What True Religion Looks Like

A man stands in the dock in the highest court in the land and is found guilty of murder. The Judge in her deliberations sentences him to life and because of this man’s crime, she declares all men in the land should be imprisoned immediately!

The view of the court was that this man was representative of all men, therefore his actions and punishment cover all men in that land! Some of you may wish that this story was true, however sadly it’s just an illustration.

I was in a brief conversation on Facebook recently in the aftermath of yet another act of terrorism and I was told that all religions should be banned. The person commenting wrote this with such venom that I was taken aback. It sprung a seed of an idea for today’s post.

The story at the beginning underlies the issue with what is wrong with the Facebook comment. Summed up in the maxim you can’t tar everyone with the same brush. But more importantly you wouldn’t blame all humankind for the actions of one person, yet when someone Hijacks a religion for their personal ideology suddenly all of that religion is to blame. It simply isn’t congruent to bash a religion if we are not prepared to hold to the crazy idea suggested in the opening story.

So what does true religion look like, what are its hallmarks?  The Bible in the book of James chapter 1 says:

…“to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.”

The Koran similarly declares:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask”…

(Chapter 2, Verse 177)

Hinduism, Buddisim, and so on and so forth declare something similar. So what can we people of faith and none about religion what yardstick can we measure it by? Other than that true religion and with it, true faith is more than a book of words, or pious religiosity, bigger than a body of people or vast temples, synagogues and cathedrals made by human hands.

The truth about religion is that it’s found in soup kitchens, and food banks, and in lived out generosity and the welcome embrace of the other. Or a Jesus puts it you will be known by your love for one another.

True religion’s adherents shine their collective light in the darkness, so that the other, whoever they may be, might find their way home, might know they’re cherished, may discover how much they are loved by the loving God, in whose hands we place our fragile lives.

Finally, faith is not the problem, people are not the problem, hate is. Hate tried to win, but hates delusion is that it can win, it may leave its scars, but even love can heal that. Faith, hope and love overcome and the most powerful, for which there is no law, is love. Let’s redouble our efforts that our religion matches the yardstick, of something that is lived out, transformative, refreshing and something that brings healing.

Poverty, Faith and Music

My local Methodist Church recently had the privilege of hosting a choir from Uganda they were the Abaana New Life Children’s Choir. The charity Abaana works to rehouse and educate impoverished children and families in Uganda and they do an amazing job. Ten families offered to host the choir of 30 and those hosts were inspired and touched by their experience.

It is the second time in recent months that I have been challenged by my experience with Africa, the first was Burundi (see on facebook) and now Uganda.  After a meal where there was an appeal for the Burundian Christian University I found myself sitting late at night and writing this message on Facebook.

Tonight I learnt about the poorest nation in the world and the brave work of the university www.bcu.edu.bi attempting to educate the next generation to build their broken nation. I find myself at 12:30am after a fundraising meal for all they do feeling ashamed of my ignorance and my privilege as a man living in Britain. 

I need to pray:

Forgive me God for my ignorance and guide me in my response to all I have heard tonight. Help me to do all I can for the others using the influence and resources that the Lord has given me. Amen- 

September 2016

Looking after the Abaana choir last month was a privilege and a wonder. Their appreciation of basic education (a right that you have to pay for in their country) was hugely challenging to me, as it’s something I fear we take for granted. IMG_2432

We were told of one of the choir, now in her early 20’s,  the Abaana Charity had given her the opportunity to go from primary education to university and become a social worker so she could give back too her choir and community, reinvesting in the community she came from.

IMG_2384

So what lessons can we learn?  That we don’t need the latest or the best, or most shiny and sumptuous. Hearing from people who hosted the choir children and their chaperones over that night, we hear how the children were delighted over seemingly small things or offers of generosity like being given a ‘onesie’ and jumping up and down with joy shouting over and over again ‘onsie, onesie, onesie’. I suspect to the Ugandan ear that word sounds funny and weird. There were stories of children delighting in loom bands, warm food and warm beds. Being just happy to sleep in a ‘safe place’ was the comment on a card from one of the girls we hosted.

I was again reminded of how difficult it would be for me to live with such bone gnawing poverty. Even more profoundly to live with that and find contentment, and know God in that place and actually, find joy in life.

Their faith in God rests not on some formulaic, ritualistic, routine, but it is living, real, and sustaining. It is part of their identity and existence it is more than, as someone put, a positive attitude.

Instead, it is something that shows and reminds people that God can be found in hunger and opulence, poverty and wealth. But it’s how we live out that faith that matters, how we express outwardly those values that truly makes a difference.

So what next, how is God calling us to use our resources for the benefit of others, how is he calling us to love our neighbour, even if that neighbour lives thousands of miles away? How I wonder is God answering the prayer I cried those 8 months ago:

Forgive me God for my ignorance and guide me in my response to all I have heard tonight. Help me to do all I can for the others using the influence and resources that the Lord has given me. Amen

New posts appear at godlifechurch 2nd and 4th weeks of the month. This Blog also links with the author’s photography website www.lobecphotography.com for more ispiring pictures and purchance prints do take a look.

 

Simple Powerful Hope

Hope

NOUN

  • A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.

  • Grounds for believing that something good may happen. ‘he does see some hope for the future’

  • A feeling of trust.

Hope is a vessel where we place our desires, dreams and even our faith in God. It can appear vague, flimsy, incongruent and perhaps illogical. Yet living without hope is like peering into a black hole! Hopelessness is crippling, physically and psychologically. Hope, even the smallest kind against insurmountable odds or just existing in terrible conditions, gives life.

Yet exercising hope that is unrealistic can be crippling and destructive to the person. The best kind of hope is that which you consider to be possible. It is the scent you are following hoping that at the end of the journey you have begun you will find that hope realised. It could be as simple as your favourite dinner or something more meaningful, like social or political change.

Hope is both personal and corporate, it can be held by many or a few. Hope can be contrary to laws, you can have opposing hopes, one who would hope to harm you and one who would hope to survive.

Regardless what you hope in or for, it’s important to have a plan to see that hope fulfilled. The plan may or may not work! Yet looking back through the lens of hindsight the journey for hope can be as just as meaningful as the realisation of hope itself.

At key moments of the year such as getting ready for Christmas or Easter there is always a journey that is made. That journey defines the quality of hope, the emotional connection we have with that which is hoped for. In the journey we discover for ourselves how important that thing is, how much it means to us. Which in turn makes attaining or losing that hope more joyful or more painful.

At this kind of year especially I question my own sense of hope in the resurrection of Jesus and what it means for me, how it completely defines my life and work. How a decision when I was a rebellious, narrow-minded, conflicted, teenager set me on a path I still follow over 25 years later. How this hope has grown with me, and my understanding of this hope has deepened and reshaped my understanding of what God was doing all those thousands of years ago and today in the world. Because of that history it makes it easier for me to answer the question I conclude with:

Would I hold to this hope I have, if I was the only one hoping in all that Jesus offers through his death and resurrection?

I wonder what your answer is and why?

Have a great easter journey and a great Easter 2017.

 

The Tempters Question

Temptations give us a choice, by their nature they pose a question. That question is focused on our identity, our beliefs and our determination.

I used have difficulty with that idea that succumbing to temptations was nearly a choice. This is made especially hard for those who are afflicted with chemical based addictions. Their ‘choice’ is made all the harder, as they fight a battle with themselves!

The rational part of them says smoking is bad, drinking too much will kill them, having that affair will lead to the breakdown of their current relationship, looking at porn will degrade their value of men or women.  Yet as they say ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.’

The battleground of the heart

 

The difficulty is that succumbing to the temptation can be, at least for a while,  justified. That fleeting excitement, the adrenalin rush of living dangerously, or the satisfaction of quenching  their inner thirst for nicotine, alcohol, prescription drugs or whatever. The rational part of them doesn’t even get a look in. Their heart rejects all the facts and charts and knowledge. If temptation is a question, we should therefore answer it in a particular way. This could be, Who do I want to be tomorrow? The answer for most of us would say to be thin, alcohol-free, smoke-free. Most of us, I hope, if we paused and pondered wouldn’t want to put our health, wealth, family and the very lives and of those we love at risk.

 

Make a different choice for them rather than for yourself. But don’t go into the fight alone. 

 

No military general plans to go to war with one soldier with their gun. The General sends in many soldiers into the fight fully armed, marshalling all the forces he or she has at his disposal. So as you enter the fight against the tempters power, bring your troops, bring every weapon you have, and choose to not loose the war.

 

There may be skirmishes when you are overcome, but the war is still yours to win. I know the war is winnable not because of my army or my own strength, but because Jesus has already won his own struggle with temptations power. He has already told it to get lost and because of that, my hope remains strong, my guilt is passing because I am loved and I know some day my own war will be won.

Discarded and Dented

Discarded, dented, abandoned to the elements, not appearing to have any use. Yet it caught my eye, it somehow had its own beauty, that caused me to top consider it and take its photo.

It’s so easy to see the kettle the leaves the blurred bricks in the distance. In amongst all the starkness, and decay it’s easy to miss the green shoots around the base of the kettle. Even when all seems bleak there is still life, new fresh sometimes fragile life to be found.

If you feel like the kettle in the image today, look out for those shoots of new life, and take hold of them. Allow them to take you to somewhere new. Just because you might feel devalued there is always someone or who sees your value and knows your name.

 

 

www.glcphotography.co.uk

Shadow Of Love

The White Cup, the red heart, is perhaps one of those cute images of romance. Yet for some people the reality is a mere shadow of what was promised. I hope your valentines day lived up to the image you had in your mind.

Sometimes faith can be like that, the smiling people at church, the over joyful minister can sometimes hide a hidden reality. That life with or with out God can sometimes be a shadow of what might of been promised.

When those promises seem to have been broken we might want to walk away, or perhaps we stop trusting as much in God or people in general.

So when you hear stuff from the front of church, ask yourself did Jesus really say that? Fact check what you are hearing, discern if what you are listening too is in fact alternative facts!

Jesus never said all would be healed, or all would have incredible lives. He didn’t say it would not be hard at times. He did say he would be with you until the end of the age, that in him we can be fed, in him we can know life in all its fullness.

Perhaps I have become skeletal in my grand old age of 42, but as a people we need to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves, so that we can avoid the traps set by the cunningness of man. so that we keep travelling authentically with Jesus, that is sustaining, forgiving, loving and joyful.

 

Introducing GLC Photography

Since a member of church kindly lent me their DSLR back in October 2016, I have fallen in love with photography again. I still like my smart phone camera but it can’t hold a candle to the quality you get with a DSLR. Sorry Iphone but you’re still useful in other ways.

My internal monologue pushes me to seek perfection, however elusive that might be,  and it is no different with photography. It offers me a purer form of creativity that my writing doesn’t always offer me. Capturing that moment, recording incredible beauty fills me with joy, and I want to share the love.

So www.glcphotography.co.uk is born, It is a place for my best photos so feel free to take a look, as well consider purchasing them as prints, physical or download, canvases photo books etc, downloads are 99p. I take photos across six categories Animals, Urban, NatureSeasonal, Faith and Stock. All products are shipped through Loxley Colour which is based in Glasgow.

 

So the blog godlifechurch has expanded to include glcphotography they are kindred spirits, of creativity that keep me sane in the dual pressures of life and ministry. Enjoy and please share.

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

2016 was a great year for my blog in some ways. In other ways it highlighted for me the tension between weekly blogging and full-time ministry which can be pretty incompatible at times!

So we find ourselves in February of 2017 with my love of blogging intact coupled wth my new enthusiasm for photography.

This year brings some changes. Firstly I have refreshed my blog which can now be accessed at http://www.godlifechurch.wordpress.com or at the original URL http://www.godlifechurch.me,  as well as facebook. The Blogging has branched out into photography as well and I am proud to introduce to you my new photography portfolio www.glcphotography.co.uk, where you can browse the gallery or purchase quality photography based products from the UK based Print Studio.

My hope for this year that I will find a better rhythm for my creative pursuits, blogging a few times a month and taking photographs as well as space for God family and church. I am excited to see what 2017 has in store and hope you enjoy the changes to my two sites and the new journey we are now on.

Nearly There With New Site.

*updated

Dear reader, Over the past few months I have been restructuring.My priorities working for the church puts a lot of  pressure on having time to do things like photography, and blogging.

Last year I had 3499 views which is my best year yet. However you may have noticed a lack of posts for a few months now as the pressure of my non-digital life has increased. So blogging wise I will try a different routine of at least two posts a month focused on godlifechurch.wordpress.com. Along with that this blog will become part of a photography portfolio. Where you can also browse or purchase cards, prints, and other items from inspiring and iconic images.

I hope to go live by the end of Feb 2017, please be patient and i hope you will be pleased with the outcome. cheers- Andy

A Question Of Perspective

The Bible tells us in Lukes Gospel that Mary has a baby who is the saviour of the world. Luke communicates the fantastical happenings around the birth. In this story, there is little room for doubt at what God is doing in the lives of this holy moment. Whether you are a shepherd, wise man, or a fly on the wall, there is little doubt that God has brought this crowd together, for a special moment.

Something is going on, something is happening, there is an unfolding of Gods plan here. At least that is who the passage is read. I wonder how do you meet this narrative, what is your perspective?

How do you view this moment? What is your perspective or view point here? Literal, allegory, story? How does this story affect your life?

 

 

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