Thoughts on the Boston Marathon Bombings

Much has been written and spoken about the bombs at the Boston Marathon which killed and injured so many a week ago. This includes many questioning the appropriateness of giving excessive attention to bombings in Boston whilst ignoring similar atrocities in Baghdad and elsewhere.

One post I read on Facebook represents these views. Yes, let’s pray for Boston. But what about Baghdad? What about the series of bombings there, which killed at least 30 and injured hundreds? Where’s the press coverage, the facebook campaign, the messages of love for them? Innocent people died there too. Being privileged and American doesn’t make you more significant. We’re all human. We all matter.

It is this that got me thinking. It is true that the impact of a bomb at the Marathon in Boston is greater than a bomb in Baghdad, it is also true that we all matter because we are all made in the image of God. However are we impacted more by Boston than Baghdad because we value rich Americans more than poor Iraqi’s? I don’t think so.

Most of us were impacted by the events in Boston because we could see ourselves there. I have run the London Marathon on a number of occasions and can easily picture what it must have been like to be close to finishing a marathon and a bomb going off. I can easily see how I could have been killed by such a bomb, I can put myself in the place of those who were killed. Many others who haven’t run a marathon would have watched a marathon and can also easily see that it could have been them who lost their lives. Therefore we are impacted more by Boston because “it could have been me”, bombs in Baghdad doesn’t have the same impact because for the majority of us we can’t so easily see ourselves impacted by it. Which is the profound point I came to – the majority of us can’t see ourselves impacted by it, but some can!

As part of a multi-ethnic family of God we have brothers and sisters who we worship with most weeks who relate to world-wide events in different ways to us. Atrocities associated with the elections in Kenya course anxiety to some; inter-community violence in Nigeria will severely impact others; the violence against Christians in Egypt will bring concern to the Egyptians amongst us; attacks on Christians in Pakistan feels very close to others. There are even some people for whom the bombings in Iraq will have more impact than the Boston bombs.

We should be shaken to the core when horrific events occur, such as the Boston bombings, which seem very close at hand.  Let us remember also be sensitive to the pain others feel at events in other parts of the world which seem very close to them. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

We have the privilege of being part of a family made up of people from many different nations all seeking to bring God’s kingdom on earth; bringing hope in the midst of despair. Whenever events take place that bring the sense of despair close to some let us all be sensitive to that, and increase our resolve to do all we can to share the hope we ourselves have received.

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

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Handling Conflict

Most of us have experienced destructive conflict, unresolved arguments and friction which can happen within families, work contexts and even churches! This can lead us to an insipid unreality that seeks to avoid offending anyone, we walking on egg shells for fear of upset. As soon as any sort of conflict rears its head we are off – we seek new friends, a new church or even a new family!

There is a much better alternative – healthy confrontation the Jesus way! I have preached a sermon which goes into the subject in more detail LISTEN HERE

Here is a summary of some the main points.

10 Commandments to Confrontation Jesus way.

1. Commit to owning the value of Matthew 18v15-7.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two other along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Acknowledge that these verses will be the basis of how to work through disagreements and conflict – before they occur.

2. Monitor yourself.

1 Timothy 4v16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Learn which offenses you can let be cancelled by sheer grace and which get rooted in your spirit and must be addressed before they fester and destroy fellowship.

3. Redirect others.

Resist the temptation to listen when someone discusses a conflict they are having with someone else. Ask them to honour Matt 18v15-7 by talking to the offending person directly. We can find this hard, we love to sympathize, and we like to be in the know because it gives a certain power. We can excuse ourselves, we are only trying to help but it is destructive.

4. Know how to Confront.

Resolving conflict is not about winning or losing an argument. It is about preserving the Bride of Christ. Pray first, then exercise verbal discipline, remembering that affirming words reduce defensiveness, a “gentle answer turns away wrath”.

5. Narrow the issue.

There is a great temptation to expand a conflict, to go beyond the original offense. E.g. I thought you cut me out in our small group last week when you spoke over me and anyway I can’t stand the shirts you wear and I think you’ve got bad breathe – you’re a total looser and I’m sure you try to compensate for it by talking over others. It would be best for all concerned if you changed group, even better if you changed church. Very tempting, but unhelpful! Narrow the issue to the offense only.

6. Be solution orientated.

The goal of Matt 18v15 is reconciliation. Focus on understanding what went wrong, why it went wrong and how it can be prevented in the future.

7. Use the mirror technique.

We often don’t hear each other clearly. So often people react to what they think I’m saying rather than what I think I’m saying! The way to get round this is to keep asking “I understand you to be saying such and such. Is that true?”

8. Be open to agree to disagree.

Sometimes conflict is resolved by understanding each other but then agreeing to disagree agreeably.

9. Be committed to follow-up.

Sometimes relational conflicts cut very deeply. They can take a long time to fully recover from. Therefore be intentional about investing time rebuilding the relationship once the conflict has been resolved.

10. Be gracious when others confront you.

Allow others to respectfully ventilate and express their frustrations. Don’t switch the discussion from the issue they have with you to the one you have with them. E.g. you think you’ve got a problem with me because I snubbed you at church – well what about the time you offered everyone coffee and forgot me. Or that time you didn’t invite me to your dinner party but invited so and so. How dare you confront me!

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

Bible passages that have changed my life: Psalm 121

 

Matt Rebecca: Psalm 121

When I first became a Christian I thought it was important to read my Bible, however I didn’t really know where to begin or how to go about it. If I found time I used to flick to random pages and read little extracts in the hope that God would be leading me to what he wanted me to read. Mostly these experiences ended with me reading confusing family history, sections of old law or signs of the end times. There is only 1 time that I can think of where I got something out of reading the Bible in this way and that is when I stumbled across Psalm 121.

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heavenand earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore

(Psalm 121, NIV)

Reading this was the first time that I really felt God speak into my heart, as a new Christian I was asking questions as to how to live out in my faith, I was in a difficult battle as I contended with living life on my own terms, while, at the same time, wanting to please God and do as he commands. I was still in a period of asking for proof of God’s existence and to know that I had made the right choice in deciding to follow him.

As I read through the psalm and let the words wash over me I remember feeling a real sense of peace. Even though I had so many questions, I knew deep down that God was the answer to all of them. That even though I couldn’t see how he was at work within me or what he was going to do in my life, I knew that he would be my support and would lead me in the right way.

As I have grown in my faith I have come back to this psalm again and again as a reminder to myself of God’s faithfulness. When I have experienced tough times and feel that I can’t see God in my circumstance I can turn to this psalm and feel the same peace that I felt when I first read  it that night. Even now as I write I can feel that peace, feel that security and feel the love that God promises throughout the Psalm.

This 1 small chapter has changed my life as it tells me of a God, that although at times may seem distant is always there, watching over and protecting me. I know that its promises are true and always will be. This means that in the good times and in the bad, God will always be with me, and that assurance fills me with a sense of joy and peace in all my life.

 

Matt is Hope Church Luton’s Youth Leader and also works for LCET Part Time.

He also regular writes his own blog here

The preacher swore during the sermon…

…and it was me!

Yes for the first time in around 30 years of preaching last week I swore on purpose in a sermon, it wasn’t an accident, it was even in my preaching notes…………..

It may have caused a bit of a stir, a sharp intake of breath from some, comments after the sermon even from people who hadn’t been there as they were looking after kids, but I am not the only preacher to swear in a sermon.

Tony Campolo, a much more distinguished preacher than me, has also been known to swear for effect. In one sermon he said “First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Mark Driscoll, another well known American preacher, has caused controversy by regularly swearing in sermons believing he is using it contextually and doesn’t want to be bound by religiosity.

However the person I am most happy to emulate is the Apostle Paul who wasn’t afraid to use a first century swear word when necessary to make a point. In writing to the church in Philippi he wanted to contrast the things he had supposedly lost with the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. To make his point he said he considered such things to be dog shit, a first century swear word. Philippians 3v6. The reason we are not as aware of this as we might be is that many translators of the bible have chosen to censor their translation.

The NIV translates the word for dog shit as garbage, as does the Good News version, the CEB says sewer trash. The King James Version and the Message get closer to the original saying dung and dog dung respectively.

When I was at Bible College we had a lecture from a member of the team responsible for the NIV translation of the Bible. He told us that one of the translation goals was that the Bible could be read publicly without giving offence; this is referred to in the preface. This goal led them to tone down the original language of the Bible as seen above. Another example he shared with us is from the OT where Saul gets angry with his son Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20v30. The NIV records Saul calling Jonathan “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!” The translator admitted the more accurate translation would have been “You son of a bitch.” The Message gets closer to the original saying “You son of a slut” but even that doesn’t really convey the fact that Saul was swearing at Jonathan.

Paul says in another letter “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths….” The key question is what or who determines what unwholesome talk is? Paul himself tells us “but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs….” Ephesians 4v29.

In preaching about the need for us to give up our rights in order to win people for the gospel, to become like a Jew, to win the Jews etc., I thought that describing sin as the human propensity to f*** things up was relevant and appropriate. In context I didn’t feel it was unwholesome but according to the needs of the unchurched.

I did so knowing that some people may be offended, but I thought that was a price worth paying if it also forced us to give serious consideration to what it means for us to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9v22 We do need to find culturally relevant ways of communicating gospel truth.

I am not saying that we should start regularly sprinkling swear words into our everyday conversation just to be seen to be relevant. However I do feel we shouldn’t be offended if others do, and that on occasion we might want to use a swear word to make a point, as I did on Sunday.

To hear the sermon LISTEN HERE

Questions for you to consider.

  1. Are you offended by swearing? If you are, do you know why?
  2. What do you feel about translators of the Bible deciding to sacrifice accuracy to avoid offending people? Has this caused any problems?
  3. Do we give as much consideration as we should to forgoing our rights in order to win people for Christ?

WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON

tonyt

Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.

He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.