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Voting for Jesus? June 8, 2017

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I just got to vote twice!

There wasn’t much of a queue and the nice people in the polling station let me have two ballot papers.

I should probably explain that the reason for that was that my wife is away this week and registered in time for me to vote on her behalf. I’d like to think both votes were proxies, voting as if we were voting on behalf of Jesus and the interests of the world he loves.

Like everyone else on the planet the local candidates and party leaders fall short of the glory of God (see Rom 3:23) , so (in case there was any doubt) there will be no perfect government.

There are just under 12 hours left to vote and to encourage others to vote. Most of you who get to vote today have already made your decision. Whether you vote with or against the majority in your constituency, I hope you remember to make your mark.

Along with the policies and personalities, here are some questions you may have already considered.

  • Should you vote on behalf of our own interests or on behalf of others?
  • Which policies are most important?
  • Should you vote for policies and parties or people and leaders?
  • How would Jesus vote?
  • Would Jesus vote?
  • Which party would the disciples vote for?

WhichPolicy

As this blog is as likely to be read outside the UK I should clarify that I’m thinking about the UK general election but the questions might be applicable elsewhere. There are a lot of elections happening around the world and there are no borders in the Kingdom of God.

Even in the elections you cannot vote in you can (and should) pray.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil 2.4 (ESV)
Whichever version you choose (here is Phil 2.4 in 19 English versions if you want to check) it is clear from this verse that we’re meant to think about the needs of others and not just ourselves. It’s not of course a passage that’s talking about voting in elections and there are other passages that will influence your thinking on individual issues.

I don’t know how Jesus would vote. My understanding of his teachings points me more towards one party than another but I suspect that he could say to candidates in each of the major parties (and some of the minor ones) that they are not far from the Kingdom of God. I side more with the Christians on the Left, but I also recognize that there are valid concerns and reasons why not every Christian agrees. There are Christians in Politics in each of the parties. Some of them can sit and chat passionately over a cup of tea and disagree while still being able to respect one another.

Jesus disciples came from different parts of the social and political spectrum, fishermen, tax collectors, zealots. How much did their life experience affect their outlook?

If they could have voted I suspect they would have voted for different parties, but would that have been because they weren’t listening to Jesus teaching or because they identified more strongly with some statements than others?

Of all the policies which is the most important?

Jesus was never asked this question. In Mark 12 he was asked about taxes, marriage and about what he thought was the greatest commandment. At the end he told one of the people quizzing him that they were not far from the kingdom of God.

At various points in his ministry people wanted to kill Jesus, at other times they wanted him to be king.

VoteJesus

A week after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem the people got to vote – not for who would rule but about who should die.

At the time that vote looked like a disaster. But God was the one in ultimate control.

He still is.

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The Lord is Like My Probation Officer May 16, 2017

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It’s now over 50 years since Carl F. Burke, pulled together a collection of retold bible GodisforRealstories under the title “God is for Real, Man”. It’s over 25 years since I found a copy in a second hand book shop in the UK.

Working with some pretty troubled inner city kids, in New York, Burke told Bible stories and got the youths to tell them back in their own words.

This definitely wasn’t translation that would pass the rigorous checks of Wycliffe or the United Bible Societies, but this was transformation.

The kids changed the stories, but the stories also changed the kids.

50 years later and some people are saying that there may be as may as 800 languages spoken in New York. Other major global cities may have similar numbers.

Everyone should be able to hear the real stories of the Bible clearly in their own language. Many can if they know where to look for Bibles and resources.

If you want to find a copy of “God is for Real, Man” you might need to look on Amazon, Ebay, or even in the back of your church book shelves.

Here’s a sample…

The Lord is Like My Probation Officer… Psalm 23

The Lord is like my Probation Officer,

He will help me,

He tries to help me make it every day.

He makes me play it cool

And feel good inside of me.

He shows me the right path

So I’ll have a good record,

And he’ll have one too.

Because I trust him,

And that ain’t easy,

I don’t worry too much about

What’s going to happen.

Just knowing he cares about

Me helps me.

He makes sure I have my food

And that Mom fixes it.

He helps her stay sober

And that makes me feel good

All over.

He’s a good man, I think,

And he is kind;

And these things will stay

With me.

And when I’m kind and good

Then I know the Lord

Is with me like the Probation Officer.

God is for Real, Man, by Carl F. Burke, Chaplain of Erie County Jail, Buffalo, New York; Association Press, New York; 1966 by National Board of Young Men’s Christian Association.

 

Is our President insane? May 4, 2017

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I should start by pointing out that as a Brit I don’t have a president and this is a question that was asked by the real Donald Trump.

He wasn’t in office at the time but at least it clarifies that he thinks it’s a question that can be asked of the president of the USA by the people he serves.

In many nations, citizens do not have such a privilege.

I can think of a few nations where it would be unwise to even talk about the leader. I won’t list them here.

I’ll also stop short of questioning the sanity of President Trump.

I disagree with so much of what he tweets, but I don’t think he’s insane, just wrong on many, many things.

ChangetheStory

197,000 US born immigrants are in Great Britain. I don’t know who they are. Most are sane and not dangerous (however they last voted). Few fled the US in fear of their lives.

Here is the UK we’re gearing up for an election, ready to choose our own leader. We didn’t choose the one we have now, because in our system we vote for members of parliament and the majority party forms a government. But a lot of the time we vote based on who is likely to be leader.

I’m not wild about the choices. But I’m glad I get to vote.

Democracy doesn’t always lead to the best people being in charge, but it still offers reasonable hope of removing them without violent conflict.

As for all those “dangerous” refugees “pouring” into countries, it’s good to know that ordinary people can make a difference and help change the story about that too. In the UK Christian aid is running a campaign to encourage people to send positive stories to their local and national press.

In today’s connected world, those stories and yours can be shared around the globe.

Check out: http://www.christianaidcollective.org/do/change-the-story-campaign

a million migrants needed help, the US responded March 7, 2017

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A powerful poem read some famous actors and posted by the UN invites you to imagine what it’s like to flee your home…

…many people don’t have to imagine today, because they are living the ordeal.

Many others can remember when the unthinkable happened to them.

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The US is used to violence in its cities, and to posting armed guards in some its schools and churches, but when it comes to people in their thousands losing their homes and possessions the biggest danger is the weather. When hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 Americans across in the nation responded.

On Monday March 6th, 2017 the US President signed a new executive order aimed at keeping ‘bad people’ from entering the country. There are bad people in every country living alongside the ordinary people – that’s why we have locks on our doors. Security is an issue but when disaster strikes the answer isn’t to refuse refuge because not every refugee is safe.

hurricane_katrina_august_28_2005_nasa
image: wikipedia

In the UK we face our own challenges as, the Dubs amendment , a scheme to aid child migrants is closed down at the end of the month. There is however ongoing debate and a fresh move requiring local councils to identify capacity to help house refugee children was defeated. (Earlier reports suggest thirty Conservative MPs would vote in favour of this, sadly only three did)

Across the world, people who are safe in their homes, face the challenge of what they should do to help those who have lost everything.

If you didn’t click to watch the video in the UN tweet earlier here it is again.

If you had to flee what would you take?

If you have had to flee, what were you able to bring? Have you been able to tell your story?

What Trump means to Brits and other false friends February 27, 2017

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Warning: this post is about linguistics, miscommunication, and things that some Christians prefer not to talk about.

die

There are many words which we assume we understand but which turn out to mean something quite different.

I’m currently relearning long forgotten French duolingo_logo_with_owl-svgwith the aid of the excellent Duolingo and have come across a lot of words that look the same in English and French and some that aren’t.

Linguistically the confusion between familiar words and alternate facts about their meaning is often referred to as “False friends”.

According to the wikipedia entry on false friends the toddler in the advert above is simply saying “that, that, that” in Dutch. Wikipedia can occasionally be inaccurate so you can also read about false friends on a BBC language page and on http://inktank.fi/10-english-words-mean-something-else-languages/ , where I first learned that the word ‘gift’ means poison in German. Apparently it means married in Icelandic, and either “married” or “poison” in Norwegian.

gift

False friends can occur not only between different languages but also between different forms of the same language.

One example is of course the word “trump” which has a range of meanings to  Americans and other speakers of the English language.

I suspect the entry in the urban dictionary may demonstrate the challenge of crowd sourcing dictionaries…

trump_urban

…but the entry at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/trump  does include a commonly understood meaning of the word in the UK.  trump-verb

I don’t know in how many other languages ‘trump’ already meant something unpleasant, prior to ‘President Trump’.

Although only retweeted once this tweet was apparently seen over 4,700 times –  to many the connection will have been a mystery.

It’s not the post I would have preferred to get so many views, but I don’t think it lost me too many real friends.

Here’s a few more items I found on twitter under #falsefriends

Meanwhile,  half recognised words and misunderstanding is not just a source of mild amusement, it can lead to genuine confusion.

An example I heard of nearly 20 years ago was of a pastor who assumed everyone in his church understood the Swahili Bible he used, until he was encouraged to do a little research.

When asked to explain the meaning of the Swahili verse saying that Jesus told his disciple to get into a boat, a few people thought he was asking his teachers to plant milk.

This and other evidence that people were only getting part of the message inspired the pastor to get involved in translating the Bible into the language people knew best.

So to summarize: languages are complicated, things aren’t always as they seem, and knowing a language ‘quite well’, sometimes just isn’t good enough.

Questions of Refuge February 20, 2017

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bbcnewsfeb13

Two men recently appeared photographed with bandaged stumps where once they had hands. Who are they? Who was to blame? Could it have been avoided? and what should happen next?

These are the kind of questions that should come to mind presented when with such an image. There are plenty of others.

bbcnewsmigrantsTheir names are Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and you can read their story on the BBC website. Both come from Ghana. Both had found their way to the USA, a land of hope and opportunity, and been refused refugee status. Facing deportation they had tried to cross the border into Canada, unaware of just how extreme the winter weather was. When they were found their hands had frozen so severely that amputation of their fingers was the only option.

No-one acted unlawfully, except the men themselves. But that does not mean the blame sits squarely with them. I do not know whether these men should have been granted refugee status or not, but I do believe the system and the world is broken.

In a town just over the border Canadians are nervous at the number of people crossing the border illegally and knocking on their doors for help, but in such circumstances turning them away is not an option.

In Europe it is the sea that claims lives, and the desperation that forces people to take the risk.

There are still countries willing to shoot people trying to leave, or trying to enter. Borders and oceans are dangerous places. People don’t cross them lightly without permission.

In the Old Testament Israel was given various instructions on how to respond to strangers living among them, and how they were to remember there own time as refugees and then as slaves in Egypt.

Migration is a complex issue. There are pushes of war, famine, persecution, or individual situations. There are pulls of safety, opportunity, education, political or social freedoms.

I’m grateful to the many open borders within Europe and aware that Britain voted to leave the EU in part to regain control over who can and cannot enter freely.

The scale of what is labeled a refugee crisis can be shown in numbers as in the ones from the UN Refugee agency  illustrated at https://www.lucify.com/the-flow-towards-europe/  but numbers and dots on a map are faceless.

What is the refugee crisis?

Is the problem:

  • That millions are forced to flee their homes in search of safety?
  • That desperate people are taking desperate measures, and dying in the process?
  • That people are arriving in large numbers and we don’t know how to help?
  • That we don’t think our infrastructure can cope with so many new arrivals?
  • That we are afraid of refugees and their impact on our lives?

Perhaps the problem is all of these

If you’ve not seen this video from 2015 covering the Syrian refugee crisis, take a look now. It doesn’t cover the crisis from all angles and it does use the phrase “Xenophobic rich cowards behind fences”. It clearly has an agenda that says we should all be doing more.

People move from a lot of different places, for a lot of different reasons, with a lot of different histories, cultures and languages.

In another great video (less infographic and more possible answers) Alexander Betts states:

Around the world, we present refugees with an almost impossible choice between three options: encampment, urban destitution and dangerous journeys.

Alexander Betts: Our refugee system is failing. Here’s how we can fix it (TED talk, Feb 2016)

Alexaner, traces the history of modern refugee policies, looks at the problems, and identifies some positive steps including work done in Uganda.

We’ve migrated a few times. I’ve lived in nearly twenty homes in fifteen towns on three continents and had several times of not knowing where I (and later we) would live next. I know a little of what it feels to be a stranger, and I have been so grateful for those who have made us welcome so many times.

More from me on this subject again soon.

Until then here are a few useful resources.

 

Too Good Looking to be Missionaries? February 12, 2017

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In the 1990’s a female colleague in Wycliffe explained how she was often treated as an honorary man by people from a culture where people didn’t know quite how to deal with her being in a traditionally male role and acting ‘as if’ she was equal.

She was referring to her work on a different continent, but sadly at times she could have easily been referring to how the church in her home culture treats women.

womenoftheword

Wycliffe USA has a whole section aimed at women https://www.wycliffe.org/women

The rest of the site is aimed at everyone regardless of gender and there is no section labeled https://www.wycliffe.org/men

eunicepike_florence-hansen

Unlikely Heroes in Bible Translation

Recently I read that when Florence Hansen and Eunice Pike declared they wanted to work as Bible translators in Mexico in the 1930’s some were hesitant. Objections centered on the danger of sending single women into a potentially dangerous situation and even the suggestion that they were “too good looking to be [missionaries]”.

It’s not clear how their looks would have been a disadvantage – perhaps increased fear of attack, or simply that they’d either distract some of the men, or themselves get distracted by getting married before they’d translated the New Testament.

It’s not an objection to women in ministry that seems to be raised as much today, but even among those whose theology doesn’t bar women from certain roles there is still often a sense in which women can participate as long as they can do so as if they were ‘honorary men’.

Back in the 1930’s Florence and Eunice lead the way for other women to enter the field of Bible translation.

By 1940, there was no mention of gender in any publicity material and by 1944 two thirds of Wycliffe members were women.

Elsewhere in mission circles and in the wider culture of many countries  things were also changing but greater prominence also resulted in greater opposition in some circles.

I’m currently undertaking an MA in Contemporary Missiology and for an essay looking at missiological documents from the Lausanne Movement I chose to explore the development of the role of women.

The first Lausanne Congress took place in 1974, organized by Billy Graham and Britain’s John Stott. It was foundational for many agreements and initiatives and the start of greater collaboration between mission agencies.

The Cape Town Commitment of 2010 affirms that men and women are “equal in creation, in sin, in salvation, and in the Spirit,” but also concedes that there are still “different views sincerely held”, with respect to roles in the church. (Capetown Comitment section IIF.3)

Often those views are polarized into egalitarian and complementarian, the former stressing equality, the second stressing difference including difference in roles. Debate includes the level to which gender differences are post fall or part of God’s original design. Both sides agree sin compounds injustice, power, oppression, violence and abuse.

Some fear that this is a battle between traditional interpretation of the Bible and a changing culture without always recognizing that their ‘traditional interpretation’ was influenced by their culture.

My own essay is available on request (and I’ll put it online when I’ve made a few more edits) but I’m pleased to see that Redcliffe is now offering an entire module in Gender and Mission this Summer. I’d like to think that would be an equal mix of men and women taking the course but somehow I doubt it.

We are not enemies, we are all Americans January 29, 2017

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americas_orthographic_projection-svg

I am an American (in a wider sense),

europe_orthographic_caucasus_urals_boundary_with_borders-svg

a European (even post Brexit),

world_human_population_density_map

and a human.

 

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BBC Jan 28th 2017

Trump has united a lot of people against him, and against those in his country that support him.

I’m grateful to @antoniospadaro for retweeting @schwazenegger where Arnie (the former Governator) quotes Abe (the former President)

I’m not a US citizen. I’m not a fan of Trump. I’m not a fan of the UK PM’s initial failure to speak out against Trump’s ban.

…but I’m not an enemy.

The world is a complex place and there are few simple answers.

…even in scripture.

33When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34 (NIV)

Within a few verses of Leviticus 19:34. is Leviticus 19:20-22 suggesting the sacrifice needed to atone for a man sleeping with a slave promised to someone else

and Leviticus 19:27 warning against trimming the sides of your beard. Perhaps this is why we’re mostly happy to quote quote v35-36 but sometime a little cautious of pointing to the whole passage.

35Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.

37Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.

Levititicus 19:35-37

Christians, like many others, can be guilty of choosing the facts and quotes that support what we already believe, and surrounding ourselves with people who think the same. (see Ladder of Inference)

We often need to read deeper and  wider and listen longer to those with different perspectives.

(The need to help and love refugees and other neighbours is not confined to a few verses)

Sometimes we agree to differ.

Sometimes we need to air our differences in order to find where we can agree

bbcnews29jan2017

I started this blog on Jan 28th and was pleased to wakes to new headlines  on Jan 29th

and to understand where we have misunderstood, or where we need to rethink our position.

That there are lots of countries in the world (and we don’t all agree how many), and about 7000 languages (and they are very hard to count) is testimony to the fact that we don’t all agree. But, also that we can come together in a variety of uneasy alliances.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations are all pretty diverse and full of people disagreeing while trying to live together.

Given  all our different languages, different locations, different cultures, histories, hurts, hopes, experiences, expectations,personalities, and personal problems, it is amazing we ever agree on anything.

Amongst the many things said in the Bible are statements that say

“all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 3:23 (click for wider context) (NIV)

and that say,

For God so loved all the world…

that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16 (and more) (NIV)

We are not all friends, but we are called to be family.

There are evils to be conquered

Battle Against Evil

10 Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. 11Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

…but the real evil is not refugees, not those that fear them.

and the real hope is not in barriers and walls, but in Christ.

 

 

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