Word Alive: 10 Highlights

crazypeopleThis week my husband and I went to Word Alive to serve on the International Track. Here is a snapshot of our time there:

1. Being on the International Student Team and working with a group of people that are very talented and have a heart for the nations.

2. Sunshine and the feeling that spring has arrived

3. Sharing with Josh and Jo – like-minded crazy people who love coffee!

4. Being on the logistics team and doing behind the scenes work so that everything works together.

5. 3 Year Wedding Anniversary

6. Romans 8 and seeing small groups in many different languages getting to grips with God’s Word

7. Coffee catch ups with Kristi Mair

8. Helping to cook Thai Curry for 80 international students

9. Seeing old friends

10. Having non-Christian International groups doing a bible study and asking questions about how they can know God.

It was a really fun week and the last time I will go as a staff worker. But if we were to go back, then serving on the International Team is where our heart is!

Thanks Word Alive for a Great Week!

Ender’s Game: Loving the Enemy

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him”

*Spoilers alert

endersgameEnder is no typical teenager. He has been selected to save the world from a deadly race of aliens. We journey with him as he trains, trying to get the balance between anger and compassion.

When we reach the film’s end, we find Ender in a computer simulator, practising war tactics in various complicated scenarios. When his graduation finally arrives, he enters his last simulation and if he wins this, then he can go out to war for real.

Everything goes well. In fact he doesn’t just beat his enemy, he totally annihilates them – destroying a planet of aliens which seem to consist of the entire species – now every last one of them is up in smoke. Earth won.

There is silence. Then applause. Victory over the enemy is accomplished! Ender won the game.

And yet we discover that this was no simulation. This was in fact the real war and it dawns on Ender that he has totally wiped out an entire civilisation. What bothers him, it seems, is that he didn’t get a chance to understand them better. He wanted to dialogue with them, find out what makes them tick, find out why they came to earth in the first place and give them a chance. But he can’t do that. He had no chance to love his enemy.

It was quite a striking ending, normally as a viewer we would be satisfied with a victory like this. The enemy is crushed! However Enders reaction makes us feel uncomfortable. We suddenly feel that perhaps these aliens were never the enemy in the first place, but actually we were the enemy all along.

How we deal with our enemies illustrates something of our heart.

Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

ender-wigginEnder found that the heart of this project was all about annihilation and winning a game, being in victory and being the strongest. And Ender didn’t like that, he saw the corrupt nature of the heart and felt tricked in following their rules. What if he had a chance to talk to the aliens? To understand them? Perhaps he would have loved them?

Jesus deals with his enemies in a startling way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still enemies, hating God, waging war against him. He stooped down and loved us, died for us and brought peace. Jesus treats his enemies with great love, beckoning them to come to him for refuge, offering them time and time again a chance for peace.

How we treat our enemies shows the inner workings of our hearts.

Perhaps the people we think who are our enemies, are actually not. Perhaps we need time to understand them, get to know them, find out what makes their heart tick and perhaps we will come to love them. Like Jesus, who understands our inner most being, who saw our hatred towards him and yet he still loved us, loved us to the point of death.

Those people out there that we may class as enemies, those who think differently to us, belong to a different tribe, have a different lifestyle are all enemies of Christ. Just like you and me. Yet Christ is filled with compassion towards them, as he does towards us.

Suddenly we find ourselves side by side with our enemies, feeling a little uncomfortable because we have realised that perhaps we are also the enemy.

And yet Christ is not tricked like Ender, he doesn’t annihilate us. Instead he understand us, loves us and calls us to him for salvation.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

JesusNothingEverythingThis catchy book title was written by Tullian Tchividjian. This is a book about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. It is a refreshing book to read as it sits on the bookshelf amongst books that mostly tell you how to be a better Christian, leader, minister, pop star etc. I found it helpful to have my eyes cast away from myself and come back to Jesus. Tullian explains the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross was enough not just for salvation but for living as a Christian, every day.

Let me tell you 3 things I learnt / enjoyed about this book:

1. The Gospel isn’t just for non/new Christians. The Gospel is for the Christian, every single day. It is for the Christian that has been following Christ for 30 years, 30 days or 30 mins. The truth of the Gospel, what Jesus has done on the cross is something we need to hear and sink into our hearts everyday. It is too easy for me as I walk this road with Jesus to think that I now need to move on to “higher” and “better” things after I have grasped the basics of the Gospel, yet it seems that these basics are what I most need to hear because I easily forget them.

2. Your works can’t add to what Jesus has done. It seems we often believe the lie that the Gospel is enough for salvation but after that happens, we then need to work really hard to keep God happy or to stay in salvation. This is a lie. What Jesus has done on the cross is enough – we can’t add to it and we don’t “work hard” to pay back God. We rest in his salvation and when we do that, with our hearts being changed, we begin to produce fruit and good works.

We can rest in assurance that this equation is really true: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

3. Focus on what Christ has done for you, rather than looking inwards all the time: “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism” 

I would really recommend this book as it provides a great reminder of who we are in Christ and most importantly what Christ has done for us. It is a short read and really accessible for any reader.

The Lies We Listen to

It is easy to listen to the lies that are whispered to us. Often we believe these lies because we don’t always realise they are lies, our hearts sometimes think they are true and we cannot always see how much they are destroying us. Do you know what lies I mean?

Lies like this:

You aren’t really forgiven
You aren’t really loved
You are nothing
You can’t ever forgive that
You are better than her
She is much prettier than you
You are smarter than her

You don’t need to go to church today
It would be better if you stayed in bed
No one likes you
No one wants to hang out with you

You are way too messed up to be here
Look, all those perfect people
You need to be a better Christian
Pretend to be ok
No one wants to listen to you

You are not good enough to serve here
It would be better to be at the pub then at church
No one cares
No one wants to be your friend

You have no gifts
Jesus isn’t enough
You can’t trust these people
Don’t be vulnerable

They are so disappointed in you
You have let them down
You should feel shame

Work harder
Do better
Be Better

Do you recognise them? Lies that swirl around in your head and if they stay there too long, they will eat away at you and destroy you. The truth is what you need to hear.

The truth:

Jesus loves you
Jesus wants you in his church
He died for you
You are forgiven
He knows your mess and still loves you
Come to him and find rest
He will never reject you
He will give you peace
Jesus accepts you
Your worth can only be found in Him
Everyone around you is as messed up as you are
Everyone around you is as lost as you are
Everyone around you needs Jesus as much as you do
Jesus is enough
The Cross is enough:

Jesus carried all the disappointments
Jesus carried all the bitterness
Jesus carried all the shame
Jesus carried all the hurt
Jesus carried all the failure you feel
Jesus carried all the sorrow
Jesus carried all the mess you feel
Jesus carried all the brokenness inside you

He carried them to make you free and to bring you the Father.

Remind yourselves of these things when you start hearing those lies begin to surface. Squish them down with the truth of the Gospel.

Dexter and the Problem of Evil

dexterIn the TV show Dexter, the main character is a unique man, by day he works for the police as a blood spatter analyst and by night he is a serial killer.

You can’t help but like Dexter. He is quirky and odd, but strangely loveable too. It sounds odd saying that – can a serial killer like this be loveable?

Dexter isn’t like other serial killers, he only kills those who are criminals of the most terrible crimes and who have slipped through the net of the justice system. He takes justice upon himself and channels his killer tendencies towards a good purpose.

Now I have only seen a couple of episode of the first season, so I don’t know the unfolding story completely or where Dexter will end up on this journey. But those first few episodes opened up for me a whole host of questions. Questions, I hope, people are asking when they watch this show. Questions like:

1. What is good and evil?
2. How do we decide who is good and evil?
3. Is Dexter doing the right thing? Is he any different to the people he is killing?
4. What is justice?

When you watch this show, you can’t help but feel that Dexter is doing the right thing. He is ridding the world of murderers, rapists and pedophiles etc and that surely is a good thing?

But is it right that one man should carry out this justice? What about accountability?

What happens if he goes too far?

What happens if those lines of who is good and evil become blurred? As we look into the depths of our hearts, none of us are perfect. Jesus says that even when we are angry with our brother or sister then we are liable for judgement as if we had committed murder. (Matthew 5:21-22)…

THLSTSPPR-SPTI-EPS-1This is shown more clearly in the film The Last Supper directed by Stacy Title, the scene is set around a dinner table where a group of friends enjoy company, food and good wine. This group of university graduates begin to invite controversial people round for dinner, knowing that their ideas and thoughts are quite radical and perhaps very wrong.

Over the course of the film the wine begins to taste strange and the company doesn’t seem fun anymore.

They pose the question: If you went back in time and met Hitler when he was an artist, before he did all those terrible things – would you kill him?

On this basis, these students took the liberty to kill off those guests who have radical and harmful ideas in order to save man kind. They felt like they were killing off the next generation of Hitlers.

But then it gets out of hand. Suddenly they were killing people that they simply disagreed with. From religious ideas to political ones, they were finding they were burying people in the backyard before they even got to the dinner table!

Soon their conscience played against them and they couldn’t shake off the feeling that perhaps, what they were doing, was wrong…

Dexter-Morgan

Like Dexter, it raises a load of questions about what Justice truly is and what evil is? What is right and wrong? Is it just the act that is wrong which Dexter deals with, or is it the thoughts that are wrong which the University students deal with?

 

Jesus has an answer and he says that the problem is even deeper than actions and thoughts:

 

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
(Mark 7:20-23 ESV)

 

The problem is our hearts. This list from Jesus doesn’t excuse anyone. Everyone has a human heart like this.

Suddenly I sit at that table and I know I am not pure and cannot judge other people – for my heart is evil. And I think that’s what these students suddenly come to realise in the film, they saw that they themselves have an evil heart with wrong thoughts – they were no better than those they were killing. And in the end they turn upon each other.

But there is hope. The Gospel offers hope. On the one hand Jesus says the problem is our hearts, but on the other hand he offers us a renewed heart and salvation.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [Ezekiel 36:26]

Jesus is the only one that can deal with evil and deal with it in a way that gets to the root of the problem. It still brings up loads of questions, but as we watch Dexter I perhaps want to ask myself this question; what about the evil in my heart?

5 things I learnt from The Cross of Christ

crossofchristI have just recently finished John Stott’s epic book “The Cross of Christ”. I remember receiving this book as a gift during relay and I spent some time in various chapters studying it and chewing on it. But I hadn’t actually read the whole thing from start to finish, so I embarked to do so this year.

Reading this book gave me a fresh reminder of the cross and what Christ had done on the cross. I want to share with you 5 things that I learnt or was reminded of from this book.

1. Christianity is nothing without the cross.

It is the lamb that is slain on the throne. The cross is the center of history and had been on the mind of Christ from the start. It is a stumbling block and most offensive to some people and to others it is a joy and the heart beat of Christianity.

Without the cross there could be no atonement, forgiveness of sins, evil defeated, salvation for sinners, suffering where Christ can sympathise with all our sufferings..and many more things that took place on the cross.

2. The cross impacts every sphere of our Christian living.

Why? John Stott says the cross is the:

ground of our justification (he has redeemed us from the curse),
the means for our sanctification (we have been crucified with him, the world to us and us to the world),
the subject of our witness (we are to placard Christ Crucified publicly before people’s eyes),
the object of our boasting (God forbid that we should boast in anything else!!)

3. We are enemies of the cross if it is not central to our Christian living

If the cross is not central to our Christian living then we are enemies of the cross and to be an enemy means:

self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification)
self-indulgence (Instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ)
self-advertisement (Instead of preaching Christ crucified)
self-glorification (Instead of glorying in the cross)

How true that is in my own life!

4. Love was the motivation of the cross

Reading this book reminded me afresh of the love of Christ for us. To take human flesh and walk among this earth in order to go to the cross for my sin and shame, to take on the punishment I deserved in order that I might be reconciled to the Father. It shows a great and deep love that I cannot truly understand.

If we were ever in doubt about whether God loves us, we need to look no further than to the cross – his love demonstrated for us there.

5. I need to be reminded of the cross daily

I forget so easily the triumph, victory, pain, weakness and sacrifice of the cross. I too easily become an enemy of the cross and become self-righteous and self-indulgent. I need to be reminded of the Gospel, what Christ has done on the cross.

I need to be reminded of this daily and I know my friends do too as we struggle through this life and our hearts become deceived and caught up in various things, we need to bring each other back to the cross.

If you have not read this book, I would recommend you do so. Don’t be put off by the size of the book, but instead take your time over it and enjoy the refreshing water that comes from it. Stott turns our eyes away from ourselves and what we must do, and places our gaze on Christ and what he has done. Wonderful.

The Man Upstairs in the Lego Movie

the_lego_movieLast week my husband and I went to the cinema and watched the Lego movie. And everything was awesome…

To be honest it ticked all of my inner geek boxes. With references from star trek, wars, gate and lord of the rings to super heroes and super nobodies. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much.

*Some spoiler alerts ahead*

But I was equally interested about the portrayal of the “man upstairs”. The one who gives the rules and enters into the Lego world as President Business. There are two types of people in the Lego world, the ones who follow President Business and live under his rules. They are boring, uncreative, unimaginative and stuck.Then there are other Lego people who don’t follow the rules and they are creative, wonderful and superheroes trying to escape and be free from the rules of president Business.

We meet Emmett. He is a rule keeper, who follows the instructions very closely and lives life in the system. It isn’t until he meets some super creative people, that at some point in the movie he realises that he needs to stop following the instructions and start believing in himself.

As Mariah Carey belts out:

“Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”

Emmett just needs to believe in himself. And the man upstairs needs to recognise that people need creative freedom and not rules. And he doesn’t have to be such a control freak!

PresidentBusinessThe temptation at this point, for the Christian, is to try to defend this rule giving God. Saying, even though this rule giving God gives out instructions – they are for our good and they don’t trample on our creativity but they free us…

Except we know that being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules or even following instructions. If we do, we enslave ourselves and become a curse. (Galatians 3:10).The rules don’t free us or enable us to have creativity. Instead they bind us and stick us to the floor so we can’t move for fear of displeasing this rule giving god. The rules (law) given to the Israelites were good instructions but they were never going to free or save them. Furthermore those laws were for a specific time, people and purpose.

We are right to reject President Business and the man upstairs with his rule book. And the Lego movie is right – following rules and instructions to find purpose and meaning in life will just destroy us. And so Emmett needs to be free from the rule-giving man upstairs. But how?

Well the problem is, Emmett believes the lie that he needs to look inside himself to find the truth. That somewhere in his inner being, he just needs to believe in himself. (Queue Mariah Carey).

The mantra in our society is to believe in yourself. To look within and find meaning, truth and hope.That if you are a boring nobody, you just need more belief so you can be a somebody.

coffeeandlegomovieBut the reality is, there is nothing in you that can help you. You can’t help yourself. Our hearts are corrupt and following after desires that aren’t good for us.

Instead the answer is outside of ourselves. To someone who gives life, who bore the curse of the law so you don’t have to, who accepts you even if you are an ordinary person or a superhero.

True Freedom and life is only ever found in Jesus.

This is true for Emmett and for us. It cannot be found in following the instructions nor can it be found inside of ourselves.

The man upstairs, our Father, is not standing there with a glue gun ready to paralyse us under his instructions. Instead he is a Father who sends his Son into the world, to give us life and freedom because he knows that we can’t keep the rules and we can’t find freedom within ourselves and we can’t solve this mess we are in, only he can. The man upstairs, is nothing like the one in Lego Movie, he is far better.