Sorry, no posts matched your criteria
Sorry, no posts matched your criteria
Many of you will have heard of (or seen by now) La La Land – the modern day rom-com musical taking Hollywood by storm. Nominated for 14 Oscars this week, it’s been billed as a film which will whisk you away from reality for a short time in the colour, music and romance of it all.
For most of us, however, day-to-day life is not like that at all. I think it is probably more akin to living in a pressure cooker. From a young age, we experience huge pressure, and as we grow up this only increases, compounded by the burden we put on ourselves to ‘succeed’ in careers, as parents, friends, Christians… the list goes on. Sometimes I feel this pressure like a crushing weight on my shoulders and I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you feel the same.
So what’s the answer? Is there a way to maintain the wonderful rainbow colour and joy of life as so well depicted in films like La La Land – without breaking out into song every few moments which, let’s be honest, is bound to attract some odd looks?!
I believe there is and it starts when we get our doxology right – which sounds heavy but just bear with me.
Doxology is about praising God, and I’ve found it’s a crucial component in my daily conversations with him. It’s certainly not rocket science, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of simple truth in the craziness of life. To remember that when I set my eyes on God again, when I take them off the many and various pressures of life, these do grow dim in the light of his glory and grace. My praise is often the breakthrough in my circumstances because even when nothing physical changes, my heart and my perspective does.
God abounds in grace and love and promises good things for us who love him. He is also big enough to hold me, and you, up under all the pressures that we face, good and bad.
So today, when this year is already ramping up, I would encourage you to look to God and offer him praise. I truly believe that as we look up and get some spiritual perspective, you will reflect the glory of God to those around us who I expect are very much in need of the same.
Rachel is a solicitor. She lives and works in Manchester but daydreams about travelling the world.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
As he does elsewhere, Paul places the account of salvation on a big stage – nothing less than the story stretching from the first Adam to the second Adam.
He puts it even more succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:22: ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ It’s by virtue of our union with Adam that we die, and by virtue of our union with Christ that we’re made alive. God fulfils not merely his promise of descendants for Abraham, but creates a new humanity in Christ.
And that little word ‘in’ is all-important.
What’s the central thought of Paul’s letters? Is it justification? Reconciliation? Adoption? Those are certainly important to Paul. But what’s most central is Jesus. The prior, primary, central, fundamental reality for Paul is our union with Christ, being in Christ. And all the benefits of salvation flow from that union – our justification, adoption, redemption, sanctification, preservation and glorification, and our being joined to each other in the church, the body of Christ.
Knowing who we are in Christ has all sorts of implications, as Paul will go on to explain: ‘count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (6:11); ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (8:1); ‘in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (12:5).
All this could sound ever so abstract were it not for our all-consuming interest in identity. Who am I, really? We can spend a lot of time wondering. For some of us, the answer depends to a large extent on what others think and say about us – our parents, our peers, our colleagues. What conclusions about me are reflected back in the way they treat me? Who am I – the joker, the trouble-maker, the failure, the helper?
In Christ, we can know who we are. I may be a son, a husband, a father, a colleague – those things make me who I am. And they are not suppressed, but gloriously redefined in the light of my being in Christ, as I bring that identity into my everyday work, my relationship with my spouse, my conversations with my children, my handling of money, my use of time.
In our union with Christ – and Christ alone – our humanity is not obliterated but restored.
It’s been quite the week in politics. The Prime Minister’s Brexit speech, a Northern Ireland election announcement, and now the inauguration of President Trump. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, it’s clear that things aren’t straightforward, and haven’t been for a while.
Many of our significant political choices now seem to come in binary options. Are you in or out? Republican or Democrat? Narratives around these decisions have become divisive, and those who take opposing views can become demonised as we feel betrayed by fellow Christians who voted differently to us.
When the choice boils down to x or y, it can be easy to characterise outcomes as winning or losing. Brexit won. Republicans won. If you voted otherwise, you’re a loser… or so the logic goes. Things are black and white. Someone is either a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’. Something is either ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. You either ‘win’ or you ‘lose’.
But it’s never really that simple, is it? Many Americans, Christians included, agonised for weeks and months over how to vote. And although good intentions do not necessarily mean a good outcome, we must not gloss over the complex ethical, moral, and spiritual decisions that the presidential election posed.
As the rubber hits the road today with President Trump’s inauguration, it’s easy to throw stones at the other side, to be smug if you’ve ‘won’, or bitter if you’ve ‘lost’.
But what if we did something radical, and refused to play the game of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’? What if we saw those we differ from politically simply as people like us, fallen and broken, but trying their best? What if we remembered that, although God is fazed by injustice, misogyny, and racism, he is still sovereign, and our ultimate hope lies not in politicians, Brexit, or the single market, but in our God who suffered and died for us on a Roman cross?
As Christians, as people of the Risen King, we know that God can bring good out of any circumstance. We know that, ultimately, through Jesus, we have a hope that is not of this world.
So maybe we don’t have to see it as a ‘win’ or a ‘lose’ situation. Maybe, instead, it’s an opportunity for a more radical, possibly even counter-cultural, commitment to follow the New Testament mandates – to honour the governing authorities, to pray for our leaders, and – no matter their political views – to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Nell is Culture Projects Leader at LICC
Join us for our event Faith in Politics? Lessons from the White House on 23rd of February. Details here.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
The story is told of Brooke Foss Westcott, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and Church of England bishop, being approached by a zealous evangelist. (Accounts differ as to whether it was a member of the Salvation Army or an undergraduate student, but don’t let that get in the way of a good story.) ‘Are you saved?’, Westcott was asked. To which he apparently replied, ‘Ah, a very good question. But tell me: do you mean…?’ – and went on to cite three forms of the Greek verb ‘to save’, indicating that his answer would depend on which of the three was in mind. ‘I know I have been saved,’ he said, ‘I believe I am being saved, and I hope by the grace of God that I shall be saved.’
There’s a temporal span to our salvation, which embraces past, present, and future.
Having just written of God’s love being ‘poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 5:5), Paul reminds us where that love was so clearly demonstrated in the past – in Christ’s death on our behalf, when we were powerless to save ourselves. If God went to such cost to reconcile us to himself, even when we were his enemies, we can be confident he’ll finish what he has started. All this is grounds for assurance in the present, encouraging us to rejoice for what God has done in Christ.
Paul moves with ease from the past to the future to the present. And it’s helpful that he does. Some of us may be certain that God worked in us in the past, but find it difficult to see his hand on our lives right now. Or we might worry whether things we have done in the past disqualify us from his service in the present. Or our current struggles and suffering can make it hard to see the certainty of our future hope. But Jesus has the whole of our redemption wrapped up – then, now, and forever more.
And it’s all of grace. At every stage – past, present, and future – we come with empty hands, seeking mercy from our heavenly father, recognising as Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13 that we ‘work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling’, knowing that ‘it is God who works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose’.
New improved recipe! Fourteen updates need your approval. Upgrade your phone now!
Why can’t they just leave things alone? I liked my phone/operating system/Creme Egg just as it was, thank you, I don’t need a new, ‘improved’ version every five minutes.
If you’ve ever felt like this then you, like me, might be suffering from Progress Fatigue. Symptoms include nostalgia, sighing, rapid-onset frustration with technology and a tendency to use phrases like ‘Why can’t they just…’.
Part of the issue is that it rarely seems as though the improvements actually improve anything. Apps lose your favourite features, computer programmes develop new bugs, Creme Eggs don’t taste as nice.
We often think of change as a good in itself. As Sam Seaborn, in the TV show The West Wing, put it, when explaining why the US Government kept funding missions to Mars:
Because it’s next. For we came out of the cave, and we looked over the hill and we saw fire. And we crossed the ocean and we pioneered the West, and we took to the sky. The history of man is hung on the timeline of exploration and this is what’s next.
We want the next thing, the new thing. Something more. Something better.
Yet it gets tiring when, as my cousin tweeted recently, “we suffer constant change without any sense that things are progressing in the ‘right’ direction”.
Change needs to be underpinned by some vision of the good in order to be inspiring and compelling. We trial new medicines because we want to be healthier for longer. We develop new technologies because we want to live, work and travel more efficiently. Knowing and believing in the goal helps even Luddites like me to accept the change.
There are some changes that are not so positive, though. Some are driven by greed, some by hedonism. Some, such as changes to sexual ethics and moral codes, are due to an outright rejection of God’s authority and boundaries. As Christians, it is important that we keep our eyes on the ultimate goal of life – God’s Kingdom come and his will done.
When changes bring us closer to that point, we can rejoice. When they take us further away it is time to pray, to act, to speak out. And when they’re change for change’s sake, it’s probably time to sigh and reach for the Creme Eggs, however disappointing.
Stay up-to-date with LICC's latest news, events, videos and resources, plus enjoy our short weekly biblical reflections (Word for the Week) and blogs on faith and current events (Connecting with Culture).