Peace, Love and Mung beans.

r1145162_14302576So yesterday was Earth day… and it all came and went with all but a whimper and slight fizzle.
And it all got me thinking, why has it all become so ho-hum if the Earth and creation is such a important issue?
As a Christian I believe that we are called to protect the creation that God has given us to look after. Our church in New Zealand would call that “Caring for Gods creation”.
I also believe this is a social issue as it affects all of humanity, and I also believe that our consumer lifestyle isn’t helping the issue.

So why so ho-hum?

For me it’s just too  much noise!

Environmentalists are  increasingly becoming more and more extreme to make a point, and we have message after message of what is becoming Green propaganda. .
The problem is that BOTH sides of the discussion are trying to out do each other with power play, shocking examples of something that will prove their point, and stats that show how the other side of the conversation is wrong.
They are both extremely right in a lot of cases and both extremely wrong.
The result from it all is that it’s just noise.

They have taken the conversation out of the conversation, because now  it’s about who is the loudest. The politicians have a big meeting of World powers… and the environmentalists sit outside creating chaos. While the rest of the world sits through another bout of deja vu.

We all seem have one of those friends who just posts the same stuff over and over on social media… be it political, about music, their kids, chocolate (me) or the environment.
Does it get to the point where you just stop reading because it just becomes another blog of something different but totally the same as everything else they have posted? The same broken record, the same agenda, the same push with out any reason for a discussion.
This is just point taking and point making but nothing more.
Sure the intention is to create discussion… but does it when the discussion is always the same?

Christian environmentalists (or activists) can be even worse!!!
They break the law to prove a point, they talk about community and then cause divisions within that community based on politics and then to top it all off they claim that God would approve because they have the right intention about saving the planet.  They hold picket signs that say “Cherish the Earth” while on a march that is intended to put pressure on political leaders (local or National) to make changes.Seems a bit hypocritical doesn’t it???
Part of the Earth is the people who live in it… the politicians and the marchers, and both are trying to do the best by the information that they have (in a democratic society).
What happened to love thy enemies?
Or have we created another loophole that allows us to treat politicians differently to the rest of us?
It’s here that we realise that being socially active, doesn’t actually equal being a social activist.

Sometimes I wonder if God agrees with our intentions.

It seems to me that Jesus didn’t spend too much time ‘playing politics’ – in fact he pretty much kept away from it.
Why?
Because Jesus was more concerned about the human heart… the other stuff flowed from that.
In fact when asked the famous political question in relation to taxes in Luke 20:25 that the Pharisees devised to trick Jesus with, He said “Who’s face/image is on the coin?”  It was that of the Caesar at the time, so he said “Give to Caesar what is Caesars”
By saying this he was implying who’s image are you made in?
The coin had the image of Caesar, but you are made in the image of God

He took it right back to the human heart.

Jesus was disciplining, not a talking about the ways to coerce a  government into getting what you think you want based on a few snippets from news papers or reports that you found to prove your argument.
Jesus prayed, and when the disciples saw what he was doing they asked “teach us to pray”. They knew how to pray before that, but it wasn’t the way that Jesus prayed… something was different.
The disciples said “Help how can we feed all these people???” and Jesus let a miracle happen in their own hands with 5 loaves and 2 small fish, and there were left overs!!!
This was a revolution of the human heart and mind and soul.

I think we’re spending so much energy making sides, and proving points that we aren’t actually doing much? Imagine if every church planted fruit trees in every community as part of school projects so that fruit and veges could be given for FREE to those in the community that can’t afford it, paid to have bee hives looked after for pollination and honey, had regular teams that went round the community picking up rubbish? What if we were the importer of good quality coffee that comes from sustainable and fair trade farms that we partner with and sold them to our local cafes at a price that everyday people could buy a decent coffee and create watering wells within our community?

We can actually find examples where this IS happening and how successful the outcome is! Let’s do more of that!

Sometimes we’re really good at making a point, but we haven’t the guts, stamina, forethought or time to start to do these things that could be easy to arrange if we could be bothered.
And so here we are adding to the noise with our signs and our marches when the community we live in are craving for something a bit more personal.
They want to look after the planet and community but they don’t know how to be connected.

So lets just shut up for a while and show the world that we are more than just talk, that we are looking for something bigger than just putting out our own recycling bins and buying fair trade coffee, buying from shops with ethical values or buying local.
It has to be bigger than that… we have the means and connections to do this.
Love your local and watch the love spread form there.
Christianity started with just 12.

Or are you more interested in making a point?

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How would I know you love me?

Love for Arts

Love 

So I’ve been thinking about how do I show, my friends, my family my loved ones I love them…
And also how do the people I love show how they love me?

I posted the question on Facebook and got a few different kinds of answer from Gifts to kisses, from doing things for me to neck rubs, spending time together and even telling me “I love you”
There are even websites dedicated to it… one of my favourites is http://www.5lovelanguages.com a great way to find out what way you like to be shown love (there’s a simple 3 minute test that is really handy to have done).

For the record they way I like to be shown I’m loved is in this order:

  1. Words of Affirmation 

  2. Quality Time 

  3. Receiving Gifts 

  4. Acts of Service 

  5. Physical Touch 

In fact it’s often a combination of the top three for me  that really get me going.
I like to be told I’m doing well, that I’m loved, that I’m appreciated… communication is BIG for me.
However I also love being able just to ‘hang’ with my loved ones, just to talk… just to be there with them just laughing goofing around, we can even sit in silence and I would be happy with that, in the knowledge that my friend is spending their quality time with me.
And finally I love people giving me stuff but here’s the thing… it could be a piece of string or a pebble or a leaf… it really could be anything as long as someone has put the time into thinking why they have given me this gift.

And so from the above list I would usually show I love people in the same way… the way that I love to be loved.
That can be hard because, well we’re simply not the same… we’re different. The way YOU show you love someone isn’t the same way that I show I love someone.
It’s handy knowing what someones ‘love language’ is, and when you know what spins their wheels it makes things a lot easier… If I like to be told “I appreciate you …” but my loved ones like me to give the hugs, then it’s really easy for me to say to them… “I tell you I appreciate you all the time”
To which they reply… “yes but you never SHOW me you love me!!!”

So if you don’t know what someones love language is where do you start?

The answer is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Now you see this verse a lot in weddings… but it’s actually a really good view on relationships in general.

Love is patient… it means there’s no hurry “One Day …” I’ll wait for you…

Love is Kind… why be mean or nasty or  talk behind backs, what does that achieve?

Love is not jealous… I’m going to support them in the time they spend with other people

Love NEVER gives up… it’s seems so easy just to throw in the towel sometimes, however sometimes we just need to work through things.

Love never loses faith…

Is always hopeful… even when things look far from it

You see it’s not just about marriage… or  just about our friends… it’s about relationship.

In fact Jesus made it even MORE clearer than that.

He said this:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:34-35

So I guess at the end of the day our job is to LOVE one another…

The Bible even says “Love your enemies”

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Jesus is dead… (or “Why I like butterflies … “)

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17

Paul is quite right… If Jesus had not been raised to life, then our faith is useless… or to put it another way:

If Jesus is dead then Christianity is dead.
It’s pointless… worthless…

You see without the Resurrection of Christ, there is no saviour or salvation, no forgiveness and no Resurrection hope for a life in eternity.
You see the resurrection of Christ is one of the foundations that Christianity stands on. Without this Christians are just fools who are putting their trust in a dead man.
Now some people might think… that explains Christians PERFECTLY, fools worshiping a legend or folk hero however there are a few things that set Jesus apart.

One of the keys proofs for me of the authenticity of it (if you want to put it that way) is the reaction of the disciples.
You see after his death the disciples ran away, they hid… they fled and that makes sense, if they could kill Jesus what would it mean for the rest of them?

However that all changed after the resurrection… after the resurrection they were bold… they died for their faith.
What would it take for a group of scared and frightened men and woman to make a complete turn around and be willing for them to die for something?
They certainly wouldn’t be willing to die for something that they knew was a lie… and all but one of the disciples died for their faith in a resurrected Christ. If it was a lie (and they knew it was a lie) then it wouldn’t make sense for them ALL to be willing to go through some of the pain that the apostles did.

for example:

Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

John was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he miraculously survived.  The Apostle John put into prison was later freed and returned to serve as a bishop in modern Turkey. He died an old man, the only Apostle to die peacefully.

Peter, was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, according to Church tradition, because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die the same way that Jesus Christ had died.

You see there was a cost.

For me the biggest thing to convince me was the transformation of Jesus’ brother James… he went from someone who was so totally skeptical of Jesus, but after the resurrection become a firm believer.
This is astounding for a number of reasons.

  1. What would it take to convince you that your brother was the son of God?
  2. Would the turn around be worth dying for (James was thrown of the highest point of a temple and then was also beaten to death when it was shown that he survived the fall)

It seems to me that the resurrection did something to the early believers… it seemed to transform them… change them.
And the great news is that the same resurrecting power does the same change in us.

Just like a caterpillar thinks it’s the end of the world… it then is transformed into something new… something different… a new creation.
The old life is gone… the skin is just a shell… a new life has been born again… and we see the beauty in the butterfly.

That’s why I love it when I see a butterfly… it reminds me that there is more to come… it reminds me to have faith in what I can’t see or know or understand fully… because this is just one chapter.
Death isn’t the end… it’s not the ultimate enemy… death to your old life for Christians is just the beginning of new life.
A new chapter has begun… and it ends with eternity.

A Lazy Easter (or ‘like’ if you are saved)

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Easter… and I love social media. However this Easter has been the first time I have been disappointed in what I saw Christians doing to both Easter and the use of social media!

This Easter was the first time I saw link after link filled with soft ‘Easter’ related pictures and sayings with phrases saying things similar to “Like if you are saved” or “Write I love Jesus in the comments” … and while this is all good stuff it seems to me that Christians are starting to get lazy in the way we are approaching Easter.

Are we starting to get to the point that we think “Hmmmm it’s Easter, I better say something” and then proceed to find a Easter picture or nice scripture to post and then sit smugly thinking “Well that’s done for another year”?
My point isn’t if we should do this stuff because sometimes there is a time and a place for it… I just wonder if it actually engages people to the true understand and meaning of what Easter actually means.
Are we missing the opportunity to tell people why Easter is so important in every aspect of our lives as Christians?

Revelation 12:11 says “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.”

It seems to me that our testimonies are one of the most important part of our faith… so why are we reducing it to half thought through status updates and cute pictures?
A great example of a testimony working in a powerful way is when the Pharisees were trying to find stuff to put on Jesus so that they could capture him, they asked someone who Jesus had healed.
The Pharisees said to the man “God isn’t getting the Glory for the healing did on you because we know that Jesus is a sinner”

But here is what the man said in reply

“I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:25

You see they could try and trap the man with words and loopholes… but they couldn’t trap him with what he had experienced.
His testimony was a powerful statement of the power, grace and majesty of Jesus… NO ONE could take that away from him… it was his… his story to tell… his proof.

So lets stop hiding from our faith… because it’s our faith that will prove to the ones we love that Jesus is actually real in our lives.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” – John 5:24

Easter – Good Friday History

Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as t...

Jesus, on the cross, is mocked in Calvary as the King of the Jews, Luke 23:36-37 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing I love about Easter is that it’s ingrained in history… it’s not just some story that we pass on.
The pain of the crucifixion was real too.

Crucifixion was used as early as 330-ish BC and used by Alexander the Great to help spread rumours of fear and dread throughout the ancient lands. Often the stories played more on the minds of his enemies than the armies he commanded.

When the Romans starting using it they decided it was time to perfect the tool. Roman soldiers was known to try and out-do each other and experimented with techniques to try and prolong the agony and intensify the pain. The pain was so great that words like “excruciating” were used to explain it… for the record excruciating derives from the phrase “From the cross”.
The pain of the nails were only part of the agony… the pain of the crucifixion was mainly due to the fact that it was just another way to prolong death by asphyxiation, as the person struggled to breath while laboring under the weight of their own body.

Ancient historians like Josephus called it “the most wretched of deaths”… as the pain and agony of it was then added to the mockery and torment that went with it. Often people would be crucified at eye level so that people could mock and spit and cuss at the people hanging on the cross.

We often see pictures of a clean Jesus hanging on the cross and we think “wow that must have hurt” however that doesn’t even come close to describing what happened… skin was hanging of his body with the beating (as well as 30 lashes) that he had earlier that day… and even that doesn’t come close to describing the weight of all our sin on him… not just what we had done… but what we were still going to do.
That weight is something that makes the cross pale in comparison.

You see we can’t remove our own sin… there is nothing that we can do that even gets us close to wiping the slate clean… there is nothing we can do.

Paul says this :I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

You see it was FOR our sins… for the benefit of our sins… because of our sins.

OUR sins… HIS death… that’s why it’s good news.
Scripture says over and over again that Jesus dies for our sins…

 

Re-focusing on Christmas.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Refocusing on Christmas

Christmas seems to be getting crazier every year… more things to do… more things to buy… more sales… more tinsel… more… more… more.

And if you’re a Christian like me you hear the same stories over and over again… and while these stories are often well intended or even true after a while they start to sound a bit stale… and that’s sometimes hard to focus on what the real meaning of Christmas is.

For me it’s about one word that translated in English means three words:

Emmanuel: God with us!

Think about it GOD… the creator of the universe and everything in it… someone who is so HUGE that it’s often easier for people to intellectualise him away… to say “I can’t even think of how that would work… therefore it can’t be true” than to think of the vastness of a God who really wants to spend time with you… and that’s part of the irony isn’t it?
A God who doesn’t need us… but wants us, while we desperately and totally need God and yet we don’t really want him most of the time.

God WITH: he wasn’t just God who studied us from afar like some ant farm experiment… he was WITH us.. he came and lived with us… not as a King… not as a person of stature… but one of us… the ordinary… the plain… the broken… and he suffered and he died in a way that none of us would never be able to understand… one commentator calls it the most vicious way any person could invent to kill someone else.
And yet knowing this God came down… to be WITH usknowing that we’ll reject him.

God with US: You and me… Jesus came to die for us… and he dies on the cross knowing our past sins… and our future sins… and yet he went and died for us anyway… because there was no other way for us to have our sins removed
We can earn our way to heaven… we can’t beg our way to heaven… we can’t even evangelize our way to heaven…
The only way is through Jesus…
Emmanuel… God With US…

When we look at Christmas through the lens of that one word… EMMANUEL… it changes everything.
Why aren’t we telling our kids this all the time… Why aren’t we passing this on?
Don’t we want our kids to experience God’s grace?
Isn’t this the Good News we want them to hear… that there is hope in this world… that there is something to live for in this world… and it’s far bigger than you and it’s far bigger than me… and that’s GREAT… that’s the way it should be… because anything that would be in our control we would stuff up so monumentally that it would never work…

And yes it will be hard – but if life were easy… then we wouldn’t need to rely on God would we?

Emmanuel: God with US… and he’s still with us… so why do you only remind yourself of that at Christmas?

 

Remember you’re unique just like everyone else!

Weird Fish Art

Weird Fish Art (Photo credit: pfly)

I said to a good friend of mine the other day… “you have to understand that I’m just not normal…” as a bit of a joke…
However she turned around and said to me “So what’s normal???”

Drat… I hate it when people ask a question that actually makes sense!!

However… That got me thinking… what IS normal?
It’s kind of like “Remember you’re unique just like everyone else!” isn’t it?

Are we really that unique… or are we all just different flavoured versions of each other?

after thinking about it for a while… I’ve come up with the answer to “what is normal?“… the answer is “Yes”

Goose I think you may have miss understood the question… but I say… I think I understand it perfectly… You see even King Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun” meaning that the problems, the trails, the victories, the things that we experience in life are just variations of a theme… they’re mainly the same thing replayed by a slightly different cast.
So are we all the same in the things that we experience… I would say “Yes”

However when you look at people who are Christians and some of the teachings that are in The Bible are totally different to the way everyone else sees things…

Here’s a couple of classics:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” Luke 6:27 …

Doesn’t normal in our world want to do the opposite?
Doesn’t the world encourage backstabbing… if someone mistreats you, you are snarky to them back???
We could most likely say that that would be the ‘normal’ response… but you see as Christians we don’t play that way… we march to the beat of a different drum.

We’re called to LOVE… regardless… that’s just not normal!

How about Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Do you see that… Many are on the road to destruction… that’s ‘the norm’…
‘The Few’ – the weird ones… the freaks… those that don’t act like everyone else… in this case those who follow Jesus rather than their own desires or what the world calls ‘normal’.

You see I believe God made you the way you are for a reason… you’ve been through some tough stuff in life… to gain the experiences in life that make you ‘weird’… to be different from everyone else.

So why are you trying so hard to fit in… because you don’t!

And if you’re trying to become more ‘normal’ (whatever that is) to make yourself more comfortable you’re just lying to yourself… especially if you claim to be a Christian… you are God’s masterpiece… you were created the way you are for a reason… so why hide the fact?
You see as Christians we’re different… our weirdness is what sets us apart… it’s the thing that means we shouldn’t  worry like others do, we should treat people differently to how others do, we should treat our possessions differently to how others do, we should look at relationships differently to what others do…

Lets face it…

WE’RE NOT NORMAL

Craig Groeschel from Lifechurch.tv said it best when he said “Weird because normal isn’t working”