31 Days of Prayer: Day 12 – Approaching God as Father

You Can Pray“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, starting your prayers with the words ‘heavenly Father’ (or some similar variation) may have become so customary that you don’t think about it much. If you’re not a Christian, the idea of referring to the Creator as ‘Father’ may seem bizarre, even wrong. And if you’re a new Christian, maybe you haven’t got your head around this name for God and you’re still defaulting to safer options like ‘Lord’ or just ‘God’.

I guess that covers just about everyone. Calling God ‘Father’ when we pray has the potential to be a strange, confusing, or empty Christian habit. But it should never be any of those things. Instead, we should pause daily and reflect on the mind-blowing idea that we can call the God of the Universe ‘Father’. Continue reading

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31 Days of Prayer: Day Seven – Pray Like Jesus

Bethsaida“Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:45-46)

Down through the ages, Christians have (unsurprisingly) looked to Jesus’ practice of prayer for guidance on how we ought to pray. Just a couple of months ago, Mark Dever (one of my favourite Christian authors and preachers) published a brief, insightful essay over at The Briefing, looking at prayer in the life of Jesus. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day Six – Jesus’ most shocking command

Keep Calm Love Enemies“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)

During his earthly ministry, Jesus said some shocking things. Perhaps none is more shocking than this part of ‘the Sermon on the Mount’: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:43-48)

Christopher Hitchens (died 2008), one of the most famous and boisterous atheists of recent years, saw the offensiveness of these words. Here’s how he responded when asked about the idea that someone could be commanded to love: Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day Three – God on speed-dial

photoSince we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. (Heb 10:19-22)

God is infinitely powerful, able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Day 1). And he is the perfectly loving Father, willing to give good gifts to those who ask (Day 2). But surely there’s still a problem – our sin. How can sinners like us approach the perfect, holy God with the temerity to ask for anything? As the Bible says, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3) Continue reading

From obscure peasant and condemned criminal to King of the World

Cross HillHe was born in an obscure village as the child of an unmarried teenage peasant. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until the age of 30. At the age of 33, after a brief public ministry during which he gathered a small band of followers, he was betrayed by one of them, abandoned by them all, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. He died in the most humiliating, painful form of execution that humanity has ever devised, hanging on a cross between two common criminals on a hill just outside a small town. He died homeless and destitute – executed as a criminal, mocked by his enemies, abandoned by his friends, buried in a borrowed grave.

And now, over the next few days, countless millions of people all over the world will gather to worship Jesus of Nazareth as the Creator of the universe, the King of the world, and the Saviour of humanity. His life, death and resurrection will be proclaimed as the central events in human history.

“Today Jesus is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that have ever sailed, all the parliaments that have ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of mankind on earth as powerfully as that one solitary life.” (James Francis, ‘One Solitary Life’)

It’s worth asking Why.

Ten Resolutions of an Introverted Christian


Reading TogetherI will define myself as a Christian, not an introvert
Myers-Briggs may say that I’m an INFJ. Gallup may think they know my Top Five Strengths. There are all kinds of ways to categorise ‘me’. But what truly defines me? What goes to the heart of who I am? I’m a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus, and a new creation. I’m saved by the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus – being conformed to the image of Jesus by God’s gracious work in me.

We can say lots of true things about ourselves, but personality tests or traits will never ultimately define any follower of Jesus. Our identity is found in him. We are Christians first. Continue reading

Why You Must Always Exaggerate

MegaphoneOver the years, many teachers and preachers of God’s word have shaped the way I understand the Bible, the world, and myself. Easily the most important have been those who pastored me personally – who led the churches or ministries of which I was a member. People who knew me, invested in me, and shared their lives with me.

But there have also been many teachers and preachers outside my local ministries – authors, conference speakers, and various other leaders – who have played an enormous role in shaping my thinking and my life. Some are people I’ve come to know well; some are people I’m yet to meet. Some are the ‘big name’ authors and speakers that everyone knows; some serve in relative obscurity.

As I look back and consider why people I barely know have influenced me, a number of factors emerge. But for now, I want to mention one common characteristic among those who’ve impacted my thinking: a willingness to state the truth in bold and challenging ways. Put another way: a willingness and ability to exaggerate. Continue reading

Jesus on healing broken relationships

We should always take the first step to fix our damaged relationships, no matter which side of the breakdown we’re on

Healing RelationshipsThere’s an old cliché in Christian circles – often said half-jokingly, but through quietly gritted teeth: “I love everything about Christian ministry apart from people.” It’s a cliché laced with bitter irony because, of course, so much of the Christian life and ministry is about people and relationships. Yet it acknowledges the painful reality that relationships are always difficult, because people are always flawed and sinful. We all make mistakes. We hurt others, and we get hurt.

The Bible is the most realistic of books, dealing directly and honestly with the reality of our sin. And that means it contains forthright, practical wisdom on handling broken relationships. Continue reading

God and Caesar: On the limitations of government

JFKWe Christians are a strange, motley bunch. Part of the glory of the gospel – and part of the joy and the challenge of life together in this world – is that God draws us together as his people from such diverse backgrounds. When we come together as his people, united as brothers and sisters in Christ, we bring with us an enormous range of quirks and weaknesses, experiences and strengths.

This wonderful diversity in the Christian community also means that we bring with us all kinds of passions and commitments. Sometimes, sadly, trivial matters can become our consuming desire, and yet we might remain coolly indifferent to things that really should put fire in our bellies. Sometimes, however, it’s just a matter of personal preference; the things that excite one person leave the next person unmoved, and that’s okay.

Where does politics fit into that mix?

Continue reading

Why David Cameron owes Jesus £1 million

Britain Prime MinisterIn the past week, in preparation for an upcoming talk, I went looking for information on what people consider to be the world’s single biggest problem. During my research, I stumbled across this fascinating story: British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to award £1 million to anyone who can discover the world’s biggest problem – and solve it. Continue reading