Thursday, December 18, 2008

Real Christmas

Its that time of year again.


Is it me, or does the real power and meaning of Christmas get more and more drowned every year in the wave consumerism?

What we want for Christmas, what we're giving, what we're doing, what we're eating and drinking.

Does anyone stop to think why?


Its about Christ. Jesus Christ. The Saviour of the world. Son of God. Who gave up His divinity in Heaven, where He could have stayed forever, so that He could restore the relationship between God and man and give us back our true identity. So that things could still be as God originally intended.

Its about the God who made the universe humbling Himself to become a vulnerable baby so that He could save us.

Its the greatest gift ever given. No wonder we give gifts. No wonder we celebrate. No wonder people feel like there's a new hope for the future.

That's because the real meaning of Christmas is God loving us so much He gave us the greatest gift ever. His own Son. A gift we didn't deserve and can never repay.

The real meaning of Christmas gives us more reason to celebrate, more reason to give, and more reason to have hope than any tradition or consumer dream.

Lets celebrate and enjoy this Christmas, but remembering its true meaning and significance, not allowing both tradition and the consumer dream to take over.

Real Christmas, real celebration, real hope.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Forget fear, embrace obedience

Fear can be one of the biggest holdups to achievement.

How often do we not do something because we are 'worried about what might happen' or 'worried about....(fill in the appropriate reason).

Worried of what people will think.
Worried we'll fail and be embarrassed.
Worried people will think we're stupid or foolish.
Worried we'll alienate people.
Worried people will think we're crazy.
Worried we might lose everything.
Worried about our reputation.
Worried people will reject us.

Fear is one of the biggest weapons the enemy uses to stop us being who we were destined to be and doing what we were destined to do.

The reason we get all the innovations and major achievements in history though is because people were willing to take huge risks, be willing to look foolish for what they believed in.

When God tells us to do something, He does promise to be with us.

But He doesn't promise it will be easy.

There's this perception going around that just because God calls us, it will all be easy and smooth. Sometimes it does appear to happen like that with people.

But God calls us to trust Him. To persevere. To be obedient. To choose His path even when things seem against us.

I think when things keep trying to stop us, try to make us doubt, when the world and our own fears come in the way of our calling, its more likely that the calling was from God. There's someone who doesn't want God's kingdom to come and doesn't want our best, so he puts obstacles in our way to try and put us off.

That's when we need to be faithful and trust, and take a step of faith.

Why am I talking about this?

I recently took a step of faith, and it may not seem huge to some but for me it was a huge deal. Huge.

Telling people what I believed I was called to do with my life. What I believed God's long-term plan for me was. Saying it out loud.

Risking rejection, risking embarrassment.

I had to chance to avoid it. It would have been easy. But I knew I had to do it, otherwise it would remain a fantasy forever.

When I said it, it suddenly became real. It suddenly had power. I got affirmation and encouragement from those around me and through things I subsequently heard in talks, at church and in conversation.

But I know its not going to suddenly happen. Its a process will take years, and I just need to get on and make myself as ready as I can, do what I can do now and then trust and allow God to do what He can do.

God said to me today

'Yes, you will do this. Yes you can do this, despite what you think'

'You know this is your calling'

'You just need to believe it in your heart, and take action to prepare for it'

So that's what I intend to do. Now is not the time for making it public on a website, but I promise when God tells me to and when I can articulate it better, I will say what it is.

So let us forget fear and embrace our calling even though it may not come to fulfillment right now. Let us with God's help identify what we are called to do, whatever it is, and walk that path in any way we can, then allow God to do what He can do to make it possible.

Forget fear, embrace obedience.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yes we can

On November 5 2008, history was made. A black/mixed race man is now the leader of a country known historically for racial problems.

As a Christian, what is our response to Barack Obama? What does his election mean for the church worldwide?

I can only give my own personal response.

The great thing about Barack Obama is that he inspired hope, belief and confidence in people from all over the world that we can be better. That life can be better. That we are capable of more and our culture is capable of being re-defined. That anything is possible. That even in difficult times, there is hope. I believe Barack Obama can bring radical change to America and indeed to the world.

The fact that so many people supproted him from all over the world, and so many Americans voted for him, gives me hope that the people of the world still have hope within them. That we haven’t given up. That people are still looking for something better to take them out of the wilderness.

That should be a great encouragement to the church.

What it says to me is that the church can change the world, if only we change to what Jesus intended us to be.

A movement, not a religion.
A way of life, not a set of rules.
United behind common values instead of divided over ones which aren’t as important.
Communicating that message without cheese, without legalism, without jargon, in a relevant, contempary, fresh and creative way.

Above all, rather than just talking about it, living it. Making it real and authentic.

What values do we believe in? Here’s what I think.

Unconditional love.
Grace - loving when people don’t deserve it.
Forgiveness, even when everyone else condemns.
Acceptance - welcoming of all people, of all backgrounds, genders, classes, colours, sexual preferences and regardless of whatever they have done in the past. God loves them all.
Justice for all.
Mercy to all.
Servanthood - serving and giving to all, even when they don’t deserve it or sometimes at cost to ourselves.
Humility - Remembering that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes and that despite believing in these values, we don’t always get it right and that we are in need of God.Sacrifice - that if we are willing to make sacrifces for the good of others, and put others first, then there is no limit to what we can achieve.

If we can communicate the values we stand for in a relevant way, using contempary lanaguage and methods of communicating, in a way that is true and authentic and has substance behind it in the way we live our lives, we can change the world.

If we can show people those values without letting religion, tradition, jargon, division, judgmentalism, hypocrysy, fundamentalism and legalism get in the way, then we will finally have communicated the good news in the way Jesus did and wanted us to.

People will finally see what we’re all about, and that all the negative stuff we put in the way and which has held us back is just a sideshow.

I know many of us are cynical over whether this can happen, whether the church or sections of the church can change and unite.

Maybe it will take a Christian leader as dynamic, positive and with as much faith in people as Barack Obama, and who can energise the church in the same way Obama as energised politics, to plant a church practising these values and being publicly recognised outside the Christian community for what he and his church does and stands for, to make it possible.

I wish that wasn't necessary. But maybe it is.

I believe its possible becuause I believe in a God of the impossible. I believe in the church. I believe that if enough people believe and unite behind a common cause, then things can change.

Barack Obama has proved that is possible. Starting with no money or party political backing, campaigning on the streets with no publicity, no security or anything a year ago, his movement has snowballed and he has become President, when 40 years ago a black/mixed race President seemed impossible.

We have no reason not to hope.

Jesus is the real, true hope of mankind, and it is only becuase Obama shares some of those values that he has been able to inspire such hope in me and in others.

We have no reason not to believe in the impossible.

Nothing is impossible with God.

If we believe, hope and act, then maybe things can change.

If we go on being cynicial and resigned to our fate, nothing will change. If we believe, have faith and hope in what we believe and what can be done, then change is possible.

We just need to believe.

As Obama himself has said “Yes we can”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jesus opposed to thinking?

I've been reading with interest this week a feature on the BBC news site regarding Richard Dawkins (maybe you've heard of him...?) and his support for banners on buses, saying "There's probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life".

Jason Clark, my pastor, wrote a good blog on this, but I have felt I need to add my response here. I deliberately waited a few days before responding, so that my response was an emotionally driven one without consideration or thought. That would just play into the hands of the sceptics.

I want to look at the quotes of Richard Dawkins in particular and the banners itself, to analyse what they are saying exactly, discussing the validity and truth of it, finally my overall response to what they are saying.

Here's the quote in full...

Professor Dawkins said: "Religion is accustomed to getting a free ride - automatic tax breaks, unearned respect and the right not to be offended, the right to brainwash children.Even on the buses, nobody thinks twice when they see a religious slogan plastered across the side. This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion."

I find these comments very interesting.

'Thinking is anathema to religion'.

In other words, religion is opposed to, dislikes and likes to seperate itself from thinking.


I have no problem if people want to be atheists. It their free choice to decide what they believe. In some ways they are people of great faith. To believe that this is all some random accident and there is no god of any kind whatsoever anywhere takes a lot of faith.

But Richard Dawkins is effectively saying here, in language not all will understand, that religion is opposite, different and totally opposed to thinking.

What a naive, ignorant and ill-thought out comment. I find it hard to respect someones opinion when it so poorly thought through and researched.

There is great irony in what he says. Richard Dawkins is starting to effectively be made a representative of all atheists on the world, the symbol of atheism. He clearly implies there is nothing religious about atheism at all.

True, atheism is not an institutionalised religion. But the people who believe in the docterines of atheism are effectively religious.

I looked up the definitions of the word 'religious'. One of them is the following...

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion"

The cause? Atheism. Principle? There is no god whatsoever and this is all there is. Activity? Promoting this idea and living according to its values.

So in that sense certainly, atheism is a religion. In all seriousness, did the clearly intelligent Richard Dawkins not know that? Can he not see the irony in a prominent atheist saying that thinking is anathema to religion?

It makes no sense to me.

No, thinking compliments religion.

For example, as a Christian I ask questions of the Bible. I study it, and I listen to what God is speaking to me through it. I think about what it means here, today, now in our culture. I talk to God honestly and frankly in prayer about what He's saying to me, and engage with Him not just emotionally and spiritually, but also intellectually.

The mind is as much a place to interact with God as the emotions, and this is what Richard Dawkins fails to see.

The other point on this is that I don't actually believe that following Jesus is about religion. That misses the point. Jesus calls us to a way of life, a set of values, to orientate our lives around the type of culture, values and way of life He showed us and taught about, and is taught about in the Bible.

Religious might a way to describe it. But following Jesus is bigger and better than any religion.

Richard Dawkins is being very ignorant with his comments in my opinion, clearly only seeking publicity and attempting to cause controversy. His comments display a lack of knowledge and total ignorance of what religion, including and especially true Christianity, is all about.

Then there are the comments about 'unearned respect'. Who respects the church today? Its is less respected, valued, loved than ever before. It is more marginalised by our consumer culture than ever. Only 1% of people in this country are regular church goers, and Christians are constantly under attack or victims of cynicism.

Yes, the church is not entirely without blame here, dividing and arguing publicly over issues which aren't the most important, rather than uniting behind the ones that matter and unite us. But 'unearned respect'? Its just another ignorant and poorly thought-through comment.

Just because he wrote a best-selling book on atheism and on why the idea of god isn't real, he appears to see himself as the prominent 'expert' on all things religious and atheist.

That he isn't, not judging by these comments.

The idea of brainwashing children is even worse. We as Christians all know this is not what happens, and it displays callousness and ignorance on an even grander scale. Its controversy for the sake of publicity, and it displays unbelievable ignorance.

The question appear to be, is it really worth our time and energy even engaging with a man like this?

Yes it is.

Because God loves this man and wants him to know Him. We're called to do the same. We need to engage with him, challenge him, face him with the reality of God and ask him to allow himself to be spoken to by God.

There is hope for everyone.

As for the banners, well, to be honest, I think the idea that we can relax because there's probably no God is a total lie.

For me, and I suspect a lot of non-religious people deep down, the idea of there being no God at all to cry out to when things are at their blackest, nowhere else to turn to when all is lost, is scarier than the idea that there might actually be a God.

That is an argument atheists might use against religious people. That its a crutch because we're too scared to live with the truth.

I disagree, its not because I'm scared to live with the idea that there is no God, there's plenty of evidence to support it if you want to believe that. But because I don't want to live a life without God, when there is plenty of evidence to suggest there is - from the Bible, from science, in creation, from my own experience and those of people I know.

There's much more to fear and worry about if there isn't a God, than if there is. Especially if you are a follower of His.

May we all know that following Jesus and thinking are complimentary, that thinking is part of being a follower of Jesus.
May we understand that following Jesus is a way of life, much more than a religion.
May we realise that the idea that there isn't a God is much scarier than the idea that there is.

Let us remember that we are not alone.

God is with us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

100% God....100% human

As followers of Jesus, Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God. He was divine. He was perfect and sinless in every way. He was the Messiah and saviour of the world. If you're thinking of media interpretations of Jesus, I'd say this is probably the one associated with Robert Powell in the superb 'Jesus of Nazareth' - the non-blinking, rather separate, humble yet clearly different from the rest.

Christians all believe in this dimension of Jesus. They - we - all know this to be true.

What people often forget is that Jesus was also a flesh and blood human being, just like us.

Same temptations.
Same emotions.
Same experiences.
Same day to day issues.

100% God. 100% human.

We often talk about the 100% God, but talk a lot like its only 50% human.

100% human means precisely that. We often forget that.

This is the side to Jesus I think makes Him and what He did even greater and more powerful - that He had all these experiences and emotions, but didn't sin and served God faithfully and obediently, even to His own death. This is the Jesus we see in the BBC drama 'The Passion', which came out earlier this year, played by Joseph Mawle. The human, real, 100% man side to Jesus, which was just as important as His divinity. The Jesus we know is different, but looks, feels, sounds and acts like the rest of us - the only exception being He was without sin.

This side of Him is equally important as His divinty.

Unless He's 100% human then His sacrifice means nothing. If He doesn't share in our entire human experience, of what it means to be human, if He's not totally human in His emotions, temptations and experiences, then He can't take our place.

If Jesus wasn't 100% human and didn't share every experience, emotion and temptation as us, then His sacrifice is worth nothing.

If He did truly come as the perfect sacrifice, then He has to have shared all those experiences, emotions and temptations - and overcome and dealt with them. Only then could He truly have taken our place.

That means He was tempted to fear.

To doubt.

He felt anger.

He was tempted to lust.

He was tempted by pride.

He was tempted to hate.

He had issues with His family (we know this through the Bible), He worked.This is another part of Jesus we forget.

He worked as a carpenter for at least 10-15 years before He started His ministry, and although He may have been known locally as a religious teacher - we know He started preaching at 12 years old, and one of the reasons He would have had permission to teach in the local synagogue was because He was known as a religious teacher - His profession at the time was a carpenter. Living in Nazareth He probably would have worked on buildings in the nearby city, building theaters, houses as well as doing local carpentry. He would have been more widely known as a local carpenter, not as a religious leader, at the start of His ministry.

Another belief many people subconsciously hold about Jesus - and I used to myself - is that He was somehow born with the scriptures inplanted in His head.

Again, this I don't believe.

Yes, He had a special anointing and ability, but I believe He had to learn the scriptures like everyone else, so again sharing in our human experience, this time of education and learning.

With His miracles, people have assumed it might be easier as He was divine, so it would be more natural and He wouldn't need to trust God so much.

Another misunderstanding in my view.

To share our human experience fully He would have surely had to trust in God's voice, His will and healing power. Yes of course, He had a special anointing to heal and the power of God was mighty in Him, but nevertheless, He had to take the same faithful steps we do in obedience.

Why did He pray every day? To stay in touch with God and continue to listen to Him and know His will and plan.

This leads us to the final thing about the humanity of Jesus regards the cross. Again, many people somehow think the burden of going to the cross was tempered by the fact that Jesus already knew the future.

Again, I believe this is a misconception.

If He had to share our human experience, then He would have to trust God like everyone else, and be obedient like everyone else according to what God has told them.

If it was otherwise, He wouldn't be totally sharing our human experience and it would make the sacrifice less valid - if He knew for certain it was hardly a risk or a sacrifice. He had to trust God that the cross was His plan for Jesus.

Which only makes the cross more powerful and Jesus love for us even bigger in my view.

Jesus was down to earth. He was real. He was authentic. He lived what He spoke. He was humble.

He had close friends. There was the twelve apostles of course, but within that there was an inner, core group of two or three who were closer to Jesus than any other. John, who wrote John's gospel, is called 'the disciple who Jesus loved', and was asked by Jesus to look after His mother after His death. He was probably closer to Jesus in His earthly ministry than any other.

That's not to say that Jesus loved them any more than any of us, but His relationship with them was closer, or different than His other relationships.

We can draw encouragement from the fact that not only was Jesus divine, the Son of God, but He was also a human being who faced human temptations, human emotions and human experiences, and had to trust God in the same way we do.

The fact that He did, yet still was obedient, still chose to love us, to me makes Him even greater.

How lucky we are to have a saviour like Jesus.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The new site....Evolving Church

As I mentioned recently I'm about to start a new blog, focusing more on issues surrounding church, what church is, what's good and bad about the church and how we can try to build the kingdom of God better.

I've decided to call this site 'Evolving Church' and there's a link below right.

This is because I believe that while there are some fundamental truths about what we believe about Jesus and the Bible that never change, that as society changes, as we learn more, as we discover more about the historical context and meaning of the Bible and as people discover new ways of communicating and learning, that the way we do church, the way we communicate the message of Jesus, and the way we live it out practically, evolves and changes.

As I try to discover how its evolved in recent years, how it could evolve in future and what's happening now, I will post my reflections and studies on that blog.

This site will continue to operate, focusing more on issues and topics about living the Christian life today.

I hope that all of you will read the new site as well as this site, and continue to be blessed by them both.

The new site is....

I hope you all like it, and I'd love your feedback.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

In control

Recently I was having a hard time and really struggling with an issue, and it was starting to frustrate me and make me angry. This problem wouldn't go away no matter what I did, and eventually I snapped and got angry with God, being quite aggressive, loud and frustrated. Eventually I got to the point where I just asked 'Where is God?'

Then I went and watched some TV. As I calmed down, had a laugh watching TV and reflecting, it helped put things in perspective. The problem didn't seem so big.

It reminded me of a bit in Job, after Job has been moaning and groaning and complaining at God, for 37 chapters no less, God eventually responds.

It has to be said, with a note of sarcasm and more than a little irony, He says "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding" (38:4).

Job already knows the answers of course, and all it does it make him look silly and absurd. God's always been there, He's in control of everything and has more power, wisdom and understanding than anyone.

God is making Job look foolish in order to humble Him and remind Him who's in charge and has been all along.

I think sometimes we need reminding of that. I certainly do. God doesn't just leave us when things are bad. He doesn't disappear just because we can't feel His presence, or because He seems distant.

God's always there.

He never leaves us, and he understands everything we're going through.


I think God had a wry smile on His face as He posed Job these questions. We see a bit of His sense of humour.

A gentle nudge and reminder to Job - and to all of us -

"I'm in control"

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fearing our identity

One of the biggest questions in life is who we really are. Identity.

Its one of the most fundamental issues we face.

Who we are.

Our gifts.
Our talents.
Our personality.
Our calling.
The things that make us 'us'.

There's too much to write on this subject to be limited to one blog, but there is one area of identity I've been sensing God speak to me in recently.


One of the things we do best is hide from ourselves. We can be scared of who we are, or what we can do. With God, after all, anything is possible.

We can run away from what God wants and who we are meant to be because we don't want to face up to ourselves, and often because the reality of achieving our goals and dreams and becoming who we were always meant to be doesn't seem quite as exciting, and in fact can seem daunting.

When the dream becomes a reality its always very different from the dream.

Dreams come true. But they don't come free.

To achieve the things God calls us to, to become the men and women God made us to be, to find our true identity, involves commitment, hard work and also trust.

We need to trust God with our identity. We need to trust in how God has made us.

We also need to trust ourselves. We can live in fear that if we find out who we really are it could all turn nasty.

But God is good. God is just. God is loving. God is perfect.

If we become or are looking to become the person God made us to be, rather than what the world tells us we should be, what we find will be good.

It might even surprise us.

May you believe in who Jesus made you to be. May you trust God with your identity. May you come to see that when you fully embrace who you are as God made you, then you become your true self, and become the person you were always made to be.

Friday, September 26, 2008



We love to use them don't we. We see them all around us. The culture we live in is filled with them.

We love to label ourselves too.

We especially love to give ourselves the labels which are popular, which are cool, which are the 'in' labels at the time.

As Christians we use labels all the time.

Which denomination?
Which theology?
Which doctrine?
Which type of church?
Which type of Christian?

It kinda frustrates me. Today we use phrases like 'Deep Church' and 'Emerging Church', or 'fundamentalist' or 'pentecostal'. There are so many labels around us. Its easy to put a label on ourselves, its often easier. If we label ourselves, then we know what we believe (or are supposed to) and it makes us feel a bit more comfortable. We think we have the final answer, that the 'label' we have chosen is the right one.

Until another one comes along we like more.

Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember Jesus using any of these labels.
The only name He gave Himself was the Son of Man. He talked about the Kingdom of God and taught us how to bring it to the world and about how to live as God wanted.

I don't remember the phrase 'Christian' ever being used by Jesus. Or any other label for that matter.

The problem with labels is that they are restrictive. They bind you to a certain perspective, a certain set of values and beliefs about God and the Bible, which means that you end up either being 'in' if you believe them or 'out' if you don't. It sounds like an exclusive club, with strict rules and regulations.

They are like a box, with a big sticker on the front saying what's inside. And everyone in that box will all be in agreement and you will know exactly what say about every topic around. You will know exactly what to expect from everyone and everything in that box.

To be honest, that sounds the dullest most boring and un-interesting thing I can think of.

Not only that, but I don't think its anything like what Jesus had in mind.The other problem with the box idea is that it can also lead to people acting in a way that isn't Christ-like, who don't fit the standards or values ascribed to that label, or don't fit in the box. It can drive people away from church, and people start being condemned or called heretics just because they disagree on one dimension of faith.

There's no freedom in labels. None. There might be some security, but when did God ever want us to be complacent and stay in security?

God wants us to explore.
God wants us to ask questions.
God wants us to grow.
God wants us to be challenged.
God wants us to be uncomfortable sometimes.

God asks us to live outside the box

Jesus wasn't interested in labels. He lived outside the box. He was interested in setting people free to explore and discover more about God, to question what they believe and why they believe it, to go on adventures in faith - not just physically, but theologically. He was interested in us living a life according to Kingdom values, however that looks (which will be different wherever you are, whatever culture, time and location you're living in).

If you disagree, fine. No problem. There's room for that.

As long as we love each other, and we're each pursuing a relationship with Jesus and trying to grow in a deeper knowledge and understanding of Him, as long as we both believe in the crucified and resurrected Christ, then there's no problem disagreeing.

Maybe what's important isn't the label we give ourselves.

In fact I think God doesn't want us to use labels for ourselves. Maybe even the term 'Christian' is restrictive.

The most important thing ultimately is that we are making God the centre of our lives. That we are orientating our lives around the values of Jesus and trying to live out our faith wherever and whenever we are, and grow in relationship with Him and trying to discover more about Him and how to bring His Kingdom to wherever we are.

That's more important than any title or label we give ourselves.

If we get into a discussion, we can say instead that we're trying to follow the way of Jesus and live according to His values. That we see church as part of that, but that its so much more than that. Then lets talk about those values and how they interpret in our daily lives.

That sounds so much more appealing than any religion. Or any label. Or any box.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coming soon....a new site

I've been trying for a while to find a way of developing my ideas and thoughts and bringing them together on one site. Initially I have started to develop my ideas on church.

However I have begun to understand that I need to put these all together on one site, rather than two separate ones, which only causes confusion.

So at the moment I'm putting together a whole new site, and it will include photos, videos as well as my blog.

I will be writing here and this site will continue to operate with new posts, but each blog will be being fed directly onto my new site from here, as a separate part of home page. Also by keeping this site going it allows me to keep all my articles from the last few years still accessible.

The new site will have its own blog section which will focus on developing my ideas on church. So essentially it will be two blogs in one.

They will both appear as separate sections of the home page of the new site, so in one part you'll be able to keep up with the stuff that I'm posting here, but it will be distinct from what I'm writing for that site.

The site has areas which will allow me to put in videos that have challenged and spoken to me, and pictures I've taken which have a spiritual significance, and to network with others better.

The name is going to be different from this site, though to help the actual website address will be quite similar.

I'm not going to be letting people know the site address as yet, as its not ready. But as soon as it is, I'll let you all know.

I realise I just started my other site, but it has become clear that I need to do something more and try and integrate my writing while keeping it distinctive. This appears to be the answer.

Will keep you all posted.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where did all the men go?

"Where did all the men go?"

Now this may make lots of women want to turn off, it may make a few men turn off. But recently I've been beginning to sense that this is a real question Christians are having to face up to.

The number of single men and women I see in the church seems to be bigger than ever.

Now there's nothing wrong with being single. No there isn't. I myself am single.

However, sometimes I wonder why this is happening. I also wonder if, in the argument regarding women in leadership, and the church being too sexist, that the real argument has been lost.

The argument for me is not about women in leadership.

Women can be equally called to leadership, teaching/preaching, worship leading etc as men. If you look at the correct interpretation of scripture in the standard teachings on the issue and look at their correct meaning and context, and look at how Jesus treated women, then I believe it makes that pretty clear.

That's not the issue.

Its about men being men.

I've talked to single female friends of mine about this. From what they said, it became clear to me that one of the issues facing the church today is about allowing men to be men. Allow them to be masculine. Allow them to be initiators, to take the lead, to set the example, to make bold courageous steps of faith. Allow them to go on adventures and be risk-takers for the kingdom.

This isn't to say women can't be initiators or leaders - indeed I know several very anointed Christian leaders and initiators who are women, and I believe women should be allowed to lead and to speak in church if they are called and gifted in that area. I have no problems with women in leadership.

But this is the problem. Some people think 'allowing men to be men' somehow automatically means women can't use the same gifts or have the same callings.


Of course they can. But part of being a man is having an adventure. Being bold. Being fearless. Taking the initiative.

A large proportion of women I know prefer the man to ask them out. Its the man who asks the woman to marry him.

Women like to be made to feel like women as well. That can only happen if a man is a man.

Now what I'm not saying is that men should always be macho and never show emotion. That's equally ridiculous, and some Christian leaders seem to preach this view.

Jesus didn't. Jesus wept. Jesus, the ultimate example for any man, wept in public. He wasn't afraid of expressing his emotions publicly.

My pastor is very much the same, and that makes him more of a man that someone who refuses to ever cry or won't cry because its somehow less 'macho'.

Real men do cry.

The point I'm trying to make, is that we shouldn't afraid to let men be men - if we are men, we should be in touch with our masculinity, in a sensitive and loving way, not in a patronising sexist way.

We shouldn't be afraid to show emotion publicly.

We shouldn't be afraid of being assertive, of being adventurous, being bold, taking the initiative.

Women also need to allow men to be men, and I believe the more women allow men to be men and the more men act like men, in the appropriate way, rather than in a macho sexist way, the better it will be for the church and for Christian marriages.

Let me get this straight, sexism or prejudice based on gender is totally wrong, and not Biblical. Marginalising women in the church and saying they can't preach, or teach, or lead, or speak in church, is NOT what I believe the Bible means when it talks about women.

I believe that whatever anyone's gifts are, they should be allowed the opportunity to use and develop them, whatever their gender. We're all equal before God.

But men need to start being men. Too much today the culture of the world and even the church tries to suppress this, and we don't even realise it. It seems we talk so much of men being in touch with their feminine side - which is important - that we start to forget the masculine side.

So men, may you not be afraid to be men. To go on adventure. To take risks. To be initiators. To be bold and fearless. And yes, do not be afraid to cry, and be in touch with your emotions.

And women, may you allow men to be men, because I believe when men start acting as men in the truest sense - not in a macho sexist way, but in a masculine way following Jesus' example - that both women and men will be blessed in a new, fresh way, reflective of the way God created us to be.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who said forgiveness was easy?

Today I was talking about the issue of forgiveness, and talking to friends who don't believe as I do, I suddenly realised that while its easy to say 'I forgive', that its much more complicated and difficult than that.

Its easy I think to say that if someone viciously attacked, hurt, abused or raped one of the people we love the most in the world - partners, children, family, close friends - that we would forgive them and not hold a grudge.

Its a totally different thing altogether to actually have to face that choice, that situation.

I think when something like that happens its perfectly understandable to be angry and upset, and to feel pain. In some ways its a God-led impulse, because God gets angry when innocent people are hurt by others in such a way. How could He not?

The difference with Him? He doesn't let the anger govern His actions. He chooses love, grace and mercy.

God doesn't like sin. Of any kind. He gets just as upset with us if we lie as He does with rapists and serial killers.

Yet, as Jesus shows us, He chooses forgiveness, because His love is more powerful than rage and hatred.

Imagine if someone was tortured to the very brink of their life, humiliated, embarrassed, mocked, treated lower than the lowest criminal and then exectuted in the very worst and painful methods of execution ever devised.

Imagine that person had committed no crime. Nothing. Zilch.

Imagine if that was the person you love the most.

Imagine that person was you.

How would you feel? Angry? Upset? Full of bitterness and rage? Wanting your captors to be punished for what they had done to you or the one you love?

Would you say 'I forgive you', or would you ask God to forgive them?

Personally, I don't think many people, when actually faced with those circumstances or experiences, would have 'Forgive them' as their first instinct.

I don't think I would.

There is one person, a real person who lived 2000 years ago, however, who did. Someone different. Someone innocent of any crime and any sin. The person who deserved this the least of all people in history.

The issue for me is not just forgiveness, but dealing with the pain we feel. When things like that happen to someone we love dearly, we are going to feel pain. Most likely we will feel some kind of anger.

So what do we do with that?

Do we let it control us? Do we give in to it? Do we let the pain, bitterness and resentment rule our lives? Do we hate the people who did this?

Or do we instead recognise the anger, bitterness and resentment we feel, and instead of letting it control us, choosing something different.

Accepting that although we feel this way, that we want to choose a different way of living. We want to see God's perspective.

The pain we feel may never truly go away, but the choice we must make is to say that instead of blaming that person and casting all our pain into anger at them, we choose to surrender that anger to God. To use the emotion we feel to drive us upward, not downward into rage.

To work with God, over time, to come to a place where we can truly say with our heart that we forgive the people who hurt us.

It is a process. Sometimes it doesn't take long, sometimes it takes years.

Its not something we can often do very quickly, because we're not perfect. But our goal, our aspiration, our target, is to surrender the pain we feel and say that we will see the person as God does.

Someone who has made mistakes yet. Someone who perhaps deserves prison and justice, because of what they've done. Someone who deserves punishment.

But instead of dwelling on that we simply say, "I forgive you".

There is a story told by a pastor, a totally true story, of a woman who was having visions of Jesus. The local priest got her in to talk to her, and she was adamant about her visions. So he asked her, the next time she saw a vision of Jesus, to ask Him what he had confessed the last time he went to confession.

She agreed.

So a few weeks later he saw her again and he asked her what had happened.

She said "I asked Jesus the sins you confessed the last time you went to confession, and His exact words were

"I don't remember"




That's the challenge for us, and it's not easy at all. True forgiveness is never easy. To begin with, its a choice, to ignore all our emotions are telling us and to choose something better. It can take a shorter or longer time depending on the situation, but it is a process.

As time goes on, and we keep choosing forgiveness, the posture of our heart will change and we may one day be able to truly say

"I don't remember"

And the more we choose forgiveness, I would like to think the more natural it will become.

Forgiveness can become more of a state of mind.

So the process starts to not take as long as before, as we start to see people more as God sees them instead of how people expect us to, or by the standards of the culture we live in.

But it all begins with a choice. To hold resentment, anger and bitterness in our hearts and play the blame game, and to hate, or instead to acknowledge and recognise these emotions, and choose to surrender them to God.

Its not easy. But its possible.

Monday, September 08, 2008


In the last month God has been doing some really good things in my life. Areas I've been weak I've been strengthened, insecurities that I had for a long time been dealt with and a lot more clarity about what God wants for me. God has started to show me my true identity in Him, and who I really am. Its been a time of real growth and maturity, and I feel more positive and confident than ever.

But as I've said before, its easy to get complacent when things are good. When you're being blessed and things are going well its easy to subconsciously think you're okay with God and you're doing well.

You can forget just how much you need God.

I forgot how much I still need God, despite how well everything is going.

I forgot that without the cross, then nothing else matters.

Without the cross, it doesn't matter how 'good' and 'happy' my life is otherwise, its all going to be pointless.

We all need the love, grace, forgiveness and mercy of Jesus. And we need it just as much when life is good as when life is difficult.

There's nothing wrong with having good times and being happy, and living the fulfilling life God wants, and knowing your identity in Christ and feeling positive about that - but we still need to be orientating our lives around the values of Jesus and we must always remember the cross.

It helps us keep things in perspective. It reminds us how thankful we should be for the blessings we have. It reminds us how much we need Jesus every single day in every single circumstance.

Its like food. We still need to eat regularly, even though sometimes we don't feel hungry, and in some cases rarely feel hungry.

We may not feel like we need Jesus when times are good, when life is easy.

But the truth is we need Him just as much as we do when things aren't so good.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Who we are

In my line of work I find out a lot about people's pasts, what people and members of their families have done to break the law.

Sometimes this can mean someones application is refused.

Other times it makes no difference.

Certainly the more honest one is about their past, the more likely it is that they display the right level of character to do the job they've applied for.

It occurred to me today that this can be true with our insecurities.

You see, everyone has insecurities.

The question isn't whether you have them or not, but whether you live according to them or not.

Insecurities are lies we tell ourselves which have circumstantial evidence to support them. They aren't the truth. They feel true very often, but they aren't in actual fact true.

The simple truth is that we need to acknowledge we have them to begin with.

I have my own insecurities, but as a Christian I've chosen not to accept or live according to them.

I've chosen another way.

I believe that I, and all of us in fact, are loved, forgiven, accepted unconditionally by God. I believe all of us were created by Him and that our true identity lies within Him.

All we need to do is believe and trust in that, and in what He says about us, and we can start to become the people He made us to be.

One of my favourite films is 'The Matrix', and one of the reasons is that it is a film about identity. All the way through the main character Neo is unsure and lacks confidence in his identity, until the very end.

Agent Smith and his cronies all the way through are trying to convince him that he's not who Morpheus is telling him he is, because they know that once he does realise his true identity, they won't be able to stop him and they will be in big trouble.

The enemy tries to do this to all of us.

He uses our circumstances, mistakes and personality to try and convince us of what we are not, and make us forget who we really are.

He tries to get us to believe the lies others tell us about ourselves, and that we try to tell ourselves.

He tries to distract us from the truth of ourselves.

He gets us to put our security in other things - status, money, a job, looks, the opinions of a group of people or a specific person.

Even in our own church community, which after all is just another bunch of people with insecurities, in need of the same security we are.

Our security and true identity can only come from one person - Jesus. Our true identity lies in God, in how we were originally designed to be by Him and what He says about us.

In the Matrix, when Neo finally realises who he is and what he is capable of, he changes.

He becomes confident, bold, fearless and is capable of more than he realised.

The same can be true of us.

There is potential in us that only God can currently see, we are capable of so much more if only we believe the truth about ourselves in Christ.

We must dare to believe that our insecurities about ourselves are lies, and that what God has said about us is true, and the encouragement we receive in the things we are good at is real.

Once we accept that we have these fears and insecurities, and choose to say no to them in favour of the truth about who we are in Christ, we can start to see ourselves as He sees us.

We can see what our gifts, callings and talents really are, we can see what we are capable of. We become more confident in those things and start getting encouragement and support from others as they see those things develop and become part of us. We change, and this can overflow into the lives of others.

So may we you forget about the lies the world tells you, about what you have to do to be a success, what you have to look like, about not being good enough, that you can't achieve anything or that you're not worth anything. Stop believing God's love is conditional.

All of us are made in the image of God.

All of us are loved and accepted God, as we are.

All of us are gifted and called by God.

All of us have the forgiveness of Christ freely available to us.

All of us can trust that God can provide for any need, whether emotional or physical.

God says we are all beautiful as we are.

We are all worth dying for.

We are all precious and valuable.

We are all accepted.

We all have a destiny in Christ and salvation through Him. Believe it. Live in that truth.

Because its true.

Its real.

It always has been and always will be.

Indisputable fact.

We just need to embrace it, believe it and live according to it. Why wait?

Monday, September 01, 2008


I have learnt a lot recently about the difference between real adult relationships, and romantic cheese you find in films.

Hollywood loves to glamorise relationships and sex, they make into something corny. They give the impression that all relationships can be like this and always should be like this. Not only that, but people can easily buy into this idea - its around us all the time.

But adult relationships between one man and one woman, whether girlfriend/boyfriend or husband/wife, are nothing like that.

Of course there is romance. Of course there's a bit of cheese occasionally. These things are important.

But they aren't the point.

The point is that these, in particular within marriage, are one part of something bigger. A partnership. A team. Companions. Lovers. Friends. Partners. Doing life together. Every little thing. Who see each other at their worst and best. Who have disagreements, but resolve them.

You know you've found someone special not because of how cheesy or romantic they are, but when you find someone you can do life with. Be at your worst and your best with. Do everyday stuff with.

That's someone special. Because the romance stuff you can do with anyone, and its not possible to do 24-7.

But life is something you do every day. When you're married you can't hide much from someone about who you are.

When I find that special one, I will know because I know that I can relax and be myself with them.

I can be a man with them.

I can be a grown up with them.

I can have fun with them.

I can have a conversation with them.

Most of all though, becuase I know I can trust them with myself - as well as have all the cheesy romantic stuff with them.

Cheese is a good thing, but only in moderation

Its just part of the whole meal of what relationships are all about.

Friday, August 29, 2008

100% human

I've just been watching 'The Passion' again, about the story of Jesus' last week before the cross. Watching it, it suddenly struck me that we sometimes misunderstand and underestimate the part of Jesus that was 100% human.

Can you actually imagine going through 33 years without committing one sin?

Not get angry and bitter?

Not one bit of gossiping?

Not one wrong desire?

Not one white lie?

Not one fleeting wrong thought?

I've begun to see that we often, subconsciously (or consciously sometimes) think that 'Oh he was 100% God, so it was probably easier for Him'. 'He was divine, so it wasn't as hard for Him'

But surely the whole point of Jesus living a sinless life is that He shared all the same temptations, emotions, suffering, difficult circumstances and everyday issues that we have to face - granted, in a different context, but nevertheless the same basic issues.

He faced many temptations, He struggled to be obedient to God.

Take Gethsemane. Jesus essentially says if it wasn't up to God, He didn't want to go through with it. "If it is possible, let this cup be taken from me."

What Jesus the man wanted wasn't what God wanted.

But what does He do next? He says 'Not my will but yours be done'

So you see Jesus struggled the same as we do. Yet He didn't give in once. He was obedient always. Even in death.

Whatever you believe, that's some example. To go through an entire life not breaking trust, not being rude, not being selfish, not being bitter and angry, not gossiping, not being disobedient, putting others and God first, loving and forgiving everyone. Its not easy to do.

But He did it. Jesus was a man but committed no sin. He was not guilty of anything wrong.

How did Jesus as a man do it?

He put God first.

In everything.

He orientated everything around God. He gave up a career in the family business (well, His earthly family business anyway), gave up any chance of a wife and family (another temptation there surely was for Him), gave up His status in Heaven, where He could have stayed for eternity, and ultimately allowed Himself to be killed because it was what God wanted.

Because we were too important to Him and to God.

Of course, none of us are perfect. All of us need to grow, all of us have areas of weakness, all of us need forgiveness.

Its only possible though because one man who faced all the same temptations, problems, issues, and situations we face chose not to give in to temptation or to His own desires, but put God (and us) before them. He chose to love us and be obedient to God.

The more we see just how much Jesus was a man as well as divine, the more we see how much He loves us.

That's because the more human He is, the more we understand how difficult it was for Him.

The more human He is, the greater the power of the cross.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Good news

I saw a book title today "So when are we going to hear some good news?"

My first instinct was one of frustration.

We don't live in a perfect world. Situations in Zimbabwe, Russia, Georgia, Iraq and Iran, and the problems with knife crime in this country, don't exactly point to a world of peace and love.

This world is full of pain and suffering. We don't always get good news. We all go through difficult times and have insecurities. Bad things happen to good people.

We need to accept these things are a reality for us.

However, there is one thing.

There is some good news. Really good news.

We're not alone in this. There is someone who isn't about pain, suffering, violence, oppression and selfishness. There's someone out there who is perfect. Who loves us unconditionally.

Not only that, but someone who actually knows what its like to experience all the stuff we experience, and even worse.

There is another way. There is a real hope out there.

A genuine hope.

Something real.

Something with depth.

Something true.

It won't make our lives perfect. But it will help us to deal with the real world much better. It gives us an ideal to work towards, that's achievable, that's possible.

Because the source of this hope is the perfect, loving, gracious God of the impossible.

It may be hard to believe, but despite all the problems of the world, there is hope.

We just need to believe it.

Monday, August 25, 2008


You ever wondered why bad things seem to 'always' happen to you?

Ever got angry about something that's happened and thought to yourself "Why does this always happen to me, and never to anyone else"?

Eight years ago my mum died. Very suddenly, and although I thought I'd prepared myself for it, when it happened it all became surreal.

Then as time goes by I start when bad things happen to me, I begin to start snapping back. I begin to think to myself, and start to pray to God - or shout out to Him, more likely - that this isn't fair.

I'd had my share of pain.

I'd had my share of suffering and frustration.

I don't deserve any more pain

I deserve good things all the time.

But God has taught me over the years that its simply not the case. Life is difficult. Life can be painful. Life can be full of little hassles and annoyances. Life isn't perfect.

Yesterday I accidentally let a virus loose on my computer, which also caused hassle to others. I didn't create that virus, someone else did, and its caused hassle for me and others.

But for the first time in a long time, I didn't catch myself saying under my breath 'Why did it happen to me?'

I now see that while it might be annoying, its not the worst thing that could happen. Its retrievable. Its manageable. It costs some time and hassle, but its not beyond saving. Its part of life.

I can now see that like this virus the frustration I feel, the pain I still feel from losing my mother, is also not beyond saving and healing. Because I know someone who suffered more than anyone else, so that I don't have to live in fear and anger anymore. I know someone who has suffered more than I will ever suffer.

It gives me perspective. It gives me confidence.It gives me hope.

So let us see that bad things happen to all of us. Let us know that there is a saviour out there who has suffered even more than we have, and knows exactly the pain we are feeling.

Let us know that none of us are beyond saving, beyond healing, beyond restoration.

Finally, let us believe that all of us have a new, real, hope within us.

Always with us. Forever.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A second blog....

As many of you who know me or have read this site know, I'm beginning to feel a real conviction and calling to write more about church, and what church is, how we do church, how Jesus wants church to be and other church-related issues, with a view to writing a book.

As such I have felt recently that to help focus my mind and to allow me to go deeper that I need to start a second blog, focussing more specifically on those type of subjects. It will allow me to go a lot deeper and to focus on these issues, while continuing to write for this blog.

It will also allow me to put the focus of this blog more on issues outside of church and more focussed on asking the big questions about our faith, tackling issues facing Christians today and reflecting on what God is doing in my own life.

So this blog will be continuing, and I will be posting on it regularly still, so keep reading this blog.

However I will now be writing another blog too, and I'd love you to read it once it goes live in the next few days and I start posting more regularly. There will be a link to it on this site and also little snippets and updates on any posts that go on there, but in case you want to bookmark it now the site's address is....

There's nothing there quite yet and I'm still working on it, but there will be lots more soon.

This is exciting for me as I try to write more focussed and subject-specific posts for both this and my new blog, and the process has helped focus my mind more on what I want to write for both sites.

I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Admit our brokeness, grow the church

I've said that church is more than an institution, that its a living, breathing, active community of Christians. That being a Christian is being an activist, is living out a radical new way of life each day wherever we are. A re-ordering of our lives around Jesus' values.

But once you understand that church is more than just an institution, more than a building, and that Christianity is about a way of life, then going to church is more than just Sundays. Going to church is a journey.

Its a way of life.

Going to church can be anything we do as part of living out our faith, in particular in our local community. It doesn't have to be an official church-sponsored event.

It doesn't have to just involve people from our church community. If 'the church' is bigger than one local community, and applies to the entire body of Christ over the world, anything you do with another Christian is going to church. Anything you do as a Christian with one other Christian is essentially 'going to church', if you think of church as a community of Christians, and the world church being all Christians.

So that means that everything you with other Christians is ultimately 'going to church'.

Everything we do with fellow beleivers is also part of our relationship with God, everything we do viewed by people outside the Christian faith as what 'church' is like. When people know we're Christians they will look at us and examine us. How they view us will be how they view Jesus and ultimately how they view the church.

Because we are all part of this body. This community.

The church is local.

The church is global.

The church is infinite and boundless.

We are the body of Christ.

So when we talk about us 'going to church' we can start to look at it in a new light. When we go to work, we are the living embodiment of the gospel to the non-Christians where we are. God has trusted us with this responsibility.

Church doesn't end on Sunday, it goes on every single day of our lives.

We are the church.

Wherever we are, people will be seeing us and seeing the church. Lets never forget that. The only way we are going to grow this community is by being Jesus to people.

Remembering that whenever people see us they are seeing Jesus and how they see us is how they will see the church.

The values we stand for.

The choices we make.

The things we don't do that everyone else does.

The things we do that nobody else does.

The way we treat people.

The things we say, or don't say.

Church doesn't begin and end on Sunday.

'Going to church' never really ends. We're always going to church. We are always on the journey of faith. We are always representing the community of Christians from all over the world.

But that doesn't have to be a burden for us.

Because the way of life we're living allows room for us to fail. Jesus knows we are going to screw up. We know that ultimately at some point we will screw up.

But the response to that is merely to say - that's why I need Jesus in my life.

He loves me despite all that.

He accepts me despite that.

I'm free of that.

My past, my mistakes don't have to haunt me and I don't need to go on a guilt trip. I merely need to ask Jesus to help turn away from it better than I have been. If I screw up along the way, Jesus is by my side to help me up.

If I'm in pain, then He can carry me.

If I'm happy then I'm thankful and I remember that without Him it wouldn't be possible.

I am free from the shame, guilt, stress and pain.

I don't have to let that rule my life.

I've given myself to a better way.

I say no to things because I've said yes to something better, something true, something good, something pure. Something which doesn't make me perfect, but makes me better. Not a religion but a way of life.

Church is merely the community of people who live this way of life, and we need to show the world. Show them that the church isn't a religious ritual, a guilt trip, an institution, a group of people who judge and condemn and sit on a perfect moral set of values and proclaim themselves perfect.

But that the church is full of broken, hurting people who need a saviour and have given themselves to a new, better way of living, and orientate themselves around something else.

Then people can relate.

Then the church can grow, because all of us, deep down, have these insecurities, have this brokenness, have need of the love of Christ. Its not even a burden.

Because we need Jesus as much as anyone else does and He's taken that burden for us. The more people understand that Christians aren't perfect, that they're just as screwed up as others, the more their faith becomes the way they re-orientate their lives, a better way of living, a way of dealing with the problems of everyday life.

Instead of a set of rules and regulations it becomes a way of living life.

Suddenly the 'Christians are all hypocrytes' idea takes on a whole new meaning, becuase people see that none of us can practice what we preach all the time. They start to see the real reasons we beleive.

Then it becomes real.

Then it starts to be a message of hope.

Of real salvation.

Not a religion, but a way to a better life and deal with the problems of life.

So the more broken we are, the more honest we are about the face we're not perfect, the more we admit our need for Jesus, the more attractive Jesus becomes and ultimately the more kingdom will grow.

So let us all be honest about our need for Jesus.

Let us say to people who call us hypocrytes that we are, that we are all broken and messed up, and we beleive Jesus to be the only hope to make us better and give us a better way of living.

Let us say that its becuase we're hypocrytes that we need Jesus to change us into something and someone better.

The brokeness of Jesus made forgiveness possible.

Our honesty and brokeness makes people see the need for Jesus and the truth about Him, and ultimately can grow the church.