Can I Get An "Amen"… Oh Brother…

Ok, so anyone who has ever read anything on this site knows I’m a Christian.

I hope.

But I tend to be a bit more chilled out than it may seem from some of my writing.

I write like I would speak at a conference. Or like I’ve heard people speak at conferences in the past. And there’s nothing wrong with it for me in that environment.

But I can’t take a non-Christian friend to a church that’s that way every single week!

I don’t like having to Translate for people I take with me.

I remember the first very “evangelical/charismatic” church service I was taken to. I’d been a Christian a couple of years but I was still only about 14 or 15 at the time, and had only known the Church of England up until then, I thought these people were out of their minds.

The preacher kept asking “Can I get an ‘AMEN’?” from the congregation.

I kept wanting to ask “Why?”

These preachers who have to ask bug me when it’s every week.

Conferences are different. You don’t know the group. They don’t know you. So it’s different at a conference. The crowd comes from all backgrounds and all walks of life, every colour, accent, race background you can imagine all there for one reason – to hear you talk about Jesus. It’s a VERY different experience.

But every week?

Oh Brother!

I took a friend who had been moving towards God to church a few times in England. Then we went to a cell group with his girlfriend – who hadn’t been to church with us.

He was fine, but the girlfriend was completely freaked out. She’d never been to church of any kind, and even a friendly and laid-back “charismatic” setting was too much for her.

And we only had one “can I get an ‘Amen'” in the meeting – ironically from me!

We need to be salt and light to the World. That means they need to understand us.

Jesus drew the most broken people to Himself. Prostitutes. Shepherds. Tax collectors.

In modern society it would be the drug addicts, hookers, bikers, “gangsta” types that He’d reach. Exactly the people so many “evangelical” churches push away with the self-righteous crap they spout.

Their are certain moral absolutes that the World expects us as Christians to overlook today. Sexual immorality – and I’m not only speaking about the LGBTetc extreme here. Sex before marriage has crept so subtly into everyday society that many churches don’t even think to mention it. Not long ago divorce would have ended a local pastor’s ministry following an affair. These days it’s barely a ripple in a high-profile “evangelical” ministry leader’s resumé to be divorced.

The issue is the way the church’s self-proclaimed recruiting branch – the evangelicals – spends the majority of its time behaving in a way that actually drives away even genuine Christians because they can’t relate to the condemnation that pours out of the pulpits.

Again, don’t get this wrong. I’m not endorsing homosexuality, infidelity, promiscuity or any other form of sexual sin. That’s what it is: sin.

Equally, you won’t find this site endorsing greed, selfish ambition, vanity or any other sin.

Sin is self-worship. That’s why it drives a wedge between us and God. We are designed to worship. We all do it. Everyone worships something. Be it Christians, Muslims, Hindus or atheists, everyone worships something.

That’s why the whole “Can I get” gets under my skin. It smacks of worshipping the speaker rather than the speaker pointing to the Lord. And it’s so subtle the way it has infiltrated the “evangelical/charismatic” branch of the church disguised as some kind of Godly behaviour. But it needs a translator to understand it, and it alienates anyone not in that group.

Jesus came talking about sheep to shepherds, lost coins to widows, fish to fishermen and judgement to Pharisees – the judgemental.

He met people where they were. Even when they were dead.

How simple would it be for us to do the same? He saw the hurt in the Samaritan woman at the well. Just think about the story for a moment.

You can find the story in the whole of John 4. It’s quite long so rather than reproduce it here I’ll add it as a link here.

But here’s the breakdown. Jesus sits down a noon. It seems innocuous to us. But this is Samaria. A Jew sitting down in a town in Samaria. At the hottest time of the day.

The woman comes to the well, carrying a heavy water-jar. Again, it seems to our modern world. But this is 2000 years ago. Mid day was not a time to go and fetch water. But this woman comes now. Everyone in the town knows her story. Her heart must have sunk as she sees a stranger sitting on the wall of the well.

A Jew. She’s a Samaritan. She knows what they think of her just for being a Samaritan. Quislings. Impure. Worse than a tax collector.

So she sighs and goes to the well. Broken down. Broken hearted.

Then Jesus speaks to her.

She must have almost died of shock. Firstly He’s a Jew. Secondly He’s a man. This breaks so many “rules” it’s impossible to list them all.

He asks for water. For Him to ask for water from her is as likely as Him asking for a pork chop dinner. She’s a Samaritan!

She draws the water for Jesus. She probably expected Him to use it to spit on her. But her curiosity is peaked. I love verse 9 in “The Message”:

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus doesn’t care about convention. He tells her she should rather be asking Him for Living Water – eternal Life.

For a moment, she is confused. He has no bucket, no rope, nothing to draw water with. After all, He just asked her to give Him a drink.

Jesus explains, and for the fullness I look to the Amplified translation of verse 14:

But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water [satisfying his thirst for God] welling up [continually flowing, bubbling within him] to eternal life.

She’s all but forgotten her initial fear now, and asks Jesus for the water He offers.

I’d love to see the look on Jesus’s face. A thirsty heart, here in Samaria. Looking for Him, the Messiah. One who truly loves His Father. I can imagine the twinkle in His eye as He sees her heart open to everything the Father offers. His playful nature shining through His smile.

But she misses it for a moment. She doesn’t see the twinkle as Jesus says “Fetch your husband”. Her heart breaks. But there’s something different in Him.

She could have said “He’s out of town”. Or “He’d be in the fields now”. Or any number of other things except the truth.

But she tells the truth. “I have no husband”.

Well, part of the truth anyway. She’s coming to the well at noon to avoid the accusations of the other women. She’s living with a man who won’t even give her his name, but he must have been taking a “husband’s” pleasures. Giving herself to a man who refuses to enter a covenant of marriage because she believes for whatever reason that it’s all she’s worth.

The town harlot. Condemned by everyone in the village. Jesus is the first person she’s met in years who speaks to her with respect, who doesn’t instantly judge her. Who isn’t repulsed by her presence. So a half-truth will suffice. The stranger doesn’t need to know she’s “sexually immoral”. He can just think she’s unmarried, or a widow. No need to rock the boat of this man who’s treated her with decency.

But Jesus knows already. “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.” (The Message)

Her heart must have broken even more, but she tries to deflect. “Oh, you’re a prophet?” Quick, change the subject before it gets ugly – after all, she still needs to draw the water.

You [Samaritans] do not know what you worship; we [Jews] do know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshippers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:22-24 Amplified

He calls her out again. It’s not about where you worship. Samaritans don’t know the truth.

But there’s no judgement in His words. She replies that she’s looking for the Messiah.

The absolute Joy Jesus must have felt when she said that. The delight in His heart as He says ““I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”” (verse 26, The Message)

Then the disciples return. They must have been used to the unusual by this point. It may only be chapter 4, but they already know by what already went down that Jesus is not your average bear. After all, He already turned water into wine – a lot of wine – in Cana, drove the traders out of the Temple in Jerusalem, prophesied His own Resurrection, and begun His miracle ministry.

But this is still a shock. He’s talking to a woman. No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman in public – especially a Samaritan woman. But they know well enough to keep their mouths shut about it.

The woman runs back into town telling everyone about her encounter with Jesus. The Message says in her confusion she left her water jar, but most of the others just say she left it. She came to the well with a burden, literally and spiritually, and runs back into the town with neither.

There’s a parallel here with the day of the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, is the first person to declare the Resurrection. Here, the town harlot is the one to reveal the presence of the Messiah.

But Jesus never once asked if He could get an “amen” from the crowd…

OK, Now What?

Second Thoughts

So it’s official. Donald Trump has been elected to be US President until 2020.

One of the reasons I’ve been quiet for the last month on this Blog has been the US Election. I have some personal stuff going on as well, but my personal stuff left me with insomnia – which I have always used as a great time to write without being disturbed.

Not the last month.

I’m not a Hillary supporter. Let me get that straight from the start. Socialism and Christianity don’t blend well – just ask the First Century Jerusalem Church that tried to look after everyone and ended up being supported financially by the churches from around the ancient world. They had all things in common – which is actually a good thing. They gave to each as they had need – which is a VERY good thing.

But those who had property sold it to provide for those who didn’t have anything. The problem with that is you can only sell your house once. Then you end up being the person in need because you give away all your value from selling your property and, oops, you have nothing so now others need to provide for you.

That’s not smart.

I’m not a fan of capitalism either. Not in the way it’s been pushed in the last 40 years.

What we call “capitalism” is actually greed. It’s the worship of Mammon, plain and simple.

moneyAnd Trump is the embodiment of that ethos. The philosophy he has demonstrated is one of pure self-interest. Every time it’s looked like he might personally lose out he’s declared bankruptcy to protect his own fortune rather than let receivers come in to manage the business and protect the employees. His self-claimed “worth” of billions is debatable when you offset his assets against his debts.

No, what we call “capitalism” is not related to Christianity.

A few years ago, my wife and I were house-hunting. We drove around one area of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs looking for houses on show, going and looking at a few. We drove down one road and found it was a cul-de-sac, leaving turning round the only option. I turned the car and as I completed the turn found there was a large dog standing in the middle of the road blocking my exit.

Normally the procedure is straightforward. You move the car around the dog, it barks at the wheels and you drive away.

This dog was different though. As I turned the car to my right to pass it, it ran to it’s left – blocking my path. So I turned to my left – yep, it ran to it’s right and blocked me again.

Then it sat there and you could see the look in it’s eyes asking itself a simple question…

“OK, I caught a car. What do I do with it now?”

After about ten minutes of dodging about it gave up and went inside it’s house. As we passed the gate it was lying down looking very dejected. Apparently catching a car wasn’t everything it had expected it to be.

Enter 2016.

First we had Brexit. For personal reasons I support the departure of my home country from the EU. But the people who were leading the exit movement are not people I would want babysitting for me. The main “leaders” of the exit movement declared victory and then ran away, leaving the actual strategy for the separation of England from the EU to be drawn up by people who didn’t want to leave in the first place.

It was a place where an electorate voted on an issue it doesn’t properly understand based on rhetoric and empty promises made by sociopaths. Frankly in 1000 years of British history it was the best example I’ve seen for returning to having the monarch have absolute power in the country – at least while Elizabeth II is still Queen.

I didn’t think anything could compare with the fallout. The racism, sexism and xenophobic hate speech spewed forth in England’s green and pleasant land in a way I’d never dreamed could happen. Trump visited Scotland and said how delighted he was that Britain had voted to leave, and I realised that while my personal concepts of why Brexit was the right thing were solid in my convictions – the ability to re-establish open trade with Commonwealth countries, strengthening both their and Britain’s economies and helping poorer agricultural societies benefit from the wealth of the industrialised ones, Britain could rebuild her manufacturing industries and export goods, while importing food and raw materials from poorer nations at a fair price and allowing them to prosper as a result.

That was my expectation. The reality is I’m nervous to go back to my home country now because my wife is a foreigner there. Of course, as a white man in South Africa today I’m nervous to stay here as well.

Then came the real movement of the US election campaign, and the terrifying realisation that the GOP candidacy wasn’t some practical joke. The idea of a presidential candidate being able to say and do what Trump has done in the last six months makes Brexit look like a welcome movement for foreigners, especially from the Middle East.

Which brings me back to the title.canadasitecrash

Now what?

The Canadian Immigration website was crashed by the sheer number of enquiries trying to logon through the night as Trump’s numbers moved towards victory. Americans are looking for ways to leave America in response to the election – even before it was finalised.

What next?

Now Christians must rise up.

Huh?

Christians must rise up. We – all of us, not just Americans – need to pray for America. Trump will be the de facto leader of what was once a “free” world. We need to hold him accountable. We need to hold May accountable in the UK as well.

Christianity is under fire in the West. But the ones doing the real damage are those depicted as “christians” in the media. They are the ones wearing the hoods, burning

klan-1
Nope. Not Christians…

crosses on people’s lawns. The media and “progressives” depict those who are prepared to put their homes, livelihoods, careers and families on the line for what they believe as cranks and crackpots in the West because Daesh is cutting off people’s heads in the Middle-East. They don’t recognise financial persecution as persecution. They disregard it as inconvenience. They belittle the persecuted as being the aggressors.

The reality is there are other bakers to make the cake. There are other venues to hold you ceremony. People sue because they want their rights to be “equal”, but the reality is these people want their rights to be superior. Increasingly, Christians are forced to bow to the pressure of society and accept the “progress” that is 03382-atheismbeing made. Evolution – a theory – is taught increasingly as though it were a proven absolute, while another (in scientific terms) theory – Intelligent Design – is not only dismissed with no consideration, it is actually banned from scientific consideration in a classroom. Atheistic agendas are forced on us as though they are proven absolutes and we are forced to capitulate every day.

Children as young as five or six years old are now exposed to sexuality in a way unthinkable for teens to be exposed to just half a generation ago.

I have a dear friend in her mid twenties who dropped into conversation that she had problems talking to her mum because of the “generation gap” between them. We talk freely and openly about many things including God, faith, relationships and a host of other topics as equals. Peers. We may differ on what we consider “contemporary” music and “recent” movies to be, but on really important matters we are a similar way of thought. I asked her more about her mum and to my amusement (and slight terror) discovered she is one week older than I am.

I’m a child of the seventies. I grew up before computers were a part of every home, if you were out and you needed to call home you needed a telephone booth and the internet didn’t exist yet. The web was what a spider made on the hedge, phishing was a spelling mistake and that poor guy in Nigeria had no way to contact you about getting his $28 million out of the country through your bank account. Junk mail came from Reader’s Digest, and spam was a type of processed meat.

Somehow with less technology it was easier to believe in God. It was easier to stand up for your Faith 30 years ago in the West because if you did, you didn’t get shouted at instantly by 2 billion outraged people arguing with you or posting pictures of a small red face to you, or the other 2 billion shouting in agreement and posting small yellow faces to you. The other billion people on the planet didn’t know or care what you’d said.

Today there are nearly double the number of people on the planet – fields ripe for harvest – but fewer harvesters per capita than at any time in history. “Mainstream” denominations are in decline and it’s hard to get through the static to anything with real substance. I remember the intensity of “The Terminator” when I first saw it – in 1988. I was too young in 1984/5 when it was made. T2 was more intense. Recently, Terminator: Genisys was released. There is a chilling message in it about our dependence on technology. In the thirty years since the original, we have reached the level of technology in our lives that everything is inter-connected wirelessly.

Everything except us.

So: What Now?

Perhaps we need to reflect on the events of 2016 in light of a bigger picture.

A few respected entertainers died. There are wars and rumours of wars around the world. Where only 250 years ago we looked to kings and princes who were there by birth but lived and died nonetheless, now we look to presidents and prime ministers. “Leaders” died and were born/elected. 80 years ago the rantings of a short dark-haired lunatic allowed a decent people to become whipped up into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of about 4 years. Today the rantings of a small-minded orange lunatic have whipped up a basically decent people into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of a year or less. But if we look back, about every 100 to 150 years for the last thousand there has been some – usually short – crank whipping up a people who were basically decent into a frenzy about something. Whether it was Donald this year or Napoleon, Hitler, or any of the nut-jobs before them, they appear as pebbles in a stream. This year will be no different.

A few weeks from now we will mark the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. And almost everyone will forget. They won’t say “2017 years since what?” More entertainers will die. More leaders will rise and fall.

But the Gospel has been a constant. Like the North Star, it stays fixed to guide us home.

Ten thousand years from now, we won’t care about the US Election of 2016. But the Gospel of Jesus will endure. The candle of True Christianity demonstrating an unchanging God who Loved us so much He took on human form and allowed His creation to hammer iron spikes through His wrists and ankles, who allowed His own bodyweight to suffocate His body and die in agony, who rose from the dead. That Gospel will endure. That candle will flicker on, sometimes dimmed, but never extinguished.

For us what’s next is getting on with this day. We are none of us promised more than this heartbeat. So as Christians, what’s next is living this heartbeat for Jesus, demonstrating His love through our actions.

Loving the unlovely.

Forgiving the repentant.

Welcoming the stranger.

Healing the sick, raising the dead.

Giving Hope to the Hopeless. Food to the hungry.

Living out our relationship with Jesus in as authentic a way as possible so when we are met with hate – and we will be – people will notice how we respond with Love. When we are met with anger – and we will be – we respond with Peace.

Where we are met with Persecution – as all who live according to Christ Jesus will be – we respond with patience, forbearance, strength, Faith, Hope and Love.

Now what?

Now we must Love.

As He Loves us.

Standing Up

Being a Witness for Christ isn’t always easy.

In fact, in today’s climate it can be downright precarious.

The biggest issue right now is understanding the idea of “persecution”.

Huffington Post recently ran an article titled “8 Countries Where Religious Freedom Is Actually Under Attack”, the understanding being that persecution does not happen in the West, especially America, because nobody holds a gun/sword/knife to anyone’s throat/head and tries to force them to deny their faith or die.

And if that is all you understand persecution to be then they are right.

But 2 Timothy 3:12 says:

Indeed, all who delight in pursuing righteousness and are determined to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be hunted and persecuted [because of their faith]

(Amplified)

So we are faced with the need to redefine persecution. No, maybe decapitation and baking a cake are not physically the same. I’m not saying they are. But where is the line? What makes someone a sufferer of persecution?

Any action which forces someone to adhere to a rule that contravenes their belief in Christ can be deemed persecution. I admit, the clerk who refused to issue the marriage license was not my favourite person, but it was a valid stand she took. When she accepted the job, same-sex “marriage” was not an issue. The terms changed after she began working there. She was not the only person, surely, who could issue the license. So why was she forced to violate her beliefs for the sake of someone else’s or lose her job? Similarly, the couple who declined to provide a cake did so because of their beliefs. By standing by their faith over the hypocrisy of the World that tried to force them to provide their service to someone standing in opposition to their sincerely held beliefs, they have lost their business and reputation.

How is that different to the Romans forcing a sacrifice to Mars or Venus 2000 years ago? They lost their means of putting food on the table, paying for their homes, cars and any other obligations they may have had.

Because they stood up for what they believe in. They weighed the possible outcome – loss of their material goods – against what Christ said “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV). They chose to follow this command rather than compromise.

Western Persecution is insidious in nature. It convinces people that if there are actual demons they’re all in the Middle East or Africa. More often it presents itself as “reason”. “Logic” dictates that the resurrection couldn’t be true. And logically it’s crazy to think. But consider for a moment that at least 120 people saw Jesus after the crucifixion. The sightings were noted by non-Christian sources such as Pliny and Josephus. The disciples were prepared to die for the sake of not shutting up about it. In fact, of the Apostles (including Paul), 11 out of 12 were executed for talking about it. Only John died of old age, but wait: he lost everything financially that he had and died in exile. He was no longer a fisherman with a boat. Talking about Jesus and refusing to compromise cost him his business first.

Sound familiar?

Things never start at maximum throttle. Any movement trying to derail Christianity will first have to undermine the idea of Christianity. So a Just God becomes a “Loving God”, which He is, but then the idea gets warped. We end up with “How can a ‘loving God’ condemn people to Hell?” and rather than point out the system of Free Choice He set up in the Bible it gets capitulated into “He wouldn’t” and POW there goes the need for repentance. Everyone suddenly gets a “Get Out of Hell Free” card and so there’s no fear of the coming wrath and judgement. It’s been going on so long now that we can’t grasp the idea that there can be a coming Judgement. Next, trivialise the ideas. Armageddon and Judgement Day are suddenly movie titles with Bruce Willis and Arnie, and Satan looks a lot like Gabriel Byrne.

We are living in the situation where we see people expecting Salvation without sacrifice, Christianity without Christ, Forgiveness without repentance and heaven without hell, just like William Booth predicted. What began as a minor blip is now the substantive belief system of the majority. Alarmingly, many evangelicals are stuck in it as well. It may be what makes Trump’s cohorts so dangerous. They at least recognise there’s something wrong. (No clue how to fix it, but it’s a start!)

So what do we do?

Firstly, we must look at ourselves. Examine our own life and get any plank out of our eyes. It’s not easy, but if we are going to be Ambassadors of Christ it is absolutely essential.

Secondly, quit compromising. True, not everyone who disagrees with us is persecuting us, but equally true, it doesn’t mean none of them are. If standing for Christ will risk everything it might just be the right thing to do.

Finally, brace for impact. We need to anchor deep to weather the storm coming. So many Christians I’ve met have fallen silent at best and away from God completely in some cases because they have never built ready to weather a storm. The storm itself cannot kill us. It cannot take what is most precious, but we can surrender it. It is vital we don’t quit when things get tough. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesian 6:13)

Stand firm and be a Witness of Jesus Christ.

It's [Not] Complicated…

Complicated and Confused

The biggest issue I hear when I tell people I’m a Christian is “Isn’t it terribly complicated? I mean, there’s all those things you can’t do.”

The hardest thing about my Faith in my experience is explaining how simple it actually is. Most people seem to think Christianity is either irrelevant – which is ok because they have a clear idea of what they’re rejecting – or similar to the Gordian Knot in it’s complexity.

In point of fact, Christianity is a very simple system. It goes something like this:

  • God is a just God.
  • He gave Adam one “don’t” instruction and told him the consequences of breaking it.
  • Adam broke it.
  • Rather than wipe out all His creation and start over, God chose to take His own punishment on behalf of Adam’s descendants.
  • He gives us the choice to accept His gift or reject it.
  • Acceptance makes us right with Him for eternity
  • Rejection means we face His judgement.

The issue most people today have is trying to deal with the thought that a Loving God will send people to Hell.

Mostly this is avoided by simply not believing in Hell. It makes it easy because people stop seeing consequences to their actions. The death penalty is no longer an effective deterrent to criminals in part because they have no concept of what lies beyond. Consider how in the USA the number of mass shootings end with suicide by the gunman. There’s no fear of an eternal consequence for their actions.

3909d-william2bbooth

William Booth spoke of the

consequences we face today at the turn of the 19th Century.

He was largely dismissed at the time as people couldn’t imagine a world where his predictions could happen.

Within 2 decades the First World War broke out and Western society changed forever. Just 21 years later in 1939 the Second World War took out the second consecutive generation of young men on a global scale and the change was effectively complete. By the late 1950s and early 60s the concept of Hell was all but dropped by most preachers. Many wouldn’t touch it because of the experiences so many had had during the War, either by bombings or on the battlefields of Europe and the Far East. Korea and Vietnam didn’t help, and the concept of “Hell on Earth” became popular and having been through it, Heaven would surely be the reward for everyone.

Now Christianity is straightforward, but not that simple.

Christianity is such a straightforward offer that it requires special talent to misunderstand it. Unfortunately, there is much of this talent available.

God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He is undoubtedly a God of order. You can’t look at the way the planets rotate or how perfectly a honey-bee is able to draw the nectar from a flower and truly doubt the perfection of His design. Such design can only be achieved through order.

Yet somehow Christianity has been relegated to a “get out of Hell free” card in some transcendental monopoly game. So often there is little, if any, sign of Power in Faith. I’m not talking about political power, but real life changing power as the Disciples showed.

Over the last 2000 years there have been times of growth and times of stagnation in the Christian Faith. Every time of growth has corresponded with a return by a significant group to the simple, basic Truths of the Faith that have been central since Jesus’s time.

Capitec, a small bank in South Africa, advertises with the tag-line “Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication.” It’s true. The theory is sound. The simpler things are, the better they work.

Compare the simplicity of Christianity with the legalism of Islam. Eat anything because it’s what comes out of our mouth that shows us to be clean or unclean. Pray without ceasing, facing any direction you want and don’t worry if you didn’t bathe first – just talk to Me. Don’t rely on your own efforts to be “good enough” to get to Heaven, just rely on Jesus to be good enough and let Him bring you in.

I have several friends who are Muslim. We don’t often discuss religion as with some it has caused offence in the past. These days I lean more to living Christianity around them and let them ask why I’m doing what I do. It’s difficult, but I’ve always struggled with the people I’m closest to in terms of “evangelising”. I’m not a natural evangelist. On the few occasions we have spoken the differences between our faiths is stark. During Ramadan I spoke to one friend about fasting. She asked how fasting differed for Christians from the Muslim fast. I explained that when I fast I fast for a few days at a time. During that time I will eat nothing and drink only water and tea. She asked me what time each day I stopped. I explained that I didn’t. Fasting is total abstinence from food 24 hours a day while I fast.

She nearly fell off her chair. Not being able to eat at sundown was beyond her comprehension. She asked how long I have to fast for, what the “requirements” were. Again, it was obvious that my response was a surprise. I know people who have fasted for three weeks or more in that way, and some who fast just a day or two.

The freedom from a legalistic requirement on how and when to fast or pray is integral to the concept of Relationship in Christianity. If Alexander Graham Bell had been around in First Century Jerusalem, I’m 100% certain Jesus would have likened prayer to a personal call to God from His children – and He was just waiting for it to ring. The Bible was the call to us, kind of like an answerphone message, begging us to call Him back.

My mum tends to phone me around 8:30pm most nights. If I can’t answer for some reason she leaves a message and if its not too late I call her back. But I can call her or vice-versa at any time during the day. Imagine if I could only call or receive a call at a specific time from a phone plugged in to a particular socket. That wouldn’t be relationship, it would be ritual.

Jesus is all about relationship. His purpose was to restore Relationship with the Father by His sacrifice. The breaking of the legalistic requirements of the Law by completing it was the method. The point of the Law was to show mankind that we could not make it to God ourselves, but rather to point to Him as the one we needed to receive salvation. Any religion that then takes us back to following a set of rules instead of the freedom of Grace confuses and complicates our existence.

There are rituals in Christianity. The most obvious is Communion, but while it is important, the point is not transubstantiation of the sacraments, but rather the symbolic being part of Jesus and Him being part of us. The ritual isn’t supposed to replace the relationship, but remind us of the reason – Relationship.

Simple, clear and plain.

It’s really not that complicated.