What's Love Got to do with it?

What if we've missed the point? What if Love Wins is enough? And why Rob Bell may just be right.

Right On our doorstep

Think that slavery is a thing of the past? Think that the UK is too civilised to be part of trafficking? Think again

5 reasons why being married to Brit is great (or 5 reasons to marry an American)

5 things you will never know until you marry an American

Masturbation Month

Giving up masturbation for a month. Why we need to save the kittens.

XXXchurch! Whaaa?

Why I love porn (ministries).

19 Jun 2012

How good is God?

Sunday was Father's Day. The day when we gave thanks for our fathers. The men who bring us up and show us what's what, how to shave and how to look after money. All important things, but crucially not everything. Father's do other things. They let us know they love us. They make us feel safe. They take time to listen to us when we have a problem. They let us be free to mess up and still be there when we return knowing what we did. They try to stop us messing up and are still there when we return knowing what we did. They know what we need even when we don’t.

They are there.

Unfortunately though for many of us they aren’t. Perhaps they have left your family, maybe they have died, maybe they just don’t care.

If you are in this situation it may be pretty easy to understand why so many people find it difficult to relate to God as Father.

And when we find it difficult to relate to God as Father we then view God as being a distant parent.
A parent who doesn’t care, who is angry with us, who is unapproachable, who’s easily annoyed, who is happy with us only when we do well. Or at least don’t mess up.

That’s the kind of God many of us can relate to. Because that’s the view of God we have grown up with. The reasons for this are many. But the reality is when we view God like that we aren’t experiencing the God that the Bible tells us about. Part of the problem is that we don’t always associate Jesus with God. God is the elderly, slightly grumpy uncle where as Jesus is slightly hippy and loves everyone. So ultimately we have to do decide.

Is God good or not?

Is He all loving or does He lose his patience with us?

Is He forgiving or is He constantly judging us?

Because how we answer those questions will determine how we live. Are we hiding because we think God is out to catch us? Are we afraid because we think God has a list which he is checking twice, like some sort of cosmic Santa?

Or do we live in freedom and in complete love with God because we know that nothing can separate us from Him?

Are you able to approach Him because you know that He yearns for you constantly, every moment of every day. Awake and asleep.

The cynical amongst us reply ‘that’s great but if we live like that we’ll go crazy and do whatever we feel like doing’

The hopeful reply ‘then you don’t understand how much God loves you, you don’t see how far He is willing
to go for you and you don’t understand love’.

The irony is that real change arises out of knowing there is nothing you can do to be loved. Not out of fear or trepidation. It’s a gift that never runs out. It’s a gift that was given by God for us to enjoy not to use as a tool in theological debates or as a way of proving that we are right, but to be free to love one another.

So maybe we can solve the dilemma of whether we see God as a good father when we view the love He showed us while we were still sinners. Jesus spent so much time being with people, showing them how to care for each other, showing them that they were important to Him and caring about their lives, especially when they had made a mess up of them. The people that Jesus loved being with the most were the screw ups. The Zacchaeus's, the  prostitutes, the liars, the sick, the stuck up and the weak.

The us.

The love Jesus had, came from His father. The father that He felt he could approach even when He was dying on a cross. The love we often associate with Jesus and sometimes disavow from God is the same.
If we have been brought up in a family or environment where a father is absent we often blame ourselves. We don’t always know it but we do. And when we blame ourselves we feel shame and hide from our fathers. Only we don’t have one so we do the next best thing and hide from God.

But God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t blame us and He doesn’t want us to hide. So perhaps our hiding from God is less to do with Him and more how we view Him.

Which is why we need to view Him like he really is.


There is no good cop, bad cop. There is only good cop, good cop.

Ultimately God is either good or He isn’t.

Ultimately He is foreign to us or He is close to us.

Ultimately He loves us unconditionally or He doesn’t.

And when we realize that He does, that’s not just the greatest Father’s Day gift.

It’s the greatest gift ever.

1 Jun 2012

Love is...not comparing yourself

Most of us might not like to admit it but we are constantly comparing ourselves to each other. We might not like to admit it because ultimately when we do compare ourselves we’re effectively revealing that we don’t like who we are.

If everyone does it then we’re all just wasting time trying to be each other and eventually none of us will be anyone. And that’s just stupid.

Why do we do it then? Why then in a culture like ours (and I’m specifically speaking of a Northern Irish Church culture) where we are told often enough that we are sinners and need saved, do we not embrace our faults? Our weaknesses. Our insecurities. Isn’t that what we are told Jesus came to save us from? Our weaknesses are a good thing then. Right?

Well if you are anything like me then you know that it’s not that simple. You can submerge yourself in a Christian culture still only deeply rooted in the idea we need saved and still have doubts about who you are, why you’re not as funny as her, why you don’t play as well as him, dress well enough, organize things as well. 

Pick whatever it is you enjoy doing, feel good about yourself because of or are inspired to live your life for and there will always be someone out there better or more talented. 
But if Jesus already sorted our sin and our faults, why do we still put so much effort into comparing ourselves?

Is it that we don’t really understand what Jesus did for us? Is it because we are simply human or is it because we are jerks?

Or all three?

The prevalent teaching of most Churches is that Jesus died for us because we are screw ups and that if you want to go to Heaven you need to be saved or else you will be going to Hell.

Our mission is biased towards this so we focus on winning souls. Our relationships are based on this so we spend most of our time with other Christians. Our teachings are focused on how we live well so we don’t backslide.

But what if we have skewed it a little?

What if we have narrowed the Gospel to simply about a one off event? 

To simply about our final destiny.

What happens in-between?

And how does it affect how we think about ourselves?

Is it possible that Jesus died for us not only because He wants us to feel His love forever but He wants us to experience it now?

Is it possible that Jesus has a plan that consists of more than sitting around, waiting for Him to come back and not screw up in the meantime?

When we look at the Gospel in this alternative way I think it allows us to take hold of our faults and say, even with these Jesus still loved me enough to free me. So even if with your porn addiction or your gossip compulsion or your fear of not being in control, Jesus still went ahead.

Those weren’t enough to put Him off.

But apparently for us they are.

In John 8 the Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus who has committed adultery. In fact she was right bang in the middle of it (Interesting also that the man is nowhere to be seen). They bring her to Jesus for Him to condemn her. It’s a set up. Hundreds of people are surrounding you yelling angrily, hatefully. Jesus has to join them right? But instead he writes words on the ground in the dirt. Nobody knows for certain what, but slowly the crowd peels away. The people have no answer. Soon it’s just the woman and Jesus. Jesus asks her who condemns her. Everyone is gone. Nobody condemns her. And then Jesus utters the words that change her world.

“Neither do I”.

Before that He invited those who had never messed up in their life to throw the first rock at the woman. Of course no one could accept that invite. And yet we feel the sharpness of rocks thrown at us all the time. It just so happens the one throwing the stones is ourselves.

Jesus’ focus is not on what she has to do for Him to love her. It’s not even a factor. His focus is not about her eternal destination. It’s not even mentioned. It’s about here and now.

To embrace His love simply because He is love.

That is his focus.

And it should be ours too.

But so often we forget we are loved, we panic and then look at others to see how we can improve.

Forgetting that because of Jesus, there is nothing to improve on.

Forgetting it’s a waste of time and effort.

And it won’t get us anywhere.

Even Heaven.

27 May 2012

To filter or not to filter

Porn is everywhere. At least that is what we are told. Even though much of our media has been influenced by porn I think that the reality is closer to the fact that it is much easier to access than ever before.

The internet has brought that world right into our homes, our offices and our Pastor’s offices. No longer do you need to go to the seedy end of town, late at night, to get your fix.

But this isn’t new.  

We’ve known that this is how it works for a long time.

It’s only now that internet providers have been sitting up and taking notice, trying to decide how best to protect our children from porn online.

The debate recently has focused on how ISP’s (companies like Sky, BT Broadband, Talk Talk etc.) are going to deal with it. Companies such as Talk Talk have introduced network filtering where porn would not even make it into the home.

But there are still questions that need to be answered.

Who decides which sites are blocked? Will it be full proof i.e. will non porn sites be blocked too?

Will they work on everything? What about file sharing networks, facebook, twitter, message boards?

Will we be forced to turn on filters?

Isn’t that dangerous?

Coming from a position where I work to see people free from porn, where I am passionate about men and women reclaiming their lives, where I want our children to be protected, I think filters are so important.

However, I don’t agree with censorship. If you want to look at porn you should be free to. As a Christian some may view this as a strange stance. As someone who has struggled with porn it may seem even stranger. But God isn’t interested simply in us not sinning. He is interested in us entering a loving relationship with Him where we are transformed into people who love others and who find something greater than porn to live for.

If you want to quit looking at porn you need a filter. You need to tell someone. To be open and honest with someone you can trust and will guide you.

But you need more. You need to work through issues that maybe led you to porn in the first place. You need God’s help. You need other people to help.

If you want your kids protected from porn you need a filter. You need to watch what they are watching.

But you need more. You need to show them how men should view women. To protect them. You need to not be looking at porn yourself. Sounds obvious but…

If people want to look at porn they will find a way. Millions of people found a way before the internet and they would still if the internet vanished.

At the end of the day if you really want to look at porn you will. But the questions Churches should be asking are “Do we talk about this enough?” “Do we create a safe environment for Christians to get help?” “Do our leaders have a problem with porn?”
And just as important..

“Are we letting the internet babysit our kids?”

23 May 2012

Follow the leader

We spend a lot of time reading book on how to become a better leader. Or spending money on conferences for leaders. But there is a question that I think is so important in answering this but is often neglected.

Who leads the leaders?

What does the leader do when they need help? When they are struggling personally? When they get burnt out?

I asked this question once in a group discussion about leadership and I received blank stares. It never occurred to the group that perhaps leaders can be vulnerable too.

Sure we needs leaders who are strong. Who make tough decisions. Who swim the opposite direction sometimes. Who the people can trust and feel secure under.

But sooner or later it will catch up on them.

Then what?

We're told leaders need to be strong and perfect. That she needs to have it all under control. But a good leader is not one who doesn't see when they are struggling; a good leader is one who is vulnerable too and knows it. Then gets help. Talks to someone. Takes time out of their schedule to focus on themselves for once.

Because you can't tell people it's OK to need help if you don't accept it yourself.

You can't tell people community is important if you don't have a community of your own to go to.

What do Rob Bell and Don Miller have in common?

They are both considered by many to be Christian leaders in their field today.

They also both understood that they needed counselling and they didn't have it all together.

If you're a leader you don't need to be perfect.

But you do need to know that you're not.

11 May 2012

Killing boredom

Reading an article on boredom is actually very interesting.

Boredom is the new interesting.

Which is why this article at Relevant got me thinking.

What was life like before smart phones, heck even before dial up connections to the internet? When to make plans with friends you would call them and if they didn’t turn up you were screwed. When I knew 3-4 of my best friend’s home phone numbers from memory.

Have I changed? Do I think differently? I don’t ever have to be bored. But in reality I am.

I’ve been finding the internet increasingly boring. Facebook bores me. Even twitter has lost some of its appeal. Sure I need these things sometimes. They are useful tools to communicate and spread ideas and learn and be conscious of the world around me.
But what happens when those things actually become inverted and rather they become about me rather than others? Do I really learn anything then? Am I really concerned about how the world works?

Frankly, I don’t think I do. I become numb to information because I always have it. I become numb to my friends because I only interact with them through social media. I miss talking. I miss thinking. I only want people to know about me. Even the causes I genuinely care about and feel passionately about are just a vehicle to spread the idea of “me”.

If I have spare time, instead of doing something productive I sit on facebook or twitter. I visit the same 2 or 3 websites over and over. Clicking the curved arrow on the top of my window every few minutes. Watching nothing happen. I spend time on the internet searching how to be more creative, when all I am doing is stifling it with too much noise.

I’m not giving up facebook or twitter. As I said, I need them. Culture has changed and like it or not a lot of the world interacts online. Most of you have probably stumbled on this article because I tweeted it or posted on facebook.

But..they are not everything. So I have now included them on my x3watchpro (download here) blocked sites. When I am alone I will not be able to view them.

Hopefully this will mean I will write more. Or get out more. Or run more. Or just think more. As a Christian be around God more. Figure out who I am more. Listen more.

Or even just be bored. Because boredom can be interesting.

Or are we just not interested enough to try it?

(And if you find this blog boring..good! Because this is the kind of drivel the internet produces sometimes. What if we are the drivel? What if we need to really connect and get offline to get away from it?)


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