Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Percy's Parting

Before you ask, no this isn't a post about the various hairstyling preferences of human hosted parasites.

Today I travelled all the way up to Oxford to see a specialist about my little companion.  The specialist who saw me turned out to be the brother of an old university friend!

To add to the fun, I had a small army of medical students accompany us for the duration of the consultation. Much ooo-ing and aaahhh-ing could be heard from the fledglings as the experienced hand effortlessly produced a comprehensive diagnosis of my apparently text book symptoms!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Percy's Progress

So today my GP referred me to the Infectious diseases unit up at the Churchill hospital in Oxford. I have to present myself there tomorrow at high noon!!  I'm guessing it'll be a course of anti-bs, but who knows? In the age of austerity and cutbacks, maybe they'll have no option but to revert to medieval remedies like gouging it out with a spoon and red hot poker (Not to be confused with the red hot Polka, which is a rather frenzied version of an otherwise popular traditional Eastern European dance.)

On the plus side, the nurse who redressed my foot after the GP consultation said she had never, in all her 30+ years of nursing, ever dressed a parasite infection! So I brought novelty onto the boring treadmill of someone else's world today! Hoorah!

As for of Percy - he's something of an ugly mug.

Obadiah and Obama: The Prophet and the President Have Something In Common

One thing that Percy the parasite is affording me is time to read whilst waiting to see doctors and nurses.

So here's a question, what do President Obama and the prophet Obadiah have in common? Peter Leithart explains:

Meet Percy

Well here he is, Percy the Parasite, in glorious technicolor as evidenced by the wiggly mountain-pass-style red line on the top of my foot:

This little blighter has been foraging around in my foot for the last however long. Off to the doctor I go!!

The concept of him foraging around doesn't offend me that much, however the thought that, like any living organism, he'll be needing the loo, does NOT thrill me. :-S

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Gospel According to the Moon!

As I write, the moon is full (or nearly full, I'm never quite sure), bright and large. Over the road at the community centre, there's an Indian wedding taking place, which is pleasant enough, but its joyful noise doesn't allow grouch-bag Walker to have an early night.

I've always assumed that in the Bible that the moon was symbolic of the church, reflecting the light of the sun (Jesus) in a dark world, but then I stumbled upon this, which has made me think again.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Go Slowly Richard, Or You'll Miss Much

The story of David and Bathsheba is chiastic:

A - Joab goes out to take Rabbah
   B - David gets Bathsheba pregnant
      C - Uriah dies
         D - Bathsheba mourns for Uriah
            E - Nathan confronts David
         D' - David mourns for his son
      C' - David's son dies
   B' - David gets Bathsheba pregnant again
A' - David goes out to take Rabbah

Peter Leithart makes the following wonderful comment about it in his book, Heroes of the City of Man:

I Have A New "Friend" :-S

So after two weeks of ignoring my various itchings, nausea and discomforts, stoically hoping they would go away, I finally went and visited the walk in health centre this morning.

It would appear that I have two ailments - I'm not one to do anything by halves!

The first is a bacterial infection on the fourth toe of my left foot acquired from swimming with an open wound (I hasten to add it was a very small one, I'm not that dumb! Although, I admit I am pretty dumb) in so called "fresh" open water.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Monks, Mercedes, Mika and errr... Mission?

It's interesting how companies market their products across different cultures:

In China, the veneration of religious figures still forms part of the majority collective consciousness. I can't imagine the vicar of Dibley or the Archbishop of Canterbury having the same awe-inspiring influence back here:

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

"Our Hearts Are Restless Until They Rest in You"

Gordon Buchanan, a BBC cameraman talks to the Today programme about the discovery of tigers up at 4000m in the Himalayas.

What I'd like to know is, in that unguarded moment of exclamation, who is he thanking?

If he considers himself not to be a Christian, it makes his reaction all the more fascinating...

Title taken from here, a rich and beautiful (albeit slightly odd to modern ears) prayer of Augustine.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

God is a Bigger "Party-Animal" than the Angels

Christians often talk about how the angels have a great big knees up to praise God every time someone gets converted.  But a closer inspection of the text (and you don't need a degree to work it out) leads me to think that there is one who is an even bigger party animal than all the angels, busting out joy-filled shapes on the dance floors of Heaven.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Bible Reading With James Cameron

Listening to Ezekiel 31 recently on my iPod and trying to imagine what's going on there, I found myself visualising the kind of scenes we got in Avatar.

Egypt and Assyria, great Hometrees; so great in fact that even those of Eden stood in their shadow.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The God of the Bible is Not A Leech

Ever had that niggling suspicion in the back of your mind that any God who commands worship from his creation (sending everyone who doesn't comply with this command to Hell) has self-esteem and image issues? Ever met anyone else who thinks that? The kind of suspicion that casts God as some enormous attention sucking leech:

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Reading Triathlon 2010: Personal Race Report

The only thing worse than aiming low, is aiming low and missing.

Today, I had three targets:

1. Be under three hours, failing that,
2. Be finished by 12pm or failing that,
3. Finish the race in one piece.

I managed to hit no.3 only, coming in at 12:00:47 GMT with a time of 3:15:47

Saturday, 11 September 2010

A Wedding Address

Today, I had the privilege of speaking at the wedding of some dear friends.  For better or worse, here's what I said...


It doesn’t seem like long ago when we were all packed into your front room, Chris, watching “Cool Runnings,” and Becca’s head was leaning affectionately on your lap and I thought to myself: Hello, something’s going on here... ;-)

Well, a year later, here we are all gathered before God to witness this momentous day in your lives: your wedding day. We’re gathered here both as witnesses to the vows you two are about to make and as cheering supporters to say we are with you all the way and whole-heartedly endorse with joy the new family that is being created today.

No doubt, few people in this room feel that joy more than your parents. These four people must be publicly honoured today for all the blood, sweat, tears, and joy that they have invested in you over all those years since you both first started growing inside your mothers’ tummies! They should be honoured for all those dirty nappies they selflessly changed, all those cuts and bruises they selflessly cleaned and kissed better, all those meals they selflessly cooked, all those times they selflessly waited for you whilst you did some activity that you enjoyed, all the times they made their own clothes last that little bit longer so that they could set aside the money to buy you that thing you desperately wanted for your birthday. You stand here today because of all their hard work, and I’m sure if you asked them they wouldn’t have had it any other way, because that is the nature of real love and it’s an echo of the love of God!

So, today is both a wonderful and serious occasion. For in a few moments, you two will utter the words “till death do us part.” If all goes to plan, then at no other point in your life will you ever utter those words again. You will never say them when you renew your mobile phone contract or buy a house or choose a holiday destination. You’ll never say “til death do us part” to your employer, your MP or to the president of your local badminton club.

The only decision that has bigger and more far-reaching consequences for you or indeed for any of us, is what you do with Jesus Christ and the offer of eternal life that he makes to the world.

For you two today, I know that decision is settled, as you have both humbled yourselves before Jesus, taken him at his word and are seeking to order and live your lives enjoying fellowship with him and following him wherever he leads you.

So what do I say to you on such a day as today? I am not a married man, so I have no firsthand experience of how to resolve arguments over who has how much of the duvet or how to manage the different expectations of both your families. I have no top tips on how to deal with the famously called ten-year itch, if and when it comes knocking at your door.

That said, I still have three things I want to say...

Today as you commit yourselves to God, commit yourselves to each other and step out as a new family unit into the community, I want to remind you of three things. These three things are not rocket science, nor are they things that I dreamt up on a rainy August afternoon. They are plainly there for all to see in the pages of the Bible. They are deep and profound truths to help sustain you through all of your married life together, because they are foundational truths, woven by God into the very fabric of reality. I am saying nothing new, I am simply echoing and resonating with what creation has silently proclaimed since the dawn of time.

Firstly, as you commit yourselves to God today, remember that you become what you behold.

I’m a schoolteacher at an all boys comprehensive, and on non-uniform days, I see my classroom filled with a load of wannabe mini-Rooneys, wannabe mini-Ronaldos, wannabe mini-emo band musicians and wannabe mini techno-geeks. The kids I teach idolise their heroes and they order their lives, whether consciously or unconsciously around the desire to become like them.

Your souls have been rescued from the empty way of life passed on to us by our culture and awakened to know the greatness and the goodness of God as seen in his eternal Son Jesus Christ. He has called you both up and beyond yourselves into a new world that is coming when this life is over. All of life is about preparing for that day when you, along with the rest of the human race, will meet him face to face. So now fix your eyes on this Jesus, humble yourselves before him, love him, study him, follow him, serve him and obey him all the days of your lives and encourage each other to do the same.

Chris, your greatest duty as a husband to Becca is not the household DIY, but joyfully by your words and example to point her to Jesus as often as you can.

Becca, your greatest duty to Chris is not the dinner on the table, but joyfully by your words and example to point him to Jesus as often as you can.

Talk about what you read in the Bible together, pray together regularly, lovingly and humbly point out to each other when you are going astray, confess your sins and renounce them before God together. And resist the temptation, of which many fall foul, to sell out and live for the shrivelled vision of a comfortable, me-centred life.

The beautiful irony of this truth is that as you look to Jesus, the eternally life-giving and loving God, you will inevitably become more like him, you will love each other better than you could ever love each other by just looking at each other.

You become what you behold, so fix your eyes on Jesus.

Secondly, as you commit yourselves to each other, seek all your happiness in the flourishing of each other.

You see, when we are left to our own devices, we assume that the way to seek happiness and fulfilment is by putting ourselves first, making time for number one. When this happens, marriage looks more like a business contract than a marriage. We make sure that the desires of both parties are represented fairly 50/50. That the husband gets 50% of the airtime to do what he wants and the wife gets the same. But that was never the intention when God invented marriage.

God created human beings in his image. The living God: Father and Son in the oneness of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is echoed in the creation of marriage where man and woman in the exclusive fellowship of love are joined together as one. The Father and the Son are not vying together to make sure they get 50% of the airtime each. Rather, the Father says to the world Look at my Son, isn’t he wonderful and all the father’s delight is in him, such that he forgets himself. The same is true of the Son, who loves and honours the Father in everything, denying himself and being obedient to death, even death on a cross. And all this is done in the fellowship of the Spirit.

So too Chris, you are to be like God in dying to your own agenda, and rather to seek all your happiness in seeing Becca flourish as your wife, a mum and as an adopted daughter of the living God. Love her as you love yourself, for she is today becoming bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Should you have children, the greatest gift you can give them is not the latest gadgets and gizmos, or fancy holidays, but to love and cherish their mother with all your might.

Becca, you too are to be like God in dying to your own agenda, you are not there to mould Chris into this or that image, but rather to love, honour and support him as a husband, a father and an adopted son of the living God. Should you have children, the greatest gift you can give them is not the latest gadgets and gizmos, or fancy holidays, but to love and honour their father with all your might.

Both of you are to be like God and seek your greatest happiness in the flourishing of the other.

Finally, as you step out into the community in new life together, love the world like God loves the world.

The Father, Son and Spirit are not introverted in their love, they are not selfish, they seek to share everything they have with creation, even with selfish creatures like you and me who stuck two fingers up in their face, they love to share and welcome back into this love all who will listen and welcome them into their hearts.

Your new life in the community is to reflect this same spreading goodness of God. You must love God first and best of all. Of all humans, you must love each other first and best, but that love must never become an introverted kind of love, the kind of love that back in your teenage years could see you spend all night snogging in a dark corner at the school disco, ignoring everyone else.

Chris and Becca; let your home be a home where the spreading, life-giving love of God is deeply and enduringly demonstrated. If you only love people like you, then you’re no better than anyone else, for even evil people have their mates round for parties. Let your home be a place where you not only welcome friends and family, but also those who are not like you: the poor, the needy, the disabled and the vulnerable; the annoying, the socially awkward, and yes even those few odd people who seem to have the knack of rubbing everyone up the wrong way. Love them well and continuously. Love them like God loves them and then you will be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

It is an impossible task, and you’ll never be perfect, none of us are perfect. But with God’s help you will do valiantly and you will do enough.

So, in summary:
  • As you commit yourselves to God, Remember that you become what you behold, so fix your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of your faith.
  • As you commit yourselves to each other, love each other like God loves God and seek all your happiness in the honouring of the other.
  • As you step out into the community as a new family, love the world like God loves the world, by giving yourselves not only to those who are like you, but also to those who are not.
Let's pray for you!!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Here's What I Should Have Said

Ever got stuck in a conversation with a Jew or Muslim about how it's impossible for God to have an equal, or to put it another way, about how the New Testament talk of Trinity is a perversion/corruption (in their eyes) of the Hebrew Bible? (Remember, Jews Christians and Muslims share a common Old Testament.)


Well I have, although admittedly not for a while.  Here's what I wish I'd said on those occasions:

Thanks Glen for flagging this.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Free Will is Self Will

At root, there's no such thing as "free will," just God's will or self will.

Yes we are free in that we can choose between a BLT sandwich or a tuna pasta salad when standing at the quick purchase counter in Tesco Metro, but you and I do not have the right to say yes, when God has said no, or no when God has said yes.

God was generous in the delimiting of his boundaries. Our problem was not that we wanted fruit, but that we wanted our own way, sticking our finger up at God.

Our exertion of self will is not without consequence. The question is who will bear that consequence? You on the day of your judgement or Christ on the Cross of Calvary?

Jesus died, rose, ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out his Spirit so that you and I could be like him who joyfully does the Father's will, instead of stingily doing our own.

There is no third "neutral" option called free will. It's illusory.


Dave Bish, gives a fuller take, and has a cooler graphic for illustrating something I talked about here.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Plane Fun

I've been on a lot of planes this summer!!

I'm a grown man, but I still get a frisson of excitement when the engines roar at take off!

London to Amschterdam (and back on the return leg):

Amschterdam to Nairobi:

Nairobi to Juba, (with a pit-stop in Lokichoggio):

This one was definitely the most fun!

Juba to Wau and back:

Juba to Nairobi:

Nairobi to Amschterdam!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

False Dichotomy Prof. Hawking?

The famous Christian physicist and debater, Dr John Lennox had this to say about Prof. Stephen Hawking's recent ultimatum to the public about choosing between God and the laws of physics:

...as both a scientist and a Christian, I would say that Hawking's claim is misguided. He asks us to choose between God and the laws of physics, as if they were necessarily in mutual conflict.

But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.

What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.

Full article here.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Re-Creation Not Restoration

Contrary to popular thinking, the goal of God in history is not to return us to Paradise Lost in the Garden of Eden.

The human race is not "returning", nor is it "evolving", but it is, as one man, (Adam) "coming of age." 

This "natural" coming of age is marked by independence from God; a civilisation apart from it's maker. It's the world of exile, of Adam and Cain, of Babel and Babylon.

However much we mask it with science and progress, this coming of age is marked by increasing darkness, disorder, destruction (de-creation) and death.

There is however, another man - Christ. In Him, another people is coming of age.

Out of that deepening darkness, disorder, destruction, death and exile, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have birthed and betrothed this people (the church) and are preparing / maturing / "glorifying" them to live with God forever.

At the climax of history the natural man, "Adam" and all in his image will be condemned. Those who are in Christ will be transformed and glorified like Jesus when he rose from the dead.

For those who are in Christ, the Heavens and the Earth will no longer be separate, but one. The church will no longer be ignorant, but rather she will understand and live in the garden city in uninterrupted, unhindered fellowship with God for ever.

That's something no human mind would ever dream up.

The end is better than the beginning. It's not about restoration, but re-creation.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Thinking About Class and Christianity

Christianity has often been purveyed, both by it's adherents and many social commentators, as the religion of the British middle class. The religion of choice to help you get ahead, do life well, etc etc etc...

When the BNP starts to use British Christian heritage as a Trojan Horse for its essentially racist position, I think it's time to think clearly so that I don't fall into the trap of believing clever but false propaganda.

Moreover, evangelical Christians are not immune from falling into an overly rose-tinted, exaggerated and self-congratulatory view of how their piety has benefitted British public life. The truth of the matter is always more complex.

To help me try and separate truth from fiction in those kinds of assumptions, I'm reading The Middle Class - A history. It tracks the lives of these kinds of people:

Here is a great twist on the same sketch, a few years later:

How and whether you laugh at these sketches will say a lot about your underlying assumptions.

There is much to celebrate in the British middle class Christian heritage, but it is by no means all to be applauded. There are many weeds among the wheat; much vanity here to be shunned.