Thursday, 26 March 2009

Grabbed by the knackers...

Sometimes a piece of Scripture grabs you by the knackers & gets your attention.

So it was as I read through Amos 5 yesterday. I'll let God speak for Himself through His Word, but needless to say this prophetic warning to Israel over 2700 years ago could be just as applicable to many parts of the Western Church today...

Amos 5 (from the Message)

18-20 "Woe to all of you who want God's Judgment Day! Why would you want to see God, want him to come? When God comes, it will be bad news before it's good news, the worst of times, not the best of times. Here's what it's like: A man runs from a lion right into the jaws of a bear. A woman goes home after a hard day's work and is raped by a neighbor. At God's coming we face hard reality, not fantasy— a black cloud with no silver lining."

21-24 "I can't stand your religious meetings. I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me?

Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want."

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Jacob Thomas Bell

Baby Bell has arrived.

6 weeks earlier than expected; small ay 3lb 7 ounces, but fearfully & wonderfully made.

Praise God for His goodness.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Musings from a hospital ward

I’ve always found hospitals interesting, and at times intimidating places.

I worked in one for five years & came to the conclusion that they are temples of contemplation. They cause you to slow down, to evaluate life and can tempt even the most obstinate atheist to pray. Life begins & ends here, good & bad news exist side by side, and the wide range of human emotions is on full display.

I’ve spent some time in a hospital this week. My wife is being monitored as some concerns have been raised over the development of our unborn child. The staff are pleasant, the resources fantastic (especially considering the dire conditions highlighted by Comic Relief yesterday), but uncertainty hangs in the air.

So many questions, too few answers, doubt lingering like a bad smell.

When faced with uncertainty the human default is to panic, to fear and to worry. And as Christians the first reaction is normally (& naturally) just that, but the second veneer is one of a faith-filled response.

Hebrews 11 gives a helpful insight into what faith is - “being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we don’t see” – and lists a number of ancestors who lived this out authentically.

I guess one of the out workings of faith is trusting God when the future is unclear & uncertain… in the real world… when employment, health or relationships don’t give easy answers. So it is my hope that as I live out my life in the hospital this season, the Lord will cement a life-long lesson in trusting Him.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track.Don't assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Racist jokes... It's only words

Not for the first time some members of my youth group ruffled my feathers last night.

The context was a discussion on reconciliation & peace-making in NI; not just between Protestants & Catholics, but amongst all divisions in society. A couple of young people were adamant that it was ok to make "sectarian" or "Black/racist" jokes with Catholic friends and those different from races as long as they aren't offended.

Various questions were raised such as "does making any joke about Black people make you a racist or is our world too politically correct?" and "why can't I call my Catholics friends a F***ian, if it is made in jest?"

I addressed & challenged our youth to think about these attitudes raising questions such as "do you think Jesus would tell this joke?" and "would Jesus make any comments if He overhead you delivering this joke or laugh along with you?" I urged great caution & prayerful reflection in all these situations.

Interestingly, there were mixed reactions, great passion & heated debate at this point. One youth asked more probing follow up questions, worried that what she had perceived as "ok banter" may have been causing offence or dishonouring God. Another reacted very aggressively claiming that by potentially labelling him as a racist I had committed the worse crime.

By no means I am suggesting that my youth are out-and-out racists, seeking to offend or dominate people from different backgrounds. However, the questions raised in my mind are:

  • Do these "jokes" imply a superiority over another group? (a significance part of sectarianism & racism)

  • What makes a sectarian/racist "joke" funny?

  • Does familiarity with these "jokes" (even in the context of friendship & banter) open the door for other people to use these in a more sinister manner?

  • And how does this impact on our witness to the God who is inclusive & all-loving?

I'd be keen to hear your views. Especially as to whether I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill or raising a common concern.