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)

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.

Looking unto Jesus

This was written by Spurgeon and its wonderful. I want to share it with you because often we feel what holds us to Christ is our joy, bible reading and things we do or feel. But when we do that, all we do is look at ourselves and feel worse. So Spurgeon tells us to look at Christ and he will never fail us…

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of his children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument-it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee.

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

To lent or not to lent?

Lent. That time of the year where you give stuff up or take something up for 40 days and then eat loads of chocolate shaped eggs…. There are lots of mixed opinions about this, some people give up things up and it gives them a sense of knowing Jesus and some people don’t give things up and it gives them a sense of grace. Here are some thoughts on this from other people:

Anita says: “But this year, a friend suggested to me that I practice Lent traditionally because there is something special about the 40 day preparation in Lent for the glory of God to be revealed. To see his incomparably great power for us who believe which is like the working of his mighty strength when he resurrected Jesus.”

I enjoyed her post on why she is doing lent this year!

But on a different note:

Dan Hames says: “I’ve never given up anything for Lent in my whole life. Call it a deep and long-held tradition. Here’s why.

I am already a big enough legalist as it is. I don’t need it suggested to me that I might be able to deal with my sin by my own discipline, hard work, and spiritual focus. Unfortunately I already think that enough! I don’t need 40 days to prove to myself that my efforts at self-justification, self-cleansing, and self-control are beyond useless. The gospel has already shown me that.”

So very different views! But both equally free in Grace to do either. I read a brilliant tweet from Kath Cunnigham:

“Ah Lent, that time when half my feed is full of people giving up stuff and the other half being smug about how it’s all about grace”

How true! It made me chuckle a bit. We are a bit like that aren’t we?

Yet in both cases it’s all about our heart attitudes and what we are focused on. My stance on this is do what ever you want, give up things, don’t give up things but don’t be proud or smug, or do it out of guilt or forget the main focus – which is Christ. Our theology must start, run through and end with Him.

So, if Christ is our center then Anita she can enjoy Christ through her fasting and also through her praying over these 40 days… and equally Dan he can enjoy what Christ has done for him and that he doesn’t need to do hard work to prove anything to God.

The Gospel is good news isn’t it? We don’t do lent to prove anything to God and equally we don’t not do lent to prove anything to God. (see how easy we can be legalistic on both accounts?) We can choose to do it or not do it in order to enjoy him more. Freedom in Christ is awesome. Enjoy Lent!

Do not flatter yourself

Sinners in the hands of an Angry God” sounds like a sermon to avoid. But if I was to encourage you to read or listen to a sermon that will grip you, shock you, warm your heart and bring you to your knees, I would suggest reading this sermon. This is surely not for the faint hearted but if any Christian was to read this sermon by Jonathan Edwards and come away feeling anger towards Edwards and bitterness towards God then they come away not understanding the sermon at all. I really believe that this sermon was designed to arouse the heart to the acknowledgement that we have a very loving God that is angry at sin and angry at how we prostitute ourselves to idols and yet He is a very gracious God for not allowing us all to perish right at this very moment, but wooes us to himself.

Edwards says –

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatter himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do”

Edwards wasn’t just preaching to the non Christian here, but also the Christian. Do we flatter ourselves in thinking that our works get us out of hell? That God owes us grace and freedom because of what we are doing right now? Edwards warns us against this and warns us to repent of this because – “God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell for one moment…till he believes in Christ.”

It is only in Christ that we have any promise of eternal life with God. It can only rest in Christ and nothing more. If we think for one moment that its our doing and God owes us, we will be in for a shock. Read this amazing sermon and let your heart see how gracious God is over your life and repent and start relying on Christ for your salvation instead of who you are and what you are doing. Read it here.

Understanding Grace

Just read a brilliant quote from the blog: You are the Christ. This quote is all about Grace and really caught my heart:

(From Paul Blackham’s Jesus Talks – Trinity 8 – from 18mins to end)

Grace is the hardest thing of all to understand and believe. It makes no sense at all in terms of human logic and instinct. Our first thought really, our first thought is always, “What do I need to do? How can I sort myself out?”

And even in these ultimate questions, we assume that there’s some kind of tradition or creed or technique or religious system or self-improvement programme or new resolutions that will sort us out. We always vastly underestimate the problem and vastly overestimate our abilities.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is a statement that He alone has the ability to sort out our problem that is so huge. And He has the love and the servant-heart and the humility and the glory to do it. We might ask, “What do I need to do? How can I sort myself out? How can I fix things?”

To which, God replies, Do you mean what do you need to do in order to pacify the living God whose eyes are too pure to even look on sin? What do you need to do in order to turn back history, to take away the things that you shudder to remember? What do you need to do in order to encompass the whole universe in yourself so that it can be purified by you? What do you need to do to disarm the devil, defeat death, answer the gaping abyss of hell? What do you need to do in order to bring perfect justice, mercy, goodness, and life to a desperate and lost world? What do you need to do to heal all sicknesses and create new resurrection bodies in a perfect new creation? What do you need to do to renew the universe so that it can be the home of the living God forever? What do you need to do to lay a hand on both God and humanity to brings us both together? Well what can you do about all that?… Not much.”

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is that He was given such a task by His Father and He went out in the Father’s will and the power of the Spirit to accomplish this at enormous, infinite, personal cost. The pure and perfect and obedient Son, Jesus Christ, takes us filthy and double-indeed and selfish people as His personal friends and members of His family. He takes up our cause and gives His all to the ultimate degree in order to save us from ourselves. He makes it possible for our past to be forgiven and for us to be made into copies of Himself and it’s possible for us, even us, to be given a warm welcome into the eternal life of God, now and forever.

Balm of Grace or Bashing Religion?

I just read on my friends blog this quote which I want to share with you because it just makes you think about how we do things as Christians and why:

“I heard an encouraging sermon at church from a visiting missionary from Pakistan. It occurred to me that people who minister with Muslims have a greater emphasis on grace than people who minister with your average Westerners. People who spend all their days with (apparently) complacent Christians seem to fall into the trap of thinking that it will help to bash them over the head a bit. But people who minister with those who are already being bashed over the head by a false religion seem to understand that grace is the answer.”

This just made me think about how cross culture mission is good for us, sharing the Gospel to all nations, sharing Grace and not bashing them with religion. It’s what the church needs to do. It’s what we need to do within the church community and our evangelism. Except most the time we like to hit our western heads with the law because it makes us feel productive and strangely convinced that we are achieving something worthwhile in this culture where we can say – “look what we did..” When all we are really doing is taking our eyes off Jesus and staying under a curse and causing others to feel very guilty…