More than half of secondary school pupils think people have souls and life has a purpose


New research has been published showing that more than half of secondary school pupils believe that people have souls, a survey has revealed.

The majority of those questioned (52 per cent) also said that they agreed with the statement “I believe that life has an ultimate purpose” and 45 per cent believe in God.  But a an equal number – 45 per cent agreed with the statement “the scientific view is that God does not exist”.

Prof Berry Billingsley, of Canterbury Christ Church University, surveyed 670 pupils aged 14 to 17 across eight English secondary schools, asking them 43 questions about science and religion.

The survey found that 54 per cent of pupils agreed with the statement “I believe humans have souls”, with a further 24 per cent neither agreeing or disagreeing. The remaining 23 per cent disagreed. The proportion of pupils believing in a “soul” is larger than the number who believed in God.

Prof Billingsley said it may reflect the fact that many people believe there is more to their identity than what they may be being presented with in science lessons. The figure for young people believing in god, 45 per cent, is lower than the proportion of adults who described themselves as religious in the last census – 67 per cent.

The findings are being presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference today.


All-age Talk: God surprises us


This is a copy of my all-age talk on Rahab and how God surprises us that I gave this morning:

I’m fascinated by surprises – be it things such as “Can it float?” or “Will it blend?” to the most amazing success stories we see on TV programmes such as Britain’s Got Talent.

God uses them!

That God uses Rahab is a huge surprise.  She is one of two women mentioned in Jesus family tree in Matthew’s gospel – the other woman was Ruth.

We have an idea, a perception as to the kind of people that God will use.  We think of people that are holy, that pray a lot, that give their money to charity, that wear the right clothes.  Rahab isn’t one of these people.

The Bible doesn’t have a whole lot to say about the life of this woman.  The only account we have of her is found here in Joshua.  The story of Rahab is located right in the midst of the biblical account of the launch of Israel’s military campaign to conquer the Promised Land (Canaan). The Israelites are camped by the Jordan River waiting for the orders to cross and take possession of the land they had been waiting so long for. Joshua, their new leader, sends in two spies to help in the planning of his strategy.

These spies come to Jericho, the first city in the path of the coming conquerors, and we read that their first stop was the house of Rahab.  Initially, it seems that Rahab isn’t exactly heroine material.  Rahab was not what one would call respectable or acceptable by standards set by society.  In fact, throughout the centuries, Christian commentators have attempted to explain away this seemingly inappropriate woman. Many scholars such as Josephus refer to Rahab simply as an innkeeper.  However, whilst she was definitely an innkeeper, she was clearly a woman of ill repute as well.

But Rahab’s behaviour did not stop God from using her.  God directed the spies to Rahab’s house because He knew her heart was open to Him and that she would be instrumental in the Israelite victory over Jericho.  The New Testament describes Rahab as a woman of great faith and trust in God. And the basis for these statements rest in this short event recorded in Joshua 2 that we heard earlier.

In fact, because of Rahab, the spies of Joshua were able to go undetected in the city of Jericho and obtain vital data in order to destroy the wall and conquer the city.  It was in an ideal location for a quick escape because it was built into the city wall (Joshua 2:15)

But let’s just recap Rahab was not a high priestess.  She was not of royal lineage.  Rahab was not of great wealth or high education.  She was a woman who heard of this Great God we serve, and decided she wanted to do the same.

God can use us!

Sometimes, and maybe it’s just me, we struggle to think that God can use us.  We see that we’re not good enough, that there are better people than us that God should use, or that we have some issue or problem meaning we’re not ready to be used by God.

We put up excuses against what we think god wants us to do.  But the next time you think God can’t use you, just look to the Bible to see what He had to work with:

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses had a stuttering problem
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson was a womanizer
  • Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
  • David had an affair and was a murderer
  • Elijah was suicidal
  • Johan ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • Peter denied Christ
  • The Disciples fell asleep while praying
  • Martha worried about everything
  • The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
  • Zaccheus was too small
  • Paul was too religious
  • Timothy had an ulcer and…
  • Lazarus was dead!

Washing Daniel, our three year olds, hair has been a bit of a problem sometimes.  He will sit in the bath while I put shampoo on his hair.  Then, when I pour on the water to rinse, he will tip his head down so that the shampoo runs into his eyes, causing pain and tears.  Of course this makes it that much harder to rinse the soap out of his hair!

I kept explaining to him that if he just looked straight up at me, he could avoid getting the shampoo in his face.  He would agree; then, as soon as I start to rinse his hair, his fear will overcome his trust, and he’d look down again.  Naturally, the shampoo runs into his face again, and there are more tears.

During one of our sessions, while I was trying to convince him to lift up his head and trust me, I suddenly realised how this situation was like my relationship to God.  I know God is my Father, and I’m sure he loves me.  I believe that I trust Him, but sometimes, in a difficult situation, I panic and turn my eyes away from Him.
This never solves the problem; I just become more afraid, as the “shampoo” blinds me.  Even though my son knows I love him, he still has a hard time trusting me in a panicky situation.  I know I can protect him but convincing him of that isn’t easy, especially when all he can see is water coming down.  His lack of trust hurts me, but it hurts him more.  He’s the one who has to suffer the pain.
I’m sure my lack of trust hurts God very much, but how much more does it hurt me?  Often in the Bible, we are told to lift up our head to God when problems come.  He knows how to protect us if we remember to listen to Him.

Now, when I find myself in a situation where it would be easy to panic, I picture my son sitting in the bathtub, looking up at me, learning to trust me.  Then I ask God what I should do.  Sometimes the answer may seem scary, but, one thing I’m sure of – He’ll never pour shampoo in my face!

If you think of modern day saints Mother Theresa would certainly be up there.  But her perspective wasn’t that she was doing anything amazing, but instead that we “Can’t do great things but we can do small things with great love.”  Similarly a man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.  Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “I made a huge difference to that one!”

Will you make a difference to the one?

Great Questions To Evaluate If You Are Living in True Community

Brian Howard writes:

Christianity is not simply attending a church service. Christianity is not only personal. Beyond having a personal relationship with God and attending a church service on Sundays, the Scriptures clearly show Christians having close relationships with each other. These relationships go beyond Sundays. Are you living out what God really has for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you daily living life with?
  • Who in your life truly knows your struggles?
  • Who are you encouraging continuously?
  • Who are you regularly praying with?
  • Who is praying for you?
  • Who are you partnering with to reach unbelievers that you know?
  • Who can correct you?
  • Who are you investing in?
  • With whom do you meet with to discuss what God is teaching you?
  • Who would be by your hospital bed to pray for you and encourage you?
  • Who will not allow you to walk away from your marriage or from the faith?
  • Are you faithfully participating in the life of a local church?
  • Who would you meet with if your marriage was in trouble?
  • Who have you counseled with the Word of God recently?

God’s design for you is not to live out your Christian life personally. The clear pattern of the New Testament is that every Christian would have a network of close spiritual friendships. God wants so much more for us than we often realize. Consider going beyond the individualistic, event-driven, western Christianity that many of us are so familiar with. Instead, embrace God’s design for living the Christian life.

The Significance of Maundy Thursday

Tony Reinke writes:

On Maundy Thursday the Creator of the universe bent down to his knees to wash the dirt from the callused feet of his followers. And as he scrubbed away the dirt, he scrubbed from his Bride all possible justifications for ethnic and economic hierarchies. He radically upset cultural norms. And now he calls us to go low in foot-washing-like service to one another.

But most importantly, Maundy Thursday reminds us the Son of Man willingly came to earth as a lowly slave, to serve us, to be crushed for us, to free us from the sin slavery that leads to eternal death. On his knees Jesus enacts for us a parable of the cross.

The disciples could not yet see the symbolic anticipation. The full explanation for why Jesus washed their feet would only become clear after the blood-bought atonement on Good Friday. Then the disciples would look back and understand the act of deep humility in the cross that brought us a once-for-all, head-to-toe, cleansing from all our sin.

Read the rest here.


Do You Know The Most Frequent Command in the Bible?

Do not be afraid

Ed Welch:

“Do not be afraid.” Would you believe that this is the most frequent command in the Bible? More than three hundred times God commands his people to not be afraid.

There are two ways to hear these commands. One is, “Stop it right now! Don’t be afraid!” In this case fear and worry would be just plain wrong. It would violate God’s direct command. When afraid or anxious you would confess to the Lord that it is sin—and then confess it again and again.

But there is another way to hear this command.

Have you ever heard a parent say to a child, “Be careful”? Technically, it is a command, yet no child would take it that way. The parent is not saying, “Be careful or you will be in trouble,” but, “I love you and my desire is that you be safe.”

Here is what Jesus says to you: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

This is not an edict from the King. The term “little flock” gives you a window into God’s heart. This is both a plea and an encouraging word from the Father, who knows and loves you. It is exactly what you need because when you are afraid you desperately need someone bigger than yourself in whom you can trust.

What can you expect God to do in your life in 2013?


Stephen Altrogge wrote a great blog post on what can you expect God to do in your life in 2013.  It’s well worth checking out, here’s a snippet:

  • God’s mercies to follow you, and pursue you, every every minute of every hour of every day. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ” (Psalm 23:6)
  • God to meet every single true need that should arise. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  • God to lead you, counsel you, guide you, and give you wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • God to freely forgive your sins each time you repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
  • God to wonderfully correct and discipline you if you should stray into sin. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
  • God to continue working powerfully in you as you pursue holiness. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
  • God to help you overcome patterns of sin that have plagued you for years. “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. ” (Romans 6:14)
  • God to use trials in your life to refine and purify your faith. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
  • God to give you every good thing. “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

God has promised to do all these things, and many more. His promises are sure. 2013 is bursting with blessings.