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.