For us and for our salvation


It is no news that I love liturgy. Or rather, I love being excited about liturgy: I love the passion that still transpires through prayers crafted centuries ago. The Nicene creed has probably been said by billions of people (in various forms and languages) and is an example of such a powerful prayer. I’ll focus on one line:

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.


Icon of the Nicene Creed in the public domain

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven! It’s not abstract! It’s not “For the world”, or “for humanity”. The original Greek actually starts with “For us humans” – making it clear that “us” is not simply a byword for an abstract concept, but something deeply and utterly personal and communal. The same goes for “our salvation”, where the Greek ἡμετέραν is the emphatic form of “our” (although, admittedly, this form is far more frequent than its non-emphatic counterpart ἡμῶν).

More than that: it is for us and for our salvation that Jesus came down from heaven. Jesus did not simply come to be nailed upon a cross and provide salvation. No, he came first for usRedemption is not a cold, mechanical adjustment of a cosmic balance sheet. Penal substitution, without love, is nothing. There is a tendency, especially in evangelical circles, to focus too much on sin and thereby on the need for salvation through atonement. This focus is backwards: his love comes first. “For us” comes first, because it is only in the light of this love that the cross can  begin to make sense.

The Nicene Creed does not say “For our sanctification and for our salvation”, either. The Incarnation is Jesus coming down from heaven, to meet us where we are. This isn’t about meeting the potential, sanctified person we will end up being – no, it is about meeting us in the here and now.

But the Nicene Creed does not stop at saying “For us” – it recognises the importance of atonement. “For us” is where Christ meets us, “for our salvation” is where he takes us. In saying the Creed, we should be taken by this movement and filled with a hope that has no bound – a hope of salvation, grounded in the intimate knowledge of Christ’s love.

Next time you read the Nicene Creed, feel the passion and the involvement it invites: from the very first “We believe” to the final agreement “Amen”.

Relying on God: 5 useful facts

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The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful. I’m in the last straight line of my PhD, but there is still a fair amount to do. I’m moving to the Parisian region, where I have a job (and I’m thankful for that), but nowhere to live yet. I  had plenty of bits and bobs to sort out over these few days, including packing up everything I had accumulated over the past 4 years I’ve lived in Coventry; and trying to shed enough useless stuff so it would all fit in a few suitcases that I can carry on the train. I had to see a fair few faces to say goodbye to them (although hopefully not for the last time).

Not the best of times by a long stretch. I’ve felt very, very panicky at times, when I was contemplating how September would pan out. So I tried to remember what I preached; about finding God’s peace before moving into action. I really tried.


Photo: star5112, reused under CC license

But my brain would go into overdrive, and it took every effort to not give in to the panic. I even got physically sick one morning. Thankfully, those moments never last very long, because I immediately try to find God and His peace, and to stop being afraid.

The problem is that whenever the situation looks up – say, for instance, if I find the perfect accommodation offer, which is much much better than all I had seen so far -I use it to justify all the times that plans fizzled out before. Surely that accommodation was God’s plan all along! And when that fails too, well, I’m left with God failing.

I’m sure you can see how that sort of feeling might be an issue.

Still, there are some facts that make it all okay after all – some facts which allow me to fully rely on God:

1. God is sovereign. That means that He is in control of my circumstances – and that may be hard to see when everything goes to pot; but He also knows better than anything I can ever plan. So He is more trustworthy than anything I come up with.

2. He cares about me – as an individual. Which means He isn’t trying to get me to fail; and I’m sure that my temporary homelessness will serve another purpose than simply to get me to stress. And even if that’s the only purpose it serves, well, I’m sure that the stress itself will lead to growth and a whole new set of skills. (Although it is not helpful to read Job to affirm this  point…)

3. It’s not about what I do or did. It’s very easy to default to a karma mindset when things go wrong. Maybe I’m being punished for not reading my Bible as diligently as I should have. Maybe I’ve indulged in procrastination too much. The thought behind that mindset is that if I fix those problems, it will all get better. A karma mindset is a way for me to have a weird form of control over what is happening; and that leads to feelings of guilt and, ultimately, increases stress because it denies God’s sovereignty.

4. Being stressed is natural. It doesn’t feel nice, and I’d rather avoid it altogether; but there should be no guilt in fear of the future. Gideon was afraid; but God still reached out to him in his fear. Don’t be ashamed of your fear, and offer it up to God as well as what’s causing it.

5. Being fully reliant on God does not mean I shouldn’t search for flats through the secular means. It simply means that I should trust Him for the outcome of this search. On that note, if you know anyone renting out a place/looking for a flatmate in Saint-Denis,let me know I have now found a great place!

What does relying on God look like for you?

The Christian View


What’s the Christian view on homosexuality? What’s the Christian view on female leadership? What’s the Christian view on war?


Texture from Premium Pixels, where it comes with a very permissive free license

Sometimes, people ask these questions with a genuine desire to understand the worldview of their Christian friends. Sometimes, people ask these questions to be able to judge and label specific groups as homophobic/antiquated/liberal/hippies. People tend to be far too ready to answer these questions.

For the more controversial cases, some will call it the “Biblical view” – cunningly suggesting that those who do not hold the same view are automatically Bible-shunning heretics. In doing so, they are using the Bible to shut down a conversation, where it could be use to spark one. Others will suggest that the issue at hand is “secondary doctrine”. But calling something secondary is making a statement: you wouldn’t expect a Catholic to think of transubstantiation as secondary doctrine.

The three questions that I have started this post with have different levels of dissension within the mainstream Christian church. Same-sex marriage has been welcomed by Quakers and others, but adamantly fought against by some Evangelicals. Anglicans are a divided house when it comes to female episcopate. Quakers would see pacifism as part of their identity, but C.S. Lewis points out there is such a thing as just war. I would never dream to seriously suggest that Quakers, Evangelicals, Anglicans, C.S. Lewis, or Catholics aren’t Christians.

Does that mean that, in a post-modern way, there is no ultimate truth? Certainly not! Jesus says of himself he is the truth. Singular truth. There is no doubting, then, that there is one single truth. Some will say the Bible, as originally given, is the ultimate authority on matters of behaviour. But that is assuming that our access to the “original Bible” is unbiased and, somehow, superior to others’. Isn’t that both a display of pride and of judgement of others?

What then? Are we to shirk away from making any absolute statement? By no means! If you feel it is the case, do say that women should or should not be in leadership in the church. Do say that the Bible is against homosexuality, or is pointing towards acceptance of homosexuality. After all, what you believe may well be the truth! But in all cases, be prepared to listen to the other point of view; and in no case declare a view to make its holder non-Christian. Exclusion from the body of Christians is Biblical, but it always happens in conversation with the potential non-Christian. 

What is, then, the Christian view? It is a submissive worldview that sees Christ as King and Saviour. I am unwilling to restrict the Christian worldview by elaborating further on this. Yes, the Westboro Baptist Church share that view (I think). As do Christadelphians, Unitarians, Mormons, Anglicans, Catholics, Evangelicals. This minimal approach might not allow us to dissociate ourselves from those who seem to behave in a way that seems so unloving to us (although it does not mean we should seek to worship with them – other criteria come into play there); and so it might not be quite as comfortable. But it will, I’m sure, bring us closer to the truth.

The art of being interruptible in 8 steps


Modern life seems to have turned into a dichotomy between being busy (generally, “too busy”) and being bored (or at best idle). An empty slot on the schedule needs to be filled, and everything needs to be timetabled.

That means, generally, that genuine interruptions are not welcome. I’m guilty of this: there are many times I have turned someone away, saying “I’m busy”. But there have also been a few times where I haven’t, and they have on occasion proved to be life-changing, both for me and for the person who was interrupting.


Illustration: Sir John Tenniel, in the public domain

Being interruptible is good – I am utterly convinced of that. But it’s not easy when you live in a culture of strivers and achievers. It’s not easy to stop seeking busyness; and that means it’s not easy to be interrupted. So here are 8 things you can do to become interruptible.

1. Build interruptibility into your entire day. Keeping specific hours clear for any interruptions is not sufficient: you don’t know in advance when you’re going to be interrupted. Otherwise, you could have scheduled it!

2. Don’t compensate for interruptions by working longer.  If you do, all those little interruptions are going to nibble away at what you think you can do without. Prayer. Personal time. Family time. Entertainment. Ultimately, you’re going to hate all the interruptions because they mean losing out on what you enjoy. But in order to not have to compensate, you will have to anticipate that some tasks will take longer, or that you will need longer to recharge your batteries than you think. Ultimately, it might mean taking on less than what you could take on. Be happy with mediocrity: not because it’s good in itself, but because it allows you to welcome interruptions.

3. Be sensible about it. If you’re teaching, or leading a study, or in a meeting, the interruption is going to affect more people than you. In those cases where other people directly suffer from the interruption (and there’s no helping it), don’t allow interruptions. But if you’re planning a lesson, or writing a financial report, or a thesis, or carrying out any form of solitary work, you can finish that later – as long as you had planned extra time for it during the day/week.

4. Appear to be interruptible. There’s a massive difference between someone frenetically typing away at his computer, chain-drinking coffee, with headphones on; and someone who frequently moves and offers to make cups of tea for others, and engages in conversation. Keep your door open or ajar if you have your own office. If people think you’re never doing any work, or don’t know what that work entails even though they spend a significant amount of time with you, it’s working. It isn’t that pleasant when people joke about your apparent idleness, but it’s worth it.

5. Know when to cut the interruption short. There are at least two reasons to stop the person who’s interrupting you. One of them is inevitable work or personal commitments. The other is where you find you’re not helping the person who’s interrupting you: either you’ve been going in circles for a long time, or the issue requires your full attention and should really be scheduled. The issue with apparent idleness is that your interrupters think you have an infinite amount of time to offer them; so it becomes difficult to do stop the interruption graciously. The “I’m working” line gets dismissed, so I find I have to say it with a bit more anger than I would like to. If you have any pointers on that, please leave them in a comment.

6. Prioritise. Some people are more prone to interrupt you than others. It may be down to the seriousness of the issue, but it may also be that you’re going around in circles. Or the interrupter may be using your conversation as a way to avoid their own work, or for other secondary purposes, where there is no serious issue to be dealt with. Being interrupted for a friendly chat or a cup of tea is fine, but if it happens too often, others won’t be able to interrupt you when they need to.

7. Have backup plans for emergencies. There will be times when you won’t be able to deal with the interruption. It could be that you just don’t have the time, or that you find it too emotionally straining. Have a network of people who are ready to take over from you.

8. Don’t use interruptions as an excuse. Don’t seek out interruptions as a way to avoid doing the work you’re meant to be doing and still feel good about yourself.


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Slightly over a year ago, my friend Ed (after whom this blog is named) gave a brief presentation about repentance. This was at a graduation ceremony at the end of FORM, a discipleship year he undertook after university. I asked him whether he could rewrite it as a guest post for this blog. In his own words, “this would have been a lot easier if he had written it down in the first place”, but, a year on, it is here!


Photo: bradleypjohnson, re-used under CC license

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

FORM takes its name from this verse, which handily sums up one of the key things I learned about during the year – repentance. Repentance is a tricky word, because the way we use it in modern English does not correspond very well with the New Testament Greek word it generally serves as a translation for. Ask most people (or a dictionary) what repentance is, and they are likely to say something along the lines of “feeling sorry or regretful for past wrongdoings or sins”.

However, the word we translate as repentance – μετάνοια – comes from roots meaning beyond (μετά), and mind or thought (νοια). A simple way to put it might be a change of mind or belief. Literally, repentance is the renewing of your mind! This led me to some key realisations about what repentance is and is not:

  • Repentance is not feeling sorry for sin

Life would be pretty simple if Jesus’ command to us was to feel bad when we sin. I know I’d be doing pretty well, at least! Simply knowing our wrongness doesn’t give us the ability to stop being wrong.

  • Repentance is not primarily about our actions, but our minds

We humans have an amazing ability to focus on what we do rather than what we believe. But God is more interested in the hearts of his people. Repentance is not about feeling sufficiently sorry so that God will be satisfied with us. It requires us to humble ourselves and let God transform us.

  • Repentance is turning away from sin…

The previous point notwithstanding, there is an active element in repentance. Once we recognise our need to be renewed we have to change our behaviour in light of the truth, and keep on rejecting the temptation to go back to our old patterns of behaviour or to return to a stance of rejecting God’s truth.

There is more to repentance than just a rejection of sin. In fact, without letting God renew our minds, our attempts to reject sin only draw more of our attention towards them! Jesus said “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”. Repentance and belief go hand in hand.