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).

28 May 2011

Wishing the Rapture Would Have Raptured the Rapture.

I for one am glad the rapture didn't happen last weekend. I have only got to mid way through Boy Meets World with Brittany and would have been pissed if I hadn't at least seen Corey and Topanga get married. Thankfully it looks like I will get there. As long as I do so before October 21st.

Heaven and Hell and the end of the world and Rapture are all words that have been branded about at one point or the other in the last couple of months or so.

For better or worse, there is an ongoing conversation right now all about the end of the world and what the next world will look like.

Of course this isn’t something new. People have been predicting the end of the world for what seems forever. People have been talking about who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of Heaven and Hell for a long time. The conversation comes around and it will disappear (unlike the way we were supposed to during the rapture) and it will inevitably come around again. Perhaps though, the reason it has been so in the limelight is because it is the first time it has really come to our attention in the age of the internet.

For whatever reason though it has been exhausting. It has been tiring to think so much about Heaven and Hell and to think about the world ending. I am tired of hearing about it and I am tired of reading about it. And I think there is a reason why.

I think it is quite telling that when Jesus spoke he rarely mentioned Hell. It wasn’t something that he spent a great deal of time trying to explain. What he did spend a great deal of time doing was talking about Love. Talking about how to love each other better. How to treat others. He didn’t really deal with doctrine. He was interested in relationships and He was interested in healing. Feeding the hungry and healing the sick.

And maybe that is why I am so tired of talking about Hell and when the world will end. Maybe it is because it is a distraction from what we really should be doing.

Does Hell exist? I don’t know. Will everyone be saved? I don’t know. Apparantly it has been our job recently to decide those things. Thankfully it's not.

Of course there will be some who say that we are dealing with real people and that we need to warn them about Hell and we need to warn them that they need saved.

But truthfully I don’t want to be scared into following Jesus. I want to follow Him because he loves me. I want to love people so they don’t go to Hell, right now.

None of us can be certain of what Heaven and Hell will be like. We just can’t. If the Bible was so clear on it we wouldn’t still be debating it.

But the Bible is clear on how to treat each other. Jesus was very clear about that.

If we preached more about a God that loves us so much that he is continuously pursuing us and is constantly longing for us and not waiting to punish us for all eternity, maybe we would be less interested in proving our point and more in following Jesus.

In the story of the Prodigal Son the father was always waiting for his son to return. Every day he was keeping an eye out for him. And when he did return he ran after him.

That’s Love. That’s a God who doesn’t give up on us because we are worth it. Not a God who is just dying to end the world so He can punish us.

The world was supposed to end last weekend. When you make a statement that world is going to end you are really saying that God has had enough and His patience has ran out.

Well we are still here and I don’t think His patience has ran out. If that is a sign of anything I think it is a sign that God still cares and isn't ready to give up. I think we should forget about proving what we think about Heaven and Hell is correct and focus on the one thing we do know. That we are to love each other and share Jesus love with people.

Are you ready for Jesus return? Maybe that’s the wrong question.

Maybe we should be asking,

Is God ready to return?

18 May 2011

Why Jim Wallis is right (and wrong) and why gay is the new love wins

I had expected it to be at least a while before us Christians started causing controversy again, after the Rob Bell/ Love Wins debate took over our lives in March. But now that we have become bored with that it seems we have now found someone else to vilify.

In this case it is Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, who has created a storm by refusing to include an advertisement on their website from Believe Out Loud, encouraging Churches to be open to Gay and Lesbian people.

This has caused quite a stir to many who don’t understand how an organisation like Sojourners can not include an ad that promotes inclusiveness in Church, while the board of Sojourners are afraid it will distract from other issues in which they are focused on.

But who is right?

And who is wrong?

Or are both sides equally right and wrong?

From the point of view of Sojourners they are probably in their right to refuse to show the ad. Sojourners has never really been about these types of issues. These discussions aren’t ones I would have expected to find on their website and so I’m not really sure why some people are so upset. Would it be odd if a charity promoting the safety and care of animals refused to show the advert? Not really. So should Sojourners be any different?

Saying that, would it have really hurt them to show the advert? Even if this issue isn’t one that they directly are working on, it is hard to not see how it would fit in, in a general sense with the organisations ethos. Despite what people may think, Jim Wallis can be conservative on certain issues and in the past he has shown this to be the case regarding Gay and Lesbian discussions in the Church.  So we shouldn’t be that surprised that they made their decision. But this isn’t really a discussion about whether it is right or wrong to be gay. It is about whether people who are, should we made to feel welcome and loved in the Church.

I think it was a mistake however not to show the advert. I think the advert was very moving and I wish that more Church leaders would act like the Pastor at the end of the ad. Sadly I don’t think this is generally true of reality. I think no matter what you believe about being homosexual, God’s love is for everyone. This is the message I feel the ad was promoting and it is one that Christians everywhere should exhibit.

Which also as it happens includes the ones criticising Jim Wallis. Some of the comments have been very negative and harsh and when Christians who support a campaign that is trying to encourage inclusiveness and then fail to offer the same to someone whom they disagree with, it’s kind of hypocritical.

But then again this has always been our problem. Our problem is having civil discussion with each other. A discussion where we can strongly disagree with someone but not end up hating them.

It would be a shame if some of Sojourners detractors would stop supporting the great work that they are doing just because of their stance on one issue.

Just as it is for Sojourners not to show an ad that is refreshing and showing a sign of Church that we should all be aiming for.

So what is the solution? What has been your experience with this issue in your Church? Do you think we are afraid of something deeper? What are your thoughts on opening church to everyone?

Heaven a hard time with the afterlife?

In March Rob Bell released a book called Love Wins.

The controversy around the book was, well let’s just say a little heated. In the book, we were told, Rob Bell claimed he didn’t believe in Hell (he does). We were also told that he claimed that everyone will be saved (he didn’t quite). We were also told that he had lost it and that it was time that we finally cut him loose. (Thankfully we didn’t).

Everyone was reporting on it. Bloggers wrote post after post about it. (My hand is up here) Famous Christian Pastors tweeted their opinions. Every news channel in the US ran the story at one point or the other. It was even trending on Twitter.

Even I as a big fan of Rob Bell was sick of the sight of him.

A Pastor wrote a book that suggested that maybe God didn’t want to punish us but wanted the entire world to feel his love and embrace it; a book that encouraged us to live life so that we didn’t create Hell for ourselves and others, right now, here, on Earth. A book that gave us hope that God’s love isn’t exhaustive.

And when he did, some people tore him apart. Some Christians tore him apart.

So it can come as no surprise then that when Stephen Hawking came out and declared that there was no Heaven, there were those who came down on him even heavier.

Except… they didn’t.

The Christian blogs are surprisingly quiet on the matter. Apart from a few voices giving their opinion there is not much being said. Which is odd considering Stephen Hawking is denying, that the one thing that all Christians can agree on, isn’t real.

You may not agree with his perspective but at least Rob Bell is hopeful. Hopeful for restoration, for a future where pain of every kind is gone. Stephen Hawking shuts that possibility down when he says there is no Heaven.

Or does he?

What if he has a point? What if he has a point and he doesn’t even realise it?

What if the idea that most of us have of Heaven is wrong? Does the Heaven that many of us believe in, even exist?

In the same interview with the Guardian that Stephen Hawking denied the existence of an afterlife he also stressed the importance of fulfilling our potential on Earth, by making the most of our lives. Which seems to me to be a huge challenge if there is no Heaven. If there is no God, if there is no hope that someday everything will be restored the way God intended, then what is the point?

But how as Christians should we approach the future? How should we view Heaven and how should we approach how we live?

If we see Heaven as a place like Stephen Hawking imagines that we imagine it (I hope you followed that); I don’t know what exactly we have to live for. Is it just so we can evangelise to other people? Does the view of Heaven where we go somewhere else for eternity allow us to live in this life for something more than just ‘winning souls?’ Does that view of Heaven force us, subconsciously to not care about justice or the poor or the weak? Does it leave anything for our physical and emotional wellbeing here and now, rather than just our souls, there and then?

Or is Heaven more? Is eternity not just a place where we go but a place which comes and meets us? A place that comes and meets us, yes sometime in the future but just as importantly today and tomorrow. Is it when God’s perfect Heaven finally comes down and interconnects with our imperfect world; restoring it, not so the things that matter on Earth become obsolete, but become real and full of new life.

If that is the Heaven we live for then that changes everything. It starts now and is fulfilled when Christ rejoins us on Earth.

It means that our job is to bring that about from now in our words, our actions, in how we care for the poor, in how we fight for the people who are being trafficked, in how we help our friend be restored through their addictions, in how we meet and worship together, how we pray and how we love.

What do you think about what Heaven is like? And how does that impact what you think is important for Christians to work for?

What if the whole time that we are waiting for Heaven, Heaven is actually so close we can touch it?

14 May 2011

For the kittens- It's Masturbation Month.

It is that time of the year again. When the sun starts to come out of hiding. When the flowers start to bloom. When we dust off the bbq and when…ahem we are supposed to masturbate?!

Mmm. Wow. Sorry folks. I don’t know how that got in there.

But yes! May is the official national masturbation month. The time set aside for everyone to join in the mass debate (see what I did there).

If you know a bit of my story then you know that porn and masturbation are things that I have had struggles with and things that I still to some degree struggle with today. Porn and masturbation are still very much taboo subjects in the church. Some people don’t like to talk about such things. Which is fine I guess, unless of course you are finding it difficult to quit when you really want to, and when the only way to actually beat it is to be open about your struggles. When you’re falling deeper and deeper into an addiction you thought would never get you and now you find yourself hating yourself, hating God and ending up wondering who the person staring back at you in the mirror is.

Then, of course, it isn’t so good to not talk about such things.

So this May, instead of promoting masturbation I want to encourage you to give it up. Give it up for one month, if that sounds too much try a week, a day even. Just stop spanking your monkey long enough to see how it changes how you feel about yourself. But of course there needs to be good reasons to quit and below I have come up with 3 excellent reasons why you should give masturbation the heave ho this May.

1/ It is a well known fact that every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten. Kitten’s are cute and the thought alone of a poor kitten dying because of you, should be enough of a motivation to stop. Masturbation is making kittens extinct. I certainly don’t want that blood on my hands.

2/ No, masturbating won’t make you go blind or make hairs grow on your palms. But it will encourage you to lust. It will mean you start to objectify women in your head. It will mean that you won’t have a healthy respect for your girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse. Give me hairy palms any day.

3/ Masturbation isn’t usually done in isolation. Usually there are triggers such as porn. So even if you do masturbate without any, how can I put this, help, eventually you will need porn. And that will eventually lead to finding yourself looking at porn more and more, which could lead to addiction, which will lead to despair, low self esteem, an unrealistic view of sex, stronger porn, even lower self esteem, isolation from others, and more porn. I could go on. Needless to say it’s a vicious circle.

So there you have it. Happy (Non)Masturbation month of May everyone. Who is willing to take up the challenge?

And remember, if for nothing else. Do it for the kittens.

5 May 2011

Rally To Restore Unity: A Blogging call for Christian Unity

The Church has many problems right now. How do we react to Osama‘s death, do we believe in Hell or not, sex scandals and how do we get Pastor Ed Young to stop making those videos? Perhaps the most troubling issue in the Christian Church today.

And as much as those issues are important maybe an underlying issue with resolving those is how we deal with each other. Namely how do we disagree with each other?

This week Rachel Held Evans, an author and blogger is holding  the ‘Rally to Restore Unity’.  A week long blog event where bloggers write about how Christians can get back some unity with each other. To be honest it’s a pretty big and daunting task but one I think is worthwhile and critical. So I’m glad she had the vision to do this. (Check out her page and the hundreds of amazing signs and blogs for the rally. It's pretty exciting and inspiring).

But the truth is it won’t be successful unless we all have the same vision.

And to do that we all need to stop and look at ourselves instead of looking at the people we disagree with.

One thing that people outside looking into the Christian circus find hard to fathom is why we fight with each other so much. I mean all families fight with each other at some point but is it even possible to disagree with each other and still like each other?

So first up, before I come across all judgemental let me say this. The person I know that finds it harder to disagree with people kindly and with respect the most, is myself.

I like to think I have ideas about God that are so new and fresh and then when I hear someone speak truth about God that is traditional and been around for a while, I think, ‘How old fashioned of them! They don’t really know God at all. I bet they are the kind of person that trashed the religion episode of Glee! They are so blind.’

And I shut my ears to them.

And when big names in the Christian world come along and write books about God that say things that are maybe taking a different perspective than other big Christian names, I side with the former and think how judgemental the latter is.

Which makes me…you guessed it. Judgemental.

No wonder we have so many problems when our actions and thoughts are in direct opposition to who we say we are.

I think God’s love and this community that we have called the Church is so big and so expansive that it allows us to be different. It even allows us to have different opinions than each other on what Christianity represents and how it should be.

Jesus got this.

He spent his whole ministry and life with his followers dealing with this. So many times they had the wrong idea. Many times they thought Jesus was going to come and break down the Roman Empire and give them their just desserts. But he didn’t. Well at least not in the way they thought he would.

Many times the Pharisees were outraged when Jesus hung out with sinners and the all time lowest of the world, but time and time again Jesus turned the tables (sometimes literally) on the way the Pharisee’s saw the world.

A Whiter Shade of Black

It’s easy to judge the Pharisees. But even the disciples didn’t understand Jesus much of the time. They tried to stop children from approaching Jesus for Pete’s sake. Time and time again they were way off.

Which to me shows that we all can get it so wrong. We all can get it so backward. And if we get to a place where we realise that, then maybe we will be less likely to judge each other.

And that’s cool. It’s easy when we are just wrong.

But what about when it’s not so black and white?

Well I think it works the same way.

I think we need to still come to a place where we know that only Jesus hit the bullseye every time. When that happens we can disagree with each other but not have to attack each other. We are free to say ‘I’m not sure what you are saying is true’, and not then turn around and say ‘You are dangerous and I want nothing more to do with you’. Or we can hear people disagreeing with us and can then say ‘Let me hear what you think. Your opinion is important to me.’

No matter how much we might disagree with it.

When did we get to a place where disagreeing with someone and respecting them and being open and kind became mutually exclusive?

So does that mean we just have to agree with each other all the time?


And if you don’t agree with me?

That’s cool.

P.S. This whole thing is about looking beyond ourselves and remembering that even within our disagreements and differences, there are some things that we all need to agree on. Like justice and clean water. That is why you should take the time to donate to head over to the Rally to Restore Unity Charity:Water page and allow more people the chance to drink clean water..And if you don't. I will still love you. But I'll love you a little more if you do.


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