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.