Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Standing at the Dusk of 2008

This little montage shows a snapshot of most (although not all) the people who have, at some point in 2008, been part of the same mid-week small group as me. (Yes I have their permission post their photos on a public site, but because the blog-o-sphere is full of nutters and weirdo(e?)s, I won't introduce you to them here.

Just before Christmas, we had our last get together of 2008.

I love those meetings, and I love these people! Amongst other things that evening, we each had to give a word that summed up our 2008. Cheesy and predictable I know, as well as notoriously hard if you want to be objective!

Moments like those are special because in a small group like ours, a ramshackle bunch of people who's lives wouldn't ordinarily meet, not only meet, but share their hearts and lives and grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus together. I love these guys and I heartily look forward to doing 2009 with many of them!

So what were the words?  They can tell you theirs if you know them.  That is not for me to share.

The word I used to sum up my year was openness-vulnerability-honesty (yes I know that is three, but if you know me you'll also know that limiting myself to 3 is actually quite an achievement in the best sense!) - to the Living God and to people.

There are many things that have happened this year which have brought joy and satisfaction.

There are others that have brought pain and frustration. Whether it has been my falling short of others expectations of me or disappointments handed to me by life. Whether it has been wondering if I really have what it takes or wanting others to think that I do! The temptation in those moments has been to run back to my cave and do some long sitting.

I am by no means perfected... yet! Part of the process in getting there is being humble enough to sit in the light, even when what it shows up ain't that pretty and (because I'm proud) makes me want to squirm for Britain. Yet paradoxically, and nasty as it feels, it is testimony that I am truly alive. and that God in his grace, as given by awesome Jesus, is working in me.  To put it another way: dead men don't appreciate open heart surgery.  

That fact in and of itself, inspires my heart to humble, joyful worship of the one who loved me and gave himself for me and so I rise and press on in faith!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

They are Lining Up!!


Clive James, hot on the heals of Parris (perhaps), is effusive in his praise of Christ, but not necessarily how you would expect.

Read it here, listen here (11mins).

How would you respond?

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Strange Ally

Bish got there first.

Matthew Parris' latest comment in The Times Newspaper makes pleasing/interesting reading. Go see.

What do you pray after reading something like that?

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Interesting Bits of News... Well I think so anyway.

I am a fan of the Today programme on Radio 4.  I grew up listening to it with Dad over breakfast and without even thinking, just carried that habit on into university and right up to the present day!

Here are some bits from today's Today, I found interesting:

Jesus in a Manga (3:55)
A somewhat comic (?) nativity story!

America is the nation everyone loves to hate.  Bush is the president that everyone loves to hate.  I think the guy deserves a bit of a break from pompous armchair critics like us!  Would you have done any better?  Here is an alternative point of view for proud, cynical Western Europeans like us to chew on.

The Pope on Gender Theory (6:52)
I wince when I hear the Pope being referred to as Holy Father.  That said, I have to hand it to her, Joanna pulls no punches and is more blunt (in a good way) than I probably would have been had I been in the same position!

They also interviewed Richard Dawkins (a very famous atheist) on what he does for Christmas.  But they don't seem to have posted that interview there! :-(

Saturday, 20 December 2008

How do you follow this?


If anyone is thinking of getting me a Christmas present...  Don't get me this!! I'll have as many ties and socks as you want!  

That said, it is very funny! ;-)

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Rebekah Barnard

Rebekah is in her 2nd year studying Natural Sciences at Reading University and is in the same mid-week cell group as me.

She is a top little sister and has been an encouragement to me in many ways. Here are three of them:

1. She is a faithful member of our cell group.

2. She is displaying what it means to have Jesus be Lord of every part of her life, even when it hurts (a lot).

3. She made a comment on Facebook that she had "got church tonight." All she was doing was meeting with others in someone's house to worship God, study the bible and pray, not a meeting in an official building or anything. No smells or bells or robes or strobes (the last one I guess you'd find in some trendy relevent church, no doubt). She knows what church is really about! Not style, form or ritual, but real substance - lives united together to Jesus, transformed by his mercy and love and waiting in hope for his soon return!

It ain't any more complicated than that! :-)

Monday, 15 December 2008

A Heroine of whom the World is not Worthy



Last week I had the privilege of preaching at RUCU's main weekly meeting. As I did some of the preparation for it, I came across this. It is magnificent; the testimony of Lisa Beamer, who on 11th September 2001 lost her husband and the father of her 2 (+ 1 on the way) children in the plane that was kamakazied by Islamic extremists into the Pentagon. I found myself welling up! And yet curiously strengthened by her testimony, in a way that only God the Holy Spirit can do.

Here she is being interviewed by Larry King on national American TV. I haven't embeded it since it is in two parts and you can find the second half here (14mins in total). Other videos are in the side menu are of interest too.

Oh... and the text I was preparing to preach on at the time was this.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Wonderful...

A friend of mine, Andrew Parsons, pointed out to me this clip.  It is stunning!




Makes me realise sometimes how flatly I read my Bible and how great truths fly past me without me noticing them!

PS The reader is Ryan Ferguson and he performed this video at a Sovereign Grace Ministries conference this year.  You can find more of the same here.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Encouragement Between Brothers is Sweet!

Had the pleasure of meeting up with Tim Pinkstone this morning.  (The guy in the photo, just in case you were wondering!)

Tim was a member of our church when he was a student here in Reading.  He has delayed entering the rat race that is the adult working world for a year so that (with the help of these guys) he can support and mentor Christian students at the University of the West of England as they seek to tell other students about Jesus Christ.  

He has chosen to sacrifice many material comforts to do this, but I bet you, if you asked him, he would say it is no sacrifice at all and that Jesus is worth it!

I love this guy.  God-willing, he will be back with us after he has finished his year in Bristol.  

Suffice to say that our time together was over too soon.  I hope it isn't too long before he is dropping by this way again!!

Monday, 8 December 2008

You wanna be an environmentally friendly Christian? Then tell people the good news about Jesus!


This is probably my most politically incorrect post to date.  

If creation was given the task of testifying to the glory of God, then having to support a sinful humanity that desecrates and blasphemes such a glory will be a gigantic frustration for it.  Addressing unbelievers, Joseph Alleine (a 17th century puritan) writes:

The whole CREATION of God is against you.  
'The whole creation', says Paul, 'groans and travails in pain' (Rom 8:22). But what is it that the creation groans under? The fearful abuse it is subject to, in serving the lusts of unsanctified men. And what is it that the creation groans for? For freedom and liberty from this abuse; for the 'creation is not willingly made subject to this bondage' (Rom 8:20-21). 

[Richard interjects: Note in Gen. 3:17, it is not Adam who is cursed for his rebellion directly but the ground (the creation) is cursed in his place!  If I was creation, I would be well peeved!]

If the irrational and inanimate creatures had speech and reason, they would cry out under it, as a bondage insufferable, to be abused by the ungodly, contrary to their natures and the ends which the great Creator made them for. It is a saying of an eminent divine, 'The liquor that the drunkard drinks, if it had reason, like a man, to know how shamefully it is abused, would groan in the barrel against him, it would groan in the cup against him, groan in his throat, in his stomach against him; it would fly in his face, if it could speak. And if God should open the mouths of His creatures, as He did the mouth of Balaam's donkey, the proud man's garment on his back would groan against him. There is not a creature, if it had reason to know how it is abused until a man is converted—but would groan against him. The land would groan to bear him, the air would groan to give him breath, their houses would groan to lodge them, their beds would groan to ease them, their food to nourish them, their clothes to cover them, and the creature would groan to give them any help and comfort, so long as they live in sin against God.'

I think this would be a terror to an unconverted soul—to think he is a burden to the creation. 'Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' (Luke 13:7). If inanimate creatures could but speak, your food would say, 'Lord, must I nourish such a wretch as this, and yield forth my strength for him, to dishonor You? No, I will choke him rather, if You will give commission.' The very air would say, 'Lord, must I give this man breath, to set his tongue against heaven, and scorn Your people, and vent his pride and wrath, and filthy talk, and belch out oaths and blasphemy against You? No, if You will but say the word, he shall be breathless for me.' His poor beast would say, 'Lord, must I carry him upon his wicked designs? No, I will break his bones, I will end his days—if I may have but permission from You.' A wicked man—the earth groans under him, and hell groans for him—until death satisfies both. While the Lord of hosts is against you, be sure the host of the Lord is against you, and all the creatures as it were up in arms until, upon a man's conversion, the controversy being settled between God and him, He makes a covenant of peace with the creature for him (Job 5:22-24; Hos 2:18-20)

Full text of the chapter is here

Recycling our plastic and bottles, turning off lights, swapping our cars for bikes are all laudable in themselves, but the BEST thing we can do for creation is speed about the return of Jesus, by preaching the Gospel.

I'm not sure I go all the way with Alleine for the simple reason that Christians die in natural disasters too.  However, what I do heartily agree with is that we all need mercy, infinitely more than we need recycled paper.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

For some reason...

It appears I haven't been receiving certain emails that I should have been receiving. Somewhere on the interweb someone/something is intercepting chosen portions of my mail.

That coupled with the counsel of good men (including my dad) and a certain gut feeling that 1 Corinthians 13:11 (albeit rrrriiiiipped out of context) applies to this part of my life too, has lead me to change my email address.

See Facebook profile or ask me for details.

I would say what it was, but you never know who (or what) reads this. Moreover, it has silent letters in so I can't describe it cryptically!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Right but Wrong


News-junkie that I am, I was listening to Radio 4's Today programme in the car on the way to work this morning (the rear wheel of my bike is currently in for repair) and found this interview (12mins 30) fascinating.


The politics of this situation is not what gripped me. This is not a political rant. What gripped me was the concept posited in the interview that one could do everything right in their own eyes and in the eyes of their superiors, have a clean bill of health and yet be totally oblivious to what is really going on - out of touch with reality.


The preoccupation they had at Haringey with data-crunching and target meeting became a smoke screen, obfuscating the human realities and tragedies that they were supposed to be fixing/preventing.


Many movements, theologies and philosophies that pass themselves off as Christian suffer from the same problem. Preoccupation with this or that thing whilst not bad in themselves can delude people into thinking they have life when they don't.


It's a timely reminder to me as I walk the road of life that I want to keep the main thing the main thing and embody this, first above all.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Double Predestination

Am trying to get my head round the whole double predestination thing in a way that doesn't make it explode and, more to the point, is firmly grounded in the glory of the Triune God, not some western philosophical construction of god that looks, to the untrained eye, like the God of the Bible, but isn't.

I have been informed that the early-mid 20th century theologian Karl Barth is a good place to dip, (not easy reading though, there aren't any pictures). I have done so here.

This seems to be the pivotal phrase in his writing on election and double predestination: Jesus Christ is the electing God and He is also the elected Man.

It will be a while before I have some concrete thoughts on this, but if anyone wants to ponder this with me a while, then please do. And do ask me about it, as it will help me to sort out my thoughts on what I am reading.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Lone Rangers Are Dead Rangers


This week, instead of our usual all together mid-week group meeting, our cell split into single sex groups and met at different places. The girls were with Rachel. I have no idea what they discussed, probably sugar and spice and all things nice. ;-)

Us guys are working through this book. We were discussing the chapter entitled Being a true spiritual leader and in it Artburn, (the author) quotes another guy Sam Keen who excited me by saying this:

At the centre of my vision of manhood there is no lone man standing tall against the sunset, but a blended figure composed of a grandfather, a father and a son. The boundaries between them are porous, and strong impulses of care, wisdom and delight pass across the synapses of the generations. Good and heroic men are generations in the making - cradled in the hearts and initiated in the arms of fathers who were cradled in the hearts and initiated in the arms of their fathers.

Now if you know me, hearing me saying that I got excited about this quote may sound a little strange as I have no sons of my own. I'm not even married. You might expect me to have a good old rant (privately if not in public) at the fact that single people often feel like they are the relational lepers of life, cut off from the highs and lows that are the relational adventures of marriage and family life, and instead being doomed to live in a world of gazing at their own navels. But I won't, not because I am hiding that reaction from you, but because I genuinely did not feel that way when I read it.

You see when God created the world, he intended that earthly families be a picture of his new spiritual family.  Membership of this family is not dependent on your life circumstances or relative successes, but on God's open invitation of mercy to the whole world.  When it works as it should; the love, tenderness, sacrifice and intimacy expressed in earthly families mirrors that which should be best demonstrated in the new family of God - the church.

So whilst I am not a father in the legal sense, I can be a father figure in a small part to many a young lad, both in the church family and beyond; through prayer, biblical instruction and practical life wisdom.

Blood may be thicker than water, but the Bible tells me that the Spirit of God who unites all God's children together as one is thicker still.
 
I can, (and I have a duty to) help cradle, nurture and initiate boys and young men into being real men, and better still, into being zealous and enduring disciples of Jesus.

This is especially poignant for me given that I work in a boys' school and only this morning had a boy tell me that he didn't know who his real dad was. He had never met him. My heart went out this little lad. He is by no means exceptional in our generation.

John expresses this vision for enduring godly men cradling and initiating the next (spiritual) generation a lot better than Sam, Stephen and I do.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The Rediscovery of True Wonder. Part 3 - Rejoicing in Reality

So how, according to the realisation in the first post of this little trilogy, does creation declare/sing/shout to us about the death, resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ?

The Bible tells me that, it does it in too many ways to count, but I am blind to most of them. The following I have seen, but only because God in his mercy has opened my eyes to see it in the pages of the Bible, not because I was astute enough, or even inclined enough to figure it out for myself from scratch.

Dear blog-junkie. before I continue, you must tell me if I push the analogy too far. There's seeing the fullness of something and there's looking for something that is not there. No comments, assumes that you totally agree, and are impressed ;o) with everything I have said. Otherwise, please question or challenge.

Genesis 1:14 tells me that the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, created the sun to be a sign. A signpost of what? The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If the second post in this series is right then when Psalm 19:1-6 talks about the heavens declaring the Glory of God, they aren't declaring some abstract philosophical notion of perfection, but the nature and work of the Son of God - Jesus Christ.

The sun gives everything in this world light to see by and heat to live by. The sun is the source of all biological life and physical processes on the earth. Jesus is the source of all life in the universe.

The sun holds the earth in orbit around itself, not bringing the earth so close that it should burn up, nor letting it spin off into space becoming a frozen wasteland. Jesus holds the universe together,

The earth turns away from the sun and is plunged into the darkness of night. Jesus never turns his face away from us, but we in our rebellion against him, turned to the darkness.

(N.B. I was going to say that technological advance with the invention of mass electrical lighting, whilst not wrong in itself, has obscured the vividness of some of these parallels. But actually it continues the metaphor well. Humans in the darkness of their own rebellion create their own little lights to live by, but these little physical lights are nothing, they have no real light in them - nothing of God's life-giving, life-sustaining light.)

From the vantage point of the human eye, the sun is "buried," in that goes into the ground at dusk - a metaphor of the crucifuxion, death and burial of Jesus. At dawn, the sun is "resurrected" from the ground. Jesus was raised to life and now offers life to the world. I do not believe that Jesus' resurrection happening at dawn was any coincidence at all.

In the daylight of the sun we are active, - alive. At night we are asleep - a metaphor of disorder and death. With the dawning of morning, the world rises with the sun from its death-like sleep to life. So too, all those who are united to Christ through the Spirit of God will rise with Jesus to eternal life.

What an awesome saviour!

A dare to me and you. Next time you are out walking with someone, pause, look up into the sky and tell them that God created the sun to be a symbol of his own dear Son, Jesus, through whom we all can have true light and life in this world and the next.

Finally, two videos to illustrate:

1. A picture of the consequence of human rebellion against Jesus, his subsequent crucifixion and and rebellious human beings finally being cast away from God's presence for ever.






2. A picture of Jesus' birth, resurrection from the dead and second coming:




...

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A.I.

In search of something else on the ubiquitous Google, I came across this.  Fascinating and terrifying all at once.  In the world of AI (Artificial Intelligence) the concept of making our own gods to rule over us may not be as far away as we think.  Whilst I make no theological connection with Rev. 13 symbolically, it certainly has echos of it!  

Also, if the article is right, it forces you and me to ask, what it really means to be human and, more to the point, what it means to be made in the image of God!  Some of our former assumptions about the image of God being in our functional superiority (ie what we do better than anything else) look like they may have a limited shelf life.  Watch this space.

God give me wisdom, love, power and boldness to live in such days as these.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Rediscovery of True Wonder. Part 2 - Revisiting the Fulness

The word "glory" is used in relation to many things in the Bible, including:

:: One's possessions/prosperity
:: The excellence or inherent goodness of something/someone
:: The shining out (or demonstration) of that excellence
:: The acts of God in the universe and in the lives of people
:: The act of praise

But there is also another meaning...

If you run a Bible search on the phrase "the glory of the Lord" or "the glory of the God of Israel" you will notice something curious about the references they throw up. Namely that these two terms often refer (perhaps even exclusively), not to some weird super-duper deluxe light bulb that comes down from Heaven, but to a person. See especially Ezekiel 3:23 and 43:2. That person, is Jesus Christ. This is even clearer in the New Testament in places like Hebrews 1:3

(BTW Knowing this gives us a fuller appreciation texts like Romans 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 3:18)

The giant Puritan thinker Jonathan Edwards assumes that the glory of the Lord refers to Jesus here (see second paragraph) when he gives his summary of how the Bible defines the word glory. (I pinched from him for my first paragraph.)

So when the Bible says in Romans 1 that the human race... exchanged the Glory of the Immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, animals and reptiles, this is not the rejection of some abstract New Age divine light from Heaven but the flat rejection of and rebellion against Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason that the whole world stands condemned and knows it (even if they suppress that knowledge) and thus in need of the mercy of God. We have not rebelled against "some benevolent, wise, powerful, detached-from-the-universe being – the construct of Western philosophy…" Intelligent Design type God. Rather, we have specifically scorned and rejected Jesus Christ.

So the person who asks: How can God justly condemn those who have never heard the gospel? is asking the wrong question.  Moreover, Christians like me get all emotionally twisted up in knots over this question because we ourselves, still don't see things as clearly as Paul did. God help me. God help us!  I humbly (and admittedly tentatively because I'm no giant like Edwards was) put it to you that the question we should be asking is not How can God justly condemn those who have never heard the gospel? but rather How can human beings be so dumb and rebellious that we cannot see the clear message of creation as it declares/sings/shouts to us about the death, resurrection and lordship of Jesus Christ?  The question is not: What is wrong with God? but rather What is wrong with us?

(All thoughts/comments/contrary arguments gratefully received!)

tbc

PS I don't like cheesy pictures like the one above that make the Son of Man out to be some Arian superman and yet it is helpful in trying to ground these thoughts in something more concrete. After all what did Daniel see, if it wasn't some thing like this in Daniel 7:13?  Maybe it's like what Ezekiel saw too...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembrance Day

"Never before was so much owed by so many to so few."

All that is true. And as I stood there in the silence, I was reminded that this sentiment is so much more glorious and with it, eternal, when I think on Jesus and remember this...

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The Rediscovery of True Wonder. Part 1 – Recovering the Standard

There is a famous Christian hymn that begins with the words: Jesus is Lord, Creation’s voice proclaims it. If you have ever sung that song, let me ask you: Do you really believe that line? I mean really believe it?

If you took a poll and asked Christians (including me) what they thought creation said about God, I bet you most of them would say that creation points to a general wise and all powerful intelligent designer, but if you were to press them on whether it points specifically to the Son of God, and his rightful rule over the universe, they would probably say I can’t see that. Most Christians, if they are honest, in saying what they see, would have to rewrite the line of the hymn and sing: “Some benevolent, wise, powerful, detached-from-the-universe being – the construct of Western philosophy…” is Lord, creation’s voice proclaims it, which is quite a mouthful to sing in the original 12 musical beats!!

Moreover, if you asked a Hindu what they thought creation said about the Divine being, I bet they would say that it says there are many gods, the Muslims; one god and atheists would be emphatic that it proclaims there is NO god!

In short, human beings, the world over, have suppressed the truth about God, which has been displayed in creation, and instead projected onto creation their own beliefs about God. We see in the creation what we want to see about God. What’s more is that we Christians also, myself included, still have trouble seeing the message that the Bible says Creation declares so clearly.

I know that the Bible is true, so when it tells me that God’s …invisible qualities such as his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they [all human beings everywhere] are without excuse, then if I don’t see those things, there is something wrong with me.

I need the help of the Holy Spirit to see what he meant when he inspired that bit of the Bible, rather than lower the Bible to my sin-polluted, truth-suppressing and depressing level of experience…

tbc

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Using the Bible to Praise God...

Below is the text of a handout I prepared for a workshop I was asked to run today. It was in the context of a training day put on by our church on how to worship God together and in all of life.

---

“If reading the Bible doesn’t lead you to awe, reverence and praise, then something is wrong!”

“It’s often easier to pray for each other than to praise God, because praying for each other falls well within the bounds of our everyday experience… God doesn’t.”

Why use the Bible to help you praise God in all of life?
1. Because through the death and resurrection of Jesus, you and I now have access to quality time with the whole Trinity, getting to know them (Ephesians 2:17-19). It doesn’t get any better than this.
2. Because whilst access to God is now open, it doesn’t mean that we can approach him in any old willy-nilly fashion (Psalm 2:11). The Bible shows us how to relate to him appropriately.
3. Because, as humans under the curse of the Fall:
i. Praising God doesn’t come naturally, we needs the Spirit’s help (1 Corinthians 12:3)
ii. We are not immune from being duped by wrong ideas about God formed in our own sin-polluted imaginations. (Isaiah 65:2)
iii. Even when we believe true things about God, we can quickly end up allowing the part to overtake the whole: e.g. only praising God for his love and never praising him for his justice in punishing sin. He should be praised for both, (see Luke 10:21).

Because in the Bible, God has given us everything we need to:
1. Nourish our minds with truth
2. Convict and strengthen our hearts with grace.
3. Inspire our imagination for good works and what it will be like when we meet him

How to use the Bible to help you praise God in all of life
:: By reading/hearing -> meditating on -> paraphrasing -> memorising -> internalising scripture. (Warning, this could lead to a Psalm 119:62 moment! ;o)
:: By declaring scripture back to God, reminding yourself, and him of what he has declared and promised.

Try saying these verses in your own words:

Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 29:1-2

How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
The earth is full of your creatures.

Psalm 104:24

Some verses (not an exhaustive list) to inspire you to praise and thank the One God who is Father, the Son and Holy Spirit for:
(Categories (and many scripture refs) taken in large part from: Wayne Grudem’s book Systematic Theology, and Piper’s book The Pleasures of God)

A. Who they are.
1. How they are not like us
(Their incommunicable attributes – nothing in our experience is similar)
:: Have no constraints: Ex. 3:14, Rom. 11:35-36
:: Unchangeable: Ps. 102:25-27
:: Eternal: Ps. 90:2, Rev. 1:8
:: All-knowing: 1 John 3:20
:: All-seeing: Jer. 23:23-24
:: All-mighty: Isa. 46:9-10, Jer. 32:17
:: Unity in diversity: Ex. 34:6-7
:: Invisible: 1 Tim. 6:16

2. How they are like us
(Their communicable attributes – elements of our experience are similar)
:: Wisdom: Job 9:4
:: Truthful: Jer. 10:10-11
:: Faithful: Ps. 141:6
:: Goodness/Kindness: Rom. 8:32
:: Love: 1 John 4:8
:: Merciful/Gracious: Ps. 103:8
:: Patience: Rom. 2:4
:: Holy: Isa. 6:3
:: Peaceful (in the sense of not disordered): Rom. 15:33
:: Righteous and Just: Deut 32:4
:: Jealous: Isa. 48:11
:: Wrath: Rev. 19:1-4
:: Their will/desire: Eph. 1:11
:: Freedom: Ps. 115:3
:: Perfection (Completeness): Matt 5:48
:: Blessedness (happiness): 1 Tim. 1:11
:: Beauty: Ps. 27:4
:: Glory: Ps. 24:10, John 17:5

B. What they have done/do/will do.
1. …in “big-picture” history
:: Creation: Job 38:4-7
:: Keeping the universe in motion: Heb. 1:3
:: Hiding themselves from the so-called wise and revealing themselves to the simple: Luke 10:21
:: Standing up for the weak: Ps. 68:4-6
:: Redemption: Titus 2:11-14
:: Judgment: Acts 17:30-31

2. …specifically for you
:: For you to fill in if/when God has given/gives you scriptures for particular situations in your life.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Good news, just in...

Just received this from care, hot off the press, I mean server...? :
---
Dear Friends

I wanted to write to you today to encourage you and thank you.

For the past eighteen months a fierce battle has been raging in Parliament over abortion. The pro-choice lobby has been vocal and very active and the attempts to liberalize abortion, resulting in abortion on request up to 24 weeks, nurses able to perform abortions, GP surgery abortion with completion at home the norm, and the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland looked like succeeding. There was even an amendment proposing prison sentences of up to two years for pro-life pregnancy crisis counselors found guilty of ‘misleading advertising’.

However, Jesus is Lord and it is He and not the politicians or the political commentators who sets the agenda. Last week saw an amazing series of events which resulted in a restriction of time being allowed for debate and so there was no debate about abortion. The attempts to make abortion inconsequential have failed!

There is no doubt that the two million postcards sent to MPs played a huge part in this. So thank you all for your prayers and faithfulness. It is easy to be cynical about the political process and think that we cannot make a difference. This great victory against all the odds testifies to the opposite.

What a great God we serve He is the ruler of kings on earth (Rev 1:5) and will be called King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:16).

Thank you again May you all know God’s richest blessings as you faithfully serve Him caring for women and their families.

With warm wishes

Nola Leach

Priorities... or lack thereof


I know in life that my priorities should be:
1. God
2. People
3. Things
...in that order. Often, however, it feels like the perverse reverse is more reflective of what my life is about. Help me daddy!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I don't think the Holy Spirit meant Coca-Cola when he inspired Isaiah 52:7


Coca-Cola have an official mission statement, a very laudable one in many ways! However, at the end of the day, it boils down (is that a mixing of metaphors or just a few too many?) to getting a coke within the reach of every living person on the planet.

The latest stats from joshuaproject.net (downloadable here 8.5Mb) show that we still have a way to go to get the good news about Jesus and the Kingdom of God to ears and hearts of everyone on the planet.

I have nothing against Coke. I admit that I like Coke, (especially to help me race) I even cook with it sometimes! But the thought that any sickly sweet drink that rots your teeth and makes you hyper would find it's way into the hands of every person on the planet quicker than the life giving words of Jesus is offensive to me! So then, the question comes, Richard, having pretended great moral outrage in that last sentence, how will you be the answer to your own prayers? You don't want to be labeled a hypocrite or some pathetic arm-chair dissenter now, do you?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Rebranded...

Having thought that my blog had a really cool name: ruminatingonreality.blogspot.com (and yes I was probably the only one who liked the alliteration and the big words), I have changed it.

The reason is simple. When I introduced it to people, few had any significant conscious recollection of hearing the word "ruminating" at any point in their lives. Of those who had, not many were sure how to spell it. It's one of those words we may hear in speech, but rarely if ever, see written down.
  • Is the first vowel sound made up from "oo" or "u" or even the more outlandish and Continental "oux"?
  • Does it have a silent h after the r like rhyme and rhythm or not?
  • Is there a difference in the American (roominate?) and English (rhumineight?) spelling, and which one did Richard go for?
That coupled with the anxiety of trying to remember if it's reality or realety (local dialects can confuse, the issue) made me sit back and take stock.

In short, there is something distinctly uncool in having proudly announced your blog address to people, then to have to sit down and spell it out for them!

So then came the dilemma of what to call it. All the obvious domain names had already been taken like richardwalker, rw, rmw... I even momentarily toyed with the ideas of jesuslovesyou and happyclapper then saw that these had been taken too. :-(

What wound me up about these addresses was that they were all held by people who hadn't blogged for YEARS! They didn't have the decency to think that I, Richard Walker, might one day come along and want one of those addresses... pleeeeease. And if there's something that really winds me up, it's when people start something they don't fi



;o)

Monday, 20 October 2008

My next assembly

I have an up and coming school assembly where I intend to show the following video:



And then say this:

I meet many guys who make it their ambition to have big wallets or big muscles or a big brain or a partner who is big in the beauty stakes or a big name.  I don't think I have ever met a guy who has told me that it is his ambition to have a big heart, a strong, caring, protecting heart...

If you were doing the assembly, where would you take it from here?

Friday, 17 October 2008

Dare you pray like Elijah?

Wrote this two years ago after a cell meeting (a Christian mid-week house group thing - not a terrorist network). Thought I'd post, a mildly reworked version of the original email, given the current climate:

---

For those of you who weren’t at cell tonight we considered (amongst many other things) the bit in James 5:17 about Elijah being held up as the example of persevering and believing prayer. He prayed that it would not rain and it didn’t... for three years.

Have you ever wondered about the context of that prayer? Doesn’t it seem odd to you? I mean think about it, when was the last time you attended a prayer meeting in which you all prayed for God to send famine and drought upon the whole of Britain? But this is the kind of prayer that Elijah was praying. James holds this up as an example of the expectant prayer of faith that pleases God! Should we follow, and if so, how?

The context was that the nation of Israel was deeply set in idolatry of Baal. Baal was a fertility god who was supposed to bring crops and abundant harvests. Huge swathes of the population were steeped in Baal worship and had forsaken the Living God. In this context, Elijah prays to God that God would withhold the rain from the nation so that the people would realise that Baal was no god at all and return to the LORD. Elijah didn’t ask God to mollycoddle them or to tell them how much he loved them, he prayed for the nation to suffer so that they would be brought to their knees, snapped out of their rebellious idolatry and deluded thinking, realise they had been worshipping false gods and so return to the living God of Israel!

The whole thing ends with a big contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, (see 1 Kings 17-18), and of course the true God of Israel wins.

Three reasons immediately spring to mind for me as to why Elijah prayed this prayer and not one of abundant blessing:

1. Elijah knew that God created a moral universe where there are blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. This covenant nation of Israel had walked away from God’s laws, it did not deserve blessing or mollycoddling, it deserved judgement. In the same way that a parent would pray for a wayward son to turn from his evil ways by spending time in prison having received the due penalty for his crime; Elijah prayed that through the just affliction of a national drought, Israel would see sense and return to the LORD.
2. Elijah desired that the hearts of the people repent and return to God. See the parallel in Luke 1:17 between Elijah and John the Baptist. Out of that deep love of God and and concern for the eternal welfare of the people, he prayed whatever it took to get them to a safe place, i.e. Saved even if the route that got them there was painful!
3. Elijah knew just how full the people were of pride and delusion in their idolatry, and that it would take them not just 1, but 3 years of famine to get to the point where they knew they needed a Messiah, not Baal.  What and how long would it take us, if at all I wonder?

My question is do you ever dare to pray like that? That God would bring our nation to its knees so that it might see its need for mercy from Him? What would that look like?
  • Would you pray for our economy to collapse so that people would realise that material possessions are no god like the God of the Bible?
  • Would you pray for the schools to self-destruct through pupil violence so that people would realise that a “good education” is no god like the God of the Bible? 
  • Would you pray for celebrities to suffer many and varied tragedies so that people would realise that fame is no god like the God of the Bible?
  • Would you pray for people to start contracting all kinds of diseases so that they would realise that surgery and medicine are no God like the God of the Bible?
  • Would you pray for or nation to be successfully invaded by a foreign power so that people would realise that our military might is no god like the God of the Bible?
  • Would you pray for the nation to descend into anarchy through crime and political apathy so that people would realise that liberal democracy is no god like the God of the Bible?

How long would you be prepared to pray these kinds of prayers for? 2secs? 2mins? 2hrs? 2 weeks? 2yrs?

Of course some will rebuke me with Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles: Jer 29 esp. v7, but the fact remains that James uses Elijah as his example, not Jeremiah or even Moses who had some pretty incredible moments of prayer! Whilst we need to get everything in balance, I submit this to you and ask you not just to ignore it, but to consider it as you pray for our nation.

Don’t shy away from daring to pray that our nation is brought to it’s knees, not because you despise her, but because you love her and want to see her turn honestly to the only God, Jesus Christ who can do her any good, both in this life and the next.


Saturday, 11 October 2008

Move-me Music

On those days when I suffer a more acute sense of delusion and self-aggrandisement than normal, I fancy myself as a great musician!

The flaw is that I got music, but I don't got lyrics! I can come up with a semi decent tune, but my lyrics usually resemble something from a bad primary school poetry session. Like so:

The cat,
Sat on the mat,
Then the hat,
Said that,
He was fat,
So the cat,
Who was fat,
Went SPLAT,
On the hat,
With his cat
Paw...

I know that's quite profound for some popular music, ;-) but I would want to attempt something a bit more meaningful if I ever did get round to putting pen to paper!

Over the last 3 years or so, I have come to love film music. On reflection, I think it's because much popular music is caught up in navel-gazing, worn out clichés, general meaningless bafoonery and, of course, the pursuit of money and a name. Now I'm not naive enough to suggest that all film music is morally any better than the popular music just described. Nor do I sit down in protest at discos and refuse to dance when a personal favourite, S club 7's Reach for the Stars, (it's packed with clichés) is busted out over the grooving space! It's simply to say that when you have a great film, one that deals with the big themes like war or overcoming suffering and injustice or the complexities and tragedies of family life, then the music that goes with it carries a weight and a transcendence across human experience that you rarely see replicated elsewhere in popular music. Good film music, because of its associations with the great themes of the film, helps me take my selfish little eyes off myself and realise there is a whole world out there.

Let me try and ground that thought with an example. Arguably my favourite piece of film music is from The Mission (Type The Misson, City of Prague Philharmonic (it's the best recording) into iTunes). The reason I love it is that the last section of the piece (entitled On Earth as it is in Heaven) synthesizes joyful, powerful native South American tribal music with stately, serene Western choral music. This synthesis catapults my imagination Heavenward to the end of time when out of every tribe, nation, family and language, Jesus will receive his bride, the church and I wonder if the music in Heaven will sound anything like it.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see. :-)

The Beginning...

One of the titles ascribed to Jesus in the Bible is that of "The Beginning."  This puts a whole new angle on the the first three words of Genesis: In the beginning...  The Hebrew word that we render beginning in Gen 1:1 should not be understood exclusively as a comment on the concept of time and leads me to believe that, right from the start, the Old Testament Israelites knowingly worshipped, like us, the God who is Father, Son and Spirit.
 
What follows are two feel good videos, that help me begin to get my head around how God the Son - the Head of Creation, the master craftsman and carpenter, diligently went about the first of his works at the dawn of time under the (architectural) authority of God the Father and in the power (and inspiration?) of God the Spirit.

To put the Hebrew another way: Through the Son, the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit together created the heavens and the earth.

Christ truly is all in all.  

We are NOT alone.  

What an awesome God to bow before!!  



Thursday, 9 October 2008

Watch your life and doctrine closely...

This was an advert I stumbled across in today's Guardian.  It reminded me of something I heard once, somewhere (as you do.  Can't remember where though):


However, if I am honest, I buy in to this cultural assumption every time I could say something, but keep my mouth shut.  I am an aider and abetter to lies that entrench themselves in the minds and hearts of men and women.  With God's help I am determined to get out of this cowardly attitude one day.

Moreover, the History of the Quakers is also a salutary lesson for people like me involved in young church movements who can sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the movement we are in has all the (best) answers.  

How the Quakers went from founders like George Fox to ads like this are fuel for very sober reflection and humble prayer.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Is this is the best we can do?


Controversially, it seems that we as a race have arrived in evolutionary Heaven, or at least, things won't be getting any better without some conscious intervention from an intelligent source!!

I can't help but wryly grin.  ;-)  And thank God that there IS more to life than this!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My brother is provoking me!

Whilst at a family wedding this weekend in Leeds, my brother provoked me (in a good way, although it wasn't always like that when we were growing up! ;-) His provocation had come second hand from Michael Ramsden, a guy who works for a mission organisation called RZIM

Ramsden had been exhorting his students in a lecture to memorize scripture.

So I tried it this morning.

One thing I did notice, to my delight, is that memorisation forces me to engage with the detail of the text. I memorised 5 verses (Will need to test myself on them before I go to bed! My brain is like a sieve.) and in so doing, gleaned some awesome gems of truth. Had I just read the chapter, I probably wouldn't have noticed them!

If you fancy having a go, here are some tips I have found!

Next time you see me, ask me how I am getting on at this and test me, I need all the help and provocation I can get!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The heart of the matter...

Back in May, I heard Wayne Grudem speaking on Proverbs 4:23.

I stumbled across a note I wrote in my filofax when listening to him back then:

"Heart is like a musical instrument, bump it and it goes all out of tune."

We have a piano in our house. Unlike the quote above, she* has not been moved, and has still gone badly out of tune! :-(

If my life is to be like beautiful music to my creator and redeemer, Jesus Christ, and if it is to be a benefit to others, then guarding my heart from the evil desires that live within me and seek to bash it about is of paramount importance.

I may not be able to have any control on things going on around me in the world, but with God's help, I will learn to master my internal world and be a wellspring of life to all those to whom God has given me.

*Should any feminists be reading, I make no apologies for the use of what you might call patronising patriarchal personification ;-)

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

On eating meat when the stakes are high...

Spotted this article in the newspaper in the staffroom whilst I was rummaging for articles for my A-level class. It's hard trying to get boys to have opinions on more than just football, girls and alcohol!

Embracing a way of life in the gospel that has poverty and deferred gratification as its inspiration is not something that comes naturally to me.  Exchanging my burgers and bacon for beans, lentils and pulses is, in all honesty, not something I intend to do in a hurry.

But the truth is that the way we have been living in the West is not only unsustainable, it's also unfair and unloving.  And that is something I cannot ignore.

Whilst I'm no eco-warrior-tree-hugging-protesting-by-handcuffing-myself-to-a-bulldozer kind of guy, Jesus' and Paul's words are making me think long and hard on the subject.

PS  To avoid this becoming just another vain blog post, PLEASE watch this space... and more importantly, my example for evidence of any real change and take me to task if need be!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Courage

What follows was inspired by a spin-off thought I had, whilst listening to the bible being read at my church meeting this morning. We were reading Joshua 1:5-8.

The Lord commands Joshua to be strong and courageous when leading the people into conquering the land of Canaan, but when he commands Joshua to lead the people in obeying the Law, (The written down words of God.) he tells him to be strong and very courageous...

I have often, on the surface of things, fancied myself as a Braveheart like figure, but in truth, I feel quite weak and queasy at the thought of slaughtering a lamb for lunch, let alone charging into battle, sword in hand, trying to avoid being sliced by an enemy sword and simultaneously thrusting my own into as many enemy bodies as possible.

But military courage, hard as it is, is not the greatest battle requiring the greatest courage.

The greatest battle requiring the greatest strength and courage is that of being faithful to obey all of the words that God has spoken. Spiritual courage, the courage of obedience and faith requires the greatest resolve and therefore the greatest help. That is why, to those who look to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help them persevere and overcome in this life, God will give the greatest reward in the next life. Not a temporary one, but an eternal one.

It won't be the military heroes who are welcomed into Heaven, but rather the ramshackle bunch of individuals who have, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, lovingly obeyed, even unto death, the One who loved them first and gave his life for them.

Friday, 26 September 2008

The most expensive taxi fare!

I heard today about a former pupil from our school who was killed recently when he got hit by a car. He was trying to get out of paying a taxi fare and obviously was concentrating more on making a clean getaway than he was on the speed and volume of the surrounding traffic.

The desire to save a couple of pounds cost him his life.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Some things change...

In education, this video is all the rage in trying to help us get our heads round what kind of adults we want to produce at the end of 14yrs or so of schooling (It's 8mins 19secs long):



Last week a kid looked at me like I was from the middle ages when I told him I used to load up games on a computer using a tape recorder.

As the video shows, technology is changing the way that we think and function, we are able to transcend the limits of our bodies and influence life all across the world for good or evil depending on what we want to achieve. It's also jostling around the global pecking order. If I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure whether to be excited or wary about some of these stats, but I know that God is in control and whatever predictions futurologists make about the world of 2020, his intentions for human history will be the ones that stand at the end of everything when his Son, Jesus, returns. So I can entrust myself to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Trying to make myself look good...

This morning I read 1 Samuel 15.

Saul, one of the main figures in the chapter, frightens me. Why? Because I see more of him in myself than I would like.

Saul leads the Israelites into disobeying a command of God. This is bad enough, but he then goes a hypocritical step further and dresses his disobedience up as obedience and worship!
When he is finally exposed as a liar, his true motive comes out: he wanted to please the people more than please God. God's verdict is that he is no longer fit to be God's king over God's people.

Passages like this bring me up short. How often have I disobeyed the simple commands of God, even going to the point of deceiving myself that I am doing Him a favour. And all I am really doing is pursuing my own ends, namely that I want to be approved by certain people more than approved by God. Man, how I need help! More often than I care to admit!

Thank you Jesus that you are a perfect king over all. Thank you for mercy to fools like me! Please help me to desire your approval more than anyone else's. Amen. PS God, I know the answer to that prayer is going to hurt, but I believe in faith it will be worth it!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

The old chestnut of Creation vs. Evolution is older than I thought!


In a week which has lamentably seen the resignation of Michael Reiss as Director of Education for the Royal Society, I have found myself thinking again about the whole creation vs. evolution thing and what the implications are.  In my quest for material to help me ruminate, I found a presentation by a guy called Joe Boot, made at the European Leadership Forum.  His talk, entitled The Battle for the Beginning – the creation foundation of Biblical apologetics, (audio file here, outline here), is a provocative one.  

(Warning: It's 1hr40 in length.  Joe Boot works with RZIM and my experience of anyone who works for them is that their material is outstanding, but it comes out of their mouths at 100mph and so needs all my of concentration power!  I will need to listen to it a few more times before I can get the full benefit of what he is saying!)

He makes many fascinating points, (not least about how Darwin himself and how Darwin's Origin of the Species was received by Darwin's contemporaries).  Two of them I found particularly interesting.
  1. That evolution was not Darwin's invention and is a system of thought that is as old as the Tower of Babel.  Boot recommended this book on the subject.
  2. That (controversially) the first 11 chapters of Genesis must be read as literal and that Jesus himself would assert this (albeit implicitly rather than explicitly).
I still have my own questions about how the first 11 chapters of Genesis all fit together, but I am even more convinced than ever, in mind, heart and spirit that God's literal account of how it happened is the one to believe and with trembling joy bet my life on.

Friday, 19 September 2008

A sobering reflection...

It's great that Lee Strobel has finished this project and it will no doubt make fascinating viewing, but Charles Templeton's story is a sobering one for any Christian who takes their faith seriously, especially those in leadership positions. It's biographies like these that admonish me to stay humble and prayerful as I walk with God.


Monday, 15 September 2008

My pupils are provoking me!

I was on duty in the playground last week when I happened to strike up a conversation with one of the new Yr 7s.  I made polite conversation and asked him what he had had for lunch.  He said that he had had nothing because he was fasting for Ramadan.

Ramadan lasts for a month.  This 11yr old boy would not eat between sunrise and sunset for 1 month, which in September is still a long time.  If it was up to me, I would have made Ramadan only ever take place in December!  

If I am honest, I couldn't help but be impressed and healthily provoked by this kid.  He was neither boastful, nor bitter about the fact that he was fasting, just very matter of fact.  This little guy over the course of a year possibly out-fasts me, (I haven't yet sat down and calculated it yet.  Not sure I want to.  I could end up feeling a little humiliated).  Not that it is about competition, it's not.  And yet, just as I wouldn't expect to be beaten in an arm wrestle with this same kid.  So I should not expect him to out do me in spiritual disciplines either. 

I have a wonderful God and an awesome saviour.  How much more should I use all the tools that the spiritual disciplines are to pursue intimacy with God and fruitfulness in life than people who have been duped by the lies of the devil!

Moreover, God-willing, if I ever have any kids, I want them to be up for Jesus from as early as possible and in as sold-out a way as possible.  I guess, much like these little guys below.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Walker - Live for Jesus!

After a quiet period of seeing if I like blogging, along with the encouragement of others, I have decided to go live (you decide on it's pronunciation), for Jesus in the blog-o-sphere.

Therefore, (addressing the trusted friends who have known about this since just after it's inception), should you wish to mention it to anyone or to blog-roll me, then feel free!


Thursday, 11 September 2008

How much would you make others suffer for the sake of what you believe?

As a head of department, I am the one accountable for the GCSE results we get. This summer's results weren't pretty reading. The headline A*-C pass rate for the school was 75%. In Modern Languages, it was 66%. However I cut the cake, I couldn't make it look any better.

I won't bore you with any more stats, but when I investigated the figures further, I found that what put us significantly behind nearly every other subject was the fact that we had opted to do a final writing exam rather than coursework.

I took that decision on the basis of what I thought (and still think) were sound educational principles, the two main ones being that: 1) It kicks into touch any possibility of me being tempted to give my students a "more generous level of support" than I should (in case you weren't sure, that's another way of saying cheating) and 2) It makes the students better linguists because they have to have more of their whits about them and a more masterful grasp of the language learnt because on exam day it's "do or die." No chance for a second draft!

Of course there are counter arguments like: 1) When everyone else is doing coursework, I am making my students look unfairly poor against the rest. 2) The average employer neither knows nor cares about my educational ideology; so long as the grades look good, the details behind the grades aren't important. In the light of the arguments above, the first of these two arguments makes me feel guilty, the second, plain frustrated.

So will I eat my words and go back to coursework? Time (and senior management) will soon tell, but I hope not, and here's why: Life is ultimately about a big day of reckoning before the King of the Universe. Any little rehearsals we get along the way like exams and Performance Management Reviews that help us feel, in a small way, the weight of that great account giving of ourselves on Judgement Day, then so much the better. It is to that day that I want everything in my life to point, not just when I preach on a Sunday, but also when I teach on a Monday.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A word to the dis-CERN-ing


It was never going to be the end of the world today.

Why?

Cos we still have work to do!

I wasn't going to say anything on this, but then I enjoyed punning with the title of this post!  Does that disqualify me?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Why worry...?

Money is tight this month; not only because my housemate and I are funding an extension to our house, but also because we have lost our lodger (Tim), who got married to the lovely Jodie yesterday and because as a teacher, not working during August means you have more opportunities to spend money that you wouldn't have the chance to take if you were at work!

So when a guy I barely know, but who is a Christian for sure, asks me for £50 straight up, I am immediately nervous, but then this verse pops into my head... And so I go to the cash machine opposite our house and get it for him.

Since then I have been to a wedding.  As you well know, these kinds of outings can be expensive, but on this occasion it wasn't.  For whilst I offered people petrol money, they all refused. What's more, people offered to buy me drinks and I was able to camp in a back garden and so not incur any B&B costs. It was the cheapest wedding I have been to in a while, considering what it could have cost.

I feel like I am living in the good of these verses...

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Fighting for your Life...

When I first saw this picture, it reminded me of this verse .
Anyway, that's not the point of this rumination. The rumination is this. Science defines life as consciousness - being awake and having the capacity to respond to your surroundings. However, Jesus said that real life is not about consciousness but about having a friendship with him and God the Father.
If that is true then, I fight for life everyday, because everyday I have to choose to spend time cultivating friendship with the Living God. It doesn't happen naturally. Everything in me wants to serve sin - my own selfish desires. Those desires must be fought and fought not just today, but day after day after day after day after day... Victory in self-discipline today is no assurance of victory tomorrow (although it does help).
Even if I manage to set the time aside, I still have to make sure I listen and talk to him and not just let my mind wander off into oceans of worry or banality. That's hard, especially in a week when I am beginning the slow process of rewriting all the files from my stolen laptop.
So how is your fight for life going? Are you solid as a rock or as a bowl of jelly? As we fight for life, let us encourage our hearts together in this, that God is the rewarder of those who seek him.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The crucial difference between faith and opinion

I dipped into a book by John Owen this week called "A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of The Person of Christ - God and Man."  It won't win any awards for a catchy title and only after reading some paragraphs 5 times do I get what they are saying.  (Not only are there words I have never seen before, some of the words I think I know turn out to have had different meanings back then making it all very confusing!)  So why on earth go through the struggle of trying to understand it all?  Because there are some diamonds waiting to be unearthed...

He was talking about how Israel had had such clear revelation about the person and work of Messiah through the Old Testament, yet when he arrived on the scene, they not only did not recognize him, they crucified him!

He makes the distinction between faith and opinion.  The first is something in one's spirit, the second, however strong is in one's mind only.  The generation of Israelites that entered and took possession of the Promised Land experienced mighty acts of God and exhibited great faith.  But one generation later it had all gone wrong.  The new generation had the culture and opinion of its parents but not its faith.  So when the temptation to follow after other gods was put in front of them, they soon wandered away from the Living God to serve blocks of wood! (!?!)

Many people think they are Christian because they have Christian opinions or have grown up in a Christian culture or family, but it's all guff and wind.

So the question I found myself asking was: How do you avoid dynamic faith decaying into mere culture or opinion?  The best answer I have come up with so far is private personal prayer/time alone with God.  We can surf on the wave of other people's faith when we are at meetings.  (And don't get me wrong I have times in my life when I need that just to hang in there!)  But the measure of a man in God's eyes is not when the man has an audience of many, but when he has an audience of one.  

(Not that we earn God's favour, but now that through the Cross we have God's favour, how much do we prize it?)

So how is your level of faith?  How much are you taking time out alone with God?  Have you fallen into the trap of thinking that drinking deep of your church culture is just as good as having  that spiritual life which Jesus offers springing forth from within a person?  Those of us who are seeking to witness, how are we doing at leading our friends/colleagues/children to dynamic faith in Christ and not just into a christian lifestyle culture?

Let us press on together, but let us also press on in the secret place alone with God into eternal life, that is personal, intimate friendship with God.

When he knows he has our full and undivided attention, he will do even more than we have yet dreamed possible.