Reflection on the US Election: No need to worry!

It has been a week since the people of America democratically voted in Donald Trump to become their 45th President of the United States.  Was I disappointed?  Undoubtedly!  Did I panic? No!  In this short blog post I aim to show you that there is no need to worry about such things!

Once the news broke, social media seem to almost explode. People were posting that it was the end of the world; that anyone who voted Trump was a bigot, a racist, sexist etc.…and hate and snobbery were unleashed in one massive go.  It was crazy, Christians and non-Christians were panicking, were making assumptions of people they had never met and were frankly terrified.  Now, rather than being all high and mighty about your political stand point, take time to listen to others, tackle the issue from their stand point.  Trump may not be my chosen candidate, but there is no need to worry.

So why do we not need to worry? Well I heard a sermon on that talked a bit about this recently.  The answer is quite straight forward.  As Christians, we do not need to fear or worry because God is sovereign.  He is a far bigger power than any president.  Sometimes in life we wonder why things don’t go our way or feel overcome by the difficulties in life.  But remember God is bigger than any of those problems.  Maybe he is using them to rebuild you as a better follower of Jesus, to trust him more, to grow in all of his ways.  God cannot be shocked, he knew Trump would be president; he is in and out of time!  He knows what will happen, so give your worry to him, rest in him. He says countless times in the Bible ‘Do not Fear’, we have nothing to fear if we are one of his children!  Those words were important for the early church and they are important today in political uncertainty.  And if you were a Clinton supporter then do not worry that even Christians voted for Trump.  They have their reasons, do not be so quick to judge, but know that God is above all of them!

We do not need to worry because we can make an impact on society by loving our neighbour. For some reason, we feel that only the big politicians can change society, that they can make all things good.  We put way to much trust into a single politician.  If you liked Obama, well he had problems, if you supported Clinton; she had a load of problems, just as many as Trump does.  Putting our entire trust and faith in politics is dangerous and messy.  As Christians, we can make a difference by spreading the word, by living out the word and by showing love.  No not a wishy washy kind of love, by a love that wants to see the poor and needy helped, a love that reaches to those who we disagree with, a love that keeps us balanced, and a love that shines for all to see.  So before you start ranting on Facebook or social media, take a step back, look to God, know that he is in control, that you have nothing to fear, not even death.  So start listening to those around you, whoever they may be; do not be so quick to judge, take time to understand even if they do not with you.

This is not just for politics. We need not worry about anything.  Of course that is easier said than done, and we are but human, but when worry and troubles find you, take a step back and know God is sovereign over all.  Whether this is with school work, essays, stress at work, family troubles, remember that all things work together for our good, and that Jesus is with you every step of the way.

For us, our focus point should always be Jesus and the cross. When we get lost in the troubles of the world, look up to Jesus because he knows your pain and fear.   Our focus point is never a political ideology or secondary doctrinal issues.  Our focus is Jesus and only him.  So when the worries of this world take their hold, remember Jesus and just how awesome he is.

I was just about to post, when this song by Chris Tomlin came to mind, so let me end with it, ‘Fear not’.  Rather apt no?

In Christ, and in love

Michael

Why being single ISN’T the end of the world!

This post aims to talk about relationships, which is a huge subject (often complicated and emotional), especially for Christians. As a young man, the issue of being single is one that can play on your mind from time to time, and I hope that this post gives encouragement and helps you on your way.

Being Happy

Do we need to be in a relationship to be happy? A few years ago, I would have said it plays a big role in being happy.  And this is where my first point starts.  You don’t have to be in a ‘relationship’ to be happy; period.  Now, living in a liberal world, it feels as though if we are not in a sexual relationship, there’s something wrong with us. Everything in society is geared towards a sexual relationship.  Our identities are formed by our sexual lives, rather by who we actually are. As Christians we need to be different from the world, and therefore in relationships, as well as in the rest of life, we have to show this difference!

Biblical perspective

The Bible speaks a lot about relationships, and tells us that being single is a gift from God (1 Cor. 7:8), that some of us are called to live single lives (Matt. 19:10-12 & 1 Cor. 7:38), which could be for a short while, or it could be for the rest of our lives. Being single is by no mean a curse!  You can do so much more, especially when it comes to helping spread the Gospel message.  We are not tied to anything and we can put so much more energy into our evangelism.  I have come to know a lot more peace than I ever did at university.  I have come to understand that God is sovereign over all, and he knows what is best for me.  I now realise that the world is wrong: being in a ‘relationship’ isn’t the be all and end all, but it took me a little while to figure it out.

Singleness is a gift. You don’t have to spend loads of money on a significant other; you don’t have to worry about forgetting their birthday, making the right impression. You can just be you, serving God with all your might (1 Cor. 7:33-35).  Don’t worry about what the world think!  Focus on the kingdom and see what God will do in your life.  Do not fret, do not worry, pray to God, and trust in him!  We already have a relationship with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, we need nothing else!  Remember how close he is to you, how much he loves you and that he is everything to you!  Anything else in life is a bonus!

Patience is a valuable virtue

Brothers and sisters do not rush into a relationship, I did and it was a mess. I have never felt further away from God, my conscience was telling me it was wrong, that God didn’t approve. I tried to suppress the feeling, but it got worse and worse.  Take time, take everything to the Lord in prayer and listen to what He tells you.

This can be related to the question; do we have to date a fellow Christian?  For young people, the answer may not be what they want to hear, but I think the best way to answer this is that it is best for your spiritual soul if you do. “Do not be unequally yoked,” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).  You have someone to share your faith with, whom you can pray with and whom properly understands the Christian life.  This is vitally important for our spiritual well-being and our spouses.

Dear friends, be patient. God knows the future, he is in and out of time, and he guides us in the way we should go (Psalm 119:105 & Proverbs 16:9).  He knows what lies ahead of us, and that goes for relationships too.  There is no need to rush, to worry about this.  He has it all in his more than capable hands.  Trust in the lord, and see what he will do in your life.   I can imagine quite a few of us young folk, look around our churches, noting that there are no young females or males, wondering if you will ever be in a relationship.  Don’t worry, God is in control!  He might have someone lined up for you in the future, in some other location, he may bring someone into the church, he may never bring someone into your life, but that’s great!  He knows what’s best, and as long as we follow him, and not go our own way, we will be blessed.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be painting an ideal image of a life-partner. If we did, then I would be waiting for a God-fearing historian, who loved Skillet, loved football, voted Conservative (I seem to have more enjoyable conversations with those on the right at the moment, weirdly enough!), was smart, funny and above all focused her life entirely on Christ.  Now for most of those ideals, I have to realise that they are selfish and to be honest, rather unrealistic.  The only ideal point we should ever want in a spouse is that they love Christ first and foremost.  Of course spouses have to connect and share interests, but Christ and the gospel should always be our number one passion, interest and priority. If we share Him, we share everything.

Dating sites and ‘flirting’

So what about Christian dating sites and apps, is it OK to use them? I do think we have to be careful when we use websites to find someone.  You do not know the person at all, and have no idea if they truly are a Christian.  It can be very dangerous, I wouldn’t use them, personally, at all. But I do understand that for some people, being on these sites gives them some comfort, but it’s important to question our heart motives – are we serving God or ourselves?  So before you go anywhere near a dating website, ask God for guidance, consider the pros and cons, and whether it will actually be beneficial for you.

Now, I wish to briefly consider flirting. Is it OK? Now this all depends on what you mean by the word.  If you like a girl, you are undoubtedly going to have a bit of banter and say some stupid things, I know I have said some really daft stuff before, where you’re trying to be funny or intelligent, but in fact you look like an idiot (!), but you shouldn’t be flirting in a sexual or even vaguely suggestive manner (1 Thess. 5:22).  That is completely wrong.

Is it OK to be romantic? Well I hope so; I’m often called a hopeless romantic by my family!  Sometimes I feel that as we are not of the world, therefore we have to be emotionally dead.   Our services are emotionally dead.  But we should thank God for emotions, for joy, for laughter but also for sorrow as it allows us to express ourselves in a way words cannot.  Therefore, there is nothing wrong about being romantic.

I have been in relationships at university and in all seriousness, I realise that it was not the right time for me to be in a relationship, and as time goes on and on, I see that that still have much to learn. One day perhaps, but for now, I’m content in prayer and in the company of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Concluding thoughts

Finally to those who are reading this, who are already in a relationship, then remember to always keep the Lord in your heart and that you honour Him first, well above your spouse. Relationships, and especially marriage are gifts from God, and we thank him for them, but so too in singleness!

Remember friends, unlike the world, we search for a life-partner, not something to amuse us for a little while, so to speak. Our ultimate goal in a relationship is to marry; of course this doesn’t mean that if you date someone that they will be your married partner! Look around you in the church, take inspiration from those who are married, and listen to their advice without judging.  Let it be a blessing to you. Marriage can be an immense blessing.

So to conclude! Don’t rush, Don’t panic, Don’t worry!  Make sure you flee from sin (be like Joseph, run!!), from the desires of the flesh, and run to Christ.  Make sure that you don’t fall into the same mistakes I, and many others have.  I do recommend that as a Christian, you find yourself a fellow Christian to date. Above all, put your faith in Jesus, seek first the Kingdom of God, and let your heart put him as your no.1.  God is good, God is great, God is love, and he is amazing.  Rejoice that you have a friend like no one else; you have a love that no unbeliever has.  You have Jesus! Amen!

 

God’s Grace at work during the Second World War

Grace is such a wonderful and amazing conundrum (and I don’t use these terms loosely!). Throughout history, since the beginning of time itself, God has guided and protected us, through trials and tribulations, as well as bestowing upon the world His greatest gift. Every breath we take is another gift from God. How often do we stop to think of His amazing and immeasurable grace in all these many ways?

The Great War (WW1) was billed as the ‘war to end all wars’. How wrong that was! Less than twenty-five years later, the world was plunged into chaos once again (the same old story since the Fall of Man)…

God’s grace during the Second World War

I had the opportunity recently to avail myself of two great little books. War and Grace by Don Stephens published in 2005 by Evangelical Press (EP) and the recent follow-up War and Faith published in 2015. They are short but nonetheless powerful collections of testimonies of the Lord’s grace to a number of people from the Second World War. These range from fighter pilots and submarine commanders to chaplains and ordinary men and women caught up in the whirlwind of the War. Their stories really took my breath away.

Often, it seems, certainly in my circles anyway, we hear much from the great revivals and stories from before the turn of the 20th century and not so much from afterwards, when equally as great works of God continue to abound. Another book I recommend, while I’m at it, also by EP is The Power to Save: A History of the Gospel in China by Bob Davey; we often talk vaguely of ‘things happening in China’, this goes into specifics about the world’s largest country (population-wise) and is an encouraging read for the Christian.

The fact is God was at work in many different amazing ways during the Second World War. Not just in the momentous battles in the sky, the sea, in the country, in cities, in the Cabinet War Rooms or the ‘Wolf’s Lair’, nay God was just as much at work amongst the families and individuals thrown hither and thither by the great conflict; the poor starving Russian peasants, fighting for their lives; the civilians upon whom bombs rained down; the forgotten millions dying in concentration camps; and the masses blindly following Hitler and his Nazi ideology. We ask: how was God at work in such a great manifestation of sin and man’s wickedness?

He was at work in small ways and in big ways. Many tales can be told of remarkable escapes and deliverances, in which God’s hand is clearly seen. Many died for their faith, many cried out to God in their distress (even the most ardent atheists turn to God in times of trouble). As a whole, we can see God’s fingerprints on the way events played out and justice was served.

Two tales I know of, firsthand from those who experienced it, go like this:

Somewhere in the desert, British soldier Les Walker and his jeep were stuck the wrong side of a minefield. He needed to cross this field, to join his comrades on the other side, before Axis forces overtook him. He didn’t really believe in God, but he prayed simply, “Lord, if you’ll get me through this minefield, then I’ll serve you.” Having done so, without any further thought, he put the jeep into gear and drove on, straight through the minefield. God listened to his prayer and he emerged from the minefield unscathed, to the astonishment of his compatriots.
True to his word, once the War was over and he was demobbed, he served in the Lord’s army, being put to good use in the spiritual war that is all-around us.

Even into his nineties he served the Lord, seeking to show people Christ, in his own unique way. Once when on the beach, witnessing to a group of rowdy lads, they began to get ugly at this old man talking such drivel. “I’m gonna beat you up,” said one of them, towering over the elderly figure.

Les looked him in the eye and smiled, “Well, judging by the looks of you and the looks of me, I shouldn’t think you’ll have much trouble.”

“You know what, I like you,” grinned the lad, antagonism gone. And Les had an opportunity to tell them of Christ the Rock of ages, who had been with him throughout his long life.

Another remarkable deliverance, I know of, a world apart from desert minefields, happened on the little island of Malta: The small island with a fascinating history, well worth looking into, from the apostle Paul, who was shipwrecked there (the archaeological records of which make for interesting reading) to the Great Siege of the 16th century against a handful of knights called the order of St John, to German and Italian attempts to obliterate the place and doing their utmost to prevent British convoys getting through during the Siege of Malta in the War.

During this last siege (1940-42), a dear lady in our church (a teenager at the time) was with her father, a harbour-master stationed in Malta, taking refuge in a single room with some other civilians. The bombs rained down, heavier and closer at hand than they had experienced before. They crouched under a table nervously waiting and listening, until the all-clear sounded. Her father cautiously opened the door and stepped out, “I think you should see this,” he said shortly. Looking out, the entire area was flattened, obliterated. The building they had been taking refuge in was devastated, but for the room they had been hiding in. The full weight of this remarkable deliverance only struck home later on in her life, when she realised this was the ‘unseen hand of providence’ clearly at work. She can tell of many such experiences.

Discovering forgotten tales of providence

To all you young men and women keeping yourselves to yourselves in your own little corner of the church, playing Pokemon Go on your smartphones: have a natter with some of the older members of the church, and ask them to tell you a story! Once you get past the ‘new technology-can’t-keep-up’ versus ‘old fuddy-duddy’ generational barrier, and laugh off the “How you’ve grown!” comments (their way of breaking the ice), they’ll not only amaze you with how like-minded they are but will be able to relate amazing tales of the Lord’s providence throughout their lives, perhaps stretching back to the War. These might otherwise remain unknown and thereby sadly forgotten. The experience will leave you buzzing, and they’ll be delighted to tell you about the ‘old days’. There’s a challenge for you… do it! Pray about it and for blessing in your conversations. Get a notebook and pen or bring a friend, if it helps. Either way, do write it down!

War and Grace

Don Stephens wrote many of these accounts, in just such a manner, through personal correspondence with those who experienced them.

The first book features some key players’ personal testimonies, from all sides, including: the lead Japanese pilot in the infamous Pearl Harbor raid; the US airman (and former athlete) adrift at sea for weeks before being captured by the Japanese and tortured, the exploits of whom were recently portrayed in the 2014 film Unbroken; the prayerful Royal Navy submarine commander stuck on the bottom of the ocean; the US chaplain who witnessed to Hermann Goering and other leading Nazi war criminals; and a German pastor who gave his life in the Lord’s service.

They are all amazing stories of the Lord’s grace, irrespective of any of the divisions, cultural and diplomatic during that period. He was at work amongst the Allies and the Axis.

War and Faith

Smaller things and little people matter as well as big things and big people. They can all encourage us equally. This is the focus of the second book. Individuals from various backgrounds and ‘denominations’ caught up in the war, including a test pilot, holocaust survivor and a martyr in a land not her own, stubbornly refusing to give in, instead trusting in her Lord till the end.

 

Such stories are so vitally important for us today. Much is forgotten, and so little survives, so we should treasure it all the more. We can learn valuable lessons from them, as well as take encouragement from these rousing tales of God’s grace in troubling times. If we think we’ve got it bad then maybe we ought to think again! I would wholeheartedly recommend having a chat with some of the older folk, with an open mind.

I think it would be fitting to end with the hymn that was the watchword of dear Les Walker’s life on earth (as a young lad, my two memories of him were of this hymn and his love of the book of Isaiah, we always sang and read together), as well as many others:

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne
your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!