Life or death?

June 25, 2021

This week in the news there has been criticism of “binary” politics. In other words, say in a vote or a referendum, when there is a simple choice between “yes” or “no”. Could there be more options, and is there enough detailed information presented to help people make an educated choice?

When it comes to matters of faith, Christianity challenges us with a choice of two paths. One leads to eternal life and the other to the opposite. The difference is that we know beforehand clearly how our choice will play out. We can stay in this world’s well-trodden way of get. We see this in the news every day — it’s a pathway to destruction and misery. Or we can break free and follow Jesus — his way is the way of giving, loving and sacrifice. It’s to do with putting others before ourselves. It’s the tougher option but it leads to no more wars, fighting, and mental strife. Above all, it takes us to peace and harmony.

What do you think?

It’s time to choose Jesus and follow life.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

On the way to Carbis Bay

June 11, 2021

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time in St. Ives, Cornwall, enjoying the good weather and the picturesque scenery. This week the area of St. Ives will host some far more prestigious visitors as the G7 Summit is held at the Carbis Bay hotel.

Topics for discussion include leading the global recovery from COVID-19 and strengthening resilience against future pandemics, championing free and fair trade, tackling climate change, and preserving the planet’s biodiversity.

All these are important topics, but can any agreements be reached? Will lasting decisions be made? Only time will tell.

Christians in Cornwall are taking the opportunity to encourage people around the world to unite in prayer, sending a positive message of hope and guidance to the world’s leaders. They are praying for protection; for unity, peace, and harmony among nations; for the leaders themselves in the decisions they must make.

Does prayer work? There are many testimonies that affirm that prayer does make a difference, why not try it yourself and see.

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

Upcycling conflict

June 7, 2021

How would you upcycle a riot shield?

I like the word ‘upcycle’ – it’s about reusing something no longer needed and transforming it as a product of greater value than its original use. That’s exactly what one police force in Wales did with its riot shields.

Usually associated with conflict and division, these shields are now finding a use that can benefit all. Because of the hard plastic’s transparent properties, they are being used to make greenhouses. An instrument used in chaos now used as an instrument for life.

This reminds me of another upcycle. If you’ve ever been to the gardens at the UN headquarters in New York, you may have seen one of its iconic statues. Called ‘Let Us Beat Swords into Plough shares’, it was created by sculptor Evgeniy Vuchetich, and donated by the USSR in 1959. As the title suggests, this statue is of a man holding a hammer in one hand, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plough share, “symbolizing man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.”[1]

But it wasn’t the USSR who came up with this powerful image. In fact, the description of such a symbolic image was penned by a middle eastern prophet around 800BC. It comes from the pages of the biblical book of Isaiah who wrote: “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”[2] I have seldom come across an image that is packed with such dynamic symbolism – here, the instruments of death will be upcycled into the instruments of life.

Although this may seem a far-off, maybe even unattainable ideal, the example of the upcycling of riot shields into greenhouses reminds me that even on a small level, individually we can make the things around us better. We can take our instruments of conflict and transform them into instruments of peace and life.

What in our life is used for conflict and division? How can it be upcycled into a tool for healing and peace?

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is Editorial Assistant at Because.

[1] https://www.un.org/ungifts/content/let-us-beat-swords-ploughshares
[2] The Bible, Isaiah 2:4 (ESV)

Road of Remembrance

November 11, 2020

Standing on the seafront cliffs in Folkestone, in Kent, on a clear day, you can easily see the northern coastline of France across the Channel. Calais is the closest French town to England – just over 30 miles away. London is more than twice as far. By the Eurotunnel, it takes 35 minutes to be in Calais – 90 minutes by ferry from Dover.

On those seafront cliffs there are 19,240 pebbles, set in a large square in the grass, and each one has a number painted on it – from 1 to 19,240. The artwork by Mark Wallinger is called ‘Folk Stones’ and it lays out – in every way – the sheer number of human lives thrown at the conflict on the battlefields of France in the First World War. The number of pebbles graphically represents the number of British soldiers killed on just one day – 1st July 1916 – the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

And somewhere on the other side of the English Channel there will be other memorials; other records of French soldiers who died, and German soldiers who died. More than 1.2 million men lost their lives, or were wounded in this battle.

Folkestone was the embarkation point for millions of troops in the First World War – the beginning of their journey to fight in France. They marched down a steep hill – originally called Slope Road and renamed the Road of Remembrance in the early 1920s. The road leads to the harbour where they boarded crowded troop ships to France – for many this would have been their first time outside of England.

Each of those men hoped that they would return. The families who had said goodbye to them hoped they would return. The generals who had made the decision to send them knew that many would not return – such is the formula of war. They may have been hailed as heroes, but that is probably not how they saw themselves. Many would have been frightened – barely 18 – but frightened also to run away. The penalty for desertion was no better than what lay ahead.

A brief reading of the Old Testament – if any such reading could be described as brief – involves a catalogue of wars and armed conflicts. There would have been many families mourning the loss of their young men. Before he became king, David mourned the loss of his close friend, Jonathan, killed in battle alongside his father, King Saul. He shared the sadness of all those bereaved in war with these words:

“Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me” (2 Samuel 1:25-26).

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote of the people of his day, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.” This could have been written for us today. It is sometimes hard to find peace and justice – between nations; in communities; even within families.

Isaiah also described Jesus as the ‘Prince of Peace, and Jesus drew a line in the sand regarding solving the problems of the world with armed conflict. Just prior to His arrest and crucifixion, in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, Peter was ready to start a battle. He was armed and didn’t hesitate to use his sword, slicing off the ear of one of the crowd hunting down Jesus. Jesus’ healing of this dramatic injury signalled a new approach. It was a defining moment. Weapons were to be discarded. Healing would replace the inflicting of pain and injury. The world is not there yet.

The Prince of Peace tells us,  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Whatever weapon we might choose – our harsh words, withholding a kind gesture, our silence or even physical aggression – the words of Jesus to Peter are also words to anyone who is listening: “Put away the sword”.

Maggie Mitchell info@because.uk.com

Maggie is an editor at Because

Give prayer a chance

October 2, 2020

This week Jennifer Lopez’s 12-year-old daughter, Emme Muniz, published a Christian children’s book on prayer called ‘Lord Help Me.’ With a wisdom beyond her years, she told People magazine[1] that she has been passionate about prayer since she was five-years-old and believes that prayer has helped her get through small challenges like getting along with her brother to the bigger ones like helping to save the planet and its creatures. In her interview, she said, “I really hope children are able to learn to pray, share the book and spread the power of prayer after reading it.”

Of course, prayer is not only for children; many adults have also found help for life’s challenges, peace and comfort, and answers to their questions through prayer. The Christian evangelist, Billy Graham, once said “heaven is full of answers to prayers that haven’t been asked.”

In our world of pandemics, social unrest, environmental crisis, and yes, even struggling to get along with an annoying family member, why not give prayer a chance by asking the Lord to help us? Maybe then, like Emme and Billy Graham, we too will discover the power of prayer.

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

[1] https://people.com/parents/jennifer-lopez-daughter-emme-muniz-talks-kids-book-performing-at-super-bowl/

Photo: Penguin Random House

The peace in your hands

September 21, 2020

Today, is a day of peace. The UN’s International Day of Peace, in fact. But what’s this got to do with you?

Established in 1945, after the near-total destruction of the civilised world, one of the UN’s fundamental purposes was to keep peace throughout the world – to stop conflict. Indeed, the UN General Assembly unanimously voted this 24-hour period to be one of “non-violence and cease-fire.” The agreement to lay down arms is certainly a way to peace.

But is true peace an external reality? Is real peace just no bullets or bombs?

‘Shaping Peace Together’ is this year’s theme. We are told to celebrate today by “spreading compassion, kindness and hope in the face of the pandemic”[1]. This is where peace can sometimes be ironic: enemies often unite when there’s a greater enemy! That’s the selfish nature of the beast. This year, the pandemic has meant politicians, nations and people who would not always be on each other’s Christmas card list have had to pull together for their collective prosperity and survival.

A common enemy has been one of the driving factors in last week’s historic Middle East peace deal. The significance of two Arab gulf states – the UAE and Bahrain – signing an agreement to normalise their relationships with the State of Israel cannot be overestimated. But the accord is one that helps protect all states against the major regional threat of Iran. Interestingly, the first direct flight from Israel to the UAE, symbolising this agreement, had the word “peace” written on the plane in English, Hebrew and Arabic. A moment Jared Kushner called, “A new script for a new Middle East.”

The promise of protection from an enemy and increased trade is a way to peace. But is there a more sustainable, lasting way to peace out there?

Maybe to achieve a true script for peace we first have to understand the script of war and conflict. I once read a script about the reason why war and conflict exist which suggested peace and war are in fact internal realities first and foremost. “Where do wars and fights come from among you?”, one biblical writer asks, “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”[2] I can’t say I understand all this is getting at but to me it suggests real peace is more about the individual than the collective. More about the internal than the external. Less about agreements between governments and more about agreements with yourself.

This echoes a truth that almost all religions and philosophies understand, that war and peace begin from within each of us. And the human heart has a great deal of trouble gaining, and more importantly, maintaining that peace.

So how do we win the war in our members?

This is where the Hebrew word for peace “shalom” can help us. There is more to it than meets the eye. This word does not just mean the cessation of conflict but the internal wholeness and well-being of an individual. It is from this completeness and soundness of mind that peace can be cultivated. So where do we get this kind of shalom?

Hebrew was the language used to write the majority of the Bible. And it is from the theological development of these Scriptures that suggest that this special peace is offered by God, through a relationship with Jesus – he makes us a more complete, contented person. If you want to know more about this peace, then we’d love to hear from you.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] https://www.un.org/en/observances/international-day-peace
[2] The Bible, James 4:1-3

Freedom plan

May 29, 2020

FREEDOM!!!

It’s beginning. Many of us can go out more often, see a few others, buy a little more, enjoy the fresh air and breathe a sigh of relief. But, responsibly so, of course. Without hurting people or breaking laws. With freedom always come responsibilities.

Oddly enough, this weekend many western Christians celebrate the Spirit of freedom. It’s a special festival called Pentecost and it’s about how God’s Spirit frees us from our past to live new and different lives.

Paul, a Christian writer, put it this way, “We have freedom now… the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things”.1

As lockdown unfolds, that could be our freedom plan.

What do you think?

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

1The Bible (Easy-to-Read Version) Galatians 5:1,22-23

Liberation

May 31, 2019

Next week marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. It was a combined Allied operation that led eventually to the liberation of Europe from enemy occupation. It seems so distant to us now, but its success helped create the modern world.
Although much has changed since 1944, in one way you could say that we are under a new kind of occupation. It’s partially self-inflicted because we’re our own worst enemy. In the west it looks like we’re trapped in political stalemate, and there are mounting tensions in other parts of the globe. Not the least concern is our natural environment and what we’ve done to destroy it. One biblical writer, Paul, explained that all creation was subject to a destruction of our making, and that it yearned to be set free.
We need a new D-Day. Something or someone has to liberate not just us but the whole of nature.
That’s where Jesus Christ comes in.
He’s the ultimate liberator, and he’ll bring the freedom of his peace to this waiting earth.
james.henderson@gracecom.church

Because Magazine March/April 2019

February 22, 2019

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Because Magazine March/April 2019

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Because March/April 2019

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Because Magazine December 2018

November 29, 2018

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Because Magazine December 2018

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Because Magazine December 2018

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