Does GRACE mean that sin doesn’t matter?

Is sin something Christians can, with integrity, disagree about – especially about big issues like same-sex marriage? Can we “recognise the integrity” of those who disagree with the traditional view?

Vaughan Roberts’ book can be found here.

The quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones can be found here.

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“At” church vs “Being” Church

Yesterday I wrote on my personal blog about something I’ve been thinking about during lockdown: Being AT church is not BEING church. I think many churches focus on running lots of events rather than facilitating relationships. What’s happened during the lockdown is that this has been exposed.

Here’s how it begins:

Can you remember LBL – Life Before Lockdown? (It’s a new acronym, I hope it’ll catch on). It feels like life has changed so much in the past year, it’s hard to remember what it was like before. My days were full of activities and meetings – taking a look back in my diary brings back memories of having activities most days: groups, meetings, services, there was at least something on every day.

My life was in many ways centred around the church. The beating heart of this was the services, especially on a Sunday: in the morning I would go to two services (in our parish there are two church buildings, with a service at each one). Then there would be a service in the afternoon which I was at most weeks. Sometimes there would be an evening service. So each Sunday I was usually at church three times – even four, on occasion. That’s a whole lot of church!

So – what’s the problem with that?The problem is that I spent so long AT church that I forgot to BE church. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Do have a read if you’re interested. I am hoping to think more about this

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Review: Redeeming Time App

Last week I heard of a new app called Redeeming Time. It’s a very simple premise: many of us, when we have a few minutes spare, will spend that time on social media. Over the course of a week it all adds up. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s probably not a good use of the time.

As the app blurb says:

Fed up of wasting time on social media?
What would it look like to “waste time” with God instead?

The App gives you a way of redeeming the time that you might otherwise waste on social media. It’s really very simple.

How it works

It’s very simple and straightforward:

  1. The app asks you how much time you have. If, for example, you’re waiting for a train, you could put it the number of minutes you have til you have to go.
  2. The app will show you which Bible books you can read in the time you have available (obviously it’s approximate, depending on you having an average reading speed!)
  3. You select one, and the app will show you the book you’ve selected.
  4. One nice touch – when you’ve completed it, you’ll be shown a few questions to help you think about it.

If you want to read a longer book of the Bible, the app will also keep tabs on how far through the book you’ve got, so you can come back to it later.

See the screenshots below.

Who will benefit from it

If you’re someone who is tempted to spend too much time on social media (and I know the pull of that temptation!) this app could prove to be really helpful. Although I’ve uninstalled the Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone (as I explain in this video), it’s still tempting. Especially if you’re waiting around in a queue or something.

I think the people who will benefit from this the most are people who regularly find themselves waiting around, e.g. for public transport. I think this would be a great way of deciding, for example, that you wanted to read through the Bible in the time you’d normally spend on Facebook.

A few reservations

Having said all this, I have one or two reservations about the app.

It doesn’t add much to other apps

I can’t really see how this adds a huge amount to other apps. You can already get the Bible on apps – I have a couple on my phone. The only real thing it adds is the time calculation. My Bible app remembers where I got up to in my Bible reading – whenever I open it, it opens to the last place I got to. I could easily read through a book of the Bible using a Bible app rather than using the Redeeming Time app.

One feature which would make the Redeeming Time app useful is a Bible reading plan: rather than simply ordering the books of the Bible by how long it would take to read them, put them in order. If the app kept track of where you’d got up to, that could be useful. Of course, there are already apps which are designed to give you a certain amount of the Bible to read, such as the Daily Readings Spurgeon app which I wrote about a while back. But the ones I know of are based on giving you a reading every day – it might be helpful to have one which let you go at your own pace.

I’m not sure it will help people addicted to social media

One of the problems with addiction to social media is that it’s very tempting to use social media at all sorts of inappropriate times. I sometimes find myself scrolling through Facebook while watching TV, which is really not a good idea! You can’t concentrate on two things at once.

One of the things about reading the Bible is that it’s not like social media. You can’t just glance through the Bible – it takes thought and concentration. I’m not convinced that reading through part of the Bible in the same time you would usually scroll through Facebook is going to be a hugely beneficial spiritual exercise. I would suggest looking at some of the alternatives below.

Other ways to redeem the time

Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

It’s really important to redeem our time and to use it well. We need to make the most of every opportunity – if we have a few spare minutes on a railway platform, we should use it! Personally I am not convinced that the Redeeming Time app is the best way for me. But there are many other ways of redeeming the time.

Listen to a podcast / watch a YouTube video

Podcasts have been around for a long while, but I’ve only really started to get into them recently. If you want to grow as a Christian, listening to a Christian podcast might be just the thing you need. There are lots available, for example Cooper & Cary have words, or Ask Pastor John. You can get sermons, theology, anything you like. You can find plenty of good content on YouTube too. (I should say that Understand the Bible has its own YouTube channel and podcast!)

Is a podcast better than reading the Bible directly? Well obviously I wouldn’t recommend listening to a podcast instead of reading the Bible in general! But I think a podcast / YouTube video could be more suitable to the level of attention you can give when you’re waiting for a train. Personally I think we should not just be reading the Bible but also things which help us to understand the Bible, to put pieces together.

Do a course

One of the reasons I started Understand the Bible was to give people a way of ‘redeeming the time’. If you typically have about 15 minutes per day free, then you could do one of the Understand the Bible courses. (You can even get the app – there are links at the bottom of every page). There are other courses available, such as The Whole Christ which the Christian Institute have made freely available.

You will probably find that doing something to complement reading the Bible might actually help your Bible reading. My suggestion is to do both – read the Bible, but also do things which will help you to understand what you’re reading better.


This is probably the most fundamental one! One of the best ways of redeeming the time is to pray. You can pray anywhere, and you don’t have to have a set amount of time to do it. Just talk to God about what’s on your mind and heart. Bring the people you care about, as well as your problems and concerns to him.

I know it sounds a bit silly to admit it, but one of the most helpful things for me spiritually was realising that I didn’t have to pray at a set time every day. A few years ago I started praying when I walked places, praying when I was in the shower, praying whatever I was doing. It’s been very helpful for me spiritually! Prayer should be like breathing to a Christian. Most of us, if not all of us, don’t pray anything like as much as we should.

Of everything that we could do to redeem the time, perhaps the best thing would be to simply put the phone down and pray. Just a thought.

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Dominion by Tom Holland: Why it’s important to understand the Bible

Last weekend, the historian Tom Holland posted this on Twitter:

Book cover: Dominion by Tom Holland

He’s absolutely right. Recently I read his book, Dominion. It’s an absolutely fantastic book and I think everyone in the West should read it. Especially politicians and people with influence on the direction of our society! The subtitle is, “how the Christian revolution remade the world”. His big idea is that Christianity is the most revolutionary idea that’s ever existed. It has absolutely transformed our society, in ways that we don’t even notice now.

This is why he said in the tweet that no book has had a greater effect on your life than the Bible – even if you’ve never read it. The way that our society has been totally transformed by Christianity and the Bible is impossible to understand unless you look back through history.

This is what Dominion does: it goes back to the Greeks, before the time of Christ, and works its way forward. Holland originally became interested in writing the book because he found the world of antiquity so alien. They really did do things differently there – especially in terms of morality. Even things which we think of as being invented by the Greeks (such as democracy) were very different for them.

For me personally, I found it astonishing to see how deeply Christianity had changed the world. I thought I knew a fair bit about how the Bible had changed things, but even I didn’t realise how deep it went. It’s impossible to overstate the impact that the Bible has had on life in the West. So much of what we believe about right and wrong today can be traced to the Bible. Just to name a few:

  • The idea that kings and rulers should be under the same rules as everyone else (and not be allowed to do whatever they like)
  • The abolition of slavery;
  • The concept of equality;
  • The modern Western idea of democracy;
  • The #MeToo movement;
  • Human rights.

If you haven’t read Dominion, I can highly recommend it.

Find out more about Dominion

If you’d like to read a review which goes into a bit more detail, have a look at this Gospel Coalition review.

Speak Life did a really good interview with Tom Holland which you might want to watch.

How do I start to understand the Bible?

If you’d like to make a start, this website is the ideal place to be! Here are a few suggestions:

  • The What is Christianity course is an overview of the Christian faith. It’s basically a mini Bible overview – it will help you begin to understand the “big picture” of the Bible.;
  • I do a weekly series called Learn to read the Bible. The aim is to help you learn to read and understand the Bible for yourself.
  • Why not subscribe to the Understand the Bible on YouTube, Facebook or the Podcast where you’ll get regular updates!

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How to cope with Fear

There’s a lot of fear around at the moment due to the coronavirus. I think it’s almost worse at the moment now that we’re allowed out again but have to observe all the social distancing, mask wearing etc. I wanted to record a short video to talk about what the Bible says about fear and how to cope with it.

Here is a short reflection on Luke 12:4-8, where Jesus talks about what – or who – we should fear, and how that helps us to cope in these circumstances.

If you enjoyed this video, you might like to subscribe on YouTube. Or have a look at the teaching programme if you’re interested in learning the Christian faith.

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Is the Coronavirus God’s judgement?

I did a Facebook live session tonight thinking about whether the coronavirus is God’s judgement on us. I know it’s a question quite a few people have been asking. It’s a big topic and you’d have to spend hours really going into all the ins and outs, but this is my go at giving an answer live in a few minutes:

The passage I read from is Joel 2:12-14.

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Hope from the Bible in a time of coronavirus

Hope in a time of Coronavirus title

I know that a lot of people are anxious about the coronavirus at the moment, and I wanted to say something specifically about how the Bible speaks into that situation. I thought the best way would be through a Facebook livestream – I’ve decided to do a short livestream on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings with a short reading and thought from the Bible.

Tonight’s livestream was on Psalm 46 and is here: (apologies for the first bit – Facebook had issues – skip forward a couple of minutes for the real thing!)

The previous one from Wednesday night was about Jesus calming the storm and is available here.

If you’d like to be notified of these videos when they go live and you have a Facebook account, please do “Like” the Understand the Bible Facebook Page.

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