Thursday, 26 May 2011

Context Can Be Everything

This is not my idea, I heard it somewhere else. I've slightly changed it, but hopefully you'll get where I'm going with it.


If you see a newspaper on a rubbish dump, you see it as rubbish; it belongs there and there is no need to do anything about it but leave it there.

If you see that same newspaper in the middle of a field where children run around and play, it is still rubbish but is now out of place and you feel the need to get rid of it.

Put that newspaper on a table in your home...
Now it is the mud on the newspaper that is the filth.


Jesus went to all kinds of different people, all with labels; leper, prostitute, tax collector, Pharisee.
People were either seen as 'clean' or 'unclean', accepted by God or unaccepted.
Jesus changed everything.

You can look at people and figure they deserve to be where they are.

You can look at people and demand they go somewhere else because they don't belong.

Or we can radically change the way we see each other. We can see that God sees things differently.

See context can be everything.

Change the context and suddenly everything changes with it.

Maybe we need to change the context in our relationships, churches and communities?

Maybe we need to look again?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Resurrection



Resurrection has changed everything.

The resurrection of Jesus transformed the course of the whole cosmos, ushering in a new age, a new time, a new moment in history.

The resurrection of Jesus radically reshapes and renews everything broken, beaten and destroyed.

The resurrection of Jesus was not about someone dying and going to heaven, like a spirit floating off into the sky.

No, the resurrection of Jesus was about a mind blowing, outrageous, course-changing event whereby nothing will ever be the same again.

A broken, bloodied, crucified and dead Jesus lies in the darkness of the tomb.

Then resurrection!

This broken, bloodied, crucified, dead Jesus steps out of the tomb 3 days later, his body somehow transformed, changed and different.  Nothing would ever be the same again, not humanity, not creation, not the cosmos. Nothing would be the same again because Jesus' resurrection changes the future and the shape of humanity, creation, the whole cosmos.

He eats, drinks and walks with his disciples revealing to them a beautiful future that they are invited to share in.  We too are invited to share in.  We too are invited to have resurrection bodies.

When all we knew before was an endless cycle of birth and death, of newness and decay, the resurrection ushers in new possibilities where everything is different.  A future is given where decay and death, pain and suffering are vanquished and eradicated forever.  A future is seen in the Risen Jesus where the endless cycle of birth and death, newness and decay is buried in the grave, and a new way is presented before us, and we are invited to share in it.

Resurrection means that one day you too can be raised.  That death will no longer have the final word.  Where decay and pain can no longer leave you hopeless.

Resurrection means that today has significance.  That what you do with today matters.  Because today has been impacted by the resurrection.

That body you are in right now as you read this is significant for today.  Who you are in your heart, mind, spirit and body is significant for today.  What you do with yourself today matters.  Will you live today seeking to share resurrection life?  Because resurrection says that who you are today, your body, mind, heart and spirit, will somehow be transformed, renewed and redeemed in God's new world.

So today we can work towards transforming, renewing and redeeming the world in which we live, not because we have the ability to do such things, but because by God's Spirit and the resurrection of Jesus something new is upon us.

The resurrection matters for you today because it speaks into your every tomorrow.

So how will we respond today?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Free Person

Freedom can often be seen as something individualistic.  So my freedom is about me doing whatever I want to do.

As long as I am not hurting anyone else then what does it matter if I choose this way of living my life?

Even if others are offended or hurt by what I do, so what?  My life is my own to do with as I please.

Now I'm sure I am painting a caricature here of how people understand freedom, but if we are all honest, there are many times we have felt like this in the depths of our heart.  A desire to say 'screw the world, I'm living for me now.'

An understanding of our own freedom can often be seen in the way interact with each other.  So I will make a decision about my friendships and relationships based on what I want to do and what I want out of it.  We believe it is freedom to be in control of my own future and my own destiny.

Morpheus: Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Neo: No.
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.


But what if true freedom was all about surrendering your life and control to another?

So freedom is not an object or a substance or something individualistic.  Rather it is a relationship between persons.

Freedom is about a giving of yourself to another, about being free for the other, about what happens to you through the other.

Freedom is about self-giving, self-sacrificing love.  Laying down your life for the other.  Laying down all that you want in order that others may receive what they need.  We see this most powerfully at the Cross of Jesus.

Rather than clinging onto your life in some self-preservation way, thus causing you to become a slave to fear of death, you surrender your life to God and discover freedom in relationship with Him.

We are invited into this eternal dance with God.

You are free when you give yourself in love to another in relationship.  Because we fully become who we are by being in relationship with another.  We were created to be in relationship.  We discover our true selves when we discover lives beyond ourselves.

Laying down all that you want in order that others may receive what they need.

Freedom then is not about doing whatever you want to do, it is not about selfish ambition and success, but about living a life that sees the beauty of the other, the pain and suffering of the other, and desiring to live in relationship with the other, with a desire to share and relieve, give and hope, persevere and love.

Laying down all that you want in order that others may receive what they need.

Freedom is about giving of yourself fully to God and to others, that you might share in relationship with God and help others flourish in their lives today.

Monday, 23 May 2011

What Would a Free Man Do?

I have been mulling over the concept of freedom.  What is freedom?  How do we live in freedom with free lives?

What would a free man do?

Is freedom limited because of our morality.  In other words, can our choices be limited to such a degree that we are not free to really choose?



Is freedom about doing whatever I want to do with no rules?

Have you ever heard someone say on a stag night, 'This is your last night of freedom?'  So committing yourself into a marriage is seen as a removal of freedom.  You're no longer able to do whatever you want to do because you have someone else to think about, someone else you are committed to.

My own story is one of a life where I did whatever I wanted to do. I would sleep around, be drunk most days and use my money any way I felt I wanted to.
I did whatever I wanted and believed I was truly free.

Yet the truth is that I wasn't free and didn't feel free.

My desire's controlled me.  So everyday was a battle and a desperation to satisfy my desires.  The Beast raged and I needed to do something in order for it to be satisfied.

The reality is that the more I lived doing whatever I wanted to do, the more of a slave to my desires I became, whereby they controlled me.

So freedom isn't really about doing whatever we want to do.  What we want ends up wanting and controlling us.

So maybe freedom is really about something else.

Maybe freedom is best understood in another way.

Maybe we need to think again about the way we think, handle and live in freedom.  How would someone live a free life?

I'll pick this up tomorrow.



Friday, 20 May 2011

Etched onto His Skin

Continuing on the theme of relationships, I have just read my bro's blog reflecting on how our mum and dad have been married for 40 years this month.

He writes:

'They've loved each other, hated each other, been indifferent to each other, tolerated each other...They've been through bankruptcy, wealth, laughter, sadness, anger, joy, confusion. They've tried to have children and failed, but managed to adopt four children. They have had their house taken away...I will always be amazed as to how mum and dad have survived as a couple...It's gritty, real and rather un-inspiring for the likes of us romantics. 

It's grounded and rock-like though. It's stable and unflinching. It's not the relationship I'd ever want but by god, I admire the hell they've gone through. 

Their history is etched on their skin and I love them for it.'


Go here to read the whole post.  


It unpacks a little bit more of our story as a family.


I love this idea of history being 'etched on their skin'.  What a beautiful phrase.


Here is my dad



My dad is an oysterfisherman.  He is the seventh generation.  His trade, his life is etched on his skin. 

Here are my girls:


The beauty, pain, joy and mystery of life lay before them.  I wonder how life will etch onto their skin?

The Crucified Hands of God:




Etched onto the skin of God is the history of humanity.  The pain of sin and death.  The hope of healing and new life.  Our history forever invited into the today of God.  Our life beckoned into the hands of the Crucified God.  


Our lives, our joys, our pain, our success, our failure, our hopes, our disappointments, our love, all welcomed by God to be etched onto His skin.


Etched onto the skin of the Crucified God.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Love and Relationships

How much do you really love the people around you?

Are you only looking to your own interests?

Or do you deeply care about the people you are in relationship with?

Do you speak, interact and engage with people because you want something out of the relationship?

Or are you deeply concerned that they might flourish as a human?

Is your priority a desire to love that person?

Or do you have hidden motives and a secret agenda?

Do you only get in touch with someone because you want them to do something for you?

Or do you meet with someone because you want to share life with them?

Are there conditions on your relationships?

Or is your relationship unconditional love?

Do you think God's love is conditional with how you live your life?

Or do you realise that God simply loves you?

Do you think Jesus is only interested in you because he wants to rescue you?

Or do you realise that he is interested in you because it is you?


Have you ever questioned your attitude to love and relationships?

Rob Bell Debate

Really good video on Premier.tv with Rob Bell debating with Adrian Warnock about his new book 'Love Wins'.

I think Rob Bell comes across really well in this interview and speaks with great clarity, real generosity and good humour.  Really like the guy.

Below is a short excerpt from the interview.  Go to this link to watch the full interview.  You will enjoy it.

A couple of points I want to make are:

Adrian Warnock is not comfortable with mystery or leaving questions unanswered or asking questions of questions.

In the interview it becomes clear that there are different ways of reading the Bible. It seems that Adrian thinks that his way is the 'right' way, rather than allowing different ways of reading and understanding to sit together.

Rob asks if Adrian believes that if a 17 year old who had rejected Jesus died, would he in 17 million years time still be continually punished by god in hell.  Adrian said yes.
Rob said that he did not believe God was like this and would do this.  And I agree with Rob.  What kind of God would be like that?  What kind of God would treat those He has created in love like that? I'm not comfortable with where Adrian is coming from. Bell's book is by no means perfect and has problems, but I'm more comfortable with more of where he is coming from.

Have a watch and enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Adultery

I was listening to Radio Five this morning and they were doing a phone in on adultery. People were ringing in sharing their own experiences of what had happened to them and the effect it had been on their lives.

I heard people share how much pain they were experiencing because they had recently found out their partner had been cheating on them.

I heard adults share of how when they were children they had discovered one of their parents was having an affair and how it had destroyed their family.

People were clearly sharing pain and emotions that were hard to deal with.

Trust had been destroyed.

I was reading Jesus' words on adultery when he says, 'You have heard that it was said 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'

First thing that strikes me is that he is talking to men. The society in which Jesus lived was male dominated and woman had no voice. Men took advantage of their dominance and woman were treated unjustly and unfairly. Here Jesus is challenging men in their attitude and behaviour towards woman. He is challenging them in their belief that woman are objects that can be used and abused. He is calling men to take seriously the fact woman and men are equals created equally in God's image.

I believe also that Jesus' teaching on adultery applies to both men and woman and that today it is hugely relevant.

I have heard the phrase many many times 'It's ok to window shop.' In other words, you can look at someone lustfully and it does not matter.

I have heard people say that if both partners are happy to have an open relationship then it doesn't matter if you sleep around whilst still having a relationship.


Society is not very keen when someone makes a statement about how people should live in relationship, sex, lust etc, but I do think society has lost the plot with how people can flourish as human beings in healthy relationships with healthy attitudes to others.

I think Jesus speaks so strongly about lust because he understands how one thing leads to another. A lustful desire can escalate into a lustful action. But I also think he is concerned about how one human is viewing another human.

Lust makes someone an object. They are dehumanised. They are no longer viewed as an equal created in Gods image. And this is wrong and damaging to all involved.


Adultery makes the one being cheated on an object. It dehumanises them. They are no longer an equal, an image bearer of God, but a person who is lied to, deceived and cast off.


We live in a time when relationships are confused and notions of what love is has been distorted. The model Jesus gives us is that others come first, that laying down your life for another is the best, that love is not selfish, that putting the needs of someone ahead of your own is truly love.

True love for another is a desire to honour them in every single way. To honour them in our words, to honour them in our actions, and to honour them in our heart and mind so that they come first and are treated in our thinking as a beautiful, stunning bearer of the image of God.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I Believe...

I believe life is beautiful.

I believe life is ugly.

I believe the truth is out there.

I believe the truth is nowhere.

I believe people are amazing.

I believe people are shocking.


I believe success is a word that should be purged from the Church.

I believe vulnerability is the Way of Jesus followers.

I believe 'vision' makes people blind.

I believe 'goals' make people unloving and unlovely.


I believe God is 'for' you.

I believe God is angry at injustice and oppression.

I believe God hurts when you hurt.

I believe God laughs.

I believe God loves you.



I believe that God believes in you.



I believe the world is stunning.

I believe the world is stunningly painful.

I believe that the dawn is coming.

I believe that heaven will come to earth.

I believe that God will wipe every tear from our eyes.


I believe the Bible is incredible.

I believe the Bible is difficult.

I believe the Bible is a narrative.

I believe the Bible is on a journey.

I believe the Bible is not God.

I believe the Bible witnesses to God.

I believe the Bible is not a rule book for life.

I believe Jesus is our model for life.


I believe punishment is to restore.

I believe justice is to heal.


I believe in Jesus.

I believe Jesus died for all people on the cross.

I believe Jesus died to eradicate sin.

I believe Jesus died to kill death.

I believe Jesus died to heal the whole cosmos.

I believe Jesus died and was buried in a tomb.

I believe Jesus bodily rose again from the dead.

I believe Jesus will return again.

I believe many many more things than this about Jesus.


I believe many things that I can't think of right now.


I believe in you.

I believe that I sometimes have an ulterior motive in getting to know you.

I believe that I am sorry for that.


I believe that life is precious.

I believe that you are precious.


I believe that sometimes I don't know what to believe.


I believe in love.

I believe that love is a verb.

I believe in my wife.

I believe in my daughters.


I believe that my life is devoted to serving God.

I believe that serving God is great.

I believe that serving God is hard.


I believe in Jesus.

I believe...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Rich and Poor

20% of the worlds population account for 86% of global consumption.

The income gap between the the fifth of the world's population living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest is 74 to 1 in 1998.

The three richest people on the planet have assets that exceed the combined gross national product of the forty-eight least developed countries.

The income of the richest 1% adds up to that if the poorest 57%.

Among the 4.6 billion people in developing countries, three fifths lackbasic sanitation, one third have no safe drinking water and 11 million children under the age of five die every year from malnutrition or easily preventable diseases.

Europe and America receive in debt repayments between $20 and $40 billion more than what is given out in 'aid' (so called aid because it is usually a commercial loan given with political strings attached).



Who is your neighbour?

What Kind of Leader?

A Servant Leader or a Leader Man...

Servant Leader: Has something to say
LeaderMan: Wants a platform on which to say something

LeaderMan: Wants you to know he's a Leader
Servant Leader: You're not sure he knows he's a leader

LeaderMan: Loves the idea of the Gospel, and the idea of The Church
Servant Leader: Loves God and the actual individual people God brings across his path

LeaderMan: Helps you find where God is leading you in his organization
Servant Leader: Helps you find where God is leading you

LeaderMan: Gets together with you to talk about his vision
Servant Leader: Just gets together with you

LeaderMan: Wants the right people on the bus
Servant Leader: Wants to find the right bus for you, and sit next to you on it

LeaderMan: Invests time in you, if you are "key people"
Servant Leader: Wastes time with you

LeaderMan: Gives you things to do
Servant Leader: Gives you freedom


This came from This Is My Body via Brant Hanson.


I really like it.


Think I would want to add:


LeaderMan: How many people come to your church
Servant Leader: How deep are the relationships you've got in your church


Servant Leader: Wants to walk with you in the pain
LeaderMan: Wants to fix you


I'm sure the list could go on and on...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Anyway

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered : 
Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives: 
Be kind anyway. 
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies:
Succeed anyway. 
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. 
Be honest and frank anyway. 
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous: 
Be happy anyway. 
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow: 
Do good anyway. 
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough: 
Give the world the best you've got anyway. 
 
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God: 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

Monday, 9 May 2011

Is The Bible Relevant?

The was a good discussion on BBC 1 yesterday on whether the Bible is still relevant today.

Go here to see The Big Questions and watch the debate.

I thought there were some really good voices on the programme who gave solid and wise answers as well as displaying a great understanding of how to read the Bible well.

Richard Dawkins was on the show and once again showed a distinct lack of understanding when dealing with people who are not fundamentalists.

Adrian Thatcher spoke very well (he is the author of The Savage Text) about how Christians worship God not the Bible.  Our goal is to witness to the Person of the book, not to the book itself.

Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance was also in the audience.  He seemed to struggle to be honest.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali was on the panel too.

I really enjoyed it and it is well worth a watch if you have a spare hour.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Being a Terrorist

What does 'terrorism' even mean?

The word is thrown around all the time.

'The war on terror!' - What does that even mean?

People have become more fearful since the war on terror began.

With the demise of Osama Bin Laden there has been a frenzy of blogging, media coverage and conversations.

But I still have no idea what is meant by the word terrorism.


I would like to see the nations turned upside down.

I would like to see people shaken out of their numbness to the suffering and injustice all around.

I would like to see people upset by the suffering and injustice.

I would like people to feel despair at the reality of the situation.

I would like to see hope rise like the dawn in people's hearts as they see that the Redeemer lives.


I think there are times it is right to oppose.

I think it is right to want another Kingdom than the kingdoms of this world.


Does that make me a terrorist?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Amazing Love

I claw at the darkness, seeking an end to the pain
I dig deeper and deeper certain of an escape.
The darkness seems to surround me
I can't remember what light even looks like now.

I convince myself that an escape from the darkness lies in digging deeper
So I continue to delve sure of an end or even a beginning.

I am like a man clawing the ground hoping for deliverance
He splinters his nails and breaks his fingers longing for escape.
The wounds I carry cannot so easily be healed.

And so I find myself in the bottom of the pit
My energy has gone
My hope has disappeared like the light that I have tunnelled away from.

Yet beyond the limits of my own senses
Beyond the darkness that consumes me
Someone comes to rescue me from this pit of despair.

Amazing Love!
How can this be?



I am lifted out slowly into the dawn of a new day.
My Rescuer is careful not to blind me with the flood of Light.

The darkness melts at the warmth of His love
Yet I see that He carries scars, a sign that He Himself knows the darkness.
A sign that He knows me with the scars that I carry.

He calls me to live a new way
To strive to shine like a star rather than bury myself in the darkness.
To love God
To love others

To live like He has lived
To love like He has loved
To die like He has died

Amazing Love!
How can this be?
That Jesus has died and rescued me?

And so I join Him on the journey to the Promised Land.
Still bearing the scars of my pain
Yet with every step I find nourishment and healing.

I see in the distance hope shining like the Morning Star
I recognise that a new Dawn beckons.

And I see that Today is a good day.
For Today the journey matters.
Today will make a difference.

Today is why He died.
Tomorrow is why He lives.

Amazing Love!