Political Prayer

This post was originally written in 2015. 
In light of the upcoming 2017 election, it seems fitting to re-post and re-pray for our country and its leaders — Jimmy

On 7th May 2015, the UK had the opportunity to vote for its new Government. The votes were counted, the Conservative party won the most seats and Mr David Cameron began another five years in the office of Prime Minister.

Since the results were announced, social media has been flooded with opinions, complaints, rants and viewpoints right across the full spectrum of political persuasion and human emotion. Open letters to Mr Cameron began to fill timelines and various infographics predicted the next five years to varying degrees of tragedy or triumphalism.

My personal reflections are as follows.

Firstly, if you’ve written, or are thinking of writing an open letter to David Cameron, why not actually send him your letter? It strikes me that posting it on Facebook in the vain hope the Prime Minister of the UK will stumble across your Facebook page and hear your concerns is somewhat less effective that sending your views to his house!

Secondly, particularly to my Christian friends, though not exclusively so, we are called to pray for our government and leaders. Regardless of whether we voted for him or his party or not, we should pray for the peace and prosperity of our country and those democratically elected to govern.

But the thought that has challenged me most is this. I think it is excellent that so much discussion has taken, and is taking place amongst communities and on social media. However, the election results are not the final word, they are only the beginning. We need to remain engaged in the political situation of our country (not leave our shores in search of a country with a ‘better’ political/social system according to some ambiguous league table as some have threatened to do). Our politicians and MP’s are elected to represent us. Unless I have fundamentally misunderstood our democratic parliamentary system (in which case, someone please educate me!) our local MP’s need to hear our views, they need to understand what matters to our communities in order to do their job properly and represent us accurately.

If there is an issue that resonates with your heart and beliefs, write or ask to meet with your MP about it. Get involved. “Be the change you want to see” in your community, in your country.

As a pastor of a church, I see the needs in our community and I strive to act in a way I believe Jesus would act – justly, with compassion for all to bring about peace and love for everyone. Some political policies make that task easier, others make it considerably harder. But ultimately, we are called to love one another as we love ourselves. That is not only a task that crosses political divides, racial differences and social backgrounds, but is a vision of hope for every single person to be valued and cared for.

So my prayer is that God would bless David Cameron and his cabinet and government with wisdom to discern what is best for this country as a whole and courage to make the right decisions and to carry out the duties of his office with integrity and compassion.

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They don’t write ’em like they used to

Any song that begins with the line “Blessed is the man whose bowels move” is going to struggle to be a classic. However, once my somewhat childish first impression of this hymn eased enough for me to read further I found it quite a poignant piece. See what you think.

Blest is the man whose bowels move
And melt with pity to the poor;
Whose soul, by sympathizing love,
Feels what his fellow saints endure.

His heart contrives for their relief
More good than his own hands can do;
He, in the time of general grief,
Shall find the Lord has bowels, too.

His soul shall live secure on earth,
With secret blessings on his head,
When drought, and pestilence and dearth
Around him multiply their dead.

Or if he languish on his couch,
God will pronounce his sins forgiv’n;
Will save him with a healing touch,
Or take his willing soul to Heav’n.

Isaac Watts 1719

Target Practice

During my time at college, five coke cans were positioned on my windowsill in front of my desk.

Many visitors have enquired about the cans; were they there just because they look quite cool? was there a deeper, more significant purpose for their display?

The reason is rooted in the story of David and Goliath.

Remember the story? Small Boy vs Giant Man. Giant Man is big warrior with huge sword and lots of armour. Small Boy is small with little slingshot. Small Boy shoots Giant Warrior Man with little slingshot and small stone. Small stone hits Giant Warrior Man in head, sinks into Giant Warrior Man’s skull… Giant Warrior Man dies. Small Boy saves the day and becomes hero.

It’s a great story. But I heard a sermon that put it into a bit of perspective for me.

Yes, David, the small boy shot Goliath with one smooth stone. One shot, one kill.
But if we honestly think that was the first shot David had ever taken we are seriously mistaken and deluded.

David was a shepherd boy. He spent hours in the field, probably alone, looking after sheep and protecting them from bears and lions. This was David’s training ground with God. He spent hours getting to know the voice of God in the quiet of the field – in the surroundings of his training ground. David wasn’t just being super-spiritual, sitting on rocks playing his harp and singing and writing psalms all day; his training was practical.

Imagine David, on his own, lining coke cans up on a fence and shooting them, one-by-one, with his slingshot; his accuracy improving with every stone. When every can had been knocked off, he’d run over to the fence, line the cans up, pick up five new stones and start over again.

Imagine then, the day a lion or bear came looking for a sheepy-snack. David takes another stone and fires… he’s on target because of the coke cans.

Imagine again, the day a Giant Man arrogantly challenges God’s people…

David takes five stones… he knows from experience which ones fly better, faster, truer, so he picks the smooth ones… he looks at the warrior and as he does he begins to go through a routine he’s practised hundreds and thousands of times before… he loads the stone effortlessly… he takes aim perfectly… he fires precisely… he’s confident the stone will hit exactly where he wants it to because of the practice he’s had in the sheep field (he’s confident but he’s not cocky, remember, he’s still got four stones left as back up and I’m guessing he probably had the second stone loaded, just in case, before Goliath even hit the floor)

My coke cans have been a visual reminder for me that college was my training ground. I have no doubt that God was with David during his battle with Goliath, but I also reckon God was with David while he was in the field shooting coke cans; Preparing him. Sharpening him. Inspiring him to better himself. Firming up good habits. Developing skills that would seriously come in handy later.

I don’t know if or when I’ll face my giant(s).

But what I do know, is that my time at college has been the training ground God has used to prepare me for it – I’ve spent valuable time ‘shooting coke cans’.

Limited Balance

“As worship leaders, how do you balance between allowing the spirit to lead, while maintaining a structure during a service?”

This tweet frustrated me.

The theology of worship implicit in this soundbite is thinly veiled; Spirit led worship is always spontaneous, chaotic and surprising. Spirit led worship is when we abandon the carefully prepared setlist and ad-lib, because the Spirit told us to, til our hearts have had their fill of the warm fuzzy confusion.

To imply that carefully prepared and planned worship cannot by definition be Spirit-led because it is essentially too planned and structured seems to be missing the point somewhat. The suggestion from such a theology is that the Holy Spirit is temperamental unpredictableness, totally unprepared, intent on causing chaos and happy to disregard any plans we may have spent time working on. However, this doesn’t sound like God the Holy Spirit I see working in the Bible; the God Spirit who, in Creation, brought order and structure out of shapeless chaos; the Spirit who, at Pentecost, systematically included and engaged everyone present in taking the message of Christ to the masses; the Spirit who empowers and partners with human beings to build the kingdom of God in any number of creative ways.

So, my response to the aforementioned tweet was “Does the Spirit not inspire the writing of songs, prayers and the order of service? Does he not partner with us?” and in terms of our worship being Spirit-led “He leads our worship long before the service starts and more than just the spontaneous bits we give him credit for!”

If we truly sit down and prayerfully plan our worship times, using material that has been inspired and crafted with the Spirit’s inspiration and guidance, and if we lead with sensitivity and a desire to see people encounter God together (whatever that may look like at any given occasion or setting) then the whole process is Spirit-led and therefore the outcome cannot be anything but Spirit-led.