Tuesday, 24 December 2013

And the bells are ringing out...

I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on the corner
Then danced through the night

When the Pogues belt out this uplifting Irishy number you can't help but go with it. The fairytale of New York tells the story of a couple at Christmas and looks at how in love they seem. They look hopefully in the future knowing that now they are together all their dreams will come true. He's handsome, she's pretty, they kiss and all is magical. But we all know what's coming.

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Living there almost dead
On a drip in that bed

You scum bag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God
It's our last

How did it go so wrong? What happened? In the time it took them to sing 'and the boys of the NYPD choir...' it's gone from them dancing through the night to abusing each other.

I did a quick poll in my office and discovered that the only two choices for favourite Christmas songs were 'Last Christmas' and this one. Both of which talk of dreaming of something magical only for it to disappoint. Now maybe I'm surrounded by cynics but the truth is we like these songs because we know that they speak some truth. In our world good things go bad. That's what happens. We get fed up of songs that are simply just 'isn't everything great' because they make us feel even more crappy about all the hopes and dreams which we have had which have disappointed.

The question is why do good things go bad? Why can't good things just stay good? Why can't they get better? Why for thousands of years of human history have good things continued to go bad? The Bible's answer is that our world has rejected the God who made it and as such we have messed ourselves up. The planet suffers from decay and death and as in this song so do our relationships. We know they should be good but they so often go bad. So we live in this weird world. The world of the fairytale of New York. A world of incredible joys, really good things to be enjoyed but also incredible sorrows and bad things we wish would go away.

However good your Christmas is it cannot alter this fact.

But at Christmas we remember the one great act that promises to alter this. Christmas is the account of a God who lives in a world with no badness, no decay and no suffering, coming to this world and experiencing all of the joys and sorrows which we battle with. We see him ultimately taking those sorrows on himself as through his life he is rejected and ultimately tortured and killed all so that in exchange he can offer us a future in a world where good things stay good, where good things get better and where the second half of fairytale of New York is not a reality we all have to face up to.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Don't go changing... (cont)

So as to not keep all you guys desperately waiting for the second part of this post over the weekend (in a sort of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi way) here is part two...

'Don't go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before,
And don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you any more'

If unconditional love and acceptance are ours then the outworking is obvious. Don't change. I mean why change we've been accepted, we've been loved for who we are so why change? This is what drives me insane about the song. Anyone who goes into marriage thinking that they won't change as a result of it has surely got it wrong. If marriage is going to work then both people will have to change. I mean that's just part of loving someone else.

However, more than change being a necessity it is actually an inevitability. Relationships change people. When people talk about someone 'falling in with a bad crowd' it is because they know that who we are in relationship with changes who we are. Relationships change people. Love changes people.

So it is with God. God's acceptance and love of us is not conditional but this unconditional love cannot leave us the same. Being in relationship with God cannot leave us the same. We don't change simply out of duty, or out of will power but rather we change because an understanding of God's love for us will change us.
As we understand the magnitude of God's love for us we love others
As we understand the degree to which God has forgiven us we forgive others
As we see God's unconditional acceptance of us we accept other people

Therefore the biggest key to Christian transformation. The most life changing thing which can happen is for us to understand the love of God for us. This is why in Ephesians 3 Paul prays this...
'I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.'

Paul just wants you to get how much God loves you because that is what will bring about the changes of chapter 4. We change not because we need to for God to love us but because as we see God's love for us it's impossible for us to stay the same.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Don't go changing...

Don't go changing to try and please me
You never let me down before,
And don't imagine you're too familiar
And I don't see you any more

I would not leave you in times of trouble
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times
I’ll take you just the way you are...

...I said I love you and that's forever
And it’s a promise from the heart
I couldn’t love you any better
I love you just the way you are

So Billy Joel - Wedding after Wedding after Wedding this get's rolled out and every time I find it increasingly nauseating. It's just so saccharin and, well I'm not sure what exactly it is, but I just find it hard work. However, a conversation with someone who quite liked it forced me to re-evaluate.

Why is it that it gets rolled out at weddings? Well I reckon it's because at its most basic level it articulates the great desire of the human heart and the great essential for marriage - Unconditional love. Unconditional acceptance.

We all long to hear that someone loves us and accepts us unconditionally because the alternative is just too stressful. The alternative is conditional love and conditional acceptance. Conditional love leaves us edgy - I mean what if we don't meet the condition? What if I'm not good enough, what if I'm not romantic enough, what if I'm not fun enough? So we stress trying to be everything we can so that they still like us, so that they still love us. That's life for most of us. Unconditional love feels unattainable so life is one big stress as we try to ensure that we meet whatever, often unnamed, conditions are required for our acceptance and our love. So if we feel like we've got unconditional acceptance, unconditional love. Well that's the holy grail.

What applies for people applies for God. So many people think that God's love is conditional. If I'm good enough, if I pray enough, if I read my Bible enough, if I'm nice enough, if I do the right things then God will love and accept me but if not then we're out. It's a stressful place to be for most people as they run around just hoping they don't step too far out of line.

However, no-one has ever offered a love more unconditional than God's. God's love was so unconditional that he went to the cross for us before we were even born. God is the great husband who gave himself up for you. Not for a better version of you. Not for you when you sort your life out but for you. So the great desire for unconditional love and acceptance is actually a desire for something which is already out there - It's a desire for God.

Now what does this mean? Well it means we don't need to change doesn't it. I mean it's obvious... isn't it???

(to be continued)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The selfish act of selflessness

When people hear about Christianity it can so often sound like all it wants to do is ruin your life.

After all Christianity says things like that you should deny yourself, I mean who likes doing that? It says you should take up your cross, that doesn't sound like fun. Then add into that some of Christianity's moral teaching. The other week I was teaching about lust and anger and in a culture where these are a normal part of life it can feel like Christianity is always saying no.

At the heart of Christianity is, however, an other person focus. It centres on a God who gives his life for other people and then it calls on people to be like him. We are to have an other person focus. Rather than selfishly seeking what we want all the time we are to look to other people and how we can bless them. So we are to be generous with our money. Instead of thinking 'What can I buy with this' we are to think how can I bless others with this. We are to be people who are ready to forgive, ready to overlook wrong done against us. We are to be loving and kind and patient. Our focus should be how can I make this a better place to work or a better place to live. We are to be outward looking people. This can all sound like rather hard work and not at all fun.

But that is because we have failed to understand one of the central messages of Christianity
'It is more blessed to give than to receive'

Until we really believe this then Christianity will sound unappealing and like a chore but without this truth Christianity makes no sense.

So for example the Bible presents a God who lives for his own pleasure and joy. A God who lives to bring glory to himself. This can sound like a nasty, grabbing, selfish God. Until you understand that God understands it is more blessed to give than to receive. So God experiences this pleasure and joy through sacrificially giving himself on the cross to rescue a people who have rejected him. The Father experiences this joy through making much of the Son and the Son experiences this through glorifying the Father. So is God obsessed with his own good or others? Well both because through selfless acts of sacrificial love he experiences the joy and pleasure of those acts.

It is for this reason that Jesus says 'whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.' It is only when we cease to be obsessed by getting what we want that we can really find it. At some point most of us have experienced the deep joy and satisfaction we feel from sacrificially, with no thought of reward, selflessly acting for the good of someone else. Often these are some of our most memorable joys. You see it is as we become willing to lose our lives for others that we really find life. It is more blessed to give than to receive is not just a twee piece of advice but rather the way God has wired the world as a reflection of his character

Therefore selflessness represents the single most selfish thing you can do.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Is there a shortcut to community?

I am massively committed to building community. It seems to me that people need other people and that they need them to know them well, to speak into their lives and to truly enjoy and appreciate the lives we have been given. The problem is that real deep community takes time. You can't instantly go from not knowing someone to having real life changing relationships. This has meant that I have heard it said, and almost undoubtedly said myself, that there is no shortcut to community. It simply takes time.

Whilst there is some element of truth to this I want to suggest that there is a shortcut to community and that is the gospel. Let me see if I can explain.

One of the keys to building deep community is an ability to be real with each other. Nothing gets in the way of real relationships like hypocrisy and putting on a show or front does. The gospel frees us up to be real with people because we no longer have to pretend to ourselves, or others, that we are better than we are. The gospel tells us that we are not better than we think but almost definitely worse and yet that we are still made in God's image and valuable despite this.

Another key to community is a freedom from the need for peoples approval. For as long as we need the approval of others then we can never really risk anything which we think might impact this. However, the gospel tells us that God accepts us despite knowing everything about us. This frees us from the need of other people's approval because we recognise that God's approval is more important.

Another key to community is a selfless focus on the other person. A community which is built around each person trying to get what they want or need from it us unlikely to be deep and long lasting. It will instead become manipulative and abusive. But at the heart of Christianity is a God who selflessly gave himself for his people. A God who was willing to go to the cross to rescue people. As we understand this then we become a people who can selflessly focus on the other knowing that we have already received so much.

Deep community also grows out of a feeling that the relationships which make it up are safe. That people are not going to judge or abandon you regardless. In the gospel we see a God who faithfully stuck by his people despite their repeated failures and repeatedly turning their back on him.

The gospel completely revolutionises the way which you see the world and other people and creates fertile ground for deep community. It creates an environment where being open and vulnerable and honest and loving and accepting is not only possible but the only natural response. A greater understanding and love of the gospel is the greatest shortcut to community. But it is a shortcut not a transporter. You will still need to spend time with the people. As relational people we build relationships we don't simply attach ourselves to other organisms and therefore this will still take time. But time spelt building relationships as the gospel works in you will build the deep relationships we all crave.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Australia - The world's happiest nation

So the BBC website today reports that Austraila is the world's happiest nation among developed economies. This is an award Australia has won for the third year running and having never been to Australia it is one which I cannot argue with (although I am confident they will be a little less happy after this year's back to back ashes!!!)

However, the obvious question I had when I read this was how did they decide this? Did they simply poll everyone or a sample and ask them how happy they were? What exactly did they do? Well here is the description of the survey

'The survey ranked more than 30 countries on criteria such as income levels, health, safety and housing.'

Now I'm not doubting that income levels, health, safety and housing are very important. However, simply because a nation comes out on top of these areas does that necessarily mean that they are the happiest?

You see this is what our culture believes and therefore our culture says it as if it is fact. Of course if you are wealthier and healthier you are going to be happier. This is so much the air that we breathe that it is just stated as fact that because Australia are the top performers in these areas they must be the happiest nation. However, I would question the reality of this statement.

We believe this so intently that we make ourselves unhappy in our pursuit of health and wealth believing that it's the next step up in these areas which will make us happy never even considering that the problem is that these things cannot ultimately deliver what we need them to. The Bible repeatedly states that we were built to find our joy in relationships. Relationship with the God who made us and the people he created.

Australia may well be the the best when judged against those criteria, they may even be the happiest but the fact that the former brings the latter seems to me at the very least open to debate.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Christianity without 2000 years of history getting in the way

Sometimes I look at Jesus' life in the Bible and wonder how we ended up where we are. When you look at the life of Jesus there can seem to be a disconnect between what we see there and what we see all around us. As you see a big churches and church politics all around us. As you see Christianity which is built around structures and a few weekly meetings you can think how did we end up here. But I suppose the question is well where should we end up? What would Christians do if they didn't have 2000 years of history getting in the way?

Well I think perhaps the clearest answer to this question comes in Acts 2

'So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.'

So what do we have here? Well we have the first Christians. People have just heard the gospel. They've just come to believe that  Jesus died for their sins and accept the forgiveness he gives but now what? They have no church they can join, no tradition to fall into. Just the gospel and the Holy Spirit so what do they do? well they do the things the gospel naturally drives them to do so.

1 - They devote themselves to understanding the gospel more - When you first taste the gospel and experience it's power and release it is only natural that you want to know more of it, understand it better and so you devote yourself to learning more.
2 - They eat together - eating together is not only a natural way to spend time with people but also a sign of acceptance. As those who have all received the gospel into their lives it is natural they would long to spend time together and accept all people as those who have been rescued by a work of God not human achievement.
3 - They pray - As they understand and experience more of the gospel in their lives then of course they want to talk to the God who they can now approach in absolute confidence that he loves them and accepts them
4 - They saw and were in awe of God's incredible work - As you see the gospel work itself out in a myriad of ways it is only natural that you respond to God in awe as a God who works in incredible ways.
5 - They saw each others needs and cared for them - As those who recognise that when they could do nothing about their need of forgiveness and a new heart God stepped in and met that need it is only natural that they would then be driven out to do this for each other.
6 - They met formally (in the temple) and informally (in their homes) - Meeting formally was a natural way to all grow and learn together but the gospel naturally impacts all of life and therefore it can never be constricted simply to occasional meetings but must be a part of day by day life. Meeting with each other regularly in their homes was the norm as the gospel impacts this.

You see these early Christians didn't need 2000 years of Church history to do this stuff the gospel naturally drove them to it. Therefore what will create this kind of Christian community? Well the gospel. I don't need to tell people they need to learn more about the gospel but rather as they experience it of course they will want to learn more. It is the pearl of immense value which you seel everything to get. Of course you want more of it. I don't need to tell people to meet each others needs, or to attend church meetings, or to meet together - As the gospel goes deep into our hearts then this is what we will do. It wasn't the church or tradition which made these early Christians do this - they didn't exist. They simply heard the gospel and responded the only rational way anyone would.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The thin line between everything and nothing

So this month I read North and South again. It is a good read although I need to be careful how gushing I am as it is in essence a period romance story. One of the characters in it is a miner who doesn't seem to believe in heaven or God or any of that. He says his concern is this world not anything else. At one point when questioned on this he says that no-one really believes it. People may say they do, people may even convince themselves that they do but throughout a week they don't seem any different. They don't really believe it any more than him. He articulates what I've heard so many people say before. If Christianity is true how coming it seems to make no difference (or very little difference) in people's lives? It's a good question and one of the answers is that churches are full of hypocrites who say one thing but don't live it. Another is that all Christians fail to live consistently with what they believe the same as everyone else in the planet. However, I think the chief reason is something different. I think the reason people think this is because there is a very thin line between everything and nothing. Let me explain.

People want to see life changing but what they imagine is that a life changed would involve obvious things. So if every Christian gave up work and instead just volunteered for a charity that would then look obviously different. But of course the danger is that life outside of this still looks the same. You see Christianity doesn't call for Christians to adopt obvious isolated changes. Christianity doesn't call on you to stop eating meat, or only wear brown or give all your money away or anything that small. Christianity asks you to live for a different purpose. Christianity asks you to worship something different. Now these changes are more fundamental but less obvious.

Christianity doesn't ask you to stop working but it does require you to approach work in a dramatically different way. Work is no longer about simply earning money, status and respect but is instead to be about loving people wall, loving creation well, working hard with the gifts God's given you. I still go to the same job as before but my entire outlook is different. This might look like nothing but it should be everything.

Christianity doesn't require you to get married but it requires you to view the whole situation in a different way. If single I view this not as an excuse for selfishness but as a gift from God freeing me up to love and serve him and other people in unique ways. If married I view it as a chance to reflect something of God's love in the way that I love and sacrificially give myself for my spouse. When married I am able to love and serve God and others in a different way. This might look like nothing but it is in fact everything.

Now Christians sometimes use the lack of laws as an excuse to do nothing but in reality when the Spirit lives inside of you everything may look the same on first glance but actually on closer inspection of motives and passions you will see that nothing is actually the same as it was. Maybe before you say why doesn';t more change you should just take the time and look a little closer and see if actually although they do the same stuff their outlook, passions and therefore fruits are changed dramatically.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Always with the drama

"An idea for a short story about um people in Manhattan who uh are constantly creating these real, uh, unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves 'cause it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about, uh, the universe."

This is a quote by Woody Allen from the film Manhattan which I watched again last night. In typical Woody Allen manner he manages to not only be consistently funny but also to cut through so much of the society he lives in. This quote which appears at the end of the film basically sums up so much of my life and so much of the life I see around me. I fill my life with little things to worry about - promotions at work, financial management, holiday planning, football manager etc etc etc and I just move from one of these to the other. I'm fairly sure I'm not alone. I see enough people around me who always seem to be able to find something to worry about, something to complain about.

Maybe Woody Allen is right maybe we fill our lives with these things as it gives us something smaller and a bit more manageable to deal with instead of actually being forced to face up to the really big questions which are necessary for any of the little questions to be approached.

The question we need to answer before we answer 'How hard should I push for promotion' is what is the purpose of life. Until we've got an answer to this we lack the framework needed to decide how important a promotion is. The question we need to answer before we decide how we interact with other people is what does positive interaction with other people look like. The question we need to answer before we decide how to spend the time from now until we die is whether death is the end and whether what we do with our life has any impact on this.

So we take the small issues, make them big and attempt to deal with these all the time using these as a means of never facing up to the really big questions. We create life dramas to help us avoid facing up to the big questions but without facing up to the big questions maybe we're doomed to keep creating these real unnecessary, neurotic problems for ourselves.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

The call of the wild

So for book club this month we read 'The call of the wild' which was a hit mainly because it was short and therefore for the first time in the history of my time at the group everyone present had actually read the book (a pre-requisite you would have thought for most book clubs).

The call of the wild follows the story of a dog (Buck) from civilised domesticated pet to wild wolf through a journey of savagery, abuse and pretty extreme difficulty. You might be tempted to think of the incredible journey (remade into the greatly inferior Homeward Bound) but don't. This book is a story of the nature of things. It asks the question what are we at our most base level? What are we when you strip away social conditioning and controlling influences? It is a story of what it would look like to follow our hearts.

This study of nature highlights the following things
1 - Pride is a powerful driving force which lies at the heart of all things. Pride drives is Buck's greatest driver it is the thing which drives him to great acts.
2 - The great acts caused by pride are not always good. Pride creates a desire for mastery and control. An abusive and bullying side to his personality.
3 - There is an irrational destructiveness in all being human and animal. Both kill, hurt and abuse at times merely because they can rather than because they have to.
4 - Behaviour can be controlled. Buck can control the behaviour of those around him through force and manipulation and the humans can control his behaviour through the same.
5 - But only the power which comes through really loving something can transform the heart. Only that can change the attitudes, the outlook and make you want to act a different way.

There is a lot more to be said about this book. But whenever I come back to any study of nature I see the gospel story told again and again. A story of a deep routed destructiveness which we can try to fight against but never quite win. The story of how only an equally deep routed love can actually transform the way we view the world.

The gospel is not a story which says you're bad so be better.
It's a story which says you are both truly wonderful (made in God's image) but broken (prideful and destructive). It's a story which says behaviour modification (being better) can't solve the problem and so instead presents you with a God who loves you. A God who loves you enough to die for you and it as you respond to this love with love of your own you find your heart won and a new and stronger passion, even than the call of your nature, starts to drive not just your behaviour but your entire attitude.

No matter where you look God's creation can't help but tell his story.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Negative holiness

So recently I've been spending a bit of time trying to identify what Christian growth looks like and it has led me to re-engage with an old problem with the way it is too often viewed.

What does a good day as a Christian look like? What does a day which I'm happy with look like. Well generally a good day is one which I don't look back on and identify loads and loads of things which I shouldn't have done. It's a day when I look back and don't cringe at the unkind word I said, don't wonder how much damage my selfish actions have caused, don't despair at my impatience, irrationality and anger. A good day is one where I haven't been unkind, impatient, harsh, unloving or cross.

Sounds ok doesn't it? Well the problem is that we are not simply called to not be unkind but to be kind. We are not simply called not to be impatient but to be patient. We are not simply called not to be cross but to be self controlled. You get the idea - we are called to be gentle and loving rather than just manage not to be harsh and unloving.

How you measure your holiness or growth really matters. If we measure on the basis of us managing to not do the stuff we're not meant to do then we will pull away from people. The best way to limit our unkindness, impatience etc is to limit our exposure to other people. After all it's easy to not be unkind if we don't see anyone all day.

On the the other hand if we measure on the basis of us doing what we're called to do then we will work hard to connect with people and really share lives with them knowing that it is only possible to show kindness, gentleness, self control, love etc in this setting. The best way to show kindness, patience etc is to increase our exposure to people.

It is therefore possible that growth could involve an increase in unkindness, harshness, impatience etc as we connect with people and find that as we try to show kindness, gentleness and impatience we also increase the chances of us failing.

Until we redress this view of growth people will continue to detach and the church will not grow more like Jesus but simply maintain its respectable front whilst it happily stagnates. Negative holiness is not what we're called to.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Does Doctrine Matter

So the planets have aligned in a bizarre way and resulted in two freak activities beginning at the same point.
1. We've just started a series on Galatians at church
2. My wife and I (ten years behind the rest of the world) have started watching spooks

These two things beginning at the same point have forced me to again consider the question does doctrine matter? Let me explain.

In Spooks there is a particularly good episode where they are infiltrating an extremist Islamic group who are attempting to train young (15 year old) men to be suicide bombers. Few things have made me more angry than seeing lies being taught, lies being hammered home and resulting in a 15 year old boy throwing his life away in an act of meaningless violence. As you're watching this it's hard to argue that doctrine doesn't matter.

You see the truth you believe matters. If you believe the West is evil and that true spirituality comes through blowing yourself up then you tragically waste your life. This of course is all that doctrine is. Doctrine is simply the truth you believe and the truth you believe definitely matters.

It's easy to think that doctrine doesn't matter. That doctrine is just the dry theory used to divide but actually the truth you live for is hugely important. As you watch the extremists in spooks it would be hard to argue otherwise but perhaps in more normal life it looks a bit harder.

But you see if the truth that you believe is that life is about happiness and that happiness comes from the acquisition of money/stuff then you will live your life according to that code. Now that matters because if that's true then a life lived with that goal is the best chance you've got but if it's not true then a life lived with that goal will ultimately lead to a wasted life.

Whatever you live for whether it's true or not really matters because that ultimately will make the difference between a wasted life and a life lived to the max. This is something Christianity doesn't duck.
So in the Bible we read the statement that if Jesus' life, death and resurrection are not true then we are to be pitied because we are living our life on the basis of a lie.

So we come to Galatians and we see Paul passionate about confronting false teaching. Confronting lies which are being propagated. This can feel dry and aggressive but actually it is just a recognition that what you believe matters. Doctrine matters not because then you can win an argument, not because then you can be sound but because the truth we believe determines the things we pursue.

So the question we're all left with is what is the truth we can build our lives upon?

Monday, 7 January 2013

Do it anyway

Tell me what I said I'd never do
Tell me what I said I'd never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are ok
Sometimes it's not subjective: wrong and right
Deep down you know it's downright wrong but you're invincible tonight
So you
Do it anyway
It's done
You did it

Ben Folds has a knack of stating quite perceptive truths in songs where you're not really looking for them and can easily miss them. This is a prime example of this.  

I've spent a bit of time over Christmas thinking about this issue of our inability to live up to our own standards and I guess this song is all about that experience we have. We make our internal rules in our heads - I will do X, I will do W but I will never do Y or Z
- X is o.k. but Y is definitely not
but then all of a sudden we find that we have done Y. It's the truth of life. Sometimes it's not subjective wrong or right. It's not something which other people think is wrong but we think is ok it's something which we think is wrong but which we do anyway. The big question is why is this? Why do we not even live up to the standards which we have decided? After all if we've decided them then surely it should only be natural for us to keep them.

I guess there are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes we just don't care, sometimes we want to feel bad, sometimes we simple capitulate to external pressures. However, I wonder if one of the key reasons is our desire to maintain control over our lives. As we desperately try to stay in control of our ever more chaotic lives all of a sudden someone at work says 'did you do that thing which I asked you to' you can feel control slipping out of your fingers so you say 'yes' and move on. Then on the way home you clip a car and you know you should stop but it didn't look like anything serious and you know it'll cost you a fortune and so you just keep driving. We may have decided that lying is wrong and that clipping a car and not stopping is wrong but when faced with the reality that this will threaten both my degree of control and appearance of control we just do it anyway.  

The truth is that if you make yourself the ruler of your own life you will surprise yourself with the things you are willing to do in order to desparately try to maintain that position. The Bible suggests that our desire to rule our own lives will always lead to these conflicts between the things we say we'd never do and the things we need to do to try to keep control. The Bible asserts that actually when we finally abandon that need for control and allow Jesus to rule our lives we ironically find freedom from the tyranny caused by trying to attain a control which is never more than an illusion.