A fascinating article in today’s Telegraph on the rise of Christianity concludes:
‘Church attendances, in freefall for so long, have started to rise again, particularly in Britain’s capital city. Numbers on the electoral rolls are increasing by well over two per cent every year, while some churches have seen truly dramatic rises in numbers.’
(HT: Brian Law)
The Bible contains surprising verses, even offensive verses, passages of the Bible that seem to be at odds with our understanding of the way the world should work and God behave.
Exodus 20:5 is one such verse;
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
If you’re a Christian you probably, like me, find a verse like that a little unsettling. What can such a verse mean?
1. It can’t mean that God actually punishes innocent people for the sins of an earlier generation. After all Deuteronomy 24:16 makes clear that ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers.’
2. Rather through this verse God warns Israel that as Stuart comments;
‘God will indeed punish generation after generation if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents.’
Ryken notes that;
‘God never condemns the innocent only the guilty. Here it is important to notice something that is often overlooked — namely, how the threat ends. God says that he will punish three or four generations “of those who hate me” (Exod. 20:5). The children hate God as much as their fathers did (which, given the way they were raised, is not surprising).’
And here is his sobering conclusion
‘As parents plan for the future, they should be more concerned about the second commandment than they are about their financial portfolio. This commandment contains a solemn warning for fathers. When a man refuses to love God passionately and to worship God properly, the consequences of his sin will last for generations.
The guilt of a man who treasures idols in his heart will corrupt his entire family, and in the end they will all be punished.’
The second commandment in action
And then in the news today we find something that seems in every way to be a fulfilment of this warning in our own times. Dr Helen Wright, President of the Girls’ School Association, in a speech to be given tomorrow warns that the consequences of parents not knowing right from wrong are falling on their children.
‘I have a deep worry that some parents have been so deprived in their own lives of education and values, that they no longer know right from wrong and that they are as a result unwittingly ‘indulging’ children in some parallel universe where it is acceptable to let young children wear make-up and provocative clothing.
“If parents can’t see anything wrong in dressing up their children in ‘Future WAG’ T-shirts and letting them wear make-up, high heels and ‘mini-me’ sexy clothing, then something is intensely wrong in our society.’
Cecil B. De Mille the director of the Hollywood blockbuster, The Ten Commandments, described the folly of ignoring God’s 10 commandments in this way – he said ‘It is impossible for us to break laws; we only break ourselves upon them.’
The Telegraph reports on how a Christian couple, on leaving their church’s prayer meeting, found themselves coming to the assistance of Stephen Lawrence as he lay bleeding to death. Rather than ignore the cries for help from his friend they stopped, comforted and prayed for Stephen in his last few minutes on earth.
“I put my right hand on his back and left hand on his head. I could feel he was still breathing as his back was going up and down. Stephen was unconscious.
“I was praying over him in a whisper, I said things like ‘bless him Lord Jesus, heal him. Have mercy on him’.
Who knows what God may call on you to do when you next leave a prayer meeting and who knows how your prayers may be called upon to shape the eternal destiny of a victim of such a tragedy.
Baroness Warsi, in an article in today’s on-line edition of the Telegraph, writes in glowing terms of religious freedom in Pakistan. She even claims ‘The idea of unity through diversity runs through Pakistan’s history and helps to define its society today.’
Clearly, the Baroness is either ignorant or in denial over the persecution of minority faith communities in Pakistan who face the threat of being arrested under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law. Far more reliable a guide to the true state of affairs in Pakistan are the comments of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom;
In Pakistan, blasphemy allegations, which commonly are false, result in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and members of other religious minorities as well as Muslims on account of their religious beliefs. Because the laws require no evidence to be presented after allegations are made and no proof of intent, and contain no penalty for leveling false allegations, they are easily used by extremists to intimidate members of religious minorities and others with whom they disagree. They are also often used by the unscrupulous simply to carry out a vendetta or gain an advantage over another.
Given that the Baroness writes ‘I went to a bishops’ conference and said that this Government would “do God”.’ she could write a piece in the national press next time on the steps she intends to take to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan to amend it’s legislation to prevent systematic persecution of non-Muslims and at the same time she might take the opportunity to put political pressure on other Islamic states that have either Blasphemy laws or apostasy laws that make conversion from Islam to any other faith a crime with severe penalties.
Let’s be honest, how many of us have ever even heard of a NOT-to-do list let alone tried to make use of one? In a blog post in the Daily Telegraph Daniel H. Pink (author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) argues the case that in a world of too many competing priorities, to quote Tom Peters, ‘what you decide not to do is probably more important than what you decide to do.’
The key insight of both Peters and [Jim] Collins is that we spend too much time on addition and not nearly enough on subtraction. Yet it’s only by taking away what doesn’t matter that allows us to reveal what does matter.
That’s why a couple of years ago I began using a hybrid of the Peters’ and Collins’ techniques – a combo of a to-don’t and stop-doing list. I revisit the list more than once a year, but I don’t craft a new one every day. Instead, I post it on the wall next to my desk where it’s always in view and revise it when circumstances demand.
Let me share with you what’s been on the list:
• Don’t answer email during peak morning writing hours;
• Don’t accept meetings or conference calls initiated by others that you wouldn’t have initiated yourself;
• Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon;
• Don’t go to sleep after 11pm.
Pink’s examples in his NOT-to-do list are a good starter but they are limited to general principles of working practice. I wonder how we could extend them to strategic priorities in our work? A NOT-to-list could be extended to help us choose between good, yet competing, options and opportunities at work and become an ally in that battle to say ‘no’ to people (see this blog post on the issue).
How might that work?
Maybe our list of what we do NOT do could include;
Decisions as to where we will NOT put our energies to ensure that we can focus them elsewhere.
A decision NOT to let my sermon preparation time suffer in my role as a church pastor might mean agreeing NOT to accept any more than ‘x’ speaking invitations in a quarter or year. Learning to say no to some things is certainly helped if we have already committed NOT to do so too!
A decision NOT to give time to developing one ministry area (by ideally delegating it to another) so that I can invest more energy in a different area.
And so on.
Then of course there is the option to publish our NOT-to-do list. That would be an interesting thought that colleagues and for me my congregation knew what I wanted them NOT to ask me to do!
Thanks to Eddie Arthur for the link
Never mind ‘the Beast’ Christine Odone spots an elephant in the room.
Britons have become miserable because we are selfish, unfit and anti-social begins an article in yesterday’s Telegraph.
The article continues Experts say that unless we undergo a ‘radical cultural change’, the population will slide into unprecedented depths of despair and that rates of depression and suicide will rise.
We are according to the paper in a psychological decline.
So what is causing this bad state of mental health? According to experts the answer is that we do not give enough to others, have lost the art of connecting with those around us, and no longer possess a sense of belonging in society.’
Dr. Anthony Seldon comments;
“Young people now are being brought up grasping for what they don’t have rather than appreciating everything they already do.
“For everything we have gained in material wealth and sophistication in recent years, we have lost in happiness and the overall richness of the fabric of society.
“If we don’t act now, in the future we are likely to see increased levels of adolescent suicide and mental illness, and a culture in which taking anti-depressant drugs is the norm.”
What the research demonstrates is what happens when life turns in on itself. When we live for ourselves and are concerned only for ourselves it will have a profoundly negative
What about solutions?
So what answers does our society have to such a crisis? Well if the answers proposed by actionforhappiness.org are anything to go by, pretty much none! When you read down the list of suggestions they are nothing but a list of ideas on how to try and manufacture happiness in the absence of any meaning, purpose, value or direction to life.
How do you find happiness in a life devoid of hope!
Joseph Addison once said ‘the grand essential to happiness in this life are; something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for’
True and lasting happiness, the joy in life that we seek, are all rooted not in thinking positive thoughts about ourselves but through a knowledge that we are loved. Our joy is a joy derived from a relationship with the living God.
CS Lewis has so helpfully said:
God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
You can’t make yourself happy! You can’t manufacture joy. It comes from a source outside of yourself. Our happiness is a gift borne out of a relationship with a God who is supremely happy in himself and so desires that we share our joy in him.
Lewis again: Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
The 10 suggestions for happiness put forward by a think-tank actionforhappiness.org show how desperate our desire for happiness has become and yet how even more desperate our search has become.
1. Giving. Do things for others – volunteer to work for a charity in your spare time.
2. Relating. Connect with people – get in touch with friends with whom you had lost contact.
3. Exercising. Take care of your body – go for a run.
4. Appreciating. Notice the world around – take time to appreciate wildlife in your area.
Worship. Notice the world around and thank God for his goodness
5. Trying out. Keep learning new things – learn a new language.
6. Direction. Have goals to look forward to – make resolutions and stick to them.
Hope. Realise that
7. Resilience. Find ways to bounce back – learn from defeats to do things better in the future.
8. Emotion. Take a positive approach – focus on the happy moments of your life rather than the sad.
9. Acceptance. Be comfortable with who you are – do not dwell on your flaws.
10.Meaning. Be part of something bigger – join a society or club.
Surely at no point in human history in the western world have we so manifestly demonstrated our need for God. We cannot make it alone. We need God more than ever for life now and for life eternal.
Final thought from CS Lewis. ‘Happiness is never in our power and pleasure rarely is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.’
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 »
- Church Planting
- Global Church
- Jesus Christ
- Medical ethics
- Social media
- Suffering Church
- The Christian Life
- Transforming Society
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010