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


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.