Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Are we consuming too much 'filth'?

An interesting phenomenon in the news this week - after 9 years of being on the third biggest sitcom in America, the youngest regular actor on "Two and a Half Men" is renouncing it as 'filth' that people shouldn't watch.

This is a boy who has obviously found faith and decided that his day-job conflicts with his morals. Now perhaps it takes a bit more guts to renounce your day job on moral grounds if you haven't been earning $350,000 every episode, but nonetheless for a 19 year-old guy to make that kind of a stand is, I think, in some ways, admirable. 

Perhaps he ought to have spoken to his bosses before airing his views, but putting that aside, how many 19 year-olds do you know that are discerning about their media consumption in the interest of keeping their minds pure? In fact, how many people in general do you know who give it much thought?

Our media culture is so pervasive, it can be very difficult to censor ourselves, and for parents to try and keep tabs on what messages their children are taking in.

But everybody draws the line in different places and it is for us to settle prayerfully with our consciences and with the bible where that line should be. Some people will feel it is worthwhile putting up with a certain amount of language or content they don't agree with, if there are other merits to a programme/text. Other people simply won't watch/read anything where people are acting in a way they find immoral, and still more people probably very rarely find anything offensive enough to switch off or put down.

The thought has occurred to me several times recently. Why am I watching/reading this? How much am I condoning this behaviour? Is it compromising my values or am I successfully filtering out the bits I don't agree with?

These questions are tricky to answer, but I do have one good piece of advice on the subject. Instead of reacting against morally dubious content, perhaps we would have more success if we tried to be proactive and pursued more wholesome media to enjoy. Find a new favourite that you don't have any qualms about!

I've been listening to UCB radio more and more recently, and if nothing else, you know the messages you are feeding yourself aren't 'filth' (as Angus Jones might put it) when you have that on in the background!

I enjoyed the wholesomeness of Great British Bake-off (and cookery programmes in general, if you can avoid the temptation to gluttony) and it occurs to me that the presenters on Pointless are quite upbeat and pleasant too...

So do give it some thought and prayer. Can you choose and enjoy media with positive, wholesome messages rather than things which may be detracting from you spiritually? Afterall the bible does tell us: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4: 8

And if you needed any more motivation, consider this difficult passage to the church-goers in Ephesus:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. LIVE AS CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT." Ephesians 5: 3-8


Interested in more?
Check out some of our Sunday sermons at: http://www.buresbaptistchurch.org/sermon_catchup.php 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tips for Listening to God

Since I was talking on Sunday about Peter not discerning God's plan very easily and this morning we taught the Primary School about Samuel struggling to hear God's voice, it seems like perhaps it's a good time to dish out some advice on how to listen to God!

It's one of those things preachers often seem to be saying - 'Listen to God, anyone can hear from God'. And yet when it comes down to it, lots of Christians feel like they struggle and very rarely hear God speaking to them. So let's get practical. How to hear from God and be fairly certain you're not just making it up...

1) Set aside some time and find a quiet place with no distractions. A comfy chair and a cup of coffee may assist with this! Jesus frequently took himself off to pray in places where He could be quiet and alone.

2) Actually listen. It's okay to pray to God without listing your requests/concerns. A simple "God, please speak to me during this time I have set aside," will do. And wait patiently.

3) Give God opportunity to speak to you through something. Very often listening to God means picking up your bible and having a little read. Or you could have a flick through a book of devotions, or some other Christian literature, or watch/listen to a Christian speaker online, whatever means you like. Just pray that God will help you select the right thing and speak to you through it.

(In general choose authors/speakers etc that come recommended by mature Christians you trust).

4) Write it down. If you feel you've heard something from God, it is very easy to back away from it later and start to doubt yourself. Just because you've written it down, doesn't mean you don't have to test out what you've heard, it just means you won't be so inclined to brush it aside and forget it!

5) Test it out. The bible tells us to 'weigh up' the things we hear, because it can be very difficult to separate our own thoughts from Gods. Testing involves:

a) Praying about it repeatedly and asking to feel 'at peace' about it if you've heard correctly. If it still feels right over a long period of praying and considering, that's a good sign.

b) Checking it's consistent with the bible. If what you think God is saying seems to contradict the bible, you should have serious doubts about it.

c) Asking a mature Christian to discuss it with you and pray it over too. If you're unsure, getting a second (or third or fourth!) opinion from sensible, mature, loving Christians can be really helpful.

d) Looking out for other signs of confirmation. Did the preacher on Sunday bring up the same point? Did you hear the very same issue discussed on the radio just the other day? Were you reading a bible verse that said something similar yesterday? These may not be coincidences...

If this all seems like a bit of an effort, just remember, it does get easier. You do start to get more accustomed to hearing God's voice and separating it from your own. In fact, you'll probably start to find it extremely exciting living with more and more of God's guidance - I still find it exciting every time He speaks to me!

Give it a go, you may well be amazed at the results.


Interested in more?
Check out some of our Sunday sermons at: http://www.buresbaptistchurch.org/sermon_catchup.php 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Be Prepared?

This time of year seems to be a season of expectancy. And I don't just say that from the perspective of it being 7 weeks until our baby is due. Everybody seems to be starting to prepare and look forward to Christmas already, including myself. In years gone by it has seemed like a faux pas to start planning and preparing much in November, but this year, it just seems sensible. And not only that, it seems like 'everyone is doing it'.

I don't know if this is a rural thing or maybe it's just that I'm spending less time with people my own age. Is it just students and people in their 20s who are more prone to do everything last minute and, quite probably, in the middle of the night?

I was both alarmed and, I'll admit, quite impressed, to discover that my husband has already bought me all my Christmas presents. Slightly concerned that I only just managed to scrape him together a couple of birthday presents, and they were late...

But I will say this, I have been getting prepared for the baby. Buying, collating, washing, reading, practising breathing techniques, organising people to cover my absence. I keep hearing stories of babies that have arrived significantly early and getting the feeling that I have to be ready for the baby to turn up any second. At least we know for sure when Christmas will happen!

Chances are, of course, that I'll still be twiddling my thumbs over the bump in January, but I am trying to be ready in case.

And that, perhaps is the problem. In seasons of expectation, our reaction is to try and get 'ready'. But is anybody ever properly ready for their first child? I've read so much information in the last couple of months and still keep coming up with more and more questions. They are small things, practicalities mostly, and I expect it will all become clear as it happens, but the fact is, no matter how well prepared we are, we have to keep learning as we go along.

I talked a bit on Sunday about trusting God in our blind vulnerability. We can never know fully what God is up to and where His plans are taking us. There is always an element of the unknown when we work with God. At a ministers' meeting recently we mused over how God seems to often use the things we do unintentionally much more than He uses the things we do intentionally! Offhand comments have changed lives. Sermons that went awry have often made the biggest impact.

So perhaps we shouldn't set so much store in preparation. Yes, be responsible, prayerfully make preparations that are necessary, but don't put too much value on feeling 'ready'. God will lead the unfolding of events and sometimes, no amount of work will prepare you for what is to come. And that's okay. Because wherever it is He takes you, He won't abandon you when you get there!


Interested in more?
Check out some of our Sunday sermons at: http://www.buresbaptistchurch.org/sermon_catchup.php 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Youthwork Got Harder This Year?

Anybody out there who works with young people will probably be able to attest that the start of a new academic year can be a tough time. Since September our youthwork has definitely got harder!

It's quite normal I think. Lots of the young people moved to different clubs this year because they grew too old for the one they were in, and this meant a lot of new groups forming. In new situations, making new friends, young people are often out to prove themselves and find their place, so they can act up. Those that were already attending the clubs can be unsettled by the influx of new faces on their territory, and the new members haven't necessarily built relationships with the leaders yet, so they can be less inclined to listen to them.

Well, while I'm glad that there's a logical reason for it all, the fact is, in practical terms, the Youthwork. Gets. Harder.

In nearly all our clubs we have experienced young people 'testing the waters' as it were, pushing boundaries, trying to see how much they can get away with. It's a time when they are testing you out, and if you don't have a lot of patience, and a robust system of support and discipline, you might struggle to get through.

But this IS what we're here for, so we all try our best. We try to get all the training we can on behaviour and class management and we leave the rest up to God. Who can control a hall full of rowdy teenagers if they all decide to rebel? No one I know. But God can. Who can teach a class of up to 30 children on a Friday after school and always make the right calls? No one I know. But God can.

Youth and children's work is messy. And that's not just because of the paint and the glue. It is messy because you are dealing with lots of little lives. Each one individual, with its own struggles, talents and background. It is messy because some of these little lives need help and they are acting out because of it.

Jesus didn't spend much time with the 'perfect' holy types. They were the Pharisees, and in fact He often disagreed with them. He said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) And so He spent His time with the rough and ready in society. Those that didn't know to behave well, those that were going through tough times and needed a lot of grace. Tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers.

If our church and our youth and children's clubs attract some of the messy, or difficult or rowdy members of society, chances are we are right where Jesus would have us be. So do pray that we have the patience, and love to know how to manage it.


Interested in more?
Check out some of our Sunday sermons at: http://www.buresbaptistchurch.org/sermon_catchup.php