Tuesday, 26 June 2012

New Job!

One criticism/suggestion I've occasionally had about this blog is that I don't write enough about my own life, so here goes!

Yesterday I handed in my notice at BJSS, where I've worked as a Software Developer (i.e. Computer Programmer) for nearly 13 years, and in just under a month I will be starting a new job as an Application Developer (pretty much the same thing) for Christians Against Poverty (CAP).

For a long time I've wanted to use my computing skills to do something I really believe in, and for me this is a perfect opportunity. CAP are a sizeable organisation with growing and changing I.T. needs where it looks as though my skills and experience will come in very useful.

CAP are also a charity, dedicated to helping those who are struggling under the weight of unpayable debt. This means I get to spend all my time during work hours helping to make the world a better place by doing something that makes a real difference to people's lives. For me, this is far more motivating than writing trading, pricing and reporting systems for banks and finance companies, which is a large part of what I do at the moment. I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to do this, and to make a living out of it at the same time!

As you might expect, the salary is a little less than I'm used to, but CAP value their staff very highly (they have won the Sunday Times "Best Small Company to Work for" award twice in the last few years) and pay well for a voluntary sector organisation.

There are also some technical challenges, in that charities tend to use different technologies to businesses, so I have some new skills to learn which may not be as useful to me if I decide to go back to a commercial role in the future. I will enjoy learning them though, and CAP are keen to do what they can to help me keep my other skills up to date.

I share one other passion with CAP, which is a desire to share the central message of the Christian faith as widely as possible! CAP are an overtly Christian organisation, are keen to share this message and do so when appropriate with any clients who want to listen. They are not into forcing this message on anyone, and aim "to ensure that nobody receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, nationality, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation or disability" (https://www.capdebthelp.org/en_GB/clientfaqs), but many clients do find faith in God through their work, and they have some incredible stories of those whose lives have been transformed - emotionally and spiritually, as well through finding freedom from debt.

I have enjoyed my time at BJSS (well, mostly anyway!), and have worked with many great people on some varied and interesting projects. I feel sad to be leaving BJSS and will miss it and the people I've worked with, but am also excited about finally having an opportunity to do something I've wanted to do for so long, as well as grateful to BJSS for providing me with the experience that has made all of this possible.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


In my previous post, I discussed how - at least according to the Biblical creation story - human beings have become estranged from their creator God. I argued that, whether or not this story is taken literally, its lessons remain valid.

Having discussed the problem I now want to introduce what I (and Christians everywhere) believe is the solution - specifically, the person, Jesus of Nazareth.

Many different religions have come up with different ways to address what is perceived to be the gulf between us and God, or us and perfection, or us and some kind of happiness/fulfilment, either now or in the life to come. There is much wisdom in many of these traditions, but Christianity - as far as I'm aware - is the only faith to claim that God has done something very specific from his side to solve this problem. According to the Christian faith, God isn't just sitting there waiting for us to work it all out - in fact he's very aware that although we may have caused this problem, it isn't one we are capable of solving all by ourselves.

So God - as Jesus - came and visited His creation. A ridiculous claim? Well, maybe, but one that I and many millions of other believers have become convinced is the truth. By coming here he showed and taught his followers and the rest of us how to live. And just by being who He was - challenging hypocrisy, standing up for justice, upsetting the status quo - he provoked his enemies into showing everyone how not to live as well! His presence brought out the best - and the worst - in human nature, as goodness always does when it refuses to back down. Driven by insecurity and jealous rage, his enemies crucified him as a common criminal, though He was innocent of any crime.

But what kind of God allows His enemies to do something like that? A weak God? An impotent God? Someone who isn't really any kind of God at all? Those enemies though, were not just a select group of angry people. In some ways they actually represented the whole human race. They reacted to Jesus the same way all of us often react to God. We are selfish, suspicious, protective of our own interests. We all like to be in control and react angrily at times when that control is threatened or taken away. All of us are capable of crucifying God in our hearts, and many of us do, every day!

So why not destroy us all? - something God is well able to do! But God wanted to do things a different way. His heart is full of love towards us, in spite of the hostility He often finds, and He wanted reconciliation, not war. So instead, He took the beatings and the mocking and the agonising death and the shame. He let humanity - let all of us - do their worst. Given a free reign, man had to kill God. It was the only logical outcome, right from our first rejection of Him when we ate from that tree (see previous post), but God wasn't going to leave it there!

Because of course you can't kill God - not in the end - and there was no way man was going to win. That wasn't the point though. God didn't want to "win" - and refused to fight on those terms. God just wanted to make it clear that in the end He couldn't lose. And one more much more important thing: God wanted to make it clear that He really does love us, no matter what we do! According to Luke's gospel, Jesus' actually prayed on the cross for His persecutors to be forgiven. Then after He died and rose from the dead - according to the Biblical accounts - He didn't come back with holy vengeance to wreak havoc on his enemies. Instead He slipped quietly away. And left His followers with a message of peace and reconciliation for anyone who would listen - that anyone who trusted in Him, could be forgiven for their sins and the relationship with God could be healed.

You might think it would've all fizzled out after that, but no. 2,000 years later, that message is still going strong and has completely changed the shape of this world. There are also many distorted forms of it around and it has been used and abused by those with vested interests, just as many of the powerful guardians of Jewish religion did in Jesus' day.

Its impact has not been lost though, and the central message of reconciliation is just as powerful now as it was then. Believe in Jesus - trust in Him, trust that He loves you, trust that He wants the best for you, be willing to learn to live life His way - and you too can be forgiven and reconciled with the creator God, the God who loves you and wants to be your father again!

Sunday, 10 June 2012


I am not a Biblical literalist. Well I am, about certain things. I believe, for example, that the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, was (and is) more than just a person. I believe that he was God come among us and that, after being crucified, he was physically raised from the dead. The early Christians - who lived during and shortly after his lifetime - lived and died for this belief, and I hope that - if it ever came to it - I would be prepared to do the same.

There are other parts of the Bible though, which go much further back, the origins and accuracy of which are much more difficult, if not impossible to trace or to verify. We still have many good reasons to value them and take them seriously though, and in my experience God speaks powerfully through them and they have a great deal still to teach us.

The earliest story in the Bible (that is, the one with the earliest setting), is of course the story of creation. This is not one of the stories I take literally, although I know this is controversial for some of my fellow evangelical Christians. It is a story though, that teaches us some very important things - about ourselves, God and the world around us.

One of the things this story tries to get to grips with is the problem of estrangement. Its author(s) plainly believed that God was real and that He was good - so why did He always seem so distant? And why was there so much evil in the world? The author(s) deal(s) with this by telling a story. In this story, God creates the world - which of course He must have done, somehow - and then makes people to live in it. These people are somehow more than just animals. They are in fact - in some small but very significant ways - like God Himself. God looks after these people - He gives them everything they need - and He trusts them. He gives them responsibility to rule over His world and - crucially - He also lets them choose whether they will be faithful to Him, or ignore Him and go their own way.

In the story, Adam and Eve - our actual, or metaphorical, ancestors - choose to go their own way. They give in to the temptation - presented to them by a serpent - of becoming even more like God than they already are. They eat from the tree of the "knowledge of good and evil" - which is the only thing God has told them they mustn't do. By doing this they are choosing to end their reliance on God's wisdom (and by extension His mercy) and rely on their own judgement instead. Shame and guilt quickly enter the equation as they realise that - without God's help - they are at the mercy of standards they can no longer live up to.

This decision excludes them from God's abundance and provision. They are thrown out of "the garden" - where all their needs have been met, and God has walked and talked with them - into the much harsher world outside, where they are left to their own devices (more or less) in accordance with the choice they have made.

However literally or otherwise we take this story, we can see the reality of it in our own lives and its effects on us and the world around us. Apart from the suffering and evil that are sadly so characteristic of life, God also seems extraordinarily distant, to the extent that many of us doubt, or have even altogether rejected, His existence. The signs of His presence are still all around us though - in the amazing beauty and complexity of nature, wherever and whenever we experience true love, joy or compassion, in our capacity for awe and wonder and in our searching and heartfelt questions about the nature and purpose of reality and of life.

The good news of course is that God hasn't entirely abandoned His creation. The rest of the first part of the Bible (the "Old Testament") is the story of His dealings with a particular group of people, as they struggle to understand Him and live in relationship with Him, and as He prepares a way to heal the rift between Himself and humanity and repair the damage that has been done.

The healing of this rift was the primary purpose of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth - the subject of my first paragraph. How exactly this helps, is the subject of my next post