Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Faith (Page 3 of 11)

And they were bored out of their brains…

Dying ChurchI’ve been attending a Fresh Expressions course at my church over the last few weeks. Tonight we looked at Acts 2:42-47 in the context of what a fresh expression can look like and the impact it can have. We were asked to write out an ‘opposite’ of this great passage on the early church. Here’s what we came up with:

They disregarded the apostles’ teaching and spent time alone, constantly checking Facebook. Everyone was bored and filled with disdain at what wasn’t happening in their lives. They all bought things for themselves, especially investment properties with which they could make more money for themselves. They broke bread every Sunday and lived alone with sad and lonely hearts, cursing God and incurring the scorn of the people. And they wondered why no one took them seriously.

I wonder if that hits too close to home in your experience of church.

Anzac Day and the enduring hope of Christianity

As Jarrod McKenna says, we don’t honour the diggers if we forget the horrors of war. I have generally had mixed feelings about Anzac Day. As I think about it though, I think it’s important to honour the diggers for their incredible bravery. It is an example for us to live lives of courage in a non-violent way, in a way that promotes relationship and love. Simon Smart from the Centre for Public Christianity does this well in this brief comparison of what Anzac Day shares with the Christian message.

Overcoming disappointment

A couple of months back, Zondervan’s blog had an excerpt from a book by Christine Caine called Undaunted: Daring to do what God Calls You to DoThe excerpt contained steps to overcoming disappointment. They were profound, as they focussed on finding God in the midst of our disappointment rather than trying to feel better. The most profound statement for me talked about the power of worship and praise, and mentioned how filling it is to “remember his mercies more than my hurt.”

You can read the rest of the excerpt here.

Freud and C.S. Lewis on ethics and morality

lewis-freud

Armand Nicholi, in his book, The Question of God, brings to life an imaginary debate between two of the great minds of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. Here is what they both say about ethics and morality:

“Freud, however, asserts that ethics and morals come from human need and experience. The idea of a universal moral law as proposed by philosophers is “in conflict with reason.” He writes that “ethics are not based on a moral world order but on the inescapable exigencies of human cohabitation.” In other words, our moral code comes from what humans find to be useful and expedient. It is ironic that Lewis contrasted ethics with traffic laws; Freud wrote that “ethics are a kind of highway code for traffic among mankind.” That is, they change with time and culture.

Lewis points out that although the moral law does not change over time or from culture to culture, the sensitivity to the law, and how a culture or an individual expresses the law, may vary. For example, the German nation under the Nazi regime obviously ignored the law and practiced a morality the rest of the world considered abominable. Lewis claims that when we assert that the moral ideas of one culture are better than those of another, we are using the moral law to make that judgment. “The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another,” Lewis writes “you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other . . . the standard that measures two things is something different from either. You are in fact comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.” Lewis concludes that “if your moral ideas can be truer, and those of the Nazis less true, there must be something— some Real Morality— for them to be true about.”

Mark Sayers on Christians being slaves to feelings

Here is a great little clip from Mark Sayers on why many Christians, and almost everyone in the West, have become enslaved to our feelings. I lived like this for years. For me, the old ‘fact, faith, feelings’ train in a Christian tract that I saw about 30 years ago still holds true.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/41128426 ]

What is the Gospel? – 3

lion-and-the-lambThis is the third of a 2-part series on ‘What is the Gospel?’ Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Eternal life is not having a never-ending party – the great U2 concert in the sky. N.T. Wright uses a good analogy to illustrate the wrong thinking we have about heaven and eternal life and its idea of everything being ‘perfect.’ He tells the story of a keen golfer who died and went to heaven. When he got there he got his golf clubs out and teed off on the first hole and straight away got a hole in one. He couldn’t believe it. This was amazing! He finished his round and came back the next day and this time he got a hole in one on the first and second holes. He was ecstatic. Heaven was great! The next day he got holes in one on the first 3 holes, and eventually he was going around the course in 18 shots, getting holes in one every time he played. He soon realised though that this was all rather boring.

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What is the Gospel? – 2

What is the Gospel 2Yesterday we started looking at what the Gospel is. Today we continue by looking at how we have reduced the Gospel to salvation only, and a wrong theology of salvation at that.

Our faith has been reduced to an escapist fire insurance that has nothing more to say to the issues that face the ordinary person in the street. When it is all about going to heaven when you die, there is no ultimate concern with issues of justice, caring for the environment, and politics. Too many Christians still believe that “helping the poor is good but if they’re all going to end up in hell, what is the point? Surely the most important thing is to secure their eternal destiny. That is what really matters in the end. The other stuff is just temporary.”

The problem with this type of thinking is that it is just not biblical. And because the Bible reveals a God who addresses every aspect of life, this type of thinking can also lead to tragic consequences. Take the case of Rwanda. At the time of the 1994 genocide, this central African country was 94% Christian. So how could a country where almost everyone identifies as Christian let 800 thousand of its people be butchered in a matter of a few months? The reasons are complex, but research and interviews conducted there reveal that part of the reason is that the messages coming from the pulpits of Rwanda’s churches was largely about the afterlife. It had nothing to say to the issues facing the population in the here and now.

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What is the Gospel? – 1

what-is-the-gospelI’ve been thinking alot recently about meaning in life and how we all need something bigger than ourselves to give us purpose. I have found that the type of life I have lived for many of my adult years has been a life without meaning. It has ultimately been a life that is futile.

What do we mean when we talk of meaning in this way? Deep down we all have cravings for significance and purpose. Numerous books have been written about these issues over the years. Titles such as The Search for Significance, The Purpose-Driven Life, and Living on Purpose have been best-sellers. Why is that? Why are self-help books so popular? It is surely because of something deep within us that craves something deeper than what we are experiencing in our daily routine.

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‘Expectation is the mother of resentment’

fork-in-the-roadThis is one of the truest statements I have heard over the years.
 
Last Thursday night I had a good evening planned but things just didn’t go my way. I arrived home from a meeting and got into bed early to listen to some more of an audiobook I have been really enjoying. As I was about to get into bed I realised there was something I hadn’t done, so I thought, ok, and got up and did what I needed to do. I then got back into bed, got comfortable and just found the spot on my iPod where my audiobook was up to, when my mobile rang. It was someone who I’ve been talking to for a while about some issues he has been going through. I knew I should take the call, so I did. We talked for about 20 minutes, by which time I really needed to get some sleep.
 

The unnoticed value of the quiet time

835822_reading_the_bibleYears ago Phil Collins sang a song which talked about the fact that we often don’t realise the good we have until we lose it. I found that with my daily quiet time in India last year. I had been having quiet times every morning for about seven years and have, over time, realised the benefits of them.

Soon after arriving in India however, as we had been getting up early and going places, I had not taken the time to spend with God in quietness and contemplation, however short. But once I did start it again, it hit me how ‘un-relaxed’ I had been over the previous week or so. Just sitting here doing some reading and taking in what is before me made me see again what I had missed. I felt somewhat more relaxed, and able to think a little more clearly, and, most importantly, to realise again the importance of being loving and not letting my emotions dictate my actions, especially as I was pretty tired most of the time.

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