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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Helpless Addict or Slave to Sin?

In a previous post, I asked the question, “What are you living for?” I suggested various things that people live for and how these can become idols if we don’t keep them in their proper place.

What happens, though, when we find ourselves obsessed with things that seem to have the power to control us? When we’ve already succumbed to the temptation and find ourselves in the grip of an addiction from which it seems impossible to break free.

I’ve just finished reading, The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. Perhaps, some of you are already wondering why on earth I would be reading such a book. Don’t worry, I found myself wondering the same thing several times as I progressed.

I read this book because I wanted to see whether the perspective of the author on shopaholism is what had resulted in the crazy numbers of sales of this series. In other words, I was curious about how the author would deal with something that, judging by the title, she classes as an addiction. What solutions would Sophie Kinsella offer for those trapped in these situations?

I definitely set the bar too high by expecting to find anything really useful in a worldly book written to appeal to the masses. Kinsella takes a light-hearted, humourous, (and in places offensive), approach to the subject of shopping addiction. She recommends; ignoring debt letters until your cards are cancelled, continuing to spend like a crazy person whenever you feel unhappy or just whenever you see something you want, lying to all and sundry about anything and everything, including lying on your CV to get a job that you know nothing about, and borrowing from strangers. Oh, and sleeping with someone because they are rich and famous.

Kinsella’s message is not very subtle: poor Becky Bloomwood is at the mercy of her addiction and unable to do anything about it. First, she tries cutting down her spending only to find that she ends up spending more money by investing in things she needs in order to cut down. She abandons this plan and decides she needs instead to make more money. After a few failed projects, she eventually manages this by a stroke of luck, and that is the solution to her shopping addiction because now she can get out of debt and continue spending in a self-indulgent fashion.

I’m aware this is a fictional character, but the author is attempting to comment on the realities that some people face. This isn’t Alice in Wonderland where everything is topsy turvy and things get curiouser and curiouser in a nonsensical universe. Becky Bloomwood is, by all accounts, a relatively normal girl attempting to navigate life and struggling due to her addiction to buying things, whether or not she can afford them.

Kinsella turns her character’s very real obsession with spending and shopping into a joke, or at least something that is normal. She underpins and cements society’s erroneous belief that if they could just make more money, then everything would be okay, and they would be happy. She forgets that most people live to their income; they increase their standard of living according to how much they earn. It will always be the same people in debt and struggling to make ends meet however much they earn. Even those who win huge sums of money often end up bankrupt and miserable.

Money cannot buy happiness. The Bible tells us to be content with what we have and not to covet/desire the things we don’t. The more things we have the more we will want because eventually we will become dissatisfied and want something better.

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13 vs 5

As someone who has struggled with addictions to, among other things, gambling, alcohol and smoking. I can look back and see the point where I gave in to the temptation to play the slot machines, drink too much and buy a pack of cigarettes. Each time I did these things after that first wrong choice, it became easier, and I needed more of whatever it was to keep me interested and satisfied. The more I gave in, the more the thing began to take over my life and to control me. At times, I was living for my next drink/night out and the thrill of risking (losing!) some money to make more. It was all I could think about and my life revolved around the obsession.

This is how I know that, despite what the experts may tell us, addiction to anything begins with giving in to a sinful temptation. The Bible speaks about our consciences being seared with a hot iron or becoming dulled if we persistently ignore them. Ending up addicted to anything is not about genetics, or life’s circumstances, it’s about sinful choices. This is evidenced by the lives of those who come from terrible backgrounds but still manage to make something of themselves.

Kinsella’s book is full of bad language, in particular frequent uses of God’s name as a swear word. At one point, the character, Becky Bloomwood, even writes a diatribe about having become a “born again Christian” to her bank as a reason for not paying off her debts. The tone used in the reply from the bank is contemptuous towards the character but also towards God. I was surprised to find this mockery of the Christian faith in this book as it has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter.

On reflection, I realised that God has everything to do with this subject. Sophie Kinsella has thrown in a laugh at the expense of a God who she rejects and considers worthy of contempt. The fear of God, in generations past, has all but disappeared, leaving a dangerous irreverence and willingness to mock a Deity who is considered insignificant and irrelevant. These books have become so popular because the author’s modern-day readers feel the same way about God and are not afraid to join with her in expressing it.

Kinsella no doubt began by blaspheming as a child, she ignored her conscience telling her that it was wrong to speak God’s name in this way. It became more frequent and her conscience was dulled. Now, she has become a best-selling author and is helping to sear the consciences of her readers who soak up this material and allow the name of God to be profaned without a second thought.

I’m sure you can see the parallel between the willingness to use bad language and the way other addictions develop. It all starts by ignoring our God given conscience and choosing to give in to sinful temptations. (Of course, sin begins in our hearts which are corrupt, but that’s another topic.)

Do people end up at the mercy of their addictions? Yes, of course they do. We can see it all around us, whether it be addictions to shopping, drugs, alcohol or something else that has taken over our lives and become an unhealthy obsession that consumes us.

What, then, is the solution?

The first thing is to recognise that whatever it is that has enslaved you began with a sinful choice. Don’t blame it on someone else, or your background or circumstances. Take responsibility for it and face up to the consequences.

The good news is that there is hope. God created us and knows exactly how we are wired and how our bodies and minds function. He is the only One who can truly help us to break free of these addictions by enabling us to exercise self control. We may also need support and help from other people and practical advice about changing habits and behaviours, but it all starts with acknowledging that we have sinned against God and by asking for His help.

All sin is against God and the Bible says that we are all guilty. Giving in to temptation and allowing any substance, habit or material thing to take over our lives is a sin as it has become an idol to us. God sent His only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sin. Jesus paid the penalty so that we don’t have to. He literally stepped in and took our place. It is through Jesus that we can be free of addictions and obsessions that are controlling our lives.

I read another book recently, From Alcoholism to Africa, on the subject of addictions, and extracted this quotation which sums up how all addictions, (including shopaholism), can be dealt with:

“Whilst I was reading the Bible I could not find any sin called 'alcoholism' or any reference to me being a sick person, it was called 'drunkenness' and the Bible said if I acknowledged, confessed and repented my sin I could be forgiven. Also in 1 John 1 it says that if I am without sin I am calling God a liar and the truth is not in me. The Word of God is the Truth and it is the truth that sets me free. God was definitely working on me as I read the Bible.”

Praise God that we are not helpless addicts, nor do we need to be slaves to sin, because Jesus died to set us free!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Are Cessationists "Missing Out"?

I don’t often blog about this topic because it tends to make tempers flare. However, in recent weeks, I’ve been finding myself in constant unintended conflict with Christians who disagree with something I’ve written or posted on-line that would fall into this category. I’m hoping I can use this post in response so that I don’t have to get into further debates about this.

I find these discussions extremely discouraging for several reasons. Firstly, the huge numbers of people who are being led astray due to their excessive focus on signs and wonders. Secondly, the fact that those who hold to a cessationist position, or who have cessationist leanings, seem to be increasingly rare despite this being the traditional, historical position of the church. Thirdly, the complete misunderstanding of what a cessationist actually believes.

To be clear, a cessationist believes that the sign gifts that appeared in the New Testament, specifically tongues, prophecy/words of knowledge, casting out demons and healing, ceased, or died out, with the apostles, or with the completion of Scripture. They don’t usually believe in modern day prophets or apostles. They are cautious about accepting at face value reports of dreams and visions, especially of Jesus appearing in person and communicating with people. They evaluate all reports of miracles and the supernatural through the lens of Scripture. They usually believe that God communicates via the Bible rather than in an audible voice. They believe that the Holy Spirit always points back to Jesus rather than drawing attention to, or placing the emphasis on Himself.

The conflict I’m referring to isn’t usually coming from those who hold a continuationist position but who recognise the need to check everything against the Bible. It is also not from those who cautiously examine all phenomena and test the spirits to see if they are from God. I have many friends with these views and conflict is rare.

I’m referring to those who fall into the aggressively argumentative camp. Those who are not happy just to hold their own views about what the Bible says, but wish to convert others to their way of thinking, whatever it takes. The people who find it offensive that others believe something different to them and who refuse to recognise that an alternative viewpoint has validity.

Amongst other things, I’ve been told that my spiritual life is fake, that I’m not a Christian, that I’m dead in orthodoxy, that I’m a Pharisee, that my views are toxic, that I’m arrogantly presumptuous, and that I’m missing out on the work of the Holy Spirit, and that people feel sorry for me. One person even sent me a private message  stating they were going to “defriend and block” me on a book sharing website. This person had begun a debate on a book review I had written. The worst suggestion, to date, has been that I'm in danger of committing the unforgiveable sin (blaspheming the Holy Spirit) by questioning whether these things are from God.

I’ve had people detail all of the incidences of charismatic phenomena/supernatural occurrences in the New Testament. Then, they remind me that God doesn’t change, that He is all powerful, and that it must be my lack of faith that causes me to question or doubt. One person even said that the reason I haven’t been healed from an auto-immune condition is due to a lack of faith on my part. 

These people approach me in the street at my free Christian book table, comment on my social media posts and debate on my book reviews and blog posts. They attack me for expressing my sincerely held beliefs about what the Bible teaches. They assume that I am ignorant and in need of enlightenment. 

Perhaps, most discouragingly, many are astonished to hear my views because they have never heard them before. They are in churches where constant supernatural manifestations have become common-place and any other way appears strange to them. They have not been taught to exercise discernment or to test the spirits. They often comment that these things must be from God because they are good, forgetting that the devil comes as an angel of light to cause confusion.

My point here is not to argue about which position is correct hence continuing the conflict referred to above, which I’m fed up with. Obviously, cessationists and continationists can’t both be right; either the gifts have ceased or they haven’t. Theologians have debated this for many years and I’m not hoping to resolve the issue here!

I want to remind Christians, that both positions are honestly held, and that there shouldn’t be a need for hostility, or any type of conflict. In most cases, the Bible has been studied to form conclusions, and posting something about the cessationist position on-line isn’t a personal attack on a continuationist, and vice versa.

Here are some resources that, alongside the Bible, helped me in reaching my cessationist viewpoint:

Strange Fire Conference:

John MacArthur/Grace To You:
Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire books, and Sermon Series

Peter Masters:
The Charismatic Phenomenon/Illusion

Got Questions:

Tim Challies:

R.C Sproul:

All Christians, regardless their interpretation of charismatic gifts, should be aware of these Bible verses (and others not listed), that call for discernment:

Matthew 7 vs 15
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7 vs 22-23
 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

Matthew 24 vs 24
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

2 Corinthians 11 vs 13-15
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Timothy 4 vs 3-4
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Peter 2 vs 1-3
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

1 John 4 vs 1
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Monday, 29 January 2018

What Are You Living For?

Most will be aware of the political and religious controversy surrounding the former Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron. Farron, an evangelical Christian, was, in 2017, repeatedly questioned by journalists about whether or not he believed gay sex was a sin. He eventually answered that it was not, but then realised that he had effectively denied his faith. He resigned.

I’ve seen some negative publicity in Christian circles now that Farron has reversed his original statement. However, I sympathise with him. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. Farron learned, the difficult way, that Christians cannot reason with, or hope for any understanding from, an increasingly hostile world, let alone the secular press. His experience proves that light has nothing in common with darkness and that Christians should be in the world but not of it.

When I first heard Farron’s recantation, I thought immediately of the disciple Peter’s denial of Jesus. Was this not a similar situation? Peter, on repentance, was offered immediate and complete forgiveness by Jesus. 

I’m convinced that, given the right circumstances, any one of us could end up in the same position and succumb to the temptation to deny what we believe. Surely, that’s the point of the Bible story: If Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, could deny Him, having been warned, what hope is there for us in our frailty and weakness? 

As fellow Christians, we can learn from Farron’s very public fall from grace by considering what we are living for. It’s easy to say we are living for God and that He is our number one priority, until it costs us something. We are increasingly attached to the world with God tagged on to the edge of our lives.   

In the Bible, idols were made of wood and stone, it was easy to see when the people departed from God to worship them. Now, there is a lot of talk about idols of the heart but we still tend to think of idols in terms of relationships and people. The truth is that anything can become an idol if it stands between us and God or if it gets in the way of that most important relationship. This includes things that may be beneficial, if they become an obsession or are taken to an extreme. 

In a previous post, I mentioned things that were likely to become idols for non-believers (and some believers) at Christmas; money, food, gifts, sex, alcohol etc. These are the obvious, tangible things, but what about the things that are not so visible that we covet or that grip our hearts.

How we spend our time; what we do and the things we spend time thinking about. Our use of time is a good indicator of where our priorities lie because we make time for the things that are important to us. 

I end up in a lot of discussions about the content of Christian books due to being an avid reader and book reviewer. Christian authors are increasingly compromising their standards in order to appeal to a secular audience, or even a Christian audience that has lost its way. Their arguments usually begin with the need to make books more real for an authentic reading experience. 

Readers rally around to support them because their sinful nature is attracted to the graphic details. Is it not the truth, though, that rather than trusting God for their success, these authors are choosing popularity and ambition over Him? They are forgetting that God honours those who honour Him and that we should not love the world or anything in the world. Success has become an idol. 

Are we, as Christians, any different from our non-believing neighbours and friends? Does God and His plan for our lives take centre stage, or have the things of the world crept in and crowded Him out? Do we care about our lost friends and neighbours, or are we preoccupied with worldly matters? Have we grown cold and lost our first love?

Perhaps, it will take a Tim Farron experience to wake Christians up. When everything you have worked for and dreamed of is in one hand and your faith in God is in the other. Then, suddenly, you are confronted with the startling reality that the two things you are holding onto are incompatible and you are forced to make a choice. Which will it be: idols of any kind or God?

Farron was forced to count the cost of following Jesus, and having ventured down a path, seemingly of no return, he faced up to his failure and dealt with his sin. Remembering what, and Who, he was meant to be living for, he chose Jesus over his career and reputation.

He revealed something of the struggle that had been raging in his soul when he quoted martyr Jim Elliot, 

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 

Earthly idols in all their forms will one day be swept away. Let’s pray that we will each put God on the throne of our lives and cast out any idols lurking there. Then, we will be able to say with confidence that we are living for Him.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2 vs 15-17

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

Revelation 2 vs 4 (to the church in Ephesus)

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

Philippians 3 vs 18-19

Friday, 12 January 2018

Where Will You Spend Eternity?

The craziness of Christmas is over and we are already into a new year. Was Christmas everything you hoped it would be? Were the celebrations as exciting as you wanted? Did you enjoy the time with family and friends, and was it peaceful? How about the food, are you suffering still from the over-indulgence, or was it as good as you were expecting? Did the children’s wishes come true? What about the gifts, did you get everything you asked for? Did the presents satisfy you?

Do you feel tired as you head back to work? How will you make next Christmas better than the one before? Do you feel exhausted just thinking about it?

My Christmas was disrupted by a stark reminder of the frailty of human life; a member of my extended family was rushed to hospital where she remains in critical condition. Our plans for Christmas were swiftly changed as the lady’s direct family rushed to her bedside.

Suddenly, things were in perspective; a husband could lose his wife, a son his mother and small children their “Granny.” The material celebrations were pushed to one side as everyone rallied round. We made our way to church praying for God’s will but hoping for a miracle. Phones were constantly being checked and the bleep of a text message took on new significance.

This week, in the UK, we have seen news reports of an eighteen year old, with her whole life ahead of her, struck down and killed by the flu virus. Reports in The Daily Mail suggest that flu deaths have soared by 77% in a week.

The inquest into another eighteen year old girl’s death is also being reported. This young lady died after suffering a fatal reaction to a burger. She had known allergies and had told the waiter about them. The response from the restaurant to this investigation was interesting. When asked what ‘lessons they had learned’ and what they would be doing differently in future. They basically said that everything was already in place to prevent this type of tragedy and they didn’t plan to change anything…

I’m sure the restaurant will end up with findings against them and they likely have been negligent. However, the point to note is that regardless of the lessons learned or things that are put in place, needless and preventable deaths will continue to occur. The restaurant staff have just responded in a way that doesn’t sit comfortably with those who believe we should be able to make the UK 100% safe, by some unspecified date in the future.

Assuming that were even a vague possibility, what about the person who dies every 3 minutes from heart disease, the 5 people killed in road accidents every day, or the total of 1,500 people who die each day, in the UK alone? Can anyone legislate to prevent this or do anything else to stop it?

I’ve made the point before that it’s almost possible to overlook these morbid statistics until reality bites when someone we know is taken from us. Have you noticed how shell-shocked people seem when a violent crime or fire kills people in their village, or even their street? 

It’s the wake up call that it could happen to any one of us at any time. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Even if we take all of the precautions possible; never venture outside, never have contact with anyone else and live like a hermit. Death still comes eventually, and no one returns from the grave. The Bible tells us that: 

“It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement,” (Hebrews 9 vs 27.)

Why am I offering you this gloomy reminder at a time of year usually reserved for renewed hope as the resolutions are sincerely made? 

Our church leaflet for the year has a three word headline:


We live in a world corrupted by our sin and under God’s curse. The earth is slowly dying and we see the evidence all around us in people’s suffering. We cannot prevent every accident. We cannot predict or vaccinate people against every disease. We cannot really control anything about our lives, and our claims to be able to do so are out of touch with the reality. God maintains and controls everything and we are entirely dependent on His grace and mercy to us.

I’ve just finished a book, Heaven and Hell by Edward Donnelly. It is a terrifying reminder of the reality of hell for non-believers, but offers hope (certainty) of heaven for all who will put their trust in Jesus:

“Imprinted on human consciences is the uneasy awareness that beyond this life is a place of punishment for those who do wrong. It is so often denied not because it is unreasonable but because it is extremely unwelcome….Suppose the Bible had told us nothing about hell, not a single word about future judgement and condemnation. Would that make it a more loving book? Is concealing unpleasant reality an evidence of true caring? Not at all, just the opposite. People complain about God’s warnings when they should fall down on their knees and give thanks for them. It is in love and mercy that he warns us about hell, so that we may be delivered from it.

The most foolish aspect of all is that your everlasting damnation is unnecessary. For the Lord Jesus is pleading with you at this very moment. He is calling you to himself, commanding you to turn from the sin that brings only destruction. He is infinitely kind and gracious. If you ask him to be your saviour, he will receive and forgive you. He will wash you clean and make you safe forever, and you will be holy and happy, looking forward to an eternity of joy and glory in heaven. 
                                                                                                    ‘Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ (Hebrews 4 vs 7.)”

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Top 10 Christian Books Read in 2017

It’s time for my Christian book recommendations for 2017. My Goodreads 2017 Challenge lists 150 books. I anticipate slightly surpassing this target by the 31st.

For those that missed it, you can also see my 2016 selections.

In compiling my list, I have again tried to cover a range of genres and sub-genres which is quite tricky as I read a lot more biographies, (especially by or about missionaries,) than anything else. I prefer books with a clear Gospel message and Christian purpose in writing.

The majority of the books I recommend here are clean—no bad language or sexual content and limited graphic violence. Where there is slight deviation I have commented in my review so you should know what to expect. You can read my Goodreads reviews by clicking on the title link. The books appear in the order I read them in 2017.

1. God Planted Five Seeds- A lesser known missionary biography by the wife of one of five men martyred whilst trying to reach a remote tribe in Bolivia. They were serving with New Tribes Mission. This took place thirteen years before Jim Elliot and co were also killed trying to reach the infamous Auca tribe in Ecuador.

2. Bound by Guilt- This gets my vote for Christian fiction by a lesser known author. I was gripped by the story and stayed up late to finish it! This book is the second of four books in the Thicker Than Blood series. I also read the first book, Thicker Than Blood, and plan to read books three and four in due course.

3. The Atonement Child- Controversy seems to follow popular Christian fiction writer Francine Rivers. I have been horrified by the content in several of her books, Redeeming Love and Bridge to Haven. However, I loved this realistic and sad story about a young girl who falls victim to a rapist. The story is sensitively relayed and shocking graphic details avoided.

4. Mission Possible- This missionary biography about two women serving with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea is one of my favourite books of all time. The tragic and unnecessary death of a young boy within a short time of their arrival due to cultural practice will challenge anyone thinking about mission work.

On the missions front, I also enjoyed, When the Bamboo Sings and The Savage My Kinsman this year.

5. Agents of Babylon- A fictional narrative describing a possible end times scenario using the book of Daniel in the Bible. Each chapter gives a brief story followed by the theological explanation for the interpretation. This book helped me to understand the prophecies relating to the end times and really brought them to life. I recommend it regardless of your personal view as it will make you think. I also read, Agents of the Apocalypse, by the same author which focuses on Revelation.

6. I Am N- A contemporary account of persecution of Christians around the world, including by ISIS, from Voice of the Martyrs. I liked the combination of stories with the background, follow-up and aftermath. I have been frustrated by other popular accounts that either sensationalise with too much graphic detail, or embellish in order to sell books. The Insanity of God is one example that springs to mind.

7. Ark Fever- Most of you probably haven’t heard of this fascinating account of one man’s attempts to find Noah’s ark! It is told in a matter-of-fact, easy to read style that makes gripping reading. The conclusion is compelling; have people been searching in the wrong place?

8. There is Still Much to Do!- From the secretary of the Open Air Mission in England. This book is full of examples and conversations from the street. It is right up to date and a must read for anyone wanting to know how to get involved in evangelism. The author has also written, Why All the Suffering?, a useful resource.

9. The Parables of Jesus- MacArthur takes a fresh look at the parables explaining their relevance in the context of the Bible as a whole and seeking to apply them to our lives today. A great reminder to keep our focus on heavenly things and not to get caught up in the world.

10. Streets Paved with Gold- The history of the London City Mission. Although this book has been around for a while collecting dust, I absolutely loved it. In places, it reads like a Dickens novel as we walk with the missionaries through plagues, fires and war into the very heart of London’s poorest communities, to reach them with the love of Christ. Ending with a letter from a passer-by that should remind us that we never know who is watching!

I hope you will find some new recommendations to add to your shelves. I’ve been looking forward to reviewing my year of Christian books. Let me know your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Can We Unhijack Christmas?

It’s that time of year again.

People are fighting over giant screen TVs at Tesco, or is it Asda? Charities are making the most of the festive spirit to grab some much needed funds. Carols are being sung by all and sundry as the non-religious pile into church for their token yearly appearance. Adults are looking forward to the extra time off work as they plan menus…and ensure there is enough alcohol in the house. Children are getting excited about the impending visit of Santa Claus!

Meanwhile, Christians bemoan the fact that the true meaning of Christmas has been lost, but set about trying to make the most of the opportunity to reach their friends and neighbours with the Gospel, regardless.

I confess that I’ve been one of those serial complainers over the years as Christmas in the Western world seems to have been hijacked by the “any reason for a party” and the “spend, spend, spend” brigade.

So, what’s different about this year? you might be wondering.

Perhaps it’s just me, but there seems to be more religious apathy in the air this Christmas than usual. Granted, I have only spent one of the last six in this country, but the hard-heartedness and eye rolling is definitely more prominent than last year!

The reason Christians make a special effort to reach people at Christmas is because the opportunity is already there. There isn’t that awkwardness as you try to find a way to bring God or church into a conversation. People are already thinking about peace on earth and goodwill to all men and might well be interested in delving deeper into the matter.  

At least, this has been the case over the years as even those who can’t face any type of evangelism seem to find a way to gather the courage to invite people to their carol service.

This year, however, I witnessed contempt and mockery towards those of us who “still believe in God.” People annoyed by street preaching disrupting their shopping experience or even by carol singing reminding them of the birth of Jesus….and their sin. Others refusing the opportunity to listen to the Christmas Message or getting irritated by a Gospel leaflet offering them hope.

Mostly, though, it’s indifference rather than outright hostility: a lack of interest in anything religious and a failure to see the relevance for their lives here and now.

People are milling about, frantically making preparations for the biggest celebration of our annual calendar. Yet, so many now don’t believe the Bible story of Christmas or in the God who wrote it. 

What exactly are people celebrating? you might ask….

Why is our entire year geared towards preparing for this big event if no one remembers, or wants to know what it’s all about? Aren’t we then just akin to mindless lemmings going along with a senseless celebration because it cheers us up or gives us something to look forward to?

My brother had it right when he wrote this poem in his journal at some point before he tragically died in a car accident at the age of 18, in 2002:

“We spend our entire lives searching for happiness and never find it.
Somehow we believe in a forlorn hope that things can only get better.
As we grow old we still cannot grasp the reality of life.
We console ourselves by saying, ‘we had a good life.’
And the blindness that enshrouds us makes us believe this until we die.
What is the reality of life?
That life is meaningless without God.”

 James Vellacott (1984-2002)

We have been designed to worship the God who created us. If we reject Him, our sinful nature will just find something, or someone else to worship; food, possessions, money, alcohol and sex will all be distractions and idols for many this Christmas.

Is it even possible for the true meaning of Christmas to be presented to needy souls this year? Of course it is, anything is possible with God.

The real question is, will you be listening? and what will be your response?

"For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

John 3 vs 16