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?