Unapologetic: Francis Spufford

unapologeticI finally got my hands on this book at a discount price. It has had mix reviews and I must admit as I read the book, I had mix feelings about it. On the one hand, his honesty and plain speaking was really refreshing, it is raw and feels unedited and I think it works. But then it seems to lose its edge half way through and it slightly lost its way. There were lots that I didn’t agree with but there was also lots that I could resonate with.

The other thing that people pick up on is the swearing. I am not sure where I stand with this, I don’t know if the swearing added any value to what he was trying to say. I personally think some of it was making a point, it made the reader take note and listen but at other times I felt like it subtracted from what he was saying and he didn’t need to have it there.

I don’t want this to be a negative book review, but I wanted to be honest that most of the way through I just wasn’t sure if I liked it. On the other hand there were bits that were helpful, so I thought I would share with you 5 things that I appreciated about the book:

  1. The first couple of chapters are really helpful. It felt like his thoughts were spilling on the page and helping the reader to see that Christianity make sense, at least to him.
  2. He identifies the deep longings that we have as humans and the way that the world tries to offer us stuff, but it always lets us down.
  3. His chapter on suffering and all that’s wrong with the world was really insightful and helpful. It is down to earth and sometimes its something you need to hear – it is the less fluffy version.
  4. He explores what is wrong at the heart of humanity and the truth that we all mess up. He isn’t afraid to say that we all mess up, we all have a problem and we need a solution.
  5. If you want to read something that is just really honest when it comes to the deep longing and suffering questions then I think this book is worth reading.

Those are just some of my thoughts. It probably isn’t a book I would read again or even recommend to my friends. However there are bits in it that are worth quoting and worth using for illustrations. So all in all, this book and this review is rather mixed!

Would love to hear what you thought of the book – what did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?

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.

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.

Faith is Stumbling, Intimate & Knowing we are Loved

A brilliant conversation between Stephen Fry and Bear Grylls. I love how Bear Grylls describes his faith as intimate, stumbling, and in this difficult life we are loved… brilliant! I think we can learn a lot from their conversation.

It is worth going over to Krish’s blog and read 5 things to learn from Bear and Fry

Second Chances and Time Travel

AboutTime_SocialImagine if you could have a second chance at life? A chance to go back and change the mistakes you made or the path you chose. Would you do it? Would there be things you would want to change which may change the outcome of your life now?

*A couple of spoilers in this post

In the movie “About Time“, 21-year-old Tim finds out that he could do exactly that. He could choose any part of his own history and travel back to that very moment and have a second chance of what was to follow. He is a time traveller.

It sounds quite appealing to me. As I am sure we have all had moments that we would have liked to of changed, awkward situations, decisions we have made that we wished we hadn’t. We all like the idea of second chances. An opportunity to do things again, to have another go at life.

Tim travels back to moments which would allow him to eventually get a girlfriend. With some bumps on the way, we find ourselves in humourous moments where he makes lots of mistakes but then goes back and changes them. He also finds out that there are some things he can’t change.

TardisBut do you have to be a time traveller to experience second chances?
Are second chances only a reality for Tim in About Time or Dr Who?

In the film Another Earth, Rhoda does something that changes the course of her life forever. She makes a huge mistake which destroys her life and the life of a young family. Just before that point, another planet is seen in the sky, which is the exact replica of earth – with the same people and same events that have happened before. It’s a mirror image. Except on that planet the course of history changes when it comes into view on the current earth, which means Rhoda on this new planet has made a different choice that day and therefore there was a different outcome.

Lives not destroyed. A second chance.

As the news commentator says:

“But maybe the most mysterious of all is neither the small nor the large: it’s us, up close. Could we even recognize ourselves, and if we did, would we know ourselves? What would we say to ourselves? What would we learn from ourselves? What would we really like to see if we could stand outside ourselves and look at us?”

Rhoda longs for a second chance. Could she really find it by looking at herself another_earth_09and find peace in knowing that her other self-made a better decision? I think Rhoda realises that her second chance doesn’t come from looking at her alternative self, but instead she needs forgiveness for what she has done. It is only when the Janitor writes on her hand “Forgiven” that she finds true peace.

I think Another Earth illustrates the overwhelming need of grace that humanity craves. Second chances are about forgiveness not about time travel.

We may wish for time travel, to have a second chance to change our lives and we may long to see what that life would look like if everything had been different. But that never solves the heart problem. It may cover up the mistakes we made and we may appear glossy or it spirals us unto a depression of “what if’s”.

The level of our problem plunges deeper into our hearts that go beyond the choices we make.

Another_Earth_07And time travel isn’t real, but grace is. Second chances are a reality we all can have.

Outside of ourselves is a God who became human to give all of us a second chance. He beckons us all to start afresh and to receive true forgiveness that dives into the inner most depths of our hearts and cleans out all the mess. Time Travel cannot do that, neither can anything else in this world.

And what does that look like?

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

New heart and a new spirit. That heart riddled with guilt and yearning for a second chance, gets replaced with a new heart, a new life, a new spirit and a second chance. And this gospel spills out over every mistake we make or will make. This is the beauty of the cross, the mountain of second chances.

It doesn’t mean we forget what we have done, but we are forgiven and we can learn from our mistakes instead of covering them up. The good news is that our second chance doesn’t come through wishful thinking about time travel, but it comes through Jesus Christ.

Come to him and find a new heart and forgiveness that will quench your thirst. Then you can truly enjoy your day, without any worries.

“The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.” – About Time

iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual & Social Lives

igodsbook Today the world is literally at our fingertips. We can call, text, email, or post our status to friends and family on the go. We can carry countless games, music, and apps in our pocket. Yet it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by access to so much information and exhausted from managing our online relationships and selves.*

Digital Technology is in the fabric of our world, we use it everyday to function as a society, to keep in contact with people and to run businesses. Craig Detweiler explores the history behind some of the companies that have really shaped the way we live our lives. He goes behind the scenes of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon. He looks at how these creative companies changed the way we work, shop, build communities and walk with Jesus. While unfolding the history and aims of these companies, he also reveals some of their effects – both good and bad on our lives.

This book is challenging and what I think is rather unsettling about all of this, is that we don’t really know the long-term impact of online shopping, social media and a library full of information we can pick up whenever we want. There have been hints of the potential good that can come out of it all, but also on the other end of the scale, there could be destruction of real face to face communities where isolation is rampant, shops closing down and people losing jobs and an overwhelming amount of information at our finger tips that allow us to be jack of all but master of none. 

facebook-markzuckerberg

It was helpful to have Craig Detweiler bring in a Christian perspective that not only highlighted some of the warning signs of using such technologies, but also celebrating the triumphs and good things that these companies have achieved. It was enjoyable and interesting to read. As someone who did a degree in Computing and IT around the time when Facebook was beginning to establish itself, it is interesting to see how much they have grown in the last 10 years and where technology may be heading next!

And what about our spiritual lives? As Craig says:

“Where shall we express our hopes and fears? If we post our concerns on Facebook, we may forget to cast our cares on the Lord, the one who sustains us in our sorrows.”

This is easy to do as I wake up every morning and turn on my phone instead of getting on my knees in prayer. And yet it connects me with people in the world that need prayer, it links me to find information about certain theological topics quickly so I don’t have to try to find it in the local library. There is a balance.

googleBut more than ever, Christians must be vigilant. With the enemy prowling round like a roaring lion, we need to be awake and engaged in what we are doing. We can not be caught up in the promises of Facebook and the advertising of Google where we can become our own igods – omnipresent on Facebook and omniscient on Google. Falling into a trap that I can be a certain way on social media but different face to face. That as I create my profile, I can fashion it and craft it to bring the best out of me and get people to admire me.

I am the centre. I am the igod.

Suddenly Jesus falls out of focus.

I would recommend this book to you, even just for an understanding of how these companies came about and how they have changed over the years. I think Craig Detweiler writes well and raises some good points, both good and challenging about the digital technology we use every day. And as he brings in a Christian perspective, it can help us have a bit more wisdom about what we do with digital technology and how much we should use it.

You can buy this book here.

*Quote from http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/igods/345171

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.