Lifestyle – 1

Here is a conundrum.   If we are to live a simple lifestyle, this would involve only buying things that we really need to function – food, clothing, housing, furniture and a few other things.  Therefore that restricts our buying habits.  Also, we should be encouraging the repair and re-using of the products we use, to decrease the ever-increasing use of natural resources.  To decrease the need to transport goods, we should be buying locally, especially our ethically-sourced food.  We then know where it comes from and how it is grown.

All this has implications for jobs in this country as well as overseas, especially in Africa and Asia, from which we import a lot of things.  So, how do overcome this issue?  There needs to be a discussion as to what industries we really need; are they ethical and are they sustainable; and what appropriate training is required?  Do we really need all the ‘stuff’ we buy?  Do we need ‘national’ businesses or can we survive on local industries?  Yet, we also need to encourage the creative industries, or do we in terms of employment?  What about the healthcare, energy and technology worlds?  How much technology do we really need?  Is our financial system ‘fit for purpose’?

Life is getting more and more complicated and expensive.  We are ruining the world through over -production and continual increase in the use of natural resources.  Then there is an information overload.  And, of course, the ever-increasing disasters happening around the world.  Climate change and greed affects our effectiveness in sharing our riches with the rest of the world in a meaningful way.

I would love to hear people’s ideas on the subject.

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Poverty – 1

Poverty in the UK

There is much talk of the rising tide of poverty in the UK, especially when such things as the usage of Foodbanks is on the increase.  But, I wonder if our measurement of poverty is fit for purpose? What do we need to have as a basic standard of living?

Accommodation – where the standard of housing is such that it is dry, warm and economical to run.  There are basic cooking facilities, a toilet and a shower/bath, bedrooms with sufficient beds that have mattresses that do not sag, a reasonable amount of storage space throughout and equipment to be able to cook and keep the property clean and tidy. Accommodation should be that children share same sex rooms (two per room maximum).  (As so many properties are not fit for purpose, the Government needs to take on the building of suitable housing itself and legislate for standards for the state of properties whether rented or owned.)

Finance – sufficient money to be able to provide a healthy diet for each person, pay any rent or sensible mortgage, and an allowance for clothing and replacing furniture due to wear and tear.  If the rent or mortgage is above a certain limit, the family will be required to move to a cheaper property.  Savings to only be taken into account if they are over £25,000.  Total benefit to be limited to 10% below the average earnings of those in work, to encourage job-seeking (see below).

Possessions – people may need to sell their television and/or other high value possessions (including cars) to help pay any outstanding bills.  If they have no furniture, those on benefits would be given a one off grant in the form of vouchers.

Credit/debit cards – people on benefits should not have debit/credit cards (to stop going into debt and buying things they do not need) and have to go through financial training to help them manage their money.

Each unemployed person should be allocated a ‘mentor’ to help them find a suitable job, including support in moving if none available within in a reasonable travelling distance of the person’s home (taking into account available public transport)

The whole benefit system should be tied to the tax system – see my earlier post on this.

All the above is to encourage people to live within their means, and rely on the State only as a fall-back.  If there is disability, then additional support would be needed.

If we are to truly help people who are poor, we need to find ways to make sure that everyone can earn a decent wage, receive any necessary training, so that they are in employment which plays to their strengths and where they are valued.  We also need to re-evaluate what jobs we should be encouraging that are ethical and sustainable in a competitive world.  This requires the UK to develop niche industries that are not found elsewhere in the world as well as encouraging eco-farming so that we become more self-sufficient and eat locally-sourced products.  Also, there is a need to encourage the spread of employment away from the south-east and London, where it is getting ‘saturated’ in terms of population and costs involved in living there.  When we are told we live in a ‘global village’, there is really no reason to always focus on London.  (If more businesses moved to the north, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there would be a reduction in the need for air travel to Heathrow and the other London airports, for example, as they would fly to other gateway cities.)

A lot more work needs to be done on the above, but the system has to work better, not because of the cost, but more to make sure, the true poor get the help they need to get out of poverty and be valued as people.  I feel that the current system is not ‘fit for purpose’ because it does not target the right people and nor does it provide a ‘wholistic’ approach to things.

Any comments?

Nominalism – 2

There is a lot of talk in the Church about the importance of discipleship.  There is some talk about making disciples who make disciples.  This is all good.  But, I worry about the content of what is ‘taught’ when discipleship or discipling takes place.  For maturing as a Christian it is more than learning how to use the Bible, the importance of prayer, and the sharing of one’s faith.  More emphasis should be on biblical character and developing a worldview based on the Bible.  This will get us into studying the Word and applying it in our daily lives. Then, we will start to see a transformation of our communities and society at large as Christians with a foundation based on the Bible interact with the ‘world’.  God wants us to bless the nations. But, even before that, we must not forget the importance of worship and community.  Worship, for all activity must be led by God and in His strength through the Holy Spirit.  It is from our worship, we are sent out into the world. And then there is community, for we need to take action with and be supported by our fellow Christians.  For community, I mean small groups of 8-12 people, in which the discipling and discipleship takes place.

Because we have not had these emphasises, there have been many issues that have not been tackled by Christians.  For example, when the Abortion Act was promoted, Christians did not fully understand the implications and took little action.  In Rwanda, we had the massacres.  Then there were the Crusades, done under faulty understandings because the leaders did not look at the Bible’s teachings – the issue as far as they were concerned,  was all about power and not humility.

At the same time as we develop our character and worldview based on the Bible, we have to be careful not to forget to share the Good News about the Kingdom of God, encouraging others to want to become Christians who reproduce.  Notice I mention reproduce.  When someone becomes a Christian, we need to encourage them to seek others who can also be reproductive in bringing others into the Kingdom.

The Gospel is a whole-life message.  In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to make disciples who put into practice His teachings (especially the Sermon on the Mount) and including the commandments to love God and others.

Worldview, based on the Scriptures, includes how we approach both moral and social issues; it is about empowering people to be what God meant them to be.  It is also about being an advocate for the poor and vulnerable; dealing with the cause of injustice.  This means getting our hands ‘dirty’.  For us to be effective in this ministry, we need to be living our lives based on character traits taught by God in His Word, and to be led by the Holy Spirit, in whom we are to base our strength.  In developing our worldview, we need to  grasp what the Word really says, not based on our cultural understanding.  Through all this we should be shining for Jesus, drawing people to Himself as a natural thing.  In all this, we should see people as God sees them, not as ‘salvation fodder’ – it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the person of their sin, not us – we are called to point people to God.

One key thing is to look at our lifestyle, how we are using our time and resources.  Do we spend too much time and money on ourselves (including do we take too many holidays), and not enough in the service of God and others?  Yet, we also need to get a balance between our work, leisure, ministry and rest.  We often want to get things done yesterday, but we must learn to trust God as to when He wants things done!

Trust God in all things.

Marriage – 2

In today’s society, there many types of relationships.  Marriage between a man and a women tends to last the longest where it is worked on.

With there being many sexual scandals exposed recently that have involved ministers of religion, it shows that in many cases there has been a lack of balanced teaching about relationships, including sex within marriage, at theological colleges and in churches.  Most of the people accused have been single, especially when it involves the Roman Catholic Church.  It is interesting that in the Church of England, the so called ‘Anglo-Catholic’ wing, most ‘priests’ are married and often are more ‘Catholic’ than their counterparts in the Roman Catholic church.  It is also noticeable that there are only rare cases of sexual misdemeanours.  So,, I urge the Roman Catholic church to allow priests to marry, so that their sexual urges can be released within a loving and caring marriage.  Apart from the sexual side of things, I also believe it would encourage more people to become priests if they can marry (the number of priests applying to join the Catholic church is slowly reducing each year).  It is up to the Church to show the way and model relationships to the world.  Sexual abuse continues to rise and is becoming more disgusting in its methods as people, mainly men, get bored with the old ways.  But, teaching on sex needs to be done in the context of sex within marriage, self-identity (including being secure in their identity to say ‘no’) and seeing that relationships involve more than sex (there needs to be encouragement for depth in relationships).  ‘Going out’ should be taught that they need to do enriching activities together with other people so that they have many different things to talk about, apart from, sport, soaps and sex.  Young people need to be challenged about ideas they get from the media.  The media also needs challenging about thinking that they know what is best , when they do not.  They need encouraging to use writers who have a better imagining for exciting scripts that still stay with the boundaries of moral decency, including better use of language.

Marriage provides an ideal model in which to bring a balanced upbringing of children.