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.


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...


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


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.