Saturday, 11 August 2018

Faith and Politics

I read a comment on Facebook the other day that annoyed me.  (I know - Facebook is not the place for reasoned comment in the first place!)

The writer was lamenting that there should ever be a link between faith and politics and believed that where there was, disaster followed.

I believe the opposite is true. Especially as regards the UK.
Take a look at our last four Prime Ministers. Three have a faith. One does not. Three managed our nation with reference to our past, our heritage and our beliefs. One did not. Three tried to hold us together as a nation. One destroyed our nation.

Two of the four Prime Ministers are children of the manse. One is the son of a Presbyterian Minister. One is the daughter of an Anglican Vicar. The third has a clear Christian belief which includes reading the Bible every night.

The other has no such belief system. In two short terms of office, he destroyed our concept of Christian marriage and sent the nation into an isolationist and economic spiral that will take decades to recover from.

In attempting to deal with an unruly right wing in his party, he played politics with our future. He took an inappropriate referendum to an ill-informed people and with little fact and considerable rhetoric, the vote was for isolationism. More seriously, it opened us up to extreme right wing views and made them appear acceptable - something we are seeing in a number of nations.

The Prime Minsters that had a Christian faith kept us within the bounds of decency and applied their faith (knowingly or not) to the decisions they took. The Prime Minster without a faith played politics with the nation.  And we all lost.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Ready to Climb?

I don't often post my own preaches, but this one is to do with mountains. Preached in Cape Town in July 2018. Enjoy the climb.



Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Looking for my Telescope

I live in a beautiful place. On the edge of a village, our house looks over open fields with an ever changing landscape of sun, sky and clouds. The photo’s illustrate – but don’t do justice – to God’s creative grandeur.

For me, such beauty always points me to the Creator behind it. I find it incredulous that someone can say for a moment that all we see, from the snowflake to Everest, from the flower to the flowering of the Grand Nebula are simply the chance encounters of atoms. No. There is a Creator. And He is to be worshiped.

We only worship Him in an incomplete way. As C S Lewis put it:

‘We are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.’

So, we don’t fully understand or see. But what we do see is sufficient to worship. Enough is on show to thank Jesus Christ for His life that points to the next. We can look to the skies and say ‘hallelujah!’

Sam Stones says:

‘Each of us is under a divine mandate to become an amateur astronomer, to peer into the incalculable depths of sky and space and behold the handiwork of our omnipotent Creator.’

I’m looking for my telescope.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Unforced Rhythm of His Grace

I’ve been pondering God’s grace a lot lately, and came across this passage in my daily Bible reading today:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, The Message Version)

If our faith is in religion, we will get burned. If our faith is in meetings, we will tire. If our faith is in leaders, no matter how good, we will wear ourselves out.

But faith in God is something else entirely. As we keep company with the one who made the stars. As we speak with the one who spoke first. As we walk hand in hand with the Son Who Came, we are refreshed.

The Hebrew word for grace in the Old Testament is ‘Chesed’. It has the feel of being delivered from our enemies, of being protected, and guided; being free and forgiven.

In the Greek of the New Testament, the word for grace is ‘Charis’. Such a beautiful word. It speaks of salvation; of God doing for us what we could not do on our own.

Who persuaded us that this changes and we can ‘do things’ when we get ‘saved’? Who suggested it was to do with work, with hours spent, with money given or with services provided? It’s not. It’s grace. It’s pure grace.

Pure grace.

I don’t deserve my relationship with God, but he reached out to me in grace. He protects; He guides. He sees what we can’t see down the road and he delivers us from our enemies.

And if I understand this, I can indeed work, give, serve… but from a walk that is in the ‘unforced rhythm' of His grace. And that’s just beautiful.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Friends in Strange Places

I was driving through Ashby de la Zouch yesterday when I saw her. It looked exactly like Suzy. I almost shouted out a greeting- until I realised how silly that would have been. Suzy lives in Nova Scotia,  Canada and is very unlikely to be walking through an East Midlands town in the UK.

But it did get me thinking. How I have found the most wonderful friends in the strangest of places.

I belong to the biggest family in the world. 2.3 billion and counting. It means I am never alone. I can be anywhere in the world and find a friend that shares my Christian faith.

The taxi driver in Auckland. The Pensions Manager at Cleanaway. The hiker in Snowdonia. The barista in Leicester.

I was caught in a snowstorm in the United States once and our plane ended up being diverted to Minneapolis St Paul’s airport. I had been sharing my Christian faith with the guy next to me on the flight- but seemingly with no interest from him. So as we arrived at an airport I didn’t want to be at in the middle of nowhere (Sorry Minneapolis St Paul’s, I’m sure it’s a great place!), I was feeling a bit low. I cried out to God, complaining. I was on my own, miles from home, in a place I didn’t want to be and in the middle of a snowstorm.  

It was then that the guy in the seat behind me leaned over and whispered in my ear. It seems he had been listening to my conversation.

‘I know Him too.’

It’s all he said. But it was enough.

I wasn’t on my own of course. God was with me. And in the loneliest of moments, there was someone there. One of my family.

My message is simple. You need never be alone. You can know God with you through Christ. Have a read of St Mark’s gospel and find Him. And you’ll find others on the same journey in the strangest of places. They know Him too.

And Suzy. If it was you, sorry I didn’t wave.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

In Play At Little Games

These are the final lines of a poem written in 1938 by Robert D Abrahams. He is reflecting on wars around the world whilst he and his wife, safe at home,  drive to a game of bridge:

Tonight Shanghai is burning,
And we are dying too.
What bomb more surely mortal
Than death inside of you?

For some men die by shrapnel,
And some go down in flames,
But most men perish inch by inch,
In play at little games.

The words are a challenge to every one of us. Will we allow ourselves to die inch by inch? Or will we determine to live for a cause? Will we allow others to play little games with our lives? Or will we ignore the fear of shrapnel and fight?

May every one of us reading these words determine to live; and to live for something great, something lasting, something meaningful.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Flawed. Frail. Fanatical.

I’m reading a fascinating book on the life of Larry Norman, the pioneer of Christian rock music. He comes over as flawed and frail – but at the same time as fascinating and almost fanatical. His passion for Christ shines through even the most troubling of times. He knew his God and wanted more than anything to tell others about Christ in the way he knew best – through his music. His albums were many but for me, the standout is Only Visiting This Planet. There’s not a weak track in sight and a challenge to the listener in every verse.

I’m also listening to the news today, on the death of Winnie Mandela. Another flawed, frail, fanatic. She faced prison and death threats on a daily basis. But unlike her husband, she seemed unable to forgive, nor to manage retribution in the right way. Flawed. Frail. Fanatical.

These words are not the worst labels to hang around our lives. You can make a case for the apostle Peter being flawed, frail and fanatical too. His very public failures are reflected later in a passion for Christ that led to martyrdom.

The first two words reflect all of us if we’re honest. The last one gets more of a bad press. Maybe I should use ‘tenacious’ or ‘strong minded’ instead. But my prayer is that although I see my flaws and frailties all too well, I may also be known as someone who is absolutely fanatical about his faith in Christ.