Friday, June 22, 2007


Matthew 5v1-12:
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Another different perspective from Steve Chalke's book 'The Lost Message of Jesus'...

How many times have I heard this passage preached upon? Probably well in excess of ten times, I'd think. Most of those times, the passage was expounded in such a way as to suggest that the various qualities mentioned (i.e. 'poor in spirit', 'meekness', etc.) are the qualities that a Christian should have.

Steve Chalke suggests that maybe this isn't the case. Maybe Jesus was simply looking around at those around him. He sees some folk who are 'poor in spirit' and says to them 'you are blessed', and so on. The suggestion is that its not a case of 'in order to be blessed you must have these attributes' but rather it is 'you, whoever you are and whatever your status, are blessed by God' - the blessing comes before the transformation, not the other way around. Steve Chalke suggests that the message of Jesus is that God's blessing is available here and now for everyone, not just for those who have a particular set of attributes.

I like this reasoning. But is it right?

Do you need to repent or change in order to get the blessing, or is transformation an inevitable consequence of receiving the blessing?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The ten warnings

Exodus 20v1-3:
Then God gave the people all these instructions: "I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery." "You must not have any other god but me..."
I've started reading 'The Lost Message of Jesus' the controversial book by Steve Chalke. Steve Chalke was on the telly a lot when I was a student, generally trying to play the role of the young, hip & trendy Christian minister on BBC religious programmes. For this reason I never really liked him much. But in this book (which was written a few years ago, but only seems to have become controversial this year) shows a much deeper insight and wisdom than I'd ever given him credit for.

I've heard a few preachers in the past trying to explain why the "I am the Lord your God..." line before the first commandment was so important, but I'd never really got the importance of it until I read the third chapter of Steve's book.

That line is there to put the commandments in context. They're not a list of "thou shalt not do [whatever] or else!" as is the common perception. Rather, the list is more one of warnings: "It would be better for you if you didn't do [whatever] because that action will have negative consequences...". And the consequence is not the wrath of a vengeful God for breaking His law, the consequence is the breakdown of happy family and community life.

All this is conveyed in Exodus 20v2: "I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery."

The point is not "I am a great and powerful God who Lords it over you" but rather "I am the God who loves you, who has already demonstrated this love for you, and who wants the best for you... and the best will only be realised if you avoid doing these things..."

How come I'd never seen it like that before? Has society's negative view of God infiltrated the church so much that we believe in the angry, vengeful God?

I'm hoping for more big insights in the rest of the book... and I haven't even got to the controversial bit yet. Watch this space...

Friday, June 15, 2007

What happens when you die?

What happens when you die? I mean, where do you go?

The bible seems to imply that you go directly from death to the judgement, but it also implies that the judgement is at the end of all things.

If time is linear (and I'm not altogether certain that it is), then where do you go between death and judgement? Does anyone actually hang around as ghosts?

My default belief up to this point was that when you die, the part of you that survives the death of the body is somehow taken out of space-time directly to the judgement and the start of eternity, whatever that is. But this is not explained in the bible, this was just the position I came to from various chats and thoughts over the years.

But. Something odd happened a few weeks ago which challenged this view.

Last month, an elderly relative of mine died. The following week three inexplicable things happened to three of her close relatives. Basically in each of the three cases, at night, in locked-up houses, while the folk were asleep, things were moved in inexplicable ways. Each of the three events was totally consistent with the character of the lady who had died. Those involved are quite certain that their Granny came back to visit them.

The thing is, as one relative put it: "If anyone is going to heaven, she is" - she was a committed, faithful and prayerful Christian.

I have always been skeptical of the notion of ghosts. Or rather, I have always been skeptical that the phenomena labeled ghosts are the disembodied spirits of deceased people. Sure, there may be spiritual beings around, but I have never believed that they actually were dead people. But when stuff like this happens in your family, you have to wonder.

What does happen when you die?