Latest Blogs…

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This site has unfortunately been neglected for a long while, as I’ve been focusing on moving house, various teaching and support roles, and family events and concerns.

In the meantime, please check out a couple of blogs from me that have been published at Premier Christianity’s site over the last year or so.

Firstly, a comment piece on Fiona Onasanya, MP for Peterborough, recently found guilty of perverting the course of justice:

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/The-disgraced-MP-found-guilty-of-lying-is-comparing-herself-to-Jesus.-And-Christians-are-angry

This next post takes a look at church leadership and the value of diversity:

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/All-our-church-leaders-look-the-same.-But-God-values-diversity-and-we-should-too

And this post looks at the emergence of Christians embracing doubt in the church:

https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Rachel-Held-Evans-has-helped-many-voice-their-questions-but-embracing-doubt-is-not-healthy

Finally, here’s a link to a feature article that mentions one of my former blog posts on this site, looking at the topic of happiness:

https://www.premier.org.uk/Topics/Life/Health/The-Pursuit-of-Happiness

 

 

 

Hanging Out With The Smokers/ FaithWalk

Photo Credit: Julie Bocchino/ Creative Commons

A sea of faces surrounded me after the church service. I scanned the room but somehow felt disconnected. Everyone seemed caught up in conversations or huddles. I wasn’t in the mood to try and be sociable or welcome the newcomers. So I withdrew from the hub of activity and chatter and headed outside.

Although it was a bitterly cold winter’s day, the sun shone brilliantly, casting warmth, light and shadows around the walls of the building. Leaning against the sand coloured bricks, I enjoyed the sun’s rays and the solitude for a few moments. After a while a couple of others came to join me. But they were there for a different purpose…to light up and enjoy a smoke. Then came another. One rolled her own cigarette, the others drew theirs from a packet.

We started up a conversation; it was laid back and I realised how little I knew of these people who sat a few rows away from me minutes earlier.

I don’t normally chat to these individuals, perhaps giving only a cursory glance and a polite ‘hello’ upon passing by over coffee. They have different styles and backgrounds to me, we probably don’t have much in common – though a couple of them also have kids.

One chap in a wheelchair explained how he’d arrived a bit late and missed coffee. But he wasn’t moaning, he was smiling about his mistake of setting off too late. I had also missed my cuppa, but wasn’t too pleased about it.

Another woman mentioned someone we knew who’s rather marginalised and looks a bit of a sorry state most of the time. I discovered that she had invited him for Christmas dinner upon finding out that he would be all alone. This from a woman with a young family and who is obviously not well off. I was humbled. She had been Christ-like in opening her home to a lonely, difficult  person; I didn’t really want the hassle of even considering something like that.

One of my sons also came outside to join me. He was fed up and wanted to go home. He often finds church boring. But he observed these smokers and listened to the conversation. The guy in the wheelchair asked him about gaming and his iPod touch. My son’s face lit up, pleased that some interest was shown in him.

These people I hung out with do not have easy lives or much money. Yes, they were wasting some on cigarettes, but maybe I’m a bit profligate when it comes to wine or shoes at times. Some could perhaps have been described as typical working class or on the sidelines. They hadn’t reached a high level of education or attained notable status in the community or church. But somehow they inspired me and somehow I learned from them. I enjoyed their company, their smiles and acceptance. I didn’t have to be anything other than me.

It reminded me that it’s good to be broadminded and get to know those from different communities or groups to the one you’re settled in. In those few short minutes outside among some wafts of cigarette smoke, I experienced true Christian fellowship – all divisive barriers down, everyone an equal child of God. And I found it quite refreshing. It’s encouraged me to seek opportunities to be on the edge, to gain a different perspective and to learn from others in unsuspecting places. Having just heard a gripping talk on issues of social justice it seemed quite an appropriate lesson to learn.

Customize my faith: Examining our tendency to work our faith around our lifestyle

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

In this world of ever increasing choices, whether the style of our Twitter background to the style of our jeans, we have all grown accustomed to making the choices that best suit us and our needs or preferences. What began as quite a good idea, to be able to select products and services that are ideally tailored to our wants, has culminated in a lifestyle trend that dominates most aspects of our daily routine – at times with negative consequences.

Not sure about the hundred or so blue shades of paint available on the shelf in the DIY store? No problem! Bring in an item from home in the colour you’d like and they will mix it up just how you want. I’ll admit to having done that!

Not happy with the menu selection at your favourite restaurant? Never mind, they’ll happily alter it to your preference. We’re able to make minuscule adaptations to the settings on our smartphones and computers. Everyone’s desktop is arranged just the way they like it. We like to be different and do our own thing.

Yet the enormity of choices we face can at times seem to wear us down. Did you know that there are over a hundred different types of toothpaste to choose from on a supermarket shelf? Perhaps that in part explains the increased time it takes to do a weekly family shop! Even internet shopping doesn’t mean that we are free from a bombardment of alternative products via pop up advertising.

The plethora of channels available on cable or satellite TV should ensure that everyone is happy with what’s on offer, right? Uh, sadly wrong. In an attempt to please everyone’s tastes, we’ve discovered that the quality of programming has declined and many of us end up channel surfing, hoping to find something of value to watch. Funny how when there were only four channels, most people were quite pleased with the selection available.

Therein lies the problem. Customization seems to be the obvious way forward, yet people increasingly become overwhelmed by option fatigue. We may even experience stress from the pressure we feel to make the right choice or to keep up with the latest fashion or fads.

Likewise, it’s easy for customization to begin inching its way into our faith. Not happy with a few things in the Old Testament? Write them off as poetic imagery or nonsense. Don’t like what Jesus had to say about hell? Never mind – delete those parts. Don’t really agree with the things your pastor teaches about relationships? Oh well, they don’t seem to apply in your unique case!

New churches and doctrines are springing up everywhere, often fuelled by a desire from people to create a style of service and a set of beliefs that suits them just so. But the result of making church and faith to suit me is the loss of unity, and ultimately the loss of faith altogether. Discard so many verses from the Bible and you’re soon left with an inconsistent or shallow faith that doesn’t hold together. In his blog, American speaker, Jeff Bethke speaks of the “lethargic, apathetic, and consumer based Christianity that’s plaguing our nation right now.” (Italics mine)

Instead of finding areas which unite us, individuals are frequently caught up in pursuit of formulating a faith that will fit in with their own pre-conceived ideas, beliefs and wants. People are fickle, often visiting a church only once before hearing something they didn’t  like and dismissing it. Maybe it didn’t quite tick all the right boxes.

Significant numbers of previously committed members are leaving church altogether, happy to live their Christian life outside the confines of any church involvement. That way they can customize their faith exactly the way they want. Sadly, in an attempt to find spiritual utopia, many end up abandoning their faith altogether.

The challenge should not be how I can find a church and beliefs to suit me, but rather how I can adapt my life to revolve around Christ and his precepts. What changes can I make in my daily life to enable me to live out my faith purposefully and how can I centre my life on Christ?

A great quote I came across in my Twitter feed this year, which has taken root in my heart and keeps going round in my head was something like this: We shouldn’t ask Jesus into our lives. Instead He invites us into HIS life…. Wow! For years evangelism has centred on convincing people to ‘invite Jesus’ into their lives. This quote reminded me that we need to keep our focus on Christ and change our lives according to His plans and purposes.

In Christianity, many concepts or principles are often turned upside down and reversed. For instance, the call to love our enemies or to lose our life in order to save it. In a world full of personalisation and customisation, Christianity implores us to lay down our preferences and desires in pursuit of the kingdom of heaven. Am I willing to give up my right to have things my way, just the way I like, in order to see the gospel proclaimed and lives transformed by its power?

You see, customization in design or in media is all about me. Faith in Christ is all about Him, turning my choices upside down and around for his sake. What would it be like if every Christian lived this way? I’m sure it would impact our culture enormously, as well as unite us as a community of believers.

Just arrived in my email inbox – a message from WordPress about how to better customize my blog…