Don't quote me on this:

If i rant here i dont need to burn someone's ears off!

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Location: Leeds, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Became a Christian on the 10/03/00 and my life hasn't been the same since... I went to Uganda, China and South Africa on short term mission, spent 4 years at Bristol University, and five working in Kent & London. I'm now enjoying working as a student pastor in Leeds, being married and learning to be a dad!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So many tears

When we see one person suffering it pulls at our heart strings. When we see two people suffering it affects us more.

When we see 100 people suffering it overwhelms us. When we see 1000 people suffering our emotion to the situation is often no stronger.

Why is this? Is it because we care less and less? Possibly. I think it is more likely that we have a finite capacity for feeling compassion. I only have so many tears.

One person is not designed to look with God’s eyes on the whole world – we don’t have enough tears.

University lecturers talk about something called the ‘zero-sum game’. This talks about the idea that if you add anything into a situation you will lose something of equal value. It’s like pushing one more book onto the shelf that’s already completely full.

Sometimes I feel like my emotions are like this. I already have a full heart of emotion. If my heart is stirred about the poverty in Ethiopia my heart can’t remain stirred for everything I currently care about. It’s like I’ve exchanged righteous anger for the child prostitutes in Latin America for righteous anger over the famines in Africa.

I think everyone feels guilty at one point or other about this sort of thing. You resolve to pray faithfully for a friend’s situation, but one of your family gets sick and suddenly your emotional energy is redirected. When you see your friend in a few months you feel incredibly guilty when you remember you’ve not been praying for them like you promised!

You see, I only have so many tears.

It’s not like that for God. He feels our pain about every situation. In fact he feels all the pain as if he was in the situation. God feels the pain of a child prostitute as if he was the child. God also feels the pain of the starving family outside Addis Ababa. He feels it as if that ache in the gut was His. He feels the pain of you watching your child die as if he was holding that child.

Except he doesn’t. He feels it much worse. He looks at the broken child, the hungry family and the grieving parent and values them far higher than they even value themselves. His value of us is infinite. Why? Because he made us in his image.

He feels all the pain – that everyone in the world is feeling right now. All at once.

He feels all the pain – more intimately than we can understand. All at once.

He feels all the pain – all the pain throughout all of history. All at once.

God is not playing a ‘zero-sum’ game. He has limitless tears. His grief, his anguish, his indignation know no limit. His bookshelf is never full.

By choosing to love us God has chosen to break himself. God. Broken. For us.

You see the reason God sent Jesus to this world. By choosing to keep loving us God became broken.

He didn’t send Jesus to create some religious observance.

He didn’t send Jesus to get a passport for some of us to get out of this world.

He sure as heck didn’t send Jesus begrudgingly.

God sent Jesus as a sacrifice to bring us back to him. He sent him to begin restoring the broken people, broken families, broken communities and broken nations.

God didn’t send Jesus for our benefit. He sent him because he wanted to. His heart is so heavy with all the injustice in this world that he gave up what is most dear to him to overcome it.

You know, when we start to see the world through God’s eyes our priorities change. When we start to love people the same way God does our hearts become so heavy that we are willing to give up what is most dear to us to overcome the injustice. Be that your wealth, your family, your career, your church or your aspiration.

We only have so many tears.

Our job is not to try to spread them thinly over everyone because we feel guilty about not doing it. Our job is to seek God’s heart for the small corner of the world we find ourselves in and pour those tears out unceasingly on the people God shows us.

It might cause us to change our priorities, it might cause us to look foolish to our friends, it might even cause us to fall out with other Christians who claim we’re being irresponsible.

We only have so many tears. God will lend us some if we ask.

If you’ve still got your own tears left then you’re way too far away from God’s heart.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jesus is my Hero - a talk at PBC

What makes a hero?

We have two sorts of hero in our lives. The first type of hero has done something, experienced something or taught something which we aspire to.

I can truly say: I want to be able to kick a football like David Beckham; I want to experience the power of God changing communities like Desmond Tutu in South Africa; I want to understand the world of science and philosophy we live in as clearly as Isaac Newton.

These people are my heroes because they have abilities, experiences and knowledge that I aspire to.

I do not want to BE them.

The second type of hero some of us have is someone we want to BE like.

Imagine if I was to say: When David Beckham changes his hair – I change my hair to match; when he gets a tattoo – I get a tattoo; I read the same books he reads (does he do reading?); I read every book he’s written to understand him; I want to BE David Beckham.

I don’t just want the ability/experience or knowledge he has. I want to BE him – in every way.

That would be a very weird relationship. You might even say I was worshiping David Beckham.

When I say ‘Jesus is my hero’ - what am I saying?

Am I saying that I respect what Jesus did? How he treated the poor and downcast? How he was obedient to God?

Yes – of course. And I want to do that stuff too. But there’s more.

Am I saying that I love what Jesus experienced in his ministry? How he saw amazing miracles and saw his disciples find God for themselves? How he met with God intimately and personally every day?

Yes – of course. And I want to experience that stuff too. But there’s more.

When I say: ‘Jesus – you are my hero’ am I saying that I think his teaching was wise? How he explained the human condition; how he debated with religious leaders.

Yes – of course. And I want to have a piece of that wisdom too. But there’s far more.

Jesus is my Hero because of who he IS not what he did, what he felt or what he thought.
Technically you can say that Christianity is not founded pragmatically (what do) or existentially (what we feel) and it is not founded on epistemology (what we know). Christianity is founded ontologically.

Don't worry – I’m not allowed the time to unpack all of that. But I do want to ask: what does all that mean to us? What are the consequences of thinking that the reason Jesus is my Hero is because of who he is – not some attribute I aspire to?

It means I strive to be more like Jesus. Deep down. In every way. Everything about who he is.

It means I long to have the same heart that Jesus had more than I long to copy what he did. It means I long for the same purity Jesus had more than I long for the experiences he had. It means I long to have the same attitude as Jesus more than I long for the same knowledge he had.

Over the summer we were challenged to memorise a passage from Phillipians 2. It says “your attitude...”

To have Jesus as my Hero means that I choose to love always, unreservedly and without borders even when it hurts. He did!

To have Jesus as my Hero means that I choose to be pure always, unreservedly and without exception even when I get alienated. He did!

To have Jesus as my Hero means that I choose to be humble and to give up my rights always, unreservedly and with gladness. He did!

Listen to this from Paul in the Bible:

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that is from God and is by faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or to have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


As it says in another place: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”

That’s you Jesus – you’re a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. Whatever that means...

A Picture

· What is the capital city of Scotland?
· Who captained England to the football world cup in 1966?
· Select the correct words from the selection in brackets. “[There/Their/They’re] is [there/their/they’re] house. [There/Their/They’re] very nice people.

Imagine you had to answer a series of questions like these, and then had to go for an interview with your local MP every year to be granted British citizenship.

Unless are granted citizenship you can’t get a job, you can’t marry and you can’t own property. In all, you can’t be a member of the community of Britain unless you have the mark of citizenship.

Imagine the fear that generates and the hold that parliament have over our lives.

Suddenly we hold parliament in a lot higher regard. We start to respect and speak highly of our MPs because it’s in our interests to do so. Most of all we will outwardly revere Tony Blair whilst he was the Prime Minister. He was the ultimate authority on this matter of citizenship. It was Tony who tests the MPs every year to see if they still make the grade.

Whilst parliament gives us the set of laws we have to abide by – in our day to day life our actions are much more determined by our boss. When we get up in the morning and what we do during the day are determined by our boss, and the boss is not that great.

We’re stuck reporting to an unjust boss and living in fear that we won’t be good enough for citizenship. Good times!

One day you get a call from Buckingham palace. The Queen wants you to work for her. She wants you to use the stuff you’re good at for her benefit. In return she will sign off on all your citizenship exams and be a fair and just boss who pays well and allows you to rest when you need it.

Even Tony Blair reports to the Queen. You are now working for a higher authority and don’t need to worry any more about not making the grade. You’re a genuine citizen who can live in peace. More than that – you have a boss who is above the rules set out by parliament. You live well, happy and in peace.

An Explanation

In the book of Hebrews the Priests are analogous to the members of parliament, and Tony Blair as the PM represents the high priest. The Jews of the time had a dual reporting structure. They were firstly to obey all the laws set out by the priests to stay ‘Clean’ and they were responsible to their boss. Whoever that was – the king, the emperor, the slave drivers – whoever.

Melchizedek is characterised as both ‘priest’ and ‘king’. He was not just any priest – the greatest high priest ever – in fact the high priest who holds more power and authority than any other. He was not just any king – the greatest and fairest king ever – his name means king of peace and king of righteousness.

“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”

This means that Jesus is not just any priest. He is the greatest priest ever to live. He has greater authority and power than any before him. In fact he was so great and so powerful that he completed the traditional duty of the priest so that there was no longer any need for priests.

Jesus has done away with the need for us to complete tests and interviews and certain tasks for the priest. We are citizens of God’s kingdom, members of God house and adopted in his family without ever having to do anything. Why? Because he has ultimately completed the test – in our place. He has taken our punishment and shame of being ultimately excluded from citizenship and come back as our King.

“In the order of Melchizedek”

This means he is also Boss. Not just any boss but one who is committed to peace, righteousness and justice. Melchizedek was King and Priest – Jesus is our King as well as our Great High Priest. As our king he calls us to live for him. To use all our skill and strength and ability for his benefit. He is a fair boss. He doesn’t give you work to do without giving you the tools to do it. He doesn’t work you into the ground. He loves you.

An Outcome
1. We are free from the suffocating fear of rejection by the church and ultimately by God.
2. We have a boss who cares passionately about the people we love and the person we are.
3. Our work now has a purpose and meaning far bigger and greater than we could imagine.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Selling chairs

"Hey Jones, I've come up with this amazing invention - it's called a chair. It has a flat plate held up on four legs of equal length and a back rest. You can sit on it and it is comfortable and very practical. Would you like to buy one?"

"Tyler, thanks but no thanks - I've been sitting on this stick for years. I'm used to it and I can carry it around with me. Chairs sound interesting though and I'm sure it's good for you."

One day I visited Jones in the hospital.

"Hey Jones, what happened to you?"
"Tyler, you know that old stick of mine that I used to sit on - well it broke one day and, well, I'm in a bit of pain as a result"
"Jones, fancy buying one of my chairs for when you come out of hospital? It's never going to do this to you!"
"I might give it a try"

When I go around talking up a Christian worldview I often get the response 'interesting - and good for you - but I've got my own worldview so I'll pass thanks.'

East of the Iron Curtain the worldview they used to hold was that once we put all the power firmly in the hands of the government and they treat all people equal then we'll find our utopia. This was their hope. Until 1989 when the Berlin wall came down and the USSR fell with it.

West of the Curtain the worldview we used to hold was that once we give everyone an equal proportion of power and the freedom to make what they want of themselves - free from regulation and 'big-government' - we'll find our utopia. This was our hope. Until 2008 when the shares fell, the banks failed and our savings and investments fell with them.

Last week people's materialist worldviews broke - and a lot of them (probably me included) got hurt by the reaction. The worldview that people have held since the 60s - the worldview that says accumulation of numbers in a bank leads to security, comfort and my utopia just broke. People will stop believing they can trust capitalism. They will stop believing in democracy.

But they've already rejected the Church being in charge (in the 1600s), the monarch being in charge (in the 1800s), communist philosophy (in the 1950s and 60s) and now they're rejecting 'me' being in charge. What is left for us?

My guess is that people will demand a radical form of socialism including a nationalisation of the banks but they will be scared of it - knowing that it leads down a path they don't want to go.

What if Christians step forward and say - do you want to buy our chair? Our worldview has God at the centre and people putting others needs before their own. It leads to the eradication of poverty, the development of close-knit communities (the reduction of 'moral entropy' if you like) and a hope in a utopia that has every chance of coming true! The west has been hurt by the stick - and now it's time to buy a chair.

Particularly in the light of the Credit Crisis I am not ashamed of the Gospel - I am damn proud of it!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Grin and bear it?

I bought a house a few months back!

When we were looking for the right house to live in we went to visit some nicely decorated small flats and some less nice big houses. It was almost like we had a little checklist of everything we wanted in a house. Once we decided that a certain house was too small, too derelict or just plain odd we would leave that house and move on to another.

I think we approach life like that - bringing our expectations to our partner, our job, our family, our church... Sometimes we decide that they just don't make the grade and leave - but mostly that's rare.

What's more common is that we just get on with it. Grin and bear it. Think to yourself - 'it could be worse', or imagine sort of martyrdom - 'let's do it for the kids'.

In all this, the person who genuinely believes that things can be better is mocked and the one who believes nothing can get worse because it's so bad already is shunned for fear of breaking the pretense. The optimist is ridiculed and the pessimist is reviled.

Christianity demands of us not to live at one end of this spectrum nor the other and it certainly commands us never to live in the 'grin and bear it' place. Christianity demands that we live simultaneously as a fanatical optimist and a fanatical pessimist. Both infinitely reviled and ridiculed.

Christianity involves recognising everyone has sinned - there is no one perfect. It involves recognising everyone was made in the image of God - everyone is infinitely valuable. This is so counter-intuitive. Everything in this world is given value because of how close it is to perfection. A perfectly clear diamond with colour 'A' is of massive value, and the value decreases as you go down the scale of perfection.

The Christian value system says that things have value - not because of their perfection - but because of the worth that God places in them. The old teddy-bear is worth more to the child than the big shiny new one.

Our role in our world is to live as it's citizens - seeing the image of God in the world that we would gladly die for it. Being the fanatical optimist that believes everything can be great because of Jesus. We have to be optimists when it comes to our marriage, optimists in our church, optimists about our family (because of the value God places in them) and we have to live our lives to bring about this good.

But being a citizen of our world means hating the imperfections we see. We have God's eyes to see the world - and this makes us the ultimate pessimists because we will always see that everything is not as it should be.

Being a Christian, having the spirit of Jesus, knowing the mind of God. The one place this will never ever leave us is 'Grin and bear it'. More like: 'weep and love it'.

God has put you in your own little world for a reason. Weep and love it. God does.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bifurcation points and becoming a Christian

I don't really know how to explain it - but becoming a Christian is a bit like moving along the x-axis of a topological graph and suddenly hitting a bifurcation point.

All the trajectories before the bifurcation point converge into one point - and all the trajectories after the bifurcation point converge on the likeness of Christ. Some trajectories are much faster than others (converge more quickly), some start by going the 'wrong' way and some don't really seem to move that much at all.

I guess the point I'm making is that becoming a Christian is a complete ontological shift. It's not the compilation of several intellectual arguments, existential Soul Survivor moments or the build-up of certain number of good experiences of the Church.

None of those work - none of those stand the test of time and persecution. Simon's identity was changed by Jesus - to Peter. Saul's identity to Paul. My identity from a curious alien bystander to a child of God.

How did I know? I was suddenly able to pray this very simple prayer about 8 years ago.

"Jesus reign in me, reign in your power. Over all my dreams and in my darkest hour. You are the Lord of all I am. Lord, wont you reign in me again?"

The Bible says that no-one can profess Jesus is Lord without having the Spirit of God. I had crossed that bifurcation point (although i wasn't to know what the word bifurcation meant until many years later!)

Entropy and a vision of hope!

You drop a glass from a table - it smashes into lots of pieces. Chaos from order.

It takes a lot of effort to put it back together. You can't just throw all the pieces back onto the table and expect to get your glass back.

Scientists call the amount of 'chaos' the amount of 'entropy'. They would say that the entropy has increased by dropping the glass off the table.

In fact scientists have a rule: entropy always increases within a system. It means that the natural state of a world full of stuff is disorder and the entropy (or disorder) will always increase until it is completely disordered.

An untended woodland, a rock on the seashore getting battered into a pile of sand over the years, a bunch of kids in a playroom with no supervisor! You get the picture... chaos increases if something is left unchecked.

What if the same is true in the moral sphere? What if the natural state of humans is to have disorder, disunity, disharmony in the relm of morality. What if a society is naturally prone to become less moral, less civilised and less human over time? Does the moral entropy increase naturally as well?

The Lord of the Flies springs to mind - as does my time at university!

How do you reduce entropy in a system? In scientific terms the only way is for something outside the system to reach in and organise the system - the tree surgeon, the sea breakers and the teacher would fill this role in the examples above.

What about the moral entropy? What moral energy is going to reach in to restore humanity? Jesus stepped in - from outside the system - with a new moral code and a new 'power/energy' to reduce this entropy.

Jesus restores - in each one of us - a heart for justice, a heart for peace, a heart for community, a heart for reducing the moral entropy around us. The Holy Spirit lives in each one of us giving us the energy from 'outside the system' to bring about these changes.

Ever since the Fall in Eden moral entropy has increasing. One of the things Jesus is trying to achieve is to reduce the moral entropy in this world we live in. If I am bringing about justice, mercy , compassion and community in my 'world' then i am rebelling against the natural law of the world and instead bringing in the Kingdom of God.

As we begin - in our society - to reevaluate the worth of the woman, the unborn baby, the environment, the homeless person, the city banker and our family we are not only being nice. We are reversing the increase of moral entropy. We are destroying the work of the evil one.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A thought on suffering

I was asked this evening 'how does your faith help you when you are suffering?' After a bit of thought I gave the follwing answer:

I'm normally quite happy with life. I'm happy to keep going - doing what I need to do and focussing on achieving stuff. It is when stuff goes wrong that I have a tendency to stop and think. I start to analyse myself to find out why things went wrong and then I can start to become self obsessed.

My faith encourages me to look not at myself but at God. It tells me that even although things feel rubbish there is something bigger going on than I could ever realise. It tells me to focus on the glory of God even when I want to focus on myself.

It is only when I stop being self-obsessed that my failure to find a nice job fits into place compared with the problems in the world. It is only when I become God-obsessed that the problems in the world fit into place compared with his glory, his majesty and his wisdom.

Suffering is still there, it just looks a lot more managable through God's eyes.