God and Science

I am in no way a scientist. I struggled to get a CSE in physics at school but I do love to have my mind blown by science and the amazing world we live in and that God created. So last Sunday I really enjoyed talking about quantum theory for the first time ever in my sermon.

However, it did get me thinking, Christians have a funny relationship to science. At a  scientific conference at City College of New York, a student in the audience rose to ask the panellists an unexpected question: “Can you be a good scientist and believe in God?”

Reaction from one of the panellists, all Nobel laureates, was quick and sharp. “No!” declared Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals.

Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, “this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race.”

Some scientists say simply that science and religion are two separate realms, “nonoverlapping magisteria,” as the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould put it in his book “Rocks of Ages” (Ballantine, 1999). In Dr. Gould’s view, science speaks with authority in the realm of “what the universe is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory)” and religion holds sway over “questions of ultimate meaning and moral value.”

But does it have to be either faith or religion? Does God need to go up against Science? Often you see a talk advertised at a church, ‘God vs Science” as if it has to be one or the other. But what if science was pointing us towards God all the time and we were missing it. What if God is in all things in all ways.

I came across this excellent article about how the cosmos is pointing towards the Creator and you can read it here.

Or you can watch the conversation the article was based on and enjoyed having your mind blown some more and maybe embrace science rather than seeing it as the enemy.

 

Put Your Hand In The Hand of God in 2020

This year our theme is ‘Trusting in His Love’ and throughout the year we will be considering what is it really like to trust fully in God’s love for us. In all areas of our life. As you enter this new decade you may feel you are fully trusting God or maybe not. However, you feel can I remind you of this verse from the Beatitudes.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. Matthew 5:3 (MSG)

I will pick up more of that on Sunday. But for now, let me take you back some 90 years to Christmas Day 1939; King George VI spoke to the nation. Ahead of his closing lines, in which he paid tribute to the fighting services of Britain and its allies, he spoke of the uncertainty of the year ahead. He concluded his speech with lines from a poem:

“I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shalt be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.'”

Response to the broadcast was extraordinary; thousands immediately contacted the BBC to ask the authorship of the lines, while newspapers were also keen to find out. But no one, including Buckingham Palace, seemed to know…

On Boxing Day, the BBC said that the author had not been traced. Later, a man telephoned the BBC to say he had permission from his sister to reveal that she was the author. Then, on its midnight news bulletin, the BBC stated that the search for writer had found a Miss Minnie Louise Haskins of Crowborough, who had written her now renowned lines some years earlier as an introduction to some verses called ‘God Knows’.

Early next morning, snow descended on Crowborough, along with the world’s press – who gathered outside a house called Brooklands in Ghyll Road. Miss Haskins turned out to be a 64-year-old retired university lecturer who lived with two younger sisters in the house – which they ran as a school for young children.

Wishing you all well as you stand at the ‘Gate of the Year’.

You can listen to King George VI’s original broadcast here.

You can also read more about how our queen introduced the poem to her dad and also read the full poem. Please click here.

I have also been struck again by this song which I think will become an anthem for us this year as a church.

Thank you to Karen Eakins for the inspiration for this blog.

 

I’m Not Dreaming Of A Whitewashed Christmas

I came across this image last week and if I am honest it has not left me since. Jesus and his parents were refugees. If they had to escape today then this is how it could have ended up for them on arriving in the USA instead of Egypt. Now, putting aside the terrible way that we often treat refugees, as if at times their lives are not worth as much as ours, it got me thinking about the birth of Jesus.

The problem with the Nativity Story is that we have became too familiar with it. It has been so caught up in all the tinsel and lights. Add into that, all the children who play the parts each year with such cute, smiley faces, as they try to remember the all important lines. We have cleaned up the birth of Jesus and we forget that it is a miracle that Jesus was born let alone made it to his first birthday.

The reality of the story is full of death, danger and narrow escapes.

  • Firstly, consider that most teenager pregnant, unmarried mothers, would have been stoned in those days. Mary and her unborn baby lives could have been over even before the story had really began before. More on that this Sunday at our Carols by Candlelight when we will be consider that, ‘There Is Something About Mary’
  • Then there is the journey to Bethlehem. 90 miles over very hilly ground all done near the due date. 30 degrees in the day and heavy rains at night. Throw in the danger of bears, lions and bandits. How did they even make it to Bethlehem?
  • Then there is the giving birth in a cave where the animals were housed. Dirty and smelly – forget the picture of camels, chickens, pheasants and peacocks looking on. This would have been attached to the Inn where the donkeys were kept. Not the best place to give birth.
  • Mary and baby Jesus survive childbirth and after a few visitors have to escape to Egypt because King Herod has engaged in a Massacre of the Innocent. All male babies under two years must be killed.

So, Jesus and his parents become refugees. Which is in keeping with the whole story of danger and death.

It is amazing to think that this was how the Son of God was to enter into humanity – Emmanuel – God with us. I am not sure it is the way I would have down it. But we know that God’s ways are to always our ways.

The Jesus birth story is one of human terror and divine mercy, of human abuse and divine love. It is a story that claims God became human in the form of one who is vulnerable, poor and displaced in order to unveil the injustice of tyrannical power.

So don’t just whitewash the nativity scene because you might miss the radical message of the Christmas story and the risk God was willing to take to rescue each one of us. Celebrate that this Christmas rather than getting caught up in all the trimming around it.

Dream Small!!!

Last Sunday I challenged you to dream small inspired by the idea that Big Dream are great but big dreams can be overwhelming. A grander vision is often achieved by bringing it down much smaller so that it becomes an easier step to take towards a bigger dream. This was all inspired by the small dream idea of Liz Bohannon. If you want to hear more of her story you can watch it here.

Or listen to an excellent interview here.

The small dream I left you with was to dream not about a nation being saved, not a town, community or not even 20, 10 or 5 people. No, how about the small dream of praying for, blessing and witnessing to one person over the next season. Many of you committed to doing this by writing a name on the board as a prophetic act.

So, how has it gone? How have the last few days gone? As I write this I have remembered to pray for the person for two days. So far, it’s going pretty well.

However you are doing, we can all do with a little help. Sometimes the thought of sharing your faith with someone can feel daunting and it’s hard to know where to start. You’re not alone! Most of us feel like that. There can be this urge to run, change the subject or retreat — but if we listen to the still voice of the Holy Spirit inside of us, hopefully we take that step and go for it. As Christians, it is a joy to speak life into the lives of those around us so they too may know the hope of Christ that is within us.

And God has given us three promises which have helped me share my faith:

God is for me (Romans 8:31)

I have the life of Christ inside me (Galatians 2:20)

The Holy Spirit will help me (John 14:26–27)

If you are praying and witnessing here are three practical tips to help from Morag Paton.

1. The goal of sharing your faith is to win people, not arguments

There’s a fantastic scripture in the Bible, 1 Peter 3:15–17 — But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

It’s important that we spend time in conversation to understand their journey, viewpoints and experiences. Don’t be offended if your friend is really negative about God, offence breeds contention, and that’s the last thing you need. In a situation like this, a good way to respond would be something like; “I’m really sorry that you feel that way, can you explain why?” Try to read between the lines and listen to what is not being said. You will start to notice areas of pain, distrust, anger, sadness etc, keep them in mind as the conversation continues.

God’s loving kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Ask God to help you be a carrier of that kindness. Kindness isn’t about agreeing, but it’s speaking truth in love. Be careful not to jump to your own conclusions about why your friends are responding in a particular manner, listen to the Holy Spirit and ask questions. Asking questions is a fabulous way to get understanding, and it helps keep the conversation open and friendly.

2. Stay consistent online and offline

Discipleship and evangelism go hand in hand. Our behaviours and our actions disciple people, the question is what sort of discipleship are we presenting? Take a look at Ephesians 5:15–20 — Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.

Our lives are being watched both offline and online. The online space can be a great place to have conversation, but it’s also a place where people tend to turn into someone or something else! Social media should not be a place to get on your personal ‘soap box’ and blast opinions at people. It is a place however where a mirage of thoughts, opinions and lives are shared for all to see.

If you do happen to get ‘blasted’ by a friend because of a post you have shared or you feel to ‘blast’ someone back, ‘stop’ — take a breath and a moment to think and pray first.

Is there more to the story you need to ask first

How can I respond in a loving and kind way? Consider, does this conversation need to happen in a private message or offline?

3. Use language which is easily understood

Your friends will understand you better if you use everyday language. Be intentional with your choice of words. Sometimes without thinking we start using words that would only be heard in church or read in the Bible. In conversation, avoid words like; atonement for your sin, the blood of the lamb, born again, sanctification, or hedge of protection. The list can go on! I had a funny discussion with some friends the other night about, what does a “travelling mercy” mean?

Whether your conversation is online or offline, always take time to consider how to respond to your friends. Trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you as you speak — and of course you’re praying for your friends already right?

Being vulnerable as we share our lives with others helps them see we are not some superhuman, but, just like them, we also struggle. People connect with stories. As much as possible try to share through storytelling. Can you relate the situation to a personal experience you’ve had?

One useful way to help you is an app called yesHEis. The app is a great companion for you as you seek to dream small and be a witness to one person over this season.

You can find out more here.

Feeling Like Elvis This Christmas?

‘I am having a Blue Christmas without you’, sang Elvis

Now if your Christmas is all full of reds, greens and other sparkle colours then maybe you don’t need to read on. However, if you are feeling even a little blue at this time, maybe read on.

I love most things at Christmas, don’t get me wrong. I have a lot of fun with the family at this time of year. Yet, I am aware that for many of us, we can feel like Elvis at times.

For many, the cost of Christmas can cause a great deal of anxiety. For others, it is having to spend time with different members of a fragmented family due to breakups. However, for others, a blue Christmas is related to missing those who have left too soon and aren’t here to celebrate with us. My dad passed away when 6 years ago. Karen’s mum 2 years ago and her dad a lot longer than that. This year it will be our 15 Christmas without him. At Christmas time we miss them all and it never gets any easier, really. I guess you just get more used to it.

Christmas always seems to be accompanied by jolly songs, ringing tills, and the expectation that you will have a good time. But that’s not how it feels for many people. Maybe your year has been hard – for whatever reason (bereavement, illness, estrangement, worry) – and Christmas seems to highlight the difficulties. Or maybe in an over-busy life, you just want space to reflect, recall, regroup.

Whatever the reason, whatever the need, I believe Jesus welcomes you into the Christmas Story to encounter as the Shepherds and Wiseman did, the Prince of Peace.

My own advent readings this year have focused on certain words and one of those has been the word ‘Peace’. Here is an excellent video which captures the depth of the word meaning more than the absence of conflict.

Therefore, if you encounter someone this season who at times seems to be going through the motions, before you call them a Scrooge, I ask you to take a minute to remember this message. While it’s the season of giving, for some of us, it’s a season of grieving. We will always be grateful for the times we shared with loved ones. This season pulls at all the emotions; try to make space for them because some are too big to handle.

If this message connects with you this Christmas then please do join us this Sunday (22 Dec) at 10am at Broadmead Community Church for our special Blue Christmas when we will be again meet in the name of a loving God. Who knows our needs, hears our cries and heals our wounds. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.

 

Little Bit of Politics

That was what Ben Elton, the left-wing comic use to say when his comedy went into those areas during the Thatcher years. Maybe you feel like we have had a whole of politics and at the moment you feel just like Brenda from Bristol.

But whether you feel like Brenda or you will be staying up late next Thursday to see the outcome of the general election how can we act, pray and vote at this time. Maybe this short article might help.

What is it that we understand from the word ‘unity’? What is unity? It’s not the same as uniformity, being the same, so what does it mean?

Well, let’s go back a step. What is a unit? We use the term in all kinds of different ways. We use it in maths – you might remember learning to add up units, tens, and hundreds in the classroom, depending on how long ago you went to school. The military talk about units. A group of soldiers on the same team, living in the same place, get referred to as a unit. Ikea will sell you all kinds of units and give you instructions on how to assemble them at home. You can rent a unit, meaning a flat or apartment in a bigger building.

Couples or families sometimes get described as a unit. They are individuals but somehow they have this togetherness that also makes them some kind of joint entity or team. Describing disparate parts as making up a unit conveys a sense of togetherness, oneness, that they are not just independent parts, they also form something bigger. It’s not that they lose the sense of being something distinct, but they also function in this added way as a part of something else. Something bigger. And ‘unity’ is the term given to describe that state of harmony. So let’s think back over some of those meanings of unit and think about how ‘unity’ is displayed amongst the different parts – and how it makes a difference.

At the heart of our faith is a unit of three persons, The Trinity. In the Bible, God is revealed as Father, Son, Spirit. The Trinity is the model of a perfect unit, and the relationship that the three of them share was even depicted by the early Church Fathers as a dance – known as perichoresis. It’s a powerful picture of being in step and in tune with one another, sharing a rhythm and a sense of movement.

But what does unity mean when it comes to the church, to God’s people. We get a sense of its importance from the Old Testament. Psalm 133 talks about unity as something beautiful to which God’s people should aspire. The whole psalm is dedicated to this one idea that when God’s people live in unity together it is a profound joy and blessing to everyone. The psalmist uses images of oil and dew pouring out over everyone, these beautiful, life-giving liquids that cannot be contained.

In the New Testament, the theme of unity is presented in both theological and practical terms. Paul famously wrote to the church in Philippi, in the second chapter of his letter:
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” (Phil 2:1-2)

It is assumed that through our faith in Jesus we have been united to him in a profound way, and Paul urged us that if this is really true, if we have experienced his love, then it must lead to a practical unity with other believers which is described in terms of having one mind and one spirit. Does this mean that Paul is urging us to have all the same opinions as every other Christian, to embrace a uniformity of perspective on everything? Is that what any of us have experienced in the church? Christians have always
had things that they disagree with one another about – you can see that in the New Testament as well as in today’s church – and Christians join different political parties!

So what else might it mean to share the same love, being one in spirit and mind? It means that we are filled with the same spirit, God’s Holy Spirit, and perhaps this means that we affirm and recognise that in one another even when we disagree. It means that we are held together by our love for Jesus and our complete trust in him as the source of our salvation. It might mean that these things that unite us are more important than the things we disagree about and that we hold in mind this unity, this togetherness in the face of anything else?

Different Christians will each have different political ideas and vote accordingly. They will join different parties and some will stand for election for different, opposing, parties. They all need our prayers, whether we agree with their political ideas or not.

The ability to disagree on secondary matters within a context of unity around primary matters is priceless. The media are constantly looking for spats and points of contention between different camps within political parties, as they make for good headlines. Christians are called to be humble towards each other, realising we are all sinners prone to pride. How we discuss and debate political matters is more important than the outcome.

Good disagreement is rarely fostered outside the context of good relationships. When we don’t know each other we judge each other. We need to intentionally build relationships with those whom we may disagree. And that takes time and effort. And humility.

Ephesians 1v10 says that ‘when the times reach their fulfilment, God will bring unity to all things in heaven and earth under Christ’. The New Creation (Revelation 21 and 22) will usher in an eternal age of perfect cosmic, and societal, unity. What a beautiful hope that we have. We cannot force unity, but God is bringing it about as he works to restore and redeem the whole creation. Until then, as C S Lewis notes: ‘democracy is not food, it is medicine’ – it is not ideal, but necessary to manage society in a fallen context.

Debate is part of democracy, and disagreements over ideas and policy are inherent, but they all must be understood in the context of the great, perfectly united, eternal future that God has for his people in glory.

Please watch the video below and as you vote please be praying for our political leaders and for us as a country that wherever we find ourselves on 13 December the church will bring healing to this nation through the love of God.

If you are interested in understanding more about where our candidates stand then why not go along to local hustings. Here are the details.

Northampton North – https://churches-together-northampton.org.uk/event/general-election-hustings-northampton-north/

Please also use this prayer over the coming days.

  • God of all Government,
  • Send workers into the harvest field of political life.
  • Call your people.
  • Not simply those who pay you lip service,
  • But those who hear your voice and know your name,
  • Those who will not serve two masters,
  • Those who will choose kingdom over tribe,
  • Those who are not ashamed of the gospel,
  • Those who will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
  • Those who will seek justice,
  • Encourage the oppressed,
  • defend the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow,
  • Those who will seek to reconcile more than separate,
  • Those who will seek to co-operate more than compete.
  • Those who do not despise the day of small beginnings,
  • Those who pray your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Those who will choose your glory over self-promotion,
  • Those who will choose truth over expediency,
  • Those who will listen to the still, small voice more than the megaphone of the media,
  • Those who will care for the least of these, rather than genuflect to the greatest,
  • Those who find their identity and security in their divine election more than their election by us
  • Those whose citizenship is in heaven, and whose primary allegiance is to another King
  • Those who know your grace for their failings.
  • Call-out an army that will march on its knees in humility
  • To fight not just with the weapons of this world
  • But the invisible ammunition of your Kingdom. Amen

 

Where Are We Heading (part two)

This article is part two. If you wish to read the first part please click here. To be ready to step into the flow of God and be ready. I think this is vital in three areas.

The Holy Habits we have studied this year are about preparing our hearts and our actions so that we are ready to pray, worship, witness, be generous, have fellowship, break bread, share and learn.

Brokenness. I was introduced to a new word ‘flawesome’. It means an individual who embraces their ‘flaws’ and knows they are awesome regardless. We are all broken people who are called to minister to broken people. We as a church need to recognise that we are both a pathetic whore and a beautiful bride. We come with filthy rags which are exchanged for a robe of righteousness. This community doesn’t need religion or judgement from us as a church. It needs us to be honest, real and vulnerable – to embrace our FLAWESOMENESS.

Completing the building. We still have three blocks of work to do.

A – work that cannot be done by the church.
This includes the M&E, ceilings, lift and high-level AV install.

B – works that possibly be done within the church using materials supplied, or by smaller contractors (e.g. flooring).

C – chairs, AV installation, external signage.

We have revised plans so that we can complete work to open the Auditorium and Coffee area. This will mean a temporary wall will move up the stairs to a new location and the red area below would not be in use.

plans

As mentioned already this work has started again and will be completed by early February.

We have paid the deposit for the lift which we hope will be installed Feb 2020. This is all fully funded.

We will still need to do the flooring, stair rails, doors and finishing which is currently unfunded. What is still required I hear you ask?

To part open upstairs will cost roughly £40,000. We will then need to find additional funding to complete the rest of the work so that in time the whole of upstairs can be used.

So, church what does God require of us? As always there are two important questions to ask.

What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it? I believe our response should be along these lines.

  • To Trust in God’s Love
  • Be ready
  • Step into the flow of God
  • There will be a gift day on Sunday 1 Dec at our two gatherings that day where we are aiming to raise £40,000 to complete the work to part open upstairs. Every little bit helps, and we ask that you consider what God might be asking you to give this Sunday. Please place it in a marked envelope which can be provided and mark it gift day. Please place it in the offering with your name on it so that we can gift aid if you are a taxpayer.
  • Please do continue to pray and join us for prayer on Friday 6 Dec at 7:30pm.
gift day
SUNDAY 1 DEC 2019

And remember

EVERYONE WELCOME

ENCOUNTERING JESUS

EMBRACING ADVENTURE