Sgt Pepper’s homage 2016 – Happy New Year 2017

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All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever.” (Isaiah 40:7-8)

It is hard to summarise such a turbulent year as 2016, but the Sgt Pepper’s homage (above) has done this so well.

2016 will be remembered (by the west) for the loss of many treasured celebrities and the political shift from the mundane to the bipolar.

(For more on this read Dealing with Change – thoughts on BREXIT)

I have certainly mourned the heavy blows to our cultural heritage. As the Rev at Ringside, the loss of Muhammed Ali was upsetting (although expected). But out of all the celebrity deaths the most moving (for me) was David Bowie. To us it was a shock, but for him it was not a “sudden death”. The public-eye did not know of his battle with cancer and he orchestrated his departure (as much as possible) around his final album release. The lyrics revealed within gave voice to the dichotomy faced by all who are approaching death without the assurance of a loving saviour.

(For more on this read David Bowie “Look up here, I’m in heaven”).

There were many unsung heroes who also departed this year without any fanfare, such as Dr Donald Henderson who eradicated smallpox, a disease that killed 300 million people in the 20th century. We can also mourn the 1/88 refugees who were lost at sea whilst searching for a better life in Europe, as well as all those who have needlessly died in various world conflicts.

As each celebrity met our maker in the midst of political change and civil unrest, social media flooded with memes about the apocalypse, some suggesting that David Bowie had discovered a new dimension and was hand picking those he wanted to join him – it is quite a guest list!

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The media paints a picture of a most terrible year, but when we put this into perspective with the events of 1916 where the battle of the Somme caused 60,000 British casualties in the first day alone (420,000 across the campaign), the inevitable (albeit tragic) loss of ageing icons pale in comparison.

So what can we learn from 2016?

Well the most obvious lesson is that people die, irrelevant of their wealth, record sales, sporting prowess or comedic genius. Their glory is like the flowers of the field.

2016 is the year that death has been brought back to the forefront of the popular psyche.

Our western culture has somewhat hidden death behind the fountain of youth (consumerism), limiting death to the poor, old and sick. But as we have seen through the falling of many icons this year, death is a reality that we all have to face at different times and in different circumstances (Romans 6:23).

The truth is, death is real and today could be your last!

Even the best times of life bring us all closer to death, there is no escape. The grass withers and the flowers fall.

Politically 2016 gave us more questions than answers, but as we all approach 2017, one step closer to our end, amidst the sad loss of so many much loved personalities, we are left with just one most important question – are you ready for death?  

If (for whatever reason) you were taken tomorrow, do you know where you are going to?

Do you know peace with God through His Son Jesus Christ?

Because it is only in Him that you can be ready for death and thus be ready to embrace life at its fullest in 2017. (John 14:6).

I mourn with Jesus for those who have departed (John 11:35) and my prayers go out to all who have suffered loss and grief in 2016.

I pray that the new found realism of death in popular culture will bring people closer to the living God in 2017.

I pray that the void left by our cultures great flowers of the field will be replaced with a greater love for Jesus Christ “the word (who) stands for ever.

May you all have a wonderful 2017.

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The grey vote and BREXIT

You shall stand up before the grey head and honour the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32

As I stated in my last blog about BREXIT (Dealing with Change), it is best to keep politics out of the pulpit, I do not want to alienate anyone from the Gospel because of my opinion, especially when such concerns have little significance in the light of eternity.

The reason for this blog post is that I have been greatly concerned since the EU Referendum by the reaction of both sides of the debate.

I am of course horrified that some people have seen a victory for ‘leave’ as a mandate for racism, desecrating graves, religious buildings and monuments. A report that came out this week claims a 400% rise in hate crime in the UK since the BREXIT. This is disgusting behaviour and I do not need to go into details as to why this is shamefully wrong, (read Deuteronomy 10:18).

However, what has stirred me to write today is the unexpected reaction of some within the “remain” camp, who have been as discriminatory against the “grey vote”.

Society’s elders have been publicly blamed for the outcome in hysteric rants across social media.  The common line of attack has been “they should not get a vote, it is not their future”. This is an incredibly sad position to take and one that further illustrates our cultures continued departure from Christian teaching.

Before I continue as to why, let us look at the statistics: 75% of the 18-24 year olds voted “remain”, but only 36% of them filled in the card. This means 73% of the youngest possible voters did not proactively support this view. It is clear that the ‘blame’ should not be delegated solely onto the “grey vote”.

It is also worth reminding ourselves that the grey voters were the last generation to fight for our democracy and the only ones with the experience of life outside the EU, so arguably they were more informed than anyone else amidst the heated rhetoric.

We must also remember that they were young once and had to live with the consequences of the 67% that voted “in” at the 1975 referendum.

(This is not to say that I agree or disagree with their decision, my point is simply their opinion should be respected as much as any other).

The suggestion that the elderly have no place or opinion in our society because “it is not their future” undermines the democratic process and is a dangerous precedent (especially in an ageing society). Where would such an opinion stop? Should those with a terminal illness not get a say? Or those in high risk professions? What about people who live next to busy roads?

To say that someone’s frailty denies them an opinion undermines the strength of democracy that allows the weakest in society an equal voice to those in establishment.

“It is not their future”

Needless to say I would not be happy living in a society that is so willing to discard a lifetime of experience and expertise (Job 12:12).  Alas this Logan’s Run nightmare is exactly what is happening in our society as we continue to move away from God.

Rather than face the inevitable (Romans 6:23) people continue to fight against the ageing process spending outrageous amounts each year on treatments and cosmetics (Ecc 1:2). The divide between young an old continues to grow.Youth is prized and thus little respect is given to the elderly, a huge shame as they all have so much to offer society.

Refusing the experienced voice is unbiblical and will allow problems that were once dealt with in previous generations to repeat themselves.

This is where the church comes in

As society continues to put a wedge between the young and the old, the church at Noddfa meet as a family of all ages, from 6 months to 93yrs, each member valued, respected and loved as part of the body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ………For the body does not consist of one member but of many………..The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.

Respect-elders

 

 

Dealing with change – thoughts on BREXIT

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It is best to keep politics out of the pulpit, I do not want to alienate anyone from the Gospel because of my opinion, especially when such concerns have little significance in the light of eternity.

For these reasons I have remained dutifully silent throughout the EU referendum.

As events begin to unfold it is fair to say that we are all going through an interesting time in our nation’s history.

We have no idea who our Prime Minister will be in October, the governing party has split within itself, the opposition is in utter chaos and Scotland and Northern Island are now threatening to leave the Union.The global markets are going into cardiac arrest and to top it all off Iceland have knocked England out of Euro 2016!

The world is on its head and nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.

We are certainly in exciting times!

Change seems to be the only constant!

This erratic change is not simply limited to the world of politics but in all spheres of life.

It might be a sign of my age, but fashion trends seem to have a shorter shelf life today than what they once did? We do not have the teenage cult movements of the past. If the Mod’s and Rockers existed today, they would have evolved into another craze before reaching Brighton for a good old punch up!

Business is changing faster than ever before in the digital economy. Life expectancy of an S&P500 company has now decreased from 67 years to just 15 years. Huge organisations that once offered “a job for life” are simply not secure anymore.

Humanity is facing uncharted territory, we are in a hyper connected globalized world where we can speak face to face with anyone wherever they are, geography has no bounds, we can trade whenever we want and have drones deliver it for us. We can download what we want, when we want it.

Fast change is now normal and expected, however grievous or unnatural it is at this current pace.

Change is nothing new to the church

I am particularly proud of our reformed heritage that embraces changed.

When the world was locked under Popish rule, great men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Knox and Wycliff lead the Great Reformation and Europe was changed forever.

When the world was content to have an illiterate working class, the church fought for change, our very own Griffiths Jones drove the movement of educating the masses and Thomas Charles followed his work by distributing the Bible to them. When the world festered under the evil of slavery, it was the Church that again spearheaded change!

For two millennia the Church has been the counter culture against a stagnant world. By God’s Grace it is the church that has historically fought against the perceived norms and has been a driving force of social reform and change for the common good.

But in a world that is now forever changing, how can the church continue to be the counter-culture it is called to be? How can we be salt and light?

I believe the answer is by being a voice of consistency and stability, an ark where people can escape the torrent.

The Vanity of Life

I pray that this ordeal that our country is going through will open people’s eyes to the vanity of life. As they witness the collapse (for good or ill) of human institutions that they have put their faith into, when they battle with their anxiety and pressure forced upon them under a forever changing and fallen world, my prayer is that they will seek a stability that can only be offered by the church.

Jesus said “that everyone who comes to me and hears my word and puts them into practice are like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built” (Luke 6:47-48)

Jesus is God, He is sovereign, He is the Alpha and Omega, He is unshaken and unchanging, He is eternal, He is our anchor (Hebrews 6:19) and He is what the people of a ever changing world need.

Whichever way the EU referendum vote went, last week proves nothing other than at best, all the world can offer you is uncertainty. The things of this world that you put your trust in is “the house built without a foundation that collapsed the moment the torrent struck” (Luke 6:49)

Total peace

The world seems to be in absolute chaos, we seem to be changing faster than ever before, faster than what humanity has ever been used to, and arguably faster than we can possibly cope with, but despite all of this pressure, I can say that as a Christian I am at total peace.

When I see the despair in politics, or the aggressive fluctuations in the financial markets, I can smile, knowing that by God’s Grace I will be meeting my brothers and sisters in Christ on Wednesday morning at Noddfa to pray about it all.

A day is a long time in politics, whatever unfolds over the rest of this week, I will be in church Sunday (God willing) with the people that I love. What a blessing!

Dealing with change

The best way to deal with change is to belong to an unchanging Kingdom lead by Jesus Christ “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) who said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”(Hebrews 13:5).

He told us that He “will build (His) church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”(Matthew 16:18).

In a changing, fallen world of instability and uncertainty, I know that I am part of an unchanging Kingdom that is governed by Love, Mercy and Grace, a Kingdom that is welcoming to every single human being, a Kingdom that does not judge you for your past but embraces your future Glory, a Kingdom whose King took nothing from me (bar my sin) and gave me everything in love, even His own life!

If you are struggling with anxiety because of our changing fallen world, if you are worried about what tomorrow holds, or simply need to escape, embrace the church of Jesus Christ!

God willing this Sunday I will be declaring the same Gospel truth that has been preached for two millennia, the same Gospel that has outlived every political movement, empire and critic during this time, the same Gospel that has the power to bring you to our unchanging God, so that whatever happens in this world, you will know peace.

It is a glorious thing to have! I hope to see you!

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood, Support me in the whelming flood;

When every earthly prop gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found,

Clothed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne!

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874