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Feb 4, 2011

Praying for those who ought to protect us

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. –
1 Tim. 2:1-4

Have you ever thought what extraordinary words those are? When Paul wrote them there was not one King anywhere in the world who was a Christian ruler. For Paul then there is no secular government and that means for the Christian there cannot be secular government.

What is even more extraordinary is that Paul’s prayer focuses on the fact that God has put secular rulers in place not just for the common good of man but God calls upon the state to serve the church by upholding freedom and justice and thereby allowing Christians to get on with their lives and their evangelism!

We find other early church leaders calling on Christians to pray in the same way.

Clement writes in the second century:
Grant them Lord, health, peace, harmony and stability, so that they may give no offence in administering the government you have given them.

Tertullian writes in his Apology:
We pray also for the emperors, for their ministers and those in power, that their reign may continue, that the state may be at peace, and that the end of the world may be postponed.

If we are to learn how to pray for the state the heart of all of these prayers is the recognition that rulers are appointed by God to rule in such a way as to enable Christians to ‘live peaceful and quiet lives’ and by so doing enable the church to be God’s agent in the world bringing salvation as it preaches and lives out the gospel.

John Stott writes:
Here is important apostolic teaching about church and state, and about the porper relations between them, even when the state is not Christian. It is the duty of the state to keep the peace, to protect its citizens from whatever would disturn it, to preserve law and order and to punish evil and promote god (as Paul teaches in Rom. 13:4), so that within such a stable society the church may be free to worship God, obey his laws and spread his gospel.

There is therefore a great deal at stake in how a government governs. Paul’s prayer implies that when a government fails to uphold the freedom of the Christian it is actually failing in its God-given duty! For many Christians around the world this failure of the state to live up to it’s calling is all too apparent. In recent months in the middle-east in particular the state has failed in its role of protecting the church from harm. Witness recent bomb attacks on churches in Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt.

Whilst the church should and must turn to God in prayer at such times the leaders of other nations do have the opportunity to challenge government that is failing to protect it’s people, including Christians.

Yesterday a friend pointed me to an article in the Daily telegraph in which Baroness Ashton whipped up a storm in her refusal to use her position to come to the aid of the church.

The article reports:
A meeting of EU foreign ministers failed to agree on a condemnation of sectarian attacks over the Christmas period that targeted Christians in Egypt and Iraq.
Talks ended angrily when Italy accused Lady Ashton, the EU’s foreign minister, of “excessive” political correctness because she refused to name any specific religious group as a victim of attacks.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, demanded an EU response on the persecution of Christians after a New Year suicide bombing at a Coptic church in northern Egypt in which 23 people were killed.

The Egyptian bombing followed attacks in Baghdad and fears, expressed by the Vatican, of persecution leading to a Christian exodus from the Middle East.
Mr Frattini, backed by France, said it pointless to issue statements defending religious tolerance without any references to the specific minority, Christians, that was under attack.

Continue reading »

Jan 28, 2011

Facebook is making us sad

Slate has posted a great article called facebook is making us sad reporting on a study which reveals the sub-conscious impact that social networking sites can have on our sense of well-being.  The article is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The conclusion of the study is that we feel anxious and even depressed whenever we compare ourselves with others because we almost always think that our facebook friends are doing better in life than we are. There is nothing new in those feelings but maybe Facebook exacerbates the problem because it suggests that everyone else out there is leading the perfect life.

Brian Houston makes us sad

Of course there is a Christian version of this. At the extreme end of it is the health and wealth message of men such as Brian Houston of Hillsong Church.

Houston’s book You need more money: Discovering God’s amazing financial plan for your life could only be written by a rich Western Christian. I would love to hear him try to persuade the persecuted Christians in various Islamic countries that God has a purpose to bless them financially and make them rich in this life!

Here’s a taster:

If you are applying the Word to your life, God will bless you with prosperity and good success.

And then again:

Take a bit of time to think this through and if you still aren’t sure that God wants you to prosper, ask yourself these questions:

If God didn’t want you to get wealth, why would he give you the power to get it?

If He didn’t want you to be wealthy, why would He take pleasure when His people prosper?

And why would He promise prosperity and success if He preferred us to remain poor? Continue reading »

Jan 20, 2011

The Criminalisation of Christianity in Britain?

As the result of a judgement in the county court in Bristol on Tuesday it is now a breach of the law for Christians to run a B&B establishment according to Christian principles. In effect many might say that Christians have now been criminalized for seeking to operate a business in accordance with their faith.
The judge in his judgement concluded:

this decision does affect the human rights of the defendants to manifest their religion and forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genunily held belief

A judge has ruled that the Christian owners of a guesthouse have acted unlawfully for restricting their bookings policy for double rooms to married couples only.

Judge Andrew Rutherford has ruled that committed Christians Peter and Hazelmary Bull, who are being funded by The Christian Institute, acted unlawfully when they denied two homosexuals, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, a room at their hotel in Cornwall in September 2008.

The homosexual couple claimed that the refusal to allow them to share a bed was a “direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation”. Their legal fees were paid by the Government-funded Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The judge made his ruling in a written judgment at Bristol County Court and ordered the payment of £3,600 in damages to the homosexual couple. He stated that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, introduced under the Labour Government, it was unlawful for Mr and Mrs Bulls to restrict the use of double room accommodation to married couples only and deny a double room to two homosexual civil partners.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

Bed and breakfast owners have now become another category of people in the UK who will be penalised if they try to serve the public without compromising their religious conscience. Under the guise of equality, the restrictions on Christians in the public sphere keep getting tighter. We are heading towards a two-tier society where only those who subscribe to secular, humanistic values will be able to operate in many areas in the public sphere.

Mrs Bull, the Christian owner of the B&B commented:

‘Our double-bed policy was based on our sincere beliefs about marriage, not hostility to anybody. It was applied equally and consistently to unmarried heterosexual couples and homosexual couples, as the judge accepted.’

Jan 8, 2011

We saw two million people die

Tomorrow the four million, mostly-Christian, population of Southern Sudan will vote on whether to separate from the mostly-Muslim North under the conditions of a peace agreement signed in 2005 after decades of civil war in which two million died. The referendum lasts for 7 days.

In an article in the December edition of Evangelicals Now Jason Boyd of AIM comments on the referendum;

It’s part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005; it’s very important. The Southern Sudanese will exercise their right to determine whether they want to be in one Sudan or to be a different country, and I think that’s going to happen. The whole world is looking for that, and they have agreed; the Sudan government, which is composed of the National Congress and SPLM, also have agreed on that.

It’s a challenging time in the history of Sudan and everybody’s worried, and even right now people in Sudan are confused because they don’t know the future of the country. How are these things going to happen? Is it really going to be a peaceful referendum or is it going to be a violent one? If it’s peaceful, how is it going to be in terms of economy in the North, in terms of stability in the South? People are asking a lot of questions.

We, as a church, are praying hard. The church is non-partisan; we don’t belong to a party. We’re only preaching the gospel, and praying that everything in Sudan will be peaceful. We are against war, we are against violence, and we’re promoting peace. With the referendum, let it take place in a peaceful environment, and let it also be fair and accepted by both parties, and let the Southerners exercise their choice, their freedom. We saw two million people die in the first war and don’t want to see that happen again, because the people in the South and those in the North are all precious in front of God; God loves them all, and for us as a church we value them all together. We want the generation after us to enjoy peace; we have suffered in a time of war and we don’t want any more to suffer; we want them to really, really experience peace and let them develop the country of Sudan, which is a blessed country with a lot of resources. As a church our stance is clear: we want peace in the whole country.

That’s why we as a church are trying to work hard with the international community to sustain the peace that was signed, and we want to create an atmosphere where the Southerners and Northerners can live together as brothers and sisters, as they believed a long time ago, and not let these political things affect their lives. We don’t know, if the South votes to become independent, maybe after some few years it’ll come back again and join the North, like Germany. Nobody knows, but we have to keep that relationship.

Please pray for the country and the church in Sudan in the week beginning 9th January.  For ideas on how to pray visit here.

For an insight into the church in Sudan:

Nov 19, 2010

it is not just what you do, it is what you are excited about

Earlier this week I attended an event organised by Church leaders and attended by over 2000 Christians. The meeting was a call for Christians to step up and play our part in serving our city; working with other agencies to redeem our communities.

What was striking was that at a gathering of Christians not once was the name of Jesus mentioned by any of the hosts and when it came to songs all we were invited to sing were soul classics such as James Brown’s ‘I feel good’.

Did those who organised the event love Jesus? I’m sure they did. Do they desire that many would come to share their faith?  Absolutely. So what was it that most troubled me? Simply that the call to Christians to engage in social action was made without Continue reading »

Nov 17, 2010

Art for the glory of God

Fujimura and the 4 Holy Gospels

As someone married to an artist I’ve experienced something of the uneasiness of Christians when it comes to the arts. But why should it be the case that we are pleased to affirm the good and the true but so slow to recognise the beautiful as an expression of God’s image in God-created humanity.

This short video featuring the work of Makoto Fujimura is both inspiring and informative.  As Francis Shaeffer has written  in Art and the Bible “A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God.”

Crossway have commissioned Fujimura to undertake an illuminated edition of the four Holy Gospels to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

Fujimura – 4 Holy Gospels from Crossway on Vimeo.

Nov 16, 2010

Does Religion really poison everything?

Ideas have consequences.  They refuse to stay on paper or merely live on in the minds of those who hear them in the lecture theatre, classroom or worship room. When it comes to matters of belief one of the tests for truth is livability; what sort of individuals and society does such a belief produce. Ravi Zacharias in his book The Real Face of Atheism has said ‘The realities of life, powerfully reinforce the viability of faith in God.’ Christopher Hitchens in his book God is not great: Religion poisons everything profoundly disagrees.

Recent evidence seems to suggest that Hitchens is on the losing side when it comes to the livability test. Toby Young in his blog in today’s Telegraph highlights the conclusion of a mammouth 5 year study into religion and it’s impact on society.  The authors of the Continue reading »

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