Lunch

Here’s a really brilliant and simple idea to help the church can help engage with child poverty in the UK. You can find more details here.

There are some pretty horrendous statistics about food poverty in the UK and increasingly this is affecting children. According to the Child Poverty Action Group the cuts being put into affect by the government will lead to a ” total of a million children that the coalition’s policies are expected to push into relative income poverty by 2020.” There are reports of many school teachers taking food into school to help feed children. (49 % of teachers in a recent poll said that they had brought food into school for children who had not had breakfast.)

Love to hear from those of you who are involved in this kind of ministry to children:

 

Screenshot_31_01_2013_12_39

 

Deal with the Devil

Screenshot_31_01_2013_12_03

With the Super Bowl looming there is almost as much interest in the advertisements that will be shown as there is in the game taking place on the pitch. Because of the huge audiences; the 2011 superbowl was officially the most watched television programme in history with 111 million views , the advertisers pull out all the stops with their production values. So here’s the Mercedes ad: featuring some brilliant visuals, A list Hollywood name (Willem Defoe & Kate Upton) and a Rolling Stones Soundtrack (Sympathy for the Devil).

I expected more from Mercedes – You wonder how advertising standards allow this sort of drivel through – a road car out performing a Formula 1 car, driving a mercedes improving your dancing ability. But most worrying is the way this ad plays on the same premise as those facile Lynx adverts with a demeaning view of women: in these ads women are so vacuous that if you own the right car, aftershave, even under arm deodorant then you are irresistible to them.

Someone is still peddling the myth that it is still possible to find fulfilment through the ownership of the right objects. The ad promises that your soul can be free for under $30 000 but by introducing the demonic theme into the ad – maybe the advertisers are actually offering not spiritual freedom but quite the opposite. The issue of possession is being raised. The trope of a deal with the devil of course plays into the narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness where he was shown all that could be his if he would do a deal. But possession in another sense is also being raised: as Tyler Durden’s character put it so well in Fight Club:

The things you own end up owning you.

Jesus put it better… “What profit a person if they gain the whole world and forfeit their soul” Mark 8:36

 

Worship and the Mumford Generation

rend campfire

I am a big fan of the Rend Collective. I think their music feels like worship songs for the Mumford and Sons generation – there’s a homemade, folky, engaging warmth to their songs. Not meaning to name drop but just because some people look great from afar and then in the flesh turn out to be a bit of a let down; I have had the privilege of working with them on a couple of events and they come across as very grounded and gracious people with a real servant heart. This really comes across in their new video which is both a trailer for their new album and an apologetic and a challenge to the church to be more like a wall-less gathering around a campfire (nice metaphor by the way).

Campfire Evangelicalism?

I have been doing a lot of thinking recently about what it means to be an evangelical and playing around with the idea of a “centred set” rather than a “bounded set” has been in my mind. The terminology is borrowed from the Evangelical Christian Missiologist Paul Hiebert (you can read a fuller explanation here). Hiebert who was Distinguished Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School argues that rather than trying to police the boundaries of who is “in” and who is “out” we should just clearly articulate what the centre and core of our faith is i.e. Jesus and invite people to engage with it. So rather than trying to settle all of our differences across the vast spectrum of evangelical views we should just be clear about the centre of our faith – what we believe about the Good news of Jesus and draw people to him. Rend have used the metaphor of a campfire to encourage the same idea – we invite people to join in and we worship around the campfire. Watch the video and let me know if you think the metaphor works – or if you just like the music.

A Global Gospel

How can we make sure that the gospel we preach is not just a cut down westernised emaciated gospel? Sadly because we often don’t reflect on what the gospel is – we just assume we know it; our gospel begins to be reduced to fit in with the norms of the culture around us. Living in Oxfordshire my kids have unwittingly picked up the local accent – they didn’t decide to do it – it just happened they only notice it when they get together with my family from other places and then the accents become very noticeable. In the same way we can check to see if we have domesticated the gospel to western culture by listening hard to the critique of people from other cultures. That’s why we invited Rosalee Velloso Ewell the head of the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission to address our National Consultation on Confidence in the Gospel. Rosalee is a Brazillian theologian with a sharp mind – listen carefully because she makes some important points – then let me know what you think.

confidence in the gospel

There are some helpful discussion questions that you could use if you want to watch this video as a training tool for preachers and leaders.

 

Listen…

I have been trying to follow up a talk our family heard on Sunday at our church gathering on generosity. I have been wanting to work together to reinforce these values for us as a whole family: that in response to God’s generosity to us we would to be generous to others. So at dinner time we all sat and chatted a bit about what simple things we could do practice the virtue of generous living. So far we thought of more prayer for others, offering baby sitting and agreeing to take on a new foster child. In just 24 hours there have been lots of opportunities already. We still have a long way to go as we pursue this value and so I was delighted to come across the 40acts campaign and this nice little video , take a look I think you will enjoy it:

40 acts listen

Chris Duffet is the current president of the Baptist Union and is very creative evangelist always looking for new ways to connect with people in the town centre chaplaincy he runs.(You’ll enjoy his book Big Hearted if you want more of his creativity in your life.) Its a simple idea – making space to listen to people around us – I notice that I have been putting my headphones on when I go to the shops to pick up bread and milk. But perhaps I should unplug to be more available to those around me? Also I like the idea of setting up a sofa in our town centre. Two guys from our local had some great conversations when they set up a gazebo and gave away some chocolates recently – in fact we had three people come to our Alpha course just from being more visible in our town centre. So thanks Stewardship for this great campaign – looking forward to seeing more of it as we enter Lent.

Flesh and Blood

 

I wrote a piece on blood and organ donation to support the Flesh and Blood campaign; I think its an excellent campaign and worth taking a closer look at.

fleshandblood from fleshandblood on Vimeo.

 

A BLOOD DONOR SAVED MY LIFE

There’s a Christian T-shirt that has a picture of a cross with the slogan: “A blood donor saved my life.” It’s a light-hearted way of drawing attention to a heavyweight Christian doctrine. The New Testament is very clear that it is only through Jesus’s sacrificial death and blood shed on the cross that our sins could be forgiven and we can be saved.


The whole Bible points to the blood of Jesus being necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Throughout the Old Testament the blood of sacrificial bulls and goats in the temple point forward to the reality of our need for the blood of the perfect Lamb, Jesus, the Son of God himself to deal with sin decisively once and for all to bring us peace with God. In the New Testament the writers constantly orient their teaching around this transforming truth.

It is the uniqueness of the death of Christ that makes many nervous to make any connection between the giving of our blood or organs to offer life to others and the finished work of Jesus. It would be as insulting as someone declaring on a Remembrance Day parade that just as soldiers sacrificed for us by laying down their lives for us, so we now sacrifice for them by laying down our wreaths. There is no parallel in scale, no analogy of cost. But one could say that just as the Remembrance Day commemorations are a way of honouring and celebrating what others have done for us, so giving blood or offering organs for transplantation is one of many ways we can act in remembrance or in worshipful response to what Christ has done for us.

In fact this is exactly what Christians are encouraged to do in Romans 12:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

In light of what Jesus did for us, Christians are urged to consider how we use our bodies to worship God. For a long time the church has been wrestling with these verses as we begin to break down the sacred/secular divide. Worship is more than just our prayer times, our personal devotions or singing in church services. Romans 12 teaches us that everything we do at work, in our family life, in our engagement with neighbours and culture; everything we do physically, emotionally and mentally – all of this is part of our true spiritual worship.

If what we actually do with our physical bodies is also seen as part of our spiritual worship, then blood and organ donation can be offered as part of our worship response to the mercy that God has shown us.

 

Screenshot_28_01_2013_14_03

There are a number of interesting ways the Bible engages with the subject of transplantation. As the medical technology was not available during biblical times, blood donation and organ transplantation are not handled directly, yet there still remain some interesting hints that seem to affirm worship through transplantation. Adrian Warnock writing for the Christian Medical Fellowship helpfully highlights some of these:

1. Horticultural metaphors

In Romans Paul uses the metaphor of Jews and Gentiles being grafted into one tree – which is a horticultural equivalent of transplantation. Warnock observes, “Romans 11 is an important piece of Paul’s discussion of the Church in relation to Jews and Gentiles. In it he describes Gentiles as being grafted into a tree which represents Israel. Here the emphasis is not on the transplant saving the life of the recipient, but the recipient providing the life for the transplant which would otherwise die.”

2. Body of Christ

In the New Testament becoming a Christian is described as being part of the body of Christ. Gifted individuals are even described as different organs in the body. Warnock writes: “As Christ’s body is formed by spiritual transplantation, is it not possible that we can view physical transplantation in the light of this? As biblical writers can conceive of Christ giving life to us as we are transplanted into his body, can we not also see that physical transplants can legitimately grant life to their hosts?”

3. Hyperbolic illustration

Paul describes the fervency of the affection that the Galatian believers had for him to the extent that when he was ill they…

“… did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” (Galatians 4:14-15)

Paul uses hyperbole to congratulate the Galatians on their previous affection for him and asking them to renew it again. Surely if this is used as a positive affection when the possibility of organ donation was not available it is not too great a leap to think that under the right circumstances now that organ donation is possible, this level of generosity is to be commended.

Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that the laws forbidding the Israelites to eat blood would imply that blood transfusion and organ donation should be prohibited.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting.” Genesis 9:4-5 (See also Leviticus 17:11-14)

These commands are not generally accepted by the Church to be still in force for believers for the same reason that eating pork is not banned. In the new covenant separateness for believers is not maintained through food laws, as in Acts God appears to Peter in a dream specifically to declare all foods clean. We can surmise that the Bible does not prohibit blood and organ donation but instead lays a reasonable conceptual framework that would allow Christians to pursue it.

Here are three further reasons why Christians might consider offering blood or organs for transplantation.

1. The body matters to God.

Jesus went around physically healing people’s bodies. His was not a purely “spiritual” salvation or a spoken ministry. There is a very physical element to God’s plans for humanity – that is why not just Jesus’ resurrection but the general resurrection of the dead is so important. Bringing physical healing to people’s bodies is a way that we, like Jesus, can offer a taste of the kingdom breaking into our world.

Gilber Mileander warns “our society’s attempt to find ways to live longer should not be allowed to override a deep-seated and difficult to articulate sense of the importance of the body, even the dead body”. He goes on to warn against the “dehumanising tendency to regard our bodies as collections of alienable parts” and to beware of approaches to organ transplant that were really “a noble for of cannibalism”. So the way we treat the body even beyond death is important – we must be careful to be respectful and honouring and consent becomes a vital way we can safeguard against dishonouring the body.

2. Prolonging life for the sake of evangelism

Helping people to live longer gives more opportunity for them to hear and respond to the gospel. And the very act of donation by Christians may prompt the recipients to ask questions and begin a journey to faith. Peter instructs Christians to “live such good lives among the pagans that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven”. By stepping up to meet this need the Church has an opportunity to model generosity and kindness that can act as a prompt for others to seek God.

3. It is the right thing to do

Jesus tells us to love our neighbours and to love our enemies. He presents a role model in the parable of the Good Samaritan who met the practical and physical needs of a stranger. Part of our worship to God is to show compassion and mercy to those in need that we come across. Our society has presented a very clear need and so we should be willing to respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unbelievable

Screenshot_25_01_2013_13_02-2

This was a jaw dropping video. It made me reflect on the absolute fragility of life. I listened to a radio interview this morning from a Holocaust survivor who wrestled with that concept. She wasn’t sure if it was a miracle or a lucky break that had enabled her to survive Auschwitz – but nevertheless she felt grateful. I guess the gratitude points her to the idea that there was someone to be grateful to?


Is “We are Young” by Fun about domestic violence?

fun-we-are-young-lyrics

So I may have got my wires crossed, but one of the catchiest songs of 2012 was Fun’s “We are Young.” We had it on repeat on the Now 87 all Summer and as the kids sang along I listened to the lyrics:

“We Are Young”
(feat. Janelle Monáe)

Give me a second I, I need to get my story straight My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ’bout a scar, and I know I gave it to you months ago I know you’re trying to forget But between the drinks and subtle things The holes in my apologies, you know I’m trying hard to take it back So if by the time the bar closes And you feel like falling down I’ll carry you homeTonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Now I know that I’m not
All that you got
I guess that I, I just thought
Maybe we could find new ways to fall apart
But our friends are back
So let’s raise a toast
‘Cause I found someone to carry me home

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
Just carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
Carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
Just carry me home tonight (Nananananana)

The moon is on my side (Nananananana)
I have no reason to run (Nananananana)
So will someone come and carry me home tonight (Nananananana)
The angels never arrived (Nananananana)
But I can hear the choir (Nananananana)
So will someone come and carry me home (Nananananana)

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

So if by the time the bar closes
And you feel like falling down
I’ll carry you home tonight

Its that first verse that scared me.
OK so the casual talk about drug usage wasn’t great – “getting higher than the empire state.”
But more of the problem was this little section:
“My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ’bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
I know you’re trying to forget
But between the drinks and subtle things
The holes in my apologies, you know”
Sounds like his girlfriend is talking to a stranger (with sunglasses) about a scar that her boyfriend gave her that he tried to apologise for but the only way he can make it up to her is saying that if she gets too drunk to get herself home he will carry her home.
OK so as I say I may have misheard it, someone put me right so I can enjoy this song again.
Thanks
Krish

Lost in Transition

You might know that I have been interested in helping young people transition to adult faith for a while now. There are some key transitions that we seem to lose young people from the life of the church. One of those is transitioning from “Sunday school” to wider church participation. There is one school of thought that we shouldn’t have sunday school at all that we should do the whole of our church life as an “all age” or “family based” model. I have some sympathy with these approaches, but most of the churches I know don’t have these in place and so we need incremental ways to help these churches integrate their young people into the wider church.

Our local church has been experimenting with some ways to do this – we haven’t got it cracked – we are still on a journey but i thought it would be good to share with you our thinking – so you can comment and together we can come up with some good models.

1. Hanging out

we are looking into ways that young people can spend time with ordinary people in the church – and so once a month there are separate boys and girls groups for 13 year olds and up. They are pretty relaxed evenings that take place in homes. There’s lots of games, crafts, competitions and food. There’s no agenda or programme. The hope is that through spending time together in joint activity relationships will develop. There’s definitely room for some intentionality in these groups – as some adults find it easier than others to initiate conversation with young people about life, faith, school etc. But its a great start and the young people look forward to it.

2. School integration

I run an afterschool outreach and discipleship group, which has both Christians as well as young people who are exploring the Christian faith. The group involves doughnuts and fizzy drinks and a lively discussion about life and faith. I try to tie in what we discuss with what I know is coming up on the school curriculum. The young people look at “Where was God in the holocaust” at this time of year and so that will be our topic of discussion for the next couple of weeks. Its a great way to help young people learn how to integrate their studies and their faith and to learn how to share their faith with their friends.

3. Helping rotas

At its best this has lead to some of our younger teens having an adult teach them a skill that plays to a strength that they have. We have seen some young people take over the PA and audio visuals, others drum, others take on teaching responsibilities in the Sunday school. I have some precious memories of watching some of the young people being encouraged and supported by the more shy members of the congregation and both adults and children growing in relationship and confidence together.

4. Mentoring table in the church service

We are trying hard to help our young people transition into the “adult” sermon in our church services. As a half way house we have put together a “Youth mentoring table” where a leader hosts the table with young people sat together around it in the “main service.” This morning I was in charge of helping out and with our younger teens (12 to 14 year olds) I asked them to spider diagram the sermon. I explained how to do it before the sermon started and debriefed it a little bit at the end. They did a great job and definitely stayed focussed for the whole time. This kind of Kinesthetic learning where there is some active participation – reprocessing of the flow the information of the sermon worked for a number of the children. I will try this for a few weeks so the develop the skill and then mix it up to try some other ways to engage them . I am really open to learn from you guys – so let me know the things you have been trying.

sermon engagement

Yes Haribo helped too…

Raising Girls

India's Daughter - Photo by Marilena Benini (Creative Commons)

India’s Daughter – Photo by Marilena Benini (Creative Commons)

I love being a dad, both to my birth children, adopted child and foster children. I am very keen to learn how to be a better parent and so was intrigued by a really interesting piece in the Guardian this week on the specific challenges of parenting girls. I’m no expert so here are my musings on the recommendations provided by columnist Hadley Freeman. Love to know what you would add?

1. If your daughter wants to be a vegetarian, urge her to wait until she is 16

Freeman denies a connection between annorexia and vegetarianism but make this interesting observation:

Vegetarianism encourages people to divide foods between the good and the bad, and it then becomes a legitimate means of limiting one’s diet. Your daughter has a whole lifetime ahead of her to think of food as something other than a pleasurable physical necessity. Why let her start early?

As parents we want to be able to help our children develop both a healthy body image hence the caution from Freeman about children becoming too conscious about which foods they are eating. There is a lot of pressure on girls to look a certain way and eating disorders often seem to be connected with this. But on the other hand we want to help our children develop good eating habbits that will set them on a good trajectory for the rest of their lives. So the 5 a day habbit of fruit and vegetable is a way of dividing food into good and bad categories and why not start early with that?

2. Be movie-aware

“Ration your daughter’s diet of romcoms and musicals or she will have unrealistic expectations of human relations”

It was good to come across a piece in the guardian encouraging some form of discernment because of the corrosive effects of certain movies. I am a movie lover and really enjoy watching films with my children. There are definitely some films (not just influenced by the age ratings though that is important) that I would not encourage my kids to watch. But rather than taking a purely censorial approach to movies – I believe there is great value in watching and discussing films with your children.
“What did you think of the way the boy treated the girl in that film?”
“Why are women so rarely the central characters in movies”

We watched Mirror Mirror and Snow White and Huntsmen recently and it lead to some good discussions about beauty, relationships, physical disabilities and courage.

3. Ask “What do YOU want?”

“Start your daughters early, regularly asking them questions similar to the following:

  • “Do you like that dress or are you only wearing it because other girls at school are wearing something similar?”

  • “I’m sorry Violet is being weird with you at school, but do you even care, seeing as you never liked her anyway?”

  • “That’s great that Robert asked you on a date, but do you actually like him, or did you say yes only because he asked?”

Trying to help our daughters to think for themselves, make wise decisions, question the status quo and peer pressurisation is definitely helpful. As a Christian I am continually drawing on strong women in the scriptures who had to face very tough countercultural decisions in order to honour God. I am a huge fan of the stories of Deborah, Ruth, Esther and Mary stories for that. I had a lot of fun chatting through with my 6 year old the story of Jael too recently… All of these women challenged the status quo and were used by God to great effect – liberating their people, rescuing the needy, proving faithful, wise and gracious all at the same time.

Overall it was quite a random list from Freedman – would have loved to have seen more on how to let your daughters know they are unconditionally loved. i think that has got to be a fundamental value. I think knowing unconditional love will help children with body dysmorphia, romance and peer pressure.

So there’s my engagement with Guardian article – what top tips would you share on parenting daughters?