Monday, 30 April 2012

Discipline vs Love?

in agreement with Sean's sermon yesterday, Peter Mead offers the following additional and helpful pointer to people like me who can fall into thinking that pursuing the disciplines are ends in themselves. He says...
Jesus did, of course, have extended prayer times and experienced physically harsh settings, yet he didn’t promote such things.

His own devotion was, of course, robust: he once spent more than a month in the wilderness being tempted by Satan; he also spent full nights in prayer; and he often hiked long distances and slept in rough settings. Yet asceticism wasn’t a take-home lesson for his disciples. Even the followers of John the Baptist asked why Jesus didn’t insist on some fasting.
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Approaches to the Book of the Revelation

Have recently started meandering through a sermon series on Revelation that is 204 sermons long.  At current rate, I will finish the last sermon about three tears (tears? I mean years!) from now.  One of the introductory sermons was on different (European) approaches to the book. Here follows a brief summary:

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On Prejudice and Scapegoats

One of the reasons I love working in a comprehensive secondary school setting is because you see wider society played out on a microcosmic scale.

The following social experiment is VERY clever and a real eye opener. Many of us liberally educated types assume we have risen above prejudice, but that's because we earn enough to enjoy enough creature comforts in life with our loved ones.

If the economy continues to stumble along as it has today, it will only be a matter of time before the cry for a scapegoat becomes unbearably loud and even the so-called "enlightened" will be drawn into baying:

Friday, 13 April 2012

Are You Past or Future Oriented?

Too past-oriented and you become nostalgic.
Too present-oriented and you become selfish.
Too future-oriented and you become naive.

I'm one of the people in the video below who thinks waiting is a waste of time. I need to learn that it isn't. As the old saying goes: Patience is a virtue and it reaps a great reward (Heb.6:12).

The Real Jesus

If you lived at the South Pole without any contact with the world beyond, it would be hard to conceive of any kind of life beyond the snow - yet we know there is so much more to the world than whitened landscapes.

Similarly, it's easy for all of us to get stuck in a rut in our understanding of who Jesus is.

This month's Biblical Thinking Forum will see Mark Amos leading us in thinking again about who the real Jesus is and why it matters.

Come join us on Monday 16 April @7:30pm in the RFC Offices and get released from your rut.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Computers Like Humans? Probably not... IMHO

A recent Horizon documentary posed the question of whether it is possible for machines to be intelligent like humans.

The presenter took us round the world visiting people who were trying to work out what artificial intelligence is and then reproducing it in a machine. We saw machines teaching each other things, beating humans on quiz shows and creating art amongst other things.

But then we were asked the question, do computers really think, or are they just simulating thinking? If that's a confusing question, here's a short video to explain the difference:

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Resurrection = New Home

Moving home and some!
Understanding how to live in this new period of history - after the resurrection of Jesus - is sometimes difficult to get your head round, because some things continue, but others stay the same.

For example, there are no longer any restrictions on what you can eat, no animal sacrifices to perform, no requirement to worship God in only one place (e.g.Col.2:16). And yet, other stipulations remain0. It's still no to sexual immorality, eating blood etc. (Ac.15:28-29). So what's the rule of thumb for distinguishing what to keep and what to chuck?

I don't have a definitive answer, but perhaps a metaphor would help.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Resurrection = Transition

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ was THE transition moment in history. Through the resurrection of the Son of God, God moves the story of history and humanity from:
  • Old Covenant to New Covenant - Heb.8:13
  • Wrath to Grace - Rom.5:8-9
  • Night to Day - 1 Thess.5:5
  • Shadow (image) to Reality - Col.2:17
  • Law to Spirit - Rom.7:6
  • Childhood to Adulthood - Gal.4:1-2
This is not to say that these elements were not present in the opposite times. For example, God is very gracious in the Old Testament (Deut.12:7), and there is no shortage of wrath in the New (Rev.6:16), but the fundamental accent changes for the better. God is laying hold of his creation again, like in Genesis 1, but this time he is recreating, laying hold of spiritual chaos and bringing light, order, life and beauty to it in the work of salvation.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Meditation: Resurrection Not Resuscitation

Many of us have had near death experiences and have felt the heart pound as we realise that it was nearly all over.

If the internet is to be believed (and in principle I have no reason not to although some of them are whackos no doubt), some people have experienced death (or something like it) and then a miraculous resuscitation. They were dying or even dead, but after medical intervention or an encounter with a spiritual being they have been resuscitated, brought back to the land of the living. Depending on their religious views, they will either count themselves very lucky or very blessed and live out the rest of their days differently as a result.

But the resurrection of Jesus is nothing like any of these. The Spirit of God did not resuscitate Jesus, He did not bring him back from the dead as in some kind of over blown seance or Frankensteinian resuscitation. Jesus carried our humanity in himself through death all the way to the other side, to a totally new kind of existence. A glorious, incorruptible, indestructible, eternal existence where humanity is the the same as before and yet different.

Jesus calls all people to trust him and follow him through death into this new kind of life (aka eternal life) - Matt.16:24-25.

Will you follow him on this journey of journeys? Will you trust him? Not many do. Matt.10:37-38

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation 4/4: Jesus Reigns from the Grave

Jesus is the perfect Jew. He finishes his work before Sabbath rest begins and with enough time that people can bury him without compromising the law.

Where exactly the Spirit of Jesus went during his time away from the body isn't easy to tie down. Did he return to Heaven? (Lk.23:43) Did he go and preach to the spirits in prison? (1Pe.3:19). Did he pop an African visit down at Abraham's bosom? (Lk.16:22 newer translations boringly say "side")

Good Friday Meditation 3/4: Jesus Reigns at Golgotha

Jesus, the Lion from the tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5) crushes
the serpent, the accuser of God's people (Rev.12:10).
Under the Spirit's direction, Jesus is crucified (John 19:16-37).

Many think that Golgotha got its name because David buried the head of Goliath of Gath there (1Sam.17:54). Goliath was a picture of Satan, the great accuser of God's people (1Sam.17:10).

Back in Genesis 3:15 God promised that Messiah would crush the head of the serpent, Satan, the accuser. Here at Golgotha we see the fulfillment of that prophecy - Jesus is lifted up - King over Golgotha, over the skull, his foot crushing the head of Satan - the greater Goliath - winning victory over sin, death and the devil.

Good Friday Meditation 2/4: Jesus Reigns at Gabbatha

What do you think it would be like to stare into the face of the one who created everything - including you?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation 1/4: Jesus Reigns at Gethsemane

In Matthew's, Mark's and Luke's gospels, we see the vulnerability of Jesus up close and personal in the Passion narratives. They all record more clearly his anguish and pain - e.g. Mt.26:38-39, Mk.14:33, Lk.22:44 - a beautiful demonstration of Heb.5:7.

But John is different, Jesus never stops reigning and there is no hint of weakness or anguish. Jesus never leaves the driving seat, exercising total control over everything.

(N.B. This doesn't mean that the gospels are contradictory, they just highlight different faces of the beautiful diamond that is Christ. :-)

In John's account of Gethsemane (18:1-11), Jesus shows he is in total control by:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

40+ Reasons for Lent

Peter Leithart lists 40+ reasons why Lent is good. The list is so good, it makes me feel like I have missed out on something! Some of my favourites include:

  • To observe Lent rightly, we have to be persuaded that we already stand in God’s favor.
  • Lent is the season of blood and guts and flesh. It is the supremely anti-Gnostic season.
  • Lent is a pursuit of glory, because the Lord exalts those who humble themselves.
  • To observe Lent rightly, we need to be confident that the power to obey God is a gift from God.
  • For Christians, death is not end but beginning. Lent is an extended meditation on that good news.
  • Lent is boot camp for spiritual warriors.
  • We’re hungry for all the wrong things. We need Lent to develop a taste for the fruit of the tree of life – that is, the fruit of the cross.
  • Lent gives the only answer there is to the problem of evil: A cross that triumphs over evil, a death that tramples death.
  • Some demons come out only by prayer and fasting. Seems a good reason to fast and pray.
  • The Christian year has a rhythm, each season its own tonality and coloration. Without Lent, the year is bland.
  • Lent tells us what time it is – the time between resurrection and resurrection.
  • Lent reminds us that Jesus didn’t go to the cross so we can escape the cross; He went to the cross to enable us to bear it after Him.
  • Lent inoculates against sentimentalism.
  • Lent tunes us to the broken beauty of the world.
  • Lent is not for doing things we never do otherwise. Like Sunday, Lent is for intensifying things we do all the time.
Read in full here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Good Friday Meditation: 12pm-2pm @ RFC Offices

From 12pm-2pm, we have created a space at the church offices to mark Good Friday and marvel together on the greatest sacrifice in history.

We will sing songs, pray, share thoughts and ponder silently. There will be four half hour slots finishing with communion. Come and join us for one, two, three or all four of them.

Each half hour slot will stand on its own as a distinct meditation, but for those who stay for more than one, there is clearly a progression through the events of the story.

We'll be following Jesus' sacrifice through the eyes of John, moving from:

  • Gethsemane (12pm) 
  • to Gabbatha (12:30pm)
  • to Golgotha (1pm)
  • to the Grave (1:30pm)

...and seeing how Jesus, far from being the victim of circumstance, is the LORD who remains in total authority over everything even his killers - giving himself up for the sake of those who hate him.

There is not a god like him!

Sunday, 1 April 2012


A video discussing typology, which should not be viewed as an interesting literary quirk, but the fundamental heartbeat of the whole Bible, and indeed the whole creation: