General Election

Next week, on 12th December, the general election will be taking place and we will be voting to decide who forms the next government of our country. With that in mind I thought it might be interesting to look at the election from a Christian perspective.

One thing I observe is that Christians vote for a variety of political parties. I know Christians who vote for: Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and the Brexit Party. Therefore, I think it’s fair to state at the outset, Christians have a wide diverse range of political views!

Who should I vote for?
There is no political party that is completely right on all issues. I’m sure that if you delve into each party’s manifesto you will discover various policies that you either support or oppose. The following pointers might help you in deciding who will get your vote:

1. Do not just think about which party will benefit you, but think of the country as a whole. If a party promises tax cuts ask yourself who will end up paying for this. Will it be funded by a cut in public services that will disproportionately effect the poorer members of society? Conversely, if a party is promising huge public expenditure but is not providing much detail about how this will be financed, it’s right to question from where this money is coming?

2. Do not just simply believe all the promises that are made during the campaign but question them. One party says that they will increase the number of nurses or police but how are they are going to fund this? Did they have a similar promise at a previous election and not act upon it?

3. Check out the manifestos that are published. It may not be possible to read them all but at least try and get a rough idea of their content. Find the issues that are important to you and then see what each party is saying on them.

4. If you get an opportunity to attend a public meeting, where the prospective candidates are answering questions, go along and observe. You may even, if you are feeling brave, ask a question yourself.

5. This might sound very obvious but pray before you vote. Just because you have always voted Conservative / Labour / Liberal Democrat etc does not mean that you should necessarily vote for them this time.

6. Remember that our political leaders are humans like you and me. Perhaps you think that one of the party leaders has a charismatic personality. However we should remember that they are fallible. All of them make mistakes and get things wrong. Yes even the one that you are planning to support! Only God is fully trustworthy and reliable.

Should I vote?
There are many places in the world where it’s not possible to have a fair and open election. Whilst I can understand those who are reluctant to vote for various reasons, I do think it’s important we take the opportunity presented to cast our vote. People have sacrificed their lives and fought for the right to vote so we should remember that if we are feeling apathetic about voting.

It does concern me that many people do not vote in our country. If you look at the last two general elections the turnout was:

• 2015 – 66.1%
• 2017 – 68.7%

That’s over 1 in 3 people not voting in 2015 and only slightly more voting two years later.

I wonder what the result would have been if the turnout was 100%? Would we have got a different government? Would Brexit have been dealt with in a timely fashion? No one knows this obviously but it does make you think.

Even if you live in a constituency that has a five figure majority for the party you do not support you should still vote. If you don’t like the result of the election but you did not vote, how can you comment on the result?

Final Thoughts
Politics can be a very divisive subject and there are certainly times when I avoid discussing it with family and friends. I think certainly since the Brexit vote in 2016 things have got worse in our country. It’s important as Christians that we aim to be salt and light in this area. We need to think and pray before we open our mouths. Just because someone has a different political viewpoint to us does not necessarily mean we are right and they are wrong. There might even be the possibility that we are wrong!

In closing pray about the general election and after the result is announced pray that the newly elected government might have wisdom to govern wisely and fairly.

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, (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

 

What prevents us from learning more?

Following last week’s post on more to learn this week we are looking at what prevents us from learning more. I have identified four things that can hinder and prevent us from learning more.

Sin
Everyone sins, even the most godly person. However, that is not an excuse for us to fail to wrestle and struggle against the sinful desires we encounter. When we do sin we should immediately ask God for forgiveness and seek to turn from that sin. If we refuse to do this then it will effect our relationship with God.

One of the ways is that we will feel a gap opening up between us and God. This will often result in us not praying and neglecting to read the scriptures. Instead of having a hunger to learn more of God we will become lukewarm in our relationship with God.

Unconfessed sin will have a negative impact on us, but when we confess our sin we experience true forgiveness. In Psalm 32: 3-5 we see this in David’s life as he says:

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of the summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my trangressions to the Lord’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

Distractions
Another way that we lose the desire to learn more is when other things distract us from spending time with God. These things may not necessary be bad or sinful in themselves, however we need to be aware of these distractions.

We may for example get into the habit of staying up late and watching TV, YouTube videos or browsing our favourite social media sites. Providing we are disciplined and careful with the above activities they can be relaxing. It’s easy though to fritter time away on these instead of spending time learning more about God. If we find ourselves going to bed late and feeling too tired to read our bibles or pray in the mornings, then we need to take action.

Whereas sin is normally obvious to us if we are being totally honest, distractions are not so. It might be a while before we realise how we have not been using our time wisely. When this is revealed to us it’s time to address the matter and introduce some changes to our lifestyles. Maybe we could consider having a day off the internet each week to make time for God or look at other lifestyle changes.

Tiredness
Another thing that can hinder us learning more is tiredness. There may be times in our lives when we are feeling tired and finding it a struggle to get through the days e.g.

  • When a mother has had a baby and is up during the night to feed them.
  • When we are involved in a busy work project which involves us working long hours
  • Following a medical operation when we have to spend time resting

In these situations it would be nonsensical to consider taking on a theology course, especially one that involved a commitment of several hours studying a week! It might be that the best we can manage is to listen to a Christian podcast for 5 minutes a day to edify ourselves. We have to accept that this is a season in our life where it’s not possible to spend several hours with God. The time will come eventually when our circumstances change and we can look forward to this.

Of course, if the tiredness is caused by too many late nights watching TV or YouTube then there is a simple solution: go to bed earlier!

I’m too old!
Another reason can be that we feel we are too old to learn more about God. I’m not referring to an arrogant attitude here that says we know it all. Instead I’m thinking of the lies that come into our mind that suggest we have left it too late in life to learn. This is a subtle form of attack as we might be very keen to grow in our knowledge of God, but feel rather dejected that we are too old and have missed the boat.

It’s probably unlikely that as a ninety year old that you are going to enrol on a three year residential theological course. However, there is no reason why you cannot consider doing a three or six month distance learning course.

In God’s eyes we are never to old to spend time to learn more about Him. There is no retirement age in God’s kingdom and we should never let old age prevent us from serving God.

Conclusion
Perhaps these four areas above have been ones that have prevented you from learning more about God. Maybe there are other reasons. The good thing is that once we discover the reason we can do something about these hindrances that are stopping us growing on our knowledge of God.

More To Learn

No matter how long we have been a Christian there is always more to learn for each of us. No one can ever say that they know everything and there is nothing further to learn. In fact I sometimes feel that the older I get the more I need to learn!

With this in mind it is good to ask ourselves what steps are we taking to learn more of God? It’s all very well knowing we have more to learn but what should we do about this? There are many different ways we can do this including:

Making Time To Learn from Others
There are so many resources which are available to help us. We can listen to preachers, teachers and scholars, learning from their experiences of God. The internet provides us with access to a huge amount of Christian material which can benefit us spiritually. We may not be able to attend a conference for various reasons but there is a good chance that material from it will be freely available on-line for us to consume.

In addition to listening to God’s Word being preached from sermons we can also feast on the rich variety of spiritual books that are available to us. Not only can we purchase books from our local Christian bookshop we can find free books available on-line for us to read too.

Christian blogs can also be a source of blessing and edification to us and many offer the option to subscribe to them so we can read their latest postings.

Making Time to Read Scripture
It is important that we make time each day to read and study the scriptures and deepen our knowledge of God. If we neglect reading the bible we will find it difficult to grow as Christians.

Although we live such busy lives it is worth deliberately setting aside a time each day, this could be morning or evening depending on your personal circumstances, to read the scriptures. Even if you find it difficult to do this it is an essential habit to develop. I have found it personally helpful to set aside a period of time in the mornings to read the bible after I have had my shower.

Some people find it helpful to have a notebook with them when they are reading the bible so they can write down what God might be saying to them through the scriptures.

To assist us in our reading and studying of the bible it can sometimes be useful to have a commentary available. There are a number of bible commentaries that can be found on-line for free that we can use.

Making Time to take a Theology course
This will not be appropriate for everyone but another possibility is to consider undertaking a theology course. Anyone interested in this has various different options which they could consider.

There are theological colleges that offer residential courses of varying lengths. Some churches run short theology courses that might be another possibility if a residential one is not practical. Additionally there are a number of courses that are offered for distance learning.

If this is something that interests you it’s probably best to have a chat with one of your church leaders who will be able to advise you on this.

Conclusion
Hopefully the above has given you some ideas of how you can continue to learn. There is always more to learn, no matter how young or old you might be. Let us strive to continue to learn for as long as we are on this earth.

 

Preparing The Way

Christmas can be a very busy time of the year as we prepare for the big day. There is the card writing, present buying, food purchasing and so much more that we can easily forget what we are actually celebrating! To that end I would like to recommend a book by Derek Tidball called “Preparing The Way” which is part of the Cover to Cover bible study books published by CWR.

The book covers the 31 days of Advent and is suitable for both group or personal use. It is split into five sections:

• Week One: The Saviour Promised Long (1 December to 7 December)
• Week Two: Hope of the World (8 December to 14 December)
• Week Three: Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the Lord! (15 December to 21 December)
• Week Four: Christians Awake! Salute the Happy Morn (22 December to 28 December)
• Week Five: O Come, O Come, Immanuel (29 December to 31 December).

Each day has a bible reading which is followed by some thoughts from the author on that particular passage. It then closes with a section entitled “To consider or discuss” which encourages and challenges us to respond to what we have just read.

At the end of each weekly section there are four further questions for the reader to reflect upon as they review the past week’s readings. There are also some ideas for prayer.

If you find that the Christmas preparation is taking your eyes off the real reason for the season then this book would serve as a very helpful reminder of what we are really celebrating.

 

What did I give to the Church Service today?

If I am being honest I admit that on occasions in the past I have had a completely wrong attitude when attending church services. This has resulted in me thinking and actually saying “I didn’t get much out of the service today.” However, instead of making that statement I should have asked myself the following question: “What did I give to the church service today?”

I’m not talking about how much money I might have placed in the collection bag. Instead I’m referring to how much of myself did I actually give to God in the service. Did I worship God wholeheartedly during the service? Did I fix my eyes on Him as I joined in the singing or was I inwardly criticising the musicians or singers?

When the sermon was being preached was I praying for the preacher or wishing they would hurry up and finish? Did I have my ears open to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice through the sermon or did I switch off because I disagreed with one small minor point of their theology?

After the service did I go home and moan about the fact that no-one spoke to me at church or did I make the effort to speak to others after the service finished?

Obviously no church is perfect because it contains humans and none of us are perfect. However if we all, (and especially me) approached church with the attitude of “What can I give to the church service today?” we might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!

Leviticus-Deuteronomy (Bible Study Commentary)

There are some books of the Bible that most Christians would agree are not easy to read and understand. One of the most obvious ones that springs to mind is the book of Leviticus. However, although Leviticus might appear a difficult read, it’s included in our Bible. Therefore we should not ignore it but instead seek to read it and hear what God is saying to us through this part of scripture.

To that end I would like to recommend a book called Leviticus-Deuteronomy (Bible Study Commentary) by Martin Goldsmith. Unlike many Bible commentaries this one does not look at the text verse by verse, but looks at larger portions (normally a chapter at a time). There then follows some thoughts on the passage which are no more than one page of A5 long. Some of these also contain a closing thought, question, challenge or meditation for the reader to ponder. The section on Leviticus contains an interesting table on the various feasts featured in the book.

Although I am mainly focusing on the benefits of this book for studying the book of Leviticus, the sections on Numbers and Deuteronomy are equally good. This part also contains some maps which will help the reader to place the various towns, cities and regions mentioned in these books.

Throughout the book there are also questions for further study and discussion based on chapters already read. This enables the reader to study these three books in greater depth. Additionally this section could also be used by a house group to form the basis of a weekly study.

I have used this book to study Leviticus and found it really useful, helpful and insightful. If you have attempted to read Leviticus before and really struggled or just given up, then why not purchase a copy of this book and give it another go. You will not be disappointed!

 

So a Comedian Walks Into a Church

If you were to hear the words: “So a Comedian Walks Into a Church” it’s likely you would think that this is the first line of a joke. However, on this occasion that is not the case. Instead, it’s a title of a book written by Paul Kerensa, who is a stand-up comedian and also a Christian. The book is the story of his travels around the country in his job as a comedian and the churches he visits each Sunday whilst away from home.

In his writings the author shows us the reality of the comedy circuit. This regularly involves long trips to venues to perform in front of audiences which can be very small in number. Indeed there are times when the comedy event is cancelled and no-one remembers to tell the performer that! We see the frustration of these wasted journeys and how it creates the worry of whether he will be paid for the wasted trip. This is not the stardom of selling out the O2 for a week or appearing on Live at the Apollo. However, it is the reality of life for many comedians.

After performing on a Saturday night Paul Kerensa endeavours to find a local church to attend the next day. He describes his experiences of attending many different denominations with varying styles of worship including: Church of Scotland, United Reform Church, a Church in Wales (where the service was conducted in Welsh), Salvation Army, Baptist, Charismatic, Cafe Church, Pentecostal, Methodist and Quakers. That’s quite a variety!

The book concludes with a chapter examining the wondrous cross selection of UK Christianity that the author has encountered on his travels. Although the book was written in 2013 it’s probably fair to say that most of his findings are still reasonable valid today.

This is an enjoyable book which is quite funny in places. It helps us to see the reality of life for a comedian and the fact that it is not an easy life. I also suspect that there are few Christians who have attended such varying styles of worship as the author and therefore it’s interesting to read his observations of them.