Young people need to lead this campaign as they are essential to demanding, implementing and achieving ambitious targets for positive change and more just world. To ensure this happens, we are bringing together committed young volunteers and activists from the UK to lead action/2015’s youth activities in the UK as a part of the action/2015 Youth Panel.
The youth panel will be made up of 18-25 year olds from across the UK who will act as both an advisory panel to those working on the campaign and as advocates of action/2015 itself.
If you are 18-25 and have a passion for global issues then we invite you to join the action/2015 youth panel.
For the action/2015 Youth Panel we are looking for:
18-25 year olds
Passion, motivation and an understanding of issues related to ending poverty, inequalities or climate change. We don’t expect experts., but a commitment to furthering knowledge on global issues.
Self-assurance and great organisational/ communication skills
Availability to meet throughout the year: Attend one 2 hour meeting a month (online and face to face) to dedicate 3 hours a week to action/2015, coordinate and lead your own youth action/2015 activities.
Willingness to travel throughout the UK – support for travel costs will be provided
We will be holding Youth Panel training to get panellists up to speed on all the issues of action/2015 on Saturday February 7th – successful applicants will be required to attend this training so keep this date free if planning to apply.
We’re starting a brand new series called Supernatural. Tonight we’re going to be talking about how there’s a whole unseen world going on around us every day that we don’t often know is happening. The next week we’re going to talk about how God’s power is over the whole supernatural world and what that means for our lives. Then in week 3 we’re going to answer questions you might have about the supernatural world – angels, demons, God, Satan, zombies.
The realm that we can’t see, where God and evil meet, where angels and demons collide and it’s happening all around us, but we often can’t see it.
Look at what it says in Ephesians 6:12:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
It’s kind of creepy isn’t it?
But what the verse is saying is we’re not fighting against flesh and blood but evil rulers from the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in heavenly places. This is how it looks in our world.
Not too long ago I was talking with a youth minister from Southampton who went to a Starbucks and he and his friends met this girl at the Starbucks who they started talking to and they started to discover there were some things that weren’t quite going right in her life. So this youth minister and his friends said it would be a great idea if you could come to church, maybe it would give you some of the hope you need in your life. She looked at them and said “Okay I’ll come and check out church and see what it’s all about.”
Sunday rolls around and guess what she doesn’t show up. So they go back to the Starbucks that week and find her and say “Hey we were looking for you, where were you?” She said “Oh I had some stuff going on, I couldn’t make it.” And so they were like “Church is this Sunday too if you’d like to come?” And she said “I will be there, I will be there.”
Sunday comes around and guess what happens? Well actually what happens is that they wait for her and she never shows up, and so they go back to Starbucks. “Hey you weren’t at church on Sunday.” She replied “I actually went to church on Sunday but I couldn’t get out of my car, I just stayed in my car.” Think about this, here’s this girl from a physical standpoint siting in her car who can’t or doesn’t go into a physical building made of concrete and wood. It’s a very real world. But from a spiritual world here’s a girl dealing with tormented things in her life, some darkness going on in her life. Shows up at church, a place of worship, where God is glorified and people respond to the creator of the universe and she can’t go in. Real world she’s just a girl and chooses not to go in a building. But from a supernatural point someone dealing with heavy stuff who can not go into a place of worship. That’s what the supernatural is all about.
Think about the word supernatural. Think about a hero – maybe someone who saves a life. But a superhero that’s your Batman, Superman, Spiderman – someone who possesses powers that humans don’t have. Supernatural is a place that is above us, bigger than us, great than us and what we can understand. It’s a place where there is a battle going on for your souls, a battle of good and evil to get you to do right or wrong. Have you ever thought about why, why all this?
Why not a world where everybody is happy, holding hands and singing kumbya and everything is fine. A world where there is no pain, sickness, death or arguments or fights. Why couldn’t life be all okay?
We have to go all okay to the creation of time. There was a moment when God was in heaven with all of the angels and there is this one particular angel, named Lucifer, we know him as Satan or the devil. He was actually an angel at one point, and protected God’s glory and was one of God’s right hand man angels. But Lucifer, Satan became jealous of God – he wanted what God had and wanted to be worshipped and wanted to be the creator of things. So he plans, plots and schemes and was able to rally up a third of the other angels in heaven and says “Let’s try and turn this place upside down” and so there’s this huge battle that takes place in heaven against a third of the angels in heaven and Satan.
You know what happens, a third of the angels and Satan don’t stand a chance against God. There is no chance that they can win this battle. So God sends them out of heaven down to earth. And the Bible says that Satan roams around like a lion looking for someone to devour. And that’s why we have spiritual warfare and spiritual battles going on.
When we talk about angels and demons and the supernatural world we think it’s all weird. But here’s the thing. Satan’s greatest lie is to convince the world that he doesn’t exist. We just wander around as though everything is fine and dandy, whilst the demons are wreaking havoc in our lives. If we don’t realise this is happening they can do whatever we want and we won’t even know. But if we believe it, and know about it then we can identify those attacks and step in – we can pray , we can be more aware of it.
Now I want to clarify it and over spiritualise it. There is a difference between a spiritual attack and consequences. A consequence would be something like this: you know you have a mock exam in a couple of days and you think I’m not going to study, I’ll just see what happens. The teacher gives it back to you with a big F circled at the top of the page – you’ve failed. You can’t say Satan has attacked me, the demons blocked my mind from knowing the answers. No! You’re an idiot and you didn’t study – it’s a consequence of your actions.
A spiritual attack – is anything that is true about you, or about God, or God’s plans for your life and you start hearing or believing something different from that. A spiritual attack is anything that challenges your self-worth – if you feel you’re not good enough, if you feel like you don’t measure up, you’re not attractive enough, you’re not talented enough, you’re not clever enough, that no one could love you – that’s a spiritual attack. God says you are good enough, you are talented enough, I have made you for a purpose, I have a plan for your life, I have made you you and I have destined you for great things – that is God’s truth. The rest of that is just spiritual attack in your life.
Other spiritual attacks can come in the form of depression – now that in and of itself isn’t a spiritual attack –sometimes you can take care of that in other ways but depression can have a spiritual element. There can be the spiritual attack of worry, stress, and anxiety – some of that leading to cutting and stuff like that. Only caring about yourself and not caring about others or hurting other people because God says don’t worry, have joy, love life and love other people, love yourself and value yourself – that is God’s truth. The rest of that is just spiritual attack,
So how do we fight against spiritual attack. Look at what it says in Ephesians 6:12 that we read earlier and continue onwards:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Now at first glance we read these verses and it’s like what! Spiritual armour – belts, swords, shields and stuff like that! You’re telling me that according to this verse we’re supposed to dress up in armour and show up – clink, clink, clink, clink – and your friends are like “what are you doing?” and you’re like “just wearing the full armour of God”, and they’re like “well you look like an idiot!”. That’s not what this verse is saying or about.
What this verse is about is about being at peace with who God has made you be, it’s about diving into God’s word and reading your Bible and learning who God has made you to be. When we start to spend time with God we understand how to defend ourselves against spiritual attack. So I want to give you five really quick ways on how to fight it.
Believe it’s real and understand it: We’ve talked about this a lot. If you believe it and understand it you can stand and fight against the attacks going on in your life.
Know what truth is: the best way to know what truth is is to read our Bibles and to learn what is true about God, what is true about us. If we understand truth and the lies start coming in we can stand our ground on God’s truth.
Pray against it: there is so much power in prayer that when you feel like you’re being attacked pray against it – God’s power is so strong in prayer.
Worship: worship God. When we worship God it reminds us of who he is and what he has done in our lives.
Talk it out with other people: talk it out with other people as God gave us other people so when we are going through hard times we can talk it out with each other, and pray for one another, and help each other overcome whatever attacks and problems we may have in our life.
So let me ask you this question, where are you being attacked in your life? What areas in your life are under attack?
Maybe for some of you it’s partying, drinking and hooking up – you do these things because you think it will make you feel better about yourself and want to stop it but you keep finding yourself right in it.
For others maybe it’s problems with your friends or crazy situations with your family and as you look around at those situations you know there is something just not right about this.
Maybe for you it is in the good enoughs and not good enough, I’m not good looking enough, I’m not clever enough, I’m not talented enough, people don’t like me, I’ll never be talented enough, or popular enough, or attractive enough, whatever that is. Maybe it’s in the not enoughs.
So where are you being spiritually attacked right now? I want everyone to close your eyes.
Some of you have realised tonight that you are under spiritual attack. There are situations going on in your life and you need God’s help with those. There are all different problems, and spiritual attacks going on, and I want you to realise we as leaders will do whatever it takes to step in and do something about that. If that’s you raise your hand so we can pray for you.
Now with eyes still closed there are some of you tonight who never really thought about the spiritual world, let alone angels and demons. You weren’t even sure about God. But tonight something clicked and you felt something stirring inside of you. That’s a supernatural world, God’s presence saying “I’m here for you, I love you and I want to be with you. I want to spend time with you and I want you to know me.” If you’ve never known or accepted God’s love before but tonight it’s got to you. For the very first time you want to accept that Jesus died on the cross for you, there’s a God who loves you, I want you to raise your hand and lets pray for you.
Following the awful attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Europa partnership of newspapers released the following statement:
“The attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January in Paris and the odious assassination of our colleagues, fierce defenders of freedom of expression, is not only an attack on the liberty of the press and liberty of opinion. It is an attack against the fundamental values of our European democratic societies.
Freedom to think and freedom to inform had already been targeted in recent months by the execution of other journalists.
Refusing to give in to threats after the publication, almost 10 years ago, of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo magazine had not changed its culture of irreverence one iota. Similarly, we European newspapers, regularly working together as part of the Europa group, continue to promote the values of liberty and independence. We continue to inform, to inquire, to interview, to comment, to publish – and to draw – about every subject that appears to us legitimate, in a spirit of openness, intellectual enrichment and democratic debate.
We owe it to our readers. We owe it to the memory of our assassinated colleagues. We owe it to Europe.”
Europa: Le Monde, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, El Pais, la Stampa, Gazeta Wyborcza
In one sense I have real sympathy with their statement. Freedom of speech is one of the key human rights. Everyone, regardless of position, wealth, gender, race, religion etc. has the right to express themselves. It is important that there is a freedom to challenge one another, to have different views.
I also want to be clear that being offended by satire does not in any way justify the use of murder or violence. But Freedom of speech has its limits. In the United Kingdom the law prevents us from being racist, sexist, hateful, libellous or homophobic. In addition we’re not allowed to disclose State secrets. But even in the community we have limitations on our freedom of speech. The golden rule of do unto others as you wish to be done unto you prevents us from deliberately attacking and provoking others in our community.
But isn’t that what Charlie Hebdo did in printing the cartoons about the prophet Muhammed. The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had previously published a portrayal of Jesus as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom at Mass. It is by definition a publication that likes to test the boundaries of taste, political and religious tolerance.
For me I would want to dwell on the concept that with great power comes great responsibility. The challenge is that we don’t need to publish cartoons and articles for the sake of publishing them and equally we need to not just pick up guns and shoot people when we disagree with a drawing or comment they make. We need to learn to be more adult like in our living together.
Currently we seem to be creating more extremists on both sides – the war on terror actually seems to lead to more terror. Extremism leads to extremism. Unless we change the way that we engage this situation will go on and on. Already we’re seeing in the news more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques being damaged — proving true the very thing these extremist Muslims believe — that the West hates them.
We need to find a better way of challenge and disagreement. We need to help our young people to lead us in a new direction.
I find the whole Ched Evans story deeply disappointing.
Social media has led to a mob mentality: Evans blamed the collapse of a deal with Oldham on a mob mentality. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Clive Efford, the Labour MP, have all voiced their unease about Evans being helped back into the national game, and none is an obvious exponent of “mob rule”. Equally I can’t quite see Jess Ennis as being the leader of a mob as she challenged Sheffield United to rethink their view on him returning to the club. Instead the mob mentality that led to the collapse of the deal was that of Evans’ supporters making death threats to the Oldham staff and their families. There were even suggestions one director was told the address where his daughter worked and that she would be raped if Oldham proceeded.
Footballers seem unable to talk about the importance of being a role model: I have not heard any professional or ex-professional footballer come out and talk about the importance of how they are a role model to influential young people. Last November, the chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, described it as “not an important issue” on Newsnight, although this week he issued a statement saying that “it was important” to look at the issue of player’s behaviour, adding: “I would encourage the game to consider and discuss this matter and the prospect for future guidelines and codes of conduct.” The PFA and FA need to set up strict guidelines about how players can rehabilitate themselves, and inspire the young who regard them as role models.
A lack of apology: The apology has taken too long to come, finally arriving 83 days after he was released from prison, via the Professional Football Association (PFA):
“I am grateful for the support of the PFA in helping me try to return to football and continue my career.
“Upon legal advice, I was told not to discuss the events in question. This silence has been misinterpreted as arrogance and I would like to state that this could not be further from the truth.
“I do remain limited at present by what I can say due to the ongoing referral to the Criminal Cases Review Commission and whilst I continue to maintain my innocence, I wish to make clear that I wholeheartedly apologise for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned.
“Finally, it has been claimed that those using social media in an abusive and vindictive way towards this woman are supporters of mine. I wish to make it clear that these people are not my supporters and I condemn their actions entirely and will continue to do so.”
It is a classic PR written statement which apologises for the “effects that night in Rhyl has had on … the woman concerned” but not for his actions – it comes across like the child who is forced by a teacher to say sorry to another child for hitting them – they aren’t really sorry.
Henry Winter hits the nail on the head with this:
Evans’s next step on the road to rehabilitation must be to undergo an educational programme in which he learns respect for women and then works for the Professional Footballers’ Association in urging young players to avoid what has become known as “night games”.
Parts of the professional game have a misogynistic problem towards women, an arrogant outlook that the PFA should be confronting rather than embarrassing itself by trying to rush a convicted rapist back into professional football before he has served his sentence. Evans is out on licence. He should be allowed to return to football only when the judicial process is complete, and when he has shown proper contrition.
Footballers’ sense of entitlement, encompassing the “I’ve got a bird” culture, cheating on their partners, having sex with a woman too inebriated to give consent as laughing team-mates try to film events, before leaving through a fire escape, has now been challenged by the public.
Ditch the website: In addition I believe that Evans should take down his website. This website has fuelled his supporters who insist he is innocent, and yet fail to remember that he was found guilty by a jury and his leave to appeal was rejected by a Lord Chief Justice. This website includes asking visitors to “judge for yourself” from the uploaded CCTV footage from the night in question whether his victim was incapable with drink. It doesn’t come across as someone who is showing remorse.
The key to all of this is that Ched Evans is not the victim. She is.
Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.
Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace –
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God of Hope,
we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart.
Help us to find peace in the knowledge
of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
hear the cries of our grief,
for you know the anguish of our hearts.
It is beyond our understanding
and more than we can bear.
We pray that justice may be done
and that we may treasure the memory of their lives
more than the manner of their death.
For Christ’s sake.
Lots of social media currently focussed on how UKIP’s website is down. It looks like they forgot to renew their domain name, but the expiry date listed on Domain Tools is 22 March of 2016. Instead it seems more likely to be a website glitch or it has been taken down deliberately.
The latest in the People Are Awesome series has clips from videos uploaded in 2014. These people are doing awesome and crazy things – something I’ll certainly be using with my young people in the next few weeks:
Here’s my sermon from last Sunday to kick off 2015 with our young people;
I’m sure you’ve noticed that each year almost all the major news magazines put out an issue with special pictorial sections recalling people and events that made news during the previous year.
Many magazines also include articles by experts predicting what they expect to see happening in the years ahead. Some even go so far as to make predictions covering 10 or more years in the future. In the past, a few of these predictions have proven amazingly accurate, while others couldn’t have been more wrong.
For example, back in 1967, experts predicted that by the turn of the century technology would have taken over so much of the work we do that the average work week would be only 22 hours long, and that we would work only 27 weeks a year. As a result, one of our biggest problems would be in deciding what to do with all our leisure time. Well, I don’t know about you, but that prediction certainly missed the mark as far as my life was concerned!
In fact, most of us seem to be very busy. We’re always in a hurry. We walk fast, and talk fast, and eat fast. And after we eat, all too often, we stand up and say, “Excuse me. I’ve got to go.”
So here we are, at the first Sunday of 2015. I wonder how we’ll do this year? Will we be as busy? Will we make any better use of our time? In 361 days, when this year is over, will we be looking back with joy, or with regret? Will we be looking at the future with anticipation, or with dread?
There is a passage of Scripture that I believe can be of help to us as we look forward to the rest of 2015 if we’ll listen to it. The passage is Ephesians 5:15-17, and here is what it says,
“Be very careful, then, how you live not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
I think that in this passage the Apostle Paul presents some important lessons that we need to consider.
Our time on this earth is limited
First of all, we must be very careful how we live because our time on this earth is limited. The Psalmist wrote, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (39:4). And again, “The length of our days is 70 years or 80, if we have the strength…they quickly pass, and we fly away” (90:10).
Now, I realize that for some of you younger folk, 70 or 80 years sounds like a long, long time. In fact, I can remember when I thought anyone over 30 was ancient. But no longer. It is all rather relative, isn’t it?
For example, for teenagers in love talking together in the car, an hour or two seems like a blink of an eye. But for mom and dad worrying about what’s going on out in that car, an hour or two seems like an eternity.
The Psalmist also tells us to number our days so that we will develop a heart of wisdom. A few years ago People Magazine published an article entitled “Dead Ahead” telling about a new clock that keeps track of how much time you have left to live. It calculates an average life span of 75 years for men and 80 years for women. So you program your sex and age into the clock, and from then on it will tell you how much time you have left. It sold for £99.99. I didn’t buy one. But it is an intriguing idea. Isn’t that what the Psalmist told us to do to number our days?
When I first heard about the clock I figured out that if I lived to be 75 years old that I had just about 16,060 days left to live. But wait a minute. Neither you nor I have a guarantee of even one day more to live. In fact the Bible tells us not to count on tomorrow because tomorrow may not come for you or for me. All we have is right now. So our time on this earth is valuable because it is very limited.
Make the most of every opportunity
Secondly, Paul tells us that we must make “the most of every opportunity.” And he gives a reason, “because the days are evil.”
Jesus said that Satan is a robber and a thief, and one of the things he tries to rob from us is our time because time is a very precious possession.
Just think of the time wasted in sinning. Think of the time wasted in bars or in gambling casinos or in shallow affairs. Think of the time wasted in gossiping or spreading rumours. Or think about all the time wasted worrying about the consequences of the sins we have committed. Satan is a thief and a robber!
But it is not just sin that makes demands on our time. Sometimes even good things can make demands. Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He sat down to teach, and Mary was sitting at His feet just soaking in every word. Meanwhile, Martha was out in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Now, you know the story. It is found in Luke 10. Martha gets upset because Mary is not in the kitchen, too. So she complains to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” Jesus answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” [Luke 10:40 42].
Now was Martha committing a sin by cooking a meal in the kitchen? No, of course not! But here’s the problem. She was so preoccupied with what she was doing that she didn’t realize that God was in her living room. That’s the same mistake you and I make almost every day. We get so caught up in the here and now that we fail to deal with the eternal, the things that will last forever and ever.
Richard Swenson, a medical doctor, wrote a book in which he discusses one of the major illnesses of our time anxiety and stress. He calls it “overload,” and says that people are just plain overloaded.
We’re overloaded with commitments. We’ve committed ourselves to go here and there, to take part in this activity and that club. As a result we soon begin meeting ourselves coming and going because we have overloaded ourselves in the area of commitments.
We’re also overloaded with possessions, he says. Our wardrobes are full, and our bedrooms are overflowing. And yet there are still so many things that we “simply must have.” We are overloaded in the area of possessions.
Thirdly, we have an overload in the area of work. We get up, we work hard at school and then we come home and do homework, coursework and revision for hours on end to create a good career.
There is also an information overload. He said that as a doctor he has to read 220 articles a month just to keep up with all the changes in his profession. And now with the internet there’s an information superhighway. But the problem is that we can’t possibly absorb it all. So we feel an overload in this area, too.
Well, I could go on and on, but you get the picture. There are so many demands on our time, so many good things that need to be done. But there are just 8,760 hours in this year, and we’ve already used 90 of them. We do want to make the most of every opportunity, so what are we to do?
Understand what the Lord’s will is
Well, to answer that, Paul tells us, “…do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
Now what do you think God’s will is for you in this New Year? Do you think He wants your mind so saturated with worries and anxieties that you can’t think spiritual thoughts? Do you think He wants your calendar so crowded that you don’t have time for the important things? What do you think God’s will is for you this year?
Let me make a couple of suggestions for you to consider. First of all, establish your priorities. I’m assuming that since you’re in church this evening that you believe God should be a part of your life. But when you begin to establish priorities, you have to decide just where He stands in your life. So ask yourself, “Who or what is most important in my life?”
And I’m hoping that your answer will be, “My relationship with God is most important to me.” If so, then put that at the top of your list of priorities, and say, “This will affect my decisions, my scheduling, my relationship with others, and my whole outlook on life.”
Therefore, when Sunday rolls around neither rain nor shine nor football matches, drama performances or anything else will interfere with my being in church, because He comes first in my life. I’ll worship the Lord and nothing will interfere with that.
You also need to schedule some definite time each day to pray and to read His Word. Pray for yourself and for your family and for people around you. Pray for the church, and for the missionaries. Sometimes they feel so alone and so far away. You’ll never know how much your prayers will mean to them. But you’ll be blessed as you grow in your faith and trust in the Lord!
Spend time with your parents. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but family really matters so try and spend quality time with them.
So first of all, establish your priorities.
And then, learn how to live today. The two greatest enemies of time are regrets for things we did in the past, and anxiety about what will happen to us in the future. Many of us are living either in the past or in the future.
In fact, many of us are engaged in the little game of, “I wish it were.” “I wish it were next week,” or “I wish it were next month,” or some such thing. Kids go to school and say, “Boy, I wish this day were over.”
Gary Freeman tells about a girl who went to college and just hated it. But she told herself, “If I can ever get out of college and get married and have children, I know I’ll finally be able to enjoy life.”
So she stuck with it. She went to classes every day and finally graduated from college. Then she got married and had children, and discovered that children are a lot of work. So she told herself, “If I can just get these kids raised, then I’ll be able to relax and really enjoy life.”
But about the time the kids were entering high school her husband said, “Guess what? We don’t have enough money to send our kids to college. I guess you’ll have to get a job.”
Well, she didn’t want to, but she knew he was right and they needed the money, so she went to work. And she hated it. But she told herself, “If I can just get these kids out of college, and get all of the bills paid, then I can quit work and really enjoy life.”
Finally, the last child graduated from college, and all the bills were paid. So she walked into her employer’s office and said, “I quit.” He said, “Oh, you don’t want to quit now. If you stay with us just another 8 years you’ll have a pension for the rest of your life.”
She thought, “Well, I don’t want to work another 8 years, but there’s all that money there, and I really can’t turn down the opportunity.” So she worked for another 8 years. Finally, she and her husband retired at the same time. They sold their home and bought a little retirement cottage.
Then they sat down on the swing on their front porch and looked at the family picture album and dreamed about the good old days.
Someone said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making plans to do something else.” True, isn’t it? Another year has come and gone. A new year stretches before us. Help us Lord, to redeem the time. So have a happy new year!
And during the New Year may you have:
enough happiness to keep you sweet – enough trials to keep you strong,
enough sorrow to keep you human – enough hope to keep you happy,
enough failure to keep you humble – enough success to keep you eager,
enough friends to give you comfort – enough wealth to meet your needs,
enough enthusiasm to make you look forward to tomorrow,
and enough determination to make each day better than the day before.
Lord, please help us to use the 8,760 hours of this year the wisest way we can for you, and for your glory.
Romans 13:11-12 says, “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.”
The Passion movement, led by Louie Giglio, was designed for 18-25 year olds who want to follow Jesus and share their faith with others, and based on Isaiah 26:8 which says, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your truth, we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and Your renown are the desire of our souls.”. Passion: The Bright Light of Glory is a compilation of messages from many who have spoke at the conference such as John Piper, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Judah Smith, to name a few.
The book starts with an introduction by Louie Giglio on how the Passion conferences came into existence and what the journey has been over the last few years. Following this each chapter is a different message from one of the above speakers – all with very different themes and styles – some obviously clicked much better for me than others whereas other people might find that different chapters connect for them.
The theme that kept coming up was the concept of life changing encounters with Jesus, and the need to share that with others. Beth Moore summed it up well:
You have been set on this earth, at this hour, and in this generation to bring fame to the Lord Jesus Christ in your sphere of influence.
The book was thought provoking and full of truth I needed to hear. I encourage anyone to read this book.
Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:
In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.
Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.
“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”
Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”
The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.
“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”
If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.
Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.
“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”
Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”
Here’s my all-age talk from our children’s nativity service. We kicked off with this video by Dan Stevers:
In the Bible we see the contrast of two very different responses, to that of baby Jesus – that of Simeon and Herod.
Herod the Great ruled at Jesus’ birth – king from 40-4BCE. He wasn’t a particularly nice guy: he had killed his wife, his brother-in-law, his mother and some of his sons as he feared they would try to take power from him. Even more horrendous, he planned kill 3,000 people to make them mourn when he dies!
When he heard about Jesus he felt threatened, he possibly saw Jesus as the Messiah, the future King of the Jews. There are parallels with dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Robert Mugabe – if people didn’t agree with him he killed them. In Bethlehem he killed all the boys under the age of 2 – given Bethlehem’s size it is estimated that he murdered 15-30 toddlers that day.
It is a historical fact that after a reign of some thirty-three or so years marked by violence and intrigue, Herod the Great died of cancer at Jericho. The child Jesus, however, escaped to Egypt and lived.
In every century there have been Herod’s who, recognising the Son of God as a threat, have sought to murder him in his cradle. There was Herod’s grandson, Herod Agrippa 1, who tried to persecute the early church. He killed James, the brother of John. He imprisoned Peter, intending to execute him also. But in the end he was eaten up with worms and died. Herod died; Jesus lived.
In the first three centuries a succession of ‘Herod’s’ sat on various world thrones, devising all sorts of schemes to kill off the church. Nero, for instance, ordered Christians to be killed. Yet in the end this ‘Herod’ died and Jesus lived.
And so the story has gone on. Adolf Hitler was in many ways a reincarnation of Herod. He threw many a faithful German Christian into his concentration camps. In the end ‘Herod’ died, but Jesus lives.
Not all Herod’s employ the crude and violent methods of Herod the Great. Some seek to smother Jesus by creating a climate of cynicism and ridicule, and in this way destroy the Christian church. We sometimes feel overpowered by the ‘Herod’s’ present within the media, who seek to create doubt and confusion within the minds of many faithful Christians.
But as we’ve seen time and time again, human beings can’t stop God’s plans: Jesus is still alive today.
Waiting for Christmas
Children have a hard time waiting for Christmas. Here are some actual letters that were written to Santa:
Dear Santa Claus,
When you come to my house there will be cookies for you. But if you are real hungry you can use our phone and order a pizza to go.
I want a Puppy. I want a playhouse. Thank you. I’ve been good most of the time. Sometimes I’m wild.
Dear Santa, (From a 4-year-old)
I’ll take anything because I haven’t been that good.
Christmas is often associated with waiting.
What Are You Waiting For?
Let me ask you some questions. What are you waiting for this Christmas? Are you longing for anything? What are you expecting to receive? Are you looking forward to anything special this Christmas?
In the Gospel of Luke, we find a man in the final acts of the Christmas drama who doesn’t appear in any nativity scenes and yet was critical to the first Christmas.
Simeon was waiting for something, actually someone. Luke uses a Greek word of anticipation that identifies him as waiting with expectation for the coming of the Messiah, or Savior. We’re introduced to Simeon in Luke 2:25. “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon Him.”
Things weren’t going real well for the nation of Israel. They hadn’t heard from God for many years and were under Roman rule. But verse 26 shows us that Simeon had good reason for his hope and anticipation: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Simeon’s expectation focused on the comfort that Christ would bring. Among Jews of Simeon’s day one of the popular titles of Messiah was Comforter, they were longing for the Messiah to come and bring His comfort to them. It strikes me that the desire to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with loneliness, emptiness, insecurity, even desperation. In fact, the Christmas season is one of the major crisis times of the year for depression and suicide.
The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple courts at just the right time on just the right day that Joseph and Mary were bringing their infant to the Temple. When Simeon looked at the baby Jesus, now about 6 weeks old, he knew that God’s promise had been kept. Here was Immanuel, “God With Us,” to make everything right and to eliminate rejection, fear, and loneliness.
Verse 28 of Luke 2 says that Simeon reached down and took Jesus out of Mary’s arms and began to praise God. Let me pause here to make a comment. Parents, how would you feel if some old man came up to you, took your baby in his arms and started singing out loud? I’m sure this was a bit unsettling for Joseph and Mary. But Simeon didn’t look all that dangerous. As he broke out into praise, he acknowledged that God had not only fulfilled the individual promise to him, but also the promises of the prophets to send the Anointed One to comfort both Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus Provides What We Need
Friends, when Jesus came, He provided the very things that Simeon and Anna were waiting for – God’s comfort and His forgiveness. Let me ask you a question. What are you waiting for this Christmas? Whatever it is, Jesus can give it to you.
Can any of you identify with Simeon this morning? Some of you are really hurting right now. You feel lonely, empty, afraid, and maxed out. Do you need some comfort? Some consoling? Do you need a fresh sense of God’s presence? If so, you can find what you’re looking for in Jesus. He came to console us right where we’re at.
There are three action steps from this passage that will help you experience God’s comfort this Christmas.
Become a Marveler
Become a marveler. When Joseph and Mary tried to process everything that was happening, verse 33 says that they marveled at what was said about Jesus. According to the dictionary, to become a marveler is to be filled with wonder, astonishment, and surprise.
Are you a marveler this Christmas? Or, are you too caught up in the busyness and stress of the season? Has Christmas become too predictable, too familiar? Have you heard the Christmas story so much that it no longer astonishes you? We hear just enough of the story each year to inoculate us against the real thing, so that we never really catch true Christmas fever.
Here’s an idea that may help you recapture the marvel of Christmas. Pick one of the Christmas characters and put yourself in their sandals. Imagine what it must have been like to witness the Christmas story first hand.
Become a Mover
Take a look at verse 27: “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” Simeon was a mover, when the Holy Spirit prompted him he didn’t sit still. I wonder what would have happened if he had not responded? Actually, every one of the Christmas characters responded to the Spirit’s leading with the exception of Herod.
Friends, when God prompts you to do something, then you need to do it. Don’t procrastinate when God prompts you to do something – you may miss out on a miracle this Christmas.
I’m struck by what Simeon told Mary in verse 34. It must have taken her breath away. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against…” That’s not really a joyful Christmas greeting, is it? Simeon is not saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Rather, he pauses, clears his throat and tells her that Christmas will never be merry and the New Year will never be happy until people get moving and surrender their lives to Christ.
Here’s the truth. Christmas splits people into 2 camps. Since Jesus has entered the world, He has divided the human race. You can’t stay neutral about Jesus. You are either for Him or against Him. You’re moving closer to Him, or further away. You either have the Son or you don’t.
Become a Messenger
Interestingly, as we work at becoming marvelers, we can’t help but become movers. That leads us to the final action step from this passage: become a messenger. Notice verse 38 again: “…she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Do you have family and friends who’ve been caught up in preparations for Christmas? Look at it this way maybe their anticipation and longings really represent an inner search for comfort and forgiveness those things that only the Messiah can provide. God wants each one of us to become messengers of the Christmas story.
Let me wrap this up. As you and I become marvelers, the wonder of Christmas will astonish us. Then, as we become movers, our needs for comfort and forgiveness will be met. And, as we take our role as messengers seriously, we’ll be in position to introduce others to the Christ of Christmas — so that they in turn can find what they have been waiting for.
Friends, in a nutshell, Christmas is a marvelous, moving, message! How can we not find what we’ve been looking for? And, how can we keep quiet about it? Once you have the Son, you have everything.
Whoever Takes the Son Illustration
Many years ago, there was a very wealthy man who shared a passion for art collecting with his son. They had priceless works by Picasso and Van Gogh adorning the walls of their family estate.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His son had died. Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season had vanished with the death of his son.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. As he opened the door he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hands who said, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.”
The soldier mentioned that he was an artist and then gave the old man the package. The paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man hung the portrait over the fireplace, pushing aside millions of dollars worth of art. His task completed, the old man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces of art for which museums around the world clamored.
The following spring, the old man died. The art world waited with anticipation for the upcoming auction. According to the will of the old man, all the art works would be auctioned on Christmas Day, the day he had received the greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled that day.
The auction began with a painting that was not on anyone’s museum list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid, but the room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” No one spoke. Finally someone said, “Who cares about that painting. It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s move on to the good stuff.”
The auctioneer responded, “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a neighbor of the old man offered $10 dollars. “That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”
The auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice…gone.” The gavel fell.
Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can bid on the real treasures!”
The auctioneer looked at the room filled with people and announced that the auction was over. Everyone was stunned. Someone spoke up and said, “What do you mean, it’s over? We didn’t come here for a painting of someone’s son. There are millions of dollars worth of art here! What’s going on?”
The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the Father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”
Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? The message is the same this Christmas. Because of the Father’s love…whoever takes the Son gets it all.
Will you take Him this Christmas?
You’re invited to a birthday party this week. It’s the birthday of Jesus. It’s His party but He wants to give you a present. He wants to give you the gift of Himself. Will you take Him?