Frustrating the referendum result

Psalm 33:10 says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing, he frustrates the plans of the peoples”.

I pray every day that the plans of those who wish to leave the European Union will fail.  I do this because the decision to leave goes against Christian values in every respect.

From the day that the angel announced the birth of Jesus by proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14), Christians have known that the best plans for earth are those that promote peace.  After Britain and the USA liberated Europe from the Nazi regime it was our aim to establish great councils which would enable nations to work together so that wars could be avoided wherever possible.  Both the United Nations and the European Union have been used to enable the nations to work together and the European Union in particular has seen an avoidance of war between its members throughout the 70 years of its existence.  Are we really supposed to leave this powerful alliance at a time when because of international terrorism it needs supporting and strengthening?

In any case, we joined the European Union by entering into a treaty.  There is nowhere in the Bible where we are told to break treaties or promises.  In fact we are quite plainly told that we should stand by our word and not break an oath.  Psalm 15:4 tells us that anyone who wants to dwell in the presence of the Lord Member_States_of_the_European_Union_(polar_stereographic_projection)_EN.svgmust “swear to his own hurt and not change”.  Or again in Matthew 5:33 we are told, “You shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn”.

Apart from Bible passages which tell us that we must not break our promises, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount gives us clear instructions to “love our neighbour as ourselves” (Mat 5:44).  Who could doubt that the nations of Europe are our neighbours, sharing as they do a common Western European culture with all its Christian foundations.  Europe is not our enemy, but rather our friend and if Jesus tells us to love our enemies, how much more should be love our neighbours as ourselves.  To break these ties with Europe goes against the clear teaching of Jesus which foster peaceful relationships, cooperative working.

So, my prayer is that all our attempts to leave the European Union will come to nothing.  I have much encouragement so far.  The leaders of the Brexit campaign all failed to achieve what they wanted in terms of leading the government and we actually saw a member of the Remain campaign becoming Prime Minister.

Perhaps the most important thing to pray for now is that Parliament will be involved in any decision to invoke Article 50, the measure which will commence the process of exit.  We want to see that stopped in its tracks and we can have faith that the great institution of the British Parliament will serve us well in that regard as it has served us so well in other times of national crisis.

Our Father in Heaven,
I pray that you will thwart the plans of the people to leave the European Union.
Remind us of our Christian values of promoting peace and cooperation among the nations.
Remind us of Christian virtues loving our neighbour as ourselves and being true to our words.
May this nation of Great Britain take its place as a promoter of righteousness in the councils of the world.
May we work with others of like mind so that Europe may be a beacon of light under Almighty God.
Establish our place once again at the centre of Europe so that British values may lead the continent into wisdom and insight, underpinned by our Christian history and heritage.
Thanks be to God.

 

A new government, a photograph and living without alcohol

A new government

It is remarkable how rapidly the Brexit campaign collapsed after the referendum on 23 June. Within days, the Out campaign had wiped their website – knowing full well that it contained so much misleading and incorrect information.  None of the “Brexiteers” seemed able to pursue their objective of leading the Conservative Party and instead we now have a serious-minded, seemingly well-balanced female Prime Minister in Teresa May.  I have a great sense of God having been at work in Britain over the last two weeks, particularly in the collapse of opposition to Teresa May’s bid to become Prime Minister. Continue reading “A new government, a photograph and living without alcohol”

Bonhoeffer – pastor, martyr, prophet, spy

metaxas_bonhoeffer_hardbackDietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship has been a close companion for many years now, reminding me that the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are fundamental to Christian living. I have just read the biography Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric  Metaxas.  and have once more been inspired by this great man who could have spent the years 1939-1945 as a theology professor in America or Britain but returned to Germany to live out an authentic Christian life, knowing full well that this would inevitably lead to imprisonment and death.

Bonhoeffer surprised his parents when in his early teens he decided he wanted to become a theologian.  The German church was so steeped in liberal theology that it is difficult to see what appeal it could have had to someone who clearly had a deep engagement with God, but through his relationship with the great Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer showed that liberal/conservative dichotomy is not the most important thing – a living relationship with Almighty God is the only thing that matters.  In his early sermons Bonhoeffer was confronting passive religiosity and demonstrating that the teachings of Jesus Christ challenged the principalities and powers of the present world.  All the more so when the world of Germany was being rapidly hijacked by a viciously corrupt and evil regime who threatened everything the Church stood for. Continue reading “Bonhoeffer – pastor, martyr, prophet, spy”

A place of stillness

When the EU referendum campaign started I initially became quite active for the Remain side, believing that we should stay in the European Union. I soon realised that an involvement in politics was not for me and was a threat to my peace of mind and my walk with God.  I am not saying that it is wrong for a Christian to be involved with politics, far from it, but I think you need a great ability to be unaffected in your inner core so that your passions remain where your faith is.  Great men (and women of course) like Dietrich Bonhoeffer undoutedly had the ability to live a life of prayer and also to work actively against (in his case) the Nazi regime, eventually going to his death as a martyr a few weeks before the War ended.

Continue reading “A place of stillness”

Book review: Austerlitz – W G Sebald

824The books of W G Sebald have interested me for many years now and unlike most other books, I find myself coming back to them over and over again, quickly becoming absorbed in the images and impressions they create in my own mind. Sebald’s way of travel, and his way of looking at the places he visits have even influenced my own way of seeing, causing me to think in an oblique way about the cities and towns I go to, trying to read the cultural messages communicated by the places I find myself in.

In his book Austerlitz, Sebald seems to be showing us that the holocaust was such a pivotal event of the 20th century that it is now impossible to live our lives without a consciousness of what was done to all those millions of Jewish people. So aware are we now of how thin the veneer of civilisation is on our culture that it is impossible to carry on with normal human activities; our consciousness is infected at the deepest levels with the thought of how western societies can descend so easily to such a level of horrific cruelty.

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Book review: All for Nothing – Walter Kempowski

all-for-nothingIn All For Nothing we travel to the German province of East Prussia in the closing days of the Second World War. To understand the context in which this book is set, we need to understand a little history. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 created East Prussia as a German Enclave surrounded by Poland to the east, west and south and by the Baltic Sea to the north.   With the advance of Nazi Germany into Poland, the Polish land between East Prussia and Germany was taken by the German Army and East Prussia was reunited with the Greater Germanic Reich (see Wikipedia).

East Prussia was not very affected by the War once the Reich was established but as the Russians advanced, the situation changed with great rapidity. The Russians swept into the west of East Prussia, once more cutting the province off from Germany. The German government was slow to react but in the winter of 1944/45, the population realised that they needed to head west or be massacred by the invading Russians. Walter Kempowski has created a powerfully affecting novel about the impact of the times on the aristocratic von Globig family, who live in a huge house called the The Georgenhof.

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A Christian through reading

In my early twenties I was drawn to various Eastern philosophies and was an ardent student of the “anti-religion” philosopher Krishnamurti. When I was 23, I had arranged to go on a three day youth-hosteling walk around the North Downs with my friend Andy.

The week before we were due to go, Andy dropped out, but I decided to go anyway, thinking that I would use it as a sort of attempt to find out what life was really all about. During my walk I passed two or three village churches with open doors and when I went inside they all seemed to have a series of little booklets in them called The Islington booklets with title such as “What is Prayer?” or “Who is Jesus?”. I remember taking one of these everytime I saw them and reading them during my walk. I came home with a real desire to find out more.

Soon after that I was sent on a computer training course and I sat next to a man who was what you might call a committed Christian. I remember having conversations with him about my beliefs, particularly my interest in various Eastern philosophies. He was quite stridently against what I was saying and suggested that I went to the Scripture Union bookshop in Wigmore Street to get a book on Christianity. Later in the week, I decided to seek out the shop and I went in and asked an assistant if he had a general introduction to Christianity and he recommended John Stott’s book Basic Christianity.

Basic ChristianityI took it home and read it cover to cover that evening. In his book, John Stott gave a complete overview of the life of Christ and what it meant for us, and he drew on C S Lewis’s argument that in order to make the claims about himself which he did, Jesus must have been either mad, bad or speaking the truth. When Stott wrote at the end about the verse in Revelation, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me”, I got on my knees and asked Jesus to come in to my heart and life. discipleshipThe result was dramatic. The next day I woke up with God in the world and in my life.

My whole life was reoriented around the Christian faith. I had no contacts with any Christians at that time and I knew there was a Christian bookshop in nearby Bromley run by a Christian organisation Operation Mobilisation, so I went down there and introduced myself to a worker there called Brian Cross and told him my story. He told me about a Bible study group run by a young married couple who worked full-time with homeless people who had problems of addiction.

discipleshipLater in the week, he took me along where I found a group of young, radical Christians. They were studying Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship (now retitled Discipleship) which had a huge effect on me, dealing with the topics of “cheap” discipleship as opposed to the costly, i.e. life-changing variety.

Before long I was involved with going on Friday nights to the South Bank area of London to help with homeless people and also to a related residential centre at Wateringbury in Kent where we all helped in various ways. One day at Wateringbury I was assigned to help paint the stonework on a balcony overlooking the beautiful Kent countryside and I remember that all day I was filled with a sense of complete elation, almost a physical sensation which I can only describe as the presence of God. This one-to-one experience was far different to anything I had encountered during my search through other faiths and the sense of close relationship with God has lasted all my life.

Why Britain should remain in the European Union – a Christian perspective

Introduction

On 23 June 23 2016, the citizens of Britain will vote on whether to leave the European Union or to remain in it. I would like to  outline a positive case for remaining “in” Europe based on my own Christian knowledge of the Bible and the ethics and  culture is promotes. I think this article will be relevant to Britain at the present time, but will also apply to Christians in other  nations who find anti EU-feeling developing.

476Our shared Christian heritage

I believe that Europe has been historically the most important and  influential bastion of Christian values in the world. Yes, we have a  Christian heritage in Britain but so, and equally, have all the other  nations of Europe. While European nations, like ourselves, have largely  abandoned Christianity as a guiding force, nevertheless, we have a great  deal in common in terms of values and culture with our European  neighbours. Also, we share in treaties with Europe which have  developed over the last 60 years and as an internationalist and  diplomatic nations we should work within these to use our Christian influence for justice, equality and the common good. The tragedy is that in recent years, Britain has abandoned any attempt to be at the heart of Europe and we have spent our  time complaining negatively from the sidelines. I believe our British politicians should confidently and co-operatively take their place in the various institutions in Europe and at the same time promote the value of working with our European neighbours to the population back at home.

Continue reading “Why Britain should remain in the European Union – a Christian perspective”