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.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Something is stirring

I've just been to New Wine, and have been reading a few books and spending some quality time with God. There's lots of ideas, passions and words brewing in me and I'm now spending some time reflecting, but I sense God is putting a message on my heart to share, even a vision. I'm going to pray, listen, reflect and read a bit more, then I'll begin my response.

Watch this space.