Friday, 31 December 2010

Bible in a Year Done - And Yes It Starts Again Tomorrow!

Found here
Today saw me finish the cover to cover Bible reading plan I have been following. The last couple of weeks has felt a bit like the scene (right) from Toy Story, chasing madly to finish on schedule, culminating in listening to the whole of Revelation today on my iPod as I cycled home from my parents. (Not the best way to digest such a complex book! But hey, I'm not doing this for brownie points!)

So what have I gained from such an exercise? Why would I want to start again tomorrow?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

All the Blood from Abel to Zechariah

In the Hebrew ordering of the Old Testament, Chronicles and not Malachi, is the last OT book.

Russel, a friend of mine, recently pointed out that when Jesus accused the Pharisees and their kind, of murdering Abel and Zechariah, he was using those two names as book ends from between which he heaped on these legalistic zealots the guilt for the all the righteous blood shed in the Hebrew Bible - the Old Testament.

And it has ever been thus, the children of promise have always been persecuted by those whose desire is to set up their own standard of righteousness - refusing to come to Jesus.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Soul First, Circumstance Second

Found here
One of the ways I pray for my local church, is to go through the membership directory name by name. I find Paul's prayers really helpful, because they cut to the chase and start deep by praying for the growth of the soul (horse). I then pray for any of their particular circumstances known to me (cart). I think this holds it in proper perspective.

Recently, I've been using Eph. 3:14-19. Here is my own paraphrase of Paul:

Another Hilarious Scam

Image home
Another classic email scam. More info here.

As if David Cameron knows me personally! Yeah right!

Of course I can laugh, because I didn't fall for it - this time.
We have been trying to reach you since the past few days, as my associate has helped me to send your first payment of $7,500 USD to you as instructed by Mr. David Cameron the United Kingdom prime minister after the last G20 meeting that was held in United Kingdom, making you one of the beneficiaries. Here is the information below.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Human Eyes and the Witness of the Spirit

Glen and Dave have been blogging recently about reclaiming the Old Testament as a truely, madly, deeply and authentically Christian book, (as opposed to a Jewish book that we conveniently map Christian interpretation onto - as if it could make any sense without Christ). I like what they say - a lot. To me, the Old Testament Christians and the New Testament Christians who wrote the Bible consciously and explicitly:

Boxing Day is Also Martyrs' Day in the Christian Calendar

If you're one of those cultural dinosaurs, like me, who likes to dip into church history, then you'll know that today is not only Boxing Day but St Stephen's Day.

The Feast of Stephen is the olden days way of saying St Stephen's Day, which makes much more sense of what good old King Wenceslas was up to, surveying his realm. It has got nothing to do with a eating, (at least not in the first verse). Although you could be mistaken for thinking that he beheld the world's largest pizza: Deep pan, crisp and even! (Sorry, it was in one of yesterday's crackers and I couldn't resist!)

Stephen was

Friday, 24 December 2010

God is Dead - All is Permitted

© David Pham
Peter Leithart, with a short, but brilliant thought the implications of believing that God is dead.

The Birth of the True Passover Lamb

Following on from this post, below is a simple and short video stating the same point. I haven't signed up to all the rapture stuff he mentions at the end, but the first 7mins or so are worthy of meditation:

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

What I Say: Reviewing the Biblical Thinking Forum 2010

If I had to choose a metaphor to describe this year's forum, it would probably be that of a Ramblers' Association hike, because:

What They Said: Reviewing the Biblical Thinking Forum 2010

This isn't us, but it gives you a feel for what the forum was like.
Here is the feedback from the Biblical Thinking Forum. We met (usually) on the third Monday evening of every month (but not at all in August). We started with pudding.

All very useful/interesting to help me decide what to drop and what I need to work on harder to help people make the right kind of connections in the coming year (e.g. session 3).

Here's what we covered and how it was rated. (Note thumbs up/down means that it was cited as a favourite/least favourite session.

Reviewing Reading the Bible in a Year

Here's the feedback that came from a questionnaire I did for a bunch of us who have attempted to read the Bible from cover to cover this year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

An International Christmas

I love having a window on other people's worlds, so I'm looking forward to Christmas day when I'll, not only remember Jesus' birth, but have the pleasure of welcoming a diverse crowd of nine different people around my festal table.

Represented there will be the nations of India, Malaysia, USA, Botswana, (possibly also Zimbabwe depending on the unfolding action at Heathrow) and, of course, our Great Britannia. I'll provide a classically British Christmas dinner, (however, grump-bag Walker won't be doing any of that "extra mile" decorating stuff. That's too much like effort! As if the labour of love that goes into preparing copious amounts of roast potato for 9 people wasn't enough??! In other words, if you can't eat it - and you definitely can't eat tinsel - I ain't interested. That said, if I was happily newly-wed I'd probably say: "Darling, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to put up the tinsel for you!! Flutter flutter, flutter! ;-) [Note to self: Perform emergency stop on stream of consciousness, NOW!])

They have been asked provide cameos of life in their country and maybe a game or two for us all to play, if not I'll be wheeling out charades! (GROAN) Could be difficult though because although I feel comfortable in the Hollywood edition of the game, if they bring out the Bollywood edition, I'll be stuffed!! These global times are changin'.

Whatever the outcome, it's gonna be a great day! :-D

Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas Meditation: How Do The Heavens Display the Glory of God?

The more you get freed from the matrix, of Western Philosophy, the more depth you find there is to plumb in the Bible!

For example, Psalm 19:1-6. Have you ever wondered how the Heavens display the glory of God? How they pour forth speech?

If we're honest, in our heart of hearts, most of us would probably say that the Bible exaggerates with the phrase "pours forth" and should really tone it down to a "trickles out." The blended enormity and intricacy of creation proves that that there must be a God somewhere (up there?) who is "well clever and powerful," e.g. Allah, but that's as far as most of us would want to push it.

The problem is the Bible speaks a different language, and until you understand it, you will think that many of the claims it makes are crazy, unfair or plain unintelligible.

Myth-Busting Christmas In Family-Friendly Format

At church yesterday, we showed the video below. Great for sharing with all kinds of people. Sean preached a simple but very powerful sermon on having the wisdom to know what to accept, redeem or reject when it comes to celebrating the Winter Festival commonly known as Christmas. Do listen to it (click here) if you weren't able to be there.

Some of the references might be lost on you (e.g. Sean referring to Scott's Santa hat as a Noddy hat), but if you have ever been to a kids' nativity play, or a Christmas family service, you'll get the picture.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Do you Believe in a God like Santa?

Glen Scrivener has posted this great little video on how Santa exemplifies so much of what we think about who God is. How wrong we are!

Watch on...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Seasonal Invite to Think about the Meaning of Life

A friend of mine forwarded me the following from an email by this organisation.

It's set in a multi-faith context, but carries a seasonal theme. It's the kind of thing you could copy-paste into an email and send to a friend with an invite to a New Year Alpha course tagged on the end. I wonder if there are any of those happening soon... ;-)

Friday, 17 December 2010

God's People: Close to His Heart - Forever

In the strange world of the Bible, God's people are likened to jewels.

In the Old Testament, the High Priest would wear a breastpiece on which was mounted 12 jewels. He would carry these precious stones with him into the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle / Temple close to his heart.

Feeling My Age

Had a most enjoyable time at the work Christmas do, but felt my age a bit, not only because I joined a goodly number of my male peers rocking out to the cover band that were playing (they were very good!) but also because in my heart of hearts, I realised I've reached that point in life when the music that really resonates with me and my young days is totally unknown to those who are actually "young."

Here's a video, in case, like me, your air guitar needs a touch more finesse:

More Carols

I do miss choral singing. Other bigger priorities / responsibilities have sidelined it from my regular routine. That's not a frustrated comment, just a statement of fact.

Last year, I posted some of my favourite choral pieces. Thought I'd do the same again this year:

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Biblical Thinking and the Mind of God

Do you think of the Bible, the product of the mind of God, as something that looks like this:

...or like this:

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Understanding Biblical Symbols

A penknife: one object, many uses.
In the Bible, an item can symbolise multiple realities.
Consider it divine shorthand,
in a paper scarce time. 
Am enjoying the "shoes of James Jordan" ;o) currently, helping me to prepare for the final session of my church's Biblical Thinking Forum for this year.

On understanding biblical symbols, especially in the context of the book of Revelation, he says:
The reason the language "Symbol" exists is to say things that cannot readily be said in discourse [linear-logic] languages. A symbol can indicate several different things at once... For example the Temple and the Tabernacle simultaneously symbolise the cosmos, the house of God, the social community, the individual human being and the Messiah as Perfect Man. Similarly, the altar is simultaneously, a minature holy mountain, God's people, the human person and Jesus.

Scared of being bored?

 Click here.

Check out the lineup of speakers at the "boring" conference here.

Friday, 10 December 2010

On Shoes and Biblical Thinking

You and I probably can't imagine life without shoes from both a comfort and a "this is who I am/want to be" self-expression point of view. Clearly some shoes are more function oriented and others more ornamental, (although quite why anyone would want to adorn themselves with this pair - see right, I have no idea!)

But an article I read recently in a triathlon magazine that Sean passed on to me got me thinking. It was talking about how running barefoot is the best way to develop good running technique. The argument went something like this...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

When Pastors Become Priests

Many modern Christians think that we left the evils of professional priesthood behind at the Reformation, but Glen Scrivener, in the opening paragraphs of an article for Theology Network, highlights the pernicious dynamic of a psychological priesthood that can arise in any church when people accept the attitude that they "pay" someone to do their (biblical) thinking / praying / evangelising / caring / sacraments for them...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Something to Sing Along to...

I love choral singing, so it was a treat to be part of our church gospel choir in the carol concert we hosted at the town hall last Sunday.

Here's one of the songs we performed. Personally I think we sounded better! ;-)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Another, (Less Well Known) Reason Why Jesus Was Born in Bethelehem

A friend of mine, Pete Lovegrove, emailed me a copy of an article he wrote for his parish magazine.

Whilst it remains for most in the domain of speculation, having seen all I have seen reading the Bible cover to cover this year, it would not surprise me at all if Jesus was born around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. Nor would it surprise me if the reason the shepherds were chosen to see him first was because God wanted these experts in lambing to inspect the integrity of this the true, newly born Passover Lamb.

With Pete's permission, I have posted his article below...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Jonathan Edwards & Ice

The current winter weather with its snow and ice is a source of hilarity for some, loathing for others:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Moses Maths

A friend forwarded me this and it made me smile:

Moses and the people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them. They had to be fed. Logistically, Moses would have had to have 1500 tons of food each day. Requiring two freight trains, each a mile long! Moreover, they were out in the desert, so they would need firewood to use in cooking. This would take 4000 tons of wood and thus a few more freight trains.

In the News: Jesus, Sprouts and Hope

Elton John guest-edited today's edition of the Independent and among his "10 things he disliked when in his 20's but likes now" are Brussels sprouts and Jesus.

Today is Not Ashamed to be a Christian Day. Difficult to keep track of all these awareness days. Which bandwagon do I jump on again?? Missed the boat on that one. (Ouch! Double whammy of metaphor) Oh well... Could post a FB status I s'pose.

Oh and err... humans are hope machines, apparently. Of course it's nothing to do with the image of God in them and all about how random evolution cleverly made them that way. ;-)

I'm also glad that the true meaning and joy of Christmas cannot be overshadowed by any possible sprout shortage, perceived or actual.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Jesus is the Kingdom of God - Sermon Notes

On Sunday, I had the privilege of concluding our church's "Beginning with Moses" sermon series looking at how Jesus, in a couple of key ways, is the fulfillment of all Old Testament promise.  (PowerPoint slides available here)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Could Jean-Pierre et Marie-Laure be "Dos?"

Today, a couple of schools, along with some government ministers are calling for a reintroduction of compulsory language learning in Key Stage 4 (in case you're not down with the jargon, that's 14-16yr olds).

Will be interesting to see where this goes!

More on the BBC website about this and other government educational reforms ici.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Deep Comedy of God and His People

Peter Leithart describes Christian history in comic terms. (Comic in the academic sense of happily ever after; the opposite of tragic. He doesn't mean a 7000yr episode of Fawlty Towers).  He writes:

The classical world ... was dominated by a tragic view of history, in which history moved from a glorious beginning to a tarnished end ... manifested in a predominantly tragic literature. ... the gospel challenged this tragic classicism by presenting a fundamentally comic vision of history.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Apparently, It's My Birthday Next Week

I was reminded recently, that it's my birthday next week. Old grumble chops here finds the idea of hosting a "party" too much like hard work.  That said, if you're in the South Reading area next Sat (27th) from 7pm onwards, come and join us for an open house "bonfire" and some crack (the talking kind).

Nibbles provided. BYOB/BYOSD

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Genesis A La Take That

The opening track from Take That's latest album is an interesting one. There is a fistful of Genesis imagery here. (For the record, I didn't go looking, I just noticed it at the top of the iTunes chart as I was looking for something else! ;-)

Press play below:

Doing Accountability Well

I went to a most enjoyable Men's Breakfast this morning, organised by the church to which I belong. We had an army guy speaking to us. One of the things that came out of it was the importance of accountability.

My experience of accountability (maybe yours is the same) has often been like this:

- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.1) recently?" 
- "Yes."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.2) recently?"
- "Yes, definitely."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.3) recently?"
- "On balance, Yes."
- "Managed to stay out of (insert habitual sin tendency no.4) recently?"
- "Yes, give or take... [mumble mumble]"
- "Good, let's [gloss over the little shortcomings, give it a 4 out of 4, cos we're all busy people] pray and go!"

This is an understandable approach.  But there are two death traps here.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I Am Unclean

Jesus said that it wasn't what went into a man that would make him unclean, but rather what came out of him.

Jesus' testimony about the bitter spiritual fruit of my heart is backed up by the testimony of physical reality. Nothing that comes from my body is fit for human consumption/edification.

Of course, in extreme circumstances of survival or emergency medical attention, one can recycle certain elements, but not indefinitely, the level of toxicity becomes too great and eventually poisons us.

Ascension And Pentecost Take Two

Only after you use a handout, do you realise that it isn't as clear as you once thought. So I've tweaked this in the hope of avoiding misunderstanding.

Have also posted the docx file, should anyone want to rip/"bling"/hybridise/liquidise it.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

James Jordan On How to Read The Bible

James B Jordan has some refreshing (and politically incorrect things) to say about how to read the Bible. Good for stirring up your thinking. Warning - he has a dry sense of humour. Some of the things he says aren't to be taken seriously.

Download the first talk from here.

You can find the rest of the talks in the series here on page 2/3. (For some reason they don't get indexed in order.)

The thrust of what he says is: If you want to understand the Bible you have to read it, alternatively you can read it, or even read it, better still you can read it.

Ascension And Pentecost

Tomorrow night is the next session of the Biblical Thinking Forum.  We have reached Acts and so the focus will be on the significance of Ascension and Pentecost as seen through the eyes of the whole Bible.

Below is the copy of the handout I have prepared, shaped like a flower, aahhh!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

An Afterword on Salt

Following this post, it's interesting to note that whilst in Matthew's gospel, the accent is on Jesus telling his people they are like salt in the context of proclamation and persecution, in Luke the accent is on renouncing the comforts of this life - esp. family and wealth.

The saltless (fruitless/useless) Christian is the one who does not exercise good judgment in the face of all that God has done in Christ, who has a divided heart and a compromised allegiance.

Fruitfulness in life is not dependent, as in so many other religions and philosophies, on the mastering of a technique, but in total joyful surrender.

Bubblings From Babel AKA "Who'd Have Thought Franglais Is The Future? - Kind Of"

Most of the boys I teach still live in that beautifully walled-garden world where everyone speaks English, where we don't need to learn anyone else's language. I don't blame them. Most don't get exposed to any foreign language except in a classroom. Moreover, classroom-based language learning is like being taught to swim on dry land. The ability to manage deferred gratification, (something we adults find hard enough, let alone the kids) is more important here than in many subjects.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Eat Your Heart Out, Alan Titchmarsh - Jesus Wins!

Back in Genesis 1-2 God created all kinds of animals and plants, that would bear offspring according to their kind. Apple seeds would bring forth apple trees. Dove "seeds" would would bring forth more doves. Banana trees wouldn't suddenly start spouting butter-nut squashes, nor would pigs be expected to birth hammerhead sharks...

Thank God for Men Like These

It's easy to forget, in a prosperous and democratic society like our own, that many lost their livelihoods and even their lives to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to us in an easily available format and understandable form.

The following documentary traces some of those who were martyred for the cause of getting the Bible translated into English so that common folk, like you and me, could understand its message. Who knows where you or I would be now if it were not for the power of God at work in the lives of these courageous men.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Getting In The Mood For Christmas??

There's nothing like stunning truth set to beautiful music to get you feeling like you're going to burst out of your skin if you get any more excited!

Having posted recently on the similarities between Genesis 1 and Matthew 1, here is stunning Christmas song that brings out the echo wonderfully. Much better than poor old red-nose Rudolph ever could!

Oh and the house in the video is impressive - if only for wondering how long it took the guy to set it up.  Don't let it distract you from the magnificent words though... ;-)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Sermon Notes on Genesis 17

Genesis 17 here

God's Gracious Restoration (v1-2): Abraham was a man who, back in Genesis 12, God had called to leave his family and his country to go to another land that God would show him. God gave him the promise that he would make Abraham's descendants into a prosperous and mighty nation and that through his offspring, all the nations of the earth would be blessed by God. The problem was, his wife was sterile, so Abraham and Sarah (Abram and Sarai as they were known at that point) tried jamming a square peg in a round hole by getting a son/heir through his maid - perfectly acceptable in that culture, but not with God. Nevertheless, God does not disqualify Abraham on account of his presumption and not only seeks out face-to-face fellowship with him, but makes the promise he gave him in Genesis 12 even better!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beans Are the New Lettuce

The specialists are tweaking their methodologies, it seems.

Follow Helman's argument and you have to say that beans are the super food of the hour - high fibre, protein and carbs, and what minuscule amount of fat is in there is unsaturated! They are the lettuce in a full English breakfast!! I could almost talk my way vegetarian at this rate!

If these new trends hold, the smart money is investing in air fresheners and nose pegs, at least for the transition phase!

If You Have Strong Views on Election, Calvinism and Arminianism, Read This - Not What You Think

Dave Bish has posted a wonderful blog on the issue of election, Calvinism or Arminianism. Many churches, denominations and individual Christians have said and done some very hurtful things to each other in the name of the side they hold in the argument.  I'm with Dave in that I think we need to frame the question a whole lot differently.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

If You Have Strong Views On Halloween, Read This - Not What You Think

James B Jordan gives a different slant on Halloween. One that challenges the die-hard anti-Halloween-ist Christians and the die-hard let's-all-join-in-Halloween-to-win-our-non-Christian-friends-ists to think again!

Have a look and see what you think.

Friday, 29 October 2010

On Being Salt

Last night at our church prayer meeting, someone read out Jesus' words about his people being salt and light in the world. A great word for such a time as this. But (for those who couldn't be there) what does it mean to be salt?

Here is a filled-out, tidied up and slightly more pondered version of what I said following that reading:

If we impose our 21st century Western perspective with it's mass refrigeration and overconsumption lifestyle onto the text, we will misunderstand what Jesus says.

Jesus isn't merely saying that "Christians should make life taste good," although they should. Nor is he saying that the world should have Christians in moderation as part of a balanced ecosystem along with all other world views. So what is he saying?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Better Handling the Word of Truth?

One of the fruits of walking through the Bible in a year with others and talking about it with them is that it has made me re-examine my approach to doctrine. I have an emerging rule of thumb. (New to me, although the Apostle Paul would probably say: Richard, what took you so long?)

It goes like this.  Take the two controversial old chestnuts of "election" and "Baptism of the Spirit." Most of us, including me, spend our time wheeling out a hotch-potch of philosophical arguments and New Testament texts when we "discuss" these things.

Following Paul, and his commendation of the Bereans, (remember when it says "Scriptures" here it means the Old Testament as the New has not been completed and collated yet), I'm beginning to think there's a better way to approach it.