"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - VoltairE

Isn’t it all about rule-keeping?

January 17, 2019


This is a question I’ve been asked a number of times recently when it comes to my Christian faith. It is a common perception that Christianity is about trying to be good by following a set of rules so that you will earn a reward and avoid a punishment. Many people see Christianity as a reward-based religion, but in fact nothing could be further from the gospel of grace. All other religions have essentially the same basis - that humans try hard to 'be good' or obey commands and then maybe if they've done enough they'll get some celestial reward.

Christianity says the exact opposite - we’ve all strayed from God’s blueprint for how we should live, but Jesus has lived a perfectly good life and we can be reunited with the Heavenly Father we have rebelled against if we accept his freely-given forgiveness. Because this doesn’t depend on our achievements, we have a certainty that nothing will separate us from him.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rom 8: 38-9

It's very clear in the Bible that being right with God is not a matter of keeping rules or moral codes. In fact, the Apostle Paul makes the point that a list of rules simply has the effect of showing us that we're not perfect and has absolutely no power to make us good.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 3: 20 

What Christianity is all about is transformation of the heart. God works in us to change our rebellious nature into a new nature that wants to live for him.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 
Ezekiel 36:26

When we love God, we live to please him, not because we're afraid of his punishment or are trying to earn his favour, but because we delight in him and enjoy the forgiveness, freedom and loving relationship that he's given us.

If you're married or have a good friend, you want to do things that you know will make your spouse / friend happy, not because you want a reward, or you're afraid of their anger if you upset them, but because you love them. It brings you joy to come home with a surprise bunch of flowers, or make them breakfast in bed, or push them around in a wheelchair when they've broken their leg, or let their tears and snot soak into your shoulder when they're in pain. It's not something you grudgingly do because it's your 'duty'. That's exactly the same with a Christian's relationship with God. They enjoy worshipping him, being kind to others, giving generously, spending time with difficult people, helping the poor etc. because they love Jesus and his love flows through them to others.

 

Book recommendations 2018

December 31, 2018
This year I have read significantly fewer books than last year’s 134 but I still managed 54 books on top of all the articles, papers and chapters that I’ve read for my MA.

I’ve again covered a wide range of subjects from typography to generosity and here are some of my favourites:

Top Christian




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Retreat Guide 2019 - The Sermon on the Mount

December 14, 2018


The Agapé New Year Retreat Guide 2019 is now available for you to use and share. It goes through the Sermon on the Mount over five days, reflecting on these radical words of Jesus to inspire us for the next year of following him. It includes biblical contemplations and reflection to help get the year off to a good start. Each session takes about 30 mins, but there are options for further exploration if you choose.

Get your free 2019 retreat guide here (PDF download)


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The Kindness Instinct

November 27, 2018


When something annoying happens, what response comes instinctively to you? I often find that I start the day with the right intentions to be godly in everything I do and then someone cuts me up in the car, or I get stuck behind a slow pedestrian or behind a pensioner trying to pay by cheque in a shop and immediately the grump is unleashed. I’m often ashamed of the first word that pops into my head when I bash my shins on the bath.

The truth is that my instinctive and impulsive responses are ...

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The strange little band of the gospel

November 19, 2018
'Mission in Community' is the theme of the latest edition of Agapé's MOVE magazine. In it, the principal of my college, Rosalee Velloso Ewell, has written a profoundly challenging piece about being on mission together:



"I would suggest that one of the greatest challenges to the gospel in Western culture is independence and the individualism that goes with it. There is nothing Christ-like about being independent.

In the Bible, when independence is prized, things go badly. Adam and Eve sin so th...

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Tips for debating better on Facebook - Guest post

October 18, 2018


One of my friends recently shared some really helpful advice about engaging in Facebook debate. I can’t share his name as he’s a missionary in a sensitive context, but he’s given me permission to use his material here.

“There are people with whom I disagree but whose posts I always read carefully and appreciate. There are people with whom I agree where I cringe when reading posts. (All of these are people I like, agreeing or disagreeing doesn't change that.)

Most arguments on Facebook a...

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"God is your Father, not your boss"

October 11, 2018


Recently I have been experiencing a bit of a dip in mental health. I went to the doctor and he said that I needed to take things easier, so I have been attempting to do that. I've realised that I don't find it very easy to relax and be still. I've even been working hard on trying to get better and trying to feel closer to God, but had been feeling flat and frustrated.

This weekend I was at the True Freedom Trust annual conference and God used it really powerfully to help me. I was apprehensive...

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Top apps, tools and websites for students

September 7, 2018


As I’ve gone back to studying, I’ve found some useful tools to help. As this new academic year kicks off, I thought it would be useful to share my favourites:

  1. Reference manager - Zotero (free). Zotero is a brilliant way of organising all your sources including books, papers, presentations, journal articles, videos, podcasts and more. It’s really easy to generate bibliographies from your source material and use tagging to organise and sort your material efficiently. It really is an excell...

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PrayerMate Send

August 30, 2018


For a few months now, I’ve been using PrayerMate Send which is a brilliant way to help people know what to pray for in my ministry. It’s ideal for anyone in Christian ministry, churches, youth groups, social action projects, charities and anyone that wants to encourage others to pray for their work.

PrayerMate is a great, free app for smartphones which allows users to organise the things they’re praying for, add contacts, create lists and subscribe to feeds from organisations and individ...

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Bible character collecting cards

August 23, 2018


I've always loved collecting things, especially fact cards, so I was really pleased to discover this free trading card creator. You can use one of their pre-made templates or create your own categories. The above example of Paul shows one I created to include information about when and where he lived, his role and family background, Bible books he appears in and wrote, major events in his life and a couple of famous quotes from Scripture.

They have ready-made templates for people, places, obje...
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