Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

Saturday, 6 April 2013

JACKSON MIDDLE SCHOOL - A LESSON FOR US ALL

by Colin Bloom

Yesterday I wrote about why when it comes to religious freedom we should never, ever relax. We should certainly never give in to the aggressive secularists, whether here in the United Kingdom or the United States or elsewhere, we must stand and defend what is ours and reclaim that which has been taken.

Let me give you an example that I came across in the United States last week. It is the sad story of Jackson Middle School, Ohio, where for the past 66 years a portrait of Jesus has been hanging in their entrance hall. 
The picture of Jesus that was
hanging in Jackson Middles School

The portrait didn't belong to the school, but to one of the student clubs. However, some radical and aggressive secularists from the FFRF (Freedom from Religion Foundation) and the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) decided to take the school to court for their unconstitutional promotion of religion in a public school. As if there weren't more pressing matters to deal with in American schools...

It is worth noting that between the FFRF and the ACLU they have an annual budget of more than $100m to fight these cases.

Despite nobody complaining, despite it harming nobody, despite this picture hanging there benignly since the 1940's, the School's board took down the picture of Jesus because their insurance company declined to cover litigation expenses.

The school Superintendent said, "At the end of the day, we just couldn't roll the dice with taxpayer money, when you get into these kinds of legal battles, you're not talking about money you can raise with bake sales and car washes. It's not fair to take those resources from our kids' education."

It's often said that when America sneezes the UK catches a cold. I happen to think we are fighting this disease of aggressive secularism together. The time has already come when people need to decide what side of the argument they want to be on. It's not a question of whether we want the debate or not; these well funded organisations are going to be bringing the fight to a school, home or shop near you. 

Jackson Middle School thought it would be teaching lessons to a small community in South Ohio. They can take some small comfort in the knowledge that because of what they've been through there is a lesson for us all.

Friday, 5 April 2013

DON'T LOSE HOPE

by Colin Bloom

Earlier today I received a Tweet asking me how, in the face of such liberal totalitarianism, I don't lose hope. The Tweeter sent me the question after I posted this article on Religious Freedom. It's a good question, but one that can't be answered in just 140 characters. So this is might slightly more considered response.

There are three points I would make, although I'm sure there is a lot more to say on  the subject.

The first is that, most people, indeed most Christians don't seem to care about the rising tide of aggressive secularism. It totally passes them by, maybe because seeing beyond the busyness and priorities of their own lives would require too much effort. Even though we are all guilty of doing that; guilty of making our own momentary concerns seemingly of far greater importance than the bigger issues, I see many people who are rising to the challenge. From my vantage point I am optimistic that the number of people who are 'getting it' is growing.

The second point is one that I would be a bit stronger on; as Christians we need to get more comfortable wearing the full armour of God. That armour is to be used in both defense and offense, but the more we wear the armour, the more comfortable it becomes. Whilst never forgetting that we follow the Prince of Peace, we need to remember that He was also the Lion of Judah!  So long as we model ourselves on Jesus, remembering grace, mercy and love, we wont go too far wrong.

Finally, I don't lose hope because rightly or wrongly I take tremendous encouragement from the following scripture: 2 Chronicles 20: This is what the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s."

So we won't lose hope, not now, not ever. We have it as an anchor for our souls, firm and secure.

Monday, 1 April 2013

EASTER PART III. BE A DOUBTING THOMAS

by Colin Bloom

This is the third and final part of my Easter Trilogy. For Pete's sake, on Easter Sunday we looked at Saint Peter the rock who became the denier who became the rock again. For crying out loud, on Holy Saturday we read about Jesus's supreme act of love on the Cross, and the fact that the Cross is centre-point of all history.

Today I want to briefly look at the man most of us know as Doubting Thomas. I think it is healthy for us all to be a bit like Doubting Thomas. I'm not sure God requires us to be unthinking people with blind faith. He designed us to have a brain, He gave us the power of inquiry, so I suspect that He has no problem with us asking the big questions that we all have or had. Where did we come from? What happens to us when we die? Was Jesus who He said He was? It would be a pretty odd person that never wondered about such things.

So who was this doubty Thomas fellow? In the Gospel of John (Chapter 20:24-29) we read the following:

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”


But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Here Thomas is like so many people, the kind of people who say that unless they can feel the presence of Jesus then they won't believe in his existence. But unlike most people, Thomas put himself in the position where he could have his doubts answered. He at least went and tried it out.

How many people say, things like, "the Bible has nothing to say to me" and yet have never picked it up; or say, "Church isn't for me" but have never gone. 
Perhaps the crime is not the doubt, the crime is not asking the questions or ignoring the answers.

Christians don't have all the answers to everything, we are meant to have faith, and we are meant to put our faith to the test. The challenge to us all is can we be more like Thomas, by putting ourselves in the position of having our doubts answered?

Sunday, 31 March 2013

EASTER PART II. FOR PETE'S SAKE

by Colin Bloom

For crying out loud, was the first part of the Easter trilogy I started yesterday. For Pete's sake, today I want to discuss Saint Peter.

Peter is one of the biblical characters that I find it very easy to identify with. A ready, fire, aim kind of guy. He wasn't the type to hesitate; he usually got his defence in early. If he was a football player, he would have been like Arsenal's greatest central defender Tony Adams, who famously said "you can get past me, or the ball can get past me, but both of you ain't doing it." Peter had a low centre of gravity, and was to use a modern idiom, a man's man.

So it is ironic that of all the "I'll follow you to the death, Jesus" disciples it was to Peter that Jesus said, "I tell you, this very night you will deny knowing me three times before the rooster crows."

This tragic betrayal came true, and Peter's denial left him fleeing his questioners distraught, weeping bitterly.

Peter was the Disciple that Jesus the Church would be built; and yet it was Peter, the tough guy, who ran away when questioned about his faith. Peter had just seen his best friend go through an unjust trial and was about to see him whipped, humiliated and nailed to death on a cross.

His whole world was falling apart, and the man he had given the past three years of his life to was going to die. Peter probably hadn't slept, he was exhausted, emotionally broken and confused. With this in our minds, it is perhaps easier to understand why Peter the Rock became Peter the Denier.

This episode reminds me that notwithstanding my failings, weaknesses and sin; there is always hope, always forgiveness and always a fresh start. The Church should be the representation of Christ on earth, the Church is a safe place, a sanctuary of God's love. A place where anyone and everyone should feel welcome, and encouraged to have a relationship with Jesus just like Peter did.


So for Pete's sake, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

THE PRIME MINISTER'S EASTER MESSAGE 2013



The Prime Minister David Cameron has sent his best wishes to Christians in the UK and around the world celebrating Easter.

The Prime Minister said:

“I send my best wishes to all those in the United Kingdom and around the world celebrating Easter this year in what is an incredibly exciting time for the Christian faith worldwide.

“This year’s Holy Week and Easter celebrations follow an extraordinary few days for Christians; not only with the enthronement of Justin Welby as our new Archbishop of Canterbury, but also with the election of Pope Francis in Rome.

“In the Bible, Saint Peter reminds us of the hope that comes from new birth through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Christians, it also reminds us of Jesus’s legacy of generosity, tolerance, mercy, and forgiveness.

“That legacy lives on in so many Christian charities and churches both at home and abroad. Whether they are meeting the needs of the poor, helping people in trouble, or providing spiritual guidance and support to those in need, faith institutions perform an incredible role to the benefit of our society. As long as I am Prime Minister, they will have the support of this Government.

“With that in mind, I am particularly proud to lead a Government that has kept its promise to invest 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on helping the world’s poorest, and I am grateful that we have been able to partner with both Christian and non-Christian charities to relieve suffering overseas.

“I hope you have a very happy Easter.”

David Cameron

EASTER PART I. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD

by Colin Bloom

The Cross is the centre-point of all history. This year is 2013, 2013 years after what? When King Tutankhamun died in 1323 BC, it was 1323 years before what?

The Cross, is centre point of history because it represents the end of God's old covenant with the world and the beginning of the new. If like me you believe in the Christian faith and you accept the story of Jesus, then you have to agree that His death and resurrection is the most important thing that as ever happened in the history of the universe. More personally, the realisation of the Cross, Jesus's willingness to die and be raised again for me and you, is by far the most important thing that ever happened in our lives. The Cross is not just the most important point in history, it is also the most personal one.

The phrase 'for crying out loud' is often used as an exclamation of frustration. I don't know if the etymology of this phrase goes back to Jesus on the Cross, but the Bible tells us in the Gospel of Matthew 27:46 that Jesus cried out loud, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

It was this substitutionary sacrifice; Jesus taking the punishment for others that is central to the Cross. The Cross is Jesus's gift of himself to us, it is a gift of Grace that just keeps on giving. Nothing in all history is strong enough to defeat the power of the Cross.

So if you aren't sure about any of this but want to know more, go to Church, read a bible or if you want to know more straight away I can do no better than to point you to the Alpha Course or to Christianity Explored

For crying out loud, it's Easter - you should find out more, and if you already know, who have you told?


Monday, 25 March 2013

CHURCH FOR PEOPLE THAT DONT DO CHURCH

by Colin Bloom

Last week some friends and I set about delivering many thousands of postcards to the homes in our town, inviting people to a special church service called 'Church for people that don't do Church'. This one-off event happened yesterday at 3pm, and it was the first time we have ever done anything like it.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, the start of Easter week; the most important week for followers of Jesus (or Christians as we like to be called).


What do I mean by Church for people that don't do Church? As I've written before, I think despite its failings, the Church is still God's best invention and everyone should be welcome. Whether you are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight, male or female, young or old, you should be welcome in Church because that is the place where you are most likely to meet with and have a relationship with Jesus.

Hang on - scrub that. There is a group that don't need welcoming to Church.

Perfect people are not allowed; people who have never done anything wrong don't need to be found in church. For everyone else, I'll see you on Sunday...