Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Christian, A Rabbi And An Atheist Walk Into A.........(add your own punchline)

They actually walked into a radio studio and debated the Old Testament on Justin Brierly's Unbelievable show on Premier radio. 

The radio show came hot on the heels of the premier of The Bible tv series currently being aired on channel 5.

Rabbi Josh Levy, Christian lecturer Chris Sinkinson and an atheist you may well have heard of, Richard Dawkins were discussing the rights and wrongs of the Old Testament stories, including Abrahams near sacrifice of Isaac and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorah.

Most surprising for me was that Dawkins very much encouraged the reading of the Bible - albeit as a wonderful work of literature not a historical document; a lot of his atheist contemporaries are very much against any form of Bible teaching/RE lessons within schools, yet it was at school where Richard came to the Old Testamant which as a work of literature he enjoys.  So there you have it, Richard Dawkins encourages the reading of the Bible.

If you have been watching the tv series as I have, this radio show was a helpful addition to further unpack some of the more difficult passages that Christians and non Christians alike find unpleasant, I found particularly helpful Chris' observation that in the OT times they were only just getting to know God and the sort of God he was and what he wanted for them and from them.

I can also recommend Chris' book Time Travel To The Old Testament, it is written in such an easy to understand way, that the intellect with which it is written doesn't overwhelm you and the historical and archaeological facts don't bore you, moreover it makes you want to pick up your Bible and go travelling yourself with God and his people!

Did you listen to the Unbelievable show? Are you watching The Bible? What do you think about it? I enjoyed episode 2 more, it is growing on me! I think I may buy the dvd set as I still can't stand all the ad breaks and that ridiculous sponsor puppet Buck Denver!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas Giving

Ah, Christmas.....the annual switching on of the town lights, a new Christmas release at the cinema, the shopping for gifts and food, the collection for the teacher......I'm sorry, what? Yes, the termly collection for the teacher, you know, the one that gets done at Easter and Summer and of course now Christmas.

Now, I'm a bit of a grump when it comes to Christmas, I be-grudge buying gifts for people I don't ever see and haven't a clue what their interests are, which is why gift buying for nieces and nephews stops when they hit 18, tough isn't it? And as for cards what a waste of money and paper they are; while wishing someone you see regularly a 'Merry Christmas', you hand them a card that wishes them a 'Merry Christmas'.  And someone you don't ever see from one year to the next and may probably have even died years ago, you post one to! Why?

But the one thing I really dislike when it comes to Christmas, is the annual email that comes round asking for contributions of a fiver towards a gift for the teacher! Multiply that by a class of 30 and you're looking at £150! Yes, teachers are overworked and underpaid, but aren't most people? Especially the volunteers; in fact the people that run the Brownies/Cubs, toddler groups, Sunday schools, etc. all do it voluntarily, in their own time, for our children and never once have I as a parent been asked to make a contribution towards their Christmas gift!

And as Christmas is about giving, whether it's splashing out ridiculously and going to into the red, because you can't bear to see your child have a tantrum because they didn't get the latest iphone, or inviting family or friends around for Christmas dinner, or giving your Son as the Saviour of mankind to the world, maybe this year if you haven't before, think about giving to someone who isn't expecting it, especially someone who already gives to you by way of volunteering.

And as for the teachers gift? Hand in your homework on time, will probably be the nicest surprise they'll get all year!

Do you have a Christmas collection that gets your goat?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Bible Leaves Me Dissapointed

I have opened up the broken laptop in order to post, having not done so in a few months I really wanted to be able to give my thoughts on the much anticipated tv series to come over from America. The Bible. 

So while my laptop dies and whirs away in the background, so for me did the tv drama.

I am not reviewing the sponsorship, but what on earth were they thinking? Do Christians not already have a hard enough time showing others that actually they can be intelligent people, who are able to run a perfectly normal life and yes, believe in an almighty God in Heaven, a man in the sky if you will, without then having to sit through dozens of ad breaks while some patronising puppet asks kids 'what's in the Bible?'......Honestly atheists, this isn't a made up kids story we believe in.

I was hoping this drama would be one that would be very watchable for Christians and non Christians alike; apparently in the US it went down a storm with many people becoming Christians after watching it, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church in South California did 3000 baptisms as a result of the show!

The opening scene with Noah telling his children the story of creation as the Ark rocked to and fro was a good idea, after all how are they going to fit the Bible into 10 hours? But almost immediately it felt like a students short film as Noah narrated and clips of wilderbeast and birds and whales appeared as if cut and pasted into the production from a David Attenborough documentary.

We then move swiftly on to Abraham, and it's at this point I start to feel disappointed in the programme, while at the same time enjoying it?! I love the stories and was keen to see how they would be translated to television in 2013, trouble is it felt very 70's to me, the characters were lacking, well, character! It was around this point about 15 minutes in that I thought, if I wasn't a Christian there's no way I would still be watching this, it became boring and slow, not unlike some sermons I have sat through, where you cringe thinking I hope if there's a visitor to church today they understand it's not always like this.

Skipping straight past Joseph? (According to some tweeters he was busy doing a song and dance somewhere) We move to Moses in Egypt and I really start to feel I've seen it all before, which I guess if you're making a show of a film that's been made more than once, from the best selling book of all time that you don't want to deviate from, you will have seen it all before! So what was I expecting? How do you produce a modern tv show of the Bible while keeping true to it's word?

I don't know, but the BBC do - they got it spot on only a few years back with both  The Passion and The Nativity.

Will I be tuning in next week? Absolutely! I just may not watch it on Saturday night prime time viewing! Maybe Monday morning when I'm doing the ironing!

Did you watch it? Are you Christian or not? As always the book's better than the film!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Blessed By The Foodbank

Our town recently opened a foodbank, and when it was in it's planning stages my bff arranged to meet me and I found myself shanghaied and attending the first meeting, it didn't quite turn out to be the coffee date I had imagined, the twenty plus other people who had joined us, all over 50, (I'm being polite) were kind of cramping my style, what on earth had she got me into now? Of course I had heard the requests for volunteers etc at church, but I knew I was way to busy to be able to give my time to that!

Now we are up and running and I am very much on the 'rota' for collecting, boxing, bagging and dating preserved food. (I'm sure I read a blog once that gave tips on getting yourself off a church rota - gonna have to look that one up again.)

The foodbank scheme was established in the UK by the Trussell Trust to help people who face sudden and short term hunger due to benefit change or stoppage, immediate job loss, family break up etc.

I live in a middle class town, with excellent schools and desirable housing, of course there are the streets that you would rather not live in, I mean, some of them don't even have their own driveways, but there aren't pockets of squalor, with the unemployed or homeless hanging around outside the bookies. So I think a fair few people were quite surprised when the need for a food bank was seen, surely not here in the fourth most desirable town in the country to live in? (according to The Times or whichever paper it was did the survey earlier in the year!)

But, we have been running since June, and every week we have fed families, couples, singles, all of whom are overwhelmed by the giving of food, and the release it has given them of the burden of feeding themselves for the next few days, of course there shouldn't be a need in the UK, but there is.  

People are going without food in order to feed their children, missing appointments because they can't afford to get to the hospital, stealing food to avoid starvation, keeping their children off school because of embarrassment of being unable to provide a lunch - all this in 'Great Britain'.

I read a criticism of the foodbanks recently which said "Churches should be offering 'spiritual food'".

Jesus wasn't only 'spiritual' he was practical, he was human, if he saw a need he met it, and as his followers we are to do the same, to 'be Jesus' to those who need it, whatever that need may be. And when the day comes and we stand before him on his throne he will say to us, " whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me". Matthew 25:40.

Most of the things I've ended up doing at church have sort of just happened accidentally, someone has asked if I'm available or if I fancy doing it, or in the case of my friend and the foodbank, she just told me to turn up! I have to say, I think God has put me in the roles I volunteer in because of this reason, those promptings from other people have led me to take part in things I just wouldn't have considered before, and I know all of it is to bless others, but you know, I really enjoy it, and so it blesses me as well!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Woman From Thornbury, She Says Yes!

Haven't put fingers to keyboard for a while, I know everyone is in this boat but when did life get so busy? Or is it not really busy at all and we're dwindling away our days with mundane tasks - ahem, Candy Crush? Level 197 is beating me at the moment!

My mind is taken up a lot of the time at the moment thinking about my first mission trip coming up in about 4 weeks time to Romania. I am amazed that this is something I said yes to, but I know God is behind it, I was restrained for so long and far too insecure to have done anything like this, but once God had set me free I decided I was going to say 'yes' to whatever he asked me to do!

I feel a bit like the man from Del Monte, except obviously I'm not a man and I don't even know where Del Monte is!

This has resulted in me becoming a youth leader for our teenage group, being part of an Open The Book team, volunteering in various roles at church and now heading off on my first mission trip - all things 3 or 4 years ago I would have laughed in the face of anyone suggesting I could do, I mean, I was someone for whom going shopping or to the cinema would bring on a panic attack!

I haven't left the UK for 20 years, when my husband and I had our last pre-kids holiday, so there are many new experiences ahead for me - vaccinations, a 3 am start to catch the flight, a six hour mini-bus ride the other side to get to our accommodation - not to mention the fact that our team leader is very keen for us to learn Hungarian before we get there - I've mastered 'hello' & 'ok' mainly because they are pronounced 'hello' & 'ok'.

I am trusting fully that God will give me strength and energy to get through the immensely busy schedule, in my real life I wipe out around 4pm and have to have a nap, something that I struggle with accepting very much, it makes me feel lazy and like I'm letting my family down and not being a good mum.  I know God is already in control in this area for when I go away, because although I am wondering about how I will cope each day, I am not worrying. I have found before that when I am in a different surrounding and doing different things I can cope without the nap, maybe it's adrenaline that keeps me going or the change of scenery or company......

So, I'm counting down the weeks to the end of August, looking forward to experiencing the way God works on the other side of his world and meeting lots of new brothers and sisters who love the same God as me, and praying that we can introduce lots of children to the God who loves them more than they can imagine or we can tell them!

Are you stepping out into new territory for God? How have you found it? I'd love to know!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

An Eye For An Eye......

This was not like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster movie - this was far worse. The mindless, brutal, evil attack on an innocent soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday has left me feeling quite disturbed.  What I am still trying to comprehend is how people in the streets, could clearly see a man with bloodied hands holding a massive machete, and yet they were able to calmly walk past as if nothing had happened, they were able to film with their mobile phones and one brave woman who has been hailed a hero was even able to have a conversation with the murderer asking him what he was trying to achieve!

If this had been a movie, the bystanders would have been fleeing the scene screaming hysterically and causing chaos as they fled.  I wonder why the people there didn't feel in danger that they might be next in line for attack? Where did they find the courage to view what was unfolding before them and even talk to the terrorists?   It has emerged one lady was a Catholic and her faith gave her that courage.

The attacker boldly and deliberately stood in front a camera to tell the world he swore by almighty Allah, and that this would continue to happen because it's what our soldiers are doing to Muslims in their countries, he said it was an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".
I don't know an awful lot about Islam and what it means to be a Muslim, but I'm thinking right now  it must be pretty hard.  I do not believe for one second that man represented what Muslims want  or believe, any more than Westboro Baptist represent true Christianity!

Jesus spoke to people about the old law:

Matthew 5:38-42
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you".

The law was originally given for the punishment to fit the crime, not to get involved in tit for tat payback retribution. It is not for us to take justice into our own hands, God will be the ultimate judge when every single one of us gives an account of ourselves before Him on the day of judgement 

Romans 14:12

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
When retribution is taken into our own hands and we think it is ok to pay someone back for the hurt they've caused us, it can only cause our world to become more and more dark, not just on the large scale with a individual nutters intent on murderous payback but even in the little things; like the thoughtless comment that we won't let go and insist to ourselves next time we will say something twice as cruel, or the person who carves us up in traffic who we race to the next light determined to overtake, and countless other offences that we become obsessed with taking revenge on every day, this only serves to make us bitter and angry inside and this is not the way God wants us to be, He wants us to be able to love and forgive and let him take care of the misdeeds and injustices.

Imagine how different the world would be, or your town or even your own home, if we learnt to let go of the misdemeanors done against us and take our hurt to God and ask him to give us the strength to forgive.

Colossians 3:12-13

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Here I Am To Worship

I have always been a 'rock n roller' at heart.  In fact, I'm going to a fancy dress party next week where the theme is 'when you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up'........... I'm going as Joe Elliott from Def Leppard............ 
I know, I'm the wrong gender and being Joe Elliott isn't actually possible because Joe Elliott is Joe Elliott.

Growing up I loved listening to Def Leppard, Whitesnake, AC/DC, Led Zeppalin, The Who, yes, the devils music...........if they had tight ripped jeans, leather jackets, screaming guitars and drums I was hooked.

As you can imagine I didn't go a lot on the hymns we used to 'sing' at church accompanied by a spinster in her 70's on the organ!

Spot the mistake? This woman does not have a hat on!

But guitars and drums are the devils music, they can't be played in church - oh really?

Psalm 150:1-6
English Standard Version (ESV)

Let Everything Praise the Lord

150 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens![a]
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Each week in church I have always loved the worship and really felt that is when I am most moved by the Holy Spirit, the words of the modern songs, which some traditional hymn singers frown upon, are very often a re-written Psalm! How can that be unacceptable?

As a child I had a dream, a dream for the future, where man, woman and child would stand and sing 'Happy Day' in church, and they might actually smile while singing it, where a group of musicians might accompany the singing with drums, guitars, keyboards, violins, trumpets, and maybe the frozen chosen would unpeel their arms from their sides, and occasionally clap along with the beat or give God a round of applauds at the end of their worship, where a beautiful, traditional, sentimental hymn, written 500 years ago can be followed by an uplifting modern worship song and give Gods people the strength and belief and hope to carry on and worship him more!

Would this dream ever become a reality? Sadly not as far as I know in any of the churches I attended as a child. No, I would have to cross over to the other side to see this dream realised I would have to become 'happy clappy' that's right, I would have to attend ...........a Baptist Church, dun dun duuuuun.

A few years ago the frustrated musician/performer/rockstar call it what you will, in me, wanted to take my worship to the next level, I wanted to join the worship band. So at the grand old age of 'late 30's' I decided once and for all I was going to learn to play the guitar, I had attempted it on and off teaching myself a few chords and strumming away, but I wanted to have some real tuition, so I called on my mate, whose husband who regularly plays in our worship group and made her an offer she couldn't refuse; lend me your husband for an hour a week and in return I will iron his shirts.

I made my debut in the worship group last Sunday and it couldn't have come at a better time for me.  My week had gone from good to bad to worse and I really thought how can I stand up there and do this? I'm not even talking to God at the moment, is this really the right thing for me to be doing? I talked to my closest friends who are also regulars in the band and they really encouraged me with sound words and good advice, and it turned out it was the right thing for me to do!

Worship is for God, whatever form it takes, but it has to come from the heart.

John 4:24
English Standard Version (ESV)
 "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
If you are in a place where the worship isn't to your liking, don't assume it isn't to God's liking, if someone is waving a flag or dancing or clapping their hands or if the musicians are loud and the kids are running around, just take a moment to think these people are made by God and they are worshiping their God and he loves that, and the same goes for the organ playing spinsters who accompany the folk in their Sunday best, they are worshiping their God and if it is done in spirit and truth he loves them for it.

This is the song we opened with last week My Guardian and I have been singing it to God ever since, I think that is a sign of a good worship when you still sing the songs through the week and continue to worship your Lord.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Cassette Recordings and iPod Downloads

I can remember when I was about 10 years old and went to church every week, there was a very old man who used to regularly tape the services using a very modern cassette recorder. Now, nearly 30 years on (I'm definately not 40 yet!) services in the church I go to and churches all over the world are recorded and available via the internet. I know, who'd have thought in the future I'd still be going to church!

As a child I went to Church every week, 3 times a Sunday with my family. This wasn't a grand Church of England church with stained glass windows, pews and carved memorials in the walls, that might have entertained my wandering mind. 

It was a purpose built, for want of a better word 'hut'. And it wasn't called a Church, it was a Gospel Hall, and we didn't go to 'church' we went to 'the meeting'. So when I refer to going to church, I'm actually talking about a small group of about 30-40 people who all met on a Sunday, at the same times and sat in the same seats to hear the same story, which to me at the time seemed pointless.

I used to look up at the tiles on the ceiling, they were polystyrene with an indented pattern and depending on how I squinted I could make the cubes jump in or out, and if I got particularly bored of that, I would count them and multiply them - I really should be a lot better at maths than I am, given the amount of 'revision' I put in on a Sunday!

But it was the regular recording of the service by Uncle Percy, (who was almost 100 at the time) that I have been thinking about a lot lately. As far as I was concerned, we were sitting through excruciating boredom first time around, why would anyone record this to listen to it again?! His stubby old man fingers, carefully waiting to press record and play simultaneously as the speaker began his message just baffled me, nowadays such recordings are a matter of course, and available for download by whoever wants them.

So nearly 30 years on, I often wonder what surprises me more, that I now regularly go to a church and very much enjoy it, or that I scour the internet looking for services I might've missed, or think I'll find interesting to download to my iPod!

Boy do I wish the internet and iPods had been invented when I was a kid, there was just no discreet way of smuggling a bright red Sony Walkman into a meeting to listen to Thin Lizzy instead of the boring speaker! And if you'd got caught there was no excuse, no quick touch of a screen and 'look, I'm not on facebook, it's my online Bible app! What did you think it would be?'


I'm sure Uncle Percy and the likes of that time would be overwhelmed with the resources available to us today through which to hear Gods word spoken and taught! Here are some of my favourite links:

Unbelievable Radio Show Each week this show pits a believer against a non-believer to discuss topical issues and occasionally has two believers coming from differing angles, always a good show!

Liquid Church An American Church, most sermons by Tim Lucas. Upbeat preaching but always with an excellent message!

Tim Keller is a Theologian who has done some thoughtful series on believing in God and how it makes sense to us.

Reasonable Faith Dr Willaim Lane Craig answers the apologetics questions of the time.

Thornbury Baptist Church Better plug my own Church! Paul Ferguson does most of the services but other favourites to look out for are Dave Day and David Lawrence!

I've been thinking about this because as I said, I love to look online for Bible sermons or commentaries that interest me, if I miss a service at the church I attend and it's a speaker I enjoy, I know I can go onto the website and download the talk, and almost every time I put my earphones in and slide my finger across the screen of my phone, I think of old Uncle Percy and his cassette recordings...........

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Why Pray?

It's often said God gives three answers to prayer - "yes", "no" or "wait".......we seem to be getting the bulk of the "no" answers at the moment and it really does make me think 'why am I even praying?' I thought I'd be really clever and prove my point by specifically not praying and then if what I would've prayed for went the right way - case proved - circumstantial!

Don't misunderstand me and think I am losing my faith, I completely know God is there and loves me and cares about what I need, but I am starting to think what happens to us in this life is very much down to our own control and circumstances, the thing is..........I can't not pray!

I have developed such a relationship that even if the answer is going to be "no" I still find peace in having had the conversation and I know I will look back at this period of time in the future and make sense of the "no's"!

So I still pray, but avoid the specific subject of our want/need at the moment! I know many of my friends are praying for the same thing for us so I leave it in their hands! Pressure!

I have found recently the easiest way for me to pray is to elaborate on the Lord's Prayer something like this:

"Father, you are the one true God,
the only God who deserves all my praise & worship.
I pray that your world will be filled with people who follow you,
& every day your work will be done.
Thank you for all you've provided & continue to provide for me & my family.
Please forgive me for the things I've said & done that've hurt you & others,
help me to think before I act & help me to forgive others who hurt me.
Help me to not be tempted by things that are not good for me
& keep me safe from things that can harm me.
In your son's precious name. Amen"

Why pray? Because Jesus taught us to, and whether we believe it or not and even when it seems like God's not there, He is, and He's listening and it'll all be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it's not the end!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Die Hard, A Story For Lent?

We're half way through Lent now, and I've seen the usual facebook posts and heard from friends who are missing chocolate or caffeine or whatever it is they've given up.

I asked my husband if I should give up tea, to which he replied "no way, it'll be too hard......for me".  It's true I don't move from HQ (my bed) until I've had a cuppa, but I kind of thought the whole point of Lent was to forego the things we would miss, and at the point we're about to combust because we haven't had our sugar rush or caffeine fix or whatever it might be, we turn to God and spend that time in thankful prayer! 

I've never given anything up for Lent, so thought it would just be silly to start this year (I don't think God minds!)

But I heard an interesting Lent story this week about a man who had given up 'fear of people' for Lent! He had decided that throughout Lent, whatever he felt led by the Holy Spirit to do, he would step out and do it without fear!  My first thought was I'd get to day 40 and sheepishly glance upwards and wonder why I hadn't been asked to do anything!

One thing this guy did was to go to the cinema and see Les Mis, he really felt he had a message for the people who would be there and had been prompted by God to step out of his comfort zone and face his fears, so before the film started he announced to the audience, "this film is about forgiveness and redemption and if you want to know true forgiveness you really should meet Jesus!" Ballsy or what?!

It made me wonder if I'd missed a trick when I went to see Die-Hard, should I have perhaps stood in front of the whole cinema and announced "this film is about.......well who cares really, but there's a great car chase, lots of shoot outs and Bruce Willis dangles from a jeep which dangles from a helicopter, falls about 100 feet through many plate glass windows and lives! But if you want to know true eternal life, you have to meet with Jesus! Yippee ki yay!"

Monday, 11 February 2013

Trust Me - I'm A Youth Leader!

I've just returned from my first weekend away as a youth group leader, I use the term 'leader' loosely because I'm not sure I always lead in the right direction, and am often accused by the kids of being a bigger kid than them!

Although I grew up in Christian surroundings I wasn't one of those kids who lived for the camps - in fact the only two I remember going on as a kid didn't leave me with great memories, I came home from one infested with head-lice, and the other one I spent a whole day in tears and didn't really know why!

Funnily enough it was to be at the same place I spent a week and a tear soaked day as a child, that we were to return to with the youth group from our church, so I wasn't sure what emotions it might evoke. 

We went across to Woodcroft Christian Centre which is only about 30 mins drive from where we are, which is a bonus for whoever has to drive the minibus, because listening to the onslaught of vocal renditions ranging from S Club 7 to Queen, or various entire Monty Python sketches being recited word for word by a large group of teenagers is a lot to ask of anyone; so top tip for booking a youth weekend away......go local!

The theme for the weekend was 'trust' and we covered all angles, from trusting God and our faith to trusting peoples advice, and of course how we recover from broken trust. 

I hope and pray the kids got something out of it, I think they did, we'll find out more over the coming weeks in our group together.  But I know I got something out of it.  My slot was to cover trusting God, and in my preparation I was reminded of a verse I had come to a long time ago while praying during a desperate situation:

Psalm 28:7(NIV)

The Lord is my strength and my shield,

my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

    and with my song I praise him.

It was so good to be reminded of this verse again and find the trust in God that I needed to for my present situation.
Aside from worship and talks and a couple of workshops, there was time for the kids to have one to one talks with leaders. I don't know if as a teenager I would've opened up to an adult about certain situations, but I know as an adult I wish I had, so I think it's great that we can build those relationships and provide the environment for them to talk - only if they wanted to of course, it was all very relaxed.
Both nights two other leaders and myself stayed up till 1am for 'late night chat'. The first night was great, a few testimonies were shared which was very moving and I feel privileged to have heard them, and some theological questions asked, and it was wonderful to see just how seriously these youngsters take their understanding of the Bible and they want to talk and ask their peers their understanding of certain texts.
Night two and we thought we'd try and spice it up a bit by allowing an anonymous questions bag, improvisationaly provided in the form of a wash bag and some post it notes! I'm not sure who managed to lower the tone more - the kids or the leaders; the best question was.....oops no, sorry, what gets said in 'late night chat' stays in 'late night chat', the weekend was based on 'trust' after all!
We finished up the weekend with Christmas dinner and Secret Santa gifts (I know, it's February, don't ask!) and I have to say I was more than chuffed with my gift, I don't know who it was from, but it was a book I have wanted for a little while now, Heaven: It's not the end of the world by David Lawrence (maybe I'll get him to sign it next time he speaks at our church!)

So, I survived my first weekend away with 18 teenagers as a leader! Would I go again? Definitely!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Adam And Eve Or Adam And Steve?

I have listened to the latest 'it's ok to be a gay Christian' conversations with Steve Chalke, hosted both times by the fabulous Justin Brierly! Steve has also written for Christianity Magazine on his affirmation of same sex monogamous long term relationships.

One of Chalkes arguments is that we have moved on from the position in the Bible that women must be silent and not take part in church services, so we should now move on and accept that when the bible talks of relationships it refers to both gay and straight. But there are also positive accounts in the Bible of women who are prophets and teachers and highly regarded, so that doesn't really stack up with  moving on to accept homosexuality, which is always looked at negatively in the Bible.

So lets look at a subject in the Bible which similarly to homosexuality is never portrayed positively.......say 'gluttony'.  I know many many more fat Christians than gay ones, they are afforded the same rights within the church as the Christians with the perfect BMI.........

I have to say four or five years ago my views were very black and white, there was little room for movement, or even listening with an open mind in some cases. I would very much have said 'you cannot be a Christian and be gay'. I completely believe now that is entirely wrong! The only thing that prevents you from being a Christian is rejecting Christ. Some people may interpret being gay as having rejected Christ because it goes against what he taught.  

But that is not the case, Jesus never mentions homosexuality; he mentions a lot about loving each other and helping the poor and needy and not judging each other, not holding grudges, not to worry, how to pray, being wise and thoughtful, not to be greedy or jealous, not to be proud or boastful, to stay faithful in marriage..........are you keeping up? Anyone ready to throw a stone yet? John 8:7

So maybe if Jesus didn't see the need to teach specifically about it, maybe we don't need to be coming out and stamping our position on it? Of course within our churches we need to be able to hear the small percentage of people who are attracted to the same sex and counsel them accordingly - that does not mean counsel them into straightness, that means counsel them into accepting who they are and what that now means for their life, and that they are loved by God and a most precious and unique individual who is worthy of the same respect as anyone else......and that goes for fat people too! 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

It's OK to Be A Gay Bishop.....As Long As You're Celibate?

I am not sure I should be venturing into these muddy waters, because I have only ever been in a Church of England service for four reasons: Weddings, Christenings, Funerals and school end of term services. Also I don't want to come across as a Christian homophobe! 

I know a lot of genuine C of E Christians, I also know of C of E members (including vicars) who do not actually believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; but I don't know a lot of how the C of E church operates, I don't understand the difference between the different people at the front wearing the white robes - or even why they wear the white robes, I'm not sure what the significance of the big hats are, does your hat get bigger the higher up the ranking you go?

I am not sure where in the ranking the Bishops come, but no-one could have failed to miss the news last year that women were not going to be able to become Bishops, for secular folk this seemed like out-dated sexist nonsense.  

The Bible does say about 'women being silent, covering their heads' etc. but it also has women as prophets and leaders and teachers and servants of God, you always have to look at the cultural context of whichever passage you are reading, (that does not mean anything I don't agree with, I pass off with 'that was for the olden times, it doesn't apply now!).  

Some churches would not have women taking part in any way, I myself was brought up with that view, and it still holds in many religious meeting places today. But I have since made my own studies and think that it is acceptable for women to take a full part in services, some of the best sermons I have heard have been from women!

Anyhoo, that's by the by, what has got my interest stirred up now is that the C of E will allow gay clergy to become Bishops.......if they remain celibate! 

Now in light of the women ruling, that just does not make sense to me! If you won't allow a woman to be a Bishop, I'm assuming because of Biblical readings, how can you allow a celibate homosexual to be a bishop? Women in the Bible kind of go both ways (if you'll pardon the pun!) I mean, it can be read that they must never even speak, yet some are teachers, so there is an area of studying and learning to go through, in order to come to the decision your church takes.

But homosexuality in the Bible is a big no no! Please keep reading before you misunderstand me entirely! I am not here to judge gay people, I think they look like a lot of fun! One of my favourite gays is Cam on Modern Family! 

But sorry, you can't be a Bishop. How can you be in a high ranking position within an institution in which homosexuality is unacceptable, and be gay?  That's like having a drugs baron as head of the prison service as long as he promises not to deal! 

If you are in a loving relationship, an expression of that love is to have sex. I think the C of E are being quite patronising to gay people with this ruling. Either they accept homosexuality and all that comes with it, civil partnerships, sexual relationships, or they don't, and then make their Bishop judgements accordingly.

It seems to me the C of E are all over the place with trying to be PC, and have thrown the Bible out and are basing their decisions on entirely personal reasoning, not doctrinal study. In which case they shot themselves in the foot with not going ahead with women bishops, maybe they could back-track and say, it's ok for a women to be a bishop, so long as she doesn't wear a bra, or as long as she promises to have a sex-change, they'd be well up for that, a transgender Bishop would really tick the PC box.