Thursday, 28 July 2005

why am I crying?

I thought I was a hardened cynic regarding things Northern Irish, and find it hard because of that, to pray for NI (so I was praying against my cynicism!) But when I heard of the IRA's statement today, I found myself crying. Not that I'm convinced of any results yet, and it doesn't stop the problem of infighting 'loyalist' terrorists, 'community policing', and para drug running - it won't deal with sin. But I guess that the ongoing terrorism has had a greater effect on my outlook than I realised.

1 Tim 2 urges us to pray for rulers so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives, because God desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. We have no right to an end to violence, and we're likely to see it increase. But we pray that in right wrath, God would remember mercy and restrain the violent, so that there are no longer the associated barriers to those from all backgrounds being saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth.

Wednesday, 27 July 2005

echoing Chesterton

In The Times correspondence on, “What is wrong with the world today?” G. K. Chesterton famously contributed: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours faithfully, G. K. Chesterton.”

It is easy to spot the faults and failings of the Church, or one's Denomination, or church. It is easy to know how Things Should Be; it is easy to be discontent with the state of things. But in answer to the question, "What's wrong with the/our church?", I've been convicted that it's far more a case of, "I am". Self-righteousness so easily lurks hideously beneath a veneer of passion for God's glory. ... Matt 6.12.

Monday, 25 July 2005

On being a colony

[Warning: this is a bit of a rant...]

Being partisanly nationalistic or unionistic would always be the last thing on my mind, but I just wish that since this part of the world which is currently designated Nothern Ireland is designated Northern Ireland and our national identity is in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, that that should actually be the case.

Now I don't mind either way, as I say - we live seeking the peace of the country, praying for the powers that be, and seeking the glory of Christ and the propagation of his Kingdom above all: and if (or, taking into account demography, when) this part becomes part of the Republic, we'll keep doing that and have great new opportunities to do so. This gripe isn't a sectarian one.

And I appreciate that Norn Iron was a compromise. But the compromise seems to be that we're neither in the UK nor in the Republic... Let me illustrate.

I apply for a provisional driving license in England - well I would, living in Nottingham. I don't have time to learn to drive there, so on returning to Belfast for the summer I apply to sit my theory test (too late to catch summer bookings for practicals). Problem: DVLA doesn't cover NI: that'd be DVLANI. OK, so I apply to DVLANI. Problem: they can't process my application (the website chokes and splutters) - oh it's all ok, emails assure me, but I need to ring them, and they need to ring DVLA to confirm my license is valid (eh? it's a UK license! oh no, it's not - it's a GB license. Ah. Of course). And then they need me to book over the phone, cos they've had to override the system - using a GB license in NI is evidently Strange. Well, that all went ok, and I passed the Theory Test (the hazard perception part of which was interesting, seeing as I haven't taken lessons & refused to spend such an amount of money on the DVD - but I divert). Of course the interesting thing will be when I inform them of change of address: presumably then they'll require me to change to a NI provisional license, ie pay again...

Then I visit the dentist. A friendly and good practice, with which, very helpfully, my Mum has booked me an appointment to register and have a check-up. So I walk there, prepared with my NHS card. But oh no. Problem. Is it that I haven't got round to changing the address on it yet? No, it's that it's an English NHS card. For NI, of course, I need a NI NHS card. (No, the problem is not simply that I haven't yet registered with a GP in Belfast - it's actually an English NHS number.) Now hang on, what does the N in NHS stand for?? The receptionist, from England herself, kindly allows me to have the check-up and urges me to apply for a new (NI) one ASAP. So the dentist can be paid for my treatment. By the 'N'HS.

Turns out that the Coventry Bank Branch Manager who insisted on ringing a superior to check my word that I wasn't an International student (she had my British passport in front of her), wasn't as much of an idiot as I thought at the time.

So. The last great remnant of the Empire? Just step across the Irish Sea. Watch out though: you're entering no-man's-land - in the State of the UK, but not a country of it; British, but not in Britain; where the Banks have permission to print money which is not Legal Tender. Was this part of the world invented for a compromise or for a laugh?

Whatever was going on, it's just as well God in grace gave people from these parts the ability to laugh at everything.

Saturday, 23 July 2005

God's preserving mercy, & the Hitler Youth

Thoughts struck up by an idea in an article in an old TSF Bulletin (66 - Summer 1973; Encounter with World Religions, Glasser) and a TV programme on children in Hitler's Germany.

The good in other religions. The article refers to H.Berkhof's view of angels as having been created as agents of God's loving providence with man's creaturely existence:

"When the revolt took place, with many of these invisible intelligences participating in Satan's challenge of God's sovereignty, their stabilizing function continued, but in a negative fashion. They now seek to keep men from the love of God. Berkhof argues that 'this understanding is especially illuminating when we think of the religio-social structures by which the world outside Christ has been and is carried along... However pointedly the Bible teaches us to see this as slavery, we should not forget that it is
still a part of God's preserving mercy, holding life in line where men do not know Christ's liberation.' "

So God in grace so works that even enslaving systems and ideologies preserve some order and good - although it is tainted in every part, not submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ.

One application of this struck me as I caught a bit of a TV programme about children in Germany with the rise of Hitler - Hitler Youth and all. I'd studied it in school, but what struck me in the reminder in this program was how much of the youth programme was good. Now every bit that was good was also perverted (no surprise to one who believes in total depravity), but there was much we can learn from the good reasons why the children were attracted to the Hitler Youth (with particular reference to our own society).

- Community - in a society that emphasizes individualism.
- Order - in a society which celebrates disorder.
- Clear roles for different ages and genders - in a society which denies them.
- Authority structure - in a society which shuns it as intrinsically evil.
- Unity - all united in common activities, aims, goals.
- All-embracing ideology (work, recreation, study, sport, music, art, thought: everything was engaged) - in a society which segregates and denies meta-narrative.

The enslaving systems of the world can only offer a perverted imitation of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should imagine neither that there is nothing good in them, nor that Christianity is merely the highest form.

I suppose these rather incoherent thoughts are along the lines of answering this: we often ask, "How can humans be so evil?" but rarely think, "What is stopping humans from being totally evil? Why are there still vestiges of good in our society, or any religio-social structure?"

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

do all to the glory of God

God has made us in entirety: bodies with all the senses. We're used to the idea that music is used in our worship of God, but what about everything else? I resonated deeply with Piper's commentary in 'When I don't desire God' on C.S.Lewis' account of a beam of light in a tool shed, which I'll summarise as: if you merely look at it, you don't use it as it was intended - it doesn't illuminate but shows only dust particles moving seemingly at random. But if you step into it and look along it through the hole in the roof, you see the glorious source. So we use engage our senses in using (looking along) the world around us to perceive God's glory and worship him. As God has made us physical beings, in a physical world, all originally good (and not irredeemable), and all to his glory, we should be seeking to look along all things to see God's glory - to actively seek to be pointed to worship him.

I haven't explained it well, but my question is this: to what extent should we seek to surround ourselves with what will be of use in this? I'll ask living-specific questions, but could also think of time/money/energy spent on music, art, physical activity, garden, location etc. Should we seek to live in an area where we'll see more things of beauty and so be pointed to worship God? Is it wrong to be happy to live in a dump (eg most student digs) which doesn't stir you to worship God, or wrong to want not to live in a dump for the same reason? Or is it socially conditioned (ie a middle class definition of beauty)? Biographies abound of Christians who have lived in poverty for the sake of giving money away. To what extent is to do otherwise selfish and storing treasures on earth? Is seeking these things in order to use them to stir us to glorify and enjoy God denying/fighting the 'rare jewel of Christian contentment' in whatsoever state?

I'm aware that this is undoubtedy something on which an individual needs wisdom and a conscience sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and I'm not expecting rules. But any thoughts shared on the matter would be appreciated.

Saturday, 9 July 2005

Biblical Theology

Musing on 2 articles I found on on the interplay between Biblical and Systematic Theology, and current evangelical preaching.
(I can't reproduce them here, but in beginningwithmoses' top menu click on "bt articles", then the one entitled, "A revolutionary balancing act (Carl Trueman)". And then the one beneath: "Ontology and Biblical Theology - AResponse to Carl Trueman's Editorial: A RevolutionaryBalancing Act - (Graeme L.Goldsworthy)".)
Very interesting: I'd been thinking along the lines of Trueman's editorial for a while, so now pondering Goldsworthy. Perichoresis seems to be the thing!

Friday, 8 July 2005

An enjoyably productive day

Not incredibly exciting, but I feel most satisfied by a day in which I
a) in the morning read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime",
b) at lunchtime made chocolate brownies (hmmm, they came out well!) for Sunday tea, when the family will be back from Aberdeen (parents, for sister's graduation) and Down South (bro', on church camp),
c) in the afternoon cleaned the kitchen and all mirrors and bathrooms in the house (talk about elbow grease!), which was good as my Mum's not been well enough :-( to do so for a while,
d) at dinnertime walked the dog in the beautiful evening,
e) and in the rest of the evening watched The Man with the Golden Gun on TV (passable if you want no brain action).
Tomorrow it'll be vacuuming, baking flapjacks, dog-walking, studying Clowney on the Church, and making dinner for the Return of the Family. Deary me, I'm turning into a 'housewife'. Housegirl?

there is a day that all creation's waiting for...

Back in Belfast for July & August, I'm missing all people and things Nottingham related, which is to be expected. Was saying to a friend that after all, we're designed for eternal communion, so when we taste God's goodness in blessings in this creation (friends, places, etc), and especially when we taste what bits of God's new creation he's already brought in (Christian fellowship), we feel at odds with leaving it, with separation. It is at odds with what we're made for - and we long for when it'll all be redeemed for good. In the meantime, I was trying to not be overly negative in response to well meaning church folk in Belfast saying, "I'm sure you're glad to be back!"

And I am glad to see my parents again of course, and "little" bro' Peter. And church friends. Though since most of them (church friends) are elderly, seeing them is hard as their health has always deteriorated each time I'm back, and they die. Which is wonderful for them, to go to be with their Saviour, but is sore nevertheless. Again, the separation jars with the good things of this creation, and makes us long for its full redemption.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

[Romans 8.16-24]

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Well what d'ya know?

So I'm a blogger now. Official and all that. Left behind me the amateur attempts to do something with html that looked vaguely like a blog... during exams last year (yes, that'd be finals) and am now blogging properly. When I've got something useful or interesting to say that is. Until then, toodle-pip!