Sunday, 25 November 2007

By grace, through faith.

Have you ever felt like you are under the weight of condemnation? Far from God or perhaps even disapproved of by your heavenly father? A friend said to me the recently 'I am a rubbish Christian'; she felt like she was missing the mark of God's standards and was struggling to maintain a 'Christian Lifestyle'.

The problem is that so often we forget that if we are in Christ, we are justified. This is our legal standing with God, it means we are declared righteous. We are in the right with God.

How can this be? God's standards are way beyond my reach, I take one look at the ten commandments and feel shame at that white lie I told at work, my failure to truly honour my parents and the jealous eye over my neighbours possessions. I can't maintain my perception of what it means to live a 'Christian Lifestyle'; perhaps I drank a bit too much last night, again, or maybe my lustful eyes fell upon someone in a way they shouldn't. Am I a rubbish Christian?

Lets clear this up. There is no such thing as a 'rubbish Christian'. Paul states in Romans that 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God'. We all fail. This is why Ephesians 2: 8-9 says 'For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, lest any man should boast'.

On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that we deserved. Because of this, we can repent and God will overlook our sins. We will be forgiven, but there is more to come. The following verse is Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

When we repent, our sins are cleansed so it is as if we had never sinned. But then God does something spectacular. He clothes us in his perfect righteousness. In his book 'Systematic Theology' Wayne Grudem describes this as going from Negative (sin) , to Neutral (forgiven) to Positive (Righteous). In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul describes how in Christ, we become the righteousness of Christ when we repent.

For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him [Jesus]

So if you ever feel under condemnation, don't let your feelings get ahead of the truth. Ask God to raise your awareness of your right standing in him, and meditate on his word.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


On February 24 1981, during the press conference just after the announcement of their engagement, one journalist asked Prince Charles and Princess Dianna if they were in love. Diana said “Of course”. Charles replied that he was too, but added…

“Whatever love means”.

A startling statement to say the least, but it is thought provoking nonetheless. Can you define what love means? Think about it for a moment.

Wikipedia defines love as ‘a constellation of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection or profound oneness.’ To me, this definition is completely logical, yet only partially truthful. It’s also a bit of a mouthful. Unfortunately the author has defined love as merely an emotional, psychological experience. I believe that anyone who has experienced love, knows that it goes deeper, and that there is more to it than that.

The Oxford English Dictionary does not do a whole lot better. It describes love as an ‘intense feeling of deep affection’, ‘a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone’ or ‘a great interest and pleasure in something’.

It seems to me that it is extremely difficult to define in words, what is love?

Perhaps we are better off asking, what is love like?

The bible claims the following…

“Love is patient and kind. Love knows neither envy nor jealousy. Love is not forward and self-assertive, nor boastful and arrogant. Love does not behave rudely, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”

This inspiring piece of writing accurately portrays the characteristics of love and tells us what love is like, but the Bible also makes a stunning statement about what love is.

The bible claims that…

“God is love”
As a Christian I believe that God not only loves, but is in fact the very definition of love. In himself he defines what love is, and without his existence, we have no point of reference for truly understanding what love is.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Be Childish

There is something wonderful about reading the work of other Christian authors.
What a great opportunity to expand our minds, extend our knowledge and challenge our faith. Unlike Jesus' time, when reading and writing was confined to the governmental and religious circles, and the cost of scripture (which would have been recorded on scrolls by highly skilled and highly paid scribes) would have prevented many people from accessing it. We now have such a wide availability of Christian literature, that the debates which once took place in the temple, now take place on the pages of books on the shelves of Christian bookstores.
A large part of my free time is occupied by reading Christian literature, thus filling my head with a number of ideas, doctrines and concepts all bouncing off each other.
My mind is the chess board over which the doctrine of predestination goes head to head with my idea of free will. It is the battlefield in which creationism valiantly wrestles against a defiant hang up on evolution, and it is the ring in which my understanding of scripture swings a right hook against cultural context.
At the end of it all, why am I left unfufilled?
Jesus said 'Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.
There is nothing wrong with studying scripture in depth, but we have to be careful...are we missing the point?
Reading about God must never be a substitute for spending time with him. Many secular academics study the Bible and have a greater knowledge of it than most Christians... so what makes us different?
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 'Though i have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge...but have not love, I am nothing'.
What we are searching for is a lot closer, and a lot more simple than we think.
'Assuredly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it'. These timeless words of Jesus ring true to me today.
Little Children cry when they are hungy, when they want affection and when they need a clean-up. They know what they want, they do not put up a front. They do not shy away from their basic desires.
This is how we must be with God.
Cry out to him with your fears. Whisper your best kept secrets into the all hearing ears. Share with him your greatest desires, your deepest hurts and your wildest dreams.
Then you will see miracles.

''Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light"

Jesus. Matthew 11 : 28-30

The greatest threat to Christianity...

What is the greatest threat to Christianity... is it Islam? Postmodernism? Perhaps it's the new Harry Potter book or the Jerry Springer musical? Rock music? Gay marriage? Richard Dawkins?

I actually believe that the greatest threat to Christianity today is....

Christians who fail to recognize that 'He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world' (1 John 4:4)

Christians who fail to love their neighbours, serve the poor and reach the communities.

Christians who put their own ambitions before others.

Unfortunately, this makes me one of many great threats to Christianity.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Momentum 2007 'The Suffering and The Glory'

Yesterday morning I packed down my soggy tent, swapped by mud-coated wellies for trainers and left the Bath and West showground where I had spent the last 5 days praising God, hearing his word and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit at Momentum 2007.

The theme of the week was 'The Suffering and the Glory' and many of the talks focused on how we can turn around our negative life experiences, our weaknesses and failures and let God use them for his Glory. Below are some very brief gems of wisdom from the talks that stuck in my mind....

  • 'We are not always delivered from trials, but we are always delivered through trials' David Porter

  • 'God gives Men and Women equality yet distinctiveness' Rodger Ellis

  • 'All of us are asking Who Am I? the answer is always Who do I belong to and what do they think of me?' Andrew Croft

  • 'Silver is purified in the furnace till a reflection is visible. God purifies us untill his reflection is visible in us' Unknown

  • 'If your bible is in pieces your life won't be!' 'The only way to the father is via king's cross!' 'Too many Christians worry about what they don't have - use what you have!' J John

  • 'The church should be a blessing to the community, instead of telling them how bad they are!' Unknown

  • 'The kingdom, the power and the glory belong to God. Never claim for yourself the work of the Lord!' Joyce Reece

  • 'Prayer always makes a difference, if not to our circumstances then to us. God can prevent us from hardening our hearts when times get tough' Unknown

All in all it was an amazing week. It was such a blessing to be able to spend time with my friends and grow deeper in God. Bring on Momentum 08!

Thursday, 19 July 2007

The prerequisites of a revolutionary

''The people who make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't need to have a high IQ. You don't have to have good looks or riches or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, GLORIOUS things - or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them"
John Piper

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Hear the word...Do the word!

''Now the Lord had said to Abram:
"Get out of your country, from your family and from your fathers house.
To a land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse those who curse you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Genesis 12: 1 - 3

I wonder what must have passed through Abraham's mind when he recieved that well-known promise from God, that through his offspring the entire world will be blessed. If I were Abraham, a child-less 75 year old from Ur (a city in southern Iraq) my response would have most likely been 'you've got the wrong fella'.

But in Genesis 12, which begins with the first recorded conversation between God and Abraham (who was then called Abram - meaning 'exalted father') Abraham hears God's word, and then actively obeys him in faith. I emphasise the word hears as we know from Romans 17 that 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God'. Abraham heard God's word, then stepped out in faith.

We know that through Abraham's faith in God's promise, great blessing was brought upon the whole world, including himself. This makes me think, how blessed will we be when we daily put our faith in God's promises for our lives? If you need an awakening to God's promises for you, I reccomend you read chapter eight of the book of Romans. There you will learn that when you accept Christ, you become not only a child of God but a joint heir in his Glory. You will grow in confidence as you realise that 'all things work together for the good of those who love God' (verse 28), and you will understand that nothing can seperate you from the love of God (verses 38 - 39).

As it was with Abraham, it is the same for us. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. But it then requires a response. James 1 verse 22 tells us to be 'doers of the word, and not hearers only'. When Abraham recieved God's word in Genesis 12, he gathered his things, his wife and his servants, and moved to the land God promised him. Hearing must be followed by doing, and as Abraham actively possessed the land God had given him, we must do the same. We have a promised land to enter in to, not a geographical territory but a spiritual one, it is eternal yet it begins now. It is, to quote U2, 'A place that has to be believed, to be seen'.