“I’m a Christian because I continue to believe it” – my mum

Apr 282014

Why Christian thumbNext up in my “Why are you a Christian?” series is my wonderful mum! Such a wonderful lady, to whom I owe so much and who inspires me greatly. Her name is Jo, she and my Dad will have been married 30 years in a few months (wow!) and she works for a school dealing with all things finance.

This is her answer to my question, “Why are you a Christian?”

why - mum

In a typical British upbringing, I was taught about God at school and Sunday school. And I always wanted to believe it. Looking back, I think there was a “God shaped hole” in the very centre of me.

But it was hard: in a cynical family, faith was often ridiculed, irrelevant, for the weak. So I put it to one side.

I moved schools when I was 12 and wanted to fit in with the new crowd. They said if I went to the Christian group on a Tuesday lunchtime, I could get a pass to get lunch without queuing up. It seemed like a good deal especially as once you had the pass, you didn’t have to go again! But I did go, all year, and each year after that, because I enjoyed it. There was something about these people.

Roll on a few years and I went along to some sort of rally. I have no idea what it was, but I went along with my friends from the Christian group anyway. I was really stuck by a young guy who stood up and gave his testimony. I have no idea what he said, and he was shaking like mad. And it struck me that he thought it was important enough to stand there, terrified, because he had something important to say.

Later that evening, in amongst all the singing and stuff, I knew I really wanted to believe. But it was all stupid. It made no sense at all. Miracles, an invisible God, impossibilities, all rubbish! But I still wanted to know. So I prayed, one of those stupid prayers that we can pray… “If you are real, tell me how you did just one of those miracles.”

Like a good magician, he didn’t tell me the secret of how he did it. But instead he did reveal something of Himself. His power. His might. His very being. And I knew. And I believed.

And I still believe.

I believe in a God who I know can put all the animals in an ark.
I believe in a God who I know can put Jonah in the whale, and get him out again, alive.
I believe in a God who I know can turn water into wine.
I believe in a God who I know can make the blind see.

There is so much I don’t know, that I get wrong, that I struggle with. But the only way the picture makes any sense is with God in it.

So I continue to believe.

“ Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

… and that’s enough for me.

Thank you for writing, mum! And thank you for introducing me to that same God who can do all those things when I was little. It has changed my life. I’ve now had 7 answers to this question, and they can all be found here.

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If you go to one Christian festival this year…

Apr 252014

Ok, I have to declare a vested interest on this one. I am part of the leadership of the youth track for this conference, but even if I weren’t I’d still think it is a great conference and very worthy way to spend a weekend in June.

It’s called , and that one word ‘Go’ sums up so much of the heart behind the event. This is a conference about mission, plain and simple.

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‘GO!’, not ‘Come!’

Last year, one of the key speakers was Andy Hawthorne (best known for his Worldwide Message Tribe shenanigans). He said this:

I’m so glad GO Fest exists. We have so many festivals and conferences that tell us to ‘Come!’ so we can have a good time together and meet with God together, but we can forget the command of Jesus to ‘Go!’ with Him into mission. This festival is all about ‘Go!’ and not about ‘Come!’ and I’m so glad.

(I want to be clear. Neither Andy nor I are saying other festivals that aren’t explicitly about ‘mission’ are bad. Of course not.)

Go Fest is like other conferences. There are sessions, speakers, seminars, activities, a place with stands and stalls and things to do and buy and read. But everything is geared towards mission. The speakers and sessions are aimed at envisioning and equipping every person to find their place in God’s mission and pursue it. Seminars equip in very specific ways for different situations. A whole variety of mission agencies and churches are on hand to provide information and guidance. There is a vocations zone where people are on hand to help you determine spiritual gifts and work out how to utilise what God has given to work toward His purposes.

Everything is about equipping for mission, driving us out into the world.

The whole family can GO!

This is not just aimed at adults. There are full programmes for children and youth. There is something for people of all ages, and that ‘something’ is consistently aimed at mission!

We aren’t talking about babysitting and childminding so the adults can do their thing. We’re talking about people of all ages being envisioned and equipped to take up their part in God’s kingdom and His mission. I can personally vouch as a member of the youth team that your child will not be taught about mission so they can ‘do it when they’re older’. Questions we will be exploring will be:

  • What even is the gospel, and why’s it so powerful?
  • Where is my mission field now?
  • How can I serve God and grow His kingdom?
  • What gifts do I have to offer?
  • How can I share my faith with those I know?

It’ll be interactive, so young people can really bed this home in their own lives. We’ll be getting into the Bible. We’ll be seeking God in prayer and times of worship. We even have a rock band joining us for the weekend.

Add to that the fun of camping (either as a family for children or in the separate youth camp for teenagers), a very reasonable price, the beautiful and ancient site at Bulstrode, Gerrards Cross (home of mission agency WEC), and the sunny late June British summer (I honestly can’t guarantee this), and what’s not to love?

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Will you GO?

I don’t often plug things on my blog. In fact, this is the first time I even have. I think this is worth it.

Attending some of the sessions on a day or two (which is free, by the way) would be such a valuable way of spending some of a weekend. Even better, why not go a bit further and come for the whole weekend. Or bring your youth group along. Full details of how to book, etc., are .

It truly is an amazing weekend, open to all, and it just might change your life.

Even better, God might just change someone else’s life through you because of what you experience there.

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Easter, and living the great story of our faith

Apr 202014

Because of other commitments I haven’t been at home for the whole of Easter week in quite a few years. I’ve been home for Good Friday and then been elsewhere for Easter Sunday, or the other way round, or something else, but never at home for the whole of Holy Week.

Until this year. This year I have been able to celebrate the whole of Holy Week with my own church family. I hadn’t realised how much I missed that. My overwhelming reaction is this: Thank God for the story of our faith. And thank God we can live that story.

Story of our faith

The story is a great one!

Underlying my faith is a great story. The Story. A story of restoration, liberation and hope. A story that encompasses the whole of creation, the whole of history, the whole of life.

The story of our God who loved so much. So much that He created the world knowing the cost it would take to give us freedom. So much that He was willing to give us that freedom anyway. So much that He kept loving us when we used that freedom to reject Him and tell Him we’d be better off without Him.

So much that He would pay the price He always knew He’d have to. The price of Himself becoming one of us, living amongst us and dying as an outcast.

The story of the God of power. Power to create. Power to lead His people, free His people. Power to raise His Son from the grave when we killed Him, and power to drive His Church on to the ends of the earth, drawing people into everlasting and life-changing relationship with Himself. Power eventually to restore all things and bring them to perfect order.

It’s an amazing, huge and beautiful story.

The story of Holy Week

At the centre of that story is one week. Holy Week. Easter Week. Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. I do not believe that the gospel is simply ‘Jesus died for your sins so you can go to Heaven’, but the great events of Jesus’ death and resurrection surely lie at the heart of any expression of God’s good news.

This story is at the centre of The Story.

And it is a week that captures every season of life, every season of the soul. From the anticipation of Palm Sunday, the fellowship and sobriety of Maundy Thursday, the utter pain and loss of Good Friday, the uncertainty and confusion of Saturday, and finally the unsurpassable, unstoppable, unlimited joy and celebration and victory of Easter Sunday.

It’s a roller coaster journey. God doesn’t just give us facts and doctrinal statements. Our faith isn’t given us in truths and statements. It is given to us in story. Life is a story, it’s own roller coaster. Story is the universal experience of all people. We all have one, and we can all find our own place in God’s story.

CrossIt is great to live that story

There is a place for each one of us, also, in the story of Holy Week. This week, without the interruptions of previous years, I have found myself being taken on a journey through Holy Week. A journey with Jesus, and with His companions.

One thing my pastor, Malcolm, is extremely good at is allowing the tone of our reflections and remembrances of each day of Holy Week really reflect the day itself.

Our Good Friday service is sombre. Unashamedly so. We remember the great cost Jesus paid, and we do not water it down. Malcolm preached through tears. His message was not “Don’t worry – Sunday’s coming”. We allowed ourselves that space to dwell – not morbidly, but rightly – in the pain of the cross, the cost.

Easter SundayPerhaps my highlight was on Saturday night when just a few of us gathered round a fire outside and reflected on Peter’s denials. So much uncertainty and confusion between Friday and Sunday. So aware of our own failures. We let ourselves feel it all. It was real.

And then today, Sunday. Well, we didn’t water this down either! Unadulterated joy and celebration! I must have heard the words “He is risen!” at least a hundred times today, and “Hallelujah” even more. The celebration of Sunday meant all the more because we dwelt a while in the pain of Friday and the confusion of Saturday. Clapping, dancing, singing, hugging. I even saw a high five. Jesus is risen. He is victorious!

Knowing all of that is of course glorious. Allowing ourselves to live it out once a year is just beautiful.

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Mika’s limp: it’s like Jesus!

Apr 172014

Yesterday our dog Mika did something which was just beautiful. I want to tell that story for two reasons. First, it’s a great story, and who doesn’t love cute dog stories? Second, it encapsulates something of the beauty of what Jesus has done. (And I guess third, it’s a story about limping, so how could I not?)


I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m certainly not claiming Jesus is like a dog, or that this even comes close to being as good as what God has done in the world through His Son. It’s a picture, an image, an illustration – nothing more.

Limping with those who limp

Three days ago, Mika did something pretty stupid. She jumped out of our first-floor window onto the street below. She was injured. (Given our quite recent history with dog accidents we were pretty shaken, and it feels miraculous she didn’t do any serious damage.) She has muscle damage in her front right leg, and she’s limping now.

Yesterday, I took her out to go to the toilet. A man walked by with an injured leg, limping and clearly in a bit of pain. Mika doesn’t normally pay much attention to strangers when she’s out, but this time she did.

She looked at him, hobbled over to him and then walked next to him for I guess about 20 seconds. Both struggling to walk. Both limping side by side.

When he had to go on and Mika had to stay with me, the man stopped, looked down at her and said “You’ve made my day. It’s nice to know I’m not alone – we’re in this together.”

I was proud. I welled up a little. It was beautiful.

Jesus: the great limper

The reason it meant a lot to this man was that Mika was in the same boat. She was in the same situation as him. She understood. He has a limp. She has a limp. She gets it.

It’s Easter at the minute, and all attention is on the death and resurrection of Jesus. But none of that would mean anything without the 33 years of His life before that. The years where He entered into the messiness of the world.

crossBorn to scandal. Immediately a refugee. Growing up with all the normal pressures of life. Having a job, learning a trade. And then His ministry starts. Homeless, threatened, attacked, bereaved, misunderstood, persecuted, betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, mocked, spat on, crucified, killed.

For the man yesterday it was a limp, and a fellow limper made all the difference. Whatever our ‘limp’ is – whatever part of life it is that is hard, that hurts, that seems hopeless – Jesus is the ‘great limper’, who comes alongside and can honestly say “I know what it’s like. I’ve been there. Let me limp along with you for a bit.” Jesus struggled. He knows how our struggles feel.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15)

Overcoming the limp!

I find great encouragement in that, and I want to hold onto it. But Jesus isn’t just the eternal limper who will limp along with us forever. He is the great limper who overcame His own limp and can overcome ours too!

It could sound like I’m saying this: “Things are bad. They’ll always be bad. They’ll never get better but at least Jesus knows how it feels.” That’s what we get if we focus on Jesus’ life and forget His great victory in His death and resurrection.

Mika could never heal her new friend’s limp. She depicts part of what Jesus does, but not all of it!

Jesus suffered all those things above, and was eventually killed by them. But then He rose, and that resurrection is a powerful statement that Jesus has defeated it all. He has established a new kingdom, one of healing and restoration and peace.

A kingdom with no more limps.

Whether right now or in the age to come, this is what Jesus will bring about in the life of every ‘limper’ who follows Him. Total and complete restoration.

We have a God who cares enough to send us a Companion to limp with us and a Saviour to overcome our limp for good. I encourage you: cling on to both.

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Eric Pickles, bad journalism, and fighting for the right to be heard

Apr 102014

Eric Pickles, the UK Communities Secretary, has come out recently and said that Britain is a ‘Christian nation’ and that ‘militant atheists’ should just ‘get over it’. This was in the context of defending a law that ensured the rights of councils who wished to pray at the start of public meetings.


That would be worth a post in itself, but it was reading the Telegraph’s article covering it that has made me write this. In it, there is an example of what I think is truly awful journalism.

At best stupid

The piece outlines what Pickles said, but had no reactions or comments from anyone else. Why bother? The Telegraph and its readers are surely expert enough. I mean, surely it’s obvious. Either Pickles is right and atheists should accept we’re a Christian nation and shut up, or Christians should accept we are secular and keep their beliefs to themselves.

I can’t imagine there possibly being a middle ground. Actually, I can. But the Telegraph cannot. This is a poll, inserted half way through the article, so readers can give their opinion:

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(As I write, by the way, about 13,500 people have voted. 31% ticked the first box, 69% the second. For reasons I will give below, I could tick neither box, so did not vote.)

At best this is stupid. It could be that the journalist who wrote this is just uninformed and has no concept of the complexity of the situation. No idea it is possible for ‘religion’ to be something other than EITHER a base of power (a ‘Christian’ nation) that everyone else must get on board with OR something so individual and personal it should never be voiced in public. If so, I question their credentials.

At worst manipulative

If not, though, it’s worse. It’s manipulative. It forces a great big wedge in the debate, polarises opinion, makes people angry with each other and causes a stir. (In so doing, people get riled up enough to post it on Facebook and write blogs about it, driving traffic to their site (Irony noted).)

Let’s say I’m a non-Christian. “I can’t possible tick number one – why would I want to live in a ‘Christian nation’ if I’m not one? – so box two it must be for me. Yeah, we must be secular, and we must protect that secularism by keeping all faith matters private, otherwise those Christian overlords will start dictating again.”

Or maybe I’m a Christian. “A ‘Christian nation’ looks a bit extreme. What’s the alternative? I have to keep my faith private. That sounds scary. That could lead to me being arrested for public faith-based convictions. I’ve heard of that happening to others. Not keen on that. I suppose we do need to be a Christian nation after all.”

In refusing to present any kind of middle ground, The Telegraph subliminally tells us there isn’t one and forces us to set ourselves up in two opposing camps.

nuanceWhat’s the answer, then?

Since I’ve written about my views on this before, I won’t in detail again.

Simply, I can’t tick box one. I do not believe there is any such thing as a ‘Christian nation’. It should never be the place of the church to be in power telling people what to do. Nor can I tick box two. I believe everyone should be able to express their beliefs, act on them, and do so publicly. I believe the church has a prophetic voice into society, not over it.

That paragraph alone (which barely scrapes the surface) contains more nuance than Eric Pickles’s statement and the Telegraph article added together. And that’s the point: we need nuance. Not everything can be argued in 140 characters, or summarised in few enough words that it makes a catchy soundbite. Not every poll can be reduced to two options. Not every policy or position is a simple ‘yes or no’ issue.

The answer is nuance. The answer is letting Christians define what they believe about something, not politicians and not the press. The answer is deeper engagement with issues, not shallower.

And the answer for us Christians is to speak up (with grace and humility) so we can define ourselves, instead of having others tell the world what we’re about.

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5 ways my blog makes me a better person

Apr 052014

Earlier this week, I wrote a post called ‘5 ways my blog makes me a worse person’ and I promised a second post to balance it out. This is that post!

As I said there, my blog doesn’t make me good or bad. There are good and bad things about me, and this blog shines a light on both. Today, I celebrate five ways in which my blog gives an outlet for good things and nudges me along in good directions.

All that, after a picture of me (which is not technically a selfie, as pointed out on the previous post – thanks for that).

blog makes me better

1. It makes me creative

I was created by a Creator God, who made me in His image. Part of the gift He has blessed us all with is to continue His work of creation. There are hundreds of different ways we do that. Creative with music, art, poetry, prose, sport, language. People can exhibit a creative flair in business, with their money, in their friendships. All of it is because God has blessed us with an imagination and the ability to express it in creative ways.

This blog gives me a way to be creative, and that is a good thing!

2. It makes me assess things

I said in the first post that one danger is I start caring about things only because I might blog about them. That’s not good. But the flip side is that I find myself more keenly evaluating things, turning them over in my mind, weighing them against what I understand God to have revealed to us. A mindset change has happened and continues to happen. I’m less likely just to accept something and far more likely to examine it more deeply.

This blog helps me remember to go beyond the surface of all kinds of things and think a bit deeper.

3. It makes me think more clearly

I’ve said this a number of times on this blog, but blogging helps me structure my thoughts, and that is a good thing. The discipline of needing to take a thought and get somewhere helpful with it instead of just wafting off in myriad different directions is a very useful discipline indeed. Of course blogging isn’t the only way to do that, but it works for me!

Writing this blog forces my brain to work more clearly and actually commit to something for a while.

4. It makes me listen more

I don’t just write a blog. I read blogs. I read a lot of blogs. I interact with other bloggers and other bloggers interact with me. I would be foolish to put my fingers in my ears and just speak. I need to listen too, and the community of bloggers that exists has been a real blessing in urging me to do that.

Writing this blog exposes me to many voices and reminds me mine is not the only one that matters.

5. It makes me honest

As I explore many different things on this blog, I do so publicly. I want to be very clear – private reflection and exploration is a good thing, and I do that too, but having this in a public sphere keeps me honest and accountable. People can – and have! – let me know when they think I’ve missed the mark or what I’ve said isn’t a good idea. Knowing my thoughts will be exposed to the reading and critique of others keeps me intellectually and spiritually honest. We all need accountability.

This blog means I can’t run off on my own, because I have many brothers and sisters to keep me in check and call me back.

There is – I’m sure – far more than this. Anyone else got any other reasons blogging is good for the soul?

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5 ways my blog makes me a worse person

Apr 022014

This is part one of a two-part series on the effects my blog has on me. The second part will be ‘5 ways my blog makes me a better person’, and together they form an exploration of how blogging affects my character.

The truth is my blog doesn’t make me good or bad. It is a tool. It is neutral. But what it does do is provide a window into who I am, and reveal certain things. It can shine a light on and exacerbate things that are already part of me. I am good (because I’m made in the image of God) and I am bad (because I’m fallen), and my blog – like most things – has potential to make the good better and the bad worse.

So – after a rather strange selfie – here are 5 areas in which my blog can make me worse.

blog makes me worse

1. It makes me prideful

If pride is an over-inflated view of oneself, there’s an obvious danger in a platform where I am author, editor, moderator and the guy with my face at the top of the page. Whether it is feeling as though I am the best thing ever because I won an award or feeling upset because no-one liked that post I just wrote, I can fall into the trap of assuming I’m basically the best and everyone should feel lucky to have my thoughts available on tap.

It means I put my identity in my blog’s success, instead of letting my primary identity be that I am a child of God.

2. It makes me unbalanced

This is perhaps a particular danger for me because of my day-job. I work for a church, and a key part of my role is in teaching and preaching, which means I spend a lot of time reading, reflecting, praying, studying and formulating thoughts into a format that will hopefully help others. That is also a pretty good definition of the process of writing a blog entry. So loading up the blog to write a post in an evening or on my day off can mean I never rest that part of me.

It means I can not rest properly and embrace that sinful idea that I can keep going and don’t need to take seriously God’s call to stop.

3. It makes me chase ratings

statsLike most bloggers, I have a programme installed that tracks the number of visitors and hits my site gets. This is useful information, but it can also lead you down a rabbit hole. Why didn’t that post get as many hits? Why was that one shared so many times? Maybe if I write more about that I’ll get more hits. Maybe if I use controversial but slightly dishonest titles more people will bother to read. Maybe if I get more hits, it means more people like me.

It means I can start seeking approval in all the wrong places.

4. It makes me disengaged

I’ve got better at combatting this one, but there’s a danger that I end up living in blog-land not the real world. In blog-land every situation, conversation and event matters only in so far as it means I can blog about it when I get home. It means I don’t care about situations because they matter, but because they might provide me with material.

It means I can get disengaged and start devaluing people, which damages relationships and ruins experiences.

5. It makes me too simplistic

I aim at 800 words max per blog post. Even now as I type I’m looking at the word count and realising I can’t type too much more. Writing in a short and concise way can aid clarity, but if I choose to write on something that is in fact very complex, I can end up forcing it to seem more simple than it is. Previously I have tackled the issue of what it means to be Christlike. How can I do that justice in 800 words?!

It means I can become simplistic in my approach to things that I really should be wrestling with at a far deeper level.

I want to point out that by becoming more aware of these things, I am in a much better position to combat them, so I assure you that I am not just a proud, burnt-out, approval-seeking, disengaged simpleton. But where I do still fall short, I must – as Bonhoeffer said – continually throw myself upon the grace of God.

Fellow bloggers – anything I’ve missed?

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“I’m a Christian because Jesus is for real” – Cheryl Higgins

Apr 012014

Why Christian thumbIt’s been a couple of weeks since the last “Why are you a Christian?” post, but I promise it hasn’t gone away. Still plenty more, and today I have a contribution from a friend called Cheryl. Cheryl is part of our church, and is also a member of the small group that Mel and I are part of. (Regular readers of this blog will know I love my small group!)

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


I am a Christian because Jesus is for real and not just a fantasy or pretend friend.

I am a Christian because I believe Jesus is the way to truth and life and complete fulfilment will only be found in Jesus. I enjoy looking at the evidence for why I believe what I believe since I grew up in a Christian family and it was just accepted as truth. I found such overwhelming evidence for it and it underpinned my day to day faith. So I am a Christian simply because I believe Christianity is true.

Jesus became my focus and my firm foundation in all the ups and downs of life. I know that Jesus is with me, supporting me, strengthening me and guiding me. He gives me hope that despite the struggles I have faced that there is a future and he will make a way and always wants the best for me. I have seen so many answers to prayers and not purely co-incidences that I know Jesus is for real and not just a fantasy or pretend friend.

I love God and his love has captured my heart. “We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Now, my Creator’s smile is my motivation. The Lord’s approval is my measure of success.

He died for me, that is the greatest gift anyone could do for me and I owe him everything, my life. Philippians 3 from the Message says:

Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, first hand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ – God’s righteousness.

Thanks for your answer Cheryl! If you have any questions or comments for Cheryl, drop them below. If you want to see others in the series, the full list is here. I’ve had lots of positive feedback about this project, and you can expect plenty more!

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