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.