Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday Merriment

The following video was recently brought to my attention by one of my chères collègues.

It's just a bit of fun, but beware... the syncopated rhythms are catchy! :-) You might find yourself, as I did, singing it as you pop to the shops or stack books or shave or shower, or peel carrots...!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Eyes Not Lies

I'm not sure I've ever heard any Christian preacher say it, but looking back, I've found myself in the bizarre place where I feel I need to lie to cover up good deeds so as to avoid falling into the sin of pride. It stems from (among other things) a misapplication of these words of Jesus.

The theory goes (in my head it worked) that if others find out about some good thing I've done, God will vindictively remove all heavenly reward that would have otherwise come my way for the deed in question. This then leads me into a loony declaration of all kinds of half truths and/or outright lies in a misplaced effort to guard my heavenly treasure.

I have come to realise this is dumb and ridiculous because:
  1. It flatly contradicts Jesus' other words that he spoke only a few minutes earlier.
  2. It leads me into sin, a guilty conscience and split personality thinking, because it justifies the use of lying and propagates that age old religious myth of sin points. You know, the one that says it's ok to commit a small sin (lying) in order to avoid either committing a bigger one (pride) or to avoid compromising the value of your New Creation Real Estate in the world to come!
However, when Jesus spoke those words, he was aiming at these kinds of people.

The question is not who sees you, but whose eyes are you craving? Are you craving the attention of your peer group, or the approval of your Heavenly Father? If it is the former, you have had your reward. What you wanted was the praise of men and you've got it. Well done you! You grow 10 feet tall when they compliment you, and look down your nose at others' shortcomings from your great spiritual height.

But if it is the latter, then like Jesus, you will simply go about your Heavenly Father's business. If people see, so be it, if they don't no problem.

For Jesus, his sole motivation was his love for his heavenly Father. For those who have come to abide in Christ and picked up their cross, the motivation is exactly the same and more.

So the next time someone asks you how much money you gave away or how long you are fasting for; feel free to tell them if you want or to say: "I'd rather keep that between me and God," but don't feel any obligation (like I did for a long time) to play it down and lie about it, for quite apart from anything else, we'll all eventually find out anyway.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A New Season is Sprouting

Above are some of the people with whom I've had the privilege of doing "Lifegroup" for the last three years. We have just multiplied into two new groups. Half coming with me and half going with Rachel, a new Lifegroup leader.

We've met in each other's homes on a Thursday evening to worship the Living God together, read the Bible and pray together, and encourage one another along the highway of life that leads all people to the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Not all the people who were with us over that time are represented above. We had 34 different people (not including kids or random "one-time wonders") with us over that three years. Many moved on due to career/life circumstances and/or because God called them to something exciting and new. They are all remembered with affection and we prayed for them as well as ourselves at our last meeting together as we looked to our Heavenly Dad to continue to guide us into the future.

I feel a bittersweet mix of emotions of a kind that I guess a parent must feel, when he sees his kids leave home; pleased that the normal healthy patterns of life are taking place, but grieving the loss of having a close regular connection with people who have become so dear.

And yet, I look forward with anticipation to a new season. To seeing new expressions of God's immeasurable grace at work amongst us as a new lifegroup and to continue plodding the highway of life in the company of some yet-to-arrive new faces as well as some of the well-established and loved ones.

Friday, 18 September 2009

On Subverting the Present World Order

The following documentary is both chilling and compelling evidence that, despite all its efforts to clean itself up, humanity in its essential fallen rebellious state against God, is far from the Hollywood Happy Ever Afters and no better than any other animal.

There is no hope for humanity outside the cross of Jesus Christ.

You and I can only be in one of two categories. We are either part of a fallen humanity, rejecting the offer of life from Jesus Christ and, along with the rest of the herd, spiralling down from one degree of shame to the next. Or we are part of the renewed humanity, receiving the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit and being changed from one degree of glory to the next.

The foundation in the former humanity is the (occult) will to power, the foundation in the latter is the love of God. This love, the world neither knows nor understands, but to those who are being saved, it is the greatest news of all.

It is also what makes the gospel of Jesus Christ totally subversive in nature. The plot-line of history is not the rich vs. the poor nor the literate vs. the illiterate, nor male vs. female, nor white vs. black, nor Jew vs. Gentile, nor the modern vs the primitive, nor the lucky vs. the unlucky, nor even the hard-working vs. the lazy, but those who have been united to Christ and those who in their insane scrambling, despite all the loving calls of the Spirit, refuse to be.

But receiving this love is not without cost to personal pride and selfish agenda. To come to the tree of life is to come to the cross of Christ, they are one and the same. To be grafted into the vine is to be crucified with Christ. The wild olive branch can only bear fruit once it has been grafted into its new olive tree and so start to bear a new kind of fruit. So too, the life of Christ can only truly flow in a person, once they have been crucified with him.

The life of the Christian then is not like any other. It's marked by joyful submission to, and participation in, the life of God and is motivated in all things by the self-sacrificing love that they meet in the true and living God of the Bible. Christians are not to use the methods of the world to subvert the current world order as they wait for the Appearing; things like shows of power, leading people by the nose and using their fallen fears/desires to motivate them and the like, but rather by love: open, obedient, Calvary-shaped love.

Escape the madness and coming Judgment. Come home to Jesus.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Echoes Actually

Embedding of this video (1min 10secs) has been disabled, otherwise, I would post it.

It's a wonderful reminder that deep down, we were made and long for a world that is not driven by the survival of the fittest, but by love.

Whilst we're having a pretty good go at erasing it completely, the image of God in Mankind is ultimately unsuppressible. I thank God that Natural Selection is not the final word on human existence. Jesus is.

My prayer is that if you ever end up at the church of which I am privileged to be part, (or any church for that matter), it will feel like nothing more and nothing less than coming home.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Saturday Morning Rides Can Be Dangerous

Having been out for the usual 40km bike ride on a glorious sunny and warm Saturday morning like this one was, I can get deluded into thinking I can take on anything. So when one of my training buddies suggests this: seems like a good idea!

There's a thin line between inspiration and insanity.

Time, alone, will reveal which.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Two Clicks To Help Rebuild a Nation

A friend of mine is looking to get sponsored by the Vodafone Foundation to go out and teach in Southern Sudan and help that war ravaged country rebuild itself. She is an outstanding young woman.

Please watch this video and then if you are a "Facebooker," vote for her here.

There are initial rounds, you can't vote for her directly just yet, you have to vote first for the category that she falls into i.e. working with people, and educational projects.

Click on the double right arrow tab at the top of the banner and then select polls to vote.

Intelligent Design on Trial

In trawling youtube for material I could use in my RE lessons to stimulate debate on the origins of life, I stumbled across this documentary (1hr40 sliced then spliced in 12 parts) :

Whilst I am a young earth creationist at heart, I cannot bring myself to condone some of the things done in this story by those with whom I would ordinarily stand shoulder to shoulder. It's also testimony to the fact that in some parts of America, Christianity is more closely tied to a misplaced sense of nationalism than to Christ.

It makes for very provocative viewing for people like me and is helpful if you, like me, want to get rid of the unhelpful straw men, clichés and sloganeering that are so often thrown up by both sides in this debate and to clarify in your head and heart what the real issues are; what is and isn't to be defended or propagated.

This morning, (Saturday) my bible reading plan landed me in 1 Cor 4. I know the context is not ID, but it was helpful to me. The issue is not can I get my head around everything, I can't. My head would explode. But my first priority is to humble myself before the living God for their assessment, not mine or anyone else's.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Tale of a Rugby Conversion

The church, of which I am privileged to be part, is hosting a men's breakfast here, in Reading Town Centre at 7:30am on Saturday 19 September.

After feeding ourselves on heroic amounts of salted lard, protein and carbs, former 58 caps, Welsh International Rugby Union player Garin Jenkins will tell us his life story with anecdotes from both on and off the field, including how he met Jesus - his most life-changing conversion of all.

There is a small charge of £5 to cover the cost of food.

See me or contact the church direct if you, or anyone you know, would like to come along.

There will be no granola, no very low fat yoghurt and no flowers within 50m of the building. We promise! ;-)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Thoughts on Bruce A Ware's Book: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is a brief (158 pages) devotional introduction to the God who is revealed to us in the Bible and very helpful for anyone wishing to learn more on the foundational, unique and exclusive aspect of Christianity that is: The Trinity.

The applications he draws from the Trinity to model in everyday life, I think likewise, are mostly spot on. I do politely part company with Ware in a handful of places. This is not the time or place to go into those in detail. I flag them up for your consideration, should you decide to read it and I am more than willing for you to challenge me on any of my assertions. :-)

1. Ware gives the impression that Trinity is a wholly and solely New Testament and post New Testament idea. For whatever reason, and I don't doubt that there may be a good one, he makes no significant attempt to engage with the Old Testament on the subject. His scripture index is clear testimony to this. Though the Old Testament is over three times longer than the New, (and gives you all you need to know) it gets a third of the air time in his book.

2. He says [p57] that the Father can act unilaterally, but chooses to act through the Son. With verses like this one in mind, I am inclined to disagree. The Father can only reveal himself to a fallen creation through the Son. If he chose to act unilaterally, we'd be burnt up.

3. The "split-personality" Jesus makes a brief appearance in ch4. You know, the one who makes you say yes and no to questions like: Did Jesus know what people were thinking? The answer being In his human nature, no he didn't, but in his divine nature, yes he did. Personally, I find this approach both bizarre and misleading, and whilst there are things I don't understand, I'd rather simply say that Jesus has always and only ever done things in the power of the Spirit. To go beyond this is to go beyond the Bible.

4. Ware gives the impression that when Christians get to Heaven, the Holy Spirit will pack his bags and go back stage into retirement, (his job being done) leaving the Father and Son to enjoy on centre stage, the worship of creation. If the primary work of the Spirit is to testify to our adoption as children of God, then I see no reason why this would terminate at the end of this age, if anything his presence in the heart of the Christian will increase and come to climax as he is given free reign in our hearts to testify to the greatness of the Father and Son and joyfully brings us into the fullness that is sharing in the divine nature.

Simply put, the reason I part company with Ware on the points above is because he basically conceives of the Trinity like this:

Whereas I conceive of them like this.

Let me joyfully reiterate, Ware and I have more in common than not and this book is worth your time, but depending on which of these diagrams you go with has some not insignificant implications for your understanding of God; who they are and how they work.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Embedding Bible!

Bible Gateway have a tool that embeds bible passages into your web page! I stumbled across it the other day when I looked something up in KJV language:

Normally I quote the NIV or ESV, but because they are not in the public domain, they are not allowed to be embedded just yet. So here goes my attempt at embedding one of my favourite Bible verses...

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1-2, New King James Version)

If only embedding it in the heart were as simple!