Saturday, 31 October 2009

Scrambling to get to 10!

I know I'm scrambling and chucking random things out there in order to reach my target of ten posts a month, but I saw this on Glen Scrivener's blog and (as I fancy myself as a bit of a closet muso), thought it was worthy of sharing...

What's amusing is that many try to imitate.

These guys at least keep the backing track...

These guys don't even try!

Warning, there now follows a cheesy spiritual link!

Isn't it a relief that when it comes to the imitation of Jesus the Christian is not left to figure it out for himself.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Sermon Spoiler

Short of divine intervention, this...

... (with the help of this mindmapping software) is where the semon is going on Sunday morning.

The Key is Symmetry

The universe turns on symmetry, you say?


Where have I heard that before?

Symmetry is an echo of the divine nature of the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Monday, 26 October 2009

What I would have said... given a greater presence of mind.

Yesterday, at the church I have the privilege of helping to lead, we publicly thanked and released one of our fellow elders from the responsibilities of that office.

Craig Mackay has been on the eldership (Christian-speak for leadership team) of Reading Family Church ever since its inception back in Feb 2000. However, since the beginning of the year, he has been on long term sabbatical, caring for his wife who, to all our surprise, back in December 08, was diagnosed with an advanced form of ovarian cancer.

Mercifully, thanks to God, and advances in medical technology, we are optimistic about the possibility of remission, for which we are very grateful. But the road to recovery that they want to travel down is still at best long and at worst not secured yet. So with this in mind we felt it fairest and best to release them as a couple from any future leadership expectation and allow Craig to continue to give himself to caring for his wife and family.

I was one of the people who publicly thanked them. Whilst heart-felt and genuine, the truth is, after a busy week with a trip to France amongst other things, I hadn't given what I was going to say much thought and thus didn't feel I did them justice.

So if I had a second chance it might have gone something like this, (though probably a little shorter)...

Craig and Karena have been models of great kindness to me. I first properly met them when they invited me round to Sunday lunch, not long after I arrived in the Summer of 2004. In a desperate (British) attempt to reciprocate the hospitality, about six months later, I invited them (and their three kids) to lunch.

However, back then I was an even more ignorant bachelor than I am now and didn't think that, whilst ok for adults, maybe a wicked strength barbecue chicken (It had a huge amount of vinegar in. I'm sure it was a misprint!) would not be the best thing to serve up to kids.

Craig happily lapped it up, seemingly oblivious to the comic levels of British politeness being displayed by Karena who, at the opposite end of the table, was trying to persuade the children that this was not worse than the thought of eating their own vomit.

If I am not mistaken, Karena enjoyed it. Whether her enjoyment came from the flavour of the food, the fact that she was grateful for not having had to cook for her tribe that day or from a charitable desire to affirm me in my fledgling attempts at hospitality, I have never dared to ask. The kids, (bless 'em) were left with rice and peas, but at least their delicate stomach linings remained intact and all was forgiven when the banoffee pie appeared with more than enough calories in it to make up for the shortfall in the first course.

This "Kindness-to-the-idiot-bachelor" theme has continued sporadically down the years of our friendship as Craig once offered to burn one of my less flattering and very over-worn t-shirts, (he was serious!)

...I still have the said t-shirt.

But joking apart, once the enjoyment that comes from the memory of shared experiences has been had; (memories like meals, crazily early triathlon races and training, Irish holiday pop-ins, tool borrowing, babysitting, prayer meetings, crying with laughter over our toe-curling mistakes in giving sermons and the like), Craig and Karena remain an outstanding and godly couple whom it is my privilege and joy to know. Their incredible generosity to me and others has been and is such a blessing. I thank God for them not least nearly every time I drive the car that they gave me.

(She may not look like much and the only think she may have in common with a Ferrari is colour, but that little Nissan Micra hasn't let me down yet! Nor does she give any sign of doing so in the near future!)

Their simple love of Jesus, confidence in him and faithful obedience to him, which is on display in their every day lives and even more so since this cancer chapter began; has been and will continue to be a great inspiration to me and many others, I know.

And so I continue to pray for Karena to be healed, but more than this, I pray that just as Jesus has been glorified in them, and continues to be so, that he would also vindicate their trust of him, both now and in the age to come when he is revealed from Heaven.

PS The Sermon from that morning "Rested 4" was excellent. Find it here when it goes up on the website at some point this week.

Odds and Sods: From the Ridiculous to Sublime

Some odds and sods from the world of internet video.

A good friend of mine brought this one to my attention. The fun Sunderland pokes at our perception of value is both insightful and thought provoking and the Shreddies anecdote is hillarious!

The frog of personhood continues to be slowly and unwittingly boiled alive in the technological age...

This is clever...

And the best til last. This is awesome...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

An Outstanding Song

More than just a few Christian catchphrases bolted onto some cool sounding power chords; the following song comes from a maturity and experience that, these days, does not often gain the limelight in the Christian media merry-go-round.

Buy it here.

Lyrics in full:

I have placed all my hope in a crucified man
In the wounds in his side, his feet and his hands
I have traded my pride for a share in his shame
And the glory that one-day will burst from his pain

I’ve abandoned my trust in the wise and the proud
For this fragile, mysterious weakness of God
And I dare to believe in his scandalous claim
That his blood cleanses sin for whoever
Will call on his name

Live or die here I stand
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

I believe as they beat on his beautiful face
He turned a torturer’s chair to an altar of grace
Where the worst we can do met the best that God does
Where unspeakable hate met the gaze
Of unstoppable love

At the crux of it all there he hangs
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified….

Man of sorrows man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

When the purest and best took the force of our curse
Death’s victory armada juddered into reverse…
And either we bow or we stumble and fall
For the wisdom of a suffering God
Has made fools of us all
I gladly admit that I am
But I’ve placed my hope in a crucified …

Man of sorrows man of grief
Will he stay beyond belief?

I have buried my life in the cold earth with him
Like a seed in the winter, I wait for the spring
From that garden of tombs Eden rises again
And Paradise blooms from his body
And never will end

He’ll finish all he began
Creation hopes in a crucified man

When I stand at the judgement
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Like the thief nailed beside him
I have no other plan
I’ve placed my hope in a crucified man

Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 2006 Make Way Music,
All rights reserved.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Bible for the Digital Age?

Am I just being a nervous luddite, or is anyone else uneasy about this?

The key to victorious Christian living (a.k.a fruitfulness) has never been an overload of information, but obedience.

I pity those who will buy this thinking that (like that new year's resolution gym membership card sitting in the draw untouched since mid-January), it will sort out their perceived/actual spiritual deficiencies.

The problem is deeper than we realise, but the grace available to us through Jesus Christ in our dire need is beyond our wildest imagination.

The solution is simple. If only we (I) would believe it.

In the Digital age, just like every other age, the answer isn't information, it's revelation - of Jesus Christ.

Monday, 12 October 2009

God's Own Take on What God Is & Isn't

The journalist Christopher Hitchins has written a book called God is Not Great. I have it in audio and hope to listen to it some time before 2020!

Here is God's own record of what "God is not"

Numbers 23:19

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

1 Corinthians 14:33

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

Hebrews 6:10

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Hebrews 11:16

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

It's only on negatives like these that I'm willing to bank my hope.

And now for something a little more affirmative... God's own record on what God is:

Deuteronomy 4:7

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?

Deuteronomy 4:24

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:31

For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.

Deuteronomy 10:17

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Deuteronomy 33:27

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, 'Destroy him!'

Joshua 2:11

When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

2 Samuel 22:3

my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent men you save me.

2 Chronicles 2:5

The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.

2 Chronicles 13:12

God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.

2 Chronicles 30:9
If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.

Ezra 8:22

I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him."

Job 33:12

But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.

Job 36:5

God is mighty, but does not despise men; he is mighty, and firm in his purpose.

Job 36:22

God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?

Psalm 7:11

God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.

Psalm 14:5

There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.

Psalm 47:7

For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.

Psalm 47:8

God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.

Psalm 48:14

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 54:4

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Psalm 62:8

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 68:20

Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.

Psalm 73:1
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 76:1
In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.

Psalm 84:11

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

Psalm 89:7

In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.

Psalm 99:9

Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.

Psalm 115:3

Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.

Psalm 116:5

The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.

Proverbs 30:5

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Isaiah 8:10

Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

Isaiah 12:2

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Daniel 5:21

He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes.

Daniel 9:9

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him;

Daniel 9:14

The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

John 4:24

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Romans 8:31
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

2 Corinthians 1:18

But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No."

2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

1 Thessalonians 2:5

You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.

2 Thessalonians 1:6

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you

1 John 1:5
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 4:8

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.


Saturday, 10 October 2009

When Strength is Beautiful and Beauty is Strong

You, dear readers, have probably all seen this clip already since, unlike the 0.1% of the population, which includes hippies, monks, eco-boffs, legalistic religious whackos and me, you own a TV, but thanks to wonder of YouTube, and a friend posting this on their social network, I did a little catching up.

As an aside, did you spot the idiotic irony of calling the clip Evolution. There is nothing Darwinian-ly random, accidental or natural about having a flurry of people purposefully scurrying around to transform you from plain Jane into Venus-like Vera, (although I must admit in my prejudice, the name Vera doesn't sound very Venus-like to me! ;-)

In it's so-called wisdom, our culture has tried to divorce just about everything from its source in Christ, including notions of beauty and strength. Beauty is vanity unless it springs from Christ-like reverent holiness. Strength is vanity if it isn't, merciful, just and self-giving like Jesus.

Beauty and strength only finally make sense when they are cross-shaped.

Remember that (and this) the next time (you nearly cycle into a lampost/crash your car/walk into a fellow commuter because) you're gawking at someone who has caught your eye for very shallow reasons.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Forgetfulness of Fervour Vs. The Fruitfulness of Faith

If you're like me, you can fall into the trap of thinking the following:

Display of fervour = Faith.

In this thinking, the most important thing in life is to hype yourself up about stuff and make sure you are around those who do the same, but that is not the view of Jesus the master.

We can fool each other (and ourselves) most, if not all of the time if we are all complicit and gullible enough, but God knows the heart. He is not interested in ostentatious displays of devotion per se. Through the Son and in the Spirit, he is in the business of birthing and nurturing a new humanity. One which lives by the obedience of faith.

A famous Old Testament king called Saul, had fervour by the bucket load with the best of them, but his life ended in doom and should serve as a sober warning to all who confess the name of Christ, not to fall into the same trap; starting well but finishing worse than we began.

That is not to say that there should never be great displays of devotion or fervent prayer or that spiritual gifts are not for today, (they most definitely are imho :-). Like a jealous lover, Jesus has no interest in flaccid and lukewarm devotion from his beloved. Moreover, Jesus was not known for being a quiet little church mouse. But it wasn't his volume that got the attention of his Heavenly Father, nor his ability to stir up a crowd, it was his reverent obedience.

As I blogged recently, whose eyes are you looking to grab in the doing of it? What is the outcome of your life? Do you go away from times with other Christians, times of reading your Bible challenged but unchanged? (If so, may I humbly suggest that your Christianity is more about flattering yourself than it is about faith in Christ). Or has God birthed something new in you that (being nurtured in continual private prayer) results in new expressions of the eternal life into which you have now been caught up? It might not be be clear to you which of those that is until some time after.

It takes a while for the seed to bear its fruit. Some seem impressive for a time, but then the cares/pleasures/pains of this short life close in on them and they fall away from their original expression of devotion to Christ, irrespective of how fervent that first declaration was.

The wrong kind of fervour looks good, but all it does is puff up the ego without nourishing the spirit (yours or anyone else's). The right kind of faith loves, exalts and honours Jesus Christ, nourishes the soul and blesses the world.

It is this kind of faith, the only true kind,which leads to godly action, irrespective of our outward displays of fervour, temperament or circumstance that we should prayerfully pursue at all costs.