Mar 272014

Three days ago, for the first time ever, I removed a post from this blog. There have been posts which on reflection could have been better, posts which I’ve added clarification to, and a couple posts I wrote but thought better of publishing at all.

But this time I deleted a post. It went live on Saturday, 250 people read it according to Google Analytics, and on Monday I deleted it. Why? Well, in the words of G.O.B Bluth:

If you don't get the reference, don't worry. It just means we watch different comedy on TV.

If you don’t get the reference, don’t worry. It just means we watch different comedy on TV.

What huge mistake?

The post was called ‘The real problem with Westboro Baptist Church’, in which I reflected on what seemed to be an underlying theological issue at the core of the church’s rather horrifying actions. The springboard for my reflection was a quotation from a spokesperson for WBC, as recorded in .

The mistake: that isn’t a news article at all.

It is from a parody news website, and one which (I have to say) is very well written. But nonetheless, completely fictional.

Armed with that information, with egg on my face, I’m a little embarrassed at having written a piece analysing it, and even more embarrassed that 250 people read that analysis. I really hope not many of them shared it with others or talked about it as if it were true. If you did…

I am sorry.

I am very sorry

In fact I’m sorry to anyone who read that piece. I hope readers of this blog know I value truth very highly indeed. In not researching this properly, I’ve messed up and fallen short of the truth. I apologise.

On reflection, I can see why I did it. Normally I’d check these sorts of things to make sure it’s corroborated elsewhere, but this time I did not. Why? I think because I wanted it to be true. In all honesty – and I’m not proud of this – I wanted for WBC to be have failed in this way because it makes me feel justified and righteous. This is deeply wrong.

And it led me to stride into falsehood, not limp tentatively into truth.

So again, I am sorry.

Let the apology match the crime

As soon as it was pointed out to me what I’d inadvertently done (thanks Dad), I took the post down. There’s no way I can keep something like that up on here. And that could have been the end of it. It’s easy for things to just disappear online.

But that’s not enough. If I had stood in a pulpit and said things that weren’t true, or had done so in print, an apology would be necessary. So I feel compelled to write this post – a retraction and an apology – for two reasons.

First, to put the record straight. I honestly don’t want people believing lies, and since I’ve inadvertently propped one up I need to do what I can do reverse that. If you read my post, shared it or talked about it, please help me set the record straight, and please don’t feel embarrassed – blame me, I’m the one who told you the lie.

Second, I messed up in a public way, so the apology should be public. This is a principle I try to live by, and I never want my blog to be a place where I always seem right, or even just less wrong than everyone else. I want to have more integrity than that.

Simply, I am sorry.

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“Jesus wants his church back” – Malcolm Duncan

Mar 212014

I want to share some words which I was deeply struck by and which I think are very important for the church in our nation to hear. I claim no credit for this post. The words are those of my pastor, Malcolm Duncan, and I reproduce them here with his permission.

Jesus wants his church back malcolm duncan

A little context. Two days ago, I was part of the National Catalyst conference held at Gold Hill. ‘‘ (which is soon to be renamed) is a missional network of churches all over the UK. It was started by Gold Hill in 2011, and we host two National Conferences each year. The focus this week was on multi-generational ministry and its importance if we wish to see the church in our nation being effective at reaching people with Jesus and His gospel.

I will build my church

To begin the day, Malcolm reminded us of Jesus’ promise: “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18) He reminded us that Jesus has always been in the business of taking a ragtag bunch of people, forming them into a body and using them to do things they would be powerless to do by themselves.

That’s us.

Of vital importance is that HE is the one building HIS church. We do not reach the world for Christ. We reach the world with Christ. He is the initiator and the completer of any good work we might do. He chooses to use us.

Speaking to a room where many (if not most) were church leaders, Malcolm reminded us that we are only ever under-sheperds of the Great Shepherd, drawing on Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:1-4.

There is a danger for those of us who are part of the leadership of a church to start thinking of the church as ours. When we start thinking like that, we start acting like that. We start trying to build our church, instead of letting Jesus have it and letting Him build it through us.

“I want my church back”

It was at this point that Malcolm shared what really struck me. At Gold Hill in August 2007, a prophetic word was given through which God simply said this: “I want my church back.”

This wasn’t a criticism of any individual (either in 2007 or two days ago when Malcolm shared it again). This was a challenge not to lay claim to what does not belong to us. As Malcolm said:

I would not sleep with another man’s wife – I must not try to be the husband to the Church that only Christ can be.

He then shared 10 reasons he believes Jesus has for wanting His church back. These are 10 exceptional reasons to be very careful always to let Jesus own the church, and not try to ourselves. He is far better with it that we can be. They were:

  1. Jesus wants His church back because He owns it.
  2. Jesus wants His church back because He loves it more than we do.
  3. Jesus wants His church back because He is stronger than we are.
  4. Jesus wants His church back because He is wiser than we are.
  5. Jesus wants His church back because it is safer in His hands than it is in ours.
  6. Jesus wants His church back because He is better at leading it than we are.
  7. Jesus wants His church back because He paid for it and we didn’t.
  8. Jesus wants His church back because He doesn’t want it to kill us (at this point Malcolm reminded us that He had already died for it, and He didn’t want us to as well)
  9. Jesus wants His church back because He can see potential that we can’t.
  10. Jesus wants His church back because He loves us.

We can kill ourselves trying to carry something that is far too big for us. Or we can let Jesus carry it, and find that in His hands we are unstoppable.

Like I said at the start. I think this is a very important message, so please share it with anyone you can. Church leaders are burning out every day, churches failing every day, because they are trying to take what isn’t theirs, and it’s destroying them.

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Mar 172014

I’d be lying if I said I never have doubts about faith. I cannot claim to fully understand God and it’s uncomfortable. I don’t want uncertainty, but where there is uncertainty, doubt is normal.

Doubt is hard enough to live with. Trying to follow God who is so wonderful He eludes our comprehension is difficult. But do you know what makes it even harder? Being told your doubt displays a lack of faith, and that it’s sinful.


So. Doubt: is it a sin?

Condemn the doubters!

If you’ve ever been told your doubt is sinful, you’ve probably had James 1:6-8 quoted at you. In the context of asking God for wisdom, James says:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:6-8 TNIV)

Seems pretty clear, right? Doubt = double-minded, unstable sin. If you have doubts, God isn’t pleased and you shouldn’t expect answers to prayer. “Condemn the doubters!” James says. Right? Wrong.

That’s not what he says. The word for ‘doubt’ is more complex than that. The word is not about moments of uncertainty or wavers in faith, but something more deep-rooted than that. Douglas Moo describes this ‘doubt’ as “a basic division within the believer” wherein “he [or she] wants wisdom from God one day and the wisdom of the world the next.”  It’s ultimately about a lack of integrity in our commitment to God.

This is why we get the image of sea waves being blown and tossed all over the place. The kind of ‘doubt’ he describes is a state of having no consistency, constantly changing depending on what the last thing you saw or heard was. This is very different from a Christian committed to God but with moments or areas of doubt.

Doubt and questions are ok

This is perhaps helped by looking at the most famous ‘doubter’ of them all: Thomas. All his buddies have seen Jesus risen, but he hasn’t and he won’t accept it until he has. Jesus comes to him, offers him all the evidence he asks for and says:

Stop doubting and believe. (John 20:27 TNIV)

Thomas gets a lot of bad press, but it’s time for that to stop. He was committed to Jesus. When he hears Jesus plans to go somewhere He’d likely be killed, Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

Doubt ThomasThomas’s doubt does not signal lack of faith, but the presence of questions. When Jesus says ‘stop doubting’ it’s not the same word James uses, and rather than castigate Thomas, Jesus allows him to explore his questions, even providing answers and assurance. His questions matter to Jesus. Faith and questions are not opposites. To have faith is not to suppress our brains, our questions or our doubts. To have faith is to bring all of those things to God.

Job spends most of his 42 chapters asking questions of God. The Psalms are full of questions: “Why, Lord?”; “How long, Lord?”; “How can you, Lord?” But never is this outside of a conviction that God is faithful, that He is good.

It is not that our questions and doubts always get resolved (like Thomas’s). Often they don’t. Faith is believing God is who He says He is even when we can’t work out how. And learning to limp.

Jesus calls doubters

More than just being kind to doubters, Jesus calls us – with our doubt – to serve Him. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18b-20) is Jesus giving His people His mission: “Go and make disciples”. This is how it’s introduced:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, the worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said… (Matthew 28:16-18a)

And then the Great Commission comes. They worshipped Him, but some doubted. And then He calls them anyway!

Doubt doesn’t disqualify worship. It is possible to praise God, to worship Him, to offer Him our all even in the midst of our doubts. I don’t understand how God’s goodness tallies with some of my experiences, but I believe He’s good and I’ll worship Him anyway. I don’t know why Jesus isn’t coming back sooner, but I know God’s plans are perfect and I’ll praise Him for that. I often don’t feel as though God is very close, but He’s promised to be, so I’ll believe it even when I doubt it, and I’ll draw close to Him.

Perhaps even more excitingly, doubt doesn’t disqualify mission. Jesus called those who had doubts to do His work. I don’t need all the answers to step into His purposes, to pursue His mission. He doesn’t ask you to ignore your questions or your doubts but to keep on going in the meantime until they’re resolved, whichever side of eternity that happens.

If doubt is rooted in a life that never fully commits to Jesus, there’s a problem. But if doubt is part of a life focused on Him, committed to Him and wrestling with what that means, Jesus says “Welcome! Let’s explore this together, and as we do let’s get to work, too!”

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Mar 162014

Why Christian thumbThis is the 5th contribution to my “Why are you a Christian?” project, and it’s unique so far in that I’ve never met the contributor. It’s by Steve Curtis, who I know solely because we are fellow Christian bloggers. He blogs over at – do check it out! I’ve specifically chosen today to post Steve’s because this morning he was baptised. Congrats Steve!

So here is Steve’s answer to the question, “Why are you a Christian?”

steve curtis why

Committing to Jesus

I’m getting baptised this Sunday, March 16.

I’ve been putting it off for a good 5 years now. I put it off because I was going to university. I put it off because I didn’t go to church enough. I put it off because I had doubts. I put it off because I didn’t want to commit.

No more excuses. I’m taking the plunge (see what I did there?); in doing so, I’m affirming to myself, and everyone who knows me, that I am indeed a Christian.

It makes sense

I am a Christian because—despite what people say otherwise—Christianity, Jesus, the Bible, God, and the Holy Spirit all make sense to me.

I don’t care if the Bible contradicts itself. I don’t care if I don’t quite understand how creation happened. I don’t care that atheists, doubters and the secular world don’t get it.

I care about how I feel. I care about the lifestyle Christianity demands of me. I care about the church. I care about the community. I care about people. I care about Jesus’ sacrifice.

Christianity is about people. Christianity is about love. Christianity is about fellowship. Christianity is about relationships. Christianity is about God. It’s simple, really.

Why does it make sense? Christianity makes sense because I can feel the Holy Spirit working in me at times. Christianity makes sense because when I read the Bible, I can her God whispering to me. Christianity makes sense because when I spend time in church I leave feeling elated, happy, and inspired to make a difference.

For every statement against God, there is a statement on the other side of the coin for God.

Christianity isn’t as complicated as it makes out. We speak to God, read His word, do our very best and die knowing that we will spend eternity with our creator.

It gives me a purpose

I’m a Christian because it gives me a purpose. That makes sense. I couldn’t imagine living my life knowing that the only certainty was death.

I couldn’t live my life aiming to please people to be happy, to make the most money to satisfy my desires, to have as much sex as I can and to do whatever I darn well please. It all seems so pointless, and I feel sorry for those who live their lives like that. There is so much more to life. So much more to what your soul can achieve.

So. Much. More.

For me, the idea of the Big Bang is just as ridiculous as God making the Heavens and the Earth. For me, there is so much amazing stuff in nature (seeds, DNA, lungs, wings, etc.) that is far too intelligent to have been a consequence of gunk coming together billions of years ago. God makes sense.

For me, my relationship with Him is too real to ignore.

I am getting baptised because I cannot deny Him any longer. I am a Christian because I don’t want to deny him.

Thanks for contributing Steve! If you have any questions for him (or want to wish him will after his baptism!), drop a comment below. And if you want the full list of answers so far, head here.

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Mar 122014

Why Christian thumbThis is now the 4th guest post and contribution to my “Why are you a Christian?” series, and it comes from the wonderful Ally Gillies. I’ve known Ally since September, when he joined the staff team at Gold Hill as an intern. I’ve loved working with and getting to know Ally. He’s also my youngest contributor so far, at 19 years old, and the most Scottish.

Here are Ally’s thoughts on the question “Why are you a Christian?”

ally why

As a Christian, I belong TO Christ. I live FOR Christ. I am alive because OF Christ. I exist TO give glory to Christ, out of a response to His perfect love and sacrifice for me. It’s no longer about looking inwardly (as I would probably get very discouraged by what I found there!) but looking to Him in all His wonder and splendour for all the help and instruction for my walk with Him.

My life now has meaning; I have life in all its fullness because of Him. I have been rescued from eternal separation from God through Jesus’ death and resurrection and have been brought into a full and vibrant relationship with Him, and one day I will be with Him forever in Heaven. And that I get to share that wonderful, wonderful news with other people and play a part in God’s plan for other peoples’ lives? Wow. That excites me. That gets me out of bed in the morning.

I am no longer a slave to sin, but a child of the King with a purpose, plan and identity in Jesus. I am accepted, loved, unique, blessed, secure, forgiven, cared for and saved by Him. And His grace is enough for the times when I slip up or fall down, which gives me strength to continue walking further on the journey of my life with Him. My service is no longer requires a certain amount of ability or experience; Jesus works through me despite that. My gifts have been given by Him in love; my motivation is found in Him, my confidence is placed in Him. In God, my strength is found, my hope is built, and my future is meaningful and vibrant.

I love this quote from Billy Graham:

“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.’”

This is a look into a realistic view of the Christian life. It’s not a continual period of senseless lunacy and meaningless euphoria, or some kind of replacement for narcotics! It is a dynamic, powerful, active, scriptural, loving relationship, but it is also a difficult, sometimes painstakingly   and  sometimes painfully difficult  whereby the victory has been won but the devil is trying to do damage as he is being defeated. In short, our time on this planet doing God’s will is not an easy task – but it is worth it.

This really encourages me in that I can often treat failure or a season with what seems to be a decrease in activity – depending on the severity of it – as a block to my usefulness in the Kingdom of God rather than an opportunity or  time in which I am being grown, both closer with God and in my service to Him. What’s more, failures can keep me humble.

Fundamentally, I think that the Christian life is about placing Jesus at the centre, so that when we fail or when situations and circumstances surround us and make us feel helpless and like we cannot go on, we must remember to turn our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one thing in our lives that will never fail. He is the person that when we feel like we are losing the battle, picks us up and dusts us off and says “I am with you.” He is the Emmanuel. The King of kings and Lord of lords. The Great I AM. And I am so glad that he found me. I’m not an author or a blogger, and I sometimes find it hard to articulate things in writing, but this I know;  Jesus is LORD.”

Amen. Ally, thank you for sharing your heart and your faith! If anyone has any questions or comments for Ally, drop them below and I’ll make sure he sees them. If you want to hear others’ answers, a full list can be found here.

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Mar 102014

Why Christian thumbI now have a bunch of people lined up to contribute to this “Why are you a Christian?” series. And the next up is my Dad, Graham. My Dad is a fantastic man, and I am so grateful to him and my Mum for raising me and supporting me for the last 25 years. My Dad worked in IT for 27 years, and is now a Minister in a Baptist Church. He’s just started his own blog (like son, like father!), and .

This, then, is my Dad’s answer to “Why are you a Christian?”

graham criddle why
Thinking about the question Dave posed I realised that the reasons which draw me to continue to follow Jesus Christ today are different from those which drew me to Him in the first place, so I thought I would share some of that journey.

The decision – based on the future

My parents were committed Christians and, from a very early age, I had been surrounded by Bible stories, prayer and church. Thinking about God and Jesus were part of my everyday life and this was something I was comfortable with. But when I was around ten years old I heard my grandfather preaching on the need for each of us to make a personal decision as to whether we were prepared to follow Jesus and to ask Him to deal with the problem of sin in our lives. He explained that this affected our final destiny – whether we would spend eternity with God or without Him. This really struck home and later that evening my mother, who had noticed that something was on my mind, talked with me and helped me commit my life to Jesus. It was a decision I have never regretted.

The questions – exploring the foundations

When I went away to university – studying Maths and Computer Science at Manchester – I had my first real encounter with people with very different views about life, the universe and everything. It was a time when I was challenged to consider the beliefs on which I had based my life and to see whether the things I had been brought up to believe were true. This happened in many discussions – both with Christians with many different views about various aspects of the Christian faith and those from other faith traditions or no faith at all.

I found that some of my peripheral beliefs were based on assumptions and tradition but became even more convinced that the core tenets of my faith were true and totally dependable. It was a time of growth and development and formation – and also the time I met my wife, but that’s another story!

The reality of life – experienced daily

But when I think about what being a Christian, what following Jesus, means to me today I am reminded of the words which Jesus spoke:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

Living life as a Christian is really the only life I have ever known (my memories of my very early years are dim) but it is a life which enables me to live “to the full”. And this is where what I believe and what I experience come together.

If God is all-powerful, loving and kind; if God created everything and holds things together; if God has created humanity in His image and designed people to live in relationship with Him; if God is in the business of fixing the problems caused to His creation by our failures and sin; if God cared for us enough to send His Son to die a shameful and excruciating death to break down the barriers which keep us apart; if God offers to share in our lives through the good and the bad – then doing anything other than responding to Him in a positive way just doesn’t make sense to me.

(And for the record I believe that all the “if clauses” above are true!)

But it’s not just an intellectual assent that is important. Because throughout the journey I have been on I find these things to be real in my experience. I do know God’s love in my life, I experience His forgiveness for the things I do wrong, I am continually amazed by the sacrifice which Jesus was prepared to make for me, I experience fullness of life when living as God intended me to live. Not every day is the same – sometimes I don’t feel God as close as on others but, as Mel pointed out in an earlier post in this series, the reality of God and His love for us, doesn’t depend on how we are feeling or our circumstances. It depends on His character, His love, His faithfulness and they never change.

So from coming to an initial decision to follow Jesus based on big questions about “the future” (which I still believe are essential questions to address) I have come to a place where, for me, Christianity is the only way of life which makes intellectual sense and is experientially true.

As one of the early followers of Jesus asked Him:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68b–69)


Thank you for sharing this with us, Dad. If you have any comments or questions, I know he’d love to explore any of this further, so drop them below. And the whole list of contributions to this series can be found here.

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Mar 082014

Discussion is great. Dialogue is important. But there are things we do which make it much harder. One of them is to talk about how ‘biblical’ we are being.

I seek to be biblical! I just don’t claim I am

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe the Bible is the word of God, inspired, authoritative. I have chosen to submit to what I believe is its God-given authority. I will not write any of it off as being ‘simply wrong’. I will wrestle with it, study it, seek to live my life in accordance with it. I want to be a biblical person.

One of my church’s  is to be ‘biblical’. I am totally on board with that! I want to be biblical. I want my church to be biblical. If I thought we were doing or being something contrary to the teaching of scripture, I’d say something. But I’d try to be careful about the way I said that ‘something’, and I’d be cautious in my use of the word ‘biblical’.

Because that word – ‘biblical’ – gets used in a number of ways which I think are unhelpful. Here are three.


1. ‘The biblical position’

“I take a biblical position on the issue of [insert topic here]”. I’ve heard that phrase quite often. I’ve said it, too. It’s really unhelpful, though.

What it does is shut the conversation down. If that’s the biblical position, then there’s no need to talk about it anymore. Case closed. Job done.

But what if maybe, just maybe, what I’ve assumed is ‘the biblical position’ is in fact wrong? What if it isn’t what the Bible teaches after all? What if – due to my culture, my own experiences, the baggage I bring to the text – I have misinterpreted it and what I’ve been holding to is in fact … unbiblical? It’s true, I can be wrong.

We shut down questions like that by labelling the established position as ‘the biblical position’. Worse, we shut down the questioners. Folk like Galileo. Or Martin Luther King. Or William Wilberforce. People who had to battle against ‘the biblical position’ to uphold what the Bible teaches.

Instead of accepting ‘the biblical position’, I want to be like the Bereans of Acts 17:10-12 who didn’t just accept things but “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” It’s harder, but it’s better.

biblical preaching2. ‘I’m just being biblical’

“You may disagree, but I’m just being biblical.” We preachers can be particularly guilty of this one. At times when I’ve heard it I’ve wanted to pump my fist in the air and cheer. “Yeah! You are being biblical! Preach it!” That’s when I agree. When I don’t, I want to put my fist somewhere else. “How dare you! How dare you claim that’s biblical?! How dare you write off my beliefs as wrong just because you can’t understand the Bible properly?!”

Neither reaction is good. They both demonstrate pride, and they both serve only to entrench me in whatever view I hold already, make me more certain it’s the biblical view. What it doesn’t do is promote healthy dialogue.

What I’m not saying is that we should never say what we think is true. Far from it. We should, but in a way that helps, not in a way that entrenches. This is something my pastor, Malcolm, is very good at indeed. He’ll frequently say things like “I believe X because I believe it is what the Bible teaches. Others understand Scripture differently. I disagree with them, and here’s why.” He hasn’t labeled them as unbiblical heretics. He has honoured them, but also disagreed.

Surely that’s more helpful for all involved.

3. ‘That’s not biblical’

“Church in a coffee shop? That’s not biblical. We’re trying to be like the biblical church.” I hear this less often, but it’s still there, usually about how we ‘do’ church. We reject things because they aren’t how the ‘biblical church’ (early church) did them.

This feels like stating the obvious: we shouldn’t do things how the early church did. We aren’t the early church. We haven’t behaved like them for a long time. Nor should we. We should carry their heart, but expressions of church in our culture should be different because our culture is different.

Underlying this, I feel, is really a fear about things changing or moving on. It feels like the ‘right’ way to us, so it must be the ‘biblical’ way. I’ve certainly been guilty of this one many times.

We need to leave this thinking behind.

I’m not innocent. I’ve been guilty of all these things. I will continue seeking to be biblical, but I will also seek not to use that word or claim that title in ways that actually do me and others more harm than good.

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Mar 062014

I’m really excited about the “Why are you a Christian?” project I’ve started, and Matthew’s answer yesterday. But it’s not all I’m going to be posting. I’ll do regular posts as well. Like this one!

jealous god

On Saturday, I tweeted a summary of what I’d been reflecting on in my quiet time (as I’ve been doing since the start of the year). It was about the part in the 10 Commandments where God states, “I am a jealous God.” Here is the tweet, along with a reply I received (picture and name deleted as I haven’t asked permission):

Jealous God tweet

Several times since Saturday, I’ve almost replied. The reason I haven’t is simple: my answer is too long for 140 characters. But it’s an important objection. I too struggled for a long time with that phrase, ‘jealous God’. It didn’t sit right. It didn’t feel right. But now it does, and this is why.

Jealousy isn’t always petty

The word ‘jealous’ has largely negative connotations to a modern ear. We shouldn’t be jealous. It is seen as petty and petulant. The example in the tweet is a good one. A parent who desires their child’s love so much that they’re jealous of their child’s friends. That’s not a loving parent. It’s an insecure parent.

But what about another example. Let’s imagine for a second that I was unfaithful to my wife. Let’s imagine she discovered I had another lover. What should her response be?

Should she be upset? Yes. Why? Because I’ve broken my promises to her. Because I’ve betrayed her. But also because someone else has something that should only ever be for her. She wants something for herself, not for anyone else. And she is right to do so – it is hers!

That is an expression of jealousy. But it’s not petty. It’s just. It’s an expression, ultimately, of love for me.

I’m not saying she should be jealous every time I talk to a woman. I’m not saying she should be jealous about me to the point where all of my attention should be only ever on her, never my work, my friends, my hobbies. That is jealousy gone wrong. It is expecting things that aren’t hers to expect.

There are things we should be jealous for and things we shouldn’t.

A jealous God is a passionately loving God

So which picture best fits God’s statement that “I am a jealous God”? A parent who will never let their child enjoy anything else? Or a lover who expects a place in their partner’s heart that no-one and nothing else can take?

The statement is part of a command, the 2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6), which prohibits the making and worshiping of idols. It is a command that God alone must occupy their worship, their obedience, their adoration. Nothing else, no-one else, can.

He is entering into a relationship with the people of Israel. ‘I have rescued you, ransomed you, freed you,’ God says, ‘I love you and I am committing to you. I will be faithful to you, and I ask that you be faithful to me. I will be your God, but you mustn’t make for yourself anything else to worship and love above me.’

jealous god marriageHe’s asking them to forsake all others and be faithful to Him.

This is not a petulant, over-controlling and insecure God, who just wants minions to do His bidding. This is a loving God who wants people who love Him, who want relationship. This relationship is described in marital terms frequently in the Old Testament. And it is true of the church, too. We are Christ’s bride, and He is fiercely jealous for us.

I could only love a jealous God

Imagine my wife discovered I was unfaithful, and she just didn’t care. No jealousy. No anger. She was happy to share me. What would that say?

It would say she doesn’t love me.

If we have an idea of God as a divine taskmaster, a cosmic control-freak who just can’t cope when we like or love something else, then the idea of a ‘jealous God’ is a scary one. I could fear that god, but not love him.

But that’s not the biblical picture of God. He is a lover, someone who loves. His desire is for relationship, not servitude, for a depth of love with His people. He gives us His heart and when we trample it in the dirt because we think something else will satisfy more, that hurts Him. The fact He is all-knowing means He knows every time I am unfaithful. It hurts Him every time, but He’s willing to love me anyway, and keep getting hurt.

At that point, a ‘jealous God’ is a beautiful picture. A passionate lover who wants our heart, who is faultlessly faithful to us and desires the same single-minded love.

That is a God I can give my heart. That is a God I can love.

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Mar 052014

Why Christian thumbThe first contributor to my “Why are you a Christian?” series is my friend Matthew Bryant. Matthew is a business systems analyst, loves worship and describes himself as a ‘part-time blogger’. His blog was one of the reasons I started to blog, so do check it out. I met Matthew and his wife Annie about 6 years ago on a Christian youth camp where we were both leaders.

This is Matthew’s answer to the question, “Why are you a Christian?”

matthew bryant

Worldviews interest me.

Why do I believe what I believe?
Why do you believe what you believe?
How can we experience the same reality and come to a seemingly infinite number of conclusions as to what that reality really is?

Today we hear an awful lot about how science has disproved religion and this naturally provokes a response from the religious. For the most part I find that the varying sides of this debate are all logically consistent within their own respective worldviews, but there’s a more interesting question here than ‘what do you think is true and why?’. How can two people much more intelligent than I come to such drastically different conclusions when faced with the same data?

A worldview is the frame of reference from which you interpret perceived data; and however much people on all sides of the debate want to convince you, intelligence has little to no bearing on your choosing of a worldview. I want to be realistic about this. I am a Christian because it feels right. I used to be a naturalist atheist because it felt right – even obvious – but then something happened; something strange. I simply became a Christian. There was no hype, no ‘alter call’. I was reading the Bible and I became a Christian.

It felt right.
It still does.

I have been a Christian for going on 8 years now and, even though I have some very different views on what the Bible is and what it means to be a Christian than I did 8 years ago, I am still very comfortable in my faith. I may well have lost my faith if I believed that to be a Christian you have to unquestionably hold to the literal reading of the Bible, but the Bible doesn’t command this. If it were necessary for me to be opposed to gay marriage, evolution, and in favour of the subjugation of women to count myself a Christian then I would almost certainly have walked away.

To me being a Christian means that I daily experience something that I believe to be God (specifically the God that raised Jesus from the dead). If that belief is not able to stand up to philosophical scrutiny then I would have to give up on it and conclude that I was being delusional, but to my mind naturalism is much more problematic than theism. One problem of which centres around our ability to trust our own rationality. If all we are (consciousness and all) is reducible to the random movements of quantum particles then how can rational thought be anything other than random? This is to say that naturalism is self-refuting – you can only conceive the idea with rational thought, which doesn’t exist should naturalism be true.

So then, being a Christian it is a two-stage process. You are impacted by an unshakeable sense that it is true, which can be backed up by observation of the world and rational argument.

I want to thank Matthew for sharing – I’m so glad he said yes when I asked! If you have any thoughts on his answer, or any questions for him, drop a comment below.

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Mar 042014

Why are you a Christian?

This is the 67th post on this blog, and every one so far has been written by me. That is going to change very soon! I’ve decided to do something a little different, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve asked some people – and will be asking some more – to answer this question: “Why are you a Christian?” And I will be posting their answers as posts up here, starting very soon. I’m hoping it becomes a regular slot on the blog.

What’s the point?

As I wrote about last week, we all have a story and that story matters. No two Christians are identical. Even if the story behind their faith, or the reason they give for their faith are the same, we all talk about it in different ways.

It’s very easy to assume all Christians think the same way, or even believe all the same things. That simply isn’t true, and it is really important to have informed understanding of each other and healthy dialogue with one another.

I’m very aware when I stand in a pulpit and preach that the people in front of me are all different, are all at different points on different spiritual journeys. I try not to make unhelpful assumptions, but sometimes that is difficult. I’ve found that by exposing myself to as many different types of people and as many different stories and reasons for faith as possible, it gets easier to stop assuming things that aren’t true.

Hopefully this ‘series’ will help us all to grow in understanding of each other.

We might disagree…

I am very aware that doing this will probably mean that, at some point, there will be something posted on here that you disagree with. (That’s not really new. Plenty of people have disagreed with stuff I’ve written in the last 66 posts!)

I can’t guarantee that I will agree with everything that gets posted as part of this series. But I’ll post it anyway because if I didn’t it would just become an exercise in people thinking and writing like me. That would be boring.

There is real potential for some cool dialogue to take place in the comments section on these posts, so please get involved. But be respectful. Be nice. I’ve invited people to be vulnerable enough to share something personal to them in a public way and I’m not happy for them to be pounced on for it.

Would you like to contribute?

Like I said, I’ve asked a few people already, and have more in mind. But I want lots of different voices here. If you’d like to write a guest post answering “Why are you a Christian?” then submit a message on my ‘Contact Me’ page or email me at .

You don’t have to be a writer. This isn’t about style, but content.

You don’t have to have all the answers. Goodness knows I don’t!

You don’t have to have been a Christian for ages. I want people at all sorts of stages in their journey.

The first post should go live in a couple of days, so be sure to drop by and check in! And as I get more and more posts, the full list will be published here, so check that out too!

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