Lots of people are tired of politics and politicians, but the Bible urges us political involvement: to pray for those in authority, to pay taxes, to submit to those in power (except where they ask us to do things against God's will) etc. Voting is surely one of our opportunities to be salt and light in our community. And to vote not just how we've always voted - but to vote thoughtfully and prayerfully.
The Archbishops have written a letter encouraging Christians to vote and giving their assessment of some of the key issues to consider. And here's a thoughtful article called 'How would Jesus vote?'
And do take the opportunity to hear our local candidates at St James Road Methodist Church on Wednesday 24th May, 8pm.
Whoever forms the next government, let's pray for God's kingdom to come.
The night before Jesus died, he startled his disciples when he said, “It is for your good that I am going away.” Then he explained why - he said, “unless I go away, the Holy Spirit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” [Jn 16.7] In other words, the Holy Spirit is no poor substitute for Jesus. In some ways, having the Holy Spirit is even better than having Jesus. How does that work?
The Bible says that the Spirit lives in us [Rom 8.9, 11], and that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that incredible?
He’s in us 24/7 - whilst driving to work, whilst sitting in a classroom, whilst changing nappies or waiting for a medical appointment, whilst in a difficult meeting or serving an awkward customer. That was why Jesus said it was better for him to go, so the Spirit could come. He can now be with each of us, all the time.
But what does the Holy Spirit do? We’ve started a sermon series which will begin to answer that question, and as usual, we’ll follow it up in our midweek small groups.
Some people are wary of the Holy Spirit or get worried when people start talking about the Holy Spirit too much. Some people want to steer clear of the Holy Spirit - for them, it sounds a bit spooky or weird-and-probably-not-wonderful.
There are people who make unhealthy and unbiblical claims about the Spirit’s work. That’s why in the Bible, God urges us to test the spirits [1 Jn 4.1] - we have to use our brains to see whether something that is claimed to be the Spirit’s work really is the Holy Spirit. But God also urges us the Bible not to quench the Spirit. [1 These 5.9] So we mustn’t write off everything that sounds a bit out-of-the-ordinary. Over the years, I’ve had to go on a journey to become much more open and desiring of the Spirit’s work.
Some people say, “The Holy Spirit isn’t really for me – I’m not that sort of Christian.” But Romans 8.9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” In other words, you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. It’s simply impossible.
And the Spirit is really not to be feared. You see, if Jesus is the most loving man who ever lived, and this is the Spirit of Jesus, then of course we’ve nothing to be scared of. The Spirit’s presence brings love.
Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” [Lk 11.13] Our heavenly Father longs to give us his Spirit because he knows the Spirit is the best possible gift he could give us.
My prayer through this series is that we’ll all open ourselves up to the Spirit’s work in our lives more. I don’t know what that will look like - sometimes he acts obviously and quickly; more often he works slowly and in a hidden way. But let’s welcome his work among us, whatever he chooses to do.
Empowering women always has a positive impact on society. In Uganda, teenage girls often miss out on some of their education each month. Our church are partnering with a simple social enterprise project in our partner parish in Uganda (and with expertise from Southampton Uni’s Wessex Social Ventures) to help girls get as much education as possible. What an impact that could have in the years to come!
You can give directly to the project, or you can go to a Quiz Night next Friday to have fun and a glass of wine, whilst raising funds! Invite your Facebook friends!
Every stage of life brings new challenges and opportunities. Historically, the church has been better at supporting young families and those entering the later stages of life than it has been at supporting those beginning to approach or enter retirement. Some people have asked, “What does the church do for us at our stage?”
I hope the "Second Half Living" seminar that we’re putting on will begin to answer that question. I’m delighted that Martin Cooper is coming to share with us. I’ve known Martin for several years; in fact, he mentors me informally. He and his wife Marion have worked hard over recent years developing materials to help Christians aged 50-early 70s to think about life and Christian service at this stage of life – called “Second half living”. He firmly believes that “the second half of your life can be the greater of the two halves” – and I’ve seen him put that into practise.
Martin will lead a one-off seminar on Wednesday 17th May, 7.45pm – 9.45pm at St James’ by the Park. I’m sure it will be a thought-provoking and enormously helpful seminar. There’s a possibility of doing the full “Second half living” course at some later point if enough people are interested – but by coming to this one-off seminar, you wouldn’t be making any commitments about that.
To help us prepare enough materials, please register. The event is free.
Someone commented to me the other day that they’d “definitely entered the Autumn season” of their life. As we know, Autumn can be the most glorious of seasons. I hope you’ll be able to come to this seminar, and pray that it will help many people make the Autumn of their lives even more glorious.