Here’s my personal journey on the subject of Jesus, love, and confrontation. It’s not complete (I’m not dead) but I really think this needs saying, and putting into action. I see love as a foundation of following Jesus, and without it you’ll really struggle!
I started off with a viewpoint of Jesus was/is a nice guy, love is fluffy, makes you feel nice and tolerates anything. Then my church started preaching about how Jesus wasn’t everyone’s best friend, which is a really relevant point.

I started reading my bible with this in mind. Joshua 10 and 11 are horrific. Matthew 23 is just rude. Jesus made people unemployed by destroying their workplace in John 2. Titus talks about warning a divisive person once or twice before having nothing to do with them. Luke 23, Jesus totally blanks Herod- the most powerful man in the region who was excited to meet Him. John the baptist majorly challenged people that travelled for days to see him in Luke 3. 1 Corinthians 5 is Paul ordering a believer be removed from the church.

And so I formed my opinion. “Everyone thinks Jesus is meek and mild and lovely, but they’re wrong! We can act however selfishly we want and be rude and not care because Jesus was sometimes rude!” (I exaggerate, but not as much as I would like). And I stayed there for a long time, and really struggled with patience, kindness, and treating others as more important than myself.

I’d gone straight past the truth. Instead of ‘Jesus was harsh’ it should have been ‘Jesus was harsh SOMETIMES’. In my haste to get away from the lie that Jesus was constantly nice, I’d created an equally simplistic theology where he was never nice. Worryingly, I was convinced I had this part nailed. It’s dangerously easy to justify a wrong viewpoint of love.

And then I went to Africa and met someone called Mondli that utterly annihilated my pet theology without saying a word. How? He was nice to me. And I thought ‘that’s really nice’.
And then: “If he’d done things how I would’ve, I’d have thought ‘he can be a bit impatient and rude at times’”.

God cares about everyone and wants all to know him and have a fulfilled and eternal life (there’s a reason it’s good news!) and our love for each other shows others that we follow him (John 13:35). If we’re getting this wrong it’s a lot bigger than ‘oops’- we can make good news look like bad news to those that don’t know Him!

So what is love? I believe Jesus directly confronted people and institutions when they obstructed others from their relationship with God. In my mind there is no question that Jesus could do the things that take incredible inner courage. I believe that we’re called to follow Him into confrontation, to stand up and be counted when it’ll make us unpopular, and to refuse to back down from following him, even when we’re totally bricking it.

And that’s half of it. The other half is that we need to follow Jesus into servanthood, doing incredible things to bless people above and beyond what is expected or reasonable! Jesus freely gave himself because he was doing what he saw God do, not because he felt better for doing it or guilty if he didn’t! How cool would a bunch of Christians living like that be?!!

Jesus spent the majority of his time being a really nice guy and doing nice things. Having the ability to boldly stand and confront evil without budging an inch doesn’t stop you being kind, patient and living 1 Corinthians 13, Col 3 and Gal 5 in your everyday life. If we look at Jesus and only see his success in confrontation, we miss the point- he didn’t come to earth to offend the religious leaders! He came to earth to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, and proclaim the favourable year of the Lord! (Luke 4:18)

Jesus served, valued and healed the least important members of society. He was incredibly compassionate and gentle to those who sought him. He openly and unashamedly confronted the most powerful religious institution of his day for taking people away from God, and his obedience to God led him to die a horrible death. Jesus came to bring people into relationship with his Father, not condemn them. He freely lived out mercy and kindness, and made time to individually bless the outcasts and nobodies of his society.

And that’s my role model. Wow.

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mountain biking crash

Now, if you know anything about falling off mountain bikes, have a guess at how bad the crash was that led to that. They’re all surface scratches, nothing deep or serious. Only one actually bled, and that was more a dribble than anything else. It’s the kind of injury you get from a crash that’s slightly embarrassing and you don’t tell anyone about because they’d laugh at you.

Now, let me tell you what happened, because it’s not embarrassing at all- it was a pretty serious crash. I was going down a rocky descent, speed estimated between 20 and 25mph, when bad things started to happen. Next thing, I’m sliding along the floor with all of my body weight on my arm, with my fist up next to my shoulder. The mark I left on the floor is impressive, to say the least (and it goes straight over a couple of rocks that should have been very painful). I’ve crashed my bicycle enough times to know that you should roll when you crash, because if you don’t really bad things happen really quickly. I didn’t roll, at all. I didn’t have my weight going through a part of my body with protection on it- it was just my bare arm, a rocky floor, a lot of speed and a lot of force. Let me tell you that this is a recipe for causing a lot of damage.

Once you’ve been riding a while you get good at guessing how much damage a crash has caused before you look. I was anticipating this one to have ripped notable chunks of flesh out my arm rendering it relatively useless. At the very minimum I should have had several notable cuts. The first thing I noticed was the lack of pain. I thought ‘it’ll hurt more when I look at it, but I need to see what damage I’ve caused, so I can react appropriately’. I looked at it, and saw no notable injuries. And I thought ‘that can’t be right’, and looked again. And rotated my arm, and looked, and still couldn’t see anything. And then I realised that actually, it wasn’t damaged anywhere near as much as it should have been.

I have some abrasions on my arm, a token cut on my leg, which is tiny, and I tweaked my ankle slightly- I still have full range of movement, it just complains a little in certain positions. I’m confident that by the end of the week I’ll be all fine!

Given the crash, I should have bandages and pads and even stitches would have only surprised me slightly. As it is, I’ve got minor abrasions and I had a shower just now and washed and soaped my arm and it didn’t hurt. I don’t know how, but God protected me from notable injury tonight. He is good!

I used to think me and God could be mates. ‘oh hi God, nice garden, just chilling, want an apple? They’re well good’. Now, it’s true that he desires to call us his friends. However, that’s not the sum total of what God wants, not even close.

These last few weeks God’s been doing some stuff in my life. I’ve been thinking I’m a really rubbish Christian. Not in a horrible condemning way, but in a ‘this is what my life is, this is what the bible says it should be- oh, that’s awkward and needs to change’ kind of way.

One conclusion I spent some time considering was that God has issues. I mean, look at the situation logically. I continually ignore him, run away from him, refuse to talk to him (sometimes for weeks) with no reason or explanation, do things I know will hurt him (whilst I know he’s watching), ignore his advice, hurt myself like he knew I would (hence the advice!), run to him for a hug, then go out and hurt myself again, and when he gives me the best gift it’s possible for me to receive I go ‘great, whatever’ and then play with Satan’s cheap knockoff of something else God made. And yet, despite all that, he still loves me. He still likes me. Still wants to know me. Still wants to call me friend.

And then I realised that maybe I’ve got the issues. Maybe my issue is I give up on other (and myself) people too easily. Maybe I should love others (and myself) more like God loves me. Maybe I should love my enemies and pray for those that curse me. That’s not the main deal of this blog post, though. The fact that I can’t love without God, is.

The main thing I realised was that I am inconceivably indebted to God. He has done SO much for me, I can’t begin to do it justice. I have nothing to bring to the table in this relationship- seriously. I am really really bad at loving him. This is not ok. This is SO not ok. Even if I were to be perfect in my behaviour from this point on, then I wouldn’t get anywhere near to honouring God for what he’s done for me. In my fallen state, just no way. He is perfect and so it’s painfully dissonant that I am so terrible at loving him and including him in my life. Worse than that, I continually sin in the same old areas that God’s set me free from. I choose to go back, appalling myself, let alone the one that died in agony that I could know the freedom I squander.

But, it’s not just me.

“I’m absolutely completely destroyed. For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips, and I have seen God!” (Is 6)

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit- theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mat 5)

“my body is waging war with my mind, making me a slave to sin- how wretched am I!” (Rom 7:23)

It’s not just me that realises that God is enormous and the way I’m behaving right now is atrocious and dishonouring what he’s done for me and has to change because I cannot cope with the insanity of that enormous disparity- that god has done so much for me, and I show my thankfulness so little in return.

So I tithe and I pray, once a week at church
That’s not your mission whilst on this earth!
Just look at Jesus and the church he birthed
You really think that when you’re in a hearse
You’ll say to God that’s giving him his worth?
That’s like saying to Jesus that the cross didn’t hurt!

So what does living all for God look like and what’s the solution to the problem of the fact that my life is currently (and will probably always be) disgustingly awful, and how do I bring the second bit in line with the first?

Is 6 continues with God saying “Isaiah, try harder to love me more and be a better person”.

Or not. “your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” (detail: it’s actually a seraphim that says it, not God)

Iniquity: Immoral or grossly unfair behavior.

Wait? My immoral and grossly unfair behaviour is taken away when God gets involved?

What about Romans? Well, Romans 8 talks about how if we live naturally, we will sin. If we live spiritually (v10), then though our body may be dead through sin, our spirit is alive, and here’s the AWESOME bit: God has the power to raise your mortal body to life through the spirit that lives in you and raised Jesus from the dead!

V13 continues ‘put the actions of the body to death by the spirit’. (That whole area of Romans is excellent reading on this subject)

The last thing God wants is for us to overcome stuff in our own strength! He opposes the proud! Instead, he’s set it up so that we need his help to put our gratitude for what he’s done into action, which makes us even more grateful!

There’s no western concept I can think of to describe the fact that I have been offered something by someone I love that I can choose to accept, and it’s so big that merely saying thankyou isn’t enough if I accept it. I want to accept perhaps 1% of it, because then sending a letter and saying thankyou profusely is enough.

That’s not an option though, and so I must do more- much more! to thank the giver. The gift is so big, so life changing, that I want to do lots of things to thank the giver. And then when I do something that I know will please him, he gives me even more gifts! My actions borne out of thankfulness result in more gifts (though that’s not why I do the actions), which makes me more thankful and things just escalate from there! I am so blessed by these gifts, and hopelessly indebted in a debt that I can never pay off despite wanting to because I love the debtor, but every time I try to repay him, he gives me more gifts to thank me for trying to pay it off. I could walk away at any time, but I don’t want to because I know I could have my relationship with this person and get these gifts nowhere else!

And despite this, God still loves me. Psalm 139- the same man that comitted murder and adultery says that God intimately knows all of his ways and still loves him! And that’s before Jesus. Mental.

Knowing this, how can I just go through the motions? Even pursuing him with all I have isn’t enough to repay the debt of gratitude I have to him, let alone the real debt I am in. I was in sin, and he saved me. I got saved, am still in sin, and he still loves me. It’s incredible, un-earnable and a total free gift to someone undeserving. And I don’t want to dishonour God by being thankless in response!

God, help me to love you with the love you have for me. Build my character and give me integrity in the way I am with you. You’ve set the bar at a level I can’t achieve on my own. I can see this all too clearly! Please help me obtain an integrity of love that means I am behaving in the way you deserve. Thankyou that I can know you, even though my behaviour is terrible in light of your holiness. Thankyou that despite my abject failure you promise to live in me and change me. Thankyou that I am acquitted from all my sin, and help me to show you my thankfulness more.

Won’t you let me love you more,
this is all that I desire.

Won’t you let me love you more,
This is my only heart desire

Adapted (heavily) from the end of matthew 16:23-27

Context: Peter has made a silly comment to Jesus…. Jesus replies with the famous ‘get behind me Satan’ and then continues:

“you are a stumbling block to me, for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s. For if anyone wishes to follow me they must totally deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow me. Indeed, whoever tries to preserve their soul through their own strength will lose it, but whoever lets go of their own life, their possessions, relationships and time, according to my will, will find me, and I will rescue them and preserve their soul. It is of no benefit for you to gain even the whole world if you don’t actively do my will no matter the cost. What earthly treasure could you exchange for your soul when I return? But when I return I will reward each and every one according to how much you’ve obeyed God’s voice in your life. These rewards will be far greater than anything you could think of or imagine on the earth. They will be eternal rewards that never fade, never rot and can never be lost or stolen. They smallest reward will make earthly riches look pitiful.”

What are we racing for? Have we counted the cost and chosen to walk with God anyway?

And if we have, what does that look like?!

“Take my life, take it all, I surrender heart and soul, from now on, I live for you, only you”
“I’m giving it all away, away. I’m giving it all to go your way”
“Let my life belong to you, Let my life make you smile”
“I throw off everything holding me back”

Life is so much more than being ‘nice’. What’s God called us to? What’s the point of anything that misses God’s will? What IS God’s will for you? What does sacrificing MY all for Christ look like? Is being nice even God’s will??!

Let’s check out what Jesus says to those who say they want to serve him….

This is straight out of chapter 11 of driven by eternity- one of the most impacting and life giving books I’ve ever read. HIGHLY recommended you read it.

Turn to Luke 9: 57-10 (also read v56 whilst you’re there- it’s well worth remembering). Interestingly, this comes shortly after the transfiguration in Luke’s account. Matthew 16 occurs just before the transfiguration. So, there’s probably not a massive amount of time between the two….

So, Jesus is cruising along a road. The same Jesus who attracts crowds of tens of thousands, and he’s probably not alone- there are probably thousands there with him. And one comes up to him and says “I will follow you wherever you go”. Cool sentiment. What does Jesus say? “great to have you onboard!”. Not quite, actually. “I have no place to lay my head”. If this man had any desire for earthly security, or at the very least, a place to sleep each night, Jesus is saying ‘be warned, because I’m not offering that’. He doesn’t offer us a place to rest. That’s challenging. Following him gives no assurance of even having a place to sleep.

Jesus spots out a person that’s loitering near him. “follow me” he says. And the response is “Lord, first permit me to bury my father”. Jesus replies “No”. What? That’s his father! But apparently it’s an inheritance deal- if the firstborn doesn’t bury their father, then they don’t get their double portion of inheritance. This guy was probably loving money more than Jesus. So Jesus challenges him, as he knows this will cause major issues down the road.

Finally, one says “I will follow you, but first permit me to say goodbye to my loved ones at home” and, you guessed it, Jesus said ‘yeah sure, I’ll see you in a week in Jerusalem’. Not. he says “No-one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’

There are three main issues Jesus has raised here- First, security, second, money, third, relationships. Only those that are willing to put God above those are “fit for the kingdom of God”.

Oh wow. That doesn’t look like what I’m doing right now.

But the story isn’t finished. Sure, it’s the end of chapter 9. But read on- “after this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them out, saying “the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few””

Out of the hundreds or thousands that were probably originally there, he appoints seventy to actually get out there and spread his word. Many are the called, chosen are the few- Matt 22:14.

God, what am I doing with my life?
one billion who’ve never heard your word alive
twenty three thousand a day just die
starvation and preventable diseases – why?
One in two hundred and sixty in slavery
why does it have to be like this today
we’re the church, we are plan A
but despite the need, I’m living comfortably.

Would really love to hear comments.

The prayers of a righteous man are powerful.

Now, I don’t find righteousness particularly easy. There’s a cost and sacrifice to it. I wish I was alone and the rest of Christendom found this effortless and could talk to me about how they achieve it, but I can open my bible and see I’m not the only one with this fight. 2 timothy 2, Romans 7, etc, etc.

But to a certain extent I’d forgotten how important pursuing righteousness is. Sure, I tried to avoid sinning, but not that hard. Sure I prayed, but I mostly prayed about myself and general stuff for other people- no specifics, no way to see results (this was because the people I had been specifically praying for had seen breakthrough- what a hard life we live as Christians….!)

One friend I was praying for was miraculously healed from digestive problems leading to major tiredness problems a couple of months back, and another friend got a job that he needed (both of these testimonies are totally awesome, take a second to appreciate them rev 12:11 style- they may be what you need to defeat the enemy!), so my prayer list had become less full of people I felt to pray for specifically.

And so, I didn’t actually feel like I needed powerful prayer. This wasn’t a conscious decision I made. It was a creeping advance by the enemy, slowly trying to send me to sleep and disable me as a Christian, attempting to turn me into someone whose only distinguishing feature from people who only know Jesus as a swear word is that I tick ‘christian’ on the census form because otherwise I would feel guilty.

It’s completely crazy. And yet I feel the enemy uses our unrighteousness against us in frighteningly effective ways to stop us living our lives for him.

I realised this when a third friend said they were coming under spiritual attack, and could I pray for them please? And then I had this sudden moment of realisation that yes, I could. But if I wasn’t pursuing righteous I was limiting the power of my prayers, and being a pretty poor friend.

and then I realised (this isn’t the first time I’ve forgotten this one :/ ) that if I wasn’t pursuing righteousness, then ‘all these [really good] things’ wouldn’t be added to me. (Matthew 6:33). Bummer.

And john 14… ‘if you love me, you will keep my commands’. How many times does Jesus say that in that chapter? Go read it. It’s almost like he’s trying to emphasise something…. And in the same chapter, in the same conversation, Jesus said we would do greater works than him. Do we think those are maybe slightly related if there’s 2 verses in between them?

How did Jesus do his works? Close relationship with God. How do we do works? Through close relationship with the father.

I want to encourage all to aggressively and proactively cultivate that relationship, whatever that looks like for you. I’d recommend praying for your church leaders, some of your friends (specifically), spending time in the word and in worship, and trying to always keep him first in your life in ALL you do. By having important things to pray for that mean a lot to you, you ensure that you have a personal reason to sacrifice and work for righteousness, rather than giving the enemy an opportunity to take you out without you realising it.

Picture the scene.

A 6 year old girl steps up to a mic, and does an ok ish rendition of a song. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing that any of her peers couldn’t do.

The response will be one of congratulations. ‘Well done, that was really good’ or words to that effect will almost certainly be said by parents that are really keen that she’s having a go, if nothing else. We all value the effect that the experience was to the child, even if the parents are the only people to think it was good.

A 26 year old girl steps up to a mic, and does an ok ish rendition of a song. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing that any of her peers couldn’t do.

What’s the response?

WHY is it different? What makes a 26 year old different from a 6 year old? Obvious answer- being alive for 20 years. So? What does spending time on this earth actually do? We readily acknowledge that negative words spoken in childhood are bad and can have a big impact on children. And yet, for some reason we think that when we get beyond a certain age we should be able to just ‘deal with it’. How? Who has taught us how to deal with it? What tools can we use to deal with it? As if being 10 or 15 years older enables us to shrug off personal criticisms and suchlike. I really wish we’d stop being so closed, expecting age alone to be a suitable teacher for the complexities of life.

I read a “letter to my 16 year old self” written by a woman, aged 29. It was full of predictable stuff (‘You’re beautiful, you’re great the way you are, your boyfriend is currently abusing you- please realise soon that that’s not what you have to settle for, you should love yourself and be proud of who you are’ etc etc)… The only thing that I actually remember is a throw-away comment in brackets: “(where did the last 13 years go, anyway?)”

What?

13 years? And no major life experiences that spring to mind?

The enemy really does come to kill, steal and destroy. If he steals our time, he doesn’t need to bother with killing and destroying. And, lets face it, stealing our time has never been easier for him. Facebook, 24 hour news, twitter, heck, even conversations with other people. You ever maintained a conversation you had zero interest in because that was easier than the alternative?

13 years without a significant life experience. How?

Firstly lets define significant life experiences. I’d call it something that you look back at and go ‘That’s a thing that happened.’

So, it could be a promotion at work. It could be a holiday, a marriage, a split, kids, a pet, etc. etc.

The only problem with what I’ve listed so far is it’s fairly easy to imagine circumstances where you go 13 years without any of that, as the current list is fairly dependant on external factors. And yet, we are the head and not the tail- we’re not called to go through life existing and scraping by, thinking ‘where did the last 13 years go, anyway?’. What’s going on? There must be some life experiences which are more internal? Even insignificant ones?

Trying karaoke?

Oh, snap. Criticisms from others make us less likely to try new life experiences, just in case we suck and get ridiculed. Fear of failure (which pretty much everyone has) can become terror and panic when there’s a public element to things and failure or a less than perfect result means ridicule (or “banter”*).

* I love banter. But “banter” can be an excuse to bully people, then when they say “you’re bullying me” the bully goes “no I wasn’t, it was banter. Take a joke!”. Thus minimising the victim as well as further humiliating them. Grrrrrr.

Becoming free from addictions, learning to stand up for yourself, prophecy, healing, sharing testimonies.

How sad would it be if these never happened? But, how will these significant things happen if the insignificant things don’t? We can’t expect people to magically overcome fear of trying new things, significant or otherwise, if there are enormous immediate penalties for failure and tiny immediate rewards for success.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes permanent. If we discourage risk taking and trying new things and moving in faith in the small things, they’re discouraged in the big things. What you do with little is what you do with much- Luke 16:10

So, please think twice before criticising. What you say doesn’t just affect the person then, it affects the person all the time. It doesn’t just discourage them from doing karaoke again (and, in fairness, some should be legitimately discouraged from this), it will also discourage them from stepping out in faith. #awks.

Collosians 4:5-6 pretty much summarises this blog post. And without 6, 5 is less likely to happen.

In 13 years, what do you expect to have achieved? Get to it then 🙂

‘god, I want to live with you at the centre of my life, I really do’

‘i just keep forgetting’

Sound familiar?

So, what can you do about it?

I bought a wristband to remind me of Jesus. To be honest, I only notice it when I shower and have to dry it. And even then I don’t spare a thought for how cool god is.

So then I set reminders on my phone: ‘bible study’. I’m a uni student- my days are very flexible. Bible study at 2 doesn’t work because I might be busy at 2. And then I forget. Sure, I could (and probably should) prioritise god over uni, but with all the free time in my life I shouldnt have to remove time from uni. After all, if I’m busy at 2, I’m probably free at 10 or 4 but have managed to forget, again. Not great!

So then, I decided to fast. Don’t think I’m crazy holy, we’re talking a 24 hour fast ish, from 6pm to 6pm. So I’m only really missing 2 meals.

It’s 10.50. I’m hungry. I’ve got 7 hours to go, and just asked myself ‘whats the point?’

Well. I’m hungry. And every time I get a hunger pang, I’m reminded of the fact I’m hungry. Why am I hungry? Because I’m fasting. Why am I fasting? To get closer to god. Boom. Straight away, refocussed on him, on why I’m doing this crazy thing, and his suffering so I can know the freedom that I’m trying to walk in by fasting.

I HATE being hungry. But if it keeps me focussed on god more, it’ll be so worth it.