On not loving the world

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“But seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

I love these verses because they’re an important reminder for me to seek the things of God and not my own ways. When I was a child I always wanted to grow up and be a singer or a model. And I still have ambitions to perform on the stage to some capacity, because it’s a genuine love that God has given me. Over the summer 2019 I worked as a singer at a family holiday site, covering popular and generational music and I had a wonderful time doing this. I am a worshipper and I love to sing worship songs more than anything! Jesus changed my life and I owe Him all of me.

What does it mean to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness? Jesus is speaking to the crowd and telling them not to worry about life on this earth. He states:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Luke 12:22-31
You’ve heard it a million times: don’t worry. But you have not let these words take root in your life if you continue as you are. Our physical needs are important. We all need food, water, shelter and clothes. Jesus acknowledges these things but He also says “the body is more than clothes.” People generally take their outward appearance seriously and want to dress well. Your outward appearance will play a part in the first impressions of meeting someone and people will often perceive you to be a certain way by how you dress. I love clothes and doing my make up and hair and there is nothing wrong with this. I say it is important to take care of yourself through exercise, healthy food, personal hygiene and clothing. However:
“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.
God is more concerned with your inner appearance. If you take a look at Matthew 23:25-27, Jesus states:
“25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
These verses are quite clear in that God cares more about how you live your life than how you look. The Pharisees cared about how much praise they got from people more than they cared about love, justice, mercy and putting others before themselves. This is also seen from Matthew 23:6-7.
When you neglect spending time with God and being “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2) your focus will go into something else. For a lot people and for myself, for a long time I was so focussed on my physical appearance that it stole my joy. I had to eat healthy and workout every day; I would constantly look at myself in the mirror and wish that I was shorter, had a flatter stomach and other things. I believe that from this, envy sprung into my life as I compared myself to other women either on social media or those I knew in real life. In my head I wanted to be the best and the most beautiful. Yes I will go there! I wanted to be the most beautiful and attractive person in the room. I wanted the glory and attention from how I looked. This is a topic that so many people don’t feel they can talk about. And I really dislike the phrase: ‘jealousy is so unattractive in a woman’ because it feels like the person quoting is shaming someone else. But I guarantee that at some point in your life YOU were envious of someone else’s appearance, promotion or lifestyle. It is something we are all subjected to to an extent. But brother, sister let me speak to you right now:
You were never supposed to compete with anyone else. Just because the world places such an emphasis on a certain body type, lifestyle, job or what the world determines as a successful and happy individual, doesn’t mean it’s true. You believe what the majority of people say is true or right? Then you may as well discard everything I am saying because the last time I checked, most of the people in this world do not know Jesus and most of the people I know personally do not.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'” 1 Corinthians 1:18
One thing I have noticed through the years before I started this website is that generally people like motivational speeches. Body positivity, loving yourself, being true to who you are and not settling in relationships. But as soon as someone preaches that you should love yourself because Christ loves you, you get agitated, shut down and say this preacher is crazy, going too far or should keep to themselves. Brother, sister, I ask you: why? And you need to ask yourself why it is that the freedom that Jesus offers you aggravates your spirit so much. You’re fine with horoscopes, magic, reincarnation, being told that blessings are coming your way, a higher power like “the universe” being in control. But you reject Jesus Christ who went to the cross and died for YOUR SIN only to rise three days later, so that you could be in relationship with Him. You would spend eternity in Heaven and not go to Hell where all the unsaved will go; those who have refused and lived without Christ in this life.
Does this upset you? Would you rather I said that everybody who was a good person in this life would go to Heaven, and those who do evil things will go to Hell? Now don’t get me wrong. It is true that a person who is a murderer or rapist who dies without repenting for their sin, will suffer an eternity in Hell for the wrong they have done. Justice will be served. But a person who lives their life without Jesus will not be able to go to Heaven. It is written:
“Many will say to me on that day: Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Matthew 7:21-23
The Pharisees whose outward appearance appeared so good, holy and righteous will be told they cannot enter. God looks at the heart: your actions, attitude, your love for Him and for others, not at how you dress it up! Everybody wants to believe in an afterlife. That you will find your loved-ones who have died and that you will go to be with them. Hear me now: there are two places human beings will go to when they die and you will go to either one or the other: Heaven or Hell.
I love you too much to not tell you the truth. You may ask me how I know this and I am going to tell you to read the Bible and pray about everything you have read. Yes it doesn’t sound nice. Of course we want to believe that all good and kind people will go to Heaven, and all murderers and rapists will go to Hell. But the Bible, the Word of God does not affirm this. Jesus speaks and warns the people about Hell more than Heaven. When a child wants to put his fingers into a plug socket, you would slap that child’s hands away and firmly tell them to never do it again. The child may cry and be upset at the harshness of this action, not realising that you have saved them from being electrocuted. But that pain is only temporary and the child will live. So it is with us.
If going to Heaven was easy and if most people could go who lived a life we all believed was good and acceptable, then why did Jesus have to die on a cross? His death was for nothing if all ‘good’ people could make it in of their own accord! Why then is it written:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.
Christ died for us because He loves us, because He loves us. The stakes were that high and no human being was able to live up to the perfect standard that was God. That is why before God walked the earth in the person of Jesus, there were the old testament laws that His people had to follow. They had to make sacrifices that were holy and pleasing to the Lord, to make atonement for their sins. Now we do not need to make animal sacrifices to make atonement for our sin, because Jesus Himself became the ultimate sacrifice. Whoever comes to Him is forgiven and made new.
I urge you to pray about what you have read in this post. And repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. He loves you and He is coming soon. On that day, what will Jesus say to you? Will you go to Heaven or to Hell? Now is the day to come to Him. Now is the day of salvation.
Be blessed in Jesus’ name.

Why bother with the whole Christian thing anyway?

Religion has died out. The only people who attend church now are your grandparents or perhaps one person you know from work or school. You may think it’s nice for the one person you know who does attend church, but you know it’s not for you. Too much controversy comes with believing in God anyway. It’s much easier not to believe when you learn about evolution and the big bang, and when everybody around you agrees that religion causes more trouble in the world than anything else. Statistic after statistic shows up explaining how the world is becoming less and less religious, and also how the world is a better place without it. According to the IPSOS MORI website, politicians and government ministers are the most untrustworthy group of people. Two thirds of the British public agree that doctors are the most trusted professionals and 63 to 57 percent agree that government ministers are not trustworthy. Some heart breaking discrimination and crime has occurred in the church. I am not surprised that people feel they cannot go to a church again because of the way they have been treated.

So why would anybody want to attend a church or become a Christian? How would it benefit you when the world tells you how much you don’t need it? There are plenty of motivational blogs, commercials, films and television series out there. They are written by wonderful people who seem to live life to the full and are happy. Perhaps you are happy and are in a good place with your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. And who needs God when you can have a spiritual experience with yoga, fortune telling or oujja boards anyway? They tell you want they want to hear, don’t they?

So your life consists of good things. You have a house, a car, a job that fuels your drive and motivation, good family relationships and friendships. You have hobbies you enjoy and you go on holiday twice a year. So what is missing in your life? What could be better than what you already have?

It’s likely you’ve heard the message of Christianity preached at some point in your life. Perhaps around Christmas or Easter when it’s common to go to church for a carol service or for a baptism. I don’t know how you responded to being in a church or having a conversation with a minister or Christian. Perhaps you didn’t like it or just didn’t feel like you wanted to go back. The truth is that no one can force you to become a Christian. It doesn’t matter how much you go to church or spend time with practicing Christians. If you have decided in your mind you are not interested in it, then no amount of being around believers will change your mind. There is no mind control in Christianity.

Now, one of the main arguments that is against the case for God is a lack of evidence. I’m assuming this is physical evidence of God being real; people expect to see something to believe in it. That sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? If you can’t see something, how can you believe that it is real? In the same way, you cannot see your own brain. The only known realistic way of being able to see your brain is if you went to the doctors and had a scan or x-ray. Then you would be able to see on the scan the image of the brain that is in your head. So what exactly are we asking for? A picture of God? A reason for the mess the world is in? God is God. He is a person. He does not have to reveal Himself in the way you want. Everything a Christian believes in is written in the Word of God, the Bible. In case you didn’t realise, a Christian’s foundation is built on the Word of God. And statistics aside, I would like to add that if the bible is just a book of fairy tales, why when writing this blog, when I have googled particular bible verses for reference, have I found the bible’s sentences already a search result in google? I’m talking the whole sentence! If Christianity is irrelevant then why is it still widely googled?

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 (King James bible)

and

“But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'” Luke 16:31

The above statement was made by Abraham when speaking to the rich man in hell. This is relevant because people today are always asking for evidence of God. And God has sent His prophets and messengers out into the world to preach the message. The rich man had previously stated: ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’” Luke 16:30

But Abraham responded with Luke 16:31. So although you might think you would believe if you saw someone rise from the dead, or saw Jesus right in front of your eyes, the Bible suggests that you may not. If you have made up your mind that you will absolutely not believe in God then you will create any excuse for a miracle such as a person rising from the dead.

We are close enough to the sun to be warm enough to not die and we are not so far away that we would freeze to death (you can argue the North Pole but I don’t think that is relevant to now). We have water, fruit and vegetables and animals to eat. Now I’m not a scientist but I would like someone to explain to me how we have all these resources without a higher power providing them for us. Perhaps you can give me an answer. And perhaps it would satisfy most people. However, there is one thing you cannot explain to me. You cannot logically explain where all these resources coincidentally came from to cause the Big Bang and for the world to be formed. As far as I can tell, human beings are finite and there has been no studies concluded that can explain where exactly all this matter came from.

The creation of the world aside, let’s look at how your life is going right now. I’ve spoken to people who have positively concluded that we have this one life to live, so we may as well make the most of what we have right now. By doing this you can live your life even happier and stronger in the knowledge that this is all we have, before we die and are no more. Now it doesn’t take a genius to look at the world and the news to see the pain and suffering that has been going on for thousands of years, and keeps on happening. Human beings want something new and different. That is why there is a growing obsession with the occult, with magic and spiritualism. You need to believe in something more because you were created to believe and need something more than what you see right now.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New King James version)

Let me ask you a question: If you were on a plane and you knew it was going to crash.  Wouldn’t you pray? Wouldn’t you cry out to something higher than yourself to save you? Some of you might say no. You would just brace yourself. Okay, that’s fine. Not all of you are going to like this article. My point is that people are constantly, without even knowing it, searching for something more. That is why we have horoscopes in magazines and we say phrases such as “sending positive thoughts your way” and “the universe is testing you.” Any reason to not acknowledge God. Also it is written:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 (Berean Bible)

This means that unless you know that you want something more and have a hunger for God, you cannot believe!

“because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Romans 8:7 (Berean Bible)

It’s all written in the Bible that you don’t want to read. You prefer to say how evil the Bible is and that it doesn’t allow you to eat bacon or to wear clothes of mixed fabrics. But you ignore the fact that some of the laws of the old testament do not apply to today because of Jesus and His death on the cross and resurrection. You cannot read the old testament without the new, and you cannot read the new testament without the old. They are both closely linked together and that is why they both form the whole Bible.

In this article I have given reasons for why I believe God exists. As a born-again believer, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me and if someone were to debunk all of my reasons for God being real, I would not for that reason stop believing. You will understand if you become saved, because you will see the things that God will do in your life that cannot be explained in any other way. You will change as a person because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. You will over time have less of a desire to go to places such as a nightclub, less desire to swear or to watch the things you used to before. And if you do not straight away, understand that it is a process. If you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and ask the Holy Spirit to enter your body, you will begin to change. That is why it is written: “You must be born again.” John 3.

 

 

How Fast Fashion is impacting the world

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I love clothes. I have always enjoyed dressing up in dresses, jewellery and cute things. When I was a child I loved Barbie and Disney Princesses, and was always wanting to dress like them. At 23 years of age, I am still a fan of clothes and the latest fashions. I have a number of favourite shops that sell the clothing I love at affordable prices. Standing at 6ft 1 Topshop is one of my go tos to buy trousers and jeans (thank you God for tall sections) and there is always going to be something that I can buy that will go with my new outfit. Orsola De Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution states:

“We communicate who are, to a certain extent, through clothing. It is fundamentally a part of what we wish to communicate about ourselves to the world.”

However, it is only recently that I have discovered there is another side to the fashion industry. One that I don’t believe is talked about enough. According to Investopedia, ‘fast fashion’ involves producing an item that is cost-efficient, and able to keep up with the fast and ever-changing consumer demands. Shops manage to have the items in stock that are wanted, and as a result, are able to keep their customers happy and generate profit. But here’s how fast fashion is having a devastating impact on our world and on the people who make the clothes.

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According to The True Cost, there are approximately 40 million factory garment workers in the world, with almost 4 million of them in Bangladesh, who are making clothes for major western brands. My first question is why? Why should they have to make clothes for people in countries such as the UK and US? And why are they paid a minimum wage of less than $3 a day? There is an extremely unfair system going on here – one which a lot of people don’t want to talk about. The conditions that many people have to work in in these factories are poor, as can be seen from the film. Also from tragedies such as the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh back in 2013. And when these workers rightfully requested they should be paid more, why were they met with such hostility and denied it? Clothing companies generate so much profit from what they sell. How is it, then, that they are unable to pay their labour force what they need for a decent living wage and acceptable working conditions? (The True Cost, 2015)

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Companies will source cheap labour from anywhere they can. In 2015, Kanpur was the leather export capital in India for cheap leather. Chromium is used to treat leather, presumably in preparation for who they will sell it to. The substance has had a horrible impact on the land. It flows into the drinking water of those living nearby, contaminating the soil and making people extremely ill as a result. A lot of clothing is non-biodegradable, meaning that when it is thrown on landfill sights, it releases harmful gases into the air, and takes 200 years or more to break down.  Next to oil, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world.

As a result of fast fashion and cheap clothing, many people are paying the price and so is our planet. But what can we do to make a difference to this vicious cycle of cheap clothing at the expense of others? We can start by asking ourselves if we really need this item of clothing that looks attractive in store. We can make use of the Good on You app that advises how ethical a clothing brand or shop is, and we can donate or fundraise for change. If we all voiced we were unhappy with the treatment that garment workers in other countries were receiving, clothing companies would have to make a change in how they do business. The True Cost is a film that was made in 2015, and whilst it is now 2018 and changes may have been made, there are still millions of people who work in garment factories. I am not convinced that change has come about yet.

 

It all started with a generic email…

I had not long left University. Graduating with a 2:1 was something I never thought I would do. I was proud of myself and excited for this new start in my life, anticipating what the future might hold for me. I wasn’t entirely sure about what I wanted to do, or even where I’d start. All I knew was that I was going to take each day as it came and keep up the positivity. In this blog I want to write about how volunteering in a small South African community changed my life. And it all started with a generic email.

Tearfund is a Christian international relief and development agency that has been around since the 1950s; they are passionate about ending extreme poverty in this generation, and are extremely motivated to making a difference in other peoples’ lives. I had often been impressed by the work they did after hearing about them at an annual festival, and had subscribed to their emails. It was this one day that I received a generic email from Tearfund, advertising the trips they were offering, partnered with the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. In a nutshell, ICS makes it possible for people to travel and work or volunteer in other countries. This way you can learn about a country through experiencing a different culture, and do something to support the community you’re placed in. I was immediately interested in this opportunity and looked into it right away. To cut this next part short, I attended an interview, got accepted onto the programme and fundraised £800 in order to go. Once in South Africa, I would be volunteering under Zoe Life, a charity partnered with Tearfund who would be coordinating and supporting all of us whilst on our placements.

The best part about this trip? The friends I made! All of us UK volunteers flew over to South Africa together and met up with our fellow South African volunteers. They would also be working in teams with us in our various communities around Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo. The first day after flying into South Africa, we travelled onwards to a centre where we would meet our in-country volunteers, and receive our training for the next 5 days. We had slept since our flight and were feeling more rested after our approximately 14 hour flight (with a short break in Dubai). We pulled into Skongheim Christian centre and I immediately smiled when stepping off the bus. I will forever remember how my fellow South African volunteers were singing in Zulu and clapping to greet us. This was the start of something new. I was soon going to be getting to know a small number of my South African and UK volunteers very well, and making great friends too! Our training week came and went. I was very happy with the team I would be working with and was excited for all the work I was going to be doing.

Next came the journey to the region of Austerville, Wentworth in Kwazulu-Natal where I would be volunteering at Blue Roof Lifespace for the next ten weeks. I would be staying with a host family, with a lady called Auntie Noels and her two dogs (if you know me, you’ll know I love dogs) and living with two UK volunteers and one South African volunteer. Over ten weeks we worked with some companies based at Blue Roof called City Celebration, a dance company and Lalela (translated into Zulu meaning ‘to listen’) an art class for the children in the surrounding area. We also helped out at a centre called WOW (Women of Wentworth) where we helped write up cvs for the unemployed youth in Wentworth, and created pictures and storyboards for the nursery there. A project we began working on ourselves was something called ‘Durban East Spoken Word’ where we attended Durban East Primary school. Here, we delivered some short bible study classes during the morning break time for anyone who wanted to come along.

All of us as volunteers took away different experiences from this trip. For some it would have been amazing and they wouldn’t have wanted to leave; others may not have been so enthusiastic. But this is okay because we all came from different backgrounds, fields of work and experiences, and had different reasons for coming on the trip. I personally loved this experience from the diversity, culture and work we did out there. I had my eyes  opened to a country brimming with a community spirit that was friendly and genuine. The South Africans are extremely hospitable. Auntie Noels is used to having volunteers and students come and live in her house, sometimes exchange students would come for a year at a time! She loves to have people round and has hosted Zoe Life volunteers for a few years. So to sum up my time in South Africa, I made amazing friends, learned a lot about another culture and how to really appreciate those who are different to me. Having this experience has changed my life. In a separate blog, I will be writing about how we in the western world often have a lot of material wealth and how I think that we could actually be happier with less stuff.

Another important thing to remember about this trip was that it was not a holiday. I didn’t go to South Africa to sit in restaurants, eat nice meals and take photographs with a glass of wine. There is nothing wrong with doing any of that; I personally enjoy holidays where I can dress up and take photos. But the purpose was to go to places where the need is greatest (Tearfund’s words). I went to a place where there is a massive drug and alcohol abuse problem, with rubbish everywhere, and I witnessed some people only living in houses with one room. And it’s this kind of stuff that breaks my heart. Yet I still saw a community of people that lived with this hope and joy; they didn’t have a lot of material wealth but they chose to live each day and make it count. But I have come home and I have struggled since coming back. We in the western world are consumers, always wanting more and more material wealth from the size of our house to the clothes we wear. I am not commenting on any of these issues in this blog. I am just saying that when you choose to visit a country where you meet people of a different culture and material wealth to yourself, you will not forget what you learned when you come home. Next time you buy clothes, you might remember that a person from a different country made that shirt who was paid very little, and having that knowledge will influence your decisions. So I want to encourage you to travel and see countries with different cultures. Because you will take something away from what you learn there, and I really believe it can help you live your life more grateful and more selfless.