Christians can be Good News

My friend, Chris Schorah, sent me this information well worth sharing ~

Premier News. Dec 16 2016
Three pieces of research – all released today – prove that Christians are an
undeniable force for good in UK society. Danny Webster reports.

This Christmas, followers of Jesus will be out in force on our streets providing care and compassion, and in the process saving the NHS millions of pounds.  Conservative estimates from Premier show that Street Pastors helping people in towns and cities will save £13 million. This is assuming that each team helps just one person on each Friday and Saturday in December from needing to go to A&E.

It sounds extraordinary, but it’s also normal, it happens not just in December but on evenings throughout the year as teams provide support and help for people who have had too much drink. It’s just one example of the many things that Christians do in communities to demonstrate compassion and care. It’s not just doing nice things because we feel we ought to, it’s reflecting the compassionate heart of God.

New research released by the Evangelical Alliance shows that nine out of ten evangelicals surveyed will either volunteer or give money this Christmas. The findings demonstrate that nearly every one of the 800 people surveyed will give to charity this Christmas. Almost a third intend on increasing their generosity and seven out of ten give consistently throughout the year.

When it comes to actions to serve people in their communities, 39 per cent of evangelicals will either provide food parcels for people in the community or meals for homeless or vulnerable people. Premier’s ‘Christmas Alone’ campaign is ensuring everyone has somewhere to go this Christmas Day. Christians are doing so much social good this Christmas, I haven’t space to tell you about all of it!

Today seems to be the day for releasing information and reports about the role of Christianity in working for the social good in society! Theos also have a new report out today, Doing Good, which quotes independent money saving expert Martin Lewis talking about Christians Against Poverty: “What CAP UK do is they come to the house, give you many more hours and they also do emotional counselling along with the debt counselling… I think you could do with someone who comes around, makes you a cup of tea, holds your hands, talks through this and gets the money sorted out at the same time…I hear wonderful things about people who’ve been to them.”

Commenting on this advice the author of the report, Nick Spencer, notes: “In that instance it was a debt advice agency that understands the indebted (and their loved ones) as persons, recognising the need for fully human service – meaning not only providing expert advice but also coming along side and ‘being with’ the person as a fellow, fallible human – and providing it inclusively without ever hiding the fact that the motivation for doing so is the love of Christ.”

The Evangelical Alliance survey also showed that most (84%) thought Christmas in the UK was too much about money and consumerism. I wonder if we’re living in a paradox, where we are generous with our time and money, compassionate toward those in need, but also caught up in a culture that places what we buy as the key to an enjoyable Christmas. That’s a lie, but a lie that we’ve bought into even as we disagree with it.

Adding to the barrage of information out today is a poll from the British Humanist Association which lists “spending time with family” as the most popular reason among the general public (picked by 76%) for Christmas being an important time of the year. We don’t want Christmas to be about money or receiving presents (just 39% picked that), but we end up feeling we ought to keep up appearances.

Giving our time at Christmas is a way of resetting the consumerism clock. It’s a way of giving something more than gifts wrapped in paper and tied with bows. We may never again see the people who are helped into a taxi to get home safely, or given a meal, but we might, and where we can that makes even more of a difference.

As the Evangelical Alliance conducted its survey our questions were rightly critiqued for the unintended assumption portrayed that everyone had friends and family to spend Christmas with. For many this is a lonely time of year, a time when the expectation is that we’re all enjoying ourselves with friends and family but for those who are not this is even harder. I recognise just a tiny echo of this struggle myself, this is the first time I’ll not see my family on Christmas Day, the reasons are good ones, and I’ll see them soon after, but
there’s a tiny bit of sadness that I will not be with them.

Christmas is about incarnation, about God who took on human flesh and stepped into the messiness of creation and was love. Who walked with his creation, who loved and cared, who was moved to tears, who gave the greatest gift. If we can be people who provide friendship, more than just services, but hands, faces and words of kindness to people near and far for whom the hand passing them a cup of tea is more valuable than the advice they’re hearing, then that’s an echo of the incarnation as we give ourselves and not just gifts.

Danny Webster is advocacy and media manager at the Evangelical Alliance

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Debate

Debate ~ ponder, argue, dispute, deliberate, question, contest.

reality_tv    The proliferation of reality TV since the late 1990s has encouraged us to actively judge others from a distance. In Wikipedia it says, “Critics have argued that reality television shows do not accurately reflect reality, in ways both implicit (participants being placed in artificial situations), and deceptive or even fraudulent, such as misleading editing, participants being coached in what to say or how to behave, storylines generated ahead of time, and scenes being staged or re-staged for the cameras.”

Judging others has insidiously crept more and more into daily life. I find myself “quick to judge” other people in ways I never used to and pray to have this temptation taken from me. Jesus spelled out very clearly his thinking on this in Matt 7.1-2; Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. And in John 7.24 He warned us to Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.

Social media encourages and enables judging from a distance, by that I mean remote from the impact of your judgments. The effect of this on young people, especially, is apparent in on-line bullying and an increase in mental illness expressed as anorexia and self-harm in particular.

But I also worry about the effect it’s having on politics, which more and more uses “spin” to inaccurately reflect reality.

At a creative writing workshop we were asked to write three different paragraphs about a woman coming home with a bag of groceries. One had to be frightening, one funny and one romantic. By a careful choice of words, it’s possible to dramatically change the reader’s impression of the same event. Journalists, advertisers, politicians and other purveyors of media learn these skills as part of their training, which is why it’s so difficult to get to the heart of the big issues.

Important, compex decisions are being portrayed as either black or white and social media exacerbates this until it’s a form of bullying for adults. I suspect this is why the pollsters got it so wrong at the General Election; Tories were portrayed as evil so if you wanted to vote for them you kept your opinion to yourself.

It was only on the Association of Christian Writers Facebook page that I felt able to discuss a range of opinions about the issues facing our country. We were able to disagree in a polite manner without judgment, enabling us to see different sides of the arguments. It was also possible to agree with one party on one issue and another on a different issue. It’s only common sense that no party is perfect and no party has an absolute consensus within it so how can one party and all its members be evil and the other good?

We will soon be facing a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or not. The media has reduced this down to a question of immigration, implying if you think we should come out of the union you must be racist. This is not helpful or honest. The vote will have far-reaching implications for billions of people long into the future, whichever way we choose. I pray for a healthy, honest, non-judgmental, comprehensive debate so we are able, collectively, to make the right decision.

Refuge

img145Next to the millions of refugees fleeing horrors beyond my imagining, my need for refuge seems pathetic. Like my very independent two year old granddaughter, I often only seek the safety of my Father’s loving arms when I’m frightened, devastated or needing reassurance. If I thanked Him more, when things go well, and sought His guidance always perhaps I wouldn’t fall so often and bruise my heart and the hearts of others.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise him with my song. Psalm 28.7

Catching up again

All camera pictures down load 17.02.07 038 09-58-30Settle

Why is it always “settle down” and not “settle up”? So much in the news is unsettling, causing anxiety, anger at injustices and great sadness. I want to settle or still myself above those negative feelings. I recognise the “high” that comes with excitement, great joy and thrills, could we not feel calm and settled on that plane? I suppose not, it’s too fizzy a state to remain in. And why does “settle up” refer to paying what you owe?

Go

Go, tell it on the mountain,DSC02415

Over the hills and everywhere

Go, tell it on the mountain,

That Jesus Christ is born!

Halfway-ish between celebrating His birth, remembering His Death and rejoicing over His Resurrection ~ how much “telling” have I done?

All camera pictures down load 17.02.07 209Mighty

Oh dear, this word sent me off in the direction of silliness, something I know our Father enjoys, too.

The Bible says the Almighty

Should be viewed with some deep frighty

But is our Lord so uptighty?

A grim judge in a white nighty?

Or is His love our lighty?

In us he does delighty.

The word for today ~ look

DSC02420Does my bum look big in this? Celebrity culture, young girls starving themselves to look like models, our society is obsessed by image.

And yet Isaiah tells us, ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”’

Lent “word-a-day” Challenge

A word-a-day Lenten challenge appeared on Facebook so I thought I’d have a go. Hopefully, it will be a different way to focus on Jesus over the coming weeks and get me writing again. The bold words are those given for the first three days (except my eye skipped day 3, which should have been “look” so I’ll do that tomorrow). I’ve only just thought of offering them as a post so am catching up.

Gather

As self-obsessed toddlers

hen gathering chicksWe scatter from your longing wings.

Help us grow into your people.

As self-obsessed church

We blindly create barriers.

Open our hearts to the lost.

As pampered children

We take your creation for granted.

Help us care for your world.

 

storm-tree-1316835Voice

When I walked through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, my son’s all too possible death, you were there and gave me the gift of your voice. Still and small amidst the storm and fury but unmistakably yours, assuring me he would live against all evidence. I clung to that promise and you honoured it. My faith was strengthened now and always, a sheild against all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

 

Injusticearmour

Lord help me to wear the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, sandle my feet with readiness for peace, help me to keep the sheild of faith up, my head covered in salvation and your Word at the ready that I might stand up against injustice. May your Holy Spirit guide all that I say, do, think and feel to best serve you. Amen

A Christian Response to Terrorism

Not long ago, I wrote an article for The Messenger about Stephen Fry’s th-5attack on God. Before I wrote it, I went on Google to find out what other people thought and found a whole host of responses from many leaders of the Christian community. Today, when I sat down to write about terrorism, I googled “Christian response to ISIS” and various other things and found almost nothing, certainly nothing by any of our leaders. What I did find were the thoughts of ordinary people.

A man by the name of Corey Koon talked about how faith in the West has become a private thing, almost like a hobby. To share your religious views in public is to risk being thought extreme. In fact, when I posted the article about Stephen Fry on my Biblically Blogging site my friend was very upset. She seemed afraid it would go viral and my beliefs and location become public putting us all at risk.

Are we hiding ‘our’ light, the light entrusted to us to shine in this dark world? And how exactly should we shine that light into this particularly dark abyss?

Another blogger, Deborah Jenkins, wrote about the knee jerk reaction to the Paris atrocities and almost blanket indifference to the other recent terrorist attacks less close to home. “I don’t want to be the kind of person who cares deeply but briefly,” she said.

A YouTube recording made by Antoine Leiris, a young husband and father of a baby boy who lost his beautiful wife in the Bataclan attack, has gone viral. He talks about not giving the gift of hatred. He says, “I do not know who you are, and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If the God for whom you killed so blindly, made us in his image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in His heart. Therefore I will not give you the gift of hating you. You have obviously sought it, but responding to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be afraid, to cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens, to sacrifice my freedom for security?” Antoine refuses to comply with these demands.

Instead he says, “Of course I’m devastated with grief – I will give you that tiny victory but it will be a short-term grief. I know that she will join us every day and that we will find each other again in the paradise of free souls, which you will never have access to.” He finishes by talking about life going on, loving and playing with his son, saying, “everyday of his life he will insult you with his happiness and freedom because you don’t have his hatred either.”

Malala     By coincidence, I’m reading The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. It is an utterly compelling read, the non-fiction account of the lives of an Afgan family, as reported by an award-winning journalist who lived with them for four months in 2002. In relating the experience of life under first the communists then the Taliban, you begin to understand how extremism can take root, especially where a huge percentage of the population are uneducated and illiterate.

So what should our response be? As always the Bible shows us the way. In Matthew 5.16, ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.’ And Matthew 5.44-45, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ There is also a warning in Matthew 10.16, ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’