Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day! Climate Change!

Well, I've not been so good at posting recently. However, I came on to post on my other blog and discovered it was Blog Action Day. So I decided to get involved, and then I decided the topic would fit better on here. I need to stick the link up or it won't recognise me (or something like that), so here you go . Right, that's out the way.

Climate Change. This might not seem like the right place to talk about it--what does God have to do with climate change? Well, quite a lot actually. It's all down to the concept of stewardship. Can you tell we looked at this in RE when I was in Year 11? I know the fancy terms! Anyway, stewardship is basically the concept that God gave us the world, so we shouldn't screw it up. If someone gave you their favourite CD, no that's illegal, if someone gave you their favourite top to borrow, and you went out and ripped it, you wouldn't be being a very good steward of their property, would you? You should take care of it, because it isn't yours. Yeh? Well, it's like that with the earth. It was given to us, yes, but it's not really really ours.

There's another reason it's important to look after our planet. We have a duty to look after other people--Jesus said 'love your neighbour as you love yourself'. Often we in the 'developed' world don't see the results of what we do to the planet. The acid rain falls elsewhere, other countries are affected by the increasing severity of storms, other countries are nearer the rising seas than us. It's easy, in those cases, not to care. We're only fussed about rubbish when it's on our own doorstep--it makes it impossible to ignore. But what about our calling to care for others? How is letting them suffer from our mistakes, our idiocies, our greed, caring for them?

I don't know if you think Climate Change as espoused by scientists is real or not, but I'll be honest. I don't see how what we're doing to the planet can have absolutely no effect. It's gonna be harming someone, somewhere. The trouble is, what can we do?

Small things can make a difference, they add up. That's the starting point. If everybody used just the amount of water they needed to make the drink when they boiled the kettle, there'd be enough energy saved to power a street. Turn lights off, turn appliances off (at the plug if they only have a standby button), close the curtains when it goes dark to prevent heat loss, try and use energy saving lightbulbs (if you're in England, a lot of councils give them away on special days, South Ribble was the other week), that sort of thing. I know it sounds small, and it doesn't seem like you're doing much, but it's a definite start.

Culturally, it's very difficult for us to do anything about it. In order to make a huge difference, we need a total shift in attitudes and values. We need to realise that individualism is not going to help anybody, including yourself. We need to stop consuming constantly and learn how to produce efficiently and sustainably.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009


This is a pretty big topic, but I'm gonna stick up a bit of a start to it here.

Grace is the big thing in the New Testament. You can't really read it without getting a glimpse of it. Jesus came to help the hated in society. He brought a message of new beginnings, of starting afresh. He was quite happy to spend time with the hated in society; prostitutes, tax collectors, the sick, the poor, the oppressed. He offered a complete wiping clean of sins. It was a bit radical. I mean, let's face it, if someone's wronged you you don't want some guy coming up and saying 'your sins are forgiven'. It upset quite a few of the Pharisees as well (the religious authorities of the time). They said that only God has the power to forgive sins. If you believe Jesus to be the son of God, that's not really a problem. But our very nature is conditioned not to expect free gifts, to look for obligations and strings.

A lot of churches do attach strings. They don't want certain types of people to come. My parents were asked to leave a church because they weren't the right sort of people (in a curious reversal of what you'd expect, it was because they were too posh). They expect a certain dress code. I went to a different church to normal the other week, along with most of my youth group, and we realised when we got there that everyone was dressed up nice and posh... Thankfully they were really cheerful folks and didn't seem to mind that we were all pretty casual. But you get the picture. Many people are put of churches because they think they have to conform to a certain mould, have to be 'fixed' before they go in. But Jesus said that it's the sick who need a doctor, not the healthy. You're not supposed to be sorted before you get to church.

Now, grace (after that rather lengthy introduction...). At the heart of grace is being given something you don't deserve. That something is eternal life. You don't deserve it. Nothing you can ever do would let you earn the right to eternal life. God realised this. That's why he sent Jesus--so we don't have to earn it. We can just receive it. You can't repay him. You can only say thank-you, and mean it.

Grace is what wipes your slate clean. But it's a once and for all wiping clean. Buster, our pastor, likes to ask people "are you a sinner?". The answer, by the way, is no (assuming you've accepted Jesus). Your slate has been wiped clean, and when you sin again, it just gets wiped straight away. It doesn't even stick for a second. When God looks at you, he doesn't see all the mess, all the broken promises, all the tries that ended in failure. He sees perfection, because he sees Jesus.

The response to grace is to say thank-you and accept it. To pick it up and run with it. It's like this: imagine someone gives you a mega nice dress/suit. You wear it, but when you wear it, you're careful with it, aren't you? You don't go out and start mucking it up. It's like that with grace. Even if you know it isn't going to stick to you, is it right to take advantage of that? Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and do whatever you want. Think about it. If you love God with all your heart, soul and mind, are you gonna start doing stuff that would upset him, stuff that breaks his heart? If you have a really close friend, you respect them, you don't trample all over their emotions, you don't ignore their opinions, you don't lie to them, hit them (at least, I would hope you don't intentionally do so...). That's why that statement holds true. It isn't a license to do whatever you want, it's a license to enjoy life with God's guidance.

Your parents have probably given you rules/gave you rules when you were younger. Don't go up there without me, don't climb that tree. These rules are not meant to stop yourself enjoying yourself, they're meant to keep you safe. I'm straying slightly away from the main theme, but never mind, I think this is still relevant.

Jeremiah prophesied: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people." Basically: you don't need a written law any more. God's put it in you, instead of on paper. Instead of writing it on tablets of stone, it's inscribed into our very being, because Christ died for us and offers to come into us and brings that with him.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering." (Romans 8). What this means is that: instead of being under the Old Covenant, which brought death because we could never live up to it, God decided to do both sides of the deal, keeping the commands himself and then letting us reap the benefits. So don't let anyone (including yourself) condemn you for what you have done and have not done. Sin is no longer your master, you belong to Christ instead. And because of that, you have to recognise that nothing you can do will make God love you any less, and no amount of piety will make God love you any more. He can't possibly love you any more than he already does. Don't go feeling 'oh woe is me, I've sinned again'. Just move on. Let God direct your steps and help you not to fall into the trap again.

And remember this: God made you special and he loves you very very very much. More than you could possibly comprehend.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Another Picture

Okay, here's another picture for you, in words. I can't remember how exactly this came to be, but it just sorta turned up.

Anyway, there's a huge mountain, and you've gotta climb up it. So you set off and then you notice there's a massive obstacle in the way. You know you're supposed to go up on this path, and not stray off to either side, but it doesn't look like you'll be able to get through. The climb is getting pretty tough too, and it feels like you can't go much further--you're running out of puff. However, you keep going, and as you get closer to the obstacle, you realise that there's actually a path through it, like a little doorway. You have a way through to the other side.

And remember, God made you special and he loves you very much.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Love is not self-seeking

It's easy to 'love' someone you know you'll get something back out of. For example, you might invite more people to your party than your actual close friends, because you know you'll get more presents that way. You only have to spend a few minutes watching TV to notice that it's almost always the rich and glamorous who have flocks of 'friends' around them, that people flock towards the famous. Perhaps our obsession with celebrities is in part down to the idea that if you can get close to them, some of their fame will rub off on you. I'm guilty of trying it too--my brother went to pre-school with the son of the guy who makes VeggieTales :D. What actual relevance that has to anything...

But on an even more basic level, it can mean loving the people who are lovable, being friends to people who you're pretty sure will reciprocate. It's trying to make the input-->output formula work for relationships too, by expecting back what you put in. It's an easy enough trap to fall into. But the Bible says to 'love your enemies, pray for those who hurt you' (Matthew 5 33-34). Now, what are you going to get back from your enemies if you love them? Not a whole lot in the way of nice stuff--probably. Not at first anyway. But prayer does have the power to change things. It's like giving permission to the fairies in Artemis Fowl (now you're going to say you haven't read this brilliant book)--if they don't have the permission, they can't enter a human's dwelling. In the same way, God gave us power over the earth. He can't step in unless we ask him to.

I think the best way to look at this one is to examine your motives within friendships, to wonder why exactly you're inviting that person to your party.

Just remember:

God made you special and he loves you very much.

In His Likeness

Now, maybe you think it's a wee bit annoying to be told you look like your parents. Believe me, you probably don't have it as bad as me--I've been mistaken for my mum several times by people who know us both pretty well. At a distance usually, but it's still a little annoying when people call you 'Deb!', and it's like 'no, I'm Joanna'. But there's one parent I think everyone would like to look like.

He's the toughest guy in the universe, the smartest, the funniest (he played the world's first joke, let's not forget), the most awesome, so beautiful it hurts to look upon his face... And that guy made you in His likeness. "Come, let us make man in our likeness" (Genesis 1 v 26). Now, just think about that for a moment. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our heavenly daddy. If you've got his DNA in you, doesn't that mean you ought to reflect his characteristics?

I just want to encourage you to remember that not only is the biggest guy in the universe on your side as the perfect dad to point to and go 'my dad's bigger than yours' whenever troubles come along, but also that you are like him. And as you grow in maturity within your faith, or come to know him personally, you'll grow into being more like him. How awesome is that? You start to become more like the most powerful King in the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


We've been talking about this a bit in church recently, and I thought I'd share about it with you.

Fear is an instinctive thing, and it can be pretty good. It's the start of the fight or flight response, a recognition that something is potentially dangerous. For example, if a dinosaur came charging into my bedroom right now, I'd be pretty fearful, which is a good start. If you didn't fear things, you'd probably hurt/kill yourself pretty quickly.

However, when fear goes on too long, it causes problems. When you're afraid, certain chemicals are released and they aren't meant to be in your body all the time. So when you're fearful all the time, you can't sleep, your blood gets diverted away from your stomach and you find it hard to digest food, which causes even more problems, etc etc.

At the bottom of a page in my Bible, I've written 'what you fear, you give power to'. You've probably heard the saying 'fear the Lord'. What that basically means is you give power to God. People feared kings because they had power. People fear things that are stronger than them, and in that way give respect to them. (I'm not saying this is the best way to control people though...). Now, the problem comes when you start fearing things you shouldn't. Exams for example. Or circumstances you cannot control, like the state of the economy. If I fear exams, I'm giving the power and respect to them that they don't deserve, the power and respect that should go to God.

Now, it's all well and good saying you shouldn't be afraid, but it isn't so easy to put it into practice. I can understand that. When I was doing my GCSEs last year, my mum was ill and I was scared about what was gonna happen to her, and what was gonna happen with my exams. Someone gave me a verse on a little bit of card. 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God' (Philippians 4 v 6). Every time I started to feel worried about my exams or anything, I got that out my pocket and read it, to the point that it's now firmly embedded in my memory and now when I realise I'm scared of something I shouldn't be scared of, I start repeating it to myself.

Ultimately, the best way to combat fear that I've found is to remember who you are in God.

'So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God's chosen. Who would dare even to point a finger?' (Romans 8 v 31-32ish The Message). Basically what that says is there's no reason to be afraid. The biggest dad in the universe is stood right behind you to back you up. And if you've got the biggest dad of all the kids in the playground, well, doesn't that make you feel rather safe? It certainly reminds me of why I don't need to be afraid of anything the world can throw at me, because 'Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world' (sorry, I can't remember where in the Bible that's from...).

Anyway, God made you special, and he loves you very much.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Love is not rude

Love is not rude. Again, this looks like an obvious one. Of course you aren't rude to people you love. Are you? Um... Maybe a bit. Well, a lot. It's like with the kindness thing. It's pretty easy to be nasty to people you like, to be rude, to cut them off mid-sentence, to ignore them, because you feel like you can get away with it. But it's easy to go a bit too far, to say something you'll later find yourself regretting which leads to an argument.

Not listening is often seen as being rude. And that can lead to problems. As an example: apparently, today I was told we were going to Camelot theme park. I don't remember ever hearing that. So, when the time came and my mum was like 'have you played your clarinet, we're going soon', I was understandably confused. She was annoyed I hadn't listened and paid attention. Fair enough. I can see her point. Not listening is one of the things people find most annoying. In order to assure people we're listening, there's this thing called back-channel--we go 'uh-huh', 'yeh', etc. If you ever stop giving back channel, it really disturbs people because it feels like you're not listening, leads to uncomfortable silence, can be quite embarassing. How do I know? We did a little experiment in English Language. Quite amusing for those of us in on the joke, frustrating for people not in on the joke. I'm rambling a bit, sorry. At any rate, people get offended if they feel like you're being rude and ignoring them. It makes them feel belittled, it's part of the whole respect thing I was talking about earlier. If you love someone, you respect them, you give them your attention. Being rude doesn't do that.

What it all comes down to, is that all people deserve respect and consideration. They were 'made in the image of God' (Genesis). Now, don't you think that deserves a bit of respect? After all, in dictatorships, in celebrity culture, the image of the leader or celebratory is displayed prominently, and people are expected to give it respect. How much more respect do things reflecting God deserve?

Remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


I was looking through some notes I'd made ages ago recently, and I found a picture that I want to share with you. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely sure how to transfer the picture to here, so you'll have to put up with it in words.

It started off with a spout, open at the top, like a bit of drainpipe. That was us (well, me at this particular point, but it'll apply to other Christians). It had little holes in, all the way up the side. It started to rain, and the rain was blessings.

These blessings fell down into the pipe and started to collect there, but when they reached the little holes, they started spurting out, and hitting all these other little open topped pipes, which were other people. The more the me-pipe got filled, the more spurted out as it got higher and higher up the tube, the more fierce the spurts of water were, and the more got poured into the me-pipe.

It started to rain harder, and the water didn't fit in the pipe any more, despite all the holes spurting it out the side, and it gushed over and out into other people-pipes.

And then the rain cloud just went whoosh, and water poured everywhere, into all the people-pipes. Everyone was getting filled up, bursting out with water, and the water was spreading everywhere.

See, when God starts blessing you, it spills over onto others too. And when God starts blessing you, he doesn't just give you a little bit. He keeps on pouring it in, till you're full to overflowing and the overflow is going to other people.

I hope that makes sense. I'll try and get the pictures up (or at least, neatened versions of the pictures) at some point.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Love is not proud

Okay, I'm gonna start off with a dictionary definition of proud: having, proceeding from, or showing a high opinion of one's own dignity, importance, or superiority.

Don't you just hate it when you come across someone who thinks they're so much better than you? It's so infuriating. You just want to wipe that smile of smug satisfaction off their grinning gob and let them eat a bit of humble pie. Well, I guess that makes it kinda clear why Paul didn't want people to connect love with proud. It causes anger and resentment. But even when it doesn't, it still has pretty bad repercusions. I'm sure you've heard the saying 'pride comes before a fall'. The reason is, pride puffs you up so much that you can't see where you're putting your feet, and then wham, you're on your face. So be careful about priding yourself in your relationships too much. That's a bit of a sneaky trap. You start to think 'hey, I'm doing pretty good at this whole loving thing', get a bit proud, and that's when you start seeing people as not being people.

Maybe you think I'm overdramatising a bit. Well, let's look at it this way. A little bit of pride in a relationship, you might think is a good thing. It means you want to keep it going. But this links in with the whole boasting thing. If you start looking at your relationship in terms of what it provides, that can never lead to good stuff. A relationship is about what you can give, not what you can get. And that is the very essence of love.

Remember: God made you special, and he loves you very much.


This is one of the most basic rules of life. What you input influences what the output is. If you input certain instructions into a computer game, the output is that the game does what you've told it to. If you input values into a process, it follows the process and spits out the relevant value. If you plant a certain type of seed, that's what grows.

It's easy to forget that this rule, which applies to just about any other area of life, also applies to us as people. If you input junk, you output junk. It says in the Bible (if I can remember where I put it down last...) "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (Phillipians 4v8). This is basically saying that you ought to think about nice stuff. And if you think about nice stuff, then you'll act nice. I know that oversimplifies a bit, but the cause effect relationship is there. It certainly works the opposite way around. A relationship has been found between listening to music with sexual lyrics and having sex at a younger age.

It's not so easy to think about nice things--true, noble, excellent, admirable things--in today's world. But I doubt it was much easier in the world of the Bible. Okay, they didn't have twenty-four seven tv, internet and music. But they did have a lot more contact between individuals, and there was slavery and stuff which was pretty blatant. It can sometimes seem that the only way to avoid listening to rubbish is to stick your head in the sand and ignore the world. But Jesus didn't do that. He wasn't afraid to go out there into the big bad world, the real world, talking to real people who society hated. However, if you look around, there is plenty to see that's true and honourable. Lukas posted about the Isaiah Project, there's plenty of stuff like that. If you make the effort, there are plenty of books and films out there which aren't encouraging people to leap into bed with each other. I'm not saying it's easy. But it's worth doing it. What sort of seeds are you sowing into your life? And what sort of crop do you want to reap?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Power of Words

'Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks' (Timothy). What's your mouth full of? It's surprising how much you can tell about a person from what they saw, and how they say it.

There's a lot of power in words. Words can build you up, and they can cut you down. Words can bring healing, and they can bring destruction. Something said in haste that you later regret is not easily undone. Paul says that the tongue is like the rudder on a ship. It's a very small part, but it controls where the whole thing goes. Or like the steering wheel on a car. The wheel isn't very big, but it points you in the direction. Your words are like that. If you say you're going to do something, it's a lot harder to back out of it than if you just think you'll do it. If you say what you think out loud, you can't take it back, or alter it, as easily as if you keep your thoughts private.

When God created the universe, he spoke it into being. Now, even if you believe (like quite a few Christians), the story in Genesis is not literally true, but rather there to give us an idea of how it was done, to give a message about God, you can see that this instantly places an enormous amount of power in words. After all, Genesis demonstrates that words have the power to create hugely complex and intricate things. Our world, the plants and animals on it, us. In the story about the Tower of Babel, God said 'One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they'll come up with next--they'll stop at nothing; (Genesis 11 v 6 The Message). So speech has a huge amount of power. Just think about how much talking there is before anything gets done!

Given the huge power of words, you'd think we'd wise up and take care with what we say. Not always the case. I've certainly said things I've later regretted--I'm sure everyone has. Blessings and curses all start with words. What you say about yourself will influence you. If you say 'I'm worthless', that becomes your mindset, you act like it. If, every morning, you say 'I'm a child of God, I'm created in his image, I'm amazing', that's how you'll act.

It's not only words you say about yourself though. It's words others say about you, and words you say about others. Now, I know you don't have a whole lot of control over what other people say about you. But you can choose what you take in. You can choose where you define your truth. And you can certainly choose what you say about others.

I got bullied at school. People said nasty stuff about me. I don't think they realised just how much it hurt. I'd rather they'd hit me, to be honest. At least that way, you can see the effects and you know it'll heal up. When people hit you inside, nobody can tell unless you let them know. And it's a lot harder to heal, in the same way it's a lot harder to heal internal bleeding than external bleeding. So before you speak to people, think about what you're saying. Is it the sort of thing you'd want to hear about yourself? Are your words the sort of words that cut and wound, or are they words that bind up and heal?

And remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

So, what was the whole point of Easter?

I said in my post about Easter Sunday that Easter was the most important part of the Christian faith. I've just realised that I didn't really explain why.

I quoted previously from Romans: 'for the wages of sin is death'. The second part of that verse goes: 'but the gift of God is eternal life'. It was through the sacrifice of Jesus that our sin could be atoned for. It was through the resurrection that the whole deal was brought into place. This was like the new deal of faith, and the basis of it is grace, not works. No matter what I do, it makes no difference to the fact that I am loved by God and that I've been set free and redeemed and I'm going to heaven.

Paul preaches grace throughout his books. The gist of it goes like this. When Christ died, he paid the price for sin. When we accept that payment, we accept Christ into our hearts and lives. This means that when God looks at us, he doesn't see the bad stuff we do, he just sees Jesus. And since Jesus lived the perfect live, we're perfect too.

That's not to say I don't do bad stuff. I do. I get into arguments with my brother, I can be moody and grumpy, I'm not as nice to people as I should be. But it's not counted against me. Same for anybody who's accepted Jesus as saviour. 'For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him'. Jesus isn't going to condemn you. God isn't standing there with a big stick, glaring at you, saying 'oy, you messed up, you're a dirty rotten sinner and therefore deserve eternal punishment'. He's looking at you thinking 'I love you, but I can't accept you because you're messed up'. It's like this. If you're wearing a big white robe, absolutely perfect, sparkling clean, and someone you love comes up to you, covered in muck, you can't go and hug them, because you'll get mucky too. God can't hug us because of sin. So he had a great idea. He said 'right, I'll deal with the sin'. So now, when you accept Jesus, Jesus' blood cleanses you, makes you non-mucky, and then God can come and hug you. And no matter what you do, no matter how bad you think it is, it's not something that Jesus can't get rid of.

A lot of churches don't preach grace. They preach rules along with grace. You're saved if you believe in Jesus and... No. That's not true. It says in the Bible 'If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved'. That's pretty unambiguous. There's no buts, there's no added clauses, there's no small print involved. The trouble with grace is that it can be abused. People say 'oh, well if nothing I do matters, then I'll just go off and sleep with whoever I like, kill people, and generally live my life as though I'm the only person in the world who really matters'. No. That's not what Paul meant. The whole point of Christian freedom is that you're free from sin, free from death, and therefore what do you want with it any more? Jesus didn't say that you wouldn't have consequences on earth if you do wrong, only that the eternal consequence--death and separation from God, is no longer an issue if you accept his gift. If you go out and kill someone for example, that will have consequences. It doesn't make God love you any less, but it doesn't take away the fact that the police will hunt you down, that you'll have to live with the fact that you took a life.

I'm straying slightly off the point here, I'll come back to the idea of grace later.

When Jesus died, basically what happened was God decided to swap things over. When he looked at Jesus on the cross, he saw our sin and rottenness and disease. That's why Jesus said 'my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'. Because God cannot look upon sin. But when God looks at us now, he sees Jesus' perfection and glory. That's the whole point of Easter. Easter gives us hope for eternity.

And remember: God made you special, and he loves you very much.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Abba, Father

Quite often in the Bible, God is described as our father. Perhaps the most well known instance is in the Lord's Prayer. (Our Father who art in heaven...).

Abba is the Hebrew word that gets translated to father. However, to a lot of people this suggests a stern old bloke with a stick. In reality, the word is much closer to our word 'Daddy'.

I know not everyone's been as lucky as me to have a great dad, and some people struggle with this. Up until a few years ago, my dad was always indestructible, and I called him 'Daddy'. But when you get a bit older, you start to realise that your dad isn't really quite so indestructible and perfect, no matter how great he may be. He's just human. And you start to call him 'Dad' (unless you want something).

It's interesting that 'Daddy' is the word I'm more likely to use if I want to borrow money or go out or anything like that. And 'Daddy' is often what young children say.

In the Bible, Jesus says that unless you have faith like little children, you won't enter the kingdom. So I think it's important that instead of thinking of God as 'Father', we start to think of him more as 'Daddy'--there to meet all our needs, keep us safe, and offer his unconditional love.

And remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Father's Love Letter

This is something that was given to me once. I've taken it from

My Child,

You may not know me, but I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4

And I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me.
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Easter Sunday

It seems to me I kinda abandoned Easter with Jesus dead. Which was maybe not such a great idea. After all, Norma (I guess you'd call her our youth pastor) was most upset at the thought she might have to leave the teaching of Christianity with Jesus on the cross.

A brief summary of what happened then. Jesus was hastily buried on the Friday, as no work could be done on the Sabbath which traditionally started on Friday evening. This meant that his body was left in the tomb over the Saturday. A couple of chief priests went to the governer and said 'look, this guy said he was gonna rise from the dead, so put a gaurd on the body will you so that none of his disciples can steal his body and claim he's risen'. So the Romans did just that, and rolled a big heavy stone in front of the tomb. On Sunday morning, some of the women who were with Jesus (Mary Magdaline and a couple of others, including one called Joanna) went up to the tomb to deal with Jesus' body properly. They were concerned as to how they'd get the stone away. When they got there, they found the stone was rolled away, the guards were not there. This is where accounts in the different gospels differ slightly. They were met by an angel, and told that they shouldn't look for Jesus amongst the dead because he was living. Then according to (I think) Luke, they saw Jesus but mistook him for a gardner at first. They went back, told the other disciples that Jesus was risen, but they didn't quite believe them. Then Jesus appeared to them and they kinda had to believe cos he was right there in front of them.

The resurrection of Jesus is the most important part of Christianity. This part is where faith comes in. It's one thing to accept the virtually indisputable fact of Jesus' death on Good Friday, it's another to believe he's the son of God and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. This occurrence is so central to the Christian faith that Paul wrote 'If Christ had not been raised from the dead, our preaching is useless and so is your faith'.

Historically, there is some evidence in favour of the idea that Christ did rise from the dead. The gospels were written down within thirty or so years of Jesus' time on earth. That's not really long enough for a myth to build up, and there were plenty around who could say 'nah, that never happened like that'. In Acts, Luke records that Jesus appeared to some 400 or so people, many of whom were still around to attest to the validity of that claim. To do so when nobody could in fact do that would invite trouble. However, ultimately it comes down to a question of faith, of whether you do or do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

That, then, is the events of Easter.

As an interesting foot note, when Jesus appeared first to the disciples, one of their number, Thomas, was missing. When they told him that Jesus had been present, he dismissed their claims as ridiculous, saying that unless he could touch Jesus, put his fingers in the nail holes and his hands in Jesus' side, he wouldn't believe it. Jesus showed up amongst the disciples again, and this time Thomas was amongst them. He invited Thomas to do what he had said would convince him. Then he said that those who believed but had not seen were very blessed indeed.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Easter Saturday

Sandwiched right in between the two major events of the Christian faith--Good Friday and Easter--is that unusaul little day called Easter Saturday. The only day when Jesus wasn't around. After all, he was present in creation (see the bit in John re: the word becoming flesh), and he's present again now, and he was present when he walked the earth. But on Easter Saturday, Jesus was elsewhere. What happened on the in between day?

There's not really a whole lot in the Bible to tell us what went on. I guess the disciples were pretty miserable. It was the Sabbath, so nobody did any work or any of that. They moped about, wondered what had happened to make it all go wrong, why Jesus, who they thought was supposed to save the world, had died in such a horrific manner.

However. What you have to surmise is that as when Jesus came back, he'd conquered sin and death, that's what must've happened. The conquering sin came on Good Friday. The conquering death came when he died. Death couldn't keep hold of him. If you've ever read or seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it's like how Aslan explains that the willing sacrifice is able to rise again, having taken the place of the other, and the Stone Table is split apart and can never be used again. Jesus died, yes. On Saturday, he was dealing with the power of death. It looked like everything had all gone wrong, looked like the disciples had got the wrong guy, looked like all their hopes had been dashed.

And I guess that's Easter Saturday. A pretty miserable day, all told. Probably why it's not really celebrated. But essential. After all, if Jesus hadn't been dead, he couldn't have said 'been there, done that, sorted it all out for you', could he?

Good Friday

Um, yes, it's a bit late. I know that. But I figure I can't let Easter/Good Friday get too far behind before I make a comment on it up here.

Good Friday. I always wondered when I was younger about why it was called good. What's so good about the saviour of the world, the son of God, getting flogged and beaten and mocked until he was half dead and then hung up on a cross to die of suffocation? Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. That's a historical fact. It's confirmed by sources outside the Bible, Pliny was one of them I seem to recall. But before he was crucified, he was beaten with a whip studded with bits of glass. The beating alone could kill you. The soldiers spat at him and mocked him, dressing him up and beating him around even more. Then he was forced to carry his own cross, up to a hill. People gathered round to watch, mocked him as he walked. He was nailed to it, and then hung up and left to die. It could take several days to die on a cross. It wasn't the bleeding or any of that which killed you, it was suffocation. In order to breath, you had to press against the nails in your feet, lift up your head, breathe in. Eventually the victim became too exhausted to lift their head, and they suffocated and died. If the guards wanted to speed up the process (which they did on this particular Friday, as they didn't want the bodies hanging their on the Sabbath which was doubly special because of the Passover), they broke the legs of the men they were crucifying. When they came to Jesus, he was already dead, so they stuck a spear in his side to make good and sure. Blood and water flowed out. Although that sort of knowledge probably wasn't hugely commonplace at the time, when you die, the blood and water starts to separate. So that showed he'd been dead for a while. Apparently some people think Jesus was still alive then. I highly doubt it, given all that. And if he had survived, he wouldn't have been in a fit state to push a stone away from his tomb and wander out into the village and say 'look everyone, I'm alive!'.

Anyway, given all that, I wondered for ages what was so good about Good Friday. I thought of it to myself as a bad Friday.

But the thing is this. Without the suffering then, we wouldn't have been freed from the curse of death. Jesus had to die like that. Not only did it fulfil the prophecies about him, that he would be hung from a tree, that he would suffer, that his stripes (the marks left by the whip) would heal us, but it also satisfied the needs of God's justice to have a punishment for all the wrong that has been done. You see, God loves us, but the sin separates us from him. He'd like to turn a blind eye, but God is just and you can't be just and turn a blind eye to people doing wrong. So 'God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us'(almost certain that's from Romans). Therefore, while Good Friday may not have been all that pleasant for Jesus, it was certainly good news for us. It meant that the perfect sacrifice had been found and offered up, and therefore we are free from the punishment that we deserved, 'for the wages of sin is death'(also from Romans, definitely this time).

It's like this. In the books of the law, a sacrifice had to be offered to atone for the people's sins. This was usually a lamb or a goat or a cow, something of that nature. The scapegoat used by the Isrealites is a particularly good example. What happened was, the High Priest would lay his hands on the head of this goat, and then all the sins of the Isrealite people would be laid on the goat, so that the goat could be taken away and the people of Isreal were free from their sins. The goat had taken the punishment for them. Now, a goat wasn't a great sacrifice--none of the animals were. So when the people sinned again, they had to sacrifice again.

Jesus put an end to the repeated sacrifices. He lived a perfect life, was a lamb without blemish (you couldn't offer an imperfect lamb that you didn't really want--in order for the sacrifice to mean anything, it had to be perfect), and therefore became the ultimate sacrifice for sin. When he was brutally killed by the Romans, he took on the sins of the world, and atoned for them, just like the scapegoat. But he did it permanently. His sacrifice lasts forever and ever, and it atoned for all sins that have ever been committed and will ever be committed.

I've heard it explained like this. As Jesus was being nailed from the cross, God, who is outside time, gathered up every sin that would ever be committed while the earth exists, and he hammered it to the cross along with Jesus.

That's why Good Friday is good. It was a good day for us, because now we can reap the benefits of that.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Parable of the Runaway

This is an adaptation of Jesus' parable of the lost son. Similar to the drama they did at Encounter, but I think their version was even better. Still. Here it is.

Mel woke up at 3am. She didn’t normally. In fact, her stepmother reckoned they were lucky if they saw her before 3pm on a weekend. Her stepmother had always judged her unfairly, and Mel had had enough. There was a reason for waking up at 3am. Everything was quiet, and she could get away without being seen.

She dressed silently, slipped downstairs. Her stepmother’s handbag was lying by the doorway. She picked it up, weighed it in her hand. She’d need the money. Still staying completely silent, Mel removed the money – fifty quid – from the purse and slipped it in her pocket. She’d be able to get to London now, lose herself amongst the maze of streets and flocks of homeless people.

She left silently and walked to the train station. It wasn’t too far into the city. She slipped through the back alleys, feeling a slight pang of remorse as she moved through the familiar streets. This was her home, had always been. She’d miss her dad she guessed, but ever since she’d come, Mel had felt unwanted, shoved out the way.

She bought her ticket from the man on duty, a man she’d never seen before and yet was giving her this passport to a new life, and she boarded the train. At exactly 3:57, dead on time, the train departed for London.

Houston station was pretty much deserted, but the first thing she did was go to the Starbucks in the corner and morosely down a coffee. She had no idea what to do next. All she knew was that she’d left the hated stepmother for good.

When Mark, Mel’s father, awoke at half past seven, as he always did, he checked Mel’s room. When he saw that she wasn’t there, he panicked and called the police. They informed him that there was very little they could do – she was sixteen and if there were no signs of struggle, they weren’t prepared to spend much time to locate her.

His girlfriend, Amanda, just smiled, told him they were better without that ‘no-good
waster’. Mark ignored her pleas to leave things be and went straight to the station. The ticket man recalled serving a girl who looked somewhat dazed and close to tears, said that she’d taken a ticket for London.

That was where Mark went, on the next train. He called his office, told them he had a family emergency, called Amanda, and asked her to stay home in case Mel came back. Not that he thought she would do, not immediately.

The weeks passed. Nobody knew what had happened to Mel, the pretty young redhead who’d disappeared in London. Amanda declared that she’d probably become a prostitute. And then, seven weeks after she’d disappeared, there was a knock on the door. A teenager with short, untidy red hair and a wary look in her eyes was stood on the doorstep.

Mark answered it, got the surprise of his life when he saw his daughter, his beloved daughter, standing there, hanging her head. He did not wait for her to speak, merely swept her up into his arms and held her tightly. Amanda, alerted by the doorbell, came down the stairs.

“What do you think you’re doing? That good-for-nothing waster ran away, stole from me, and now you’re just welcoming her back, like it never happened.”

“This beautiful ‘waster’ happens to be my daughter, and if you can’t accept that I love her, I think you’d better leave.”

Ok, I admit I changed things a little, but I think it retains the original meaning. God doesn't care what we've done, how far we run, or anything like that. He just wants to see us come home again.


This was absolutely amazing! The music was absolutely incredible. For those of you who don't know, it's a massive youth event held yearly in Preston Guild Hall. It involves singing, drama, a bit of testimony, and more singing. Incredible! Sat in pretty much in the middle of the seats at the bottom, got a real sense of the atmosphere, although it was a good job I did know most of the words as it was sometimes hard to see the big screens, what with people jumping around :D. Totally enjoyed it. Quite emotional in the second half, the drama nearly made me cry. It was fairly similar to something I've written, which I'll post up here in a minute. An adaptation of one of Jesus' parables. Very well done. I'd love to get involved next year.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved, it was fantastic!

Love does not boast

Ok, back to the whole love thing again.

Boasting: speaking with exaggeration or excessive pride, especially about yourself.

I can see two ways in which boasting damages relationships. The first is boasting about yourself. If you big yourself up, this is naturally going to come at the expense of others. The Bible often speaks of building others up, rather than building yourself up. Jesus gave instructions to be humble, and demonstrated this by washing his disciples feet--a task usually reserved for lowly servants. So bigging yourself up and boasting is liable to damage relationships, because it doesn't consider the other person. It's liable to lead to friction. After all, if I stand there saying 'I'm amazing, I'm amazing, look at me', I'm ignoring the basic point of love, which is caring for someone else, other than yourself.

The other way I look at boasting is like this: boasting about your relationship. I heard somewhere that one of the ways you know you're serious about a relationship is when you want to tell all your friends the tiny little details, but you don't, out of respect for the other person. Relationships aren't meant to be broadcast to the world. You love your boyfriend/girlfriend, you took them out to dinner last night. Great. But if you start talking about all the stuff you do for your boyfriend/girlfriend, or even just your friend, it's worth asking yourself: why are you doing all that stuff? Is it because you genuinely care about them? Or is it because it makes you look good?

Boasting is dangerous whichever way it's happening. It's drawing love away from the relationship and putting it into yourself instead. It's serving yourself instead of serving others. And this works when you're talking about the Christian love (agape) as well. True love, love that wants the best for others, does not want people to look at you and go 'wow, isn't she/he amazing', which is what the aim of boasting is.

Remember, God made you special, and he loves you very much.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Women in the Church

Guess what! This is a topic for the Conversation, and we haven't even talked about it yet! I'm being early! The reason I know about it ahead of time being that I'm kind of doing tomorrows. So. I'm throwing my thoughts up here to try and make sense of them ahead of time, which might just be a good idea.

There are no women bishops in the Church of England, and as far as I know, there aren't any women priests in the Catholic church. In an era of equality, this seems a little strange, and the church has been criticised for it. On the other hand, people in the Church of England have threatened to leave if women are appointed as bishops.

The justification for this is taken from Paul's teachings that women should be silent in the church and ask their husbands at home, and that women should obey their husbands. Sure, Jesus taught equality, the arguement goes, but Paul, well, he wrote something like a quarter of the new testament, was a real man of God. So we ought to follow his teachings.

I really struggled with this at first. I couldn't reconcile the idea of Jesus who went to the oppressed, the despised, and lifted them up, with the idea that women should be oppressed in the church. My original idea was that Paul was writing with regard to his times, that there was a culture thing in there, that, well, he wasn't Jesus, was he?

Doing RE at GCSE, I discovered the second part of the women obey your husbands. I think it was first at Devoted. Anyway, wherever it was, it doesn't really matter. The second part goes along the lines of husbands honour your wives. The idea was that the husband would not ask the wife to do anything unreasonable, and that the husband would be prepared to lay down his life for the wife.

I also learnt that the reason it's thought Paul told the women to shut up in the church was because they were sat at the back of the synagogue (bearing in mind that the early church often borrowed the Jewish synagogues for their services), and they were shouting down questions to their husbands who were sat at the front, while the teacher was speaking. Obviously this was a bit of a nuisance. It didn't show a good image to those outside of the church either. A lot of Paul's teachings were concerned with Christians being kind to everyone, with Christians acting like the ideal. They were accused of cannibalism, so you can see why he wanted them to be nice to people.

An interesting thing I learnt very recently was that at the end of Romans, when Paul sends his personal greetings, a woman was chosen as his first in line to greet. He also said she had been a great help to him, elevating her to almost the status of an apostle. Also, he proceeded to mention various other women in his greetings, and put the woman first in a husband and wife pairing. Women traditionally weren't mentioned in Jewish writing (just look at the geneologies earlier in the Bible if you don't believe me).

Also in Romans is a section where Paul says you've not to use his teachings to create disharmony or oppression.

Like I said earlier, one of the reasons this issue has been something I've struggled with is that I don't see how the idea of oppression and preventing certain groups of people from partaking fits into the universal nature of Jesus' love. God's love is for everyone, not just select groups. I think this has been ignored by the church in a lot of situations, not just with regard to gender. Anyway, that's my take on it. If you're coming to the Conversation tomorrow, well, that's a sneak preview. Although it's more a writeup of just about everything I plan to say.

Remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


I've said it before, I'm a bit slow at putting things up on here. This was the topic at the Conversation before last.

Sin is anything that separates us from God. In RE we said it could also be understood in a secular sense as things that separate us from other people.

The person leading the discussion had some statistics. What amazed me was how many people thought that sex before marriage was just fine, but very few people thought that having sex with someone while being married to another person was wrong. What's the difference? Ok, so in the first instance you have not made that vow yet, but still. I think this is a longer topic which I should go into in greater detail at a later point, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Another one that interested me was the number of people who thought that drinking any alcohol was a sin. I'd like to point out that Jesus turned water into wine. I'm not saying go out and get drunk, but I can't see justification for giving it a blanket label as evil.

Something that Paul said in one of his letters (Romans I think), is pretty relevant here. "Everything is permissable, but not everything is beneficial". This is the nature of free will. Think of it this way. It's permissable for me to do absolutely no revision for my exams. However, it's not going to be beneficial to me. It's permissable for me to go sleep with anyone I feel like sleeping with, but is it really beneficial? Well, no.

Gossip is listed as a sin. I'm sure that most people are guilty of that at some point or another. Why is it a sin? Well think what harm gossip can do to a relationship with someone. If I go around telling people that such and such is having troubles in this relationship, but keep it quiet because I'm not really supposed to know, doesn't that damage my relationship with such and such? And if it isn't true, and it gets back to the other party in the relationship, that could cause the problems in the first place.

Just remember. God made you special and he loves you very much.


Lukas spoke about this at church the other week. I'm behind, I know, but at least I am putting it up eventually.

The gist of it was: it doesn't matter what paths you've taken up to now. You may feel you've strayed off the correct path, that may very well be true. But God doesn't just work with perfection. He acknowledges that we aren't perfect, that we do make mistakes. God uses these mistakes to build from, to work with. It doesn't matter what paths you've been on up till now. God still wants to work with you, to lead you
along the path he chose for you before the world began.

Remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A Guide

This is another thing they were talking about at Quiver.

If you ever decide to walk across Morecambe Bay, you can't just set off on your own. There's a heck of a lot of quicksand out there, and you've no way of knowing where it is. You might remember the story of the Chinese cockle pickers who were out and drowned when the tide came back in. You see, the trouble is not only the quicksand, but also the fact that the tide round there comes in very fast. I watched it once, because they have a thing that goes off about half an hour before it comes in (don't quote me on that, might be ten minutes, it was a while ago). It was incredible. One minute, there was nothing, no ocean, nice flat sand. Next minute whoosh and there was water everywhere. If you find yourself doing ok, out in the middle of the bay, prodding at the sand as you go, pretty confident, and then you discover the tide coming in and you start running, well, you're not going to be checking so careful and you're liable to stumble into a patch of quick sand. That's why there's a guide.

Life is a bit like Morecambe Bay. There's a lot of quicksand out there, a lot of danger, and when you start getting a bit flustered and stressed, you're more likely to fall into it, and then whoosh, in comes the tide or down you sink and you're gone. If you set off out there alone, there's nobody watching your back when things get rough, when the tide looks like it's gonna come in at any minute and suck you up, you're liable to get stuck in the quicksand. If you go with a guide though, well, that's a different matter. You can avoid the quicksand because you've somoene there to say 'step where I step, do what I do'. Jesus is the guide. I was saying this to one of my friends at school and she was like 'yeh, but what if you're the first person to do something'. How different was being the first person to fly to being the first person in space, feeling wise? How different is being the first person to do something ot being the first person to do just about anything else? And bear in mind that Jesus went through stuff similar to what we're going through. Maybe not identical. But being mocked stirs up pretty much the same feelings no matter how it's done. Unlike the Morecambe Bay thing though, God is there. You're just not choosing to follow him. But if you find yourself stuck in quicksand, no reason you can't turn round and say 'help!' and God'll come and fish you out. Maybe it won't feel like it at first, it might take time and work to get all the gloop off've you, but it's a start, isn't it?

Remember, God made you special and he loves you very much.


Ok, I'm slow, I know. We talked about this the Wednesday before last at the Conversation. So, here's my thoughts:

The first thing we did was split evil into natural disaster type evil and suffering to moral evil (as in people doing bad things which hurt others).

A lot of people use the existence of evil and suffering as an argument against the existence of God. They say that how can an all-loving, all-powerful God not step in to alleviate suffering. And how come the world has been created flawed.

Now, I'll start with the moral evil. It's a bit simpler in my mind. The whole thing is, God gave us free will. That means the ability to chose for good, or for evil, the ability to say yes to God and God's laws, and also the ability to go against them. When people go against God's laws, suffering results. Oppression results. Evil results. It's that simple. I'll take a couple of the ten commandments, you tell me if you think they're reasonable. Do not kill. Well, I think you can see where that's coming from. If you kill people, you're obviously hurting them and people who love them. And you're hurting yourself too, because you have to live with the fact that you took a life. Do not steal. Again, this does hurt people. If you take from a shop, that shop loses out on the profit, the owners don't get what they need to live on. Now, you might say 'oh, it's different to steal from Tesco, they can afford it, I can't'. If you really were stealing because you were completely starving, I do think that's a slightly different matter (same with killing someone by accident in self defence, but that's not really what we're talking about). But let's face it. If you steal from Tesco or anywhere, you are breaking the law, you are doing wrong, and if you have the ability to read this, I highly doubt that you really are starving. It's still just as wrong to take from Tesco. What would happen if everyone did it?

Now, on to natural evil.

One of the things we were saying at the Conversation was that if we didn't have this suffering to alleviate, we wouldn't get anywhere. If there wasn't something to work against, there would be no point in working. Much as I hate it, some of the greatest innovations have come during times of war, originally for a military purpose. They were created to defeat opposition, but they have come into use in everyday life to help to save people's lives and make things easier.

Another theory was that suffering was the world's way of making sure that there weren't too many people on it to sustain. I can agree with that too. In an eco-system, if you get rid of the predator, you get an explosion of the prey. While this might seem nice and you might think it's wonderful that the cute little rabbits are spared from the ravages of the nasty foxes, the rabbit population will explode. When that happens, they're all going to suffer. If people didn't die, callous as it sounds, there would be no room on the planet for any more.

Another thing that was said is that if we didn't have suffering here, we wouldn't appreciate the perfection of heaven. I don't think that's the primary reason for it, I don't think it's even really a very good reason. However, I'd like to throw in a little perspective. Some people think they're suffering because they have a rotten teacher. Others see themselves as suffering because they have no teacher. I'm not saying that other people suffer so that we can appreciate what we have, but if you don't suffer some hardship, you don't appreciate just how much you have.

Famine was thrown in a lot as an example of natural suffering. There is enough food in the world for everyone. In fact, I dare say we even have the technology to get that food to everyone. The trouble is, we're too greedy. I think this is one of the primary causes of suffering. Our own greed and selfishness means that we don't help those in trouble. And another thing with this natural suffering. No offence to those of you in California, but I have very little sympathy for millionaires who moan that their wonderful mansions have been damaged by earthquakes. We know now that there's a fault line running under California. So loads of people go and live there and fear the big one that's bound to come. Volcanoes are not intrinsically evil. Earthquakes are not out to get you. They're there. We have the knowledge now to avoid them, but we decide to live right on top of them. Volcanoes, you have to admit, are pretty amazing to watch. You can't say God's evil for creating volcanoes. He put them there because they're spectacular, and then people just decided to go live on them. What was He supposed to do? I admit, that knowledge wasn't always around, but as a response to earthquakes, volcanoes etc, people have done lots of research into them. Wouldn't life be boring if there was nothing to be curious about?

A final point on natural evil. The world was created perfect. Humans then proceeded to sin. That put flaws into the world. That's where a lot of suffering came from. You know in movies when someone does something terribly wrong and the whole thing starts exploding and having mega problems. Thing of that being what happened when sin was introduced. A perfect world rebelling against the imperfection that had been inserted into it.

Just remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Love does not envy

Envy is a longing for the possessions, advantages, success, qualities of another person. It's uneasiness when you see another person excelling or doing better than you, often with some hatred attached to it. An obsolete meaning is malice, spite, and the desire to injure someone. Sounds pretty nasty. You can see, I'm sure, why Paul said that love does not envy, and why it might be a smart idea not to give envy a toehold in this lifestyle of love he was speaking about.

I'm sure everyone gets envious sometimes. I know I do. What's wrong with it then? In a mild form, isn't it ok? I mean, everyone does it.

Well, no, not really. It's not ok. Everyone does it isn't a good excuse. A majority based morality is not the greatest idea in the world. What if the masses are wrong? A majority based morality is what Hitler created in Germany. Everyone hated the Jews. It was just fine to hate the Jews. Look what that led to. And that stemmed from envy, envy that while Hitler was a young, broke artist trying to make a living he would see Jewish people walking around his native Austria, foreigners in his land, and they were doing well for themselves. Now, that's an extreme example, I'll agree with that.

But envy doesn't just lead to hatred. It stops you appreciating who you are. Every single person in this world is unique. Even if you just go off fingerprints, you are different to the person next to you and the person next to them and the person on the far side of the world. Nobody has exactly the same experiences when they grow up, not even identical twins I'm sure. That means that you are unique and special. You can give something to the world that nobody else can. But if you sit there, wishing that you had somebody else's gifts and talents, well, where does that leave you and your own appreciation of your gifts and talents? Pretty well stuffed really. If you're wishing you could sing like the finalist on X-Factor, you aren't exercising your own talents, whatever they might be. So envying doesn't only lead to hatred, it also stops you fulfilling your potential. Another of the old uses of envy was emulate. If I spend my time imitating other people, I'm not going to grow and develop further as an individual. I'm handing over my uniqueness in favour of something that looks good.

Envy in love is a real nightmare. You can't love someone if you're constantly comparing yourself to them and coming of worst. You can't love someone and want to have what they have. It doesn't work. And if you feel envy towards someone other than your boyfriend/girlfriend, then you're blocking them out and denying them access to who you really are. Honesty is a very valued quality in relationships. If you can't be honest about who you are, then how can you have a meaningful relationship with someone else?

This passes into the 'love your neighbour' kind of love too, and the friendship love. It's very difficult to love someone when you're sat there wishing that they hadn't done better than you on that test, that they didn't have the new TV you want.

So how do you get round it? It's very difficult to obey a negative command. If I tell myself not to think about something, I'm automatically thinking about it by telling myself not to. I guess part of it is counting your own blessings (which is probably impossible). If you want to start it of: you're alive. I know you're alive, because you can't be reading this if you aren't. It's nearly spring, the daffodils are coming out. You have access to a computer, a lot of people don't. Look at your own talents. Maybe you can't sing like the Spice Girls, maybe you haven't got as good a mark as your friend, but what can you do? Look for ways to develop that, not to attempt to do things that you weren't built for. It's like using a mobile phone to hammer a nail and a hammer to try and ring someone. Neither is going to work very well at all, but both are useful. Paul says elsewhere that no part of hte Body is any more important than any other part, and that since you don't get eyes saying 'oh, I wish I was a foot', so too good singers shouldn't say 'I wish I could draw'. I'm guilty of it, I admit it. But it's possible to work at it. Why don't you?

Remember, God made you special, and he loves you very much.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Where you going?

While we were at Quiver, one of the speakers was talking about where we're going. She used this example:

We're at a bus station. There are only two buses that ever go from this station. One of these buses looks quite exciting, fun maybe, from the outside. Lots of partying going on in there. The other one looks quieter, not so exciting. Most people are on the exciting bus, you can see them, looks like they're having a great time, laughing, dancing, drinking. You get on that bus, join in. But there's something missing. You realise that there's a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting, people drunk and falling over, being sick, the bad stuff, the consequences, that you can't see on the outside. There's oppression, there's fear. But you're enjoying yourself, mostly. You stay on. Then you look at the driver's face. You realise it's the devil.

The other bus, the quieter bus, is calm, peaceful inside. You leave the first bus, get on this one. You feel complete, whole, calm. As you get on, you look at the driver. The driver of this bus is Jesus. He smiles at you. And the best thing about this bus, is that once you're on, no matter what you do, you won't get kicked off. You're on the bus to heaven.

This kind of links to a dream I had, a while ago. It inspired the first novel I ever finished (which is going to be published soon :D), but it fits well.

In this dream, I was an angel, and I was at a theme park. I was stood next to a slide, and nearby was the devil, also stood at a slide. He was encouraging people to go down his slide, trying to get them to go his way. I was desperately trying to stop them, because I knew if they went down there they'd end up in hell. A friend of mine came up, I said 'come down my side'. She wanted to go down the other, I told her she'd end up in hell, she said she didn't care. So I desperately tried to get her to go down mine first. I knew that if she went down mine first, at least she'd be saved, she'd be fine, no matter what the world threw at her.

You might be wondering what the heck that has to do with anything. Hope you're not, because I thought they were quite good illustrations, but anyway, here's a bit more of an explanation.

In life, you have two options. That's the nature of free will. You get a choice. Each day, each decision, you can decide to go God's way, or you can opt for your own way. You can choose which bus you get on, which slide you go down. I'm not saying that if you get on Jesus' bus/slide it's going to be easy. I can testify that it isn't easy, so can other Christians I know. God never promises it'll be easy. Jesus says that you'll have to leave things behind, that it won't be easy. But all the way through, if you're on the God bus, you've got someone to back you up ,you've got someone stood behind you, there for you, ready to give you the support and encouragement you need exactly when you need it most.


I promised over on my other blog that I'd write about this on here, so I will. But I think I might divide it up a bit and mix it in with some other stuff I want to say with regard to what they were talking about. So I'll write about the general experience now and then give the specifics later because I want to mix it in with some other stuff.

Basically, Quiver was a youth event for 18-25 year olds that a bunch of us from Fresh Manna decided to go to. Really good fun, it was great all going out to Blackpool together on a mini bus. We may have given the variety club a bad name, apparently the children Norma usually takes out are much quieter than we were... Anyway, I sneaked onto it (I'm only sixteen, but it was ok), and we got there a bit late, but it was fine. The worship was really, really good. Totally got into it. Almost disappointed when the speakers came up, but they were good too, so that was fine.

Going home was amusing too. Seemed a good idea to Lukas to start doing some drive-by evangelising as we went through Preston. Shouted 'Jesus loves you' to a random guy. Quite amusing, but also very true. So there you have it. Our trip out to Blackpool to attend the Quiver conference. Great fun.

Love is Kind

This seems a kinda obvious thing to say. Love is kind. Well duh, if you love someone, you're gonna be nice to them, right? Well, think about it I love my brother (in a non dodgy sense I'd like to point out). but if people saw us, would they think that? Am I really kind to my brother, do I treat him nicely? Well, not really, not all the time certainly.

Often we hurt those we love most. Often you argue most with those you're really close to. Two friends of mine would constantly argue, bicker, fall out, but everyone knew it wasn't going to last long, that within a day or two they'd be friends again. I never really thought of them separately, they were that close. I know it's not always the case, but think about it. Aren't you often kinder to strangers, more polite to those you hardly ever see or speak to?

Why is that I wonder? I think part of it is that we feel you can be more at ease with friends, but is arguing really being 'at ease'?

Having said that, kindness doesn't always mean not arguing. Being kind can involve discipline and forceful words, and yes, arguments. If I saw a friend doing something I knew was going to hurt them, I'd be unkind if I didn't tell them, so don't think the idea is that you should be a doormat. That's not the point at all. The point is that we rarely show people how much we care about them, and that we're rarely all that kind to our friends and family. One day, and you're probably fed up of various people throwing this at you, you're liable to wake up and they won't be there. And then will you regret that you didn't show them the kindness that says you love them.

In 1 Corinthians 13 (you've probably heard it at weddings), Paul talks about love as a way. Love is a way of life. Being kind to people is part of htat way of life.

How can you show it? You don't have to buy flowers to show a loved one you care (and in case you hadn't realised already, I'm not just talking about loving your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse here, I'm talking about hte friendship kind of love too, and hte loving your enemies kind of love, but more on that bit later). It comes more from your actions, from the words. Out of hte overflow of hte heart, hte mouth speaks. If you care about someone, give them a bit of encouragement. Say, 'hey, that's cool', tell them they're a great person. Even if you don't feel it, you can change your heart, lead your emotions, by speaking it out. The tongue is like hte steering wheel of a truck. It's pretty small by comparison, but it decides which way the whole thing goes.

God's crackers about you.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Love is Patient

Sorry I've been absent for a while, I've been doing other things. Not an excuse really, but it is a reason. So, we were talking about what love is at Blest the other day, and I thought I'd do a little series on what love is, based on Biblical scriptures. This is coming from one you're probably familiar with, it's read at a lot of weddings, regardless of whether they're Christian or secular. (1 Corinthians 13, love is patient is in verse 4).

Love is patient. Patience is taking the time to listen to someone. It's giving them the chance to air their own views. It's taking a deep breath when someone says something that annoys you and giving them a chance to continue with their train of thought, even if you don't agree with it. Patience is: (and this is according to the Oxfor pocket school dictionary since the big one's downstairs) being patient. Ok, not much help. Patient is: able to wait for a long time or put up with trouble or inconvenience without getting anxious or angry. I think that's an interesting bit, the 'anxious' part of the definition. Not getting worried when things go wrong. Allowing things to work out in their own time. So loving someone means letting things work out how they should, rather than forcing them. It means listening, taking time, it means taking a deep breath and counting to ten.

If there's anyone out there you know who gets on your nerves, why not try giving them a bit more time to talk this week (I'll try it too, promise).

Patience is a virtue, that's somewhere in the Bible (sorry, can't remember where exactly, I could look it up, but I'm typing this in a rush). Therefore if love=patience=virtue, love is also a virtue. But I think that'll have to come under another topic.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Four Things

We watched this video (well, DVD) when our group went out this morning. Apparently Dianne's recorder just randomly recorded a chunk of the God channel and in the middle was this hour long bit by J. John (think that was his name...). Anyway, the gist of it was that there're four things with being a Christian.

1. Admit. When he said it, I thought 'oh no, here we go, sin and how terrible we all are'. Now, don't get me wrong, that is true. Until you become a Christian, at which point all of your sin--past, present and future--is wiped out and nullified in the eyes of God, cos when he looks at you you see Jesus. But he started out by saying one of the things you gotta admit is that God is God and that he's in control. Then he moved on to saying how we'd sinned and stuff and that had to be admitted to, but the first thing he came with was how it's so hard to admit that God is in control, that there is a God, and that it's his job, not ours, to control the world an all of that.

2. Commit. Now, it's all well and good to admit there's a god and to admit that Jesus is his son, but you have to commit. You have to do something with that knowledge. You have to make a decision to commit your life to Jesus, to following him. That's what committing is all about. It's about saying 'yes, this is what I want to do, this is what I want for my life'. It's about making a decision based on your admission that God exists and that you can't do without him.

3. Submit. The speaker used this to illustrate. If you ever go into a throne room, there's only one throne, not a bench for a couple of kings to sit on, one throne. You bow down to that one throne. Basically, it's like Jesus says. You can't serve two masters. You serve the world or you serve God. You have to choose to follow God, you have to choose which way you want to go, what you want to follow, where you're going to put your time, effort and money.

4. Transmit. This is about telling other people, about making it clear to the world that you've done the other three, about spreading the good news. This is about not keeping your faith inside, about not being afraid to stand up and share about what you believe.

Everyone's at a different point in this walk with God. We were talking about it at the end, how you can be transmitting but not doing any of the others, about how some people pretend to be Christians. Now, to be quite frank, I don't see the point of pretending. Why pretend when you can be? And if you don't want to be, then why pretend that's what you are? Anyway, that's what we were talking about this morning.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Wednesday Night

Ok, so Buster told me to write this down, so here it is. Basically, we were talking and Clem said he could see me teaching the Bible one day. Buster said don't dismiss it, write it down and then leave it, see what happens, see if it happens. So that's what I've done now. :D

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Devil

I meant to write about this a while ago, but kind of didn't. Sorry. Anyway, we were having a discussion about whether the Devil was an actual entity or just an idea in the Conversation, and I've kind of resolved to write up my thoughts on all of the topics on here. I just haven't yet. As you've maybe noticed...

Anyway. At least I'm doing it before the next one.

My thoughts on whether the Devil is real. Well, it's kind of influenced by the non-theological aspect that I write stories with angels and demons as main characters, and the Devil is in there as a character, so that puts a bit of a spin on all my opinions. But disregarding that, yes, I do think he is a genuine entity. The reasons for that, I'm not one hundred per cent confident in giving. Hey, I'm developing and learning myself, don't expect me to have every single answer. I'm just collecting lots and lots of questions at the moment, and doing my best with them (my own questions as well as those of others). Part of the reason is in Genesis, when the Devil is clearly shown as an actual creature. Same in Job, where the Devil is portrayed as going up to God. And when Jesus was tempted, you get the impression that he's really there as an actual identity, rather than an idea. Same with Revelation (think it's there). I think the best way to understand him is as a tempter, not as the source of all evil in the world. You have to blame free choice for a lot of that (although it's quite possible that the Devil tempted someone/encouraged someone to make the wrong decision that resulted in the evil and suffering). I also don't blame him for natural disasters. That's just a reaction (in my opinion) of the world to the evil that came into it and corrupted nature.

We then got onto a discussion about demons. Again, I think they're real. Probably influenced by the fact that I write about them. However, looking beyond that, yes, I think they exist. It follows naturally on from saying that the Devil exists to say that demons also exist. This was the bit I got kind of stuck explaining at the Conversation. I've thought about it and talked about it a little bit with other people, and I think I have a better explanation now. A lot of people have said that when Jesus helped demon possessed people he was actually curing them of epilepsy. I'm not convinced that was always the case. I'm gonna lump evil spirits in with demons here, just for convinience/my sanity. Don't really see that there's a whole lot of difference (there is a difference in my stories, but that's irrelevant just now). Anyway, if there are no evil spirits, what makes a ouiji board work? It isn't God. And if what I've heard is true, it isn't people either. So yes, there are spirits. And if you put yourself into a receptive position, open yourself up to it, for example by using things like ouiji boards (and if that's not spelt right, sorry, but it's not a word I usually have cause to use) then it's quite possible they'll possess you. Then it gets onto the whole free choice issue. Which I'll go into in another post. Because that's even more complicated. But I heard a pretty good explanation of it the other day which I'll throw into the mix along with my thoughts (which are a little confused it has to be said).

To reiterate, I don't have all the answers. I'm just trying to open up the questions and explore them a bit myself.

God's crackers about you. No matter what the answer to whether the Devil is real or an explanation is.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


I'm doing a distance learning theology course (I'm not a swot, honest, I just have an interest in it and decided to follow up) and the section I'm doing at the moment is all about worship and the Holy Spirit. To point out, this has very little relevance to what I'm about to say, I'm just putting in the framework for what I'm saying. Plus it lets me establish my credentials or whatever. They're pretty much non-existant. I have one and a half GCSEs in RE, and that's it. There you go. Problem of authorship solved. :D (I'm doing history, we're always looking at sources and stuff and the author is one of the first things you look at, but I ramble). Um... What was I going to say? Oh, confession. Right.

I suppose you think it means confessing all your sins, admitting you're an evil person, all that rot. So did I. But apparently the real meaning goes much deeper. It basically means telling the truth about yourself.

Now, I got a little worked up the other day when I read in one of the textbooks I'm using that a problem with the evangelical movement and the whole renewal thing is that there's a complete lack of emphasis on confession. The author seemed to have a bit of a thing about them not acknowledging the fact that they're sinners. Which is bogus. I am not a sinner. Nor is anyone else who has put their trust in Jesus for salvation. I'm not a sinner saved by grace, I'm not at all a sinner. Therefore, I get a bit annoyed when text books that should know better start trying to tell me that I am. So the whole not acknowledging sins thing is unnecessary. This is rather a complex issue, and not really what I was intending to talk about. So I think I'll leave that little bit there and post on it later when I'm not supposed to be playing my clarinet etc.

So anyway, confession is not just admitting your sins, its telling the truth about yourself. Though the focus usually seems to be on the negative, what about the positive? Here's just a few things I jotted down while I was working on it:
* (I don't know how to do bullet points, put up with the stars :D )
* I am a son of God (yes, I'm female, but in the world at the time this was written, the sons got the inheritance, so I'm a son in legal terms according to what the world was like)
* I am not a slave to fear.
* I am a heir of God and a coheir with Christ.
* I will share in Christ's suffering and also his glory.
* I have the Spirit in my heart.
* I have access to the Father.
* I am free of sin.
* I am holy and accepted.
* I am perfect in God's eyes.
* I am dead to sin.
* I belong to Christ.
* I am not condemned.
Now, I do have all the verses I've got that from around somewhere (they're in my Bible if nowhere else), but just right now I don't really have time to go hunting about for them. I think most of that can be got from Romans. Wouldn't surprise me. I've paraphrased it, and I'm going off memory for some of it, but given how recent the teaching we've had on the latter ones (the top couple I got out of the Bible as I was doing it, the latter I decided to add because it's the truth and that's what the thing was asking for and there was still room in the little box), I think you can trust my memory. In fact, I'm certain of it. It's pretty good for most things. I can still recite, for example, the first scene of MacBeth from memory, from when I did it four years or so ago. Those statements not just true for me of course, it's true for everyone who has accepted Jesus as saviour.

I really have to go play my clarinet and whatever, but I'll leave you with a little reminder from VeggieTales.

Remember, God made you special and he loves you very much. Byebye!

Friday, 30 January 2009

The 317

Someone read this in church the other day, and it's just stuck with me:

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3v17 (NIV, and in this case I think it puts it better than The Message, which I normally use).

Perhaps part of the reason it's stuck with me is the phrase Mighty To Save, which is the name of one of my favourite worship songs. But when we went out while Clark spoke (our group tends to stay in until then and then we go out and talk together. It's not that what he says isn't any good or anything like that, it's just that we can spend time together as a youth group then), Dianne was talking about how God gets the 'bumpity bumps' when he looks at us. That stuck with me too. All of you out there who thinks God has a grudge against all mankind, nah. Every time God looks at you, his heart beats a little faster and he smiles the sort of dopey smile you usually associate with lovers. God loves you. And that's all there is to say on the matter. It's just that sometimes we don't quite realise just how great his love for us is. So the next time you're feeling down, just remember that there's a guy up there and every time he looks at you, he thinks how wonderful you are and smiles a little to himself. God has a sense of humour, trust me on that one. And he loves you. As Buster says: God's crackers about you.

A little explanation...

Basically, this is where I sort out my thoughts. I'm willing to take questions and will do my best to answer them. If need be, I'll ask someone else for help with them. The whole point of this is to Actually, stuff the explanation. I think you'll be able to tell what I'm up to soon enough. If I'm doing my job right that is.