Behind the Screen

rainloveIt is really easy to see the internet as an abstract place. A place that isn’t really
real but we all seem to live on it. It sometimes feels like a place where there are no faces, no real people but just words and videos and pixels.

But it isn’t that simple. Behind every screen is a person. A real person. A person with feelings and dreams and fears and doubts. Behind every blog is someone living real life, trying to get through the daily grind. Behind every YouTube video is a real person going through a tragedy or clinging to hope or skipping in the sunshine. Behind every twitter account is flesh and blood, typing thoughts and ideas and their hopes and dreams.

I have been pondering this. Which may seem odd, but when we comment or tweet back we aren’t placing words into an abyss that swirls them around and sucks them in a black hole. No, those words which are dripped in meaning and language are going to be seen and processed by a real person. And depending on the words you use, they will either encourage or scar that person. They will either uplift or break down. 

I have friends with YouTube channels and blogs that sometimes get abuse from people, words flung onto the screen and sit there chewing away and they are hurt by them. They wonder if it is worth it? Does it outweigh the good stuff? One of my friends said that he get about 5% horrible comments and its often those comments that he remembers the most.

We need to recognise that the person behind the screen has real feelings. And then we ask ourselves…

Is what I’m saying encouraging, helpful, uplifting, truthful, humane?

Even if I disagree with someone, if I don’t think their theology is like mine, if I think their concepts and ideas are not what I agree with, the truth is that they are still a human being behind the screen. My ungracious words could knock their confidence and hurt them.

Would I say the same things to them if I was sitting at the table with them? Eating, looking into their eyes as we discuss theology, gaming, YouTube videos, music etc… What would drip off the tongue?

My friend recently wrote some thoughts of a book she was reading, she doesn’t agree with everything he wrote but her mini review was full of good and gracious thoughts. But the author of the book sent her a message saying he was glad she read the book and would interested in more of her thoughts on it. She shared this with me and it made us stop and think.

There is a real person behind this book and although we don’t agree with everything the book says, the person who wrote it is not abstract and not someone to simply disagree and argue with. It made her think about how she will engage with the rest of the book.

The person behind the screen is not abstract. They are real. Flesh and blood. Dreams and Imagination. Hurts and Fears. Someone you could sit down with and drink coffee with. It should change the way we comment, remark, review and write when we engage and disagree with people or dislike something.

Love should be in every keystroke.

*Image from Imadecode (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)

The Desire for Beauty

think_different_apple-wide (1)Apple is celebrating 30 years of making Apple products, from Macs to ipods, iphones and Ipads. The video of this is worth watching. Apple prides itself on creativity, thinking differently and changing the world. Their products are not just easy to use but beautiful. They understand the importance of image and desire. It isn’t just about function, but its about design and wrapping people up in that image, unleashing their creative potential.

I am currently reading a book called iGods by Craig Detweiler where he explains the history behind Apple and the vision that Steve Jobs had. Apple was, where computers were concerned, the first to tap into the human need to create and to be creative. It rides against the idea of simply putting your nose to the grindstone, work continuously in environments of dullness and spreadsheets which will eventually strip the soul bare and suffocate our creativeness.

Apple to is showing us something here, which is at the heart of all of us.

Humanity desires beauty.

It needs a space to create. It desires to be creative. Now I don’t think Apple is the only one doing this now and this isn’t some strange promotion of Apple products. But I have been thinking about the human desire to create, to fill the earth and subdue it. To wonder at beauty and enjoy things for enjoyment sake.

truth&beauty

There is something very Genesis 1&2 about it. We are children copying our Father who delights in creating things with His Son.

It starts off in the Garden with the beauty of Eden and then the beauty of mankind. It trickles through to the tabernacle and the temple. The Lord anoints men and women to be artists and craftsmen.

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” Exodus 31v2-4

And even when the Lord takes on flesh, he enters the world to take up a creative trade before his years of preaching ministry. In iGods, Craig says:

“Jesus was a craftsman by trade. Having built the universe, it seems fitting that, as a human being, he would turn to building houses or furniture”

Beauty and creativity isn’t something that should be kicked out of Christianity. In our art, our designs, our poetry, story telling, video games, films, fliers and books we reflect our creative Trinity. I know we distort it too. Genesis 3 did happen.

But Christianity shouldn’t be about dullness. But sometimes it is. Our fliers, book covers, music and sermons can sometimes drip with dullness that sucks away life.

falmouthCU

The world doesn’t want to look into greyness. It needs to look into a world of beauty, colours, design and aesthetics which are not shallow or simply consumed. They must reflect the beauty of the most beautiful one, Jesus Christ, who allures us in. It’s a hard balance, either we are tempted to strip beauty bare and settle with the world of grey or we slap on fluorescent colour and neon lights which are as empty as what they find in the world.

Beauty needs to have depth. It needs Gospel truth and gazing at the beautiful one.

For example beautiful fliers, like the ones Falmouth CU do, capture the audience and displays to the world that we are reflecting a creator God and we would like you to meet Him.

Even in our suffering there can be beauty. In the depths of despair, Jesus who encapsulates all beauty is with us and walks with us.

Waste_Land-posterEven out of the Wastelands, beauty and art can be formed. From the rubbish tip we see the waste of the world, the rubbish that stinks and no one thinks any good can come out of it. Yet it’s turned and transformed into something beautiful. Likewise as Jesus takes the Bride who is dirty and full of shame  he transforms her into something beautiful:

“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5v25 -27

Humanity yearns for true beauty. Not stick thin stuff or glossy magazine covers. But rich, in-depth beauty that takes the broken and the hurting and shows them the One who can clothe them in Splendour.

And so…It is good to enjoy art and film. It is good to enjoy books and video games. It is good to enjoy design and a product. It is good to enjoy music and dance. Not for them to become idols we consume to complete us. But to be objects that we enjoy because we are in the image of a creator God and because someone else who is in His image has created something to be enjoyed and interacted with.

And because beauty isn’t bad and those things we create are simply reflecting what’s happening on a bigger scale; A creative bridegroom who is making us more and more beautiful everyday.

A Story Repeated

Reading a book at the beachHuman beings are story tellers. We all love stories. Its seems that christians have been telling the same story for over 2000 years. Over and over again, every Sunday, every midweek meeting and every evangelistic event.

It is the story of salvation, of bloodshed and sacrifice. The story of love, light and darkness. The story of a loving Father and his Son through the Spirit saving  the people who is the bride and the adopted son.

It is a story we repeat over and over again. Which means sometimes we think we know it. We mutter that we have heard it all before. We think we know this story and so we want talk about something else. We ask, do we have to listen to the Gospel AGAIN at church?

I firmly believe the answer to that is: Yes. Even if you don’t realise it, your heart and my heart needs to hear this story again. We need this story repeated again and again.

The funny thing is, this story is older than 2000 years. This is a story that is embedded in the Old testament. The story of liberation and salvation. The story of darkness and light, of sacrifice and blood. The story of Exodus. That story where God freed his people from slavery and led them into the promise land.

As I read through my bible I have noticed something. We are told the same story over and over again in the OT. God is constantly telling his people the same story of the Exodus…

“For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God.” Lev 11v45…

Here are some other examples although there are lots more:

Deuteronomy 20:1, Leviticus 25:38 , Amos 2:10 ,Psalm 81:10 ,Jeremiah 2:6 ,2 Kings 17:7

This story is repeated over and over again. At first I thought – they know this! I know this! Stop repeating it. But then it struck me. They are a forgetful people. They forget who God is, they forget what God has done and they go after idols and think those idols saved them.

So the Lord in his patience and grace repeats the story again. This is who I am, this is what I did, this is the story – I saved you, I freed you, you are my people, I love you, blood was shed for you. No other god or thing can do that.

The story of the Exodus in the OT was pointing to the Cross and its this story we share now. And it struck me that I am the same. I forget this story.

I am like the Israelites who need to be told again and again and again who God is, where salvation comes from and what God has done and will do.

When I forget this story I go after idols and say to them, “these are my salvation and they will help me in time of need“, which is rubbish. I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to rely on anything other than Jesus, I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to worry or complain, I need to hear the Gospel again. And so forth.

The story being repeated is one of the most gracious things the Lord does for us, because if He didn’t we would be lost and going after cheap substitutes that lead to death.

Let’s never be someone who says “I have heard it all before”, but rather be someone who says “I need to hear this again!”.

So then, lets keep sharing that story over and over again to each other, to the world and in the pulpit. Let’s never get tired of this story because it is a beautiful story and our hearts need to hear of the wonderful salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day.

**Photo: By Simon Cocks (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)

Building the Dung Gate

There is a great preach by Andrew Wilson about the guy who builds the dung gate. It is 40 min but worth watching.

I found it really helpful because to be honest no one wants to be the guy who builds the dung gate. But someone has to be:

Nehemiah 3:14

Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.

Wilson reminds me that not everyone is the Nehemiah type guy or the preacher or the great musician. Not everyone is in the spotlight writing books or going on tours or speaking at large conferences. Not everyone has a life like that. Some do. Some are history makers. Which we need. But most of us won’t be. Most of us will be building the dung gate or counting the utensils (1 Chronicles 9:28).

UtensilsAnd Wilson reminds me that this is ok.

It feels like it shouldn’t be ok. It feels like we should say that we all have this calling to be history makers and to change the world. That we have a hero inside ourselves that we need to unlock and we can do anything if only we believe. Sometimes in some ways that may be true. But in everyday life, it just doesn’t happen.

I guess when you are fresh out of uni as a christian you sometimes dream of being a missionary or super star evangelist…

You may dream of being a preacher that pastors a huge church, where you write inspiring books and everyone follows you on twitter. Wilson shares his story about how he wanted that and wanted to change the world. Until life happened. Again life smacks you in the face. Suffering happens and suddenly everything is different. Have a listen, it’s great.

Someone’s got to build the dung gate. And build it with joy. It’s a small part in the community of the church but its vital. And it has significance. I sometimes think those small things mean nothing compared to the big stuff. But God includes these things in the bible and a whole list of names of who built this wall or gate, who cleaned what and who chopped wood over here and there etc.

I think God sees the dung gate as important.

So then, I have a question in my head when it comes to this: What is success in life?  What is it really?

I am coming to a conclusion that success can’t be measured and isn’t dependant on what other people think. For me I think success is joyfully loving Jesus in what ever situation I find myself in. Because deep down, “average” living is not bad. But it is all about the heart. And it is all about Jesus.

So then, if I find myself in a bed-ridden state 10 years from now and looking pretty much like a failure in everyone’s eyes, I hope my heart is still loving Jesus. I think that would be what I call success. Running the race and at the end still saying “Jesus you are wonderful“.

It gives me confidence for when I finish with UCCF, because I have no doubt I will go on and live a pretty average life. What that looks like, I don’t know, but I hope it’s loving Jesus and loving the local church and building whatever dung gate that needs to be built in the church.

Not many people speak about this. I am glad Andrew Wilson did.

The Rubber hits the Road

theologyTheology is really easy to talk about. It is easy to sit down around the table with the steam of hot coffee rolling around the edges of the cup, having your bibles open and your notebooks at the ready. It’s easy to say words like penal substitution and Calvinism and eschatology. They roll around your tongue and you spit them out.

It’s easy when your twenty something to see the world as black and white and carry theological debates in your pocket. You can argue about the pie in the sky until the blueberry filling squirts you in the face.

I feel like I am in the business of talking about theology. I can read the arguments and thrash out a theological position. I can quote scripture and I can also tie myself in knots with the straw from the thousands of straw men I create. And it’s good to talk, it’s good to work these things out and question and ponder.

But theology isn’t just about talk.  It isn’t just about the debates or late night discussions about predestination.

I think the rubber hits the road when life smacks you in the face.

Last week I was watching a programme where cameras followed around 4 families in their every day life. One family had a daughter and her partner expecting a baby but their were complications. They lost the baby. During this the mother makes a comment about religious people having faith and believing in God and how he comforts them. I think she really wanted that, deep down I think she yearned for that comfort.

Thing is, it’s easy to have a sound theology and all the right arguments, but when something like this happens its hard, it’s messy. It isn’t so black and white. I wanted to tell them that Jesus really loves them.

As Christians when suffering comes along we are caused to wrestle with the truths of scripture and God’s character. We ask: Who is God? Is He good? Does the death and resurrection of his Son matter? Does God understand my suffering?

I guess the heart of theology is believing in the middle of my suffering.
It’s clinging to Christ while in pain.
It’s believing in the resurrection when death knocks on your door.

I think theology tastes and feels different when you walk that road. It also sounds different when you walk that road with friends.

I haven’t really gone through great suffering, but ive walked with friends who have. The way they talk about God is different, theology has a different musical note. It’s no longer pies in the sky, but its real and it has to be wrestled with. It’s not about being right or wrong as in a debate, but it’s about clinging to Christ and finding joy and hope.

I think theology is good to talk about. But things aren’t always clear-cut. The part where it really takes effect and really matters is where theology meets real life.

And so, rich theology often comes alive when you go through an experience. Suddenly theology is no longer abstract but its earthy, weighty and holds more significance for you. The Hymn “O Love that will not let you go” by George Matheson, was birthed out of a painful experience of rejection and loss. The reality of the Lord’s love and comforting promises in a time of suffering becomes not just mere words, but wonderful truth to cling to, so that he can sing in his anguish verses like this:

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

What beautiful theology! What a beautiful Christ we have! This is theology in action and I feel the best kind of theology there is, a theology that doesn’t just stay at the edges of the table, but overflows into our lives and helps us cling to our beautiful saviour in times of trials and darkness.

A New Book Review Blog

booksquareI have some exciting news!

My friends (Ali, Emily and Kristi) and I have set up a new blog for book reviews called Book Square Blog. We thought that as we read lots of books it would be fun to review them and to have a resource for people to look through when considering which books to read.

We wont just be reviewing christian books, there will be biographies, novels and also resources on how to read or what particular books are good for certain topics! We are still in the early stages of this, but we would love your input through comments or recommendations of books for us to review!

Currently we have our first book review up. So why not check it out!

Fascinate people to Jesus

fascinating[Re-post and Re-written]

There is something about Christians that should be different. We should stand out.

Shine.

Go against the crowd.

We have a message of hope, we carry an eternal promise of truth. We have Jesus.
Jesus is beautiful.

Everyday when I switch on the news I cringe and slump. But in my heart I can say Jesus is beautiful.

His death resurrection gives us hope.

Our lifestyles should reflect this truth. We should be courageous in Love, reaching out to the dirty, the outcasts, the low in society, the unclean, the hopeless, the people without a voice.

We shouldnt be concerned with social status because we wear a different dress code. Our actions and words should scream a different story that’s so radical from society:

that promotes Jesus over man,
that shares the good news,
that welcomes in the broken and the weak
that says to a suffering world that Jesus understands. He has been there and carries the marks of suffering too.

We should fascinate people to Jesus. The Great I AM. The Shepard.

The Lamb. Our Great High Priest. Our God. Our Husband.

We are to fascinate the world by not being concerned with self-image, or trying to buy the latest gadgets, or trying to be popular. Not with beauty of self but beauty of Christ.

And that beauty shines through the church.

Jesus loves the church.

Church is a place where people can limp over the line and be welcomed in with arms wide open.

The church is both messy and beautiful and Jesus loves the church. The church is the bride of Christ.

The bride of Christ is to fascinate the world to Jesus.