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.