Nov 292015

BCaD week 4

It’s now almost the end of the first month of my #BCaD challenge, and I’m still loving it. Here are my reflections on these remarkable chapters of the book of Genesis.

Genesis 22

I remember preaching on this passage a couple of years ago and finding it hard. I find God’s instruction difficult, and I think that is ok. I find Abraham and Isaac’s faith amazing, that Abraham was so sure of God’s promise that he could believe even his son’s death could not stop the promise of offspring. What?! How?! I don’t know, and I don’t think he did either, but he went on in faith. What he knew was more important than what he saw. But more remarkable than that is this: what Abraham takes from this is that God’ provides. He provides the lamb. He was always going to, and He has now done so in full.

Genesis 23

Abraham needs a cave to bury his wife. He has the divine right to this land, but he doesn’t demand it. Living in a world ruled by human forces means we submit instead of claiming some kind of entitlement that others do not have. He buys the land that God has already promised him for free. I see in this a picture of the way God’s people are always called to behave in the world. Christ has given us all things, but we don’t make demands, we lay it down.

Genesis 24

Is this a story that tells us God has picked out the perfect person for each of us and we need to find out who that person is? No, I don’t believe it is. It’s a story that tells us the line of Abraham (the line of Christ) was so important that in these early stages God was willing to intervene and keep it on track. His hand is powerfully and uniquely over this family. Let’s choose not to read ourselves into these stories in ways that aren’t right. We learn from them. But we aren’t them.

Genesis 25

In death these two estranged brothers can come together. But in life they cannot live in unity. And even as the new generation comes, they too cannot live in unity together. God could not be looking on pleased with the behaviour of each generation of this family, but He doesn’t leave them. He is faithful to His promises, even when they are not. He is good, even when they are not. He is patient, even when they are impetuous. And that’s how he treats me too.

Genesis 26

It’s like pages from a few chapters ago are being repeated. The same place, a king with almost the same name, the same crime committed by Isaac as by Abraham and so many of the same results. And God acts with Isaac just as he had with Abraham. His blessing did not stop with Abraham’s death. His promise wasn’t to Abraham alone, but to all Abraham’s offspring, to the line that He had promised. So Isaac has the same capacity to bless and curse as Abraham.

Genesis 27

This story breaks my heart. A family that God has brought together, blessed and nurtured. But a family that is turned in on itself, divided, lying and stealing from one another. Two brothers pitted against each other even as their father lies on his deathbed. A wife picking favourites and dishonouring her dying husband. A father who has created some of this toxic culture by the way he has always favoured one son and left the other resentful. This is real stuff. But even oaths made for completely the wrong reasons are honoured by God. Jacob is now the heir, even though that is wrong.

Genesis 28

The promise has been made so many times, but now it is reinforced. God reaching down to earth and us being able to reach up to Him. The land that Jacob is once again promised is to be a place where God and people meet, where heaven touches earth, where the distance between the human and the divine is bridged. A dwelling place for us and God. In John 1, Jesus uses this dream and applies it to Himself. He is the ladder who will be that bridge, on whom angels will ascend and descend. He brings us close to God and all that comes before – promises of offspring and land and blessing – is there to prepare us for the real deal.

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Nov 222015

BCaD week 3

Welcome to week 3 of the #BCaD project. Still going strong, and there’s now a wonderful bunch who are chatting through their thoughts each day on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s a lot of fun, God is moving, and it’s not too late to join in! If you’re wondering what this is all about, head here! I have not stopped blogging about other things, and you can expect to see other stuff here soon, too.

Genesis 15

This is the way covenants are made. Promises made, commitments required, animals cut in two and then God walks between the pieces. What? Why? This is the statement being made: if Abraham (or his offspring) breaks the covenant, they are giving God permission to tear them in two and do to them what has happened to the animals. That’s the agreement. But the amazing thing is that when they do break the covenant (and when we do, again and again) it is GOD who gets broken as He suffers at the cross, Him taking the punishment required by the covenant. Such a powerful picture!

Genesis 16

(First things first, yes this is my first #BCaD post with a typo (‘I’ should be ‘in’). And thank you to the person who pointed this out to me in the most lovely and unsarcastic way. Now then…)

A prime example of someone stepping outside of God’s will. Yet God has promised to bless Abram’s seed, so He will bless them even when it is not the seed He meant. He doesn’t walk away from us, or from the people that are hurt because of us just because it is a mess. He isn’t afraid of mess. He steps into mess and even redeems mess. I find that deeply encouraging, because I know that I am often a mess!

Genesis 17

Circumcision isn’t a covenant of works. It’s always God’s work. And something someone pointed out this week, which I’ll try to word delicately. The covenant to Abraham (not Abram anymore!) is based on offspring, and now the covenant is marked by a weakness being given to the very part of the body through which offspring would be created. It isn’t EVER Israel’s strength, fertility or vigour that will achieve the covenant. It is always and only God. And that is still the same for us.

Genesis 18

Abraham seems to be a little rude, like a child bargaining or demanding things of a parent they have no right to demand. This story has never sat well with me. Maybe that means my view of prayer is a little too tame. How dare I bargain with God, right? Or maybe it’s because Abraham is being a little cheeky and I’m right to react that way. But God is very gracious and responds. The sad thing here, of course, is that however low Abraham and God set their expectations, the people still can’t meet them. And maybe that’s the lesson for us…

Genesis 19

The angry God. God the judge. God the just. This is the God we worship and we mustn’t forget it. What a disgusting place where violence, threats and rape are the welcome Lot and his family receive. And Lot offering to give up his daughters to appease it. It is a total, brutal mess of a picture of how bad we can be. Humanity at it’s absolute worst. And that carries consequences. I choose not to let that get my back up. Instead it sobers me to the seriousness of sin.

Genesis 20

The very thing he did at the outset of his journey with God (in chapter 12) he now does again! Abraham is the one in the wrong, Abimelech is the one who broadly is in the right. And yet we see the covenant is not lifted, and it is Abraham’s prayer to God that leaves Abimelech and his people healed. When Abraham accidentally curses Abimelech, Abimelech is cursed. When Abraham blesses, Abimelech is blessed. God is faithful to His promises to Abraham.

Genesis 21

After all of this soap-opera since the promise was given, the promised son is finally born. A couple of reminders here for me. First, God’s timing is not our timing. Sometimes we must wait, and in the waiting we prove whether we are patient and faithful, or whether we try to achieve ourselves what we really should be letting God achieve for us. Second, it is all God’s grace, His faithfulness to His promise. How does the birth story start: “The LORD dealt with Sarah as he has said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.” God’s word stands. Trust His promises. They are all true.

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Nov 152015

BCaD week 2

Welcome to my second weekly round-up in my ‘Bible Chapter a Day’ read-through of the whole Bible. If you want to know what this is all about, or to join in, this is where I introduced the whole thing. It’s been great to see lots of people joining in with their own reading, tweeting, Facebooking and blogging! Now, let’s dive in…

Genesis 8

Time and again in Genesis, before, during and after massive events, we see people making offerings to God in worship. This is before the Law, so it’s not something they are required to do or asked to do. It’s just something they do. Noah has been through a lot, and literally everything he has in his possession is because God let him have it, let him take it on the ark that he wouldn’t have had with God. All we have is God’s, and when we choose to offer it to Him, it pleases him. Sacrifice pleases God.

Genesis 9

So God is starting again, and like the promises made to Adam (and the requirements of Adam) He now makes promises to Noah (and requires things of Noah). People following the story will be wondering if Noah is the one who will lead the way and bring the restoration to the world God has promised. Maybe He can succeed over sin where Adam (and all others) failed. But no, he fails and so does his son. The search continues…

Genesis 10

After the flood, there is rebuilding work that needs to be done. So once again we see people reproduce, grow old (and still die, because the problems of sin and death are still there), and spread all over the world. Every part of the world is occupied. This is good, it’s God’s plan. This is what the world is meant to be like (minus the sin and the death), but is progress being made? Will it be better this time? Will people let God be God, or will they once again descend and spiral? Spoiler: it’s the second one…

Genesis 11

Well, here’s the answer to yesterday’s question: people are no better this time round, and once again seek to be gods themselves. They want to make their way to the heavens themselves, to make a name for themselves. We just can’t stop trying to usurp God from the position that only He can and should ever have. And so the story of the fallen world is told in these first 11 chapters of the Bible. We don’t get better. By ourselves, we just get worse. That’s the point of Genesis 3—11. But a new day is dawning…

Genesis 12

A pivotal moment in God’s story. The whole world is in rebellion, and God means to fix it. But He’ll start with one man, and that one man’s family. So we meet Abram. He will be blessed. Because he’s earned it? No. Because he deserves it? No. Then why? Only because God has graciously chosen Him. He, and his line, will be blessed unconditionally. He just will. But the promise isn’t just for him. Through him, all the world will be blessed. Abram (and Israel) is meant to be a picture of life lived with God, choosing God, and as others see that they will be drawn to God. They are blessed in order to be a blessing. That is God’s plan for the world. Of course at the first hurdle Abram doesn’t trust that God will keep him and instead chooses to look after himself. It’ll be baby steps for Abram from here…

Genesis 13

Is the story of a family dividing? Or is it the story of a land being marked out for God’s people? Or is it both? God’s huge plans and purposes for people aren’t so abstract that normal human interactions (and decisions about making sure everyone’s cattle have a place to eat) are too small. God works through the normal, as well as breaking the normal from time to time. But for now, Abram has separated from Lot, and now knows exactly the land God will give them. It’s not his just yet, but he can enjoy it for a little while…

Genesis 14

After the first time God comes through for His people in battle, and Abraham acts as the one who will protect and rescue his family (even those who have parted ways), we meet this man Melchizedek. Mysterious chap. Comes out of nowhere and disappears back there pretty quick. Given two titles: priest and king (not a very normal combination). And unlike pretty much everyone else in the Genesis narrative, his origins and family line are completely absent. It’s like he just…is. Maybe it’s easier to see because Psalm 110 will promise another like Melchizedek, and because in Hebrews we see him used as a picture of Christ, but as I read these passages with all the focus on Abram, this Melchizedek is a reminder of the one we truly need. Not Abram, but a priest and a king, one who has no beginning or end, but who just is.

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Nov 082015

BCaD week 1

Week one of my #BCaD project has now happened, and it’s been so cool to see so many people joining in, reading the Bible and sharing their thoughts and reflections. This is a collection of my posts, and some short reflections I’ve written. I’m loving it! Also, check out these two blogs (here and here) that people I’ve met in just the last couple of months that they’ve set up to share their journey with #BCaD. If you’ve not got involved yet, join us!

Genesis 1

It strikes me that a lot of talk about ‘creation’ is about the questions when and the how. It’s what we, with our 21st Century scientific interest are fascinated by. But the Bible doesn’t kick off with a science lesson. It kicks off with a beautiful, wonderful picture, verging on a poem, extolling the beauty of creation, and of the Creator. Telling us of God’s agency in creation. Telling us it is good, good, good, good and even very good once people are part of it. We are the pinnacle. God makes all of this as a canvas on which He can paint a relationship with us, those He has made in His image to love, cherish and journey with. That excited me far more than questions of how, when, six days or big bangs. That’s worth getting excited about!

Genesis 2

This chapter of the Bible, perhaps more than any other, give us a picture of what the world should be. Not what it is now, but what it should be. And the word for me that sums it up is ‘harmony’. Everything is in its place, as it should be. There is a closeness with God, where people live in submission to Him, happy with the rule He has over them. Not straining. There is an intimacy and mutuality about relationships between people, who are ‘not good’ alone, but who together are fulfilled and complete, totally comfortable together. Not ashamed. And people live at peace with nature, tending to it and nurturing it. Not striving. It’s a beautiful picture, and I want to live in that world.

Genesis 3

All the peace and harmony of Genesis 2 is now undone. When God’s word is first questioned, then twisted, then straight out challenged and denied, people end up breaking relationship with Him, straining against His rule and choosing their own way. That’s sin. Not letting God be God. And it breaks everything. We see God separating Himself from them. We see Him declare their relationships with each other will be marked by dominance and shame, not be love and intimacy. We see that it will now be a battle with nature, not a dance. Every relationship is broken when we choose ourselves over God and others. But, even at the very beginning of brokenness, God promises a solution. One day, a descendant of Eve will come and defeat this snake, this enemy, and put all things right. Sin is born, but so is hope.

Genesis 4

So if a descendant of Eve will restore peace, who will it be? Maybe Cain or Abel. No. One is murdered, and the other a murderer. But even though they aren’t the solution (in fact Cain seems to be a product of the problem), God acts with grace and causes His protection to rest over Him. He is committed to us and to His people even when we aren’t committed to Him. And so the line continues. But then there’s another line through Seth. So many people, so many options, but who will God use. This sprawling story of the world and of the search for God’s promised one has begun, and we start to get the sense that it might be as quick as at first it might have seemed!

Genesis 5

This is the first of many chapters in the Bible that is a long list of names. This person descended from that person, and lived until this age and then died. And on and on it goes. But this is an important reminder of two things. First, all are made in the image of God. These are people who carry the image, the stamp of divinity in them, and that is what humanity will always be before anything else. But second, they die. Every generation a new option for hope, but every generation also a reminder of the problem. We all die. This cycle is never how it should have been, but it is how it is. We get that the wrong way round. We’ve become so used to death, but it isn’t God’s norm. We are made for life, and death has corrupted that. But for now in the story, the cycle continues.

Genesis 6

As the people made in the image of God spread and grow and become more numerous, something else is growing too: their capacity for sin. This consistent habit and pattern of rejecting God’s best in favour of our own desires. And we see that it makes the world a horrible place, marked by violence and destruction. How far it has fallen. And it gives us one of the first pictures of the way God acts in our world to restore. In a world of sin and brokenness, He works through one man who has ‘found favour’ and who is ‘righteous’. And through that one man, He makes a way for the world to go on and for humanity as a whole to live on in closeness with God. It’s a difficult story, this Noah thing, but at it’s heart it’s a picture of God’s saving work.

Genesis 7

The story of the flood is one that I find hard. It seems so drastic and big. It’s terrible and horrible. But the thing I choose to remember is that it’s terrible and horrible not because God is those things, but because sin is those things and the consequences of sin are those things. I can get outraged at this story, but instead I choose to let it push me out of complacency. It stops me settling for sin. And it shows me the tremendous lengths that God will go, and ask His people to go, in order to forge a way for hope to continue. Very specific, but huge, instructions given to Noah, and he steps up. Will I? And will I let this sobering story sink deep into my heart and urge me to strive for God’s best, not mine.

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Oct 272015


Ok, I’m doing something I’ve been thinking about for a while. A personal project on social media and on this blog which I’ve been planning, and which I’m really excited about. It’s definitely the biggest goal I’ve aimed for and the most ambitious undertaking I’ve set out to achieve on here.

Oh, the suspense…

It’s called #BCaD, and this post is just going to explain what it is, and also tell you how you can get involved if you’d like to.

What is #BCaD?

BCaD stands for ‘Bible Chapter a Day’. And very simply, what I am going to do is read a chapter of the Bible every day and reflect on it in two ways:

  1. I am going to tweet a summary of the chapter or a brief thought it has sparked each day.
  2. Every Sunday, I will write a blog post pulling all those tweets together and going just a little deeper, writing a paragraph’s reflection on each chapter.

That’s it. I’ll keep on going till I’m finished with the whole Bible, and it’ll take a bit under three and a half years. I’ve timed it so that if I start on the 2nd November (which I will be!), then I will finish this project the day before I turn 30, and that feels cool. If you want to do the maths and figure out how old I am and when my birthday is, be my guest.

(I want to be clear. I’m not the first to do something like this. I’m not claiming to have come up with a new idea – I saw someone else do something similar and thought ‘I’m going to do that one day!’)

So that’s it. That’s #BCaD. I can’t wait.

Get involved with #BCaD!

I fundamentally believe that the Bible is best explored in community. I’m not one to tell other people when or how to read the Bible, or how much to read or anything like that. But I’ve mentioned this to a few people and they said they might join me.

So, if you’d like to join the #BCaD train, here are some things you can do:

  1. Read along! I’ll publish the order I’ll be using soon, but we’ll be starting on November 2nd with Genesis, which will keep us going for 7 weeks and by the end of that I’ll have the full plan available to follow along with.
  2. Tweet/Instagram/Facebook/whatever else. If you’re reading along, or just join for a day or two every now and then, share what God’s been speaking to you through it on all your favourite social networks. Make sure to use the #BCaD hashtag.
  3. Read my posts. Again, as you follow along, why not read some reflections on what you’re reading.
  4. Write your own posts. Are you a blogger? Could you be? Why not join in with the project. This isn’t my thing at all!

Drop me a line if you have any other ideas, or if you’re thinking you might join me for this ride!

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Oct 232015

It’s perhaps become rather cliché, but one of the best ways of describing this life we live is a journey. As a Christian, I am walking a journey and creating a story. I believe that’s important. We are not just soldiers in an army or children in a family—though we are both of these. We are also travellers on a journey.


And I believe in being honest about that journey. I believe so strongly in telling that story. Our journeys have power, both the good bits and the hard bits. So I want to, once again, share some of my journey. It’s something I’ve done a few times this year, as my life has taken some turns I did not expect. If you want to chart some of that journey, the posts are here, here, here, here, here and here.

Why now?

So why, after a few months, am I sharing again some of my journey? There are a couple of reasons.

The first is quite practical. There’s been a development in my life that I want to share. Regular readers will know that this blog is very personal to me, and I have shared honestly (but I hope sensibly) on here throughout the last year as my marriage has broken down and ended. It felt right to complete that journey here too.

I am now divorced.

Those are words which at one point in my life I never would have expected to write. Life has gone in directions I never imagined. But it has gone that way, and I have made peace with that.

Which brings me to the other reason for sharing this part of my journey again: I am at peace. I am doing so so well. More on that in a moment. But when things were very dark, I shared that on this blog and bore my heart. It would be so easy to simply move on now I find myself in lighter days, to carry on as if this part of my journey hadn’t happened, not to give thanks for it’s passing or for the lessons I have learnt.

It would be easy not to celebrate the light now that the dark has gone. I do not wish to make that mistake.

This too shall pass

One of the things my dad said to me a year ago when I phone him with my news was this ‘I don’t entirely know what to say to you because this is going to be so hard, but I’m reminded of these words: “This too shall pass.” ‘ It meant a lot, but at the time I could not see it.

I can now. When I video-called him earlier this week to say the divorce was final, I reminded him that he’d said that, and smiled, and was able to say with total honesty “And it has!” He smiled too. Because he knows that is true.

God has brought me through the pain and the sorrow I felt. He has led me out of the dark woods of depression that I found myself in for a lot of the year. He has brought healing. He has brought hope and joy, even excitement for the future. I say all this not to say I’m good for getting to this point, or to rub it in the face of other people who are in their own valleys. I say it because it is true, because it is part of my journey, because I want to celebrate the good that God has done. I thank Him so so much!

And He’s used so many things to do it.

A wonderfully supportive and loving family who have given everything I needed. Old friends who have encircled me and protected me. New friends who have meant so much in reminding me I have a future, not just a past. A church that has just loved me and let me be me, whoever ‘me’ was on any given day. A counsellor who helped me make massive breakthroughs in my thinking and in my wellbeing. The Bible, which seems even more beautiful than ever. The sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit. Worship. Prayer. Books. Messages from total strangers. Weddings. New experiences. Holidays. Sailing. Lakes. Sunrises. My calling and purpose crystallising and clarifying. All of these things have led me to this place of healing I now find myself in.

Thank you

So in the past when I’ve shared my journey it has been to declare enduring confidence in Jesus and to commit, sometimes through gritted teeth, to keep seeking Him.

This time, I am smiling, and I simply want to thank Him. Thank you God for your restoration and healing in my life.

And also, thank you. To my family, my friends (you know who you are, even if nobody else does!), my church, people who have prayed, those who have dropped me a line on the blog to offer encouragement. I know that a lot of people read this blog who I have never met, and it moves me to know you have been praying and cheering me on.

So. That’s where my journey has led me to of late. I am so thankful.

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Oct 092015

Thank you everyone who’s encouraged me about my last post kicking off this ‘Verging on Heresy’ segment on the blog. It’s been cool, and I’m excited to crack on with it now.

Today, my first worry about the way we sometimes think and speak has to do with this phrase: “It’s a justice issue.”

verging on heresy justice issue

Surely justice is good?!

The phrase can be worded in different ways: “Surely it just wouldn’t be fair if…”, “It just seems wrong”, “I couldn’t be part of a faith that…”. At heart, they’re all saying the same thing. It (whatever ‘it’ might be!) is clear and obvious and can be determined purely by seeing what is just and what is not. It’s a justice issue.

Ok, so surely justice is a good thing, right? Right! The God I read about on the pages of the Old and New Testament is the just God who wants this world to be governed by justice, by what is right. He combats injustice. He promotes justice.

So when people are discussing their opinion (normally on some issue of ethics) why do I struggle with people saying “Well for me this is a justice issue…” and then outlining what they think? Before getting to that, I want to go back a step or two to explore what we are really saying when we use a phrase like this.

What we’re really saying

This is going to be hard to talk about in the abstract. So let’s pick an issue. Let’s pick women in leadership. Should churches allow women to occupy positions of leadership at the highest level? My answer is unequivocally ‘yes’! But my reason for that is not that it’s a ‘matter of justice’, that it is obviously unjust for us to restrict people in that way, and since God is just we need to let women lead.

If that were my reason, this is what I’d be saying: I’m willing to sidestep all the complex issues, questions and arguments that surround this discussion (including and especially a discussion of what the Bible says on the matter). I’d be saying that I have an inbuilt sense of justice, and the idea that women shouldn’t be allowed to have a certain role offends that sense of justice. I know best.

The problem, which I hope is obvious, is that sometimes I do not know best. Sometimes I’m wrong. And I don’t want to be mean, but sometimes so are you.

One thing which is unquestionably clear in the Bible is that I’m broken. The ways I live is broken and the ways I think and feel are broken. I can’t trust my own gut reaction to an issue. Importantly, I can’t trust my sense of justice. I am sometimes unjust.

What if I were convinced it is perfectly just to commit fraud? Actually genuinely convinced, not just pretending. What I’d need is others to help me realise I am wrong. I’d need God to tell me I’m wrong. And I’d need to decide—against what feels like my ‘better’ judgment—to trust that God is right and I am wrong. And then stop committing fraud.

When we bypass discussion and debate around an issue, we’re refusing to accept we could be wrong, and we are refusing God the opportunity to set us straight. It’s actually rather arrogant.

I need to be brought—gently and kindly, but firmly—in line with God’s justice, and I need that most in the areas where that most offends my own (wrong) sense of justice. And to do that, we need to be willing to dive into the depths of these issues, to explore them and grapple with them. To expose ourselves to the arguments of scripture, and to choose to let what God reveals through the Bible to be the benchmark against which we’ll choose to believe and behave, not our own in-built sense of justice.

It might well be a justice issue, but whose justice? Are you willing for it not to be your own?

The exciting thing

This isn’t the end of it though. Having done that grappling, having exposed ourselves to all of that, we find ourselves in a place where we have a stronger sense of God’s heart for justice. Of what is right and wrong. True and false. Healthy and unhealthy. It might be a challenge to our thinking, but it will always be better than our thinking.

I do believe the issue of women in leadership is a justice issue. But I believe that because I’m convinced the Bible reveals that God does not limit either gender in leadership. And if God does not, then I will not. But that’s a lot different from ‘It seems wrong to me’.

So the exciting thing for me is that, once we have uncovered something of God’s heart for an issue or situation, we have far more power and impetus to fight for that than if it’s just our ideas and our opinions. I want that power because I can’t make a difference by myself.

Wanting justice needs to make us passionate in our pursuit of it, not lazy in our thinking about it.

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Oct 062015

This is the first in a new kind of post I’m going to be writing for the blog. Actually, it’s more of an introduction to a new kind of post I’ll be writing. It is to do with heresy.

(Also, sorry it’s been ages since I’ve blogged. I’ve taken a little break, but I’m back!)

Verging on heresy

I hope it goes without saying that any discussion of heresy here will not ever lead me to consider the way ‘heretics’ have been dealt with in the past (see above picture) as ok.

Why heresy is bad

What is heresy, then? One dictionary definition describes it like this:

“a belief or opinion that does not agree with the official belief or opinion of a particular religion” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

In other words, it’s believing things that are considered incorrect. Of course the institution can be wrong, the ‘official belief or opinion of a particular religion’ can be off the mark, but for my definition of heresy I’m talking about actually being wrong, believing something which isn’t true, which God Himself disagrees with.

I’m not particularly interested in heresy. I am, though, interested in theology. And when theology goes wrong we end up with heresy. Theology matters. It matters because God matters, and thinking and speaking about God therefore matters very very much.

I’m not going to spend ages defending theology and talking about why it’s so important. What I will do is point you to something I’ve written as part of my role as a pastor at Gold Hill for our discipleship website (which I don’t shamelessly plug all the time on this blog but which you should totally check out!). I wrote a post called where I spend a bit more time exploring why theology matters so much.

But for now I’m going to assume it does, that it’s important to have our thinking about (and therefore relating to) God in order.

And if theology is important, heresy must be bad.

Verging on Heresy

So I think what we believe, our theology, is really really important. But there’s another thing I’m increasingly keen that we get right, which is how we come to work out what we believe. The processes we use to determine truth reveal an awful lot about us, and I want to make sure I’m doing theology well, instead of just having good theology. In a maths exam, getting the right result isn’t always enough. If our working isn’t ok, then we won’t get all the marks.

I might cross the finishing line in a race like everyone else does, but if I’ve got to that finishing line by walking for a little, stopping for a beer and then hopping in a taxi to catch up then I’m not good at running. No matter what time I get when I cross the line, I’m not a good runner.

I want to make sure the ways I think about God are right, just as much as I want what I think about God to be right.

It might be that the end-product of my theology is good and sound, that my doctrine is right. But if the processes we use to get there isn’t up to scratch, there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

It’s not full on heresy. But it’s verging on heresy.

Every so often I notice things in the way that I am thinking or the way that I hear myself or others talking (things we often say) which maybe reveal an approach to thinking about God which is not great. I may not always be right, and maybe as I do this I’ll be verging on heresy myself, but that’s the accountability that comes from a blog being public. But I’m going to explore some of those things that concern me, in the hope that I—and others—can become sturdier in the way we do theology.

Ultimately, that’ll make our theology itself far more worth building a life on.

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Jun 252015

I have a lot going on at the minute. I’m in the middle of a very difficult season in my life. The most difficult. I’ve written about that before, and I’m not going to go over it all again here.

There have been times when all I’ve really been able to think about is me, my situation, my past and present and future. Me. Me. Me.

It’s important I think about myself. It’s important I seek to deal with some things, and I am trying to do that in a few deliberate ways. But to adopt a purely “Me, me, me” attitude, while tempting, is not a good thing.

And there’s an important word that acts as a corrective for me: “You”.



I know, I said I was going to talk about “You”, not “Me”, and I will. But first, why is it that it’s so easy to get stuck on “Me”? Well, I’m selfish. We all are really. For most – if not all – of us, our default is to see the world with ourselves at the centre of it. Everything matters in terms of how it relates to me.

That’s my nature, my default, my base instinct.

God isn’t like that. He is all about relationship, it’s at the heart of who He is. God Himself, in Father-Son-Spirit relationship. God in relation to the world, giving Himself to us. He is not selfish. But I am.

We weren’t made to be. We were made to love one another, to relate, to give ourselves to each other and to the world. I wasn’t made to be selfish. But I am.

And especially when things are hard, there’s a tendency to default back to selfishness, back to my broken nature. I can feel that if anyone has an excuse to be self-indulgent and inward, it’s me!

Me. Me. Me.


I’m going to level with you. There’s something I don’t understand: where on earth does belly-button-fluff come from? How does it get into my belly-button? I didn’t ask it to, I don’t want it to, but it does.

And here’s the key: unless I’m very conscious to find it and get rid of it, it just stays there.

Let’s be clear. I’m a hygienic person. I wash and I’m clean. But if there’s part of my body I very rarely think about it’s my belly-button. I don’t look at it often, it doesn’t get in the way, and it serves no purpose. Fluff could hang around there for days, and build up, if I didn’t actively find it and get rid of it.

So can my selfishness.

If I’m not careful, I just get more and more selfish, more and more bent in on myself. I have to root it out, combat it. Actually I don’t have to do any of that. Not on my own. I have to let God help me root it out and combat it.

And that’s where this important word, this important weapon, comes in:


“Me” isn’t bad, but if it’s all “Me” and no “You” then that is bad. In my thinking, and so in my speaking, what is the balance?

And who is the “You” that I’m talking about?

It could be anyone. It could be the “You” of a friend, who I need to choose to care about, to ask about their lives, instead of just expecting them to care about mine.

It could be the “You” of a total stranger, who I choose to invest in even though I have no reason to believe they can help me at all.

It could be the “You” of that person I struggle to like at all, who I choose to search for the best in instead of comparing my best with their worst.

It has to be the “You” of Jesus, the only one who should be at the centre of my life, who I choose to love more than I love myself.

Day to day, am I combatting the fluff of my selfishness, by being actively other-focused? Am I more interest in “I think…” than “What do you think?” Do I care more about telling you about my day than hearing about yours? Do I fall into the trap of thinking my situations trump yours?

Do I honestly let “You” be as important – if not more – than “Me”? And I guess I should also ask, do you?

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May 082015

I haven’t written a post for a while talking about me and where I’m at. It’s now close to 6 months on from my very difficult news and the journey is continuing. But in the last week, a couple of things have really pushed me to look at my heart and see how it’s hurting and how it’s healing.

heart hurting healing

In the last two months I’ve been doing better, able to look forward, to enjoy friendships, experiences and work. I’ve had a sense of joy and peace in God, and most days have been a lot lighter than they had been for a while.

Two words have been given to me in the last week. Two friends have felt God has wanted them to share a message or a picture with me, and they have. I’m so glad they did. Together they’ve marked an important step in my journey, one which is good (because it’s God at work) but hard for me too.

A broken heart healed

The first was a week ago today. A friend was praying for me and God gave her a picture of a heart that was smashed into lots of little pieces, and it being made completely whole again. Her message was that God was saying that’s what He will do for me.

heart shatteredIt meant so so much to me.

My instant reaction to that word through my friend was that I can already see God doing that. He is giving me healing. He is giving me strength. He is giving me hope. My heart is being put back together. There are things I’m thinking and doing that in December I could never imagine thinking or doing again. There are parts of me that are flourishing and finding life again, even new life and vibrancy which has never been there.

When I say I’m experiencing healing in my heart, I can point to very real and tangible things that means. I am so so grateful to God for that. He has been faithful, as He always is, and He hasn’t let me go for a second.

A hidden heart exposed

That first word was a word of deep encouragement. On Tuesday, in the final minutes of a conference I was at with some colleagues, a different kind of word was given me. It was an encouragement, but also a challenge.

This time, my colleague (and friend!) shared that she sensed God was saying this: In the last months, my heart has been knocked very much, and my ability to see myself as loved and as loveable has been rocked in  a big way. She carried on. God was asking me to expose these parts of my heart, the parts most hurt, which up till now I’ve been keeping protected because exposing them would hurt. He was asking me to trust Him with them, and to accept and know His love far more deeply than I was allowing myself to.

So I prayed and said I wanted that. And then the tears came, and I sat sobbing uncontrollably, tears of gladness and joy at God’s love, experienced tangibly, overpoweringly, palpably. I immediately knew this word was right, that I had been keeping parts of my heart hidden, shut away, even from myself a lot of the time. There are places I haven’t allowed myself to go.

heart hiddenOn reflection, I think I’d got to the point of being strong enough to get through the day, but I had stopped there. God was asking me to trust Him for a fuller measure of healing and restoration, not just the beginning of it.

Committing to the process

So why share all this? Why write about it here? Partly because for me it helps mark a line in the sand. And partly because I want to share what I am learning in case it’s helpful for others.

I am committing now to this process of my heart being healed, instead of allowing it to get stunted. I am resting firm in the promise that God has my heart protected, that He will piece it back together again. But I am also aware that will be painful. I know it will hurt. That old wounds will be reopened. I need to learn (or relearn) a lot of things. I need to let God teach me those things, as He pleases.

I have no idea how long that will take. I think I’ve been trying too hard to figure that out, to have a plan. And I’ve been a bit too quick to think I’ve ‘got there’. Back in December and January, I had no strength of my own, no peace of my own. I needed to rely on God for all of that, and I did. And He came through. Now I do have more strength, more peace, so it is a choice. I am still choosing to rely on Him. And He will still come through.

I don’t want to stop with just some of what God wants to do in me. I want the full measure, for all the pieces of my heart to be broken and put back together, not just the ones I am comfortable with.

I’m pretty sure it’ll be painful. But I’m totally sure it’ll be better this way.

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