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.

The Truman Show: Freedom Outside the Cage

TrumanshowRecently I watched the Truman show on Film 4 and I was struck by how much it was telling me about their view of the Creator.

The God role of Christof (Christ?!) the creator has a booming voice from the sky and he has Truman in a giant dome of ignorance while he watches and even controls him. On top of that the film makes us ask the question: “what is true reality and what is true freedom”? And can we get any of that with God or without Him?

As Christof says, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”

Those growing up in religion or those believing in God simply accept the reality they are presented and they never question it. We may feel that God is just like Christof who keeps Truman in a cage through lies and watches his every move like Big Brother. And this cage is the safe place, outside the cage is the sickness;

“I have given Truman the chance to lead a normal life. The world, the place you live in, is the sick place.”

At the end of the film, the Creator speaks to Truman from the Moon. He is cold and distant and Truman decides he has had enough and wants to go on an adventure outside of the Truman bubble. He seeks truth and reality away from his creator.

And the Creator loses his star and the whole of the Truman show collapses. Once the truth is discovered there is now freedom and no need to live in a cage and no need for the Creator. But the question is still there:

The_Truman_Show2Will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

It is interesting that they portray this view of God. And I think many people can resonate with Truman. They see God as an old man in the sky. With a white flowing beard and wearing a glowing robe. He has a booming yet distant voice. He hides in the sky, far away and shouts commands to his creation.

And often Christians see God like this, a cold and distant being hiding in the clouds.

It’s odd because not even in the Old Testament is God like this. Straight away the Lord in Genesis 3 is walking in the garden. He eats and talks with Abraham (Genesis 18) he speaks to Hagar (Genesis 21), he speaks to Moses face to face (Exodus 33) etc..

Ed Harris The Truman ShowWhat’s more, there is no solitary being alone in the clouds, but there is a unity of three. Father, Son and Spirit who dance together and who interact with their creation in a personal way right from the start.

Most importantly, the Son becomes flesh and walks among us. He walks around in the world, the “sick place” as Christof calls it, and he touches, talks to, eats with, heals, forgives and loves the sick people. The Trinity is no distant God.

The Sent One walks in and among the sickness of the world and brings hope, healing and salvation.

We are right to reject Christof as a portrayal of the Christian God. If you disliked him and the world he created, if you yearn for finding truth outside the cage, then I agree with you.

But the cage isn’t the world of the Trinity, or the life in the Son. The cage is always outside of Christ, a place of darkness and sin. Christ beckons us to find Truth and reality in Him, not outside of Him. He allures us to find life and love in him, not anywhere else. And he doesn’t call us from a distant far off cloud, he calls us by walking with us in our darkness and shame and he carries us and shines a light in the darkness.

There is no life in the creator Christof, there is only a cage that this one person creator can offer Truman. A cage of rules and camera’s and lies and control. That is not a place we want to be and thankfully our God offers ever-lasting life in the Son and in Him is freedom.

1998_the_truman_showSo will Truman find true freedom and life outside the Truman show?

A resounding yes to this question, but only if he turns to Christ. If he turns to the world and the idols of the world then he will find himself in another cage with an idol that is perhaps more destroying then the first.

And so if you find you are feeling a bit like Truman, like you are in a cage and your view of God is like that of Christof. Then run to Christ. Don’t run to the world, it wont offer you what you heart truly needs.

You need to run to Christ and find freedom outside the cage.

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.

M.E. Awareness Week

I didn’t know if I should write this. It feels really sensitive and it is. But I want to write this so that those who read this will learn more about M.E. I want to write this because I want to learn more.

It is M.E. awareness week.

I remember when I was in school there was a girl in our class who had M.E. She would be off school a lot. I didn’t really understand what it was or what it meant. Everyone just knew that she was really tired all the time. I didn’t know it was something way more than that.

Not until I met and befriended a lovely lady called Tanya who has M.E.

The media isn’t very helpful when it comes to M.E. They seem to only portray it as a psychological problem. There are reports that suggest M.E is all in the mind. It’s like they are saying – You are making this up or You just need to think happy thoughts. You just need to get out of this rut.

It seems like the doctors don’t really know what to do and it doesn’t seem like there is any extensive research going into this.

I find this odd. I wonder if these people who write articles in the newspaper have ever had experience with M.E. Have they ever been friends with someone with M.E? I fear the answer is probably no and they see these people as statistics rather than friends, family or partners. Perhaps as you read this you are inclined to believe those papers without ever actually meeting someone with M.E.

The reason I write this is because when I read Tanya’s blog post about M.E. it reminded me that I have a lot to learn and that what the media says isn’t always reality.

Becoming better friends with Tanya has been great and we enjoy our chats in the afternoon with good coffee. Through this friendship one of things that she has helped me understand is the affects of M.E. And as you read this I wanted to tell you that her M.E. isn’t made up or all in her head. And neither are her friends making up their M.E.

When you get to know someone and you chat and you share worries and dreams and you pray together you begin to see their heart. You begin to see that M.E. is terrible and very real. This isn’t something you would make up – it’s not something you would want to make up or lie about. It is real and it is a thief that robs time and energy away from my friend.

I don’t want to make a case study of Tanya. But I want to show you that it is better to look into, to understand, to meet people and to research and ask questions before believing what the newspapers or the hype says about it.

The truth is I don’t always know what to say. I try to ask as many questions as I can to learn more. I want to learn and understand more. I want to pray and pray for healing too. I don’t know what its like to have M.E. But I want to say I believe you and not in a patronising way, but in a way that says I want to understand more and ask how can I help?

So then, if you feel the same and want to know more, here are some places you can go which may help and has helped me:

Tanya’s blog post on M.E awareness week

Tanya’s post on why you should care about M.E.

Action for M.E

Jenny’s blog

15 Million Merits: Reality of Escapism

1doppelBM5 Million Merits is based in a world where exercise bikes power the world and those who are on those bikes earn merits (money) so that they can buy food and accessories for their “doppel” (which is a virtual version of you and you can dress them up etc), their bedroom are made up of screens where they have to watch adverts including adverts of porn and a game show called Hot Shots (a take from X Factor). It’s a world where reality is based on a screen, your life has adverts streaming to you where ever you are and there is a charge for not watching them. Those who don’t contribute to society due to being overweight, ill or old get ridiculed and some become cleaners where the bike riders hail abuse at them.

The only way out, the only salvation is by auditioning for Hot Shots so that you can win freedom. But all is not as it seems, the protagonist Bing meets a lady who actually has talent and a shot of getting out of this mundane bike riding life. But it’s all a fake, the judges don’t care for her or her talent and instead persuade her to go on the porn channel and be a porn star where she can become famous and never have to ride a bike again. This infuriates Bing and so he fights back and comes out with heart wrenching speech in front of the judges where he hits the nail on the head of how the world of the Doppel, the world of technology has numbed our minds:

“What, I have a dream? The peak of our dreams is a new app for our Dopple, it doesn’t exist! It’s not even there! We buy sh*t that’s not even there. Show us something real and free and beautiful. You couldn’t. Yeah? It’ll break us. We’re too numb for it. I might as well choke. It’s only so much wonder we can bear. That’s why when you find any wonder whatsoever; you dole it out in meager portions.”

“The peak of our dream is a new app” It’s disturbing isn’t it? Bing goes on to say:

“And only then until it’s augmented, packaged, and plumped through 10,000 pre-assigned filters till it’s nothing more than a meaningless series of lights, while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what? All tiny cells and tiny screens and bigger cells and bigger screens”15-million-merits-black-mirror

“It doesn’t exist”… “while we ride day in day out, going where? Powering what?” A mundane existence that drives towards getting bigger cells (living spaces) and bigger screens (ipads, flat screen TV’s). We power on and on and we become numb and anything real or beautiful will just break us. Some of this is Ecclesiastes language, the idea of meaningless and striving and toiling and not getting anywhere. It makes you take a step back. Am I numb to life? Do I just want comfort? Is the constant viewing of screens and online life sapping something of beauty and wonder away?

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

brave-new-world

In Huxley’s Brave New World he also explores the place of technology and pleasure. Technology appears to be the saviour of mankind where they can find all their comforts and needs met while reducing danger and pain – but at the cost of mind-numbing dependence. Huxley gives us a grim view of the future on the same vein as 15 Million Merits.

Technology isn’t evil. But it makes you think about what you value and where the world is heading. Sometimes I find myself in a group of people and all I am doing is checking my phone looking at twitter and Facebook. In these moments I am missing the interaction and community around me.

In 15 Million Merits there is an escape from the mundane way of life through the Doppel and through the Reality TV show “Hot Shots”. Both which prove to be fake, they trap you in a world that drugs you and deprives you of real beauty and emotion.

This show makes you yearn for real life. The gritty real life of flesh, dirt and sweat. The place of real conversations and emotions. There is a moment when Bing and this lady hold hands. It’s the one thing thats real.

It makes me think about how Jesus takes on real flesh and becomes truly human. Truly human means he laughs and cries and hugs people and eats with people and gets tired. Truly human means having a perfect relationship with His Father in Heaven. He says he has come to bring life and life to its fullness. Fullness of touch, taste and sounds. Broken relationships restored.

We not only have the physical and spiritual but we now have the virtual.

Imagination is good. It’s needed for creativity. Escapism on some level that transforms us into a world of imagination and stretches our mind with stories is good. They draw us out of ourselves. But when our world is seen through a screen, eyes fixed on a black mirror, distracted by the beeping and adverts then life becomes very small, we are drawn into ourselves.

Is Facebook real life? In some sense yes, there is a reality to it, there is a community on some level. There is a function to it and its a good function. But also in some sense it’s not real life, it’s not where I should live my life or spend my money, it’s not where I solely cultivate community. Flesh is better. Face to face is better. A life less in front of a screen is fuller. Jesus offers us more. He offers us the gritty life of new creation and new family where we are invited to live in community like in Acts 2:42-47. He offers us true humanity in Him. If we want to escape the mundane and meaningless parts of our lives then we should turn to Him. Not a computer screen.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

At the end of 15 Million Merits, Bing is offered an escape where he can have his own 30 min show twice a week where he says soul-stirring speeches like the one above. But as the camera pans out we see that Bing has been sucked into the lie. In his room, which is much bigger then before, he stares out the window overlooking a beautiful forest. But its fake. It’s another computer screen. It’s not reality. He doesn’t have fullness of life. There is only one way to get that.

Winning Hearts for Christ

heartbeatI woke up this morning with a cold heart. Post mission week blues. I couldn’t bring myself to do much and so I put on some talks because a friend (Emily) said I should listen to this guy John Hindley. After listening to two of the talks I found my heart warmed again as he spoke about Christ. He not only reminded my of the love of Christ but that Christ is The Truth and sin is a result of not loving Jesus.

So if you are feeling weary, cold, distant and rubbish. Come and listen to these talks. Just listen and allow your heart to be won to Christ again.

Winning hearts to Christ Part 1a and 1b

Part 2 – The truth is a person

Part 3 – Preaching to the heart

Part 4 – Beauty wins the heart