Thursday, 26 February 2009

Made me chuckle...

I find it amusing that the day I began my Facebook Fast, this (3:29) should be aired on the Radio 4's Today programme.

Many just think my giving up FB is plain odd. Some feel sorry for me, (I haven't yet worked out why). I agree with the neuroscientist in the audio clip. The issue is not whether online networking is an evil technological development, (it is morally neutral) but rather, how do I ensure that I enjoy it, along with all of life, in its correct proportions, given the realities of eternity that stretch out before us?

To put it another way, when you're sculpting something as big Mt Rushmore (left), it's hard to tell if what you are doing is going to turn out right. Sometimes it's only when I take a step away from a little daily routine that I can see what I'm making of my life, for better or worse.

"Sow a thought, reap an act.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny."

Charles Reade


Saturday, 21 February 2009

Question to Ponder...

Have a look at the following clips:

What is it about human beings that we love to project human characteristics onto animals and inanimate objects. I did it with my toys when I was a littl'un. No one taught me to do it! Is it a form of idolatry? Or a fun off shoot of the creative imagination put into our hearts by an almighty God?

Note this is not meant to be a heavy question. WALL-E is on my list of to watch movies, but our obsession with animating inanimate objects does fascinate me. Why do we do it?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Evan Roberts is provoking me - He knew 1 Tim. 4:12

I had a DVD arrive today. It chronicles the history of the Welsh Revival of 1904. Here are some of the quotes and notes I took from it Quotes in italics are from Evan Roberts, the foremost figure of the 1904 revival, and should be spoken to yourself in a lovely thick lilting Welsh accent.


Christianity was still central in Wales, but the passion and the spark had gone – It was the failure of Christianity in this regard that troubled Roberts most. Most of his friends went off fishing, he made it his priority to get to the almost-daily prayer meetings.

Jesus was not being glorified as he should be, because people were wanting to "show" themselves in church meetings.

Converted at 13 but Roberts sought a deeper spiritual experience. At the age of 26, God used him to start revival.

I will have the Spirit, he journalled

For 10-11 years I have prayed for a revival. I prayed and prayed, in great distress.

Then one night, for four hours, I spoke with the Almighty as a man speaks with his friend. It seemed to change all my nature, and I saw things in a different light. And I knew that God was going to work…

Roberts was the answer to the four year long revival prayers of another preacher, Mr Joshua, who prayed that revival come again to Wales, but that a man be taken from the colliery or the farming field, like an Elisha, not the university, so that intellectual pride might have no room to muscle in on the work of God.

Lord bend us, Oh Lord bend me.

What bent me was God commending his love and me seeing nothing in it to commend. After this, he came and I was overcome by his grace and a wave of peace came over me... I thought of the bending at the Judgment and wept for lost souls.

After this experience, nervousness was gone, singing was easy, thanksgiving flowed constantly.

Roberts' only book became the bible

His only desire - to benefit a guilty world with the message of Jesus. People inc Christians, thought he was going mad.

Great number of teenagers and particularly girls were contributing at the revival meetings.

Do you think [Roberts asked a friend] that it is too much to ask God for 100,000 souls in Wales?

I saw a vision of Jesus Christ presenting a cheque to his Father for 100,000 and it was alright. Within two years the "soul-cheque" was "cashed".

There are four things to be right. You can go to Heaven without being filled with the Holy Ghost, but without him, you will lose much on the way.
1. Obtain full pardon for the sins of the past.
2. Is there anything doubtful in your life? Do away with it. Otherwise, there cannot be any joy in your heart. Self-denial is one of the first essentials of the religion of Christ
3. Complete and immediate obedience to the Holy Spirit. The world may laugh. He did not. Don't worry, you will not be here long.
4. A public and personal confession of Christ. How long will it take you? Don’t look at one another. Out with the confession!

Our fathers were sincere Christians, but gloomy. What I want is for us to get out of that gloomy groove and experience the joy of knowing Christ.

His major preaching themes centred around Gethsemene and the Cross. It was as if he was there, being bent to the will of God.

Meetings went on until 3-4am

Thank you for Calvery and although it’s only a little mountain, it has grown bigger than the Himalayas now and the whole of Wales can see the summit.

Good language replaced bad language and pit ponies didn’t understand their masters anymore. Sportsmen forgot to turn up to matches because they were so preoccupied with revival meetings.

On Robert's memorial stone it is written:

Dear Friend,

God loves you.
Therefore, seek him diligently.
Pray to him earnestly.
Read his words constantly.

Yours in the Gospel,

Evan Roberts


If you want to buy it too, click here. Of course, it also goes without saying that you are more than welcome to borrow it.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Lunch Time Adventures. Episode 3. - And other stuff

Yesterday I had lunch with Naissa, a friend and sister from my midweek church group. She works with adults with learning difficulties. I didn't take a sandwich with me this time, although the cheese-fest continued as she had prepared a delicious pepperoni pizza (with salad) followed by lemon cheesecake!

It was wonderful to see her family photos, (and what a family: 17 siblings!!) and hear something of her life history, and how, with God's help, she has persevered in faith even through some very difficult personal circumstances.

Today I went into work! (Shock, Gasp)  No I didn't have a temperature.  On my way home, I dropped by the Mackays' house to see how they are getting on. I played football with Ben and sampled some of the brownies that the kids had made!! Delicious! I also prayed with Karena. Despite cancer and chemo, she is as radiant as ever! A real inspiration to me and many others I know!

Finally, we had our midweek small group at Chris Poston's house.  We had the privilege of hosting a blind couple, Mike and Carol Pearson, who came to our church for the first time last Sunday! They slotted right in with us! It felt like they had been with us for ages! Wonderful times as the family of God in the presence of God!

Oh..and my DVD on the Welsh revival arrived in the post! I look forward to watching it soon!

All in all, a great day!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Lunch Time Adventures. Episode 2.

So today saw me visiting Ezmerelda (name changed for legal reasons). A top girl with a great sense of humour! Especially when it comes to celebrating her own culinary exploits!! She works for an international engineering firm, that has an office here in Reading.

One of the funniest moments was that on arrival, I was respectfully requested to watch a Health & Safety PowerPoint which was packed full of fascinating life-saving tips including the reminder to hold on to the hand rail when I use the stairs! 

Should I have forgotten that helpful tip, as I am wont to do, there were stickers dotted around the building to remind me, like so:

And there was me thinking education had gone H&S mad!  I shut my mouth and give thanks!

Today I swapped the pickle in my cheese and pickle sandwich for mango chutney, which whilst more exotic, in retrospect, does not surpass the Branston in the satisfying sandwich stakes!

I then had the pleasure and privilege of meeting four wonderful people (all students) who are exploring becoming members of the great church that I serve.  It was funny to be in student houses again; the eclectic mixes of furniture, fixtures, fittings, appliances and posters!  Not to mention the grime and dodgy smoking apparatuses.  "They belong to other housemates," I presume would have been the reply, had I asked!

Today has been a super day.  There are few things I like more than roving around on my bike, meeting people and having an input into their lives by the grace of God! I go to bed a simple, but contented man.

Standing in the Gap

Evan Roberts was 26 when God used him to catalyse revival in Wales.  That revival reached around the world and will redound down eternity.  Oh to have a testimony like his albeit at a later age!  I have ordered the DVD.  Am not so fussed about the musical interlude in this video, it's still an inspiring watch though.

Britain has known not a few revivals in her history. If ever we needed another, I am more convinced than ever before, it is now.

Monday, 16 February 2009

How Do Christians Understand their Role in Their Home Nation?

The New Testament Church is described in the Bible as a Royal Priesthood. That sounds pompous, but what does it actually mean?

The Bible is the answer to all its own questions. For me one of the best places to find the answer is Numbers 8:17-19.

The priests were a ransomed people. A people that should have been dead, had it not been for the mercy of God and the many Passover lambs that were slaughtered in their place. Saved from death, they are put to work ministering in the tabernacle/temple. Working under the direction of the high priest, they would do all that was necessary to maintain the spiritual health of the nation.

For example, they would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people:

They would lead the people in praise,

and pronounce a blessing on them:

They would look after all the articles used in temple worship. All of them symbols of the Heavenly reality that is coming.

They would also teach the people all that was in the law and how to live it.

What is both fascinating and terrifying from the Numbers passage mentioned above is that when the priests do their job properly, the nation is safe. If they fail to teach the people how to approach God or fail to do their job properly, the Lord would break out against the nation of Israel with a plague.

The priesthood of Christians is royal. Christians are children of God and therefore bonded familial-y and eternally to the God of Heaven.

We have both a privilege and a responsibility under our great high priest, Jesus, to show our people how to approach God and also plead on their behalf before him.

Final judgment seems to come on a people/nation when sin reaches its climax. Biblically that appears to be when child sacrifice and/or sexual deviancy are happening systematically and en masse! I put it to me and you that with all kinds of perversion being held up as good and the god of convenience being worshiped at the altar of the abortion clinic waging war on the truly weak, now is as important a time as any to pray for mercy upon our nation of (Great?!) Britain, regardless of her economic prosperity or lack thereof. Lest our wickedness see us vomited off the land on which we live.

Lunch Time Adventures. Episode 1.

School holidays, and specifically half-term school holidays, are great for many reasons; not least because I get an opportunity to see what goes on in the lives of my familes and friends, outside the goldfish bowl of education!

I'm sure there is much subtle humour I miss in comedies like The Office, because I don't work in one. Even if I do get it, I perhaps don't feel the poignancy of it like others do, who work in that environment day after day after day.

Today saw the first installment of my Lunch Time Adventures. I ate my cheese and pickle sandwich with Chris Poston, who works for HP, and gives IT support to the Bank of Ireland which has a major office in the Plaza West building, just by the Oracle Shopping Centre, here in Reading.

If you work in education, credit crunch talk is for the most part an academic exercise (pardon the pun). We won't be losing our jobs here at school unless: 1) the birth rate drops significantly, or 2) the current recession gets really bad and when I say really bad, I mean Mugabe's Zimbabwe style. Nevertheless, talking to one of Chris' colleagues whilst filling my face with Duck and Hoisin flavour crisps, (I'm a sucker for a special edition flavour even with a Jesus sticker on my bank card! ;o) made me realise that credit crunch means a whole load of different things if you are working in mortgages. She said that she was dealing with around 5-6 reposession orders a week. When I asked her how many she would normally see, she replied about 5-6 every couple of years!!!

I am very grateful for friends like Chris. I'm also grateful for opportunities to get out of my own navel-gazing little world and enter other people's worlds for a change.

If anyone would like me to come and visit them at lunch time, I would welcome the invitation! Do get in touch.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Toughy!

The gospel according to youtube says this (39secs) is why dinosaurs became extinct. The popular culture of Radio 4 ridicules (2:41) the revelation of the Bible and blushes not at doing so. According to this is the lowdown on the dinos. (Takes about 10mins to read.)

On Friday, we will be tackling the question of who came first Adam and Eve or the dinosaurs. I need wisdom sensitivity and boldness not only to answer the question wisely, but also know how to move from the question to Jesus, not in a gear-crunching, whatever-you-do-just-shoehorn-the-gospel-in type way, but a seamless one!

Any 11h hour wisdom out there in the Blog-o-sphere would be much appreciated.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Piper on Continual Prayer

Here is an excerpt from a Piper sermon that can be found in full here.

It is a wonderful way of applying what it means to abide in Christ. Something that I talked about recently here.

Prayer is as natural as breathing for the Christian; as much a part of our lives as being awake.

This isn't about being super-spiritual vs. not so, it's simply about recognising that this is God's universe, not mine or ours and that I am not an independent self-sourced, self-dependent life form, but rather a created and totally dependent one.

Oh to live a life that is increasingly in sync with the Jesus the Creator and his creation.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

An Altogether Curious Affection

It's Facebook's 5th birthday today. Happy Birthday Facebook!

Do I typify the person mocked in this song? (2:52) Do you?

Pride says no, a more honest assessment will concede a sheepish [cough] "maybe..." I don't think I would shrivel up and die without my mini-feed, but I'd have a tough time mastering my curiosity and feelings of being cut off from the world. I'm more of a sheep than I like to admit.

Press play and judge for yourself:

I do have to pinch myself at times and remind myself that 99% of the info that appears on there is totally inconsequential to my life! Either because I can find it out elsewhere or because it just isn't important that I know what you had for dinner or that you know that I have just finished the washing up! Was it Winston Churchill who said: Never has so much effort been put in by so few to bring the trivial, missable and generally inconsequential to the attention of so many?

With verses like 1 Corinthians 6:12 in my head, I might just have to give it up for lent if only to prove to my heart that I have my life priorities in the correct proportions!

Will I survive? Hmmm...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Functional vs. Relational

Well, here I am, along with my fellow Britons and sojourners under siege of snow! A dear friend of mine made me laugh when he said last night that an enemy need no bombs, planes or tanks to defeat us, just a simple snow machine.

Joking apart, it reminded me of Deuteronomy 32:28-30. Small things seem too much for us these days. Is there any stomach left in the people?

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. This is:

In the last 24hrs, I have been struck by how much we, as a nation, cast our identities in functional terms, and how this stands in opposition to the biblical revelation of being that defines us in the context of our relationships.

First, I was crawling to work yesterday and heard this (3:08) on the radio. N.B. I'm not blanket rubbishing all types of birth control. I just find it ugly, the way our culture talks about embryos and fetuses. We define them by what they can do. Since they can't do anything much, they are expendable, for the sake of us who can do so much and would be "put at risk" (whatever that means) having them around. Language that talks about the relationship that the little life has to it's mother (and father), and the responsibilities we hold for bringing them into existence, is usually nowhere to be heard.

Secondly, I watched Darwin's Struggle: The Evolution of the Origin of Species. According to him, those that do well, survive and rise to ascendancy. Those that don't end up as lunch. No love, no beauty. Life is war, every species for itself. Under the thin illusory veil of the beauty in the natural world, lies ultimate selfishness. I thank God that he was wrong. Yes life is war, but of a different kind.

Thirdly, I remembered reading Ravi Zacharias' autobiography: Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows. As an international speaker, he remarked that when you get introduced to audiences in the West, you are introduced in terms of your personal achievements - what you have done. In the East, you are introduced to the audience in terms of who you are related to; who you come from and who you have connections with.

Finally, I was pondering the up and coming sermon series at my church: Jesus, Money and Me. It struck me that the money I give, (or the treasure I store up in Heaven) must have a relational focus too, not a functional one. Of the four crowns that will be bestowed upon believers when they get to Heaven, none are given out for career success, productivity, mental brilliance or even sporting prowess! On the contrary, three are definitely for relational work and the fourth, whilst less obvious, is arguably relational too!
  1. The Crown of Righteousness - For those who love Jesus (relational)
  2. The Crown of Glory - For those who look after well those under their care (relational)
  3. The Crown of Rejoicing - For those who bring salvation to people (relational)
  4. The Crown of Life - For those who overcome in trials (relational in the sense that we continue to love those who persecute us, as well as relating to ourselves exerting godly control over our own passions)
That is not to say that we shouldn't give to, for example, building projects, but I know I need help to keep firm in my mind that the goal is not showing off, name making or empire-building, which pride would tempt me to do, but self-sacrificial love for God and people and waiting for Jesus' return.

In a week that has started with the media reporting relational meltdown in the UK (8:21), as parents forsake their children for personal gain; it's worth remembering that the only thing we will take from this life into the next, as Ann Atkins (God bless her) so refreshingly pointed out, is relationships.

God, enlarge my heart to love you and people more than me and my things!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Living Life in the Fast Lane!

My church is embarking on a week of prayer and fasting this week.

My spirit, which is alive to God, loves these weeks. My body, which is alive to selfishness, hates them. I often feel like a split personality!

If you are new to the concept of fasting, here are some of the things that I have learnt (sometimes the hard way) in past fasts. In no particular order:
  • In all this, take God seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously! That's for the religious bigots.
  • Prayerfully decide for yourself how/when/for how long you will fast and then tell a trusted friend your intention. This is important to help you get through those moments when you are home alone and the cookie jar in the kitchen is full of delicious, mouthwatering delights.
  • Use the time that you have gained from not preparing, eating and washing up a meal, (or whatever you have fasted from) not to catch up on all the little jobs that you have put off until now, but to pray.
  • If you are intending to fast for an extended period of time, begin the fast with prunes and end it with prunes! This may sound offensive, but believe me, there is nothing worse than constipation due to your whole metabolism being on shutdown. I know from PAINFUL writhing experience! And I want to spare you the same. LOL
  • Fasting is a great opportunity for witness, especially if you are like me and have a reputation for enjoying your food. So think ahead of time what you are going to say to a colleague at work who offers you a delicious, mouthwatering treat. Show them, in a loving way, that there is more to life than edible treats. Many is the time that I have eaten one just cos I was caught off guard and gripped by an irrational fear of being seen as a whacko if I said no thanks! Before I knew it, the treat was half way down my throat! (Note it is not the be all and end all if, like me you do cave in at these moments. Remember point 1 in this list and carry on.)
  • Remember, how much we fast is not the issue, the issue is that God wants our hearts and our undivided loyalty and attention. I know no better way to do this than through fasting (and the prayer and meditation on the Bible that accompany it).
  • Wear an extra layer or two especially in the winter months. With a lowered metabolism, you feel the cold more keenly!
  • Memorise Psalm 103:14 and say it to yourself every time you get irritable because you feel all melodramatic and like you are going to die of hunger, then thank God for the stark humbling physical reminder that you aren't God, he is, that you are dependent and frail, but that he is eternal and almighty. Then also praise him that, through the cross of Jesus, he who is eternal and almighty cares for you like a father.
  • Memorise John 4:34 and remember that life is about more than just servitude to your physical needs.
  • You wouldn't put a bottle of wicked strength ale in front of recovering alcoholic. In the same way, if you are feeling vulnerable through hunger and the usual route home from work involves going past your favourite chippy/coffee shop/corner shop, then plan an alternative one that avoids enticing eateries!
  • Finally, and most importantly, remember that the point of all true fasting is not self-discipline or proving how hard you are, but love. Love for God and love for people. Love for God and his purposes. Love for people: their salvation and their relief from suffering. Like the marshmallows video above, fasting is about deferred gratification, we fix our eyes on what is really real and deny ourselves a small pleasure now for the sake of greater pleasure later, especially in the age to come!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!