I’m sure you, like me, have been deeply disturbed by the poisoning incident in Salisbury recently. The method used was a military grade nerve agent – in essence a chemical weapon which could potentially have killed many people. Our thoughts and prayers are for the healing of all those affected, especially a father & daughter who are critically ill in hospital.
The UK government is convinced that the Russian state was behind this serious incident. I trust their judgment. Yet the fact that there are growing numbers of people questioning this conclusion should concern every politician in our nation. A house divided against itself can never stand.
These are serious times which feel very much like a new cold war has descended upon us. What is needed in days like these is…truth. The growing distrust in the integrity of government is devastating to a nation. Any hostile agent can wreak havoc in a culture of deep suspicion. The current British political system with it’s culture of arrogance has done a terrible dis-service to our nation. The Salisbury incident is a serious wake up call. Integrity REALLY matters.
In a sense, the chickens are coming home to roost. The political system in the UK has been in serious trouble for a very long time. I’ve written about this HERE. Recent political campaigns have been filled with lies and ego driven one-upmanship. Take the EU referendum campaign of 2016 for example. The sheer amount of untruthfulness on both sides has had the effect of severely eroding trust. This weakens a nation. It is far more devastating than many politicians seem to grasp. The current situation regarding Russia is a case in point. Just when trust is needed more than ever, this can now be easily undermined.
So how do we, as Christians, respond in times like these? Well, first and foremost, it behoves all of us to live lives of profound integrity. Sounds idealistic, right? But it’s far more gritty than that. It’s about living the truth….even if it hurts. Truth starts with ourselves – not anybody else. In a world of fake news, authenticity is like a refreshing tonic. It’s what builds trust. Furthermore, we do well to remember that the prayers of the righteous are ‘powerful and effective’ (James 5:16). So we pray for our nation and those who lead us. We also call out to God to cause a massive spiritual awakening. I have concluded in my own heart that this is the only answer for a broken society. Our nation needs God’s healing grace like never before. So does our world.
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When Jesus returned to preach in his home town of Nazareth, the response was underwhelming to say the least. There was a host of negative reactions – from patronising cynicism to downright antagonism. Interestingly, the most telling vibe was….offence. Mark’s account tells us that they ‘took offence at him‘ (Mark 6:3). Jesus was more than aware of this, hence the reason why he said ‘A prophet is not without honour, except in their own town (Mark 6:4)’
Offence is the overflow of a dishonourable heart when it observes something it perceives to be a threat. It undermines, gossips, carps, snipes and speaks in sarcastic tones which convey it’s contempt. All of these things create a culture of dishonour where faith is diminished and miracles cannot happen. In Nazareth, the people believed in the miraculous. However, they had a problem with the miracle worker….Jesus. But dishonour meant that Jesus ‘could not do any miracles there‘ (Mark 6:5). That was a tragedy for the city. The contemporary lesson is truly profound.
Dishonour is a culture which keeps people down and feels more comfortable when it is criticising others rather than celebrating them. It is born out of deep insecurity. Honour is the very opposite. It takes a profoundly secure heart to celebrate God’s grace in the lives of others. It is free from expectations of receiving anything in return. See, honour is without agenda, other than to champion others.
Honour REALLY matters. It is a culture which calls out greatness and encourages people to live in the heights of God’s grace. It resists the temptation to be jealous when they become more ‘successful’ than you because it recognises that everything we have belongs to God anyway. All God requires of each of us is that we are faithful. On the day that really matters, this is what Jesus will celebrate… ‘well done good and faithful servant‘ (Matt 25:23).
I dare you to live with honour in your heart. Let that be the overflow of everything you say and do. God loves a heart like that. In a culture of honour, the impossible becomes possible.
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH IN LEICESTER HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH IN LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.
Picture the scene. It’s a balmy Virginia morning in early August – about 9am. The sky is brilliant blue and the sun is shining brightly. My wife and I are still buzzing from the day before when we celebrated the wedding of a beautiful young couple whose lives are bursting with joy and optimism. Now, in the afterglow of such a fabulous occasion, we’re enjoying a quiet breakfast under the shade of an Ash tree at a downtown street cafe. The vibe is peaceful and relaxed. We just sit there for an hour or two, chatting, laughing, drinking coffee, people watching. It’s all good. The name of the town? Charlottesville.
One week later, the heart of Charlottesville is torn apart by the hatred of racism. A mob of white supremacists (mainly transported in from other places) contaminate the atmosphere, turning it nasty and vicious. Destruction and death are the inevitable consequence of its bigoted ideology which is intent on creating division and promoting fear. It is evil, pure and simple. The awful carnage it creates is a wake up call regarding the menace which lurks deep within. Its sinister motivation masquerades as acceptable, empowered by stoking the fires of division. Suddenly, 2017 feels more like 1817. In many ways, these are even more dangerous times. The voices of hatred & fear are growing ever louder, taking advantage of the uncertainty that exists around the world. It’s how evil works.
The very notion that any one race holds superiority over another is not only utterly delusional, but is as contrary to biblical teaching as it is possible to get. Galatians 3:28 clearly states ‘There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus‘. It couldn’t be any clearer. We must never be silent at even the faintest hint of racist thinking. The bible is unambiguous and unequivocal about this. The same should be true for all of us.
My thoughts turn to Britain, the nation I love. We would be wise to reflect on the events of Charlottesville, and understand that the menace of bigotry lurks here too. The UK Church is not exempt from this, subtle though it may be. Instead of paying lip service and engaging in moral protestations which make us feel morally better, it’s far wiser to put Galations 3:28 into practice. Our actions speak far louder than our words. It’s always best to model what is right.
If any community on earth should be showing the way ahead, it’s the Church. We are one in Christ. It is His amazing grace which unites our hearts. There is no place for racism here, subtle or otherwise…ever.
WE ARE ONE CHURCH IN TWO LOCATIONS. CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH IN LOUGHBOROUGH HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.
Have you noticed that the fear industry is booming at the moment? These are good days for things like suspicion, cynicism and gloom. They prey on people’s worst instincts, creating an atmosphere that is thick with the toxicity of distrust. It’s contagion blows into key aspects of society including politics, media and education, and it spreads confusion over a hurting nation. Church is not exempt from it.
If you are the type of person whose disposition leans more towards negativism, then the sinister climate that hangs overhead will simply encourage unbelief. Personally, I’m resisting it. In fact, I find myself battling to protect against a pessimistic default. It’s the easiest thing to slip into the downward spiral of doom and despair. That’s why I choose my friends very carefully. It is never helpful to keep company with a vibe that panders to the prevailing culture and rolls with it’s hateful jibes. Better to be friends with faith than fear.
Fear feeds negative culture and starves faith of it’s vitality. Religion loves fear because it provides an opportunity to manipulate and control people. That’s why Jesus reserved his most ferocious words for the religious establishment of his day. They thrived off the power that fear afforded them, playing on people’s anxieties with subtle yet brutal precision. The Pharisees hatred of Jesus was venomous because Jesus exposed their hypocritical legalism and preached a message of freedom instead. His word hasn’t changed. But neither has the spirit of religion.
When we understand the difference between religion and relationship, it changes everything. One controls you. The other empowers you. One holds you back. The other releases you into your God given potential. One leads to hate while the other to love. Interestingly, Jesus was never into religion. His message was totally relational. He came to set us free from the grip of fear, and into the loving embrace of God’s amazing grace.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul says ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear’ (2 Timothy 1:7). This verse is a massive statement. It tells us something about the culture that God wants us to carry in our everyday lives, and which changes the atmosphere around us. It is FearLESS, not fearful. It is FaithFUL, not faithless. The threat of fear can only be expelled by the power of love. That’s why the bible teaches us that ‘love drives out fear‘ (1 John 4:18).
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.
REMEMBER, WHEN YOU GIVE UP,LIFE GOES ON. by Roy Todd
The definition of “delusional” could be this; ‘thinking that when I stop, everything else stops‘. But this is not how life works. Wise people settle in their minds that the world goes on, no-matter what. Sure, it can feel unfair and even brutal at times. However, the card you’re dealt is what you’ve got. You can either wish you had something better OR do the very best with what you have. The latter is always the smarter option. You’ve got to stay in the game if you want to win!
What tends to happen when people give up in life is that they consign themselves to the sidelines and become mere spectators. Then they watch on with a sense of nauseating horror as things progress without them, utterly mystified that this could actually be happening. Often, it’s at this stage that bitter resentment digs in and begins to metastasize, starting in the heart. You see, the unspoken expectation was that everything would cease when they stood aside. This is not what happens. There will always be someone who steps up to the mark to have a go…always. If you don’t walk through the open door of opportunity that is before you, somebody else will. It’s a ruthless truth….but true nonetheless.
In the Old Testament, there was a prophet called Elijah who had to face this challenge. As gifted as he was, he was also prone to bouts of insularity. In 1 Kings 19, he decided to retreat into the reclusivity of the desert and give up altogether. While he was there, God spoke to him and gently reminded him that if he should decide not to continue serving, God had 7000 other people in reserve from which a successor could quickly be chosen. It was an incredibly gracious, yet deeply sobering word to the man of God. God’s purpose will never be hindered by the withdrawal of human cooperation. It will always come to pass, and the onus is on us to run with unshakable conviction.
Whatever happens in your life, don’t be a quitter. Keep going. Stay planted. Hold your nerve. Maintain a servant heart. Tough times come and go. So it’s best not to make a permanent decision in a temporal storm.
Think about Hebrews 12:1-3 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.
by Roy Todd