What I Remembered That Made Me Love the Bible Again

Ah the Bible. The Christian manual. The how to guide for how to live a Holy life. A list of long, unpronounceable names and instructions and rules and…I’m almost falling asleep thinking about it.

It’s not every inspiring, let’s be honest. Not, that is when the only way we think about the Bible is as a very long and boring instruction manual for Christians without even the helpful pictures that IKEA provide. Continue reading

Burritos, IKEA diagrams and Lust

A lot of the time when we read the Bible we come away even more confused than we did going into it. For a ‘Christian manual’ it makes all the sense of an instruction diagram in an IKEA flat pack. (Hang on why does screw 163758 look exactly the same as 384912? Why does that weird cartoon alien guy still look happy doing this? I think the cupboard’s done… wait what’s that weird noise and where is the cat?) Continue reading

Removing support for World Vision: WWJD

As the news filtered through my twitter feed last night that World Vision, a Christian charity organization had decided to allow the hiring of people who are gay, my heart sank. My heart sank because it soon became clear from some of the tweets I read that there were many who lamented the decision but mostly because there were others who were considering the removal of support, financially and otherwise to World Vision.

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Life is a Rollercoaster Matthew 5

I remember being on the ghost train at Barry’s, sitting beside my mum and crying my eyes out. I was terrified. I probably didn’t know what I was letting myself in for but here I was, clinging to my mum, tears running down my face and wishing it would end.

23 years old I was. I will never forget that summer holiday.

Although I was actually a lot younger the truth is I’ve never been a fan of fairground rides. I always have been scared. That was until 4 years ago while visiting my then girlfriend (now my wife) we went to Cedar Point in Ohio. Cedar Point is basically a rollercoaster fan’s idea of heaven. Rollercoaster after rollercoaster were waiting for me.

We started on the tallest one there. And… it was amazing. I had never felt so excited about anything in my life until that point. I spent the next 8 hours riding all the rollercoasters I could get to.

But on the drive home something weird happened. I was so shattered and started to fall asleep. In that light sleep where you are kind of dreaming but also awake I started to imagine I was on a rollercoaster. For 8 hours I was constantly up and down and now every so often I bolted upright thinking I was still on one. So accustomed was I to the exhilaration that the feelings still lingered with me, long after I had stepped off a ride.

Most of us will read the Sermon on the Mount and read a set of instructions for how to live. But Jesus is doing much more than that. When Jesus says not to kill he is actually saying, don’t even be angry with someone. When He says don’t commit adultery he is saying don’t even check out another woman who isn’t your wife.

There is an action but there is also a thought behind it.

You may not be on the rollercoaster but it feels just the same.

Now at first glance this may seem like Jesus is going to be a real strict dude.

But He is really going deeper than anyone had ever gone before. He’s saying it’s not good enough to just look good on the outside, what matters is really your heart. A good Jew followed the letter of the law and here was Jesus shaking the religious leaders’ preconceptions, taking their whole belief system to a new, and more life giving level.

When I look around at the Church today and I watch as sex scandals involving Church leaders unfold, as stories of abuse come to light years after they occurred, as I still don’t get that Jesus loves me sometimes, I wonder just how much we have changed.

Do we still think that keeping up appearances is enough?

Have we forgotten how radical Jesus’ teaching was?

Those are pretty extreme examples but that doesn’t matter because I know that every day I have thoughts that I shouldn’t. The point of Jesus teaching this new way of thinking was to show He was bringing about something completely radical. A new way of being fully human.

Anyone can not kill someone. Most people go through their whole lives not doing so. But someone who doesn’t hate is living on a whole new level according to Jesus. They are experiencing life to the nth + 1 degree.

But how does this make us more human?

Imagine someone who has done something wrong to you. Now think of all the time you spent thinking about what they did. The hurt they caused. The misery they put you through. Now think of all the side remarks you made to yourself and others about them. Now the hate or the doubts about that person have been passed on. The person you hate is now a little less human in someone else’s eyes too.

Sure you’re not going to kill them but you’re definitely angry.

Then think of all the energy you put into the anger that they caused. The time, the opportunities wasted because you didn’t go to that party because they would be there. The new experiences you could have had. The people you could have met. That person isn’t losing out, you are. Sometimes they may not even know what they have done.

That’s why Jesus was so particular about more than just our actions. Because our thoughts can end up being even more damaging.

The reason I was so excited when I went on my first few rollercoaster rides was because I realized there was something out there that everyone else was enjoying and I had missed out on. I wasn’t prepared to let that happen again.

I don’t want to waste anymore time not living because of lust or hate or jealousy.

And that’s why next Summer I will be at the head of the queue for the Ghost train.

What are you waiting for? Matthew 3

Sometimes we think we know what’s coming. We have an event all laid out neatly in our heads of how it will go.

John did. Jesus was going to come and kick the crap out of a load of people and was going to put people in their places. There was going to be fire, wind and axes falling. There was John and then there was Jesus. A great, powerful leader to kick start a revolution.

Then Jesus arrived and humbly asked to be baptised by John.

He was one of us and would slum it with the rest of us.

Whatever you expect of Jesus. Expect more.

‘Ryan, Joseph and God’ Matthew 2

You’ve got to feel for poor Joseph. First your fiancee tells you she’s pregnant but that it’s ok, but also she can’t tell you who the father is. Today I am pretty sure she would appear on Jeremy Kyle with Jeremy shifting from his soft spoken ‘I’m better than you’ tone to his ‘now look, I’m judging you too’ yelling as he forces her to sit a lie detector test. Making Joseph sit back stage with the shows psychologist as he await the results after the commercial break

Or whatever the equivalent was in those days.

So Joseph sits and listens and has probably a million questions and does what any of us would do. Continue reading

Boring!! Matthew 1

The Bible is boring. Let’s be honest here. Sometimes I am reading something and I haven’t a clue what the point of it is or why it’s there. There is a book near the start of the Bible called Leviticus that has a full list of rules that are just mental. But there is a point to them. Just don’t ask me what it is.

Likewise the Gospels (as the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are often known) begins with a family tree of Jesus. A list of his father, and his father’s father and his father’s father and..well you get the gist. A Russian doll situation.

It’s a hard list to read through, obviously because some of the names are so unpronounceable that you just skip them anyway. I mean if you have a hard time remembering the name of your second cousin’s first Aunt once removed at your next family reunion, be grateful your cousin isn’t called Zerubbabel. (Apologies if they are).

But if you do read through the names, you see that there are some familiar names there. Some characters you may vaguely remember from Sunday School. These guys are all part of Jesus family. A list of all his famous family members from throughout the Bible.

And I’m pretty excited they are there.

For most of us we have a negative view of Jesus and God sometimes. We are either so ashamed of who we are that we can’t live up to what we think Jesus expects from us or… we see Jesus and Christians as being so up themselves that we don’t want to relate.

But if you look at the names you start to see there are actually some pretty messed up people.

Like Jacob…who deceived his father into giving him his brother Esau’s birthright, by dressing up as him. Then ran away like a coward.

And Rahab…a prostitute.

Or David…who got another man’s wife pregnant, tried to trick him into thinking it was his and then when that master plan failed, murdered him.

That’s more than enough to be getting through one episode of Jeremy Kyle.

But yet they are Jesus’ descendants. This is his family. The kinds of people that we often think Jesus doesn’t like. Or the kind of people we’re told to stay away from.

It’s hard to live up to an idea when you think that idea is unreachable. Like the idea that Jesus expects us to live clean, sinless, perfect lives. And that’s the point of the list. Jesus names prostitutes and murderers among his family. Jesus didn’t come from a family with no skeletons in their closet. The closet is bursting at the hinges.

Our first introduction to Jesus is one where there don’t have to be any pretenses. Jesus didn’t hide who his family was and much of the crap that went on in their life and this means that there is a place for us too on that list. If Jesus can appear on the same family tree as all those guys is there anything worse that we could do that could stop us from appearing there too? If Jesus can be honest about his family surely we don’t have to worry about what he thinks of us.

If I take anything away from chapter 1 it’s that Jesus doesn’t hate me. A strange statement when we are told that ‘Jesus loves you’ so much. But sometimes Jesus seems so ridiculous and far from anything remotely relevant to my life that that is enough to start with.

I’m not sure how many of you feel about Jesus but he was compassionate, perfect, sinless, patient, forgiving and yet he chose to love us and he chose not to hate you.

He chose to count people like us as his family.

Maybe for now that is all you can hold onto.

But thankfully there is more to Jesus than not hating you.

Much more..

Around the Gospels in 89 days (or so…)

So this week I am doing something that I haven’t done before. I am going to read through the four Gospels in a week. (Thanks Lucas for the idea) Now my initial thought was to blog about 3 or 4 chapters a day but then I realized that I am not as articulate or as prolific as NT Wright when it comes to writing so that idea was quickly thrown out.

No I decided to do something much simpler. Instead I will blog about each Chapter. All 89 of them. Now to save a huge amount of disappointment (mmm..) this will not be a commentary or a mind blowing exegesis of the Gospels. Like I said I’m not NT Wright. I don’t even have a cool middle initial that all smart writers need. All I have is an idea to write about Jesus. Simple. Continue reading