religion

Bible, Church, Theology

Into the Pray – The Bible


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Today is the 499th anniversary of the Reformation. This means that 500 years ago today it was the one year run-up to the defining moment in modern (church) history when Martin Luther would nail his 95 theses to the front door of Castle Church and All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. Luther’s theses opposed the abusive practices of ‘preachers’ & ‘leaders’ who twisted the Bible, often to their own financial gain, via indulgences, rather than faithfully preaching the only doctrine at the centre of true biblical, Christian faith – the justification of grace by faith aloneSola fide.

(If you’re looking for further reading on Martin Luther, I can recommend this book by Scott Hendrix as an accessible option).


Next year, when the 31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of something so profoundly important for all of us, can you imagine the excitement and the celebration and the stories that’ll be told?

But what about the year 1516, five centuries ago today, (more…)

Church, theology

Into The Pray – Baptism


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*This is the fourth post in a seven-part blog series called Into The Pray*

At the end of last week’s post, I asked a whole bunch of probing questions and provided the link to Bible Gateway so you could punch in the areas in question and then see for yourself what the Bible actually says, and, in some cases, doesn’t say about them.

If I was to roll all of these questions into one paraphrased version, it would be this:

Why do we do stuff in church that clearly we were never meant to do; why do we not do stuff in church that clearly we are supposed to?

Writing specifically of prayer, Mike Bickle puts it like this,

What we do negatively and what we neglect to do positively deeply affect our (prayer) lives. (Emphasis mine)

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Church, theology

Into The Pray – The Bride


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*This is the third piece in a 7 part blog series called “Into The Pray”*

Pic ‘n’ Mix

The church Mairi and I have left recently are awesome in many ways. But in other ways they are not awesome. This can be said of any church as well as of ourselves personally, so this  shouldn’t be offensive news to any of us, should it? But as a symptom of the common departure of denominational ‘church’ from Biblical truth about the Church, into a kind of blinkered brain-washing, some of you reading this will already be offended. (more…)

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – The Church


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The Revealing Spotlight of Some Might Say

I have been genuinely amazed by some of the responses to our article last week.

Some have said that Mairi and I are ‘unbiblical’. Some have said that we are selfish. Some have said that we’re damaging others and one person has even suggested we’re not saved. Some have claimed that they’re ‘praying for us’ and, literally seconds later, have decided to damn us. (I’m pretty sure the world record was set during the week for the most laughable prayer ever muttered: “Oh Jesus, would You bless Nick and Mairi in this blog series…but then again, I think they might be only after applause…so they must need telling off…they need warning…smite them, Lord!”).

It has felt like the downing of a large cocktail of sadness and bewilderment to us as, in one fell swoop, some have wanted to gather stones to smash our skulls while offering sham pseudo-prayers, as though their ‘blessings’ concealed the pile of rocks behind their back.

Welcome to the number one problem facing the unsaved world…

The Church of Jesus Christ.

Popular Assumption(s)

The immediate assumption in saying this is that we don’t love the church or recognise our own contribution to its imperfection. Or that perhaps we don’t understand the relationship between love for Jesus and love for His body. This is just silly. Is it unloving for a young person to have a conversation with their parents about why they should or shouldn’t do X, Y and Z; is it really unloving to ask some questions about why church does what it does and, just as importantly, does not do what it should? (I will get to this).

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: leaving a church, (as opposed to leaving the church), and having a pause for reflection and enquiry, is not even close to being unbiblical or unwise. If you genuinely believe that it is, you need to ask yourself (biblically) why this is the case. Why is it better to attend a church that you fundamentally disagree with rather than having some time out to seek God for a better, more authentic way forward? I had no idea that our salvation, our wisdom and our security was as frail as this tissue-paper existence, did you?

The Kingdom cf. The Church

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how this blog series was going to take shape. All I knew roughly were the areas that I wanted to write about (the Bible, church leadership and culture, marriage, the kingdom, millennial discipleship) but I wasn’t quite sure where to start. But the comments and emails sent to us this week, both positive and negative,  have convinced me that the Church is the starting point.

Reading some of these responses has been like the sudden lifting of a ginormous red curtain on a theatre stage, revealing not a modern version of the cave of Adullam (church leaders reading this – please, this is too easy a conclusion), but a significant part of the church for whom denominational ‘expression’ is not compatible with their Bible nor with the longings of their heart for the dynamic power of the kingdom of God.

I think Mairi and I have discovered that we’re actually characters written into this play.

Have you ever asked yourself, what has what we call ‘church’ got to do with the kingdom of God? What I mean is, how do they relate? Do we even know? Why do we not even ask?

bodiam-castle-castles-united-kingdom-impressive-hd-wallpaper-142943922017

Signposts

As signposts towards this mysterious, illusive reality of the kingdom within this series, last week I promised to include weekly annotations in a notebook entitled every day is a school day. This is important because, ultimately, this is why I’m writing – to discover (and help others to discover) the kingdom of God.

This week something amazing happened:

A friend of ours, a senior leader of a church in Edinburgh, called me on my mobile out of the blue. I couldn’t take his call because I was rushing out of the house but I assumed that he was phoning because he’d seen my blog about our decision to leave our church. When we did manage to speak, it turned out that he hadn’t read my blog at all, (he hadn’t even seen it), but that Mairi and I had been on his mind and he’d wanted to call to see how we were.

Within the maze of publicity that I was already navigating, this phone call subsequently struck me as a glaring kingdom signpost: the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to prompt someone to go out of their way, (for reasons known only to God), at a very specific time, to reach out to two people that He’d put on their mind. I was reminded of Cornelius’ encounter with an angel as the Holy Spirit connected him with Peter in Acts 10.

Can you see the difference between the two realities that I’m describing? On the one hand, we have the hurtful immaturity of the so-called ‘brethren’ and, on the other, the mind-blowing activity of the Spirit of God. One takes life, the other gives life. One is false, the other is true. One is earthly, the other is eternal.

Resolving

This signpost underlined for us that much of what goes on within church is very difficult to resolve with the kingdom of God as we see it clearly displayed and taught in the Bible by Jesus. How can the revealed attitudes of some this week be united with those of others? The truth is they don’t relate in any way.

Into The Pray was born because it has become our concern that much of what is called ‘church’ actually does not relate in any way to the kingdom of God. I’ve touched above on specific areas that I’d like to dig down into over the five or so pieces within this series. Similarly, continuing next week, I’m going to specifically focus on why church does what it shouldn’t and, just as importantly, does not do what it should.

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – Prelude


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Raw Disclaimer

{No, I’ve not gone vegan, but I would like to issue a WARNING that this series is going to possibly offend or insult if you’re religious or blinkered by denominational or institutionalised forms of control. The aim of writing Into The Pray is absolutely not intending to insult or offend in anyway (I take the subject of the church to be almost incomparably important) but I do want to deliberately ‘shoot in raw’ without ‘editing’ in order to process as best as I can}

_________________

“Once more into the fray…into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and die on this day…

Live and die on this day…”

Ottway, The Grey

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faith, religion

The Necessary Itch of Faith


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I appreciate the courage to rethink and examine the Christian faith as a response to the difficult (even distressing) loose ends that there can be for all of us in this life – like a kind of jazz music that ‘just doesn’t seem to resolve’ or sit pleasantly with us (any more).

But, without wanting to disappear down a rabbit hole by immersing myself in all the nooks and crannies that I’ve seen on Facebook lately, I’d like to just say one thing (in two halves) that, though likely to be disregarded as  being too simplistic or naive, remain the absolute and inescapable centre of these multifaceted debates. This needs to be said because although these conversations are personal in origin, to some, they nevertheless manage to create very public ripple-effects in the lives of others when they’re broadcast:

a) The Christian faith is a biblical faith, i.e. it is unashamedly based on the written word of God, regardless of how you respond to it personally. Christianity never pretends to be anything other than utterly biblical and the serious study of the biblical text will show far fewer grey areas or ‘interpretation weaknesses’ than we might like to think. The problem is that we don’t study it seriously enough.

b) The Christian faith is also just that: faith. If the starting (and ongoing) point of Christianity becomes anything other than faith then it ceases to be biblical and, therefore, Christian. This is not to say that faith is incompatible with general enquiry or even a millennial type of examen, but it does mean that you can spend an eternity trying to ‘work stuff out’ to find the illusive musical resolve of the jazz, but it will never come without faith…faith is always required despite our varying urges to fight and even rage against this order of design.

forest-landscape

Therefore, the Christian faith is not compatible with scratching the itch of needing to ‘know’ that something is real before ‘knowing’ it is true – in the sense of needing to ‘see before believing’ – in other words, the bible says you can ‘know’ THE truth by seeing but only via a sight that comes by faith.

Finally, it’s worth saying that examining the Christian faith can (and should) be done while still exercising faith…it is solidly robust enough to endure historical, philosophical and theological enquiry while still recognising that, at its core, is this mysterious but indispensable element called faith.

Christian FAITH – you may call it blind, childish or even ludicrous, but it will always remain the staple ingredient for any saving vision or relationship with Jesus Christ.

And He remains EVERYTHING

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Mark 10:15

music, Music and Song, Worship, Worship, Music and Song

Lion and the Lamb (Leeland//Bethel Cover)


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I’ve found this song so helpful to sing that I thought I’d record a rough office cover version! [WARNING] I’m about 6bpm too fast 😉

Leeland and Bethel have brought together a simple but very beautiful blend of melody, lyric and confession that simply blows me away.

“For who can stop the Lord Almighty?”

Leeland’s new album “Invisible” is available in the link in the YouTube description box.

Bible, Prayer, Theology

The Humanity of Prayer


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We were flicking through movie rental options on TV the other night when we stumbled across Kevin Reynolds’ 2016 film Risen – a film about the resurrection of Christ as seen through the eyes of a Roman Military Tribune, Clavius ((Joseph Fiennes).

Inititially I thought the film was going to be lame but was surprised by the way the film grew on me, particualrly when Jesus featured, as played by Cliff Curtis – I’d thoroughly recommend renting/buying the film!

Barging into the Upper Room

There is one particular aspect of the film that continues to speak to me powerfully:

As the Bible says, when Jesus rose from the grave, after Mary Magdalene had recognised Him by the grave-side, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Walls, Roman Soldiers, constanty conspiring Pharisees and the frightened bewilderment of His people weren’t a problem – Jesus met with his friends to prove his resurrection glory and to encourage His grieving mates. (more…)

Bible, Marriage, Theology

Hosea 1- Acclimatising to the Mess (& the wonder)


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The book of Hosea is full of a kind of beauty that will take our breath away…if we will let it.

I’m taking Chapter 1 today, solo, just to set the scene, then 2 & 3 together next week and then a couple more posts to cover the remaining 12 chapters. Boom!

1:1

  • Remember in verse 1, crucially, the context has been set like some kind of historical GPS for us. (More detail here).

1:2

  • Then verse two begins the first of two prose/narrative sections that act as book ends on the more poetic middle of the book that we’ll come to in another post.
  • We’re assured straight away that this is the LORD speaking – as though we needed reminding – bringing to mind 2 Timothy 3:16 that “…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”. This is Hosea speaking but it is the Lord of all creation who is speaking through Him.

In order to speak prophetically to a Nation and to achieve redemption and righteousness for them, God invades, exposes and demands the masculinity of Hosea’s ego, his social and spiritual reputation, his lineage, his peace, his joy, his sanity, his sexual satisfaction and purity and, most ultimately, the emotional bed of his heart.

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Culture, sport

My Prayer for Liverpool FC


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I prayed for Liverpool FC last night that they would really pulverise Everton FC in the 222nd Merseyside Derby at Anfield. I’ve never prayed for them before and will probably never pray for them again.

This sounds like ridiculous, silly banter (and it probably is) but then, after I’d prayed, Liverpool went ahead and destroyed Everton in the greatest Merseyside victory in my life-time. What unfolded was a resounding 4-0 victory which, by any account, was a rare and unusual event.

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