Feeding On The Truth

I’ve been struck once again by the reminder that the simple things in life so often are the most important things. And it’s those simple things that we can lose site of as our lives invariably tend towards the complex.

As my wedding anniversary approaches I find myself flustered, as I can’t quite locate the perfect present that I am looking for. We’re going away for a few days and now there’s a time crunch. I should have taken care of this earlier, but I haven’t. I worry about not getting something and failing to show my wife how much she means to me. In the mean time, the stress of the present-buying as well as concluding other business before we leave is getting to me. I sleep less when I’m stressed, which makes me more irritable. Only when I pause for a moment (after successfully locating the gift) do I see the irony in all of this. In my effort to play the husband I lost of site of being the husband.

The Heart of our Gospel Message is the Gospel

The job of sharing our Christian faith is part and parcel of what we signed up to. Evangelism isn’t a role for an expert who has all the answers, but a call to everyone who has made Jesus Lord. But boy are there days when we wish we could outsource this obligation to the pros! More answers, more knowledge, more persuasion, more compassion, more time, more patience … if only I had more.

We know we are saved by grace through faith alone, as Ephesians says:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[1]

If I them therefore saved by grace, and not my works, how am I reflecting this in my evangelism? Now I have spent time and I have spent money to learn and prepare to “give an answer for the hope”[2] that I have. I read books and I listen to podcasts and I attend lectures. And all of this is good.

But the core of our message is still a message of grace. I wasn’t chosen by God to be adopted into His family on merit. It was totally undeserved. Therefore, I must never, ever let me efforts cloud the message. My doing must never get in the way of demonstrating what Christ has done for me.

The Apostle Paul boasted in his weaknesses[3]. The man who wrote much of the New Testament and was to early church planting as Michael Phelps is to American swimming knew that his efforts and his successes were nothing compared to the glory of the Resurrected Jesus. That’s why all of his efforts only promoted Christ, and didn’t bring attention to himself.

Sadly, I am still a long way from this.

Feed on Truth

C. S. Lewis, of whom William Lane Craig believes all modern Christian apologetics is indebted to, once wrote, “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”[4]

C. S. Lewis - Reflections on the Psalms

After moving to Oxford 5 years ago my life was once more synchronized with the academic schedule. Suddenly I was thinking in school terms again. This means that the Summer is actually the end of my year and the time I think about what’s on the horizon, what I’m planning and hoping for.

Defending the gospel is only good when it is defending the gospel. It becomes complicated when we defend our own ideas, or justify our personal actions. The heart of the gospel message is the gospel itself.

A good friend of mine is fond of reminding me to ‘Preach the gospel to myself’. In my struggling and my striving I was reminded to tell myself what the gospel is, again and again. And as Nathan helpfully reminded me, our “personal life and intimacy with God is the fuel and it is essential to being able to run this race, cover some serious ground and see stuff happen.”

To defend the truth we must be feeding on it. We must be being transformed by it. We must be inviting it to permeate all areas of our life. We must be willing to drop everything for it and to hold nothing back from the light of it.

It as this point that my heart echoes John Newton who said:

“Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.””[5]

[1] Ephesians 2:8–10, ESV

[2] 1 Peter 3:15

[3] 2 Corinthians 11:30

[4] C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms

[5] John Newton, The Christian Spectator (Vol. 3, 1821)

8 Strategies to Assist You in Your Evangelism

QUICKFIRE: Jonathan Sherwin from CVM on Vimeo.

The CVM Quickfire Conference is day of TED-style 15 minute talks by ministry specialists covering a wide range of topics for men’s ministries. In this talk, ‘Conversion Through Persuasion?: Looking at how we can deploy arguments, questions, and illustrations effectively as we do the work of an evangelist’ I attempted to get through 8 points before the klaxon sounded (see the video above if you want to know if I made it!).

Conversion Through Persuasion?

Evangelism is a spiritual struggle. It’s a bloody, vicious war. There is no Geneva Convention or International Court of Justice imposing civility. Our enemy is not a gentlemen and he is out to totally, utterly ruin all that you love, cherish and seek to protect.

In this war we have been given tools, and I believe the role of persuasion – arguing, illustrating, and questioning – is a weapon that we are to deploy in this war.

Timothy was told by the Apostle Paul to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). We’re shown that evangelism is both a task, as well as an office or role (Ephesians 4), and a task that in the Great Commission (Matthew 28) all Christians are called to.

As we think through how to use persuasion in evangelism here are 8 points to remember.

1. Being & Thinking | Feeling | Doing

Michael Ramsden is fond of talking of the Ontological Root of the Gospel. That is, the core of our Christian message is that it’s not what you think or what you feel or what you do that makes you a Christian, but that the very centre of who you are are is changed – redeemed – by God himself. That central change is the root of the Gospel.

Michael’s point is I think incredibly helpful. A Christian is someone who’s heart has been redeemed by God.

So then, focussing on that, we are freed to use our thinking, our feeling, and our doing to show Christ. We are to reflect our salvation in what we think, what we feel, and how we act. So too we can illustrate across all these areas.

Each one of us has a different personality. Some are more cerebral, others more in touch with their emotions, and still others who are intensely pragmatic. By illustrating the Gospel in a way that connects with the hearer we can demonstrate something of the message, but without forcing the listener to conform to that pattern of behaviour.

A change of our thinking, of our feeling, of our doing, comes out of a change of our being. We don’t change who we are to become a Christian – our core is changed by God and that then goes on to change everything else.

2. Persuasion is a skill

The art of persuasion is, according to Sam Leith, rhetoric. And rhetoric is something to be learnt. It is a skill.

I know what some of you may be thinking: rhetoric, just verbal tricks and cunning collections of words to sell your point. A go-to in the politician’s hand-bag of tools.

Rhetoric does appeal to emotions, to reasons … yes! But deployed correctly they serve truth.

Of course, rhetoric is a skill that may be used for the wrong reasons but for goodness sake, don’t stop using it because some guy in a bad suit and appropriately coloured tie is misusing it in a fancy palace like Westminster!

Blaise Pascal said that we ought when sharing the Gospel to,

“Make them wish it were true and then show them that it is.”

Our individual testimonies – our stories – share something of how we have met Jesus and have been changed. We appeal to our story to share something of the Ultimate Story, or as J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis referred to it, the True Myth.

3. Stand on Scripture

The basis for our confidence in the Gospel does not ultimately rest on our experience but on the revelation provided to us through the Bible. We don’t stand alone on reason, nor on emotion, nor on action, but on the Word of God.

Because the Bible is a reliable revelation that may be trusted we can stand firm on the foundation that it provides. This sure footing offers a position of strength and a starting point for all our creative efforts in sharing God’s truth.

Having a foundation is a powerful thing. Having a strong foundation that doesn’t rest on who we are, what we know, how we feel etc. provides a deeper assurance that when relied upon in our evangelistic efforts helps to make our efforts all about Christ (as revealed to us) and gets us out of the way. It’s not about us; it’s all about Jesus.

4. Know what is provoking your spirit

Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.” (Acts 17:16)

The Apostle Paul launches into his apologetic in Athens at Mars Hill after having “his spirit provoked within him”.

Our individual worlds are increasingly larger and the Gospel opportunities are seemingly endless. We are more connected than ever with easier travel and greater communications abilities than ever before.

In our modern world it can be hard to know where to act or to what we are called. Paul had his spirit provoked and took it as his cue.

So what is provoking your spirit? What can’t you let go of that can be used a starting point to share something of Jesus? We are each to be going after what is that we each are meant to be going after. We’re all different (thankfully) and who we are is to be used to reach those we’re called to.

5. Pick the hardest battle

Evangelism is a series of battles. In the Bible the church is often related to as an army. To do well we need to perform just like any army: we need to show discipline and courage.

After the British army in World War 2 had been beaten out of Burma back into India by the advancing Japanese it had to heal. The army was in a bad shape. They were plagued by malaria and bad morale. Their enemy was brutal – unlike anyone they had faced before They were far away from home and far away from comfort.

Sickness in the camp, lack of motivation, and attacks from the enemy: these things bring armies to their knees.

In ’42 they went kicked out of Burma and it took them nearly two years to fight their way back in.

And as they advanced, they picked their battles. They knew the enemy was fierce and that if they were to succeed they would need to engage in some brutal assaults. The war wouldn’t be won by sneaking a little victory here and there. They would need to crack the enemy at his strong points.

Where is the battle fiercest in your friend, in your office, in your family? What is the main stronghold?

It won’t do any good dealing with the brazen academics and their philosophical questions if the main issue in front of us is one of loneliness and fear, and a search for God that hasn’t yielded any answers so far.

Martin Luther said this:

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Don’t Construct Straw Men

We need to take the person we are sharing Christ with seriously. We need to treat them and their objections to Jesus with all seriousness.

When someone offers a problem don’t reduce it down to a bite-size chunk. If anything, build it up in to a really big problem and then hack it to pieces.

6. Use words

You will have of course heard the phrase, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.’ This maxim we are told is to be attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – but in truth there’s no record of him ever having said it.

And if even if he had said it, it’s just not true.

God preached the world into existence in Genesis 1:3. Jesus, in Matthew 5, “went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying …”

Stephen preached his own funeral. Paul reasoned with the Athenians, and before that he preached at Salamis, and Antioch, and Iconium, and Lystra, and Derbe, and Perga. He preached all those sermons with words, and that was on just one journey!

Words have incredible power. A friend of mine who is a leadership coach to large international companies often says, ‘Words create culture’.

The right word at the right time can bring life. The wrong word at the wrong time …

7. Illustrate: Use authorities people recognise

Paul, in the Athenian court, quoted from Greek poets and philosophers. He’d done his research. Or perhaps this was just part of his education.

He was establishing common ground. But I’m not sure if I were Paul I would have gone to those authors first. By this time we remember Paul had seen the resurrected Christ, had his life incredibly altered  from chief Christian persecutor to chief evangelist. Post-conversion Paul looked nothing at all like pre-conversion Paul.

If were Paul I think I would have been strongly tempted to say, ‘Look at me! Look at my life!’ But he didn’t. He pointed to Jesus, preached on the evidence of the Resurrection, and borrowed the authorities of his day to make a point.

It’s often said that “all truth is God’s truth”, so when we find nuggets of gold in our culture – the arts, the media etc. – we can borrow these to point to Ultimate Truth.

8. Conversion is through the Holy Spirit

Look, Richard Dawkins never sent anyone to Hell and you’re not sending anyone to Heaven.

The heart of a person can only be redeemed by the power of God. He will use you to illustrate, to demonstrate, and to advocate but the final solution to man’s deepest problem cannot be dealt with by humanity. We all need supernatural transformation and it is the Christian’s great honour to witness God taking people from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).

We cannot save ourselves and we cannot save others. But once we have been saved we bear witness to the truth of God as we have had it revealed to us.

This liberation from sin is also a liberation from self. Our friends and family members don’t  – thank God – rely upon us for their salvation.

We’re freed to spend our lives pointing to the One who spent His life for us.

What Would Make You Change Your Mind?

A friend and I were having a conversation recently. “I was so left,” he said, referring to his political persuasions. “That was my background,” he explained. “When I then, later on, began to ask why I thought that way, I began to change my mind on a few things.”

This interested me. My friend (now self-identifying as more moderately left) had examined what he believed, questioned why he believed it, and ultimately changed his mind under that examination. It was, I thought, an act of honesty and bravery.

Why We Believe What We Believe

I suppose we believe all manner of things for all manner of reasons, but many of the big things we believe are in large part shaped by our communities – our families, our friends, our colleagues etc. These social groups can produce strong feelings of loyalty, and to change our mind can sometimes feel like a betrayal of the people we are closest to.

There are of course natural break points in life where we are afforded chances to examine our beliefs. Going off to university for many brings a cessation – or at least a pausing – of old community ties and an introduction to new ones.

When our families grow – marriage, children, grand-children – we can re-evaluate a number of things closest to us.

But for most of the time we continue to operate as we have, more or less, always done.

Collisions With Reality

Have you ever noticed that within many sadness’s there’s often a secondary, deeper pain? When the man in his 50s is made redundant it is sad, and it is proper for he and you and I to grieve his loss. But the grief is made more protracted when this pain causes him to question his place in the world or lose his sense of value and purpose.

In another way, we might never think long about what happens after we die, until someone close to us passes away.

At the exact moments that our belief frameworks need to stand strong in the face of massive disruption, they all too easily collapse. Our loss then becomes total loss to us.

Testing Our Beliefs

Unless we want to run a similar risk to the man who suffers a heart attack brought about from poor diet and lack of exercise, we need to begin doing the right things now. We don’t want a shock in the future to cause us to think if only we had changed something in the past, the present would be avoidable or made more bearable.

Ravi Zacharias, the Christian thinker, is fond of saying that there are three ways we can test a belief or thought to see how strong it is.


Firstly: is the belief logical? Does it confirm to the laws of logic? Secondly: does it make sense? Does the belief contradict itself at any point? Thirdly: does it work? Does it fit with our observations of the Universe and our experience?

We can hold a belief for many reasons: it’s popular, or it’s traditional, or it’s new or fashionable. But there is only one good reason for holding a belief: is it true?

Faith and Truthfulness

It’s entirely possible to hold to beliefs that are true, but for bad reasons. A Christian, the Bible says, is to be prepared to answer questions of faith asked of him by anyone, and so the question is: do you know why you believe what you believe? And do you believe for good reasons?

Truthfulness is not just for the believer of course, there are many seeking truth that don’t see faith in God as a warranted belief. But if you don’t believe in God because you think the Christian position is not truthful I’d say, take another look and ask yourself, why don’t you believe? There have been many people who, upon second glances, have come to see that their reasons for not believing weren’t as strong as they at first supposed.

It takes an act of strength for anyone to change their mind. It’s humbling, sometimes humiliating, but when we take a step back and compare the value of our pride and ego against truth itself, well, the honourable pursuit of truth gleams much brighter than the dim bulbs of our own self-value.

A Christian Vision For Politics

The political landscapes of two countries I love greatly are currently swaying like a suspension bridge in an earthquake. On my side of The Pond a referendum on membership to the European Union is to be held this coming Thursday. The implications of this vote are potentially huge.

Across the Atlantic and, 8 years on from then-Senator Obama’s first successful run to the White House, the Democrats and the Republicans see gaping fault lines within their own ranks as they summon the courage to unite under banners they just simply can’t all believe in.

The votes cast in June in the UK and in November in the US could be hugely divisive.

The rhetoric being deployed to promote particular campaigns is much the same across the board. On matters like the economy, immigration, national security, and sovereignty we are told there are disastrous consequences if we go one way, and a terrible future if we go the other. We are informed that it is a bold move to vote [Out|In] or [Hilary|Trump] because [your choice] is the only way forward for our country. And Woe! to us if we vote [against your choice], for calamity is lurking at our doorsteps.

Searching for a Vision

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The Bible says it and we trot this out in at moments like this, to support a strategy and endorse an idea. We use this verse in our personal lives, when we feel that our our own outlook has stagnated and it’s time to refocus. We use this verse to help support the pastor’s strategy for the new direction of the church. And yes, we can use it when our national political viewpoint is contested.

And right now I think this verse is indeed apt, although not perhaps for assumed reasons based on first glances. This verse is not really talking about personal, church, or national strategies at all. It is talking about a revelation of God and His law to His people.

Interesting, this oft-quoted verse from Proverbs 29:18 is usually rendered in the King James vernacular (although we seldom use this version in our churches or personal study any more). The NIV says, “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint”, and the ESV puts it this way, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.”

The verse is really a warning to heed God’s commands, to follow the vision of the Lord because, as the second part to the verse tells us, “blessed is he who keeps the law (ESV).” If the Bible is God’s primary revelation, then nations who turn from it do indeed “cast off restraint” and unrestrained by this life-giving governance they drift, at best uncertain, and at worse under misguided zeal leading to despair.

Our Political Decisions Should Serve Us; They’ll Never Save Us

I am alarmed by what I see in our countries right now. I am alarmed by the state of the discussion, the level of conversation, the tactics being employed to convince swathes of voters to lean one way or the other. I am concerned by the standard of debate, because it so rarely seems to approach a state even remotely close to being generously termed ‘debate’.

The Bible I believe does speak about politics and Christians should be keen to get involved. Our politics should serve our human flourishing, something Christians ought to be deeply concerned with. Our politicians serve as our leaders, individuals the Bible without qualification tells us to pray for. The economy, immigration, national security, and sovereignty – not to mention the many other issues – concern people, concern the planet, concern a world that the Bible quite clearly demonstrates repeatedly that God cares for enormously.

Our politics are important because people are important, and people are important because God made them and made them in “His image”. We are immensely valuable, which means that the decisions that we make about our lives and our futures are indeed deeply important.

But politics won’t fix our broken world. A certain individual elected and given more power, or a certain decision reached over national governance, these won’t fix our world. Broken people voting for broken leaders with imperfect abilities and imperfect desires can’t bring us to the promised land.

The Bible tells us that the root problem in our world is not political, but moral. And that each person in this world is affected by the problem. Pardon me for sounding trite and overly-simplistic, but if as a nation we all got on our knees before God and repented for our individual selfishness and pride and pleaded for mercy would we not be more likely to be united?

If our individual hearts were more bent towards God’s would not our corporate gaze spot the injustices, the brokenness, the problems more quickly and act with greater compassion to heal them?

Democracy, moulded by Christian thinkers over centuries, seeks to restrict evil intentions and promote good; limit abuse and release healing. It acknowledges that the human heart is fickle and that humanity has a problem. It is not naive in thinking that all we need is a little more effort, a little more education, a little more this and that and we will see great happiness in our time. Nor is it pessimistic in thinking that people from all walks of life and from all beliefs can’t make a positive difference for us all.

Democracy is not a perfect system, but a system suited to a broken world. Democracy doesn’t change the core state of the world, but deals with the condition that we find ourselves in. Therefore democracy – or any other form of rule or government for that matter – will never heal our deepest wounds. The condition that affects us all is beyond our own ability to fix, and therefore all our efforts, of which our politics is a part, have no potency in the matter.

A Christian Vision for Politics

The issues before the voters in the UK and the United States this year are large. They are important and I believe we should get involved. How we do that and to what extent is probably a matter of conscience for each Christian.

As for me, I know I don’t pray enough for my leaders. I know I don’t know enough about the matters at stake. I know I’m not gracious enough in how I respond to different views.

So: pray more, learn more, and show more grace. That’s my personal Christian political vision going forwards.

Pray More

Prayer acknowledges that we have limits, that we don’t know everything, but that God does know everything.

Prayer puts me in closer relationship with the Creator of the Universe, who holds the master plan.

Prayer properly aligns my allegiances.

Prayer brings me to task over my shortcomings as I hold my life openly before God.

Learn More

We have a rational God who communicates to us rationally. Therefore Christians have affirmed the use of the mind for centuries (many great universities of the world serve as markers of rich historic Christian heritage).

We have a sure foundation for trusting our thinking, because we believe there is ultimately a rationality to this universe. We believe there are rational reasons to our existence – it’s not blind chance – and we can know them and communicate them.

This foundation supports our learning. Because we can know, we can learn. We have a firm base from which we love the Lord our God with all of our mind by increasing our knowledge and wisdom of the world and so bringing the mind of God to all matters around us.

Grow in Grace

If there’s one thing above others I ask for more of that my life might reflect more of God, it’s grace.

Extending deeper grace to others can only be supplied by my leaning on a deeper grace that I have received myself. To show more grace, I must rest on God’s grace more.

Too often I lean on my own perceived strengths and abilities, too proud to continue to acknowledge my unceasing need for grace.

To bend the knee before God to receive salvation by grace was a defeat to my proud soul. My old self is dead, yes. I have new life in Christ, but my soul does not always know this. I encounter acts of prideful rebellion that seek, with the passing of time, to justify that one act of humility by proving myself worthy.

My soul believes that Jesus death for me was deserved.

How utterly disgraceful. In grace we were saved, in grace we live our lives. By the power of Christ’ Spirit were we raised from death to life, and by the power of Christ’ Spirit we are to live this mortal life to His glory.

I need more grace, to give more grace. And more grace in how I deal with people is going to be more winsome and thus aid – nay, fuel – my goal to share my faith more than all my other designs and plans.

With grace and by grace Christians can enter the political fray, indeed any part of this created world, and demonstrate something of the nature and character of God who holds all the answers to all our problems.

Some of us are called to be politicians, some of us will campaign, some of us will pontificate on Facebook – all of us will give an account for our activities and will be asked whose kingdom we were building.

Reformation and Revival

The history of these two great nations is replete with times when after much prayer God poured out His Spirit – Revival – causing many to return to Him and the study of His Word – Reformation.

A people with a redeemed heart and a renewed vision of God’s truth have sought to inform politics, the arts, business, education – all areas of life – to demonstrate and reflect God’s great love for all that He has made.

If we think we’re beyond this now, know that there were those who went before who faced the same doubts. But by faith and great prayer and great effort much was accomplished that now stand as examples to us in history.

The challenges our countries currently face can be the alarm that awakens us to the need for a true vision, that spurs us to repentance, revival, and reformation.

I believe there is a present opportunity to bend the knee, call out to God, and by His grace add a chapter of success to our nations histories. Let us not miss it.


This post was first published on jonathansherwin.net

Always Be Prepared

Life is busy. Responsibilities and commitments rarely abate, and new challenges require our attention and focus.

This is in addition to our increasingly cluttered lives. Lives where the in-between parts are filled up by technology, media – digital distraction. Like water finding the cracks in a pavement, so our empty spaces so easily fill up with things that are just a click away.

I have known times in my life where I have suddenly come to the realisation that it’s been a while since I’ve stopped, prayed, read my Bible etc.. This wasn’t intentional, it just sort of happened.

I may have become aware of this rather gently: no dramatic incident in my life, just a realisation of something familiar that was no longer there.

These unassuming moments where I return to my private life with my Lord can mask the danger that may have just been averted. Perhaps there were slight feelings of guilt, or nostalgia, but it didn’t feel like anything bad really happened. I, or others, weren’t seemingly hurt from this lapse.

But something bad could have happened.

Spiritual Preparation

When Peter tells the church to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV) he is in part instructing the church to think through the reasons for faith: to be able, when called upon, to explain the basis for hope. But there is more to the defense of the faith than having all the answers. We must be spiritually prepared too.

There is no strong apologetic that is not rooted in relationship with God. The “hope” we proclaim is relational. God, come to earth, to redeem the world. Sharing Christianity is not only sharing reasons for faith, but includes an active demonstration of the relationship between God and us.

When we spend time with God in prayer, when we learn of His truth through the Bible, we cultivate a spiritual preparedness. We’re more on God’s wavelength, so to speak. Then, when we are presented with an opportunity to share our faith, spiritually we are much more informed. By being closer to God’s heart and His truth we are more able to share it more quickly with others.

Taking Stock

I am surrounded by devices. My computer, my phone, my iPad, they’re all close by. It’s so easy to either always be checking for the latest update, email, score, or, be informed of the latest photo, tweet, or post.

The technology is great. It serves me well, but only when it serves me.

I have found that it’s useful to, perhaps at the end of the week, ask myself some questions – and be honest – about how I’ve spent my in-between time. Have I been purposeful with it? Have I prayed, have I meditated on Scripture, have I been active in involving God in my life? Or have those spaces been consumed by distractions that have crept in?

(If you have a hard time being honest with yourself, ask your wife or someone else close to you for his or her honest thoughts on how you spend your time.)

It’s not a question of grading myself, but a decision to prioritise the most important things. It’s not a religious check list to make me feel good about my life, but I genuine desire to be more in communion with my God who has shown incredible love and grace towards me.

All of this is incredibly beneficial to me, individually. Walking closely with God has knock on advantages in all areas of my life. But the other side of this is that one day it might be incredibly beneficial to someone else who asks you for “the reason for the hope that you have”. You’ll smile, and begin to explain the reasons for this amazing God who were just moments ago talking to and thinking about. And that could make all the difference.

Hoping for Victory

I remember listening to the radio as Manchester United beat Bayern Munich in extra time to win the 1999 Champions League final. There’s something slightly magical about listening to a game, having to rely on the commentators description of the events unfolding before their eyes, reconstructing it in my mind. Perhaps it’s the extra effort required on my part to ‘see’ the game, that means it sticks in the memory that much longer.

The Liverpool v. A. C. Milan 2005 final, with that thrilling second half comeback before the penalty shoot out, is another that lives long in the imagination.

And now there’s another game to add to the list. On the face of it there was nothing special about this Premier League Monday-night London derby feature. Except that , this time, if Spurs lost to Chelsea, Leicester – the team that only months before were 5000/1 to win the league – would be champions with two games to spare.

I had listened in on the 1-1 draw that Leicester conjured up at Old Trafford the day before, slightly disappointed that they didn’t get the win there, but still believing they’d wrap it up soon. So Monday evening, as I pottered around the house, I tuned in as Spurs went 2-0 up against Chelsea. Tottenham’s form this year has been stunning, and Chelsea’s has been too, albeit for other reasons. So this was perhaps to be expected.

But then Chelsea pulled one back not long in to the second half and there was a rise in hope that, with just one more goal, tonight would be the night. The tension crept up as the second half progressed. And then Hazard scored; quiet all season but adds a line of his own to the incredible story of Leicester’s indomitable march to victory.

With just a few minutes left of the match, I found my wife and told her what was going on. She paused, looking up from her novel, and smiled. Earlier in the season when I was getting increasingly excited about a potential Leicester victory she told me that she was happy, but that she’d rather wait for the movie complete with the love-story angle added to it.

At 2-2 I could sense Spurs were fighting with everything they had, straining to find a way through and take the challenge to Leicester just a little bit further. The match was being drawn, between two sides I’m usually not that bothered by, yet it felt like Scotland were 1-0 up against England in a Euro final. The clock couldn’t tick down fast enough.

At the final whistle it was done. Leicester had won the Premier League and it felt like the whole world was beaming. I smiled, laughed a little, shock my head and went and told my wife. It was such a beautiful story, and a sorely needed injection of overwhelming genuine affection for the Beautiful Game. Leicester had done something truly remarkable in a world where we even fail to get excited about space travel anymore. Newspapers from countries that don’t even rank football in their top 3 sports ran headlines crammed with enough superlatives to compose a thesaurus.

‘Could they do it?’ we asked at Christmas. ‘It is possible?’ We wanted to believe it was possible, we wanted to hope that there was a chance for a team lacking the usually required financial punch, armed instead with grit and team-spirit, to defy the very worst of odds and make history. As the season progressed, the growth in goodwill from near-everyone else was matched only by the rise in belief that it could happen.

Hope soared on Monday night and carried a team, a city, and a legion of adoptive fans, to swirling heights.

The Bible describes those that know God as people who “dwell in hope” (Acts 2:26, ESV). Leicester’s remarkable achievements on the football pitch inspire and cause us to rejoice, but they also serve to remind us that the human soul is made for hope, to dwell – to live constantly – in a state of hope. This hope, from God, is of an assured victory of good over evil, love over hate, life over death.

We see dimly now, but one day we will perceive the unrestrained emotion of triumphant, glorious hope fulfilled across every inch of our lives and throughout the entire world. That’ll be some celebration.

Searching for Love

Searching for Love

Love is one of the strongest desires of the human heart. We sing about it, paint about it, and write poetry about it. Our TV shows talk about it. The Internet is full of it, and magazines tell you how they think you can achieve it. I have Shakespeare’s sonnets on my iPhone and The Notebook is available to stream online at any time should you so wish.

We love to talk of love and yet we live in a time when the largest single cause of death for a man under 35 in many Western nations – including ours – is suicide. Deep loneliness abounds. How do we explain this?

The world we live in today is more connected than it has ever been. We can send messages to other side of the world in just a split-second. I can chat to colleagues 10 time zones away effortlessly. I can stay connected with all my secondary school friends on Facebook and Instagram.

My favourite comedian – Billy Connolly – when he as filming a travel show for TV and was left alone on a polar cap for a night quipped, “There’s a difference to being alone and being lonely.”

Now wouldn’t you agree that there is something wrong in a world filled to the brim with messages and promises of love when at the same time there’s a vast amount of people drowning in despair without it?

A Shift in Culture

Things are changing in our culture. We get married later, if at all. It’s easier than ever to hook up … and break up. And who of us likes break ups? So we seek alternatives to mitigate the pain.

Maybe if we avoid the commitment we’ll avoid the grief. So, no-strings-attached then. We’ll move from romantic encounter to romantic encounter and avoid the sting that comes from hanging around too long. Except that this doesn’t seem to fix the problem either.

The British feminist author, Natasha Walter, wrote a book in 2010 called Living Dolls. In her book Walter explores the pressures many women face in this hypersexual culture to conform to image. Walter asks if our supposedly more enlightened culture is in fact in many ways robbing women, not empowering them.

More than ever, men and women today are incredibly free to do what we want with out bodies. Old cultural and social restraints have been replaced with an ‘it’s your body, do you want’ approach. But this new liberation hasn’t led to satisfaction for many. In the book, one 17 year-old girl, Carly, tells her story.

“It’s all casual sex now, nobody talks about love,’ she said … I wish I could have a real connection with a man. But there’s no courtship any more. That’s all dead. It’s just immediate. There’s no getting to know someone, you’re expected just to look someone up and down and make the decision just like that, are you going to have sex or not? There’s no time to build up to a connection. The idea is that you have sex first, but how are you meant to create the kind of excitement, the emotional connection, after that? I want to have an emotional connection with a man. I want it to be there with the feeling that I am equal to him. I do think I’m as a good as a man. But I don’t want just this no-strings sex stuff.”

Our appetite for our desires to be fulfilled can lead us to look for fulfilment in the wrong areas. Our desires crave fulfilment, but we must use wisdom to discern what is best for us. Our appetite for food, for example, cares not how it is fulfilled – only that we do something to address the hunger. But we know that if we choose the giant bag of Jelly Babies over a well-balanced meal, we will pay for it in the long run.

Life can leave many with an empty feeling inside, causing us to reach out for connection, only to find that our efforts for love and intimacy in the end leave us feeling even emptier.

In our deep desire for love we can rush head long after the feeling and in the process we can get make some bad choices. Bestselling author Tim Keller, says that:

“Our fears and inner barrenness make love a narcotic, a way to medicate ourselves, and addicts make foolish, destructive choices.”

Many of us will have at times made bad choices and experienced broken dreams. Small or large, things don’t always pan out the way that we want them to.

Broken Dreams

I have my broken dreams too. Today, I’m happily married to a wonderful woman whom I love greatly and who also loves me.

Before I met my wife there were a few other relationships which ultimately didn’t work out. Upon reflection they didn’t work out in part because in some cases I wanted too much from them.

I knew that I wanted love but I whilst maturing well in a few areas of life in love I was a like a toddler.

Foolishly thinking that my romantic gestures were genuine I didn’t realise that all my efforts were really just a way of showing love in order to receive love! I was living for those moments of acceptance based on how I made someone feel.

Well, I couldn’t keep with this. It wasn’t long before cracks began to show.

I longed to be loved. But like a 14 year old with a poster of a Ferrari on his wall who’s suddenly given the keys to an F12 Berlinetta there’s a world of difference between desiring something and knowing what to do with it when you have it.

Many relationships don’t last because we want too much from them. Perhaps you can relate? Out of desperation to be loved ourselves, we love someone expecting total fulfilment.

But hang on a moment? Have you seen these people we love?! Even the best of us let people down.

The reality is, that when we love something or someone who is not perfect and expect perfect fulfilment from them, we will always end up hurt.

Unmet Longing

One of the things that I get to do from time to time in Oxford is to take people around the former home of C. S. Lewis. Lewis – perhaps best known for The Chronicles of Narnia – lived in Oxford from 1917 until his death in 1963.

In part I think Lewis connected so well to his readers because his rich imagination tapped into our deepest longings, creating characters we could connect with.

Lewis knew of unmet longing. He once wrote:

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.”

So what do we do when our deepest longings remain unmet?

Lewis tells us that we have three responses to this longing for satisfaction from within:

1. The Fools Way

We blame something or someone else. “We reason that it’s not us that’s broken, but the objects of our desire that are faulty. Because whatever we are longing after is clearly not delivering, it shows us the problem is with the object of our affections.

So we ditch the girlfriend we currently have for another. We buy a better car. We take a bigger holiday. Upgrade to the stronger drugs.

People can live in this cycle of repeated disappointment for a long time, moving from one let down to the next, always believing that something will change and never stopping long enough to observe what is really happening.

2. The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Man’

We blame ourselves for not having our longings met. Clearly, I’m the problem: me and my desires. So, I’ll just grow up and get over myself. I’ll get over my silly desires.

This way of thinking actually spawned an entire worldview: Buddhism. The four noble truths of Buddhism tell us that life is suffering and suffering is caused by desire. To cease suffering, we must cease desiring.

It’s because we love that problems arise, so we tell ourselves to dial back those expectations and reign it all in.

3. The Christian Way

There is a third way. This option that doesn’t shift the blame or give up the game. The core of the Christian message is a message of love. That love is true, love is real, that love is to be given and to be received.

But in addition to that our desires to love and to be loved serve as a clue to a deeper love.

Lewis explains:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Lewis suggests that instead of thinking our desires are wrong because they are unmet, they are not fulfilled because ultimately we’re looking in the wrong place.

We All Want To Be Loved

Just before Helen (now my wife) and I first started going out and I was thinking, “hold on a minute, there’s something more going on here”, I found my senses went up couple of levels.

Suddenly I was paying closer attention to what she was saying and how she was acting. I was looking for those little clues that maybe these growing feelings of mine were mutual. As my heart began to catch up to the reality of this beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring and increasingly friendly person I started to wonder if she felt the same.

Well, soon we found ourselves on our first date. A quiet, little drink and then an artsy-cum-reflective-cum-depressing Italian movie. Winner. As I saw her come through the door to meet me my senses went into overdrive. My heart level was raised. My skin was tingly. The setting for our date quickly faded away and I just saw … her.

And then she said it. “Hi friend.”

It was brutal. Our date hadn’t even started and here at the outset Helen was clarifying that I was firmly in the friend zone. The drinks hadn’t been ordered and the intimate walk to the cinema in the drizzle hadn’t happened. I was shot down before I even took off.

But then I manned up, drank my drink, and soldiered on. ‘Damned if that would stop me’, I reasoned to myself. ‘To heck with it. I like this one!’

The date went well – really well. She even said yes to another one.

Well, the next week as I was picking Helen up from her house her housemate came home. I was sitting in another room and through the door I overheard their conversation.

“Hi friend.”

My heart soared! This is a greeting. This is a strange-Helen’s-house-friendly greeting! That’s all. I’m not in the friend zone!

The game was most definitely on.

Loving the Unlovely

It is a wonderful feeling to know that we are loved, but it is also scary. Being vulnerable doesn’t come easy to many. We wonder, “What if they find out who I really am?” “What if they don’t like what they see?”

For many of us we’d rather not be known, that be known and be found out to not be good enough.

The Killers put it this way in Sam’s Town: “I’m sick of all my judges, so scared of what they’ll find.”

When C. S. Lewis talks of our desires pointing the way to another realm he is talking of us – you and I – being wrapped up in a greater purpose. He is suggesting that we were made to connect to a greater source.

Our blog articles have been giving reasons to suggest that there is a greater source – God – and that we know him through Jesus Christ.

You might say that it’s all very well connecting my desires here to something – to someone – beyond this world. But how do I know that I will be accepted? Have you seen me?

The Bible tells us that God created us in love, to show us his love, and that in our mess he still chooses to love us. He came to earth as Jesus in order that we might know that He loves us. He died on that cross to fix the problem that prevented us from being in a loving relationship with him: the greatest single loving act the world has even known or will ever know.

The French emperor, Napoleon, said this about Jesus:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself have founded empires, but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love: and to this very day millions would die for Him.”

All You Need is Love

The Beatles sang that ‘All you need is love’. They say this:

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn
How to be you in time
It’s easy.

All you need is love …

They’re right. But where does that kind of love come from? A love that saves? A love that allows you to be all that you can be?

Something phenomenal would have to change in us to give us the ability to love, truly love, without return, and without fatigue.

Something has happened: his name is Jesus Christ.

The Bible says:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9–10, NIV)

God says, there’s nothing you can do to make yourself good enough for me. So I will make the first move.

The Bible tells us that God first loved us. Exactly as we are.

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, ESV)

Religions and belief systems across the world tell us we must behave this way, do this act, think this thought, or think nothing at all!

Whatever it is it’s that the onus is on us. We act first. But Jesus says come to me because I have first loved you.

What is love? Love is a commitment to the highest good of another. It is a commitment expressed primarily to you by your Creator who thought you up and brought you into existence in order that you might know Him and His love for you.

This love, which the Bible describes as the love of a perfect father, was committed to you from the beginning of time and has remained committed to you throughout your entire life. It is a total, unrestrained, nothing-held-back, inextinguishable passion towards you and He wants you to know it.


This article is an edited transcript from a talk Jonathan has given at several universities across the UK and Europe.

Searching for Truth (Audio)

Searching for Truth

In February 2016 I gave several talks at the University of Glasgow looking at some of our deepest desires – meaning, purpose, hope, truth, and love – and how the Christian message speaks to them.

On the Thursday I spoke on ‘Uncovering Truth’ in, rather fittingly, the university’s debating chamber. Here’s that evening’s talk:

Searching for Hope

Searching for Hope

It’s that time of the year again. American leaders square off against each other in a bid to win their party’s nomination, and then ultimately – with the approval of the majority of the nation – the job of President of the United States. It’s a time of campaigning, rallying, and slogan raising.

I remember 8 years ago watching the story of a junior senator narrowly winning victory over Senator Clinton in the Democratic Party presidential primary, and then ultimately going on to win in the November national election. Barack Obama swept to power on the tails of a campaign that caught the imagination of many.

The core of his campaign was built on a message of hope. A vote for Obama is a vote for change for the better, essentially. One of the lines from Obama’s acceptance speech to the Democratic Convention upon winning his party’s nomination stands out to me:

“When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.”

The rhetoric of his speech hinged around this statement, evoking feelings of despair that many connected with. ‘Boy, it does feel like nothing changes!’ ‘It sure does seem like it’s always going to be this way.’ Then from the pit the speech soars and captures the imaginations and intrigue. From hopeless, to hopeful. Courtesy of some very talented speechwriters.

Because even when it seems hopeless and despair is de facto, there is a very human desire to want to believe in something better. Some of the wonderful stories we see and watch – Slumdog Millionaire, The Shawshank Redemption for example – connect so meaningfully with us because they capture the essence of hope, and the ultimate objective of hope fulfilled.

Google defines hope as, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Hope

Hope is a wonderful feeling. I remember, when I was younger, I fell out of a tree on my Grandfather’s farm. I say I fell out, but really I fell through. A rotten branch gave way as I pulled myself up on it and I careened back to earth before I could let out a shriek. I didn’t fall from the tree to the ground so much as falling through the tree and all its branches to the fork in the trunk about 5 feet from the ground. And there I remained wedged, head down in pain and panic. My cousin stood there looking at me with huge eyes before he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll go get dad.’ A small feeling of hope briefly overcame the more immediate feeling of pain.

When the person in a car accident is told after the bystander has called 999, ‘Hold tight, help is on their way’ they are being offered hope.

That feeling of relief can sustain a person in dire circumstances, willing them to continue on. Which is why, when hope fades, so too, so tragically and so often, life does also.

When I felt hope, stuck in the tree, it was hope that my father and my uncle were near by and they would know what to do. They’d get me out. My feeling of hope was based on experiential knowledge. It wasn’t a disconnected hope upon by hope, but a solid expectation according to an experienced reality. Dad had been there before; Dad will be there again. For hope to offer true relief it must be connected to true reality. For when hope is not anchored in what is real, then with time and trial it fades. It was interesting to watch, over the years that followed Barak Obama’s first national victory, hope fade as many in America felt things didn’t go according to their expectations.

There’s a story in the Bible where a friend of Jesus, called Lazarus, dies. Jesus went to comfort Lazarus’ friends and family and finds Martha. Martha believes Jesus, had he been there, could have saved Lazarus.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”” (John 11:21–24, ESV)

The Jews had an expectation of hope that in the last day there will be a resurrection of all people. This great hope was a sustaining belief through troubling times that in one day, things will come good. The dead will rise and grief will be done away with.

To Martha’s hopeful declaration to Jesus that Lazarus “will rise again” Jesus says:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:25–26, ESV)

The Jewish belief that one day the dead will rise is of some hope to Martha. To this belief Jesus declares himself to be that very resurrection, and furthermore life itself. Jesus takes an abstract concept of a future hope and declares himself to be that hope. History will then play out his own death and resurrection, anchoring his declarations and challenging people the world over to explore his statements, inviting everyone and anyone to trust in him.

Jesus then asks Martha if she believes him, to which in verse 27 Martha affirms she does. This same question is asked of all of us, ‘Do you believe this?’

A true hope is something evidenced, that requires trust. Jesus offers himself as grounding for hope; a future promise backed by a historical foundation.

Christians have a firm basis for hope. The foundation to their belief is rooted in actual events that happened in this world (see our series on the historical facts of the Resurrection Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4).

Hope built on certain expectations does not disappoint. It is a wonderful life-affirming, future-expecting, confident understanding that becomes a hallmark of a true believer. It is truly thrilling and greatly desirable. For the Christian, the hope of Christ is what we have come to believe in and what we proclaim to this world. We have hope because of who Jesus is, and what Jesus accomplished. Now that’s a hope worth campaigning for.

Searching for Purpose

Searching for Purpose

I grew up following my father’s job around the country. Dad was a submariner in the Royal Navy, which for a young boy was the coolest job in the world. When dad would come back from patrol, smiling, in uniform, he’d carry that distinct ‘I’ve been underwater for a month’ smell. I loved it. Sometimes, when he was away, I would choose to sleep underneath my captains bed – in my mind mimicking a submariners quarters – and ever since I’ve always been comfortable in cramped spaces.

I don’t think I really minded not having dad at home when he was away at sea. As I grew up I came to think of dad’s job as special. Visits to HMS Neptune (the naval base on the Clyde) were turned in to contests to see how many sub-machine guns and Land Rovers I could spot. Little boy heaven.

I remember one day, watching one of the then brand new Vanguard class submarines out on the Clyde, spotting some protestors in little boats trying to make a nuisance of themselves. Back then, as now, the national nuclear deterrent was the subject of much controversy. Dad was watching with me and pointed out some smaller, darker boats. He told me that the people on those boats, armed to the teeth, fit as Olympic athletes, dressed in camouflage with green berets, made sure that the protestors didn’t get too close and cause real problems for the submarine. So who were these modern-day aquatic knights? These Defenders of the Nuclear Arsenal? They, said dad, were Royal Marines. And they, to me, were the second coolest men in the world.

So when, at 18 I was wondering what to do with my life, I thought I would become a Marine. Disillusioned by school and the seemingly purposeless path through higher education to a job, a mortgage, retirement, and death, I chose the Marines as my answer to life. I reasoned that joining the Marines wasn’t like starting another job. This wasn’t a 9-5 casual thing. I wasn’t to be a person, playing at a job during the day and living for the weekends, but a Marine: a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year identity that provided cool work from time to time.

And so I went off to Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, for a weekend of tests to see if they’d let me join the privileged ranks. During that selection opportunity I picked up an injury during one of the tests and didn’t finish the weekend. I was utterly deflated. This was the first time I had had an injury. I dodged them all through school, thinking that the other boys were faking them to get out of rugby practice. This injury undid me. I was made rudely aware that I was fallible. I was breakable. And what I didn’t realise then, but what I’ve come to see over the years, was that something much deeper was going on inside of me. At that time I was searching for meaning for my life. Something to make it all matter. Having rejected school and other pursuits, I set my goals on the military. When I fell at this hurdle I didn’t just come up short on one test, but flirted with the very edge of despair, toying with the fear that my life might just be, ultimately, purposeless.

Having talked to others since, I don’t think I’m alone in the realms men looking to things in life to define their existence. Careers, women, fun, toys, hobbies – we look to people and things to bring us an identity. So often these things, fragile and easily breakable, let us down. Failure in relationships or in work can lead to deep despair as lives built around shallow purposes collapse in bits.

To this problem the Bible offers us hope. Instead of looking to things on this earth to define our purpose, the Bible points to the person of Jesus as the doorway to all fulfilment:

“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:7–10, ESV)

Jesus’ story here, full of imagery familiar to his original listeners, depicts him as the doorway to the sheepfold. The doorway to the sheepfold was the way to safety and prosperity (if you were a sheep); it was the essential path to success. We – the sheep – to find life must go through the doorway that is Jesus. There’s no set of rules concerning careers or earthly relationships here. There’s no Buzzfeed ‘Top 21 Things You Must Do Lead A Purposeful Life’. Just an invitation to find fulfilment through the person of Jesus.

If the fundamental problem of mankind is that we’re missing something that we can obtain for ourselves, then we’ll find it in the things of this world. We’ll find it in work, relationships, possessions etc. But we, the collective we – humanity throughout the ages – have tried those things and have found them scarily susceptible to collapse given enough pressure. There are few things worse than thinking you have found the meaning to life and then one day waking up to find that it has been snatched away from you.

However, the Bible describes the fundamental problem of mankind as something that we can’t provide for ourselves. We are in a hopeless state, lost and cut off from our true purpose. It’s to this damned problem that Jesus offers hope. In dying in our place, for our sin, settling our account, reconciling us to himself – to God – by rising again and defeating death He offers us a purpose that nothing in the entire Universe can take away from us.

The passage above ends with Jesus offering us life, abundant life. Life to the fullest, were we can find purpose in our careers and our relationships and our possessions. Not in the essence of the thing, the object, but in the way that we and they reflect the purpose of God himself. We are free to be Marines, and husbands, and white water kayakers to the glory of God, knowing that it’s not in those things that we find who we are and what we’re worth, but it is in the saving act of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

Abundant life is the state of deepest freedom, which releases you to be all you were made to be.

Currently the BBC are running a great recap of on the classic FA Cup upsets of all time. Bradford, up against the mighty Chelsea, didn’t – according to many people – stand a chance. A mighty gulf separated the two teams in both league and class and the pundits and commentators on the day thought that it wasn’t case of who would win, but how embarrassing it would be for Bradford.

However, freed from fear and expectations Bradford played the game of their lives. In one of the greatest feats of Giant Killing the beautiful game has seen, Bradford were the epitome of freedom unleashed. That day they were freed to be all they could be on the football field, and the team took their chance. The rest is history.

We like Bradford can find freedom in a moment and taste something of a deeper reality that eludes us for most of the time. The choice before us then is between living for a moment to define our purpose, or letting our lives be defined by one person who releases us to a lifetime secured with ultimate purpose.

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