The best deal going

December 11, 2020

Here in the UK tension is rising on several fronts. Almost to spite the good news of the vaccine, coronavirus levels are rising in various areas, and relationships with the European Union seem at an all time low. It seems possible that the Brexit talks may result in a “no deal”.

When it comes to God, he offers us the deal of the century. Not just of this century but of all time. Of course, he is not on some opposing side to us. God is for us, and that’s why he offers us grace. It’s such a bargain. God sent his son, born humbly in a stable, to find us and save us from ourselves. We didn’t have to do anything. Out of his own free will God chose to give us grace, and thus freedom from our mistakes and bad choices.

When there’s such a good deal on the table, it’s wise to accept it.

Why not take God’s deal?

Accept Jesus.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

Positive contact

November 13, 2020

“As you have been identified as a contact of someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, you are under a legal obligation to self-isolate from now until…”. As soon as the text arrived my mind start rushing through all the things I should have done to prepare for potentially spending the next two weeks at home.

People who have near death experiences often say a similar thing. As their life flashes before them they think of all the things they haven’t done but wanted to do. All the things they should have done but never got around to.

Is this the fate that awaits us all? That at the end of our lives we are to be judged for all our mistakes and all our regrets?

The Christian message is one of hope. It tells us that we have all tested positive for grace and that if we turn to Jesus, he will both redeem our mistakes and turn our regrets into joy.

For hope, turn to Jesus.

Gavin Henderson info@because.uk.com

Moments of…

August 10, 2020

“If you can help tonight, then there’s a number on screen. If you can’t then don’t worry about it, you’ve got enough going on.” That sentence has stood out in my mind ever since I first heard it, uttered by Peter Kay, on the BBC’s Big Night In. I didn’t watch it live, but caught the highlights later on. Aired in April, it now feels like an age ago. Who was to know at the time that the UK Lockdown still had months to go?

Peter Kay makes me laugh. Sometimes, he makes me laugh so hard that I think I’m going to pass out. But the one thought he has left lingering in my mind is the sentence I began with. The Big Night In was all about making money. As the Government matched donations from the public, they actually passed the £67 million mark. Wow! Of course, it was all for good causes, with a large chunk going to help those significantly affected by the Covid-19 situation. But Peter Kay’s message highlighted an awareness that not everyone could give. It had the ring of grace around it; a genuine acceptance of everyone watching, whatever our backgrounds, learning or achievements.

I am always pleasantly surprised by such moments of grace. I don’t know if Peter Kay considers himself a religious man, but such grace does feel as if something spiritual has just crept up from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. Forgive me if you think that it is unseasonably early to mention school nativity plays, but such grace pops up in our traditional Christmas story. Some shepherds are invited to meet the baby Jesus. We’re so used to the story that we don’t even blink at the idea. (Sounds like something that Peter Kay would invent! But I digress.) The shepherds had no gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh like later visitors. Compared to the wise men, they probably had little education or influence. The only qualification for them being there was that they happened to be in the neighbourhood. But they were invited into the story anyway; a moment of grace in the shepherds’ lives.

Moments of grace are rare; I can confidently say that because every such event I’m aware of has stood out as something unusual. They flow against the normal activity of life; I do not expect to wake up tomorrow and find any stories of grace among the news headlines. So how about it?

Let’s follow the philosophy of Peter Kay and keep open the door of grace for those who have “enough going on” right now. It is risky; we have no idea who might wander through that door. But if it is a true moment of grace, with that wonderful tap on the shoulder – well, I truly believe we won’t regret it.

Ian Woodley info@because.uk.com

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Disgrace to grace?

September 27, 2019

It’s a disgrace! How often I’ve heard people say that this week. It’s also been in the papers and on the TV news.

It was used by frustrated protestors at the UN summit on climate control, by both sides in the US’s unfolding impeachment drama, and, of course, by concerned citizens to vent public anger and outrage at what appears to be the failure of the UK parliament in processing Brexit.

But what is disgrace? It’s the opposite of grace, a religious term that Christians use often. Grace refers to the unmerited favour of God. It involves abandoning the politics of power and the giving up of personal ambition. Jesus did this. He put the prerogatives of divine power to one side in order to die for us so that we might understand what it means to live in peace.

If only politicians, world leaders and even ordinary people like you and me would follow his example. If only we’d put aside our own agendas and make a meaningful difference.

That’s grace.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

 

Authentic bravery

June 28, 2019

Should Boris Johnson appear in TV debates to discuss his leadership credentials? Should he answer questions about his private life? Does the public care? Do Conservative Party members, who will select the next party leader and Prime Minister, care? Maybe Boris feels to do so would make him vulnerable to attack with no mercy shown by press and public alike? As a result his rival in the leadership campaign, Jeremy Hunt, has called Boris a coward for not addressing these issues.

Certainly it calls into question whether our leaders can be one thing in public and another in their private lives. A Christian is not afforded that luxury. To be one thing at home where no-one or only our family sees, and then put on the mask of respectability in public is rightly viewed as hypocritical, and hypocrisy is often quoted as a reason why people have a negative view of Christians and are reluctant to come to church.  

As a Christian I try to live out my Christianity in both the public arena and in my private space, but I recognise that I do so imperfectly, just ask my wife. But there is bravery and authenticity about a Christian acknowledging their failings and that they have no grounds to look down on anybody. Yes, it makes us vulnerable to admit our mistakes, but the Christian message is that with God there is no attack or condemnation, only grace. Now that’s something to care enough about to investigate.

Kind regards,

Barry Robinson  

barry.robinson@gracecom.church

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-48744493

 

An unconditional offer

February 15, 2019

Should universities give students unconditional offers of acceptance?

Recently this practice has come under increased scrutiny after it was revealed that the number of unconditional offers issued by universities was increasing and that the students who received the offers often miss their predicted grades. Would students be better off, more resilient, if they had to earn their place?

As a Christian I believe that we have all been given an unconditional offer in Jesus Christ. We haven’t earned this place, yet if we accept it, it will change our life forever and open up opportunities beyond our wildest imaginations.

The offer reflects God’s confidence in who we will become with his help, rather than what we have achieved.

Maybe it is time to consider his unconditional offer of grace?

Warm regards,

gavin.henderson@gracecom.church

No vengeance?

September 7, 2018

Vengeance seems to be on the mind of international leaders this week.

But should it really be payback time? The UK and its allies against Russia for the alleged deployment of nerve gas on UK soil? Russia against the UK for making what its leaders view as unfounded allegations? And, the more we look into the news, the more examples we come across.

Some have thought that God has vengeance on his mind, and that he plans to bring the world to an end in a fit of wrath. Typically, that’s what many of the Judgment Day pundits claim. That a disillusioned God will satisfy his anger by destroying the earth and sinners like you and me. As society appears to go from bad to worse, the more religious zealots preach that view.

But, is this true? Actually, the Bible proposes something different. It’s not that God is intent on revenge, but that he offers outgoing love to a resistant humanity. God prefers to return evil with good. Vengeance is subsumed in grace. Jesus returns in power as the Prince of Peace, and not like some charging, vengeful warrior king.

How will all this play out? I don’t know.

What I do know is that God is the God of amazing grace, not of spiteful vengeance, and, because of that, there is hope for all of us.

Accept his grace.

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

All the lonely people

January 26, 2018

On the day the government appointed a minister to tackle loneliness Chris Hinds, managing director at Saatchi PR consultancy, cheekily tweeted ‘Can’t work out why the government have only appointed one minister for loneliness.’ It was an amusing tweet, but loneliness is no joke for the estimated 9 million adults in the UK who are lonely. Prime Minister Theresa May, acting on a recommendation from the Jo Cox commission, said that ‘isolation is a sad reality of modern life for too many people.’ Recent studies have shown that loneliness affects people as diverse as the elderly, new mothers, young disabled adults and refugees. The UK has never been so populous and yet people have never felt so lonely. King David’s words in Psalm 68:5-6 (NIV) have never been more pertinent: ‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…’

The Christian church is God’s family, and is in a unique position to offer a healthy community that can help alleviate loneliness; it is, therefore, incumbent on all Christians to be welcoming and inclusive. Loving relationships are the antidote to loneliness; the more Christians are warm, friendly, and hospitable, offering a safe haven from the world, the more loneliness will be eased. The Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby’ implores us to ‘look at all the lonely people,’ and asks ‘where do they all belong?’ The answer is they belong in God’s family. Can we, the church, look for the lonely people and welcome them in? It’s becoming increasingly critical that we do.

Barry Robinson

The Overview Effect

November 10, 2017

They call it the Overview Effect. It’s a phrase used by astronauts for the shift in awareness when, from space, you come face to face with our beautiful earth.

“It changes you,”1 was the effect on Scott Kelly, an American astronaut, who has just come back from the International Space Station.

And he should know: he spent nearly a year up there, beholding the beauty of a boundaryless earth.

Through this privileged orbital perspective, he explained that he saw the earth “very peaceful looking…but often not.” And this weekend, the often not peaceful weighs heavy on our minds as we remember the pain, loss and sacrifice that war brings.

As he explained how his 340 days in space made him more “empathetic to the human condition”, I wondered if fewer wars would have been fought if national leaders could have experienced this overview effect? However, unfortunately, not all of us can make it to space.

So, are we without an overview effect? To change us, that is.

Not entirely.

There is an overview that can change us. Where we don’t see boundaries that divide, nor pride that puffs up, but a view that gives us new eyes of awareness.

It is a view found in Jesus. As we look to him, our view of humanity changes. Why? Because “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Simply put, our true, new condition is found in our relationship with Jesus. And from this relationship, our overview of humanity changes as we treat others as Jesus treats us: with oneness.

An overview informed not from space, but from grace.

Richard Fowler

1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-41908978/what-it-s-like-spending-a-year-in-space

Image from www.nasa.gov

 

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