#deepimpact2020 Live Blog: Main Session 4

21 Jan

Slight break recovering from a walk in the mountains yesterday, but back for the last session of the conference!

What does it look for resetting ourselves in our churches?

Deciding to go back from conferences and be better and try harder doesn’t work, so what can we do?

Romans 8:1-17

So often we can think that if we just do a little bit more, put in a couple of extra hours at the expense of our home life or say yes to things that we know we shouldn’t because we think it will make us look better we can fall into the trap of the Pharisees, thinking we can do it all and we can fall into the trap of pride.

If we left our ministry, where would we be in relation to God? Are we loving what we do for God more than we love Him? Is what we do for God merely a performance to please Him and earn His approval?

Do we settle for second best? Do we seek the approval of our boss, family, our friends etc? If we seek the approval of those who already approve of us we will keep on raising the approval bar higher and higher, which is not what God wants, indeed it can lead us to a spiritual death.

We are called to do more than copy Jesus, we are called to abide with Jesus, leaning in to Jesus at every turn. When we lean into Jesus we find His freedom.

If the Gospel doesn’t look like good news in our lives then how will it every be good news to the young people we work with?

When we are in the are in right relationship with God (righteous) and so we do not have to do anything to get God’s approval, we already have it. The Spirit tells us that we are children of God, we belong to God and cared for by God, regardless of what we do.


#deepimpact2020 Live Blog: Seminar 1

18 Jan

Reframing difficult Bible passage: Reclaiming the Old Testament

What are people saying about the Old Testament?

Kyllein Mackellerman – “The Old Testament is a collection of Hebrew folk tales. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Simon Schama – “For man archaeologists today the Bible is a distraction with nothing useful to say about what actually happened and when”

Adolf Von Harnack – “To reject the Old Testament in the second century as a mistake which the church rightly repudiated; to retain it in the sixteenth century was a fate which the reformation could not yet avoid; but to continue to keep it in Protestantism as a canonical document after the nineteenth century is the consequence of religious and ecclesiastical paralysis.”

Richard Dawkins – “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

3 issues:

  1. OT plundered for exciting stories
  2. “Grow out” of Ot
  3. Can’t deal with complex issues – “it’s a hard book”

Lots of complex stuff in the OT. Almost all heroes could be seen as anti-heroes.

If we had no Old Testament:

  • Sacrifice

Reconciliation through sacrifice is rooted in the OT

  • Sin

Disobedience, rebellion, relational break, shame

  • Holiness

Wholeness, health, beauty

  • Worship

What God wants, not what we like doing, Amos 5

  • Justice

Social structures

  • Jubilee

Restoration and protection

  • Shalom

Peace, well-being, fullness of life

Why read the Old Testament? – Key themes

  • Creation and covenant

Humans made for relationship with God

  • Earth is good

We are stewards of the world – priests in God’s temple

  • Kingdom

God’s People; in God’s Place, under God’s Rule

  • Redemption

Bringer of salvation and the heirs of salvation

  • Particularity and universality

Why study the Old Testament?

Terence Fretheim

Why read the Old Testament?

  • Library of books – life stories of faith

Fear – do not be afraid

Failure (Abraham Gen 15:6 and 16:3)

Success – how to be blessed

Wisdom – (proverbs formulaic, Job problematic, Ecclesiastes nihilistic’

Songs of Solomon – the erotic

All life is here

Difficult issues in the Old Testament

  • Antoinette text

Specialist knowledge

  • Violence against women

Loyalists, rejectionists, revisionists

  • Land and Israel

The earth is the Lord’s

  • Laws

Read Leviticus carefully

  • Favouritism

Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated

  • “Church” and state

Allure of theocracy

Violence in the Old Testament

Deuteronomy 20;16-17

  • God is the author of life and has the right to take life, so it is not immoral for God to command the termination of someone’s life

Boyd – This does not look like the command or action of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

  • Maybe it’s not as bad as I seems as it as only ever Moses who received the command to kill an entire nation. Even Joshua later appealed to. The authority of Moses for authority to kill the Canaanite tribes

Boyd – We should never do something because so,done in authority tells us to do it (the Nuremberg Defence), even if they claim God told them to do it!

  • Babies slaughtered in genocide would go immediately to Heaven and that is surely a better place to be!

Boyd – (Crucifixion of the Warrior God)

  • The command to kill all Canaanites was needed to eradicate idolatry. It is the rationale given in Scripture- Lev 18:24-25

Boyd – (Crucifixion of the Warrior God)

  • The irredeemable wickedness of the Canaanites justified their death

Boyd – (Crucifixion of the Warrior God)

Body’s view on what God intended:

  • God had a non-violent plan to remove the Canaanites from the Promised Land
  • God said the land would vomit them out (Lev 18:24-25)
  • God said He was planning to use hornets to drive them out (Ex 23:20&28)
  • God said He would use signs and wonders to drive the Canaanites out (Deut 7)

#deepimpact2020 Live Blog: Main Session 2

18 Jan

Reset your vision

C. S. Lewis – “There is no other day. All are present now. This moment contains all moments”

Jesus always sees what’s going on and draws everyone to focussing on it and bringing something out from it.

John 5:1-8

When Jesus asks the man if he wants to be well he is asking if he wants things to change.

How do we respond when God asks us if we want young people to come to faith? How do we respond when God asks us if we want to see change?

  • Understand the moment

“Gen Z will be the most influential religious force in the Wedt and the heart of the missionary challenge facing the Christian church” – James Emery White

  1. Digital reality
  2. Identity wars
  3. Pornification of relationship
  4. The rise of the “nones”
  5. No safe spaces
  • Lean into the moment

What would humble approaches to evangelism look like?

Young people’s deep longings

  1. Searching for identity – who am I really?
  2. Fighting anxiety – how should I live in today’s world?
  3. Experiencing loneliness – am I loved?
  4. Harnessing ambition – what’s my purpose?
  5. Feeling entitled – what matters beyond me?
  • Usurp the moment

Take possession of the moment, take it over and use it for God

What it means to be a caring community:

1 – Choice

No advantage to declaring you are a Christian as a young person.

Do our young people continue to “choose Jesus”? How can we help them “choose Jesus”?

2 – Challenge

What do our young people want to speak out about? How can we enable them to do so?

3 – Encounter

Make space for young people to encounter Jesus.

4 – Unleash

Empower young people to go out and do stuff

#deepimpact2020 Live Blog Main Session 1

17 Jan

Reset your heart

Reset – to remake differently

Re-guarding our heart, resetting seeing things differently

Jonah 2 – God has to reset Jonah’s heart

1 – Own it

Jonah realises that he needs the forgiveness that he’s supposed to preach to Nineveh

We need to own the condition of our heart

2 – Admit it

Jonah has to admit that he needs God

The belly of the fish was the rescue Jonah needed

3 – Surrender it

Jonah turns his situation into praise to God

In the end, it’s just Jonah and God. When Jonah realises what God has done he surrenders and he worships God.

How do we get to the place where we recognise that all we need is God?

God could have chosen any way to save Jonah but He chose the way to save Jonah’s heart. God loves us so much that He cares about our hearts and wants our hearts to be reset to focus on Him.

Political Correctness – Christian Philosophy Gone Mad?

2 Nov

I start this post by being very clear that this is an opinion, though I do believe it to be true, at least in part, if not entirely.

So what is my basis for this thought? Luke 6:31:
Do to others as you would have them do to you
And who could argue with this? Certainly not Christians, after all they are the words of Jesus. Certainly not Muslims, for they hold Jesus in high regard as well. And certainly not atheists, as they often seem to believe that this is the best way of holding Christians to account over their beliefs. The phrase “Call yourself a Christian?” is very often used in relation so people apparently treating others in a way that is deemed to be negative.

So why the problem with this? After all, it is perfectly reasonable. Isn’t it?

Well, on it’s own quite possibly. But the problem is that we are now seeing this idea being brought into law. Look at the idea of a “hate crime” and you see that it is both vague and open to a wide interpretation that is being taken in ways that are curbing freedom of speech and expression.
Just look at Nottingham as one example, where misogyny is considered to be a hate crime. And it goes to the point at which a wolf whistle is considered a criminal act!
Or how about Scotland, where the police are warning people to be careful what they say on social media as they might be prosecuted if people are offended. And whilst the article talks about things like revenge porn, which is rightly criminalised, the wider phrasing of “Those who use the internet to peddle hate or abuse” is far more vague and able to be taken to ridiculous levels if people want to do so. After all, I could say that I believe that Islam is a false religion and that Mohammad was a liar and a warlord and point to how this is because I am a Christian and therefore believe that he declared guidance from Allah purely to go and conquer Mecca and the surrounding area, as Jesus is the last word from God according to my beliefs. And that is me expressing my beliefs in an expository and explanatory manner, yet someone could see it, feel abused by it and declare that it is Islamophobic and hate speech. And all of a sudden freedom of speech and freedom of religion comes into conflict with this new law on hate speech and, at the moment, hate speech is trumping everything else. There is an example of this in Bristol and there are many other examples from recent years, where Christian street preachers have been arrested because someone has taken offence over what they have been saying. And this causes a huge problem for these conflicting laws over freedoms, as the Christian faith is one that calls it’s adherents to preach the Gospel to the whole world. And the biggest issue is highlighted by the final comment in the Bristol article on the BBC, where someone is quoted as saying “Religion should be confined to places of worship, not streets full of shoppers.” The Christian faith CANNOT be kept within 4 walls, and this is where the problem lies, as people seem to think that you can box up faiths in their buildings and keep the streets free of it. Yet it is not just atheists and secularists who are saying this, there are Christians who seem happy with this idea as well!

But I now want to return to where this started, Luke 6:31.
The use of this phrase appears so often in settings like this, but there are other verses which surround it that seem to be ignored. At the very least Luke 6:27-36 needs to be read to put it in context:
Love for enemies
‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

And when we read it within the context it’s intended we can see that actually we are not supposed to say that others should only say things that don’t offend anyone, but that this instruction is aimed at us, that we should think about the things that we say, but not that we should then be enforcing it upon others. Indeed, far from saying that others, whether Christian or not, should follow this teaching we are called to turn the other cheek and love them.
And this is where I think that so many people in the western world could do with getting a grip and realising that if you want to live in a tolerant society then we should actually tolerate when people say things that we find offensive. When it turns into incitement to violence that fine, but so long at it is just people saying things that some might be offended by but are purely thoughts and opinions we need to accept that that is how we are called to treat others by Jesus. We don’t have to like the things that are said, but we are not called to silence them because we don’t them either.
And so, to refer back to my title question, yes I think it is Christian philosophy gone mad. Not because Christianity is wrong, but because the thought has been taken so far out of context that actually it misses the point and, in fact, by turning it into a law it goes against the point Jesus was making!

The EU Referendum

21 Jun

Yes, with the vote happening this week I am writing a blog about the the thing that is so big that it even gets mentioned in sermons and used out of context as cheap gags by comedians, so you know it’s dominating the thinking of many people around the UK.

And my reason for writing it is 2 fold. The first is that I have spoken to some people, even one of the few people who who frequents here whenever there is a post to be read, and they are having trouble getting to grips with it all, so my hope is to cover it in a way that makes the basics of the arguments of either side accessible, as well as try to put an element of theology into the mix (although I am not sure that a theological angle can decide one way or the other on this issue, as I believe both sides could make a case in this way). The second is that I have a view that I wish to express, and in doing so I hope to address some of the things that people are saying that I think are either inaccurate or simply missing the point. For the record I am in favour of leaving the EU, and barring an unforeseen change in the information and my views on it that will be the way I will be voting. However, in the first part I aim to be as impartial as possible, in the hope that I do not misinform anyone.

So, let’s begin!


So, first things first, both sides have now got official campaign groups, Britain Stronger In Europe (now on referred to as Remain) and Vote Leave (no on referred to as Leave). They are the organisations that get to spend officially designated limits, so that the spending is balanced, meaning the campaign is theoretically fought on a fair basis. There are other organisations, most notably Grassroots Out and Leave.EU for the “Leave” side of the debate, but none of these are the official groups. They are allowed to campaign, however they have reduced spending limits that are designated according to each group’s believed representation of the UK population.

Remain highlight 8 key areas as important to their campaign: Jobs; personal finances; workers’ rights; the risk of leaving; Britain’s place in the world; UK business;  UK economy; the NHS.

Their arguments are, among other things, that there are many jobs that are dependent upon our membership of the EU, that workers rights are guaranteed under EU law, that prices will increase if we leave the EU, that the UK economy will suffer and possibly go into recession like back in 2008, that certain areas of the UK are dependent on EU funding, that the influence we have on discussions on the international scene would be reduced and that, as a result of the economy suffering is we leave the EU, our services like schools or the NHS will have less money available to them.

The response to these points include that workers rights are now a part of UK law, so not dependent on being in the EU, and would only go if the UK government chose to get rid of them, that any prediction on the state of the economy is pure guesswork beyond a vote to leave the EU, that the money that is used to fund areas in the UK comes out of the money we give the EU and so would be able to remain in place and that our influence in many areas in the world is already diluted due to the EU taking over in areas like the World Trade Organisation, rather that the UK having it’s own voice in negotiations.

The Leave campaign focuses on 5 key areas: Leaving the EU saves £350m; regaining border control; regaining control in immigration; greater control over trade with countries outside the EU; control over our own law-making.

Leave’s arguments are that the money that we send to the EU, £350 gross, would be able to be pumped back in to the UK economy, that we would be able to decide who comes into the country in all cases, rather than just for people from outside of the EU, due to having the return of a border with the EU and a removal of the freedom of movement of anyone from within the EU, that the UK would no longer be represented by the EU in negotiations and thus our own interests will be at the heart of any negotiations with other countries and organisations and that our own government will be the only body that decides what laws they will put in place, with the UK people being able to vote for or against the government based on the laws that they bring in, rather than the laws that are put upon us by the EU.

The response to these points include that the figure of £350m is a misleading one, even when it is mentioned that it is a gross figure rather than a net one, and the figure of £350m is actually split rough;y in 2, with half going to the EU and the other half coming back in the form of the UK rebate and grants to various areas, such as farming. There is also a question over the issue immigration, given that the number that David Cameron said was his aim for reducing immigration has been surpassed by non-EU migration to the UK, without including EU migration, and so Remain would argue that immigration is not an EU issue. It is also argued that our bargaining power is enhanced by the EU negotiating treaties on our behalf, as the EU is a group of 28 nations, rather than just 1.

With both of these arguments I would recommend looking at both the main campaign groups’ websites to see their information, but then also look at the BBC EU Referendum Reality Check webpages and see if the critiques the BBC raise on the arguments, as well as extra information, helps in understanding.


When it comes to a Christian perspective, I do not believe that there is an overwhelming argument one way or the other. I do, however, think that there are arguments for both sides that can be taken from Christian values and beliefs.

In favour of Remain, we can look at the idea of “love thy neighbour”, the idea of working together and the idea  that comes from “pay unto Caesar”. “Love thy neighbour” could suggest that we are called to look to those across the English Channel and seek to help our neighbours  when they are in need, which includes money going to the EU to be able to help countries like Greece, Italy and Spain when they are struggling economically, indeed the idea of love would suggest that we must respond to our neighbour when they are in need. Working together, something that is a big thing for the Church in the call from Jesus’ prayer for His disciples across the world when he prays “let them be one, just as You and I are One”, could be seen to mean that we should be looking to work together with the other nations of the EU in particular, as well as other nations around the world. And the “pay unto Caesar” argument would simply refer to the fact that we are in the EU means that there is a cost, as indeed there is for all members, to pay for our MEPs and the various elements of bureaucracy that happens in the EU and it’s equivalent to the civil service.

In favour of Leave, the theology of “love thy neighbour”, stewardship with the parable of the talents and “thou shalt not steal” can be used to argue against EU membership. “Love thy neighbour”, despite being used to argue in favour of Remain, can also apply for Leave as we can see that whilst the EU benefits it’s members with trade it puts huge tariffs on developing nations’ exports, various countries in Africa for example, and thus the argument here is the question of “who is our neighbour?” and the suggestion that actually our neighbour can no longer be defined by geographical positioning. Stewardship, could argue that the money that we spend on the EU is at least questionable in it’s value, particularly in regards to the grants that we pay for through what we pay to the EU, as it has to be spent in particular ways, as defined by the EU. One area in particular that this is seen is in the way that the fishing communities have been treated by the EU, whereby fishermen were paid to scrap their boats rather than being allowed to carry on fishing in UK waters, as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy. Finally, the idea of “thou shalt not steal” can be seen in the form of British sovereignty being taken from the British people without their consent, in other words it has been stolen. Having spoken to both my parents, and others who voted in the referendum of 1975, and none of them remember voting for anything other than joining a trading organisation, sovereignty was never spoken of, other than the fact that British Law would remain above any EEC (now EU) laws.

As I have said, I do not think that there is an argument from a Christian perspective that points either way decisively, but some people will hold certain theological principles higher than others that will inform their views on the matter. I would, however, recommend listening to the recording of a debate, hosted at Woking United Reformed Church and chaired by Justin Brierley from Premier Radio. it gives a wider debate, from a Christian perspective, and is a very informative nearly 2 hours of listening.


Now, for my view!

First off, I want to point out that while I am in favour of leaving the EU, none of what I am about to say has anything to do with being racist. I work regularly with young people and their parents and many of them are originally from other countries. Indeed, many of them come from countries that are in the EU, and I have no wish to remove them from the UK. So, with that in mind, here is what I think on the matter.

I have been against the EU for some time. Indeed, I have been against the EU since either 1989 or 1990, back when it was the EEC. All from a lesson in what is now known as Year 5, I read some things which I cannot remember specifically now, but I can remember a cartoon about Margaret Thatcher’s ongoing issues with her fellow EEC heads of state and the feeling has stuck. I then found myself questioning the viability of the EU, as a result of the fun that went on over the BSE problems with British beef in the 1990’s. When it started, in 1996, British beef was banned from being traded in the EU, rightly by the EU commission. 3 years later, the Commission removed the ban, yet France and Germany refused to import it. When the UK sought to take legal action against France, France then threatened to sue the EU and the whole saga took a further 3 years before France finally allowed British beef back into France. Read here for more info. The basics of this show that there are countries that are happy to follow the rules and there are other countries who are happy not to follow the rules. The problem is that the EU are incapable of enforcing the rules on it’s members, as the ultimate sanction of ejecting a member state will never be enacted as that would go against the EU’s central concept and aim – ever closer union. No political organisation or union can ever be truly viable unless all members are prepared to follow the rules, and the organisation itself is prepared to sanction members that break the rules with the strongest necessary means available to bring about conforming behaviour that works for every member.

Fast forward to now and we find even more issues. We have the Euro saga, where a group of most, but not all, members of the EU have a shared currency but no shared interest rates or taxes, which are key parts of keeping a currency stable, and they have helped to bring about much pain and suffering, not to mention antidemocratic regime change, in both Greece and Italy as a result of both countries needing financial aid. We have the freedom of movement in the EU, which means that a theoretical 500 million people could move to the UK and we have no way of stopping them all. There are ways of stopping some, for example people convicted of certain crimes, but if someone from the EU, who has no criminal record, seeks to come to the UK for the purposes of work then we have no way of stopping them. Whilst this in and of itself could be seen as a good thing, indeed there are many statistics that point to the benefits of migration on the UK’s economy, the basic fact about a nation’s economy is that you need to know how much you need to spend on certain areas of the budget. Areas such as housing, the NHS, schools and so on. These are things that people who come to the UK, particularly those who come with families, will require of the UK government, and even with the concessions that David Cameron is claiming from his supposed renegotiation, these only stop financial benefits. We cannot stop migrants using hospitals, GPs, schools and getting accommodation. The more housing is needed, the higher the prices get. For example, the average monthly rent for houses here in Newham is £1,335. That is well over 75% of my monthly income! And whilst the average family income for Newham, as of 2012, is just over the national average, again from 2012, that figure is roughly the same as my income, making the average resident of Newham have less than 25% of their income to spend on food, bills, transport and then luxuries such as a TV, the internet and so on. As a result of prices like this, it is not uncommon (and those words can be taken as typical British understatement!) to find houses full of people who have come to this country to earn a better wage than in their home nation, pay as little as possible on housing and so on and they are able to meet the high rents by squeezing 15 or more into a small 3-bedroom house! This means that rents continue to be high, but wages will remain low (another issue with immigration, as migrants are happy for low-pay work as it is still better than what they could earn at home) and so the general quality of life in the UK deteriorates.

So, we have an organisation that we belong to that doesn’t work. Not only does it not work, but it seems disinclined towards the idea of changing how it does things. It is run by people who are appointed, rather than elected, with the elected MEPs only being able to agree to what the appointed Commissioners decide the EU should do, and as a result of the EU’s rules on migration it leaves the UK incapable of truly controlling it’s own finances as it can never know how much it needs to spend on various services as it never knows how many people are going to come to the UK and use them. The biggest query for me in all of this is, why people think it’s a good idea to stay at all. If something is broken and incapable of being fixed, you get rid of it! Therefore I will be voting to get out of the EU on Thursday, as I see no other way of being in control of the public finances, controlling our own borders, controlling our own laws and regaining our sovereignty as a nation. I know there are potential economic issues ahead if we leave, and I would not be surprised if we suffer in the short term if we do vote to leave, but for me the benefits by far outweigh the losses.

If you want to know more reasons why voting to Leave is a good thing, here are some links:

Brexit The Movie (reasons to leave from a Right-of-centre political point of view)

Lexit The Movie (reasons to leave from a Left-of-centre political point of view)

Brexit: Facts not Fear (a video by Toby Young giving a lot of facts around both the last referendum and the current one)

A blog by Dr David Bull on the reasons why he is voting to Leave

George Osborne says that house prices will go down if we leave the EU, meaning it will be easier for people to buy their first house.

Stuart Rose, chairman of the Remain campaign, says that wages will go up if we leave the EU.


At the end of the day, however, the most important thing is that you go out and vote. Hopefully, if you have gotten this far down the post, you are someone who is either very bored or very likely to vote in the referendum. If you are still undecided, do keep on reading to inform your decision. As many people have pointed out, there is no “status quo” option in this referendum, as a vote to Remain will be seen as a vote in favour of the core aim of the EU, “ever closer union”. If that is something you want then vote to Remain. If not, vote to Leave. Just remember that we will not be staying as we are after Thursday, so your vote is more important than it ever has been.

The Kingdom of God – Tom Wright

20 Oct

What would random passers by say about what Jesus had to say? Most would likely refer to “render unto Caesar…”. It would suggest the idea of keeping church and society separate, letting each other get on with each other, but not affecting the other. But Jesus meant something almost completely opposite to this when He said it. Yet the original Greek could almost be rendered “pay back Caesar what he deserves, and n his own currency”, which also then means that you need to pay God back what He deserves and in His own currency.

When Jesus refers to the Kingdom of God coming He really does mean it is the time for the Kingdom of God to come into actuality. Yet we seem to reread this with a modern dogma, affecting our understanding of it.

Another well known story from the Gospels is the Prodigal Son.in it, Jesus is plugging in to ancient Biblical themes, such as Jacob and Esau. It is also a challenge to us with the fact that it shows that the Kingdom of God is not coming, but present! Jesus’ teaching was not just to teach us about God, but to teach us about who He was and what He was doing at the time!

In the “cleansing of the Temple”, Jesus is not just cleaning out those that shouldn’t be there, He is harking back to Exodus and the Passover and all that that was symbolising, of Israel being called out of Egypt to go and worship God. It was a cry declaring a new end to exile, to send His people out into the world, to worship God there.

Jesus was not teaching a new religion, nor how people can get to Heaven when they die. Nor was he launching a new protest movement, or offering a new at to message to be taken into or our thinking. He was instead bringing us a message of a new theocracy, of God’s rule on earth via the Cross. And yet the Western world has created its own thinking about how God and the World interrelate, having the world getting on with its own thing while Heaven can get on with its own thing. It has taken the message of the Gospel and shrunk it down to just dealing with individual sin. Whilst this is important, it is not all that the Gospel is for.

The Gospels are not giving us a pleasant picture, a moral teacher, or any of the other often suggested ideas about Jesus. They are tacking us about the resurrection, and difference to the world that it makes. It calls us to die to this life, and all that the world tries to lead us in, and instead rise to new life in Christ.

The problem we often have in our reading of Scripture, and the Gospels in particular, is that we are normally only reading a small snippet of them, rather than the wider context of the speaks of money, monarchy and so on, all things that we experience in our world today. We need the larger narrative if we are to understand the Gospel.

“The Hebrew Scriptures offer us a torso, the Gospels offer us a head for that torso”. The Gospel is the culmination of the story of Israel.

The Gospels tell us about how to be fully human.

The Gospels tell us about how God fulfils his promises to His people.

The climax of the story of Israel must be the climax of the clash between God’s kingdom and the empires of the world.

The challenge for the Church is that we can focus on the Kingdom, how we relate to the world, or the Cross, how we can be forgiven. It is rare for them to combine the 2. This is because the Western world has fallen for the Enligtenment and then demythologised the stories of the Bible.

The world has failed to understand how God is in control. When they say “why doesn’t God do something?” They are expecting God to send in the tanks, yet when we see God doing something is is with the qualities that Jesus talks about in the Sermon on the Mount.

The world sees us as needing to be meek and mild and quiet. Yet we are called to speak truth to power. And when we do we are often confronted with anger that we have done so.

Jesus seeks to find us and meet us where we are and then calls us to follow Him from there. We see that in  how He responds to Peter when He reinstates him, when He meets Mary in the garden and Thomas in his doubting.

Comments during Questions:

The parables are not just what we read. Stories like the Prodigal Son are left on “cliffhanger so” whip th no true conclusion, in order to get people thinking and engaging with the story

In our society we do not tend to think that adult Christian education is important. We need to bring in the reading of Scripture in chunks, having people read an entire book in 1 go to the congregation.

If the Church wants to bridge the gap with society it needs to be involved in its community and become self-authenticating.

In the last 200 years the Church seems to have forgotten that the is such a thing as Christian political theology.

We do Easter and Holy Week quite wrong. If Lent is to last 6 weeks then Easter should last up until the Ascension!

Psalm 72 – the people that matter the most are the people at the bottom of the pile – The Church, and bishops as its leaders and representatives to the world, is called to speak up for those to people and positions of power.

Chelmsford Anglican Bible Conference 2015 #CABC15

17 Oct

Back again with a sort of live blog from the day at Chelmsford Central Baptist Church.
This year’s theme is “Colossians: The Uniqueness of Christ” with Pete Sanlon leading our sessions.

Session 1 – Christ’s Supremacy and the Race before us

Colossians 1:1-23

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 

To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are told that Hugh Latimer once declare that the hardest working bishop in the Church is Satan. He meant that the World has a message, one that is in constant conflict with the truth of who Jesus is. It always tries to downplay who Jesus is, but Paul is always clear that Christ is supreme.

We are reminded of the fallacy that people often bring up, that Paul invented Christianity. A book by David Wenham, “Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity”, which counters and discredits that argument, but it it is an idea that continues to come up.

Pauls message is all about telling people about Jesus, who Jesus is and what He has done.

In v 3-14 Paul writes about prayer for the race that Christians run for the Colossians, how to start the race and how to continue on in the race.

Paul says that we need to be praying for those who run the race. That we support fellow Chistians in their walk of faith in prayer. In a world where people often decide to download sermons, rather than go to church, in doing this they remove themselves from the sphere of prayers in the Church. We need to look after those that are starting the journey, but make sure we continue to pray for and support them as the continue. So often Chistians can find themselves attending church, being a part of their church life and worship, yet when something relating to their family or social life challenges their theology, they can find they are led astray, either in what they believe or from Church itself. We need to pray for people at all stages of the race, start, beginning and end.

In v 15-23 Paul looks at Christ’s supremacy and how it relates to the world and the Church. It shows that we need to remember that Jesus is in control. Not just in control by being able to choose when things happen, but in control of every atom and molecule. “In Him all things were created” tells us that He created everything, alongside the Father. While Christ uses others to do certain things, such as ministers, preachers etc, but He remains in control. The world is always trying to tell us that Jesus is not in control, but we need to hold on to the fact that Jesus Is supreme.

Session 2 – Christ’s Supremacy and the Work to be doneColossians 1:15-2:5

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.

For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 

Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

Peter, reflecting on some words of St Anselm, points out that no matter how amazing we think God is, He is moreso.

In Christ we find the fullness of God is present, not where the world thinks to see it, but in the baby in a manager, in the house of sinners and on the Cross. And it is through this recognition of Christ as God that we see  differ from other faiths. We pray to Christ as God, not seeing Him as a prophet or a good teacher.

And, because He is God, His death has cosmic significance. And because He is God, His death is able to bring reconciliation beaten Man and God. And, as God, He is the one whose power is turned to the task of sharing the Gospel, our job is to allow Him to do that and join in where He leads us.

Paul talks about the work he is involved in, sharing his ministry with his readers to show how Christ is supreme in all he does. This is a regular theme for Paul, always changing what he talks about to refer to the theme of the letter at hand.

We are called to exalt suffering. Not ours, however, but Christ’s. “Christ in me, the King of Glory” – the response is always pointing to Christ, not ourselves.

Paul seeks to move us from a knowledge of Christ as supreme to an experience of Christ as supreme.

Session 3 – Christ’s Supremacy and dangers ahead

Colossians 2:6-23

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. 

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Do we really know what is driving us in our ministry’s? It should be Christ, but is it always the case form used?

When we grow we should grow into Christ, rather than away from Him.

The problem with being deceived by the world is that we don’t know we are being deceived! This is why Paul reminds his readers about all that Jesus has done.

Paul also points out that any reliance on traditions of religiosity is false. They can do nothing for us, as Christ has already done all that can be done. Equally, we need to be aware of ourselves, so we don’t get caught up in super spirituality. It can lead to us being disconnected from Christ.

 Session 4 – Christ’s Supremacy and driving lessons

Colossians 3:1-4:18

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. 

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 

Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. 

Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. 

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 

Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here. 

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, with Mark the cousin of Barnabas (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me. 

Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis. Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.

Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” 

This salutation by my own hand—Paul. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.

The supremacy of Christ must change us if it really matters to us.

Change means death. A death of our earthly nature, the sins of the appetite.

When we teach the Bible, we can be prone to the attitude of wanting to be right, which can lead to us responding in anger when people say something that we believe to be wrong. Yet Paul has said that this is something that we are to put behind us, for it is not a godly way to be. If we open ourselves to Christ and His supremacy, these things that we have previously been enslaved to are put to death as we turn our focus to Christ’s ways.

We must clothe ourselves in the new clothes that Christ gives us.



You can tell there’s an election coming when everyone wants to talk about politics!

17 Apr

When your vicar uses the words “I don’t want to get political but…” in at least 2 Holy Week/Easter services, as well as at least 1 Bible study, you know that politics is something that most people are thinking about, to some degree at least.

Some people, like me, will have been paying attention to the political stories without stopping. But others will have only just switched on, now that there is just under 3 weeks to go until the General Election. And then there are those who “live” politics, that is to say either the politicians (the clue is in the name) or the political journalists (again, clue in the name!), who are now reaching fever pitch in their statements, reporting and other general political stuff.

The funny thing about this election is that it is so heavily impacted by the result of (and the resulting 5 years after) the last election. In the past it has been either about ideologies being put in front of the country, or it has been about personalities and who is fit to govern. Now, you might think that this isn’t funny at all, after all people will be judging the government of the last parliament on their performance and then voting according to whether they want more of the same or a change. But hopefully, as you read on, you will understand what I mean.

Another thing that has come to fruition, after growing during the years of both John Major and Tony Blair (and Gordon Brown, if you want to include his short time as something other than the remnants of New Labour), is a completely tribal political devotion with what can very often appear to a complete lack of engagement with the actual details of what is being said. And whilst I know that it has been on all sides, it does appear to be particularly on the side of the Left that this happens the most. But, before you decide that you don’t want to read any further, I will look to address this in detail in a bit.

The final thing I want to raise is the issue of no issues. If you have a look at the majority of the main parties (and I include all the parties represented in the debate that David Cameron took part in under that banner) there is very little between them. The one exception would be UKIP, but even they stick to some of the central themes as though they are an essential mantra to show that you are serious about getting elected. And these political themes are getting fewer and fewer as it appears that the parties simply accept the status quo rather than suggest that an alternative way forward is possible. Again, I will come to this later.

Ok, so here are my issues, in detail, with the election:

1 – I hate safe seats!

As some of you are probably well aware, I am a right of centre person, politically (I am not going to say who I will be voting for on here, even if some of what I say here may make you think it is obvious, but you are welcome to ask me if you see me and we can have a discussion on the matter). I am currently in the constituency that is represented by Lyn Brown. It is a safe Labour seat, probably one of the safest in the country. And because of this, so far, I have only received 1 interaction from any political party since parliament was dissolved (it may even have been a little while before). It was a postal flyer from the Labour party, asking me to support Lyn Brown get re-elected. I have heard nothing from any other parties, nor have I been doorstepped by any parties to ask me how I am voting. It feels like I am being completely ignored because there is no fear that Labour will lose this seat, as though Labour (and therefore Lyn Brown herself) are taking it for granted that she will be returned to Westminster. I have only had 1 contact with Lyn Brown in my nearly 4 and a half years living in the constituency, which was at my own initiation when I tried to seek her support in trying to raise funds for our church community charity through being sponsored to cut my hair. All that happened was 1 tweet (and maybe she sent it around in an e-mail once, not that I have seen anything to suggest this to be the case), after I was told that she would be delighted to support me. Not that I am seeking to embarrass her into donating, but she didn’t donate either, despite receiving the web address for online donations. So it feels almost as though this constituency means nothing to any of the candidates. Lyn Brown expects to get voted in and the rest don’t expect to get many votes and so aren’t wanting to put much effort into trying to increase their votes. And so the local constituents (such as myself) are left pretty much disjointed from the political process, even though it is all that the various news channels and programmes seem to want to talk about. Safe seats mean that people are possibly more inclined to disengage with the process, rather than become involved. Personally I would love any of the candidates to come knocking so that I could invite them in and ask them questions about their party’s policies and so on, but sadly I don’t see this happening any time soon.

2 – This election is nothing to do with party politics and everything to do with who did what, politically speaking, and who might do what in the event of a hung parliament!

Don’t believe me? Just look at what has happened to the Lib-Dem vote and what people say about them! It is all about “They sided with the Tories”, “How could you, we thought you would side with Labour” and “You screwed the students!”, rather than looking both at what they have accomplished in government (because almost certainly there have been policies put in place that would not have happened under a Conservative majority) and what they say they want to see happen in the future. People are saying that the Lib-Dems lied in the past (i.e. the things that they said in the run up to 2010) and so why should they be trusted now. Labour have even tried to twist the knife, suggesting that the only way that they would accept the Lib-Dems in a coalition would be if Nick Clegg were to stand down as leader, echoing suggestions that this was what he said about Gordon Brown if they were to have supported Labour in a coalition in 2010. They didn’t say this because it was the right way to approach the matter, Labour said it because they wanted to get back at Clegg for what is perceived by many in the Labour top ranks (many of them supportive of Brown) as a slight that led to Gordon Brown leaving more or less in ignominy and before he should have 5 years ago. It doesn’t matter that the Lib-Dems were much the smaller party (therefore unlikely to get a huge amount of their policies through), nor that Labour were not the largest party in Westminster (thus making Clegg’s statement that he would look to deal with the largest party in the event of a hung parliament forced to start talks with the Conservatives, simply as a matter of honour), nor that the idea of a “progressive rainbow coalition” was completely unworkable (as in like herding cats!). All people seem to want to do is either declare “We will not help the Tories back into Number 10” or “Don’t let them help the Tories back into Number 10”, rather than actually deal with the issues of policy. And the real killer is that because this has been rammed down so many throats for so long there are many who now follow this mentality and don’t engage with reality, only the false bitterness of the past.

3 – There are a lot of arguments, but very little real substance behind them!

The arguments are there for all to see, declaring who will give the NHS the most money, who will be nicest/harshest to immigrants, who will be firm with the EU, who will support industry, who will create jobs, who will support education, and so on. But there is so little substance behind these arguments that it is almost meaningless. For example, all parties have declared that the NHS is a top priority for financial support if they were to be in power. They all say how the other parties are not fully costed in their pledges and they all say that theirs IS costed. But none that I have seen have been able to actually point to this being the case. Even when people do try they end up talking in such a way as to be completely incomprehensible to most of the electorate, either by going into too much detail or by appearing to pick “facts” out of thin air. Now, I will agree that there are some areas where there are very clear differences that can be explained fairly easily. UKIP, for example, are very clear in their intentions towards Britain’s place in the EU. However, as soon as this is brought up we get into the area of immigration and this then leads into a slanging match about who is being the more racist when certain parties suggest being “firm” with immigrants and immigration (not that this is possible due to the EU treaties that protect the freedom of movement of citizens of member states) and it becomes, in the end, a case of who can come across as the more appealing to the people watching as they seek to reprimand UKIP for their point of view. And here lies a huge issue for politics at the moment. You are perfectly ok to be a political party that espouses the accepted ideals within the ever smaller “mainstream” range of views, but as soon as you express a view that does not sit within them then woe betide you. With immigration it means that unless you are welcoming of immigrants and value their contributions you will be shouted down at any and every opportunity, rather than being allowed to express a point of view and then have the argument in a civil and productive manner. Even some of the most civil people (seemingly at least) become unbearable “liberal fascists” when an issue like this comes up. The NHS is another one, for woe betide you if you were to suggest that another way of doing things might be better! The same goes for education as well. Suggest something as a genuine alternative (as opposed to a rehashing of the current system) and you are not allowed to talk except under fear of verbal, and sometimes even physical, assault. Just look at how Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage were been treated last month! It’s not as though this election is the first time that it has happened (remember John Prescott‘s “engagement” with the public?), but it does seem that it is happening a heck of a lot more now than it ever has done in recent times. And I think that this refusal to engage with a voice that is significantly different has stifled political discourse. Ever since Labour and the Conservatives decided to “fight over the middle ground” to win votes, rather than make an ideological stand for things that they believe in, we have had a lot less to choose from and a lot less chances to talk about anything else. And to top it all off, the people who are in the positions of power are the ones that pretty much encourage the negative reactions to different ideologies. For example, as soon as UKIP mention immigration (I use this as an example as it is probably the most covered issue and one that I have looked into the most) everyone kicks up a fuss about them being racist. Whether it is BBC programming (ever seen Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You or listened to The Now Show?), on other channels or on the internet, it is a regular refrain of equating UKIP and Nigel Farage with the Nazis and Hitler, rather than listening to what is being said. If they actually read and listened to what UKIP say on the subject, they would know that UKIP said that 30 million Bulgarians and Romanians COULD come over to the UK. Not that they would, but that they could. And, when they became fully fledged members of the EU, complete with freedom of movement, that was correct. The fact that they didn’t doesn’t make UKIP incorrect, but from what you hear about it, particularly in “comedy”, you’d think that this was a glaringly obvious “fact”. They would also know that UKIP are not against immigration, but are in favour of being able to control it, something that freedom of movement prevents. They are also not looking to kick out any and every immigrant, despite what comedians and many politicians and reporters would have you believe. They have said that they would seek to remove those who are not a positive influence upon the UK, which is surely nothing like the comedy line that they are seeking to return Britain to an Anglo-Saxon nation. Of course, it gets laughs, and this means that it will be repeated again and again, to the point that many of the general public will repeat it as fact, even though it is nothing of the kind! If only people would actually read and listen, rather than reacting based on misinformation! (And I mean this about all areas, not just the UKIP-immigration issue!)

4 – Issues!

Why does politics nearly always have to resort to slanging off? Give a politician a platform and very quickly it is no longer about what they plan on doing and all about how the others are a waste of space! Sometimes this is merited, the state of the UK finances after the last Labour government springs to mind, but I would much rather hear about how you plan on making things different. David Cameron has proven himself to be a master of avoiding answering difficult questions, much to the annoyance of many, but Ed Miliband has shown himself to be little better as all he has wanted to do is say “It’s the nasty party again” and various other attempts to put the Conservatives down, rather than suggesting ways to make things better. When challenged on this he has often said “It’s not my position to answer questions at Prime Minister’s Questions” but surely, for someone who declares to be for “the new politics”, a much better way to do things (and one that someone with such a low personal rating would surely do well with) would be to suggest serious ways to do things better. And who knows, maybe Cameron and Clegg et al might have listened and done what was suggested, thus potentially making things better for the nation. But, it would appear that political point scoring is much more rewarding than making the nation a better place for it’s inhabitants. So a pox on all 3 “major” party houses on this!


Ok, so having moaned about pretty much everything I started saying I would (I feel like I may have missed something out, but if so then I blame the drugs I am taking for my back at the moment!), so how about what we might want to be looking for in our MPs and what might we want to ask about if we have the chance to engage with candidates?

Well, unsurprisingly given who I am, my thoughts come from a Christian perspective. That doesn’t mean that all Christians will agree with them, but I want to be clear that my conclusions are formed from a logical progression from Biblical principles.

1 – Whatever else, how the government does thing should be both affordable and sustainable

This may seem obvious to some, but it definitely isn’t to a lot of people, particularly politicians! All you have to do is look at Labour’s promises in 2010, the Conservative promises of this election, or pretty much any other party’s manifesto to see that there appears to be a thought process that includes the ideas that money simply appears out of thin air and that getting into bigger and bigger debt is not a problem. To use a computer game/app as an example of how things SHOULD be done, let me talk about Sim City. For those that don’t know, the idea of the game is to build your city as big as possible. The problem is that you can only expand certain aspects in certain ways. So your storage facility for materials (which you are able to create for free, just over time) can be increased in size, but you need certain materials to do this. You also have a limited amount of space to build your city at first, but can increase that space (within game limitations), again by spending certain resources. Each time you build something it either costs materials (particularly increasing your residential areas) or in-game money (Simoleans). Therefore the setting of the game is that if you want to need to take your time, craft your materials and await for certain other materials to “drop” (this means repeating a particular action that has an irregular rate of producing said materials) in order to progress in the game. The only way that you are able to progress quicker than this is to spend real life money on things in the game to make them happen faster. The problem is that if you want these things to continue to happen quickly you will end up spending more and more real money, when actually, if you just waited and played the game properly, you would get to the same position in the end and not spend as much money. If you don’t have the money (either Simoleans or real money) then you can’t get things and have to wait to raise the [in-game] money to build something. To return to politics now, a lot of politicians seem to think that you can continue to spend the equivalent of real life money (as related to the game) to get stuff done quicker, thus building up a debt, without then thinking of how they are going to pay down said debt. This means that we end up spending millions and billions of tax payers money on paying off debt, rather than on actual stuff like doctors, teachers and so on. This has been the idea behind that much despised word, austerity. You reduce how much the government is spending and pay off the debt owed, so that you can then start spending just on things for the country, rather than to the countries that we owe money to (and remember that all we seem to be paying off at the moment is the interest on the debt, rather than the debt itself, so it’s not like the cuts that have been moaned about over the last 5 years have actually done what they were supposed to do)! The Bible talks about being responsible with what we have, so surely a key aspect of policy for any government, for a Christian, would be to be financially responsible. That way, when we are financially stable and self-sufficient, we are able to be sure about how much money we actually have to spend and be able to accurately say where the money will go.

2 – Fairness for all

Before I go any further, please note that I said fairness, not equality. Not because real equality isn’t good, but because the term has become anything other than fair in today’s political landscape. As H G Wells once wrote, some people really are more equal than others! But fairness, I think, encapsulates the way that equality should work. So that means offering the same chances to those at the “bottom” of the ladder as well as those at the top (and, obviously, for those in between as well!) to be able to succeed. In some cases that might mean that those better off be asked to pay extra to help those not as well off, in other cases it is simply about opportunities being offered on merit. The Bible talks about treating people fairly (ok, so I used the term equality, but you get what I am saying), so surely a Christian should be seeking a representative who will treat people fairly. Sadly there have been more than a few examples of Christians being treated unfairly under the law in relation to expression of faith, and I would hope that whoever is in power after the election would see that as an important area, not just about the Christian faith but for people of any faith and those of none as well.

3 – Good treatment of the poor

Jesus commented that we will always have “the poor” among us but also showed how to treat them. One area that this last government has definitely done a good thing has been removing the first £10,000 anyone earns from tax, helping millions of those who were in low earning jobs to have more money to spend for their families. Something that Labour (and Gordon Brown in particular) did really good work on was gift aid, which is still seeing huge benefits for charities in what they are able to claim back from government to help their work with the less advantaged. There are many other areas, such as benefit payments and housing, where there are huge disagreements on what is the best way forwards, so I will not even try and talk to them, but I would suggest that the motives behind any policy should surely be the key to how we should respond.

4 – How to treat the rest of the world

I would look to the basic idea that comes from the parable of The Good Samaritan, the idea of doing to others as you would like them to do to you and caring for your neighbour, whoever they might be. That includes foreign financial aid where it is needed and taking refugees from areas of the world that are in need of such help, such as the situation in Syria and Iraq. We all know that we would like to be helped if we were in such a situation, so we should be looking to do the same when we are in a position to be able to.

For me, the key to all of this is that all 4 points cannot contradict themselves. This is particularly the case with point 1, because if we start to do something that is unsustainable then it means that eventually we won’t be able to afford to do it anymore. So I would encourage any conversations that you have to be focussed on these 4 points, but point 1 in particular. We all want this country to do well, both for those living here and for those we seek to be neighbours to in the rest of the world, but if we are unable to maintain them then what point is there in doing them at all? To do so means to eventually stop, which means having to treat 1 group of people less fairly than another.


Anyway, that’s my political pontificating done. Hopefully it has caused some thinking, maybe even some rethinking. I am guessing that some of you who have made it this far will probably not have rethought on certain things and will have less than positive comments on certain things that I have said, which is fair enough given that I am simply putting my thoughts out there in the hope of creating a conversation. All I would ask is that if you do want to actively join the discussion then please try and make your involvement worth responding to. As Brooks Atkinson said “The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.” Let’s all be open-minded and deal with the details, rather than the hot air and bluster.

Breathing Space 2015 – #BSpace15 Session 5

5 Mar

And so we come to our final session, again led by Susie Mapledoram.

This session’s theme is need.

Returning to Mark 5:21-43 we see Jesus recognising the needs of others. Jesus recognises the need of the bleeding woman, that she needs healing of the bleeding. When Jesus meets this need her life changes completely. And Jesus also meets the need of Jairus, that his daughter needs to be made well. When Jesus heals his daughter, his life (and the lives of his whole family) changes forever.

Both needs are not negative, they are needs that will be life-changing.

Psalm 73:21-26

21 Thus my heart was grieved,

And I was vexed in my mind. 

22 I was so foolish and ignorant;

I was like a beast before You. 

23 Nevertheless I am continually with You;

You hold me by my right hand. 

24 You will guide me with Your counsel,

And afterward receive me to glory.

25   Whom have I in heaven but You?

And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 

26 My flesh and my heart fail;

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

God is present and God is enough, no matter where we are and what we are doing.

Susie finishes by playing this video.

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