Category Archives: Gospel

The Problem With Not Emptying Your Pockets

I’m sure that most, if not all of you will know the frustration of pulling a load of washing out of the machine only to discover that it’s covered in bits of tissue from someone’s pocket.  The disaster comes in differing degrees, of course:

  • Sometimes the offending tissue remains pretty much contained within the pocket, so there are only a few bits stuck to the rest of the load – predominantly on the garment with the pocket itself. This is annoying, but relatively easy to deal with – you can simply pick the bits off with your fingers.
  • Sometimes the tissue has been shredded by the washing cycle into a large number of pieces which are spread throughout the wash.  This is deeply frustrating because collecting all the little bits is time-consuming, and you’re never sure you’ve managed to gather them all.  In fact, you can almost guarantee that in a few weeks’ time, when you are in a rush to go out to dinner, you’ll discover bits of tissue you missed on the shirt or blouse that you have carefully selected for your special evening.
  • Sometimes, the tissue isn’t so much shredded as utterly disintegrated so that there is a fine covering of paper fibres over every inch of clothing in the wash.  This is the most irritating.  There’s nothing you can do about this except wash the whole lot again, or use one of those sticky lint rollers to clean the “clean” washing.  This latter course of action takes ages, and is never 100% effective.  (I am told that, for the right pieces of clothing, a tumble in the dryer will remove the fluff, but this obviously doesn’t help for the items of clothing that will shrink under heat.)

Perhaps the worst thing about the situation is that you’ve told your children/husband/wife to check their pockets before throwing their clothes in the wash.  A thousand times.  But they just forget.  It’s as if such a menial task is beneath them, and that you don’t deserve them to do it for you.  They will protest it’s nothing personal, of course, just “forgetfulness”, but in the final analysis, each new occurrence is simply evidence of how they view their ease as more precious than yours (they would rather lazily throw their contaminated clothing in the wash than take five seconds to empty the pockets and save you ten minutes).

There are parallels here with how we treat our sin.  Like a dirty tissue in a pocket, tucked away and out of sight, sometimes we are unaware of it.  Occasionally we realise it’s there and resolve to do something about it, but more often than not, we do nothing (after all, it will take effort on our part, and sometimes, however manky it is, we feel somehow reassured that it’s there – just in case we wish to use it).  God, of course, calls us to deal with it – to acknowledge it, bring it out into the open and give it to Jesus.  If we don’t do this, then like a tissue through the washing machine, we can be sure that our sin will begin to affect our neighbours and friends and the quality of our relationships with them.  And the longer we leave it, and however much we claim “I forgot” or “I’ll do it later”, the more he is right to accuse us of selfishness – of not loving our neighbour as ourselves – and we can be sure to receive from him what we deserve.  If, on the other hand, we do as he says and give our sin to Jesus, we have his promise of complete forgiveness.  So why wait?

Making a connection

In the light of positive recommendations from local people, I decided a couple of years ago that I would entrust Orange with the task of providing me with a mobile phone service.  At the time it was a good choice; certainly it was an improvement on my previous provider.  But since just before Christmas, I’ve been having some difficulty.  In fact, it’s now more usual for me when I check my phone to see the messages “SOS” or “Searching for Network” than to see the little graphic with “bars” of signal strength showing.  Indeed, I’ve been starting to feel that the nickname “No Range” that I have heard used occasionally of Orange evidently has some foundation in reality.

And I’ve noticed another thing, too.  The battery on my phone is running down really quickly. Currently (no pun intended!), I’m charging it about three times every two days.  It normally lasts at least four times as long.  I think this problem is occurring because when the phone tries to connect to the mobile phone network, it uses some power.  Obviously, if it is always trying, it is always draining power from the battery!

According to the Geordie on the call-centre help-desk, there’s a problem with the Widford transmitter (the fake tree near Widford Rise).  Apparently, the storm of 19th December damaged “a chip”, and the company is looking into fixing the fault, but this requires “planning permission.”  I’m a bit vague on the details because I wasn’t able to ask clarifying questions – my phone lost signal during the call, so he just left me a message to let me know the basic details!

It strikes me that there’s a parallel here to prayer (albeit an inexact parallel – don’t stretch it too far!).  The important thing for a mobile phone is to gain a connection to the network.  When the connection is made, communication can happen freely. In my situation, there’s a problem; my phone is having trouble connecting, and is wearing itself out trying.  In the realm of communicating with God, we also need a connection with God to be established.  But there’s no automatic connection in place.  In fact, our default position is disconnection.  In the Bible we read these words; “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2)  Here, the prophet Isaiah records his message to the people of Israel that, though they were trying to pray (and even wearing themselves out trying), their prayers would not be heard.  They had no connection – indeed, their channel of communication was blocked; their sin was in the way.  And we’re no different.  However good we think we are, we all have the same sin problem.

Thankfully, there’s a solution to this problem.  Obviously, we can’t change our past record of sin – what’s done is done.  But, as the angel told Joseph, God has sent Jesus to “save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)  When we put our trust in Jesus, we are made clean, our sin is removed from us as far as the east is from the west, and we are reconnected to God – and this means we can be confident our prayers will be heard.  #goodnews

Clearing up after Christ-mas

Occasionally I receive feedback on what I publish. It would appear that my article The Reason for the Season caused a little consternation.  I’m sorry for the confusion.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t explain myself, but the feedback indicates to me that sufficient numbers of people found my words rather strange or concerning to make me feel that perhaps I should shed some light on the subject so people are not unnecessarily upset.  I say “unnecessarily” because if this article clears up the mystery for them and they are then disturbed by the clear message, then perhaps it is ultimately a good thing that they be unsettled!  (It is not my job to say what everyone wants me to say, but rather to bear faithful witness to Jesus who came 2000 years ago as Saviour and who will come again as Judge.)

So, what caused grief for readers?  Well, in conversation with one person, I realised that the non-word “mas” that I used over and over again sounds rather like “mass”, which is a Roman Catholic form of worship.  But I wasn’t making any point either in favour of or against Roman Catholicism.  The clue to the interpretation of the article is not connected with the “mas” bit at all.  In fact, the clue is in the question, “What did I leave out?”

On twenty-two separate occasions, I referred to Christmas as “mas”, thus leaving out the first six letters of the full word that readers might have expected to see.  I wrote about “mas”, leaving out “Christ”.  I talked about all of the trappings of our usual celebrations of Christmas but I left out Christ.  And I suggested that in the same way as this was rather ridiculous for my magazine article, so any celebration of Christmas which left out Christ would be equally ridiculous.  Let’s face it, Christmas starts with Christ!

Yet, in a ComRes poll from December 2010, 51% of the respondents agreed with the statement, “The birth of Jesus is irrelevant to my Christmas.”  This would indicate that over half the population of this “Christian” country have no interest in Christ Jesus at what is almost certainly the biggest Christian festival of the year.  When we overlay this with the results of the 2011 census, in which 59.3% of the population claimed to be Christian, we are left with the curious fact that around 8% of the population call themselves Christian yet see the birth of Jesus as irrelevant to their Christmas.  Now that is truly ridiculous!

My intention in the original article was not to confuse, but to cause people to think.  I also did not intend to offend (though I recognise that connecting the Christmas celebrations of 51% of the population and the word “ridiculous” may have had this effect).  On reflection, perhaps ridiculous is the wrong word: if the Christian claim that Jesus is Saviour and Judge is true, then dismissing his birth as irrelevant is more than ridiculous; it’s just asking for trouble.  And I, for one, would rather spare people that.

May the Christ of Christ-mas make you ready to meet him when he comes again.

Peace for Christmas

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?
Another year over…

John Lennon’s song, like all the other seasonal tunes, is regularly played on the radio.  But Lennon’s lyric has a little more about it than many of the other offerings (e.g. Roy Wood’s “When the snowman brings the snow…” or the children’s favourite “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer”).  It actually challenges us directly to take stock of our lives at Christmas time.  You won’t be surprised to know I think it’s a good challenge for us to consider.

But Christmas is too busy for us to think about the events of the year and the emotional impact they’ve had on us, isn’t it?  First of all there’s all the shopping to do, all the organising, wrapping, cooking, decorating and hosting.  Then, there’s all the clearing up, the falling out, the not-speaking and the thank-God-that’s-all-over-for-another-year-ing.  Finally, of course, there’s all the paying back the credit cards… which, depending on how extravagant we’ve been, may well bring us right back to where we are now!

The question, “How are you?” often elicits the response, “Fine, thanks … busy, but fine.”  Busy.  And the activity of the Christmas season only makes us busier, so stopping to reflect on the emotional journey of the last year is, quite frankly, just one more thing to do for which we do not have the time.  And here’s another one…

What have you done this year by way of pursuing a closer relationship with God?  (I put that in bold type to make sure you didn’t skip over it in your busy rush!)

The message of Christmas is clear: God chose to come close to us in Jesus.  It’s evidence that he is pursuing a closer relationship with all of us.  The Bible tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), and, “Jesus Christ … in very nature God … made himself nothing, being made in human likeness, … humbled himself…” (Philippians 2:6ff).  It is these verses (and others like them) which inspired one of the most famous and popular carols; “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see!
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.

My point is that if we stop even for a moment to consider just how far he has gone to reach out to us (Immanuel means “God with us”), it should surely cause us to respond with love and worship.  So how do our efforts to reach out to him measure up?

So this is Christmas, and what have you done…?  Praise God he still reaches out to us despite our laziness and reluctance to honour him!

The Joy of Christmas

“Christmas-time is here, by golly,
disapproval would be folly,
deck the halls with hunks of holly…
Brother, here we go again!”

So sang the comic songwriter, Tom Lehrer, and I wonder how many of us feel the same way, at least sometimes.  Our nation seems to have a love-hate relationship with Christmas, and this, I am sure, is because of what it has become; an excuse to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need.

The pressures applied upon us by society are subtle: “it’s for the kids”, or “our family have always done this.”  We must join in or people will assume we are grumpy old Scrooges.  Because marketing departments promote Christmas as a time of goodwill and happiness, to opt out of their glitzy celebration is to be a miserable killjoy.  Because they assert it is a time of peace, any attempt to expose the shallowness of that peace is fraught with danger.  Disapproval would be folly – indeed!  Our national Christmas celebrations are precious, and to question their validity or helpfulness is to walk a minefield of sensitivities.

And yet I would rather walk that path than by driven by malignant forces of consumerism, materialism and pride.  I too want to assert that Christmas is precious, but for strikingly different reasons.  Despite what the adverts tell us, and what we may have come to believe, Christmas is not primarily a time for families, or for making extravagant gestures highlighting the love we have for one another.  It is first and foremost one celebration amongst many which tell of God’s amazing love for us.

From eternity, God saw how enslaved we were to the whims of the rich and powerful and to our own foolish pride.  He saw we were living only half a life, encumbered by worries, facing an uncertain future and frightened of death.  And he stepped in to rescue us from that oppression in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Christmas is a powerful celebration of God’s first-hand understanding of what it means to be human; in Christ Jesus, God became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14).

By giving us his Son, God has given us the opportunity of real peace; not the “grit-your-teeth-Aunt-Gertrude-will-be-gone-by-Boxing-Day” kind of peace.  In Jesus, he has given us real joy; not the plastic-grins of sound-activated dancing flowers or the short-lived, hangover-followed merriness of alcohol.  In Jesus he has set us free to be who he created us to be; free from dancing to another’s tune, free to live life in all its fullness with him as our loving Father.

Now that is some Christmas present.  And worth celebrating.  As we make our plans for this Christmas, amidst the noise of the advertisers who would use us to make money for them, so God is calling us to enjoy his freedom.  Will we listen?

God Willing

In an earlier entry I wrote about the song “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” and its underlying assumption that the world is governed by “The Fates.”  (“Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow.”)  In writing it I discovered that the words “if the Fates allow” were actually a replacement for “if the Lord allows.”  This brings a whole new angle to the debate, especially in the light of the change that we are seeing from Christendom’s BC and AD to the post-Christendom BCE and CE.  Originally, the song emanated from a Christian worldview, but the lyrics were changed to eliminate the Christian dimension because some people felt it was offensive.  And maybe it is offensive to some; the idea that “the Lord” might not allow something we hold dear.  Let us see…

Christians understand “the Lord” is the God of the Bible, variously described, including Jonah’s phrase, “The God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9) and God’s own words recorded by the prophet Isaiah (46:9), “I am God and there is no other.”  Being humble before such authority is surely entirely appropriate.  In the Bible book which bears his name, James (who describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”) encourages his readers to be humble before God and chastises them for being arrogant in their boastful planning.  He writes, “What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (Jas 4:14-15).  It is from him that we get the phrase, “God-willing,” and it is this idea which is being expressed in the original lyrics of the song.

Of course, we don’t hear people say, “God-willing” as much today as was once the case.  This almost certainly says something about our society and is entirely in keeping with the change from AD to CE.  Like the people to whom James was writing, we have grown proud, believing ourselves to be masters of our own destiny; we rely not on God, but on our money, our talents, our connections or our reputation to open doors for us and provide us with our every need.  In our so-called enlightened society, The-God-of-heaven-who-made-the-sea-and-the-dry-land has become at best an after-thought, and at worst, a swear-word.  We behave, not as servants of God like James, but as if we were gods ourselves – with the right to do just as we please.  No wonder we find offensive the idea that “the Lord” might stand in our way and confound our plans.  How dare he?  Just who does he think he is?

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus to Mary; a child born of a virgin, exiled to Egypt and raised by his adoptive father in the line of King David.  He made the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame leap.  Powerful men plotted against him, a friend betrayed him and false witnesses accused him.  Soldiers gambled for his clothes, he was mocked, beaten and crucified, though not one of his bones was broken.  Buried, he was raised to life on the third day.  All of this was prophesied in advance through the word of God.  Who then is the Lord?  He is the one who knows the end from the beginning, so we should approach him in great humility.  Yet Christmas also shows that He loves us deeply: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) – good news indeed, even for arrogant hearts!

Freedom from the Christmas Beast

Has your credit been crunched?  This period of financial instability and austerity continues to have mixed effects.  And Christmas just messes with people’s heads.

I recall watching a news report on the way the crisis is affecting people in our region.  In this report a young woman was being interviewed about the very real prospect of having her home repossessed by the bank.  Her anxiety was tangible, but never more so than when she raised the immanence of Christmas; “I’m managing to keep up mortgage repayments now,” she said, “but I don’t know what’ll happen when Christmas and all its extra expense comes round.”  My heart ached for her, but I must confess my sympathy was directed not at her financial need, but rather her enslavement.

She was on the brink of homelessness, facing the prospect of her family having to move out of the home she loved if she were to default on her mortgage payments.  Yet her comments seemed to suggest that extra expense brought about by the Christmas season was inescapable.  In her head was what seemed to her to be a genuine dilemma; “Which ‘bill’ shall I pay – the bill for the house or the bill for the Christmas celebrations?”

Clear thinking about her situation shows there is no contest; the mortgage must be paid, and Christmas luxuries can wait – forever if necessary.  It would be wrong-headed to put them in the same category as essential household bills.  If the young woman truly loves her family, she will surely hold back from spending on turkey and trimmings until she has guaranteed they’ll be able to stay in the house into the New Year; far better to be housed than to have a new flat-screen TV and nowhere to plug it in!  Her problem is the strong message being transmitted by the commercial world; “If you love your family you will buy them ….”  It’s a lie, but it’s on every street-corner, and it has been carefully set up to resonate with our heartbeat until we begin to believe it and it enslaves us.

It saddens me to see the impact of this lie upon peoples’ lives.  The consumerist culture we inhabit is so inhospitable and short of compassion.  Market forces feel no sympathy towards the people they lead on, and ultimately their promises of deep satisfaction prove shallow and empty.  Christmas comes at a dark time of the year, and commerce, whilst promising light, often ends up adding an extra layer to the darkness we experience.

In light of the current on-going difficulties in the world economy, perhaps now is a good time to re-evaluate the way we celebrate Christmas and give a mind to what is truly important.  If we are in any measure simply slaves to the system, it is my prayer that we would be like those mentioned in Isaiah 9:2; “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  The good news of Christmas is that in Jesus Christ, his only Son, God has sent us a Saviour to free us from all that entangles and liberate us to be what he always intended us to be.  This is something in which we can, surely, confidently invest.

A Merry Little Christmas

Now that summer has gone (and come back again for one last hurrah, then properly disappeared at the sight of the snowflake symbol flashing on our dashboards), it’s definitely that “approaching Christmas” time of year again.  In fact, the TV adverts are already telling me that “It’s Christmas” (not just approaching Christmas!).  It surely won’t be long before the radios of the land will be beginning to play the usual festive tunes, and DJs will sound excitable and nostalgic all at the same time.  Noddy Holder and Roy Wood can look forward to another bumper royalties pay-out, as can George Michael’s erstwhile musical collaborator, Mr Ridgley, while shops and offices sway to the themes of Last Christmas.

Constant radio-play drills these songs into our heads.  Today’s children don’t know the National Anthem, or even some of the best traditional Christmas Carols, but you can be sure they know Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer’s special song!  Loads of these popular Christmas songs refer to nostalgia, winter weather and to the activities of one red-suited white-bearded gentleman with a supersonic sledge.  To find any reference to the Christ of Christ-mas you’d probably have to listen to Cliff Richard.  Indeed, very few songs refer to the religious aspects of the Christmas season at all.  I find it fascinating, then, that, despite the normal pattern taken by writers to avoid religious motifs of any sort, one of the most popular Christmas songs actually treats us as if we believe in the tales of Greek mythology!

The song is “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” popularised by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM film, “Meet me in St Louis,” and subsequently recorded by notable others including Frank Sinatra and the Muppets (separately!).  Having spoken of “Faithful friends who are dear to us” who “gather near to us once more,” the song speaks of a hope that, “Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow.”

The Fates may sound like a slightly dubious 1960s pop-group, but they are in fact characters from the Greek pantheon: Clotho (the spinner) spins the thread of life for each human being; Lachesis (the measurer) chooses the lot in life each person will have and measures off how long that life is to be; and Atropos (she who cannot be turned) finally cuts the thread of life with her shears, so bringing each person to death.  In the world of Greek mythology, everything is subject to them – even the gods themselves.

Can there be anything more out of place in a Christmas song than a reference to three hag-like characters who wield such an impersonal and determinative power over the whole universe?  I’ll grant you that Rage Against The Machine’s Christmas number one of a few years ago was in pretty poor taste, but I reckon this line is probably more unhelpful still.  It taps into our society’s materialistic understanding of the world and encourages us to shrug our shoulders along with Doris Day and say, “Que sera, sera!” (or as today’s teenagers might put it, “Whatever!”) as if life doesn’t really matter.

This is complete madness, since the whole point about Christmas is that we matter immensely to God.  He doesn’t stand back, unable to overcome the power of the Fates (who don’t actually exist).  Rather, in His great love, He breaks into our world in the person of Jesus to rescue us and make us His children.  For those who feel helpless in the face of “fate” or other powers and authorities, He brings hope; the creator of the universe cares enough for us to search us out and bring us back to Himself so that through the years, we will be together.  And that’s a story that guarantees my celebrations each year can be described as “A merry little Christmas”.

Preparing for Christmas

So, here we are, half way through Exploretumn and the nights have really drawn in.  I guess it’s round about now that most people start thinking more seriously about Christmas.  Office parties are being booked, town-centre lights are being erected, and we’re conscious that time is pressing on – if we don’t get the cards written soon, the intended recipients will not know we’ve been thinking about them.   This season of preparation has a lot in common with the church’s season of Advent, which begins four Sundays before Christmas (1st December this year) and in which Christians look forward to the Christmas Day celebration of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  One of the similarities between the seasons is that there’s a clear end-point to both: it’s quite plain that Christmas shopping must be complete by Christmas Day; and the season of Advent is defined as ending as Christmas Eve wanes.  There’s no avoiding the fact that Christmas Day is definitely the end of the pre-Christmas season!

But there’s a difference between the seasons too.  As well as helping Christians prepare for the celebration of when God became a man in Jesus to rescue sinners and make them his children again, the season of Advent has a second purpose.  Remembering Jesus’ birth is only part of the deal – Christians also look forward to his return as judge and king at the end of history.  Preparing for this is slightly more difficult than preparing for a Christmas celebration; “the end of history” has a date and is therefore a deadline every bit as definite as “Christmas Day”, but nobody actually knows what that date is.

For most people, this uncertainty tends to result in an understanding that “the end of history” is a long way in the future – so far, in fact, that it is of very little relevance.  And because it is so far in the future, most people – even the super-organised ones – put the task of preparing for it a long way down their list of priorities.  Indeed, I would venture to suggest that very few people give it much thought at all.  Now you might think that it is a bit bold of me to make such a sweeping claim, but I do so on the basis of surveys that have been conducted recently into people’s attitudes to Christmas itself.  Apparently, in the UK, just 12 per cent of adults know the nativity story, and more than one-third of children don’t know whose birthday we are celebrating at Christmas.  In what many still like to regard as a Christian country, a staggering 51 per cent of people now say the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas.  I reason that if people are not including Christ in their Christmas despite the Christian heritage of our nation, they almost certainly aren’t thinking about his return.

Jesus himself advises that this is a terrible mistake.  He describes the day of his return as coming “like a thief in the night.”  The image he uses is deliberately shocking in order to wake us up and make us take notice.  He will come suddenly, without further warning – we are already on notice.  On this basis, the sensible thing to do is to put the task of preparing for his return at the top of our priorities so that we are ready when he comes, whenever that is.  So, will you spend the next hour searching the internet for the perfect Christmas gift-wrap, or would it be worth spending some time reflecting on your relationship with God?

Christmas is coming, and so is Christ – may you all be ready!

Moving the goalposts

As a parent and a parish priest I have been involved in a number of schools up and down the country.  As a school governor I’ve even been involved in a couple of Ofsted inspections.  One thing I have noticed is that, in the quest to raise standards, judgement criteria change fairly frequently, and this is quite challenging for schools.  The phrase, “moving the goalposts” springs to mind.

Praise God, then, that when it comes to our relationship with God, the Bible makes it crystal clear where the goalposts are; about what God expects of us.  Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt 5:48).  With the target set as high as this, we can be confident that the goalposts won’t move – there’s nowhere higher than perfection!  But it does then beg the question, how will we ever reach our target?

The answer is that on our own we won’t.  None of us will ever be perfect (and even if we think we’re good people, deep down we know we still have dark thoughts and ugly attitudes).  So are we lost, consigned forever to miss the mark?  No, praise God!  The Bible also brings us the good news of hope in Jesus Christ.  Because of his perfection, and by faith in him, we can be counted as children of God.

The Bible is clear about this, but sadly, our hearts find this difficult to take.  We find the idea of coming to Jesus for help somehow offensive; it runs completely against our pride.  And what we end up doing is trying to move the goalposts to suit us.  Each of us imagines they are somewhere slightly different.  For one, it is sufficient that they were baptised as a baby.  For another, the goal is reached by their charitable good deeds.  Others choose to remember that God is love and anticipate, therefore, that he will ultimately turn a blind eye to their sin.  Tragically, they forget he is also just (promising never to acquit the guilty) and holy (unable to look upon sin).  Our attempts to move the goalposts are completely futile.  We can pretend all we like, but they will actually remain where God set them.

We’re fast approaching the season of Advent when the church looks forward to Christ’s return as the judge of all.  But whilst the return of Christ is good news for his friends, it is not good news for those who reject him, and I am anxious for everyone who diminishes his importance.  This month, may I urge you all as a matter of some priority to consider how you relate to him?  Do you trust Jesus to carry you to the goal, or are you trying to move the goalposts?