Friday, December 21, 2007

We're whats wrong with the Bible

Let me get this straight right away. I didn't want to have to write this.

But unfortunately, I do.

Its seems people are getting mixed up between opinion, interpretation and truth.

I've had enough of people from all sides of the church who act like they are right and everyone else is wrong. Calling each other heretics or not true Christians. Misinterpreting people they don't agree with to prove they are right.

The more I read of different people's opinions on other Christians, the more it becomes clear. People are concerned not with truth. Not with love, not with mercy and forgiveness. Not with living like Jesus.

People are more concerned about who is right. As long as its them.

It's a fact of life that people are going to disagree on interpretations on the Bible. Yes, interpretations. That's what you think the Bible says.

Lets make it clear - your interpretations are yours, and there a few 'right' or 'wrong' answers when it comes to the Bible.

You see there's a problem with the Bible.


The word of God itself is fine, its true. It shows us who God is and it how to live like God wants us to. But the problem is us.

When we read the Bible, we interpret it. According to what we've been brought up on, our circumstances, our personality, we interpret it a certain way.

When we do that, it becomes an opinion.

Now as I've said before, I believe there are incorrect interpretations of scripture, which contradict the nature and character of God and Jesus His son. Which miss the heart of the message.

I believe there are some passages which form basic truth. They can be interpreted in different ways, but most Christians who read them generally come to the same conclusion. But even with these, there are always new things we can learn from them.

But there are some passages that can be interpreted - look at their original meaning in its historical and cultural context, ask questions of them and see what they can mean. We can look for new meaning in them - and as long as it doesn't deviate from the heart of what Jesus is all about and the basic truths of our faith, and it fits in with what Jesus was all about, then it can be true. It can be relevant.

But here's something else. We need to be open to learn. Open to ask questions. Open to grow.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbour. Even if we disagree with their theology.

What unites us?

Love. Peace. Forgiveness. Our faith in Jesus.

Jesus calls us to be His body and says a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. At the moment, everyone who expends all their energy criticising or attacking other Christians who are actually doing a lot of good, bringing people to faith, serving and blessing those in need and showing them a glimpse of the love of Jesus in a practical way, is basically holding back the kingdom.

That energy needs to be used constructively. To serve. Give. Love. Forgive. Encourage. Pray.

That energy needs to be harnessed to build the kingdom and bring the love of Jesus to earth. To show them that despite its differences, the basic things that unite the church are the right things, are the good things. Love, grace, mercy, servanthood, forgiveness, justice, peace.

Then perhaps people will see the real Jesus, and the church can start to grow again.

The Best Christmas Present

So its Christmas. You might have noticed.

The time for presents, the time for family, the time for parties, snow and turkey.

Also, it happens to be when a man called Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel about 2000 years ago. Just in case you forgot.

Now when we celebrate it may be due to a traditional winter festival which Christmas has 'taken over' but to be honest, it could be in the summer for all it matters. What Christmas is about is not the tree. Not the presents. Not the decorations. Not the meal. Not the snow.

Its about Jesus.

It shocks me the number of people who don't know why we give gifts at Christmas. They think its all just a tradition and don't look at the reasons.

Its because Jesus was a gift.

God's gift to us. Without Him, no salvation. No way to forgiveness, no route to God.

But you know what the amazing thing is for me?

God is outside of time. He made time. He made us, and He knows us better than anyone. When He made the human race,, He did so knowing that we would give in to temptation, that we would sin. He knew the only way to bring us back into that perfect relationship was through a perfect sacrifice.

Its God's nature to be loving and merciful. He would have known what was going to happen. What He would have to do.

To have that relationship back, He'd have to send His only Son to come and die.

In the mystery of the trinity, where God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus as part of this would have known before creation what He would have to do, how He would have to humble Himself, how He would have to suffer.

Yet God still made us.

He gave us the gift of our lives, then gave an even bigger gift in Jesus to save us.

Jesus gave the biggest gift. Himself. For us. Totally undeserved grace and mercy.

Forgiveness. Salvation. Peace. Healing. Restoration. New life. For everyone who accepts it.

That's the best and most long-lasting Christmas present you'll ever get.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Divide and fall or unite and change the world?

When Jesus was living on earth, He attacked religious people. He attacked people who put tradition and legalism in front of living as God intended. He showed disgust at people who were so intent on being right, on following the rules, that they forgot the heart of the gospel. Lucky nobody exists like that today eh?

Perhaps not.

There are people like that everywhere. Christians among the worst.

There are Christians who attack other Christians. People so intent on being right, so convinced they are right that they will attack anyone who says anything different.

Now, I'm not saying there isn't such a thing as wrong theology. Oh no. As I've said in another blog I believe there are interpretations of scripture which are clearly not what God intended at all.

For example - I believe that Jesus is the only way to God, the Bible clearly says that. Jesus died and rose again for the sin of the world - the Bible clearly shows that and speaks about that. There are some fundamental truths.

But people get hung up on their opinion - yes, its their opinion - of a lot of what the Bible says.

The Bible has to be interpreted. There is no view of the Bible or interpretation which carries absoultely no relation to our own circumstances, personality and experience.

We can keep denying it, but just as our opinions in politics are always based on our experience, so our view of the Bible can be shaped by our life experience. Our view and experience of God is different. There are lots of people with very similar ones - like with politics - but every single person's is different.

For example, people who have one parent who is a Christian and one who isn't are far more likely to believe an interpretation of the Bible which says that its okay for Christians to marry non-Christians. Others from a family where both parents are Christians are probably more likely to believe that Christians should only marry Christians. Indeed, I've seen this in my own experience.

We shouldn't underestimate how much our experiences and circumstances shape us and what we believe, especially as children and young adults.

People get on their high horse and criticise other Christians for having a view of scripture which is different to theirs, because the way we are as humans with our opinions and interpretations, only our or that of our church can be the right one.

What is important is not being right. Its not being wrong.

Being wrong is saying something that directly opposes and contradicts not only the commandments and teachings of the Bible themselves, but the heart, the principle behind those teachings. Something that contradicts God's nature.

There are basic teachings and commandments people generally agree on, personally I believe there are a few basic Christian truths, but not as many as others. I don't believe every word of the Bible can be interpreted literally and has only one meaning.

I believe there are many teachings, commandments and principles which can be read differently depending on our culture, experience and opinion and which relate differently. I believe that culture and context is very important when reading the Bible.

Basic truth for me is that God is supreme, perfect, all-powerful, all-loving and above all things. He created the heavens and the earth. Jesus is His only Son and died and rose again by the power of the Holy Spirit so that my sins could be forgiven and I can be free to live how He wants me to. Jesus is the only way to have relationship with God and to receive forgiveness - there is no other god or religion which points to God or which can lead to God other than Jesus.

Being a Christian is being a follower of Jesus and living according to His values in every area of our lives, living as He lived. Standing for the things He stood for and standing against the things He did, and applying the teachings of the Bible in a way that relates today in the world we're in now.

How that is put into practice, that's open to interpretation and depends who you are, where you are, the culture you live in and your individual circumstances.

The Bible shows us the story of God. It is a microcosm of God's story through time and our stories as well. Jesus shows us how to live as God wants for us.

He is the perfect example.

The central commandments - love one another, love your neighbour, love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If we truly follow those teachings then everything else floods out of that. Jesus said that all the commandments come from those basic ones. If we get to the heart of those commandments and really live them out and follow Jesus' example, then we are on the right road.

We won't ever know all the answers in this life, no matter how much we know the Bible.

I read bloggers and hear people acting like they have all the answers. "This person is right", "this person is totally wrong", "this preacher/teacher is a heretic".

What a waste of time and energy.

Jesus isn't interested in our pride. He wants us to live like Him. There are things going on in the world which aren't right, which aren't as God intended. Injustice, poverty, oppression, inequality, a complete lack of grace. No forgiveness. No love. Just cynicism and negativity.

Jesus came to take that away. He loved the ones everyone wrote off. He forgave the people no-one else did. He believed in people when no one else did. Even though He could cast the first stone, He never did.

Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, lets focus on what unites us. Lets focus on what we stand for, lets take a stand against the things that are wrong with the world. Even if its in small ways.

As one body. Together.

A church divided is one that falls - a kingdom divided against itself. Lets not let the devil ruin it. Lets unite behind what unites us and do something positive, really do what Jesus did.

Then people see Jesus. Then the world can change.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


What is the church largely known for today?

What are Christians largely known for today?


When I see the church today, in the UK, the general public perception, what gets reported is all negative. Division, hypocrisy, judgmentalism.

When I talk to atheists I know they call Christians hypocrites.

The problem is, that these things are true. The church is fighting over contraception, over homosexuality and some sections of the church or pastors are calling others heretics. The people who go to those churches or listen to those pastors think exactly the same.

This is not good. This is not what Jesus had in mind. This is not the church. This is not Christianity. This is not something worth living for or dying for.

Why is it this way? Why do we just accept passively what is going on?

What was Jesus known for? Love. Forgiveness. Healing. Justice. Truth. Standing up for the oppressed. Believing in people who thought they were worth nothing. He gave people hope and a promise of the future.

Now the church is the body of Christ. The Bible says so. We are Jesus' representatives on this planet. When people look at us, when people look at the church, whatever they see will be their impression of Jesus. It will be their impression of the faith we profess. How we live, what we say, what we do, our lifestyle and attitudes will be what people perceive Jesus' to be.

At the moment people see a Jesus who is negative, judgemental, self-righteous and divided against itself. Paul said that no kingdom can stand when its divided amongst itself. He meant the kingdom of the devil, but the underlying warning is that the church should never be divided amongst itself. It cannot be. How can it grow?

Its like different parts of the 'body' are not functioning together, they are functioning separately, against each other. Now you and I know no body can function properly if that is happening. The church is the same.

Things need to change. We need to change. If everyone makes the same changes then we can make a difference.

Forget our pride. Forget dogma. Forget having to be right all the time. Accept that we have differences, but look to a common ground. Look at the Bible, and see what are the most important values are.

I can tell you before you look. Love your neighbour as yourself. Love the Lord with all your mind, soul, heart and strength. Jesus said these are the two greatest commandments. They are above all others, and all others come underneath them.

Jesus way is not a religion. Its not a tradition. Its not legalistic. Its an attitude, its a way of life. Its a different set of values, which must be displayed through action. Poverty, injustice, oppression, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, consumerism - all are things we must be acting against. We must be taking the lead in fighting the big problems in the world. United. Together.

This has been said before, but we need to show them a Jesus who is about love, sacrifice, serving, justice, truth and forgiveness. When people see who Jesus really is, then they see something good. Something compelling.

Its our responsibility. Its a big challenge.

But Jesus believes in us. He believes we are up to it. He warns to help us. He has given us talents. He's given us personality, He's given us freedom to choose rightly.

Being a Christian isn't easy. I often don't feel much like a Christian, to be honest. But its the right way, its the best way. We need to live in a way which shows that. Nothing to do with religion or legalism. But a way of life, that we submit to happily, not because its easy but because its right and because we truly love Jesus and want to become like Him.

We can truly change the world. If we believe it. If we're willing to try. Jesus thinks we can. He's given us the abilities to. He's there to help us.

Lets show the world the real Jesus, so that in time people's perception of the church, of Christians is the true one. Is one which shows the Jesus that we know and read about it the Bible. Not a Jesus that reflects our own sinful nature, but one which reflects the what Jesus had in mind. A person worth following and a community that people want to be a part of.

It can happen. It starts with me and you.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lost In Translation?

The phrase, 'lost in translation' is used a lot. It was even the title of a film, one of my favourites.

It can sometimes be used in relation to the Bible.

Some passages in the Bible can be interpreted in many ways. When the Bible was originally translated into English it was done so in a certain culture, so the words were interpreted a certain way.

To understand how to live like Jesus, to understand the Bible fully, we have to interpret it. We have to go back to the original meaning in its original language, then translate it and bring it back into our culture, to see its meaning today.

For example, when Jesus is talking about 'Hell' in the Bible, He is actually talking about an area of Israel outside a city where people dumped all their garbage, where there were fires and where it was full of rubbish. People at the time called it a place that was cursed and basically it was somewhere nowhere liked to go. So when Jesus talks about 'hell' he's talking about that place. He could even be using as a metaphor for something else, as He does often.

So you see, the more we know about the culture it was written in then the better we understand what Jesus was trying to say and it opens it up even more to new understandings.

But even then, whether we like it or not, we always bring our own experiences, opinions and prejudices to the Bible and they effect our interpretation, even if its just by a small amount.

It is unbelievably arrogant to say 'this is what this passage definitely means and it means nothing else at all' with most of the Bible. To say you like a church 'because it preaches the Bible' is almost as arrogant. What you mean is it preaches your version of the Bible, a version you agree with.

I do believe there are wrong interpretations of the Bible. For example, when Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me" then its impossible to interpret it that Jesus means there is more than one way to God or that non-Christians get into the Kingdom. That's just not what it says.

But it says more than just Jesus is the only way to God. It poses questions. What is truth? What does it mean to go to the Father 'through Jesus'? Those are questions which need answering. In another blog one day or talk I will try to do that, but the point is that we can't just leave the Bible as black and white. It needs to be questioned.

Jesus poses questions to His disciples and challenges them throughout the gospels. The reason is that He wanted them to ask themselves those questions and that He wants us to ask Him questions. He wants us to ask questions of His word and the teaching, to try and understand it properly.

Not to make it say what we want it to say. No.

But to see what He originally wanted to say through it.

We don't bring our own agenda or the worlds agenda. We look for God's agenda. God's perspective. God's opinion.

We have so much still to learn from the Bible. Lets not limit ourselves. Lets not get lost in translation.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I'm a guest blogger (again!)

I've been asked to be a guest blogger again. I wrote a piece on the second 'Deep Church' lecture, on tolerance, and it has been posted on the 'Deep Church' blog. Click on the title above to go to the article.

There will be one more to come, and then I'll be elaborating a bit more on what I've learned here.

Trust me, it will make interesting and challenging reading.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Put Jesus where He belongs

In the celebrity culture we live in, its easy to put people on pedestals, isn't it?

Think about it. If we're really honest, all of us catch ourselves unwittingly wishing we were someone else. That we looked like someone else, that we had someone else's abilities, someone else's skills, someone else's position.

Of course, that's not right.

Not that we can't have role models. Not that we can't admire and learn from those who are further on that us, who have something to teach. That's fine. But just don't put them on that pedestal. Don't make having their position or being like them your goal.

Make worshipping Jesus and living like Him your goal, your aim, you most passionate desire.


Truly worshipping Jesus. Giving all the glory and praise to Him and wanting to be like Him and live liked He lived. Looking to His example in every situation in life. Wanting to have the same attitudes, same perspectives and live the same way. Being desperate to follow His example.

Making it our goal to be like Him, wherever we go, because He is the perfect example of how to live like God wants us to. Constantly looking at how he lived and trying to follow that example in the place and time we live now. Where we work. Where we hang out. Whatever we do. Always looking for ways to become more like Him. Pursuing Him with passion, zeal and enthusiasm. Being open to hear Him speak into our lives.

If we all do that, if we worship with our lives, at the foot of Jesus, He humbly steps down from that pedestal and helps us along that path, He shows us more of Himself and we have intimacy and closeness with Him.

If we put Jesus on that pedestal, want to be like Him and devote ourselves to that, then our lives and the lives of others can be changed for good.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

God's surprise

Today I experienced something incredible.

Something happened which upset me, which exposed all the pain of my past. Suddenly I was quite angry, and totally taking it out on God.

I lost count of the number of times I said 'it's not fair' like a little child. But boy I was so angry. God seemed distant, it was like He didn't care, wasn't involved and didn't listen. I felt like I didn't matter. I blamed Him for all the 'problems' in my life.

I wanted encouragement, I wanted Him to say something. Something positive and encouraging and constructive. Something to give me hope. I wanted an answer. Now.

I then read my e-mails, which strangely enough I hadn't read for a couple of days - very unlike me. I found one from a close friend of mine, who encouraged me about something I was losing faith in and losing confidence in. Just when I needed it. It was like God whispering something in my ear very quietly when I least expected it. I sensed God's foresight, grace, love and sense of humour.

The e-mail, you see, had been sent two days previously.

I was already on the way to calming down before I read it, but reading that saw a peace descend on me and I calmed down. I saw it from God's perspective. He knew this rant was coming, and somehow knew I wouldn't read my e-mails till that moment - when I needed it the most. It was almost like an answer to prayer before the prayer was prayed.

I sensed God had a wry smile on His face as He watched my reaction. He knew i wouldn't read this e-mail till that day. He knew the impact it would have if I read it at the right time, rather than when in a good mood that Friday.

He was in control. He is in control.

Its so reassuring to know there's a God who's involved in every part of our lives. A God who can see our childish rants for what they are and yet still answers and meets our need, sometimes long before we even see it.

I'm so fortunate. We are.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No other answer

I was thinking today about our relationship with God. Thinking about how we are all in relationship with God, its just that some aren't aware of it, or aware He's there waiting for them. Someone who's being unfaithful to Him.

If we're a follower of Jesus, then we are aware of it. We know God and want to know Him. We want to be like Jesus, live like Jesus.

One simple truth stuck with me.

That if everyone in the world were in tune with God, all of us were living each day as Jesus lived and following His example, all of us being obedient and consumed with Him rather than being consumers, then there would be no problems in the world.

Equality, justice, peace, joy, harmony. Everyone together, living, serving, and blessing each other and not concerned with themselves.

God wants us to live like Jesus. He wants us to follow His example.

If someone asks me now what I think could solve all the problems in the world, I have one simple answer.

If every single person submitted themselves 100% to Jesus - including Christians.

If we displayed the love, compassion, charity, humility, servant-heartedness and obedience that he did, if we act like He did, if we do the modern equivalent to what He did - everyone - then the world would be a much better place.

Such a simple answer, yet so few see it.

Jesus is the answer, but we need to choose Him first, we need to pose the question and not be afraid of what the consequences of the answer are.

Like when Jesus asked the sick beggar, "Do you want to be healed?" You think that's a simple question? If you're sick, can't work, have no skills and know nothing except a life begging, then to have health would mean a life of work, of effort, of commitment. Something that you're not used to. It wasn't a simple answer. Just like committing yourself to Jesus isn't simple either.

Jesus don't make life easier. He makes it better. Living like Him brings God into the world and makes it more like He originally envisioned it to be.

There's no other answer to the problems of the world.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How lucky I am

Today I was walking through Sutton and something suddenly struck me.

How lucky I am.

I live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. I have a good job which pays enough. I have my own property. I have a great church, great friends and loving family.

But the luckiest thing for me isn't any of that.

Its that I know Jesus.

Jesus has been my friend and saviour for a long time. He's been with me through my dark times and the good times. He was my strength when I didn't even know He was there. He listens to me all the time. He knows me intimately, He has plans for me, He values me and loves me as I am, even if I let him down. I can depend on Him. He won't ever abandon me. He always forgives me when I screw up. He won't ever stop loving me. He'll always forgive me.

Even when I'm alone, He's with me.

I don't have to do anything to earn His love. Its already there.

Not only that, but it means I'm free from all the negativity and consumer culture we live in. I don't have to conform to the values everyone else does. I don't have to worry about my future. I don't have to have to put my value in how much I earn, my status or whether I'm single or married. In theory I shouldn't even have to worry about money, as God will provide me with everything I need. I don't need to seek everyone's approval or acceptance, only God's.

It doesn't make life easier. Just easier to cope with.

I still have the same stresses, issues, problems, worries and daily issues as anyone else. I still get upset, angry, annoyed and still things go wrong.

But its so much easier to deal with when you've got someone you know is with you through it all, and no matter what will always be there for you and give you what you need to deal with it.

Life is hard. We need more than each other. We need God.

I'm so lucky to have Jesus in my life. I hope you have Him in yours.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm a guest blogger...

Recently I went to a 'Deep Church' seminar on the book of Lamentations at Westminster Theological Centre. We delved into the theme of lament and it struck me how relevant the book of Lamentations can be and how themes in the culture the book was written in can be relevant today. I also began to understand about how to worship through lament and draw closer to God through pain.

I wrote a report/article on it and it has been posted on the 'Deep Church' site, so I've officially become a guest blogger!!

If you want to read it then either click on the title of this piece to be directed straight there, or click on the 'Deep Church' link on the sidebar and it will be on the main page. If its not, then go to the label 'lament' or search for the title 'lament' and it will be there.

Hope you like it!

Idealistic reality

It struck me today how complicated life is. I was walking through Sutton, just observing people, just watching people go about their daily life. I thought about how hard everyday life is. Work, family, shopping, eating, bills, cleaning, washing, tidying. It all takes up time and can be quite stressful. There's so much pain and suffering in the world, so much injustice. People often keep their pain hidden because they're so busy they don't notice it, and if they do they ignore it. They think they're too busy, and that maybe if they are busy enough their problems will disappear.

People are cynical, paranoid and negative.

Its such a shame.

Wouldn't it be better if everyone and everything lived together in perfect harmony? No death, no suffering, no work, no pain, no grief, no injustice, no pain, no hassle, no evil, no war or fighting, no violence, no consumerism, no cynicism, no lies. Nothing bad, everything perfect and good.

You may say that I'm being idealistic and living in some fantasy land if I believe that's ever possible.

But it is possible. Because it has been like that before. When God originally created the world and the universe it was like that ideal. It was perfect and God said that it was good. All of it. He walked with Adam in the garden, He made Himself present with us.

The tragedy is that we ended this ideal when we fell. When we chose to live our own way, rather than God's. The pain, suffering and evil in the world, no matter what form it takes, stems directly from that choice.

Jesus is calling us to build the Kingdom of God here on this earth, to start to remake it how it was originally intended. Through the cross, that is possible. Jesus, the Bible says, came to reconcile all things in Heaven and on Earth. It says there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. Jesus will return and finish the job, and Earth will be once again that ideal. We will have eternal life with God forever, in a perfect, idealistic and real world.

Isn't that something to put your hope in? Something to believe in? I believe it. It can happen. It will happen.

I can't wait.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rob Bell: Not a heretic

I've read many blogs and articles on Rob Bell. I've read all his books and listened to a lot of his talks.

Why are people calling him a heretic?

Maybe because he's questioning the Bible. Maybe its because he's saying things which challenge the traditions of the extreme-evangelical and conservative wings of the church.

He challenges traditional viewpoints. But how does he do it? He interprets the Bible in its original language, with an understanding of the Jewish culture in which the NT was written. He understands what it meant then, and he then goes on and applies those truths today.

He affirms the nicene creed - he believes in Jesus as the divine Son of God and risen Saviour of the world, the only way to be forgiven from our sins. He puts a lot of stall in scripture, he preaches from the Bible. He reads it in its original language, wording, meaning and context, not some new fangled one or one decided by the elite church rulers or King James centuries ago.

He challenges convention and tradition of church. He gets us to ask questions of God and His word to help us understand Him more and develop our relationship with Him more.

He preaches a gospel of action, rather than just words. Living like Jesus is the most important thing, being a Christian is living like Jesus in our every day lives.

I know someone else, far more important than Rob Bell, who 2000 years ago challenged the religious establishment and their traditions.

He lived out the scriptures perfectly, and challenged what was meant by different commands. He was controversial and it ended up being killed. He was effectively called a heretic too, He was told He was preaching what was of the devil.

Jesus was His name.

Called a heretic by the religious establishment - but the Son of God.

Rob Bell is impacting many lives for Christ today. His church in Michigan is impacting the lives of thousands and many people who were unchurched before are coming to faith in Christ. The NOOMA DVD's present Christian truths in a modern, easy to understand but challenging context, in particular for young people today.

Does what he say make us feel uncomfortable? Good. It might just be God challenging us to think outside the box, to really go outside our comfort zone rather than into one where we know what's going to happen at the end, where we already know all the answers.

Rob Bell wants us to engage with Jesus and ask Him scary questions we'd never thought of asking. Jesus got the disciples to learn by getting them to ask questions (which He had posed them). Children learn by asking questions. We are children of God.

I don't doubt the truth of Jesus as the risen Son of God and the Messiah who died for my sins, and I don't refute that the Bible is the divine word of God for us and contains fundamental truth for mankind.

But not to ask questions of God, so we can understand who He is better and experience Him more deeply?

The Bible doesn't say not to do that.

It says not to test God, but that's something different altogether.

Rob Bell isn't a heretic. He's merely trying to engage with God in a modern context, wants to find out the original meaning of the original text in its proper context and apply it today, to build a church how Jesus intended, to live like Jesus and isn't afraid to question God so He can know Him better.

Unless you're afraid to go out of your comfort zone beyond what you've always blindly accepted as a Christian, into the unknown, how are you going to grow?

Trust God and engage with Him. Go out of the comfort zone. Its the first step on to a deeper relationship with God

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Everything Is Spiritual

Rob Bell recently gave a lecture tour entitled Everything Is Spiritual. I'm going to talk about that in a moment, but here's a clip which really gets to the heart of the matter...This is only a short clip from a longer talk by Rob Bell, available on DVD soon. He makes an interesting point and a perspective I'd never thought of before, but which makes a lot of sense.

Everything is spiritual - Physical world, spiritual world, what goes on in our minds, its all a reflection of God. Its all part of being spiritual. All of it.

Rob says we are 'integrated beings' - 100% physical, yet 100% spiritual. A fusion of both realms. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Its almost a mirror image of that. Everything we do impacts the spiritual realm and physical realm in different ways. The physical is what we see, the spiritual what we don't see. So two different things, integrated as one.

It makes sense too. Why would God separate the physical from the spiritual? Aren't we one living organism in the image of God? Physical and spiritual are merely two elements of who we are - we are 100% both and one impacts the other. One doesn't exist without the other.

We tend to compartmentalise our lives don't we? Into the mental, spiritual, physical and practical, amongst other things. Everything has box it fits into. We often put our relationship with God merely as part of our spiritual life. Apparently. But to me, that appears like its limiting God. It appears like God is boxed up.

What we eat, what we do with our bodies, what we think, what we do, all impacts on our relationship with God. All the abilities we have are from God. There is so much evil and pain in our world, and the enemy is at work in very real and practical ways. Surely it makes much more sense for it all to be spiritual as well as physical, for it to all be linked together as one.

The physical is an element of the spiritual, just as the spiritual is displayed though the physical at times, all united in one in the human being. Spiritual warfare makes more sense when it involves more than just what we term as 'spiritual'. We are doing spiritual warfare every time we say no to temptation, every time we do something good. When we live like Jesus, we are doing spiritual warfare. The physical impacting the spiritual. So you see, its all integrated. One effects the other.

When we do things with out bodies which hurt God, when physically we sin, we do something harmful in the spiritual world. A married couple making love is often talked about as more than a physical act, its a spiritual one of two people becoming one. Its talked about like that in the Bible. Why wouldn't other physical acts have an element of the spiritual at the same time? Its all integrated.

Sure, there is aspect of spiritual warfare, involving prayer and speaking out scripture, which goes on mainly in the spiritual realm, buts its acted out and procaliamed in the physical too. The enemy is out to ruin this world and take us away from God. Whenever we do something opposite and add to the good in the world, and give people a glimpse of Jesus, we are doing spiritual warfare. We are impacting the spiritual realm.

In one of his Nooma DVD's, "Breath" Rob Bell touches on it further

The Greek and the Hebrew words for breath is the same word as the one for spirit.

Its no coincidence.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

What are you angry about?

I'm a football fan and I support Chelsea FC, probably not the most popular club around at the moment, but nevertheless, I am a Chelsea fan.

As some of you might know, Chelsea lost the most successful manager in their history a few weeks ago, to be replaced by someone who on the face of it is not qualified for the job.

I admit, it felt like someone had died. I was very upset by it all for a while. Lots of people still are.

But my reaction worried me, because it was full of anger, hatred and judgement. Lacking any perspective.

I was angry at the club, at the owner and was writing insults of our new manager on a fans forum, making rash judgements about the new manager and getting into verbal online spats with people.

I was out of my mind.

This seriously worried me the more I thought about it. Because I was getting very angry about something which in the whole scheme of things really isn't important.

There are people dying of hunger.

There are millions homeless.

There are thousands with serious diseases and millions in poverty.

There is injustice and oppression in this world.

THOSE are the things I should be getting upset about, that should pain my heart, that should fire me up to take action. They matter. They are God's people and the West is either ignoring or abusing them.

Its not right.

Jesus calls out to us and shows us these are the people we need to be serving, blessing, loving and giving to.

What do you get angry about that really isn't necessary?

Want a better car?
92% of people in the world don't even have a car of any kind.

Not enough money?
In the West we usually have more loose change than somebody earns in a day in some countries. People die of poverty every single day.

Bad job?
A lot of people work 10 hours a day in unhealthy, hot conditions, poorly treated by their bosses for an absolute pittance - locked in with out any break at all.

The things below are all very and real issues facing us today...

People ignored, rejected.
People losing loved ones.

All this, and I'm getting angry about football.

These things go on in our world right now. Its not what Jesus wants. He takes action against it and tells us to do the same.

These are the things to get angry about - and instead of reacting to this anger by shouting and screaming, react as Jesus reacted to His own anger - by doing something about it. Jesus was angry with the Pharisees in Mark - he looked at them in anger - and he reacted by healing someone, an act of love, compassion which added something good to the world.

Lets use our anger as a tool to drive us to do something about things that do matter. Blessing and serving each other, even in the small little unseen things in our own communities, as well as doing something about the big problems in the world.

We have anger inside of us. God gets angry and we are made in His image.

That anger is there for a reason - lets use it for good, instead of using it to shout and scream or get upset about something as trivial as football.

What are you getting angry about?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A lifestyle, not a ticket to heaven

I've been thinking a lot recently about what a Christian is. What it means to be a Christian. What it means to believe.

A lot of people would say someone who believes in Jesus. Fair enough.

But the problem is that some people think Christianity is a ticket to Heaven.

People who believe that say that once you've confessed and believed, that's it, you're in.

The rest of the time is spent trying to convert, going to church, getting religious and going about your life as you always did.

Hold on though. The Greek for believing means "to put your total and complete trust in something".

Being a Christian is being something. Its not just about having faith in something.

When Jesus talks about how we get to God He is clear."I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me" John 14 v6. Jesus words, and they are, on face value, simple to understand. Jesus is the only way to God. The original Greek translation says "no one comes in the father apart from via with me"

Jesus makes this point again in other pieces of scripture. In John 10 v 9 he says "I am the door, if anyone enters through me, He shall be saved".

Basically the truth we see here is that only through faith in and living our lives with Jesus can we be saved, and I affirm that and agree with it completely. There is no generalisation.

But I do think there is an added interpretation which people don't talk about. If we are saved through and with Christ, as the Greek translation says, it means we have to go through Him to get to God. It also means we need to walk alongside, with Him. We need to be where He would be, do what He asks us to do. Almost walk in His shoes. Live like Jesus.

Jesus says in Matthew that we must enter through the narrow gate and that few people find that gate. That means its not easy, its not simple. It involves commitment, sacrifice, making tough choices about our lifestyle and attitudes which may not be easy, but will be right.

That all means not just accepting the Bible and Jesus and thinking we've done it and have our ticket to Heaven.

Going through and with Jesus, going through the narrow gate means going His way, His path, His values. If He is the way, then being like Him is the only way to God. Only through truly believing in Jesus - that is, putting our trust in Him - and trying to become like Jesus - following His way through His door - can we be saved.

Jesus says it Himself.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' (Matthew 25 v 35-36).

He goes on to say "I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' (Matthew 25 v 40-43)

Does that scare anyone else? Do we not feel the fear of the Lord reading those verses?

If we don't then I would humbly say that we're don't understand what being a Christian is.

Being a Christian is about believing in the truest sense. Putting your complete hope and trust in Jesus. But its more than that even. Its about living like Jesus. Its about being Jesus to people. Doing and living what he did.

If we are real followers of Christ we need to be serving, giving, forgiving, blessing, and be actively involved in our communities and in the world standing up for Jesus' values and living like Him - as a church and as individuals.

If we don't, we could end up being told "I never knew you" by Jesus. And that's not something I ever want to hear. We in the West have so much, we have so many opportunities, we have so much privilege. We have the opportunity to really make a difference for Jesus.

So what are doing with those resources? With our money? Our time? Our gifts and abilities? We need to answer those questions honestly. Then if something isn't right, do something about it. Do you really want Jesus to say to you "You had all these opportunities to be me to people, and you wasted them. I never knew you. Leave me"?

No. Neither do I.

And its such a challenge to us all and it should make us feel uncomfortable. It scares me. Live like Jesus, follow His example, serve Him by serving others and standing up for the things He stood up for. By taking action.

I'm not saying we are saved by works. Far from it. The Bible makes clear we can't receive salvation merely through works.(Ephesians 2 v 8-9). Its by God's grace that we have the opportunity to be saved. God chooses to save us - He does this through the cross. The ultimate expression of love, mercy, grace and forgiveness. The ultimate example for us. Jesus chose the cross and that's the key to salvation.

However, if we have true faith in Jesus, if we truly believe in Him then that has to effect everything we do. It has to be the root of everything we do.

If we understand that believing in Jesus isn't just about a ticket into heaven but is a lifestyle, an attitude, a way of living - like Jesus lived - and is totally putting our trust in Him then we understand that truly confessing Jesus is Lord, truly calling on the name of God, true faith and the only way to see God at work in us, is to become like Jesus and live like Him.

His values, his standards, standing up for justice, truth, peace, love and for those who have no-one else to stand up for them. The least, the lost and the abandoned. Practising grace, mercy and forgiveness when others wouldn't. Not judging others. If we are truly wanting to get to God then we must not only believe in, but try to become like Jesus through our actions, not just in our words.

Living like Jesus is the only way to become a true follower of Jesus and the only way to truly see God. If we're living like Jesus, then people will see Jesus in us.

Then they will see God. It is only through Jesus we can be saved. We can't be saved by our works. But believing and going through Jesus, and being a Christian is a lot more than just saying the words. Its living His way. Its a lifestyle, a culture, an attitude.

The best thing is that Jesus doesn't expect us to be perfect and get it right all the time.He calls us to try, to do our best, to make the effort with all we have, fully relying on Him. If we do that, we can get there.

Then we'll be right where God wants us, living for His glory, in His will, totally trusting in God. Being Jesus to people around us and showing people who He is.

Christianity is a lifestyle, not a ticket to Heaven.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Live like Jesus

A couple of days ago I talked about Pharisees. I said that we as individuals and a church need to avoid the religiosity, hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

But there's more.

If Jesus didn't like the Pharisees, if he actively opposed them, then what does that say?

Jesus preached living a life of servant hood, obedience, peace, love, grace, forgiveness and putting God at the centre. He lived His life serving. His message wasn't one of fear, of condemnation. He made no threats to people.

Some people who call themselves Christians today do exactly that. The religious right in the US. Those who turn up with placards at a gay rally and say 'You're going to burn in hell, God hates you'. Those who stand on street corners with foghorns warning people that unless they repent they are doomed to eternal punishment.

Forgive me for asking, but when did Jesus do any of this?

I don't see Him ever doing anything like that.

Who did he meet with? Who did He hang out with? Who wanted to know Him?

It wasn't religious people. It wasn't the self-righteous who talked down to people.

It was the poor, the needy, those whom society and even the religious authorities have ignored or rejected. Those whom people have prejudice against. The marginalised.

He hung out with them. He talked to them. He listened to them. He showed them how God felt about them.

Not only that, but He showed us how we should be treating them and how we should be spreading the message of Jesus.

Its not with billboards. Its not with foghorns. Its not with condemnation. Its not even necessarily with words.

Its loving someone who doesn't love you. Who everyone else has forgotten or written off.

I heard a true story of a Christian couple who moved into a new house, and a man lived across them who was a Satanist.

What did they do? Go to him and tell him how evil and bad he was, that he need to stop what he was doing and follow Jesus?

No. They served. They helped him. They did his gardening, they helped him find a job. They helped him out at home and made him feel loved and welcomed. They showed that they valued him, and not only that, but that God did too. They did the equivalent of washing his feet.

Four months after they first met him, he gave his life to Christ.

Why? Not because they had preached at him, but because they had modelled what Jesus did. They showed him who Jesus was and what his message means. They lived it out.

You see, we can preach all we like. But to spread the gospel we need to live it out. Then it will speak for itself.

We need to stand against religious people who preach from the sidelines and look down on people who don't know Jesus. People who judge and condemn because somebody is a drug addict, or someone of another sexual orientation or religious belief.

There are Christians who do that.

They judge them, the talk about them as lesser people. They condemn them. They preach at them. They patronise them with comments about how much they need Jesus as if they are little children. They condemn them for what they believe and put themselves on a pedestal.

You and I know that there are sections of the Christian faith and even Christian leaders who do this.

Personally, that's not Christianity to me.

That's not a faith I want to be a part of.

Or, I dare say, that Jesus wants to be a part of.

Jesus calls us to live His way, according to His values and standards, and love our neighbour. To serve our neighbour. To love our enemies. To serve and bless them. To wash their feet.

He didn't come to condemn the world but save the world. He modelled a Godly life and set the example for us about how to live, and how to spread the gospel.

Not with judgement, self-righteousness and condemnation.

With love.

If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must do as He did. Not as a token gesture, but as part of our everyday lives. Part of our lifestyle.

Its not an optional extra. If we call ourselves Christians its what we should be doing.

People talk about why the church is declining. Its not hard to see why.

Its because not enough Christians publicly and openly live out our faith practically. If people see us living out our faith then they see who Jesus is. They see Christians doing living out what they constantly preach about.

When people see that, they see Jesus. When they see Jesus, then there is usually a response. Jesus changes lives.

Lets not be hypocrites like the Pharisees. Saying one thing and not living it. I know for myself, this is big challenge. I know I don't do enough. We all need to do more. Jesus calls us to live His way, and He lived out perfectly how God wants us to live.

Lets live like Jesus. It's the only way to go.

Monday, September 17, 2007


I'm about to sell my house, and so today I cut my grass to make it look better. As I cut the grass, the new grass underneath was exposed. It was new, clean, fresh and untouched. It had that fresh smell you associate with freshly cut grass.

I was thinking that this is just like us.

We are all like the grass. There are times in our lives when things are difficult. When we get so caught up in our own lives that things get in the way. When God becomes marginalised. When we start doing things that separate us from God. Things get dirty, tangled and bad things start to grow, like weeds in a garden or long grass.

We let things get in the way.

The long grass looks messy, dirty, uncared for, abandoned. Our hearts and our lives can start to appear or feel like that if we distance ourselves too much from God.

But God doesn't give up on us.

When I was cutting the grass, the grass was so long that it needed trimming before it could properly be cut. I needed to use a trimmer first. There are some weeds that have such a strong root that it takes a long time to get to the root of them

When we invite Jesus back into our lives, we need Him to deal with all the surface stuff first, before He can really get to work on our hearts and make us into that flat cut grass. That's what He does.

He goes to work on all the superficial things that have separated us from God, that have clouded our vision of Him. He gives us a glimpse of Him. Then He really gets to work on the roots and works and works at them. He bit by bit cuts away all the things blocking us from Him and starts to transform us into the beautiful people He originally meant us to be.

Its a long job. It takes time. Every so often we allow things to get in the way. But the more we go back to God, the less long the grass will get. If we put Jesus at the centre every day, and every day depend on Him and go to Him, and allow Him to deal with every circumstance and situation, the less weeds will take root and the shorter the work it will take for Him to cut those things away.

Put Jesus in the centre of your life and receive the new life and transformation He can bring you. Allow Him to cut the long grass out of your life, and then with His help do your best to make sure that the long grass doesn't come back.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Don't be a Pharisee

Today I want to talk about Pharisees.

These guys were people trained and disciplined in the teachings of the Old Testament. They knew the scriptures inside out, better than most people. They studied them religiously, they preached to the people in the synagogues.

These guys were the experts, the ones everyone trusted to set the example of how to live godly lives according to the Old Testament. The ones the general public, even the non-religious, looked to for guidance. If we were living in those times they'd be the men we went to if you wanted forgiveness or spiritual guidance. The experts.

Yet how does Jesus treat them? With contempt, that's how. He calls them 'blind guides', 'hypocrites' and challenges their knowledge of scripture.

Why does He do this?

The answer is, because they had become religious. They had become legalistic. As Jesus said, they forgot the heart of the law and stuck religiously to the doctrine. They had become so blinded by their religious practices and their status they had lost what the message of God was all about, they had become arrogant. They thought they were righteous and it was everyone else who was blind and needed knowledge of God. Tradition, religion and pride had come between them and God.

Jesus said "If you were blind, you would be without sin. But since you say 'we see', your sin remains" (John 9 v41). By that, he meant that we as His people need to recognise our need for Jesus and how our sin has blinded us to Him, we need to humble ourselves before Him.

We often think of ourselves as 'the enlightened ones' don't we? Be honest. Nowadays, we have the internet, tv, dvd, cd, mp3 all telling us all the information we need to know. You can find all you need on google. There's nothing that's inaccessible to us.

In a Christian context, we are finding out more and more about the original Greek meanings of Biblical texts, more about the culture and history of the Bible. Even as Christians, we can think that now we know as much as we can ever know, academically at least, about the Bible and Jesus.

There's a real danger that we can start to think that all the knowledge we have makes us the experts. To think we know everything there is to know. That as Christians in today's society we have it sorted.

When I look at the 'established church' today I see this more and more. Now the term 'the church' is associated with the Anglican or Catholic church by the general public.

Now what is happening is people look at those things and call them hypocrites, old-fashioned, traditional, conservative and dogmatic when it comes to the Catholics and Protestants. They see them as 'the established church' and so linked with the past that they seem out of date.

The result of that a lot of vicars, even at the highest level of the Anglican church in particular is watering down its message, becoming more liberal, and forgetting the heart of the gospel. A lot of the the Catholic church still, to my mind, sits on a pedestal and allows the public to have a perception of it which sets it above and beyond all other institutions and the final authority on all things to do with the church.

Now that's not to say that these denominations don't have a lot to offer the church. This certainly doesn't apply in all cases, and there are many churches and church leaders within these denominations that are really standing up for God and making a big difference for Him in this world. I don't discount that whatsoever. These traditions both have their own blessings and their own strengths.

The point I am making is that the perception of these two groups is of the 'established church', stuck in the past and not relevant today. And it doesn't appear they are doing too much to make themselves relevant - apart from moving towards a more liberal, non-Biblical agenda.

They are becoming more and more religious. More like the pharisees.

We in the West are becoming more and more like the Pharisees. If we're not careful, as individuals and as a church, we could start to think that there's no more for us to learn. That we have all we need. That going to church is enough.

There's a danger that Christianity can become a routine, a hobby and that as individuals and a church we can start to get stuck in tradition, habit, routine and start to think that we have all the knowledge and wisdom we can get. That we have the final and definitive answer on things.

This could not be further removed from what Jesus wants.

We need to get away from these things. More than that, we need to run away from this. We need to stop being religious. We need to start living out our faith, and not allow ourselves to become like the Pharisees.

We need to recognise that we have still so much to learn, that in comparison with God what we know is nothing. We need to be open to what God is doing and what God has to say to us. We need to be open to change. We need to get back to the heart of the gospel, and not become like the pharisees.

Being a Christian is not being religious. It is not just going to church and house group.

It is a lifestyle. It is something that must affect how you live you life. You values, your attitudes, your perspectives. Every day, everywhere you go, everything you do. In private and in public.

The term to believe in something has been distorted. The way its described in scripture is as something that you put your complete trust in, something that affects your whole way of life.

To truly live as a Christian, we need to put our total trust in Jesus and put Him and His values at the centre of everything we do. We need to get to the heart of His message and make that the key thing that defines and forms the bedrock of all our values and our lifestyle. We need to be alive, living as Jesus wants us to live every day.

The two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and all your strength' and the second is 'Love your neighbour as yourself'.

These two cover all of the other commandments, they are at the root of our faith. These two commandments should form the foundation stone for our lives.

Loving our neighbour means not just those close to us, but those in our church and our community in the world. And we do that by serving, by giving and by buying ethically - amongst other things. It means treating people with grace, mercy and forgiveness, putting others before ourselves.

Loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength means everything we do puts God at the centre. Every choice, every life decision, everything we do with ourselves, must aim to please God. In whatever we do seek to be like Jesus, put Him first. It means giving up our own lives and agendas and putting Him in charge. It doesn't mean we all have to be church leaders, pastors or worship leaders. It means wherever we live and work putting God at the centre. It means be obedient to whatever He calls us to. Devoting our lives to becoming more like Him and following Jesus' example.

We need to make sure we don't get so stuck, so conformed and integrated into the way of life we have in the West that Christianity is something we only do at church or in church-related things. That Christianity doesn't become a hobby, or a routine.

It has to be our way of life.

I apply this equally to myself, I constantly find myself falling into this trap and have done in the past. Its not easy to put into practice.

But its one of the most important things we can do. Maybe even the most important. We make mistakes, of course we do. None of us get it right all the time. Sometimes its very hard to find God in our lives at all.

But our goal is to fulfill these two greatest commandments and become like Jesus. That has to be the key to our life, and if we are aiming and working and committed to doing that, then Jesus will help us to achieve it more and more.

Whether we're in a good time or a bad time, the most important thing, the one thing we need to hold on to, is our desire to become like Jesus and live according to His values.

Whatever else happens, however we do at that, that should be our goal. Get away from religion, get away from legalism. Get to the heart of the gospel and make that the heart of everything we do.

And the church needs to do this too. Be counter-cultural, be humble, make a difference. Not be afraid to be controversial if it means sticking to the truth of the gospel. To communicate its message and be a church not stuck in tradition or political correctness, but rooted in truth and presenting the message in a way that shows it as it really is - living and relevant and never needed more than it is at the moment.

This change all starts with us. If we all start to put Jesus at the centre and the heart of what we do, if He is at the root of all we do, if we are open to what He has to say to us and willing to change, then together we can make a difference. We can come together as a church and show the world what our faith is all about, and what the church really is.

Jesus didn't tell us to be religous. He showed us the example of how to live life the way God intended. He is our marker, our example. He came to 'bring life in all its fullness'. If Jesus means that much to us, then it will come out in every area of our lives.

To be honest, I'm sick of people saying Christianity and Christians are all about rules and religion. Its not at all, and the church and Christians need to stop giving that impression.

Jesus is about bringing freedom. The cross liberates us from the poison in our beings called sin, which pollutes us and brings us down.

Christ sets us free from this through the cross to live the life He called us to.

His values. His standards.

When we muck up, He has the love, grace, mercy and power, through the cross, to forgive us, forget the past and get us back on track. We are not bound by sin anymore if we're Christians, we're free of sin, and we have forgiveness. The teachings of the Bible aren't there to restrict us, but set us free.

Our goal is to become like Jesus and we do this as our way of life. If we make mistakes along the way, Jesus brings us back every time. We have that security and that should give us confidence that we are not alone and can reach that goal.

Its not easy, its never easy. But if we want to be like Jesus and build a church the way He intended it, its the only way we can be.

Free of religion and restriction. Free of sin. Freedom from our past and our pain.

True freedom.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Now, forever and the days inbetween

It's hard being a Christian. It really is.

Life is hard. Every day we are attacked by forces not of this world, by spiritual forces fighting against us. Even if we're not Christians, these attacks happen. We just don't know it.

This world is full of sin. Its full of pain. Its full of suffering. Its full of injustice. Life sucks sometimes. We all have bad days where everything seems to go against us. That's the enemy.

Becoming a Christian doesn't make your life easier. It just makes you aware of the reality of what's going on in the world and why its happening.

Then you remember the truth. Not the lies the world feeds you. And it helps you fight back.

Yes, fight back. You heard me right.

God helps us to fight back. To take a stand. To reject those feelings of uselessness, of not being worth anything, of being a failure, of having no hope.

The truth, as Jesus said, sets us free. Emotionally, mentally it may seem otherwise, but we must hold on to the truth. Its all we have sometimes.

Because knowing Jesus isn't just about a feeling or an emotion. Its not all about feeling and acting right all the time. Sometimes we feel nothing at all.

When my mother died, that's how I felt. I felt numb. I felt nothing. Until it kicked in, when anger, fear and sheer grief overwhelmed me. But even then, I didn't feel God emotionally or have any sort of feeling. But I didn't have to - I knew He was there.

He was with me.

I wasn't alone.

I knew it.

God is always with us. He is in our corner, He's on our side. He's behind us and in front of us. He protects us.

Above all, He loves us and believes in us more than anyone on this earth ever can. He really does. No matter what we think of ourselves, our lives or our circumstances, He loves us and believes us. He's there for us.

Sometimes we don't understand why things happen if there's a God who loves us. The young boy shot in Liverpool, the Asian Tsunami. Innocent lives lost. Why?

We don't know. All we know is that its a fallen world, a fallen planet. The earth itself and its people have all been tarnished by it.

But we have a hope. Its real and its true. In our most desperate hour, that is often all we have to hang on to.

God loves us. Fact.

Jesus died for you and me whether you love Him or not. Fact.

God believes in us. Fact.

God is always with us, each individually and corporately. Fact.

The enemy cannot ultimately stand against God. Fact.

God is on our side. Fact.

Whenever things are bad, whenever God seems distant, whenever we're in pain - hold on to those truths if you can. Don't give up. God won't. I know its hard, from my own experience. It's so difficult to beleive these things sometimes.

But they are facts, they don't ever change. They are real. Hold on to them, never let them go.

The truth is He loves you and is there for you now and forever - and all the days inbetween.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



When we hear that word we immediately think of our parents or school don't we? When we were growing up we were told what to do and where to go.

For our own benefit.


Because they knew better than we did what we needed to know or what was best for us.

Hold on. Here's that line again.

Because they knew better than we did what we needed to know or what was best for us.

Doesn't that remind you of someone else?

Of course it does. Well, it should.

God's like that too.

He knows whats best for us. He knows the best way to live. He knows who we are, what we're gifted at, what we're passionate about, where our weaknesses are and where & when we need healing, restoration or discipline.

He knows this because he made us.

When a person makes a model toy, or a model railway, they know exactly what its like, what it needs and all the little things that others don't see or don't notice. Parents are the same with their children.

That's how God knows us all better than anyone else. He made us and we're his children.

The commandments, teachings and lessons of the Bible are there to help us, to guide us, to direct and advise us. They are an example of that.

The Bible is not a handbook to life - how many handbooks do people actually read? That's a poor analogy.

No, the Bible is how to live. Its how God wants us to be.

Its not something we only refer to when we are struggling or don't understand. That's what a handbook does.

Its more than that.

God shows us in the Bible how to live a Christian life, He shows us examples. He shows it through the glories and mistakes and lives of people in the Old Testament, and perfectly through Jesus in the New Testament.

We should follow those examples.

Learn from the example of people in the Old Testament and from their mistakes.

Like David. He was obedient to God and was blessed - then got so caught up in himself and his power that he abused it, by sleeping with Bathsheba and getting her husband put on the front line to be killed. His life was never as glorious or blessed as it was. His family suffered. Why? Because he wasn't obedient.

Solomon took 20 years to build the temple and the palace alongside it, it cost a fortune. But he did it. Becuase he was obedient. When it was done, the first thing he does is glorify God and offer it up to God, giving him the glory.

Jesus is a perfect example of obedeince. He didn't make mistakes, He lived out what God wants us to be. He was obedient. When his best friend Lazarus was sick, instead of going straightaway to heal him and save him from death, he waited. This meant allowing his friend Lazarus to die, so that Jesus could raise him from the dead, which glorifyied God more than just healing would have done, and marked Him out as different from any other preachers around.

It showed He was who He said He was. It happened becuase He was obedient.

Jesus was obedient all the time. Even when it meant His own suffering, pain, degredation, humiliation, seperation from God and ultimately death. When He says "Not my will, but yours be done" in Gesthemane, it has power becuase Jesus is overcoming His own will and submitting to the Fathers, for our sake.

Amazing love.

Perfect obedience.

Perfect example for us.

So, what do we do now? How can we be obedient?

We need to listen to what He's telling us. Sounds obvious, but so often we don't do that. We make assumptions about what He's saying, rather than just listening and asking.

If we don't know what God is saying to us and we don't know what He's calling us or asking us to do, then we can't be obedient can we? So we need to listen. We need to be willing to go and do whatever He asks of us.

We need to listen with the fear of the Lord.

Where and through whom does he speak?

The Bible, of course, as I've shown. He speaks powerfully thorough the Bible.

But He speaks in other ways too. He speaks in the quiet places, our intimate times with him.

He speaks through circumstances. He speaks through friends, enemies and people we've never met before.

He'll use any way possible to get our attention. We need to be open and aware and have our Spiritual ears open. We need to listen.

The point is, that we need to study the word, spend time listening to God, learn the lessons and be obedient to what He is saying to us.

God's not a schoolteacher though. He is gentle, kind, loving and won't force Himself of us. But, He will keep nagging at His telling us what He really wants for us. His call is inevitable and compelling - just look at Jonah.

Not only that, its for our good, the good of others and the glory of God. Wow.

Of course, being human and inperfect, we muck up occasionally. We are disobedient to God's teachings and to His call. It happens. No matter what we do or our intentions, at some point we will muck it up.

But its not a big problem.

God still loves us. God still wants us as part of His kingdom. He still wants us to serve Him just as much as before.

We can repent of our disobedience, whether its disobedience to His word or disobedience to His call and wishes for our lives.

We can be forgiven. Then its forgotten.

After that, we then have to go back and start being obedient, learn from our mistakes. Without fear. If we go off course again, God can get us back on track.

I admit that sometimes I fail in this. We all do. But the great thing is God is always there helping and guiding us, and if we truly want to be odedient then He will enable us to do that.

He beleives in us.

He loves us.

He's always with us.

If we want to be like Jesus, we need to learn obedience.

Obedience even if we don't understand it fully.

Obedience even if its difficult.

Becuase being obedient is the right thing to do. Its in our best interests. God knows whats best for us, thats why he asks, commands, and shows us how we should attain that and how He wants us to live. Its for our own good.

From a loving, gentle, caring, humble Father who is by our side, with us all the time.

Live in His will, and He will be faithful.

Our lives will be so much better.

Don't just take my word for it though. Take His.

Then do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Engaging with God

I've been reading a lot of Rob Bell recently, his books 'Velvet Elvis' and 'Sex God' are inspiring, encouraging and visionary.

I've also read a lot criticisms of him. Saying that he's a heretic, he's preaching false doctrine, that what he is saying in on the verge of denying the basic tenants of our faith.

But what this really is to me is questioning our right to question scripture, to engage with it, to ask questions of it.

For what its worth, Rob Bell affirms the basic tenants of our faith, he agrees with the Nicene Creed and the authority of scripture.

All he does, is question the Bible, question God.

Now some will say we should never question the Bible. It says what it says and that's it. No arguments.

To me, that's a shallow reading of scripture.

Look at Job. He constantly questioned God. He engaged with Him, to get a better understanding of what God was doing, why He was doing it. It was a time when he grew and got closer to God than ever.

I believe in some basic Biblical truths which apply eternally.

Jesus is the divine Son of God who died and rose again for our sins

Jesus and Christianity are the only way to God. No other faith or belief system.

God is above all, sovereign over all and the creator of the universe.

That God is at work in the world and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit and calls us to serve and glorify Him, and build His kingdom on earth.

These are fundamental truths for all time. Unquestionable. Look at the words of Jesus, look at the work of God and what He says and does. Those truths cannot be questioned.

Because what is true is true, whether you like it or not.

However, the teachings of the Bible are different.

We should question those.

Not in the sense that we should deny them. But rather to enquire of God and ask questions.

'What does that really mean?'

'What are you saying through that passage or that line of scripture?'

'How can I practically live this out today?'

'What does this mean in today's culture?'

'Why are you saying or doing this and what does that say about how I should live?'

These and many other questions help us learn. They help us grow. We get a better understanding of God's character, nature and power. We get to know Him better.

The reason is that when we ask questions, He will respond. He will tell us what it means, how to live it out, why its a good to live this way and how its relevant and can be explained today. He will reveal the answers.

When that happens, we learn something. We get closer to God. We understand more of what it is to be a Christian. We know how to be a better follower of Jesus in today's world, in today's culture. We understand the Bible better.

The basic truths never change. How will live them out will always change, depending on the culture and society we live in.

One of the ways Jesus helped people understand Him was by posing questions for them to ponder on. The idea I think was not just that they then asked those questions of themselves but also of God, so that He could reveal the answers to them.

Isn't that what relationship is all about? Engaging with the other person, challenging and questioning, having dialogue before coming to a conclusion.

Its about honesty, about truth and about love. its about learning and growing.

That's what our relationship with God is and can be like, if only we engage with God.

In doing that, we can draw closer to God, have more intimacy with Him and understand better how to be a Christian and what God is really saying through His word.

We're not questioning who Jesus is, or the truth of Christianity or the authority of Scripture. Certainly, that's not what Rob Bell does.

All we're doing is trying to understand God better and become more like Jesus.

That is definitely a good thing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

God's not just yesterday or tomorrow, but today!

So much of what we do in church can be what God has done in the past and what He will do in the future - all of it in the Bible. The Bible is good, it is authoritative and the Word of God. Its important to all of our spiritual development and how we find out about God. But sometimes we talk about the past and the future so much we forget that God is living and inside of us right now.

As you are reading this, God is with you. He might even be speaking to you. He's with you when you go to work, when you go out with friends, when you're on your own - He's right there with you.

By your side.

He's not going anywhere either.

He is living, alive and active today. He is at work into today's world.

His teaching and truth is relevant today, it applies today and is part of how we live today. We are Christians alive and living today, every day, and God is with us. He's at work today.

Through churches.

Through charities.

Through missionaries.

Through you.

Even through people who don't know Him.

He is involved in what we are doing now, today. Everything we do. This culture, this world, He is active and involved. His truth is relevant today, people are living it out today. Not only that, but people need to understand how to live this out today.

Not how people used to live it out.

Fundamental Biblical and Christian truths apply equally today as 2000 years ago, but how they are lived out does and always will change according to the culture.

We need to be looking at what Jesus is doing now, where He is at work, what He's saying, what He's calling us to do now. Which areas of life He's asking us to get involved in. How we can build His kingdom now.


On earth.

Where we live and work.

His kingdom, where we are now.

God isn't just about tomorrow. He's not just about yesterday.

Though those things are important, they give us hope, they give us teaching, truth and principles and values God wants us to live by.

But those need to be lived out and made relevant here and now. Made true today. His kingdom needs to be built on earth by us, the people He's given responsibility for it - with His help.

We need to be living for His kingdom today.

Building His kingdom today.

According to the teachings, values and principlies laid down yesterday.

Ready for tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Be The One

The One.

Now when you read the above phrase I'm guessing you'll probably be thinking of either 'The Matrix', or Jesus Christ, or both.

I want to talk about how one relates to the other.

As a Christian of course, we believe Jesus is 'The One' - by that we mean the one Son Of God, Messiah, Son of Man, Saviour of the Universe. The only way to God.

And if you think that, you'd be right.

However, I want to look at the idea of 'The One' being us as well.

Now before you cry 'heresy' I don't mean that we are divine beings equal with God, or we are the saviour of mankind.

No, I mean that we are all chosen by God. But not only that, like Neo in the Matrix, we all have a power that we don't comprehend or totally understand at our fingertips.

Like Neo in 'The Matrix' (original, not the sequels) we are all searching for an identity that has been lost through sin.

Our true identity in Christ.

In 'The Matrix' Thomas Anderson discovers that his true identity is really Neo, the chosen one - 'The One' - and he has almost unlimited power at his disposal.

But he only starts to use that power fully once he realises who he is. Once he believes it for himself.

The moment comes when, after rescuing Morpheus, his mentor, he is fighting Agent Smith. He's on the verge of running away. But stops. And starts to turn around
Watching from their ship, Trinity, Neo's colleague and future partner says to Morpheus "What's he doing?"

Morpheus replies "He's beginning to believe"

Neo finally starts to realise the truth of who he is, the power he has and has the confidence to use it. He believes in who he really is.

The same can be true in of all of us.

We are all called to serve God, one way or another. We all have an identity in Jesus which a lot of the time remains undiscovered, or only partially shown.

I believe that as we start to believe and trust in God and in who He has called us to be, once we fully realise the power and authority in our hands as Christians and the difference we can make with God on our side, then we will realise our full potential - and go on and achieve more than we ever thought possible - in whatever we are called to do and wherever that is.

We are all warriors involved in a Spiritual war that is going on here on earth. The battle for the hearts and minds of the people who live here - the enemy wants them to reject God totally.

God wants them back.

He wants them to turn from their past and go back to Him.

The enemy will use all the tricks in the book to try and keep people from being saved.

Consumerism is one of the biggest ways he does it in the Western World now. 'Its my life', 'Its my choice', 'Do you want you want as long as it offends no-one', 'Make as much money as you want, do what's best for you' is the culture we live in. We consume the things we have and we worship in shopping centres. That's the culture we're in.

Jesus calls us to do the opposite. To be counter cultural. To serve, to forgive, to love, to sacrifice, to give. Even our enemies.

This is the message we are called to deliver and we have the power of God living in us to equip us to do it - whether that's in church, at work, at home, when we're with friends.

Wherever we go, whatever do. In the little things, the little lifestyle choices, in the big decisions, our whole life must revolve around Him and His values.

We need to see who we are in God's eyes. To continue The Matrix analogy, God sees us not as confused and insecure Thomas Anderson, but as powerful, confident, hero Neo, and we have the power to change the world and the authority to do it.

We can be so much more than we are. Morpheus says to Neo 'Don't think you are - know you are'.

We must live in the knowledge of who we are in Christ, who He has called us to be, and trusting in His love and power which He has given us to serve and glorify Him on this earth and spread His message.

If we do know who we are, if we believe it and trust it, if we put God in the centre, we can change the world together.

Believe it.

Know it.

Its true.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Eternal truth, relevant delivery

Things change. This world changes, the culture changes, the weather changes, governments change and the way we live our life changes. Change is inevitable. It will happen. As technology advances and life becomes easier, we as a human race change. As knowledge increases, so we lose our sense of wonder. More on that last point later.

As this world changes, our whole way of life changes and the more we become aware of the world around us, then we as a people change. The way we learn changes, the way we do life changes. Our stories change. The life of someone 50 years ago in the UK would be very different from that of anyone living here today.

One truth remains. Jesus. That truth never changes. The fundamental truth that Jesus is the risen Son of God who died and rose again for our sin. The only way to the Father. The way, the truth and the life. He and His teachings remain true.

However, the way we learn them and live them out has to change. If Jesus were here today, I doubt He would have used the same parables as He did 2000 years ago. He told stories using cultural metaphors that people could relate to at the time. He would tell essentially the same story, but the way He told it and the metaphors He used would be different.

The language we use to spread the Gospel today needs to communicate the fundamental truths of our faith and the message of Jesus teachings in a way that people today will respond to, without losing the heart of the message. Modern parables, stories from our culture to illustrate eternal truths. The way we do church has to change in some ways, which I will talk about in another post. But the way we talk to people about God has to change.

The mass media, in particular television and internet is the biggest way this will happen. One of the best things about the Nooma DVD series is that it talks about Christian issues in a way people listen and respond to. The message Rob Bell gives reaches so many more people than it would were he merely preaching it in a church. Most people have a DVD player, and can get access to these DVDs, so more can be blessed by it.

PowerPoint presentations are now used in churches for sermons, to demonstrate things in a way which people of this generation can relate to, understand and learn from. Internet downloads allow people to download these presentations and the talks themselves to listen to or even read talks from their pastor, and allow them to catch up with talks they have missed.

CD's of books - including the whole Bible - can now be bought or downloaded onto ipods all over the world, for people to listen to.

What an amazing opportunity, a chance to take the gospel to people who haven't heard it in a way they can relate to and understand. To show them the eternal truth of the gospel in a way that is relevant today.

This only works though, because of the content.

The content is truth, it is real, it is powerful and it is from the Lord. Its beyond anybody and anything. Its an eternal mystery. We are all on a journey of faith forever learning more about our Lord. Along the way, like a small child learning to walk, we fall over and have setbacks. We make mistakes.

But the journey continues.

We need to let God lead us in this journey, to hold His hand and let Him guide us through life in a world that is different to how it has ever been, a culture far removed from 2000 years ago. But where His truths apply as much as they ever have.

To be in the world and not of the world is to communicate our faith in a way people can relate to and understand and not lose the essential elements that make it what it is. It's like putting fruit in a blender. Once you turn off the blender it looks different, but its still the same fruit.

Its still the same essential taste, the same goodness that's getting through. Lets communicate our faith in a way that is appropriate for today's world, but never lose its fundamental message.

You may say that living out our faith is the best way to communicate it, and I'd be inclined to agree.

However, surely today the way we live out our faith has changed. We live in a different culture, a different time, where different attitudes prevail in society, where we have different things as part of our daily life.

The truth we live out never changes, but the way we live it does. 100 years ago there was no electricity to conserve. There was no such thing as electric light bulbs to use ethically. There were few charities to support. We had less knowledge of injustice and poverty in the world than we do know.

In fact, the culture we live in now means that we have more knowledge than ever before and arguably a bigger responsibility than ever before. When things like that happened before, they often weren't known about. You can't act on what you don't know. Now we know almost all we can know, and as Christians we have a responsibility to act on it and make change happen.

So you see, even the way we live out our faith has changed.

Now back to where I began. Given all the knowledge we now have, and how small the world and even the universe seems to be, we have lost our sense of wonder.

We need to claim that back. We worship a God who "also made the stars". Look at the Hubble space telescope website one day, and look at God's creation.

Then read that verse again. "He also made the stars". Like almost as an afterthought, an aside. Like with the click of His fingers.

When I look at the stars and the pictures from the Hubble site, I see that God is awesome, powerful, bigger than anything or anyone, high above all things. A God who is worthy of praise, glory, worship and honour. A God worth telling people about.

We need that sense of awe and wonder back, and when we gain it, we know how important it is to share the gospel. And when we do live it out, when we do talk about it, when we do communicate it, we do it in a way that people relate to and understand, using parables from our own lives or from today's world as well as the Biblical parables.

Eternal truth about the God who 'also made the stars', but a modern delivery method.