who has not bailed on us, that He is a Father who loves us, will never leave us and is there for us.

But then we get this quote,

'First you have to give up, first you have to know, not fear, know that someday you're gonna die.'

This is a great Christian truth!  The church needs to preach this and embrace this as truth.  We must not fear death, but know that death is inevitable.  Our government and culture breed this lie that we will live forever.  The policies are for self-preservation.  The things we buy are advertised under the illusion of immortality.  And so everyone fears death because we never face up to its reality.
And when the church talks about the Christian faith as another self-help, make your life better philosophy we buy into the cultures fear of death.  When the church talks about the Christian faith being about 'what happens after you die' we are left with the same problem.  We need to deal with the actual reality that we will die one-day, that death itself will be our reality.

Once we accept this reality we can begin to live and love out of control.  We can surrender ourselves to the will and purposes of God knowing that He is in control and that we do not need to be.  We can live in the reality of God's power and surrender our power to want to live forever, surrender our desire to control our destinies, surrender our will to have power, and give ourselves to God and His ways.

We can embrace our life and death knowing that they are not in our control and that One who is far more able to know us and what is best for us is on control.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Psalm 20 - My Version

An artistic paraphrase of Psalm 20 that I've written:



When you are crying out in pain and despair,
      may God answer and respond to you;
  may you know protection from that Ancient God
  who promises to be with you today.
Our prayer is that He will help you from a place of refuge
      and support you from a place of freedom and promises.
Those sacrifices of tears?
  The offering of your life to Him?
May they be prayers heard and answered.

My prayer is that the Godly longings of your heart,
    the prayers for God's love and justice in the world,
   will be realised and burst into life.

When they are, we will cheer and rave about it;
    we'll post it on Facebook,
   blog about it,
 and share it with our friends when we're down the pub.

We're holding out that God will answer your prayers.

I'm sure that God rescues those whom
        His loving arms are stretched out towards;
   He answers their pleas from His place of beauty, peace and justice
with the power and love shown through his Son.

So many of us trust in our own might, power and influence;
      our wealth, our possessions, our control, our ability to manipulate,
    but we are called to another way;
 we trust in God.
He's the One who has everything in control and knows what's right and best for us all.
      So those power hungry, self-satisfying manipulators
will come crashing down from their places of influence.
And the humble and weak who trust in God
     will find their feet and not be shaken from their place with God.

O God rescue us!
King of Kings, please hear us and answer our prayers! 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Karma and Grace

Grace.

It is a word lost in the chaos of our culture.

Grace - God's free and gratuitous love.

It cannot be earned, paid for, worked for or taken away.

Grace means that God freely gives of himself without expecting anything in return.  Grace means that God loves us and gives gifts of life and love knowing fully well that we may never respond in love to him.  Grace is that giving fully of oneself without any motive, reward or gain.

Grace is grace, there is no other concept in all of time or space.

Karma is not grace.

Cause and effect is not grace.

Reward and punishment is not grace.

All too often we expect karma; someone does something against you and you expect karma to come around and something bad will happen to them as a result.  Or we do something good without reward, but expect karma to operate and somewhere down the line we will get our reward.

But grace is completely different.

So if someone speaks or acts in an evil way towards you, the response is grace; free, gratuitous love and forgiveness.
If you do a kind deed for another, do it not for reward, but because that person needed it. Your reward is knowing that someone has been given love and kindness.

The way of the universe is grace, not karma, because God is the source and sustainer of this universe.

God's response to the pain, suffering and evil of the world is the giving of Himself in Jesus; grace.  This is not cause and effect, reward and punishment, but free and gratuitous love.

Grace is a beautiful and mysterious thing.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Make me rich



Wow.

I don't trust this guy.  But I think he is probably being honest.  Amazing really that a trader has spoken so honestly about his desire to get richer and richer and that he doesn't care about anything other than making a lot of money.

I wonder if politicians will ever be that honest.

I do suspect that what this guy is saying could well happen and that we are entering into an unknown and never before seen time in our lives and the world economy.  It is a time for people to join hands and help each other.

This is a time where the Church can be who they are called to be; a people of good news who enact and share the story of Jesus in the communities that they live in order that people would discover who they are truly called to be.

We are called to be in communion with God to discover our true selves and live in the hope of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, inviting people to come and share in a new community where God is known and can be known.

We are called to be a people of the Kingdom of God, seeking God to bring His Kingdom to earth, establishing another way to live and to love, seeking the good for all of God's good creation.

We are called to be a people who care for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden, seeking out the stranger and inviting them into a new community of peace and refuge.

We are called to a path of suffering, following the Way of Jesus and knowing him in his sufferings.

We are called to expose the idols of our time, declare what is evil and seek its destruction.

The god of money is exposed as an idol, yet path away from the worship of it and towards the worship of God is long, rocky and difficult.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Conservatism

Conservative religious belief is an interesting phenomenon.

I have many friends who have conservative views on Scripture, church, the cross etc. Yet they hold onto their beliefs with a vulnerability and openness; a belief that we live with mystery.  It is not this conservative religious belief that I mean.

It is the conservatism that seeks to unwittingly reinforce a cultural way of life that is indeed opposite to the nature of the Gospel and a calling to be a people of peace following the Prince of Peace.

And so we find churches become a group of like-minded volunteers from similar economic backgrounds jostling for position amongst all the other voluntary groups in the community.

The teaching that is given becomes a means to reinforce a cultural way of life and serves to make Christian theology all about 'what it can do for me.' Christian belief becomes inward looking, defined by my own desires and wants. We use the term 'making the gospel relevant' but end up with a humanistic message. It is the assumption that religion is about making me happy and fulfilling our desires.  Yet since when do we know what we really need?

Christian faith therefore is defended, not because it is true, but because it reinforces a cultural way of life that people want to keep.  And rather than being a people of peace who witness to the truth of God in Jesus, relying on nothing else than its witness, the 'truth' is sought through violence and coercion.

Conservatism therefore sees no problem with violence, power or coercion. It promotes the desire to control and be in control at all times. it seeks status and recognition and refuses to be wrong. And what we find is something that sits at odds with a faith the is defined in Jesus of Nazareth.

Liberalism holds up no better, but I'll reflect on that another time.  

Monday, 26 September 2011

Jesus walks into a gay bar...

'Andrew Marin - who has spent the last decade living in Boystown, Chicago's officially-designated neighbourhood for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) residents - works to try and bring Christians and gay people together in open conversation about sexuality and spirituality - and that includes running a large-scale meeting four times a year at Roscoe's, one of America's most famous gay bars...He says that the Marin Foundation simply wants to get gay people thinking about Christian spirituality in its broadest sense, without a disproportionate emphasis on sexual morality.

I love this story.
I love how Andrew Marin has committed himself to real relationships with people.
I love how he refuses to give answers, how he refuses to put any one person in a box, how he refuses to define someone's spiritual journey based on their sexuality.
I love how seeks to help people live a life with God according to where God is leading them, not according to what their sexuality is.
I think this story highlights some beautiful things:

That beautiful place of vulnerability; giving yourself to others and allowing yourself to learn from them.
That sacred place of allowing questions to hang there without answers; allowing the mystery of God to transform you and bathe life in mystery.
That challenging place of otherness; going to the people and places where God has always been but where you were too ignorant, judgemental or afraid to go and finding love, joy and change in your own life by being there.

Thank God for people like Andrew Marin

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

True Knot

When our second daughter Lizzie was born, we found that she had a true knot in her umbilical cord. What this means is that at some stage of the pregnancy Lizzie's movements inside the womb had resulted in her making a knot in her umbilical cord.  The knot looked like a granny knot in a piece of rope.

I discovered later that when a baby has a true knot in their umbilical cord it raises the chance of the baby dying in the womb fourfold. The reason for this is that the knot can cut off or restrict blood supply to the baby.

We have no idea how long Lizzie had a knot in her cord.  What we do know is that when she was born the knot in the cord was extremely tight.

Sarah had an extremely fast labour with Lizzie. Throughout the pregnancy Sarah suffered with severe pelvic, back and leg pain because of a condition called SPD. Such was the pain that Sarah could not even walk some days. We went to see the consultant who was not particularly helpful. Sarah's assigned mid-wife was also very unhelpful. Sarah asked her for help to get the labour going early, such as a sweep. She performed one at 38 weeks that didn't do anything and was reluctant to do another one until Sarah was 40 weeks pregnant. Through various circumstances out of our control we did not go and see Sarah's assigned mid-wife but another one for another check up at 38 weeks and 5 days. The mid-wife who we saw was really sympathetic to Sarah's physical problems and booked her in to be induced the next day, something the other mid-wife was not going to do. She then said that she would also perform another sweep to see if this did anything to help. This was at midday. By 1.30pm we were in the hospital.  At 3.21pm Lizzie was born.

Interesting isn't it...

One course of action could have lead to a completely different outcome.

Our lives are in the balance. One decision can have life long consequences.

I'll have one more drink...I'll be ok to drive...

Let's have sex...I don't need a condom...

I'll tell them I love them tomorrow...

You don't need a sweep...


Our actions matter. Our decisions matter.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love each other.  These are not merely spiritual niceties, but hugely significant ethical decisions and actions. The way in which we obey or disobey these commandments will have consequences that can stretch into eternity.

I find that something worth thinking about.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Lynne

I had the privilege of taking the funeral of our friend Lynne on Friday.  She was a wonderful woman full of dignity and grace.  The church was full with people who brought with them their own memories of who Lynne was and the time they had spent with her.  Tom has written his own reflections on the kind of woman Lynne was.

Funerals are a needed event.  We need them in order that we might say good-bye well and be able to step into the next part of our lives.  It is important that we commit ourselves and those who have died to God.

Here is the sermon that I shared at Lynne's funeral:

'We have heard stories and memories of Lynne, stories that have given us a glimpse into who she was and her life story. Each of us will bring our own memories and stories of our time with Lynne, and in the act of remembering we recognise how much we loved her.  And it is because we loved her so much we find her death hurts us so much. It is like an icy wind blowing into our faces and we fear we might never find shelter.

The reality is that we live in a world of suffering and death.  The Christian faith is not there to provide answers about suffering. God does give us answers to the problem of suffering, rather he gives us his Son.

In Jesus we discover a God who walks with us through our suffering. We discover a God who fully knows us and has fully known what it means to be human; the baby in need an vulnerability; the man experiencing trial and temptation; the friend who weeps at the loss of a loved one. And this same Jesus has walked through the valley of the shadow of death and has taken all its pain and brutality upon himself on the cross. He has walked the road of death for each one of us and has emerged from it in glorious resurrection so that we can be freed from the claws of death and one day know the joy of life and love in God's presence.

Until that day however we glimpse at that future reality and live in the tension of pain and joy today. The pain of suffering today, but the joy that this God, this Jesus, can be known today in relationship, can transform our today and give us hope for tomorrow. This is the God who seeks to walk in relationship with us, through our joys and our sorrows, giving us himself that we might know ourselves.

This Jesus holds his hands out today to offer you comfort.

Hands that wiped tears from his eyes at the death of his friend.
Hands that were nailed to a cross.
Hands that were raised in triumph at the resurrection.
And now hands that take hold of Lynne's hand, leading her into the presence of the living God.
Hands that seek to comfort you today, sheltering you from that icy wind.

Hands that seek to lead you and guide you throughout your life, that in the midst of your joy and your sorrow, you might know a God who loves you.'

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

God's Promise

'At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?    He called a little child and had him stand among them.
    And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'


On Sunday we had the privilege of seeing our youngest daughter go through a service of blessing.

My friend John conducted the blessing and it was truly special time with a clear sense of God's love and presence.

It was a sacramental act.

In other words, God promised to be there by his Spirit through this act of blessing.  As we welcomed Lizzie in the name of Jesus, Jesus was present in a very real and tangible way.

John spoke about how in every child there is the presence of God, and so in the presence of children we truly encounter God's presence.

Sarah and I made promises:


Sarah and Joe, do you thank God for the gift of your child,and do you accept the joys and duties of parenthood? 
Gladly, we do. 
Do you promise to bring Lizzie upwithin the Christian community,and, by God’s grace, live in such a way and love each other in such a way,that she will be nurtured by Christian loveand surrounded by the life of Jesus? 
As disciples of Jesus, we do. 
Will you seek to be parents of peace, sharers of love and signs of hope to Lizzie?  Will you be faithful in prayer for Lizzie, seeking to walk in the likeness of Jesus for the sake of your daughter? 
With the help of God’s Spirit, we will.



Our eldest daughter Grace also made a promise:

Will you promise to loveand help care for Lizzie? 
Yes!



We had it at Seale-Hayne.  So we weren't in a 'church building' or anything like that.  Rather, we were in a place of community where many different people from all walks of life meet week in week out.  Church is the people.  And it was truly church on Sunday.

Blessing
Lizzie, we rejoice, for you are God’s gift to us.
Grow strong in the knowledge and love of God;
we pray that one day
you will be a disciple of Jesus Christ,
following him through the waters of baptism
and in a life of faithful witness;
bear the fruit of his Spirit
and live his great gift of love.

Lizzie, the Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift the light of his countenance upon you
and give you peace,
this day and always.
In the name of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.





Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A New Reality

Jesus' life, death and resurrection jolts us out of self-deception into the reality of our own situation and the truth of who we are.

We are sinners.

I am a sinner.

You are a sinner.

We often rebel and protest this point because we see sin and sinners as 'the other', those who have broken the rules and the law in some brutal way.  The murderer or rapist or rioter.

But sin is not about breaking rules or laws.

We are all sinners 'because we deceive ourselves about the nature of reality and so would crucify the very One who calls us to God's kingdom.'

We live as though we can be the authors of our own stories, as though we have the power to be the main players in the drama and story of humanity. We try to live as though we had no need for God and as if God's story has no place in our own stories.

Jesus came to shake us out of this deception and to reveal reality to us.

He told us that the most important thing to do in our lives was to love God. The next most important thing was to love others.

He told us we needed to repent.

He showed us our need to care for the poor, abused and outcast.

He revealed the horror of our desire for power and hunger to manipulate and control others.

And as he hung on the cross, taking our place, we realise what our place really is.

And so we understand who God is through narrative and the narrative of Jesus. And we see ourselves through this narrative and seek to become a part of this very story. In recognising that we are sinners seeking to rebel against this story, we are then able to see how the Author would like us to become a part of His Great Story.

We are merely characters created to be loyal to the One who created the stars, heavens and earth.

Jesus calls us into the truth of reality. Whether we are willing to participate in this reality and enter into a new story is another thing entirely.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Day that Changed the World



It is nearly 10 years since the atrocities of September 11th 2001.

I'm sure all of us can remember watching our television screens in disbelief and horror as events unfolded before our eyes.

Real questions of the human condition were asked.  How can we do this to each other? What can stir such hate to be acted upon from one human being to another?

We grieved and mourned for those who had died and our thoughts and prayers went to those who had lost loved ones.

And in a few days time people will gather to remember those who died.  Those who put their lives in danger to rescue others will be commemorated and praised.  People from all over the world will take time to pray for peace, for love and that nothing like this will happen again.  It was a horrendous event that we pray will indeed never happen again.

Many have said it was the day that changed the world.

But it wasn't.

There was a day in around A.D 33 that changed the world forever.



This day was the death of Jesus.

It is not simply a day that has been lost in the pages of history. It is not a day that is remembered but has no effect on today. It is a day that continues to transform and impact they very fibre of the universe.

It is a day that the full force of evil was felt.

It is a day that death unleashed its worst.

This is the day that changed the world forever.

The splintered wooden cross hanging on the back of Jesus continues to unsettle and disturb us this very day.

The pain and destruction of September 11th 2001 has been felt in all its fulness by Jesus on that day in A.D 33.

And it is only because of that day in A.D 33 that the events of September 11th 2001 can ever be healed and dealt with. We are to resist the evil that September 11th reveals.

Christians from all over the world are to continually remember the day that changed the world. We are called to cling to that splintered Cross of Jesus recognising that our own lives and destiny depends upon it.  And we are to live as a people that sees, knows and experiences the truth and reality of that Day in A.D 33 upon this very day.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Death Denier

We are death deniers.

We believe we will live forever, cloaked somehow in immortality through our own might and strength.

Policies come from our government that further this denial of death.

We fight a war in Iraq because we are afraid of death.  And the horror of it all is that men and woman are dying on those bloodshed streets so that the powerful can try and live forever.

We are afraid of death so we murder others to protect ourselves.

There is no war against terror.  It is a war against the terror of death.

It is not a war for peace, stability and reconciliation.  It is a war for self-preservation.


We murder through war, through money, through greed.


We are afraid of death.

In the UK we are afraid of death.

But we haven't been created to live forever.  We have come form the dust and shall return to the dust.

The death of Jesus enables us to embrace death because in Jesus death has lost its sting and power.

Death will come to us all, and all of us are equals. None of us have the power to overcome it or stop it. No amount of worldly power, wealth or intelligence can stop it.

There is only One who has the power over life and death.

He embraced death in order that we might have the hope of life.

But that life can only come through His death and our own death.

Death denier hand yourself over to the Life-Giver.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Living Without Answers

As always at this time of the year I always feel like it is the beginning of the year again and time to refocus. It has been good to have time off in August, have time to study and slow down.

I think that the next twelve months will be demanding, exciting, challenging and a time of real learning. I'm petrified as to what the next year holds and my response to it.  I'm feeling more inadequate and overwhelmed than ever. But then I'm a follower of Jesus and being comfortable and sure of myself would be a complete rejection of what it means to follow Jesus.

Over the past few weeks I've had a chance to read more than usual and reflect on what on earth I'm doing, believing and living.

I'm coming to see that I'm not really sure what I believe.  And I'm starting to think that 'belief' doesn't really mean anything anyway.  Faith and belief are two different things.

I think belief is another name for having all the answers.  And having all the answers is another name for triumphalism.  And triumphalism rots the soul.

The church is not called to have all the answers.  It is not called to a place of triumphalism whereby we think we've got it all sorted.  Because when the church acts like this it leaves no room for doubt, for pain, for suffering.  And when someone dies, or suffers or experiences evil the only thing they can say is that God has failed them. Triumphalism makes God a failure.

That is why I am very wary of churches and movements that claim to have it all sorted. I'm very concerned when churches always expect you to be on a high. I've seen people in those churches suffer silently because they feel they are not able to express their fears, doubts and failures. I'm very wary of churches that claim to have the "answers".

'Such "answers" cannot but help turn Christianity into an explanation.'  Hauerwas, Hannah's Child


Christianity is not an explanation.

Faith is living with questions and not having the answers.  It is recognising there is pain and suffering and that the call of the Church is to follow Jesus in His own journey of pain and suffering.

When we try and answer the unanswerable we are saying that this is in fact the way the world has to be.

I'm not sure what church is going to look like here in Newton over the next year.  I'm not sure what the adventure will turn out like. So much of me wants to know. So much of me wants to be in control, to be a success and to have it all mapped out.  Yet God is calling me to another way.  He is calling me to walk in faith. He is calling me to not seek success, but to walk the way of the Cross.

Programmes and events are a way of me having control and measuring my own success.  God is calling me to another way. If there is a need, address it.  Don't plan an event to address it, simply go and be a means of grace.

I need to live another way.  I need to explore church another way.

The next twelve months may be interesting, and I pray to God that I will be faithful to what He is calling me to.  

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

No Need For God

'As we talked about in in my backyard, we concluded that the problem with most pastors and theologians was that the way they went about their business did not require the existence of God.'

Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child p 194

Being Broken

Monday, 22 August 2011

Something Beautiful

Jesus is not a self-help guru whose goal is to make you feel better about yourself and make all your troubles disappear.

Jesus is not a brand that we are trying to sell, a product we are trying to market and put into your homes and life in order that you will have everything you ever dreamed of.

Jesus is not there to grant you your every wish, help you get rich and make you look good in your community.

Yet there is a danger that the church can basically make him out to be these very things.

Our culture feeds off quick fixes of self-help and 'make life better' brands.  Consumerism, capitalism and materialism means that most of us will buy something to make us feel better.  I know I do it.  And advertisers and companies know this is how we feel and what we do.  And deep down I'm sure we know that a new phone won't ultimately make life better, but we still buy it and advertisers know we will still buy it for that quick fix of feeling that we get when we hold this new gadget in our hands.  And we know that the clothes and the perfume and the car will all get boring and old and lose their initial high, but we still get them so we can experience that initial high.  And advertisers know that the feeling will wear off and we will go and buy a new car and some new clothes just to feel good again.

And we know all our problems won't go away when we buy it.

We know our depression won't be cured when we get it.

We know the unforgiveness, pain, brokenness and tears won't go away when we drive the car away.

Yet we keep doing it.

When we put Jesus in with all these things, as another means of 'making life better', then ultimately people won't be very interested because there are far sexier brands and products out there.  And those that have brought into Jesus on this basis will probably lose interest fairly quickly because Jesus turns out to be a bit of a disappointment when he doesn't make your life a dream to live and all your problems don't vanish.

I blogged before about our drinking culture which sits into this whole thing.  The quick fix of making life better.

Actually, all of this is about making life FEEL better.  So we feel better for a short time.

And the church can fall into the trap of making Jesus into a product that makes you feel better.

But this is not why Jesus came and this is not what Christianity is all about.

Jesus came and lived among us, died for us and rose again so that WE COULD KNOW GOD.

Knowing God.

That is the point.  That is the reason.  This why we exist.  This is the point of life.

So our drinking culture is probably so severe because we do not know God.  And in not knowing God we struggle to know ourselves.  And when we don't know ourselves, when we don't know the point of our lives and our own true identity, then we do what we can to make ourselves feel better.  And so how we feel becomes the most important thing.  I'm not saying feelings are not important, because they are.

Love, anger, pain, joy, sadness.  Feelings matter.

But if we rely on self-help, quick fix, feel better, then we will never know ourselves and our true identity.

And if the Church falls into the trap of trying to sell Christianity as a self-help product to be a part of this whole self-help brand, then we will fail.

But if the Church declares that humanity is called to know God, then that is a good thing.

And when we recognise that knowing God is the most important thing in life then we will see that who we are is defined by knowing Him.  And it is not to make life 'better', but rather gives meaning to life. In knowing God we will suffer.  In knowing God we will have pain.  In knowing God we will discover hope.  In knowing God we will one day be fully known.

And that really is something beautiful.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Police, Riots and Moral Collapse

There has been much said and discussed about the riots, and I haven't got much more to say really. Without doubt the riots represent a wider social problem that we are all a part of. Greed, selfishness, a desire to put 'me' first. I was talking to Tom yesterday and we reflected on that saying 'well as long as your happy...'. Sometimes parents say it to you, sometimes friends. And it is a ridiculous thing to say, and an example of the moral collapse, personal shortsightedness and selfish, ambitious desire that society bathes in.
'I slept with six woman this week and didn't use a condom.' Well as long as your happy.
'I burnt down a shop and stole 10 laptops.' Well, as long as your happy.
'I got so drunk that I ended up in a fight.' Well as long as your happy.

'I make money by exploiting others.' well...
'I use my power through my job to control and manipulate others.' Well...
'I am selfish.' Well...
'I am greedy.' Well...
'I am lazy.' Well...

So we have lost our moral direction because we do not see ourselves accountable to the One we are called to serve, follow, learn from and worship.

What we also have is lots and lots of people saying that strict punishments and tough policing is what we need. People want those involved in the riots to feel the harsh arm of the law. People want strong policing and view those involved in the riots as scum.

We need law and civil order. We need people to be held accountable for their actions. But we don't need knee jerk, moral judgement being made and ridiculous policing and sentencing.

Our police services (not forces, and note the difference) were founded and based on the service and consent model. So police are keepers of the peace working with the community to keep the peace. It is not an authoritarian approach or crime control approach that the US use, but it seems that is what people are asking for. The police are not there to be feared or obeyed, but they are accountable to the public, as the public is to them, that we might work together to make our communities beautiful places to live in. The rioters were wrong, but our calling as a society is for restorative justice not retributive justice. Not only that, but if the police are like a cooperate gang who simply want to charge people for breaking the rules, then we have lost altogether the point and purpose of our police service.

If police use the crime control model then I suspect communities will trust them less. And the less respectful police are to public and suspects, then the less likely people are to comply with the law.

But more and more this seems to be evaporating whereby the police are being given orders to be much more brutal and authoritarian. I saw only the other day on one of these police shows a man in a work van dragged out of his car by four police officers, pinned to the ground and a taser pointed at him. Why? Because he hadn't pulled his work van over at the exact moment he was asked. Did he speed off? No. Did he try and lose the police? No. Was he being threatening? No. Was the van stolen? No. He simply was a few hundred yards from his home and decided to pull up there.

But if society is calling for harsher sentencing and more brutal policing then they have to be prepared to accept that. To accept that you will get a prison sentence for a first time minimal offence. That you will get roughed up by the police, and they are allowed to do it. Because it is no good saying we want harsh sentences for rioters and not for ourselves. One size has to fit all.

So I am concerned by where this is all heading.

But then maybe I'm just paranoid...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Hi

I haven't properly blogged for a while because of holidays and study. I'mstill to follow up my post about getting drunk and my personal thoughts about a way forward. I will blog about that soon. I also want to blog about the riots, specifically the governments response to the riots and the call by many for more brutal policing.

I'm on my study week at the moment and I am writing a novel that will explore the Christian faith. My hope is that it will be a book that anyone can read, especially those who have no concept or understanding of the Christian faith. I'm writing it in a novel form so that it will be a story that explores a man going on a journey of faith. I'm using my own life story as a basis and expanding it to make it, hopefully, readable and a good story.

Think I will put a chapter on here later in the week to get feedback and see what people think.

Shalom.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Prayer

Father God

Our televisions are filled with images of destruction, violence, robbery and pain. People are shocked, distressed, angry and bewildered.

We pray for peace.

For those who riot and steal, smash and intimidate, burn and hurt, Lord we pray your Spirit would transform as only you can.

For those who are angry, who seek revenge, who seek to hurt back, who seek to combat violence with violence, Lord we pray for peace, forgiveness and a sense of your everlasting love.

We pray for the public to be safe, for those who are helping to be protected. We pray for the police to be wise and the politicians to be honest, not seeking political gain but the wellbeing of communities.

Lord Jesus we pray that all of us would be aware of your grace and presence in our lives, but we pray especially that this would be true for those most immediately affected by these raw and real events.

We pray that darkness would not overcome, but the light of your love would prevail. We pray that we would not seek darkness to overcome darkness. We pray we would not seek violence to overcome violence. We pray we not seek bitterness to swallow our hearts. We pray we would not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

Many of us are angry Lord at what is happening. We believe in righteous anger at injustice. Help us use this anger properly to bring peace, reconciliation and restoration.

Lord Jesus as we look at our TV screens we feel helpless. So we recognise our need for you. Forgive us Lord when we have got so comfortable with all we have that we have forgotten you and seen no need for you. Forgive us Lord when we have rioted against your love and will for our lives. Help us Lord to know you. May knowing you be the goal for us all.

We pray for your grace, mercy and love O God.

And we pray in the mighty name of Jesus, the name at which every knee will bow.

Amen

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Getting Drunk

I have no idea how many mornings I used to wake up and have no clue as to how I got home or what I did the night before.

There was a point in my life that I was drunk every single day.

I was reflecting on one particular morning when I had a conversation with a stranger. This conversation was similar to many I had over the years. It was when I worked in a shop, and this guy came in to buy something. He came to the till, looked at me and then asked if I was ok. I said yes and asked why. He asked if I remembered him. I said no. He then told me that the night before he had seen me staggering past the pub he was in and then collapsing outside. He helped me up and then walked me towards my home. He said that he left me at the top of my road. I had woken up in the morning for work with no clue how I had got home or what I had done the night before. I still remember how I felt when this man was telling me the story. I still remember feeling sick as I listened and anxious. I still remember laughing and acting like it didn't matter. I still remember thinking that I needed a drink.

There would be countless more times when that kind of thing would happen again.

I heard that over a million people in the UK in 2010 were taken to hospital for alcohol related problems. I wonder how many who should have gone never did. Probably would have topped 2 million if they had.

We live in a time where people in the UK love getting drunk.

And it is causing huge problems in people's lives.

Depression. STD's. Debt. Relationship breakdowns. Affairs. Illness. Strain on hospitals. Violence. Tears.

I'm not anti alcohol. I'm tee total but I am more than happy to sit with people while they have a drink.

But alcohol is a massive problem in the UK and government have no idea what to do about it.

And with the rise of individualism people feel like it doesn't matter if they get drunk because they think it only affects them. Yet it is clear that this is not true.

Consumerism makes us numb to what really matters in life and makes us crave for a quick fix of happiness. Alcohol helps provide that fix.

A belief that God is not really needed in our lives or society puts too much pressure on our relationships with each other, so alcohol provides the fantasy that we really love each other and can handle the pressure we are under to make each other happy.

The tears, breakdowns, fights and pain on an average night out in town tell a different story.


If in church we say that coming to Jesus makes everything ok, then people will always go to alcohol.

Jesus is not a self-help product to a better way of life.


I suspect the answer to the issue of massive alcohol abuse in the UK lies in what the Gospel and Christianity is really all about. And I'll pick that up tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Our Debt

I'm wondering if anyone can help me answer a question?

So the United Kingdom is in debt.

The government is raising taxes and will be cutting public spending to reel in the debt and pay it off.

Apparently 'we' owe about £1 trillion or something like that.

So all of us...many of us are paying this money back through tax raises etc.

The banks were in trouble so we bailed them out.

So my question is...

Who do we owe this money to?

Who exactly are we paying this money back to?

It can't be a human free organisation or company because there has to be someone at the end of the line. There is always a person somewhere down the line.

So who is this person or people that we owe all this money to?

If it is the banks then why did we bail them out?

If it is a person then who are they and how do they have so much money to lend?

As you can see I am no economist, but I am seriously troubled by this question.

Anyone care to help?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Honesty in Church

I preached yesterday morning at a Baptist church who meet not far from where I live.

They were a nice bunch of people and I felt very welcomed.

After the service I had a number of people come up to me and thank me for my honesty in my preaching. They said it was refreshing. They also said it shook them out of their Sunday morning routine.

Honesty.

I find this interesting, especially in church.

When someone is honest, especially when preaching or leading worship, people are almost amazed. It shakes people in their seats. They are not sure what to do with honesty.

I don't try and be controversial or provocative when I preach (well maybe sometimes I do! ;0)), I simply try and be honest. Yet it often seems that people are not prepared for such honesty and find it something completely alien when confronted with such honesty in the church.

Some people react very positively when they hear honesty within the church, and some...well they don't like it.

Sometimes we try all sorts of ways to not be honest because we feel like we can't.

Sometimes it is the curse of the smile; feeling like you have to smile when inside you are hurting and darkness is your only friend.

Sometimes it is because you do not feel there is anyone you can be yourself with, so you put on a show, pretend you're ok and shuffle out of church before anyone notices you.

I think it is important to be honest, to be yourself and to live authentically.

I wonder how liberated many would feel if they knew they could be completely honest in church.

I'm hurting.

I don't believe in God anymore.

I'm so happy.

I'm gay.

I'm depressed.

I haven't prayed for months.

I'm so excited.

I'm pregnant.


Be great wouldn't it...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A Dinner Party Meme

Sam has come up with a new meme based on a dinner party theme.  Here are the rules.

Rules: You have to have 12 people including yourself. Of those there needs to be at least four men, at least four woman, at least four who are known to you personally and at least four who are "famous". You are not allowed anyone who has passed on to the great hereafter - that would be a rather different sort of party. It needs to be one that might plausibly 'work' (i.e don't just pile people together. You also need to choose a place/style of food.

Here is my party:

Myself
My wife Sarah
My twin bro Tom
My daughter Grace
My daughter Lizzie
Caroline Laver
John Colwell
Daniel Day Lewis
Brad Pitt
Damon Albarn
Gweneth Paltrow
Peter Kay

We would eat tapas because it is great for sharing and allows good conversations to flow.











I tag Tom, Rach and Peter