Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I felt I was being picked on and bullied on a daily basis and that there was no respect whatsoever for my religious beliefs.

With all the column inches and TV coverage given to the abortion debate in the Commons this week, this nearly slipped me by.

Lillian Ladele, 47, a marriage registrar for Islington Council, was threatened with the sack after refusing to preside over gay marriages on the grounds of her Christian faith.

"I am a Christian and I hold the orthodox Christian view that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others and that this is the God-ordained place for sexual relations.

"A civil partnership is marriage in all but name. Regardless of my feelings for the participants, I feel unable to directly facilitate the formation of a union that I sincerely believe is contrary to God's law.

"My beliefs do not mean I wish people who are homosexual to receive detrimental treatment. My God does not love anyone any less because of their sexual orientation.

"But the Bible explains that sin cannot be ignored, and it creates a problem for any Christian if they are expected to do or to condone something that they see as sinful.

"I cannot reconcile my faith with taking an active part enabling same sex unions to be formed as I believe this is contrary to God's instruction that sexual relations belong exclusively between a man and a woman within marriage."

"The council knows that if I am required to choose between my conscience and their desire that all registrars must undertake civil partnership duties, then I will have to honour my faith and face unemployment."

The Daily Mail gives it some treatment
here. It seems to me that this could be seen as an example of my last post; no doubt there have been much accusations thrown at Ms Ladele of gay-bashing, despite her seeming to explain her position clearly.

But more than that, it's surely the denial of a Christian's right to hold beliefs that actually affect their life. Doctors not being able to refuse to take abortions and nurses forced to practice euthanasia are two other examples that have probably come up or will come up. But aside from the debate about whether you can hold a job in which your beliefs greatly affect your capacity to complete the job, this does seem to highlight the de-Christianizing of our society, and specifically what it will look like for a Christian involved in that society.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Living an Unwritten Doctrinal Basis...

Some formed up thought from chatting with a friend the other day about how we talk about what we do as Christians. We were chatting to his unbelieving mates and their big questions about God were stuff like 'Does God hate it when you swear?' and 'If I say f*#@ will God condemn me?'

Now in my head I'm thinking well, actually we're all screwed because we've all rejected God - that's the heartbeat of the second half of Romans 1, right? But how do I convey that to someone who's view of a Christian is made up of a list of things you can't do. If my student housemates are munching hash cakes, why shouldn't I have a slice? If I do, does it show I'm free. If I don't, does it reinforce the rule-based definition of what a Christian is in their heads?

We reckoned that a really important way to helpfully portray the Christian life is by encouraging people to see that our 'faith' is not a merely spiritual-realm-thing but actually a physical thing - it affects your day-to-day actions. That seems to be what was going on in 1 Corinthians, with the Christians reckoning that it was the spiritual that mattered, therefore they could do what they like with their bodies (including major incest for one).

But Paul's response was to remind them their bodies were the Lord's. It was my experience that it's very easy to explain to your mate on the football social that the reason you don't want to get hammered at the bar is "because you're a Christian", but really that contains no sense of what Christianity is. You may as well say you're not getting wasted because you're a Muslim, or because you're against the abuse of underpaid Chinese alcopop bottlers... or something.

But actually we're in relationship with the living God - we know our King Jesus, and we want to live for him both in thankfulness and to please Him. Surely, that is what we want to convey, and before we convey anything, what we want to be thinking as we live each day.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Free Song...

Click here to download for free I Have A Shelter, a great song from the the lovely people at Sovereign Grace Music. It's taken from their new album Come Weary Saints, which I can totally recommend. I particularly love the album because...

1. It's BIG on God's sovereignty.
2. It portrays the Christian life as it really is; cross-shaped.
3. There are some brilliant songs on there.

Which, you have to say, are a cracking combination, with the first two being wonderful things to write brilliant music about.

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

© 2008 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (ASCAP)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP) (Admin. By Integrity’s Hosanna! Music) Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)(Admin. By Integrity’s Praise! Music)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Ever feel guilty writing a prayer letter?

I first started sending an email round to friends with a bit of news and some prayer points when I did six months of my gap year in South Africa with SU. A lot of the people recieving it were families who'd hired me to cook dinner parties for them, allowing me to raise a bit of cash to fund my trip. Once I hit Durham I'd send an email once a term or so, with a bit of info about what I was upto, some encouragements from CU and church, and prayer points, both general and specific, for the term ahead. A remotely funny anecdote never went down badly either.

Now that I've passed from student to that well-worn category of 'full-time paid [but yet not actually paid] Christian ministry', I'm reliant on a base of supporters to fund my living costs. Obviously it makes sense and follows biblical principle that those supporters don't just write me a cheque now and again, but are actually involved in what I'm doing. One of the best and most precious ways of that partnership being fleshed out is in much needed prayer, and so I send out an email every couple of months with detailed stuff to give thanks for, and points for prayer. This also goes to a group of mates who offered to pray for me this year. All well and good so far.

However, nearly a year after graudating, out of all the friends who send me prayer letters/updates all but one are involved in some sort of Christian training scheme/church position. Obviously it's great to be praying for people in those kind of positions, but at the same time it could indicate a potentially unhealthy focus on what 'Christian ministry' is. I was chatting with my friend James about this a few weeks back. From nine-to-five he's dealing with invoices for a rail-delivery company, but he keeps friends far flung updated with a little email now and again containing prayer and praise points.

There's a number of caveats to bring to the table. Maybe it's just I'm not that great at keeping in contact with friends. Maybe our culture is such that people are more likely to have one or two pals who they keep in touch with for prayer. I suppose in reality you are going to be praying for those you are close to, so its clearly unrealistic to expect everyone to be exchanging prayer news with everyone. Also those who are still part of the same church should be in a position where they can pray for each other regularly, and I guess there's a good argument for the local church being the place where people recieve most prayer support. And we wouldn't ever want to say you can only pray for people whom you are 'up-to-date-with'.

All that said, this doesn't remove the fact that it seems prayer letters are the norm for church workers, whilst those involved in full-time Christian ministry at the office, in the classroom, at home, etc, are less likely to send them, or are less likely to be encouraged to send them. I'm pretty sure it's symptomatic of an unbalanced focus on church positions in some sense - i.e. if you're going-for-it-keen then you'll work for a church and therefore are entitled to send out prayer letters. I guess it could also indicate a prayerlessness within Christian friendships? I've certainly been convicted, as I've been thinking, about how badly I care for friends far flung. We're all busy people but an unwillingness to keep in touch and to pray in an informed way for each other can't simply be something that being busy is allowed to create.

So what to do? Encourage a few mates in different walks of life to send round a monthly email updating each other on the ministry they are involved in? I was reading in From Cambridge to the World (incidentally a brilliantly written and non-triumphalist book detailing the work of the Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) how back in the day graduated CU members would send round an annual letter reporting what they were up to and how they could pray for each other. I have a mate who, in this vein, set-up a password-protected blog for his mates so they could regularly load up their prayer points.


Friday, May 02, 2008

This Made Me Laugh...

Book plugs are always one of the tough gigs to do in the student world, at CU, church, conferences, etc.
Don't want to trivialise the book; do want to make the book sound attractive without being too geeky; don't want it to sound like the book-plug they heard last week; do want to look like I'm not just reading out the blurb on the back.
This video, one of the highlights from the student stream at New Word Alive, takes up the challenge with hilarious results.

HT: Bish