Theresa May and Brexit

When they come to write the history of Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister you feel that it will be summarised in one short word: Brexit.

The whole Brexit process has dominated her time as Prime Minister. One of her first statements after becoming the leader of the Conservative Party was “Brexit means Brexit!” I would not be surprised if one of her final statements in her current role is also about Brexit.

Last Monday Theresa May gave a speech in the House of Commons in which she said that the deal for the UK to leave the EU was 95% done. However there still remains the problem of the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland. No-one it appears wants a return to a “hard border” but the “soft border” option means there will have to be some compromise somewhere.  The problem is no-one is that keen at the moment to compromise!

Personally I do not know how this impasse is going to be resolved. I do find the whole subject of Brexit confusing and certainly I do not have any magic answers to the problems of Brexit! It strikes me that we are in a mess and we somehow need some fresh and innovative ideas to resolve these problems. I certainly am glad that I’m not the Prime Minister.

On Sunday during our service someone reminded us that the scriptures instruct us to pray for our government. I think at this difficult time for Theresa May and her government the following words that Paul wrote to Timothy are ones we need to consider and obey:

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 Timothy 2:1-4)

Interesting that when Paul wrote these words the Romans were those in authority. They were rather different to a democratically elected government yet Paul still urged Timothy to pray for them. It’s so easy for us to criticise those in authority. Instead of criticising our government we should follow Paul’s instructions and pray for them. They certainly need our prayers at the moment!

 

The honesty of Psalm 51

One of the standout features of Psalm 51 to me is the honesty shown by David as he prayed the words of this wonderful prayer to God from his heart.

Nathan the prophet had come to see him, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, to bring the king a word from God. This was a quite a courageous act from Nathan to confront the king with God’s word.

How would David react to Nathan’s word? Would he accept it or reject it?

David could have said:

  • I’m the king I can do what I like?
  • It was not 100% my fault. Bathsheba is partly to blame too.
  • I could not help it as she was very attractive.

However David does not respond like that. He acknowledges his sin before God, taking full responsibility for his actions and recognising his wickedness he prays:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (v3-5)

If you are looking to use some scripture to aid you in asking God for forgiveness then this Psalm is a good place to look.

David was very honest about his sin before God. He confessed it and stopped trying to hide it turning to God in deep repentance. We can learn much from this.

Developing Good Habits

One of the towns I like to visit has a one-way traffic system running through the centre of it. However for some reason whenever I cross the road in this town I always look both to the left and right before walking across the road.

I have often wondered why I look both ways in this situation because the cars can only come from one direction! After thinking about this I have come to the conclusion that I do this out of habit. I was taught from a young age to look both ways before crossing the road so that is what I do, even in a one-way street.

This got me thinking on the importance of developing good habits in our lives. When we develop good habits we find that they become second nature to us and we do them naturally. They become part of us.

So how long does it take to develop a habit? If you type that question into Google there are a number of web pages you can find that suggests that 21 days is the answer to that question. However I’m not sure there is an exact science to this. There are obviously some habits that take longer to develop than others. Also it goes without saying that there are some habits that take considerable more than 21 days to break.

There are many good habits that we should seek to develop as a Christian. The following three I believe are worth pursuing:

Regular Bible reading and Prayer

One of the good habits I was taught as a young Christian was the importance of setting aside some time each day to read my bible and prayer.

For a new Christian it can be useful to start off by either reading through one of the gospels or alternatively using bible reading notes.

You might ask “when is it best to read the bible and pray?” When I was younger I tended to do my daily bible readings and prayers in the evening as that best fitted in with my daily schedule. However as I got older I changed that to the morning as I found that worked best for me. Whether you do this in the morning or evening does not really matter though. The important thing is to find time each day to read your bible and pray.

Controlling our tongues

Perhaps the most challenging thing in life is controlling our tongues. There are plenty of bible verses that tell us the importance of this. The book of James has some very strong warnings about our tongues and how we should not criticise others.

I expect we all have many times deeply regretted saying something to someone that has caused unnecessary upset. So much damage can be done by careless words.

One of the best habits that we can develop is to decide that we will not criticise others and to think before we speak.

Forgive as we have been forgiven

As a Christian it is a wonderful thing to know that Jesus has forgiven me. He has totally forgiven me.

Therefore just as we have been forgiven we should also be willing to forgive others who have wronged us. If we are being honest most of us would admit that we find this difficult at times.

However we need to remember that forgiving others is extremely important. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer “forgive us our sin as we forgive those that sin against us.” If we don’t forgive others then we run the potential risk of not having our sins forgiven.

So we really need to develop the habit of forgiving others. It’s an important habit to develop.

 

 

 

You became imitators of us and of the Lord

1 Thessalonians verse 6 starts with an interesting phrase “you became imitators of us and of the Lord.

Now it would not surprise anyone to see it mentioned that the Thessalonians became imitators of the Lord. That is surely something to which we all should be aiming. However Paul also says they became imitators of them too. It might be that some would think Paul was being arrogant in using that expression. Surely he should just say they became imitators of the Lord?

Interestingly he also says something similar in the first letter to the Corinthians in the following two verses:

  • Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (4:16)
  • Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (11:1)

Paul in his writings certainly comes across as a man who loved, obeyed and served Christ wholeheartedly. He was striving to follow Christ in every circumstance and situation he faced. Therefore by living this way I would argue that he was a good person to learn from and imitate in what it means to live the Christian faith. The Thessalonians certainly thought he was.

So who do we try to imitate? Do we try to imitate our church leaders or maybe another mature Christian? Or are we easily influenced by those who behaviour is not compatible with Christian faith?

Whether we like to admit it or not we are all influenced by others and imitate their ways in some form in our life.  It is sometimes said of people that they got in with the wrong crowd when they do bad things. We need to be very careful who we imitate.

Would we recommend that others became imitators of us? Is my life a good example for other believers to imitate? Or am I too worldly in the way that I live that I would not recommend that others imitate me?

 

Qualities of an Elder

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus he lists the qualities that he expects in a person who is going to be in the office of an Elder. Interesting the requirements are mainly character based ones.

Paul does not list any of the following:

  • Good preacher
  • Gifted with youth work
  • Experienced in church growth
  • People’s person
  • Keen evangelist with a passion for the lost.
  • Passionate worship leader
  • Committed leader

Now obviously there is nothing wrong with having any of the above qualities. I expect the majority of churches would want people with these gifts and abilities. However what Paul lists for an elder is:

  • An elder must be blameless (v6 and v7)
  • The husband of one wife (v6)
  • A man whose children believe. And the children are not wild and disobedient (v6).
  • Not overbearing (v7)
  • Not quick tempered (v7)
  • Not given to drunkenness (v7)
  • Not violent (v7)
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain (v7)
  • They must be hospitable (v8)
  • One who loves what is good (v8)
  • Self-controlled (v8)
  • Upright (v8)
  • Holy (v8)
  • Disciplined (v8)
  • Someone who holds firmly to the truth (v9)
  • An encourager (v9)
  • Someone who refutes those who oppose sound doctrine (v9)

That is quite a list! I wonder if we will ever see a church leadership role being advertised anywhere that lists these qualities rather than the first ones I mentioned?

I personally am not an elder and to be honest do not aspire to be one. However I would like to have these qualities in my life. I think that any Christian young or old, leader or not should aspire to aim to have these godly qualities in their life.

 

 

God uses Fallible People

In Genesis 26: 7-11 there is the episode in Isaac’s life when he told everyone that his wife Rebekah was his sister. Why did he do this? Verse 7 tells us he was sacred that the men of the city would kill him as his wife was beautiful. Yet why was Isaac scared? God had told him to stay put and He would bless him. You would have thought that once he had received that promise then he would have been full of faith. However Isaac showed that he was a fallible person, just like us!

In fact if we look through the Bible we can see plenty of examples that God uses fallible people to achieve his purposes.

Interesting Isaac’s father, Abraham, had done exactly the same thing as Isaac but on two different occasions. This is the man who was commended for his faith yet still was not immune from getting things wrong.

Moses is remembered as the man who God used to leave his people out of Egypt. However he was also the same person who murdered a man and fled, hiding away for 40 years. Then when God called him he did his best to try to avoid God’s call on his life and requested that God send someone else instead (Exodus 4:14).

David is described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He was a man who bravely defeated Goliath in battle and someone who refused to take revenge on Saul when he was being hunted by him. Yet this same man also committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah too.

Elijah was used by God to defeat the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) at Mount Carmel. Yet a short time later he was afraid and ran away and hid from Jezebel. You would have thought that after seeing the great victory at Mount Carmel he would have nothing to fear.

Jonah was the man who ran away from God to avoid his calling to preach in Nineveh. He then obeyed God’s call and preached to the people in that city. After the people repented and received God’s forgiveness, Jonah then complained and moaned at God for his generous love and graciousness. Not the best of attitudes!

Peter was the leader of the early church. He preached the gospel bodily to the crowds. Yet this was the same man who denied three times that he knew Jesus, despite saying he would never desert him.

All of the people mentioned above were fallible individuals yet God still used them. Doesn’t that sound like us? What hope that should give us. What an encouragement to us that God uses people like us despite the mess we make of things on occasions!