Issues Facing Christians Today – Part 2

In my previous blog I wrote about the need for Christians to be seeking to play their part in influencing society but doing so in the right way. This is an issue facing many different parts of the church.

In recent weeks I read an article in the Times by Melanie Phillips, not normally someone I agree with. She spoke about and quoted Lorna Ashworth who had just resigned from influential positions within the Anglican Church and about the challenge the Anglican Church is facing in responding to the changes in society.

Phillips writes….

Ashworth’s protest, is about the church’s general embrace of secularism. The true message of Christianity, she says, risks being drowned out by people who prefer to discuss social justice because “if we talk about sin, then we have to talk about bad behaviour and people don’t want to be judgmental”.

As a result, the church wants to replace sin, judgment and repentance by “good disagreement”. Thus it would give good and bad equal status. In other words, it would vitiate its role as moral arbiter altogether.

She goes on to talk about the difficulties associated with trying to be inclusive and to prevent bullying.

It is certainly important for religious bodies, like everyone else, to be sensitive to the needs of those who don’t fit in. Being inclusive, however, does not mean giving powerful interest groups the right to remake society in their own image. Which is precisely what’s happening.

She then goes on to critique the secular agenda.

The secular goal, however, is not tolerance and inclusivity at all. It is to overthrow the Christian basis of the West. It is an exercise in the doctrinaire use of power. As such, the agenda the church is embracing is resulting in the bullying and intimidation of all who transgress the doctrine of gender and sexual fluidity.

Finally presenting the challenge that the church faces.

As Ashenden observes, those pushing these reforms on the church threaten to change Christianity out of all recognition. “It’s hard to know what to call it,” he writes. “Some have suggested using the label MTD: ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’.”

The outcome of the church evacuating itself of meaning in this “inclusive” way is not a growing flock but empty pews.

Many think the church is an irrelevance. It is not. It is indissolubly connected with Britain’s national identity and the health of its culture. The church is, however, suffering from a kind of spiritual auto-immune disease, attacking its own protective organisms while embracing those that will destroy it. As with the church, moreover, so with the society at whose very core it lies.

Provocative. These are very challenging times. We have to discern how the church relates to the world today, if we get it wrong we and the world are in deep trouble!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Issues Facing Christians Today

posted in: Living Faith, Tony Thompson 1

I have just started rereading the book Issues facing Christians today by John Stott. I first read it over 30 years ago, but it is still very relevant, we face many of the same issues.

Stott challenges his readers to get involved in the world without compromising what we believe.

Some Christians, anxious above all to be faithful to the revelation of God without compromise, ignore the challenges of the modern world and live in the past. Others, anxious to respond to the world around them, trim and twist God’s revelation in their search for relevance. I have struggled to avoid both traps. For the Christian is at liberty to surrender neither to antiquity nor to modernity….It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world.

He acknowledges the temptation to withdraw from the world, this is something I know I have been guilty of in the past.

Fellowship with each other in the church is more congenial than service in an apathetic and even hostile environment outside.

But this is not an option for a follower of Jesus because

His lordship extends far beyond the religious bit of our lives. It embraces the whole of our experience, public and private, home and work, church membership and civic duty, evangelistic and social responsibilities.

However, we need to get involved in the right way. He suggests imposing our views on others doesn’t work. For example, the Inquisition in Europe which sought to combat heresy. Now Christians of all traditions are deeply ashamed that such methods could ever have been used in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet today dictatorships of extreme left or right still try by force to abolish opposition and compel assent. Imposing belief is unproductive. Similarly, imposing behaviour is also unproductive as was the case with prohibition forced on a relatively reluctant America at the beginning of the last century.

Doing nothing, as was true for much of the German church during the 1930 when Hitler rose to power is equally unacceptable. This was one of the many shocking things contained in the blog published last week by Phil Moore. Fifteen civil servants, some of them churchgoers didn’t raise a murmur as the plans for the holocaust was unveiled before them.

Some heroic individual Christians spoke out and most paid with their lives, but the official church and most ordinary Christians refused to condemn Hitler and his anti-Semitism.

I am now convinced that we need to engage at all levels in persuasion, we need to use argument to convince people of the truth. We need to be the conscience of the nation. We can’t just convince people by Biblical quotations, we must show the value of Christian morality, commending God’s law by rational arguments. We can do this because we believe God’s laws are both good in themselves and universal in their application because far from arbitrary, they fit the human beings God has made. Things are in the Bible because they are true, they are not true because they are in the Bible.

This challenge is probably more necessary now than when Stott first challenged us 30 years ago.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

How Holocausts Happen

posted in: Bible, History, Tony Thompson 0

As well as writing blogs I read them as well. Below is probably the most power and challenging blog I have read this year. It is written by Phil Moore and the original can be found at:

http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/how_holocausts_happen

This summer, I spent a difficult day at the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I stepped inside the gas chambers where the Nazi prison guards killed 1.5 million people in two short years and, like the other tourists who stood there with me, I wondered how such a holocaust could have happened. On the way out, one of the tour guides confronted the question we were all thinking. His parting words were a chilling quote from the Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi: “It happened, therefore it can happen again.”

Still at a loss as to how the holocaust could have happened, I took a long drive from Auschwitz to a villa on the shores of Lake Wannsee, about half an hour from Berlin. If you know your history, then you will know that it was in this villa that fifteen civil servants met for biscuits and coffee on 21st January 1942 and took less than ninety minutes to agree ‘the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’. The sun was shining when I got there. The birds were singing. I could see people swimming and sailing on the lake outside the window. It was all so beautiful and so humane that it was almost impossible to imagine that this was the drawing room where a genocide was planned.

The fifteen civil servants were very normal people. Some of them were churchgoers. One of them was rather incongruously named Martin Luther. Yet none of the fifteen raised any murmur of objection to the plans for holocaust that were unveiled before them. Two things had happened in the years leading up to their meeting that made the murder of six million Jews seem normal, even virtuous. As they wiped the biscuit crumbs from their laps and stepped out onto the veranda, these two things made them all agree that it was simply the only proper thing to do.

First, they had allowed the Jews to become dehumanised in their minds. They had listened for so long to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda that they felt they were discussing the fate of cockroaches, parasites, undesirables, vermin – all the ways in which the media had poisoned the minds of everyday Germans towards the Jews. Once they began to view the Jews as less than human, it was only logical to treat them inhumanely.

Second, they had allowed the Nazis to remove the Jews from public gaze. For several years now, the Jewish population had been driven into ghettos or into concentration camps where their faces were no longer seen. When people came into contact with them, they often spotted their humanity and rushed to protect them. Oskar Schindler in his factory in Kraków, the Dutch workers at Anne Frank’s father’s warehouse – whenever people pushed back the cloak of secrecy and looked into Jewish eyes, it broke the Nazi spell. The fifteen civil servants at Lake Wannsee calmly plotted murder over coffee because the state had succeeded in removing Jewish faces from public view.

As I drove away from Lake Wannsee, the words of Primo Levi kept echoing around my head. Not “It happened, therefore it could happen again” – the parallels with our own day were too clear – but rather, “It happened and it is happening again.”

This week marks the 50-year anniversary since the British Parliament passed the Abortion Act, on 27th October 1967. During that half-century, the lives of eight million babies have been terminated under British law. While it’s true that the scale of the British slaughter is very small compared to that in China, where 336 million babies have been aborted since 1971, it is over five times as many human lives as were exterminated at Auschwitz-Birkenau, so let’s note the parallels:

First, did you notice that I broke a major taboo in the previous paragraph when I referred to abortion as the killing of babies? The medics and the media are very stringent to avoid that term whenever they refer to terminated pregnancies. Smiling couples tell their friends they are expecting a baby, but in abortion clinics the word baby is outlawed. Like Nazis talking about ‘Jewish vermin’ or Hutu politicians condemning ‘Tutsi cockroaches’, we dehumanise our children when we label them mere foetuses.

Second, note the way in which these baby-foetuses are kept so very carefully out of the public gaze. We live in an image-saturated culture, but when did you last see a picture like the one below?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s of a baby only 6 weeks into its gestation. It is already millions of cells in size. It has a basic heart, a basic skeleton, a basic nervous system and basic muscles. Its tiny hands are already sprouting rudimentary fingers.

Or when did you last see a picture like this one – a baby 13 weeks into its gestation?

Its little mouth now has lips and a tongue covered with taste buds. Its hands are structurally complete, with 27 distinct bones in each, and its little fingers have already started growing nails. Its sex is visible and, although its major organs still need to do a lot of growing, they are each defined and in place. It’s already a miniature human being – it is now simply a matter of scale. Doesn’t it strike you as surprising that if NASA found a cluster of cells on Mars, the photos would be all over the news under the screaming headline, ‘Life found on Mars!’  – and yet these pictures of babies in their mother’s womb are as hidden away from sight as a holocaust Jew?

It’s therefore hardly surprising that the British Medical Association began a campaign in June 2017 for a total deregulation of abortion. Trying for a boy and ended up with a girl? Don’t worry, it’s only a foetus, the girl is easily removed. Those who campaign for women’s rights will be too focused on the mother’s rights to consider defending her daughter against prenatal misogyny. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty here if you are among the one-in-three British women who have had an abortion. I’m full of sympathy for the women who have fallen victim to our society’s lies, and I sense something of the turmoil that you may still be feeling inside. I’m simply trying to help you trace the path of deception which the medical professionals trod before they assured you that it was a simple procedure and that everything would be fine.

It’s natural that Christians will be among the loudest voices crying out against this modern holocaust. They were in Ancient Rome, and they were hated for it. They were in Nazi Germany, and many of them lost their lives. Christians should never stay silent in the face of the Bible’s teaching that life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13-16) and that what we call foetuses God calls precious babies (Luke 1:41-44). Human rights were his invention, and not ours.

But you don’t have to have religious faith to speak as loudly about the slaughter of 200,000 British babies each year (a quarter of all British deaths) as you do about the slaughter of the innocent by Islamic State in Syria or of the Rohingya people in Burma. You don’t have to be religious to wonder whether future generations will look back at photos of aborted babies in the same way we look back at photos of Auschwitz-Birkenau (think twice before clicking: it’s very distressing).

 

You don’t have to be religious to read this blog, and to share it, and to get down on your knees and pray. You don’t have to be religious to see this 50-year anniversary as another tragic example of how holocausts happen.

 

Originally Written by Phil Moore

http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/how_holocausts_happen

 

Tony Thompson

The Challenge to Pray

posted in: Hope Church, Prayer 1

Everywhere I go it seems God is speaking to people about prayer. This is certainly true for me.

Before the Summer I preached from the book of Hosea, it was the first time I had preached through that book. The major lesson I learnt myself was that the reason God sent his people into exile, the sin they committed, was to rely on Egypt and Assyria to protect them rather than to rely on God. In preaching I challenged the congregation to consider whether we too were guilty of the same sin, rely on other things rather than God. The test, I suggested, was our prayer life. When we faced a challenge was our first thought to pray or was it to seek to solve the problem? I knew I didn’t always pass the test!

Following these preaches I spent some time with a team of Christians from Korea who spent a week in Luton. They were part of a larger team who had come to the UK to pray for our nation. I was powerfully impacted by their story and their example of prayer.

The leader shared about how the church in Korea had learnt over the years to trust in God and give a high priority to prayer. This was in the face of massive challenges they had faced as a nation and a church. As a result, his team on mostly middle-aged women who could not speak English, were happy to pay their own fares, sleep on church hall floors because they wanted to pray. And pray they did. It was amazing to be prayed for personally, and then see them faithfully pray for other church leaders for over an hour. To hear of them praying every night, until the early hours for our nation.

In response to these challenges I am adjusting my prayer life, small manageable steps that I feel I can sustain for the long term. I started by taking my daily prayer time with God more seriously, I then started praying with others one morning a week and then quickly added a second morning. I have now increased that to three mornings.

As I have started to pray more I have found my appetite for pray has increased. It is becoming such a joy to be able to rely on God rather than immediately seek to solve every problem myself. I keep looking ofr more opportunities to pray.

If you too feel God speaking to you about prayer can I encourage you to respond with small manageable steps. If you would like to join me in prayer I am praying every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings between 9.30am and 10am;  and Sunday mornings between 9.45 and 10.15am at Hope Church Centre, Villa Road. I realise these times do not work for everyone, but they work for me!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

Report on recent visit to serve churches in Spain

Anne and I have been serving churches in Spain for over 10 years, with Anne finishing her job in the Summer we were able to visit three Spanish churches over a two-week period. As real privilege to spend time with the leaders and their congregations.

The three churches, Pilar Christian Community Church in Pilar de la Horadada, El Faro in Valencia, New Life Church in Heurcal Overa are all very different. One of the major differences is how they handle the English / Spanish language.

The church in Pilar is English speaking but shares their building with a sister church which is Spanish speaking, the church in Valencia is bi-lingual (everything is translated into either English or Spanish), the church in Heurcal Overa has started a Spanish speaking church that meets in another building.

The church in Valencia, that I was involved in starting 10 years ago is truly International Church, now gathering around 100 people from across the world, including many students and young professionals, as well as local Spanish and South Americans. Their worship was led by a young American couple who are in Valencia for a year studying at a branch of the Berkeley School of music. They are doing a great job of integrating people from so many different backgrounds, many only in town for a short time.

They are just great at doing socials.

See below Anne at a social and some of the congregation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other two churches are predominantly English-speaking expats who have retired to Spain. Both are thriving, growing rapidly and having a strong sense of family. The couples leading the churches are doing a great job, both couples are well into retirement age themselves but have a real calling to serve their congregations. It was a privilege to spend time with them and encourage them. We also joined in with the strong social element central to both churches.

Others from Hope Church have visited these churches, and members from the Spanish churches have visited us. It is a joy to be partners with churches across the world. It is so easy to get to all three churches with flights from Luton Airport. It would be wonderful if more people from Hope Church were able to visit and carry our blessings to these churches.

Below are pictures of the congregation at Pilar, the beach at Pilar and myself with Robin who leads the church in Heurcal Overa.

 

Written by Tony Thompson

 

Thoughts from Matthew’s Gospel: Part 3

Worship in Matthew’s gospel.

 

Matthew is the only gospel writer who gives Jesus the title Emmanuel – God with us. A provocative statement for his Jewish audience.

The reason it is provocative is shown in Jesus response to Satan in the final temptation. The climax is Satan asking Jesus to worship him, the clear reply is Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. What every good Jew would believe. Hence the provocation of saying Jesus is God with us.

This theme is developed with Jesus being worshiped, sometimes very clearly but also by people kneeling before him in act of worship. The fact that Jesus is worshiped is significant, but so also is the breadth of people who worship him. Both Jews and Gentiles, and a full cross section of society – wise men 2v2,11; a leper seeking healing (8:2), a ruler of the synagogue (9:18), the Canaanite woman (15:25), the mother of James and John (20:20), the two Marys who first encounter the risen Lord (28:9), and the disciples at the resurrection appearance on a mountain in Galilee (28:17).

Matthew wants us to know that Jesus is worthy of our worship, worthy of everyone’s worship whatever background we come from.

Amen to that!

 

Written by Tony Thompson

1 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 40