Monday, 27 March 2006


La liberté : jusqu'à quel prix ?

April's Focus (joint GBU) meeting in Brussels will be on the topic of Freedom: at what price? (More literally, 'up to what price/cost?') I spent hours on the flyer for it last Friday (and the printing shop have mangled it), but I'm rather pleased with this little cartoon I did for it. I'd have put the fish in a tartan kilt and had him crying "Freeeeedom!" in a Scottish accent, but I think that cultural reference just might possibly go over the heads of the Belgians.

Dead or alive

If God did not exist, I would die. That is twofold: firstly if God did not exist, then I would not exist - I would not have been brought into being or sustained in every molecule, sub-atomic particle and breath. And secondly if I were convinced that God did not exist and it turned out that I still existed in some way then I would be a nihilist and die. Without God there is no reason to live: for love of others - but whence love of others? For love of life - but what life? For love of self - but what self? For from him and through him and to him are all things.

Nietzsche reasoned that if (since) man did not act as if God exists, then God was (effectively) dead. But if man acts as if God does not exist, then it is not because God is dead, but that man is dead. It has been so since Genesis 3. Man acted as if God did not exist as God, and died. (Further, Nietzsche's nice idea that this 'death of God' creates unimagined possibilities for those strong enough to meet them is strikingly similar to the devil's idea: 'You will not surely die... You will be like God...'!)

So then, since I am convinced that were God not to exist, I would cease to exist or die, and that if I were convinced otherwise I would be dead, in what ways do I act as if God did not exist? When do I act as if he doesn't exist, good, sovereign and righteous? Because whenever I do, I'm a dead man walking.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ... For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Eph 2:1-5,10]

Update: Ref21 ponders "Could it be that Nietzsche is actually one of the most influential evangelical thinkers of all time?" in a blog post.

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Delighting in God

This morning I read Augustine's Confessions - a loose & I think condensed translation in modern English (I'd love to recover my school Latin and read his original!) There is much to be reminded of and quoted from him - he is steeped in Scripture and a lover of God, exalting his grace and supremacy.

From the opening paragraph which acts as a summary of his biography he is in pursuit of Truth and Joy, dispising of his former sin of looking anywhere but God, and praising God for revealing himself to him graciously:
How great you are, Lord, and how greatly to be praised! How matchless is your power and how infinite your understanding. Man may be but a speck in your wide creation, but he wants to praise you. He may carry around with him his mortality and his sin as mute testimony to the truth that "God resists the proud," but even so he wants to praise you. You have thrilled us by causing us to delight in your praise. You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.
As C.S.Lewis chased joy, and described our tragedy in part as settling for less when God offers more, Augustine describes his life before turning to God:
I was in love with a lower form of beauty. [And elsewhere] was my sin: I sought for pleasure, honour, and truth, not in God but in his creatures, including myself and others, and so fell into sorrow, confusion, and error.
His writing reminds me of Lewis' illustration in 'Meditations in a toolshed', of looking along a sunbeam to the source, rather than looking at the dust illuminated by it, when he says, "I had my back to the light and my face towards the things it illuminated; but my face, which could see what was in the light, remained in the darkness."

How then as lovers of God, should we use these lower forms of beauty?
...the man who insists on loving something besides you does not really love you as he should, unless he loves it because of you.
If physical objects appeal to you, [my soul,] praise God for them, but let your love revert to the one who made them, so that in pleasing yourself you don't displease him.
What then is his prayer for those "seeing what is in the light, [but] remaining in darkness?"
Look at us, Lord. Have mercy on us, and unshackle those of us who call on you. Do more than that! Unbind those who never stopped to ask you for a thing, just so they might learn to call on you, and so find themselves set free at last.
The implicit challenge to the reader of his Confessions:
What difference does it make to me whether men hear my confession or not - as if they could cure all my ailments! Men are an inquisitive lot, curious to find out about other people's lives, lazy when it comes to doing anything about their own. Why do they want to hear from me what I'm like, when they won't listen to you, Lord, when you tell them what they're like?
His confidence and hope:
Your only Son, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, has redeemed me with his blood. ... As a beggar, I yearn to be filled by him in the midst of those who eat and are satisfied. For as the Psalmist promised, those who seek the Lord shall praise him.
Further reading:
The Confessions of Augustine
Desiring God, Piper
When I don't desire God, Piper

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Good coffee to the poor?

I was waiting for it. Over in our Coffee Bible Club Dave posted a new topic, (which was good) so then I was just waiting for Andy's response, which I anticipated would be (a) first to come and (b) worth waiting for. It was. (That means, in case the point's missed, that it's well worth reading.) This is a conversation in which I'm happily taking part by listening.

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Beautiful tries

The triple crown
A beautifully placed try in the last 2 minutes against England
O'Reilly's Irish pub in Brussels


is in the eye?
On the bus before witnessing the above (beautiful) match:
Guy beside me, having glanced my way several times: Do you have the time?
[I show him the time.]
Him: Ah, 19:45. You have beautiful eyes.
Me, half groaning half laughing inwardly, mutter: Thank you.
[Blatantly turn in other direction and stare out the window.]
Him: Do you mind if we see each other again?
Me, a bit thrown in French vocab: Euh, ça ne va pas. (= that's not on)
Him: Perhaps not this evening, but during the week we could see each other.
Me, blank as to vocabularly for turning down a persistant asking-out by a complete stranger on the bus: Non, ça va pas.
Him, trying again: You mind if...
Me: Non, ça va pas!

Nutter. He actually acted slightly put out too. If there is ever again a similar occurence, I could just speak English with a broad Belfast accent. But it is rather hard to pretend you don't understand French when you do. Or maybe I should try the, "Sorry, I'm part of a body which is engaged to be married to Jesus" line - could be amusing. Of course, if I were Roger Carswell, without skipping a beat I'd have replied to "Would you see me again?" with "No, but Jesus will - are you ready?" Then again, if I were Roger, strange men wouldn't be commenting on the supposed beauty of my eyes, on the bus, in French.

Give me a beautiful try of the Horgan variety any time.

Patrick's Day

I’m a day late with this, but I’m not bothered about the RC calendar and was busy doing a St Patrick’s / Irish evening for our international students yesterday anyway (great opportunity: everyone loves an Irish evening, they all flock to it and along with tastes of butter-fried potato bread, Guinness and live Irish music, I get to share with them Patrick’s testimony about his Lord and Saviour: cue Irish grin).

I do find Patrick inspiring. There are many of those whom the RC institution has canonised who aren’t worth giving a second glance to, especially as we know more myth than history about many and there are more of them than there are days in the year. And of course we are all saints in Christ, but that’s not to breed an arrogance which thinks it has nothing to glean from these folk insofar as any were servants of God’s gospel. I do give God thanks Patrick, who as far as I can see from his Confessions (preserved for around 22 centuries) was a servant of his gospel.

Patrick was born c. 390AD in what is now Scotland. He introduces himself as follows: “I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people…”

He was a slave in Ireland from age 16. After around 6 years of keeping sheep (or pigs) outside as a slave, he recounts,

“And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: ‘You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country.’ And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: ‘Behold, your ship is ready.’ And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship.

“And on the same day that I arrived, the ship was setting out from the place, and I said that I had the wherewithal to sail with them; and the steersman was displeased and replied in anger, sharply: ‘By no means attempt to go with us.’ Hearing this I left them to go to the hut where I was staying, and on the way I began to pray, and before the prayer was finished I heard one of them shouting loudly after me: ‘Come quickly because the men are calling you.’ And immediately I went back to them and they started to say to me: ‘Come, because we are admitting you out of good faith; make friendship with us in any way you wish.’ (And so, on that day, I refused to suck the breasts of these men from fear of God, but nevertheless I had hopes that they would come to faith in Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.) And for this I continued with them, and forthwith we put to sea.

“And after three days we reached land, and for twenty-eight days journeyed through uninhabited country, and the food ran out and hunger overtook them; and one day the steersman began saying: ‘Why is it, Christian? You say your God is great and all-powerful; then why can you not pray for us? For we may perish of hunger; it is unlikely indeed that we shall ever see another human being.’ In fact, I said to them, confidently: ‘Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.’ And with God’s help this came to pass; and behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them, and remained there for two nights, and the were full of their meat and well restored, for many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside. And after this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly. They discovered wild honey, besides, and they offered a share to me, and one of them said: ‘It is a sacrifice.’ Thanks be to God, I tasted none of it.

“And a second time, after many years, I was taken captive. On the first night I accordingly remained with my captors, but I heard a divine prophecy, saying to me: ‘You shall be with them for two months.’ So it happened. On the sixtieth night the Lord delivered me from their hands.
“On the journey he provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day, until on the tenth day we came upon people. As I mentioned above, we had journeyed through an unpopulated country for twenty-eight days, and in fact the night that we came upon people we had no food.”

So for his story. But was it all of dreams and escapes? It was so much more. From his Confession he was a gospel-motivated, God-centred, grace-enabled self-giving missionary passionate about God’s name being glorified among the pagans and looking to the return of Christ. This is long reading for a blog post, but very well-worth it: we could do a lot worse than to learn from his testimony and missionary gospel vision.

In testimony:
“I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people…And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son. …after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase…

“Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

“For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

“He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’

“I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.”

He was worried that others would look down on his writing because although Latin was his mother tongue, others had studied uninterrupted whereas he had been taken as a slave at 16 years old and had to speak Irish, not Latin! Ah, I sympathise, man – why, I often have trouble speaking English because I’ve French in the head! But he continues to testify to God very much as David, the shepherd God raised to be his servant:

“I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”

His vision for ministry:
Servant-hood – “Me, truly wretched in this world, [God] inspired before others that I could be—if I would—such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.”

The Urgency of proclaiming the gospel & importance of laying foundations: “According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.”

How often is a gospel servant distracted by fame? Not Patrick. After many, many years of persecution, in which he confronted the Druids and High King and by God’s work in and through him won respect for Christianity, he became respected. Yet his account of this retains the same emphasis on grace-enabled service:
“And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor imagined.”

His insistence to be a missionary – against discouragement by family, friends and churchmen
“And after a few years I was again in Britain with my kinsfolk, and they welcomed me as a son, and asked me, in faith, that after the great tribulations I had endured I should not go anywhere else away from them. And, of course, there, in a vision of the night, I saw a man whose name was Victoricus coming as it from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them, and I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish’, and as I was reading the beginning of the letter I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke. Thanks be to God, because after so many ears the Lord bestowed on them according to their cry.

“I have said enough. But all the same, I ought not to conceal God’s gift which he lavished on us in the land of my captivity, for then I sought him resolutely, and I found him there, and he preserved me from all evils (as I believe) through the in-dwelling of his Spirit, which works in me to this day.

“Thus I give untiring thanks to God who kept me faithful in the day of my temptation, so that today I may confidently over my soul as a living sacrifice for Christ my Lord; who am I, Lord? or, rather, what is my calling? that you appeared to me in so great a divine quality, so that today among the barbarians I might constantly exalt and magnify your name in whatever place I should be, and not only in good fortune, but even in affliction? So that whatever befalls me, be it good or bad, I should accept it equally, and give thanks always to God who revealed to me that I might trust in him, implicitly and forever, and who will encourage me so that, ignorant, and in the last days, I may dare to undertake so devout and so wonderful a work; so that I might imitate one of those whom, once, long ago, the Lord already pre-ordained to be heralds of his Gospel to witness to all peoples to the ends of the earth. So are we seeing, and so it is fulfilled; behold, we are witnesses because the Gospel has been preached as far as the places beyond which no man lives. [At this time Ireland was the furthest known reach beyond Roman civilisation – é.]

Imitating Paul as in 1 Thessalonians in transparent gospel-shaped ministry.
“And many gifts were offered to me with weeping and tears, and I offended them [the donors], and also went against the wishes of a good number of my elders; but guided by God, I neither agreed with them nor deferred to them, not by my own grace but by God who is victorious in me and withstands them all, so that I might come to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure insults from unbelievers; that I might hear scandal of my travels, and endure man persecutions to the extent of prison; and so that I might give up my free birthright for the advantage of others, and if I should be worthy, I am ready [to give] even my life without hesitation; and most willingly for His name. And I choose to devote it to him even unto death, if God grant it to me.

“You know, as God does, how I went about among you from my youth in the faith of truth and in sincerity of heart. As well as to the heathen among whom I live, I have shown them trust and always show them trust. God knows I did not cheat any one of them, nor consider it, for the sake of God and his Church, lest I arouse them and [bring about] persecution for them and for all of us, and lest the Lord’s name be blasphemed because of me, for it is written: ‘Woe to the men through whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed.’

And in the vein of Paul’s, “Therefore I live if you are standing fast in the Lord” –
“Therefore may it never befall me to be separated by my God from his people whom he has won in this most remote land. I pray God that he gives me perseverance, and that he will deign that I should be a faithful witness for his sake right up to the time of my passing.

His eschatological motivation:
“And I wish to wait then for his promise which is never unfulfilled, just as it is promised in the Gospel: ‘Many shall come from east and west and shall sit at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Just as we believe that believers will come from all the world.

“So for that reason one should, in fact, fish well and diligently, just as the Lord foretells and teaches, saying, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,’ and again through the prophets: ‘Behold, I am sending forth many fishers and hunters, says the Lord,’ et cetera. So it behoved us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God, and so there might be clergy everywhere who baptized and exhorted a needy and desirous people. Just as the Lord says in the Gospel, admonishing and instructing: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the end of time.’ And again he says: ‘Go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be condemned.’ And again: ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached throughout the whole world as a witness to all nations; and then the end of the world shall come.’

“So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God….”

His expectations in the ‘here below’:
“But I see that even here and now, I have been exalted beyond measure by the Lord, and I was not worthy that he should grant me this, while I know most certainly that poverty and failure suit me better than wealth and delight (but Christ the Lord was poor for our sakes; I certainly am wretched and unfortunate; even if I wanted wealth I have no resources, nor is it my own estimation of myself, for daily I expect to be murdered or betrayed or reduced to slavery if the occasion arises. But I fear nothing, because of the promises of Heaven; for I have cast myself into the hands of Almighty God, who reigns everywhere. As the prophet says: ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.’

“Behold now I commend my soul to God who is most faithful and for whom I perform my mission in obscurity, but he is no respecter of persons and he chose me for this service that I might be one of the least of his ministers.”

Did he mean that his mission is to repay his debt to God?
“For which reason I should make return for all that he returns me. But what should I say, or what should I promise to my Lord, for I, alone, can do nothing unless he himself vouchsafe it to me.

His eyes on future hope:
“…For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.\

“For the sun we see rises each day for us at [his] command, but it will never reign, neither will its splendour last, but all who worship it will come wretchedly to punishment. We, on the other hand, shall not die, who believe in and worship the true sun, Christ, who will never die, no more shall he die who has done Christ’s will, but will abide for ever just as Christ abides for ever, who reigns with God the Father Almighty and with the Holy Spirit before the beginning of time and now and for ever and ever. Amen.

“Behold over and over again I would briefly set out the words of my confession. I testify in truthfulness and gladness of heart before God and his holy angels that I never had any reason, except the Gospel and his promises, ever to have returned to that nation from which I had previously escaped with difficulty.

“But I entreat those who believe in and fear God, whoever deigns to examine or receive this document composed by the obviously unlearned sinner Patrick in Ireland, that nobody shall ever ascribe to my ignorance any trivial thing that I achieved or may have expounded that was pleasing to God, but accept and truly believe that it would have been the gift of God.”

“And this is my confession before I die.”

Friday, 17 March 2006

Laptops and luuve


I had 2 computer expert-ish housemates and one computer expert-ish teammate all staring at my laptop-in-a-coma yesterday afternoon, all looking just as blank as its screen.

One of the aforementioned housemates then lent me a spare laptop of his which is very good of him, but it can't go online as it pre-dates when laptops were made with any means of connecting a phone line or USB cable. And I have to get hold of a Windows 98 CD so I can change the keyboard to English and touchtype!

So I'm still looking for an angel with a screwdriver... today I'll head to a Computer Fixing Place to get an estimate of whether it's possible to fix or worth fixing - accompanied by aforementioned computerish team mate so I don't get ripped off through looking too obviously non computer expert-ish.

In the meantime...

And luuve
And as I was having a drink with the 2 housemates aforementioned yesterday evening, one announced the problem (with the world) is that we're all looking for happiness, but we're looking in the wrong places: money, success, career, politics... "Where is happiness found?" he asked, "Where is happiness found?" turning to me. I had a feeling that it was a semi-rhetorical question and he was about to tell us, partly because he seemed to be half-way through an ongoing dispute with his girlfriend about feminism, to which the rest of us weren't really partie, but he was demanding an answer from me, so I said, "Joy is found in God." It wasn't the answer he wanted, and it shocked him enough to deflect him for 5 seconds.
Love, he said. Love between a man and a woman. Whereupon my mind filled with images of a bloke swinging round pillars on the roof of the Moulin Rouge singing heartily "All you need is love!" morphing into the vicar from The Princess Bride saying, "Luve, twue luuve...". I didn't know we still had any believers in Bohemianism. What struck me in the ensuing rambling discussion was that the accompanying idea of love was supremely self-seeking rather than self-giving.

I've got to think about how self-seeking Bohemian love is different from self-giving Christian hedonist love [answers on a postcard - or comments will do], but quite apart from that, I'm far from immune from distorting love too. I was challenged recently reading Paul writing to the Philippian believers that God is his witness how he longs for them with the love of Christ. I can often try to break down love into 'what I should do': the practice of a collection of attitudes, actions and emotions which are loving. This falls short of loving with the affection of Christ Jesus. I pray that I would love with the love of Christ, not merely practise that which may be part of it. And the love of Christ is such that I need to pray for the power of the Spirit just to begin to get a grasp on how huge it is - quite apart from praying about practising it!

Wednesday, 15 March 2006


My laptop is dead and is refusing to appropriate resurrection life this time. In fact, it's more like it's in a coma and refusing to wake up: it shows the power light when I switch it on, but nothing else happens. It has done this before to varying degrees but never quite like this nor quite as stubbornly. I have a feeling I'm going to have to pay through the nose to have it fixed... Meanwhile, I can't use internet or email (rather important for student contact) without going to the internet place on the corner, and can't do quite a lot of work (admin, prayer letter, post-mission questionnaire analysis) which is on my computer, keep in touch with family and friends (skype, msn, blog, email), look up Brussels public transport times or news, play music, or listen to sermons on Hebrews by Piper (which is perhaps the most disappointing, when it's in addition to all the rest!). Rather frustrating. And rather frustrating to be so dependent on a Thing.

Monday, 6 March 2006

Ants in awe

When an ant comes to the bottom of a particularly splendid range of rocky mounds, does it pause in awe? When an eagle soars on the upcurrent at a mountain ridge, does it wonder at the beauty of the geographic formation below it?

Yet when I see mountains, my heart stops and sings the creator's praise. How come my senses are tuned to awe and wonder at bulges on the earth's surface and at waves of the sea crashing in against rocks to spray salty must in the air? How come this sense developed? It does us no good in survival. The ant ignores the immensity of the rock garden: he searches food; the eagle cares not for the aesthetics of the mountain: all her eyesight is trained on food. Man alone stands and stares. It doesn't help survival: it focusses attention away from himself and his survival to the greatness of something else. Man alone stops in awe and praises.

Dawkins declares that belief in God takes away the awe and wonder due to the world. Forget arguing the point: Just tell us, Dawkins, whence that awe and wonder?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, ... they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. [Rom 1:18-22a & 25]

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, "They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways."
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
"They shall not enter my rest." [Ps 95]

Friday, 3 March 2006

37 hours

I'm about to be out of the country for over a week, first to Italy then via an overnight pitstop here, to England.

I'm looking forward to seeing my sister in Italy (she's generously flying me over to join her for a couple of days of her holiday) as I haven't seen her since one day in August. I'll also try to meet up with the IFES Milan team while I'm in the area. Plus big sis' has just signed me up for a first skiing lesson, which is quite exciting.

Then to England for a job interview which I'll say more about if successful; suffice to say that I'd appreciate your prayers that my attitude to it, communication in it and reaction to it would be God-glorifying. Then it's a chance while in the country to see friends (also for the first time since August).

However as much as I'm looking forward to those things, this involves around 37 hours of travel in the course of the next 9 days, most of it on coaches. About which I confess a certain apprehension particularly regarding tiredness and how tiredness easily leads to un-gospel thinking. If you would, please take a moment now to pray that in the many hours on coaches, strange waking hours and accompanying tiredness, I would keep seeking joy in God through his word and prayer, keep living the gospel of grace and that I would be an encouragement in grace to the people I'm with.

Completely unconnected to the above, a friend showed me this from a German company: be amused. [Opens a media file.]

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Log Camp

Finally reporting on the camp: it went well, thanks to God.

Chawkat taught well about Islam, Muslims, relations with it/them and evangelism. The students engaged with him and the topic. They discussed, they prayed, they bought his books, they disputed contraversial points, they asked good questions, they saught to apply the teaching and those among them of African origin argued African style (all talking at once without listening) until I gave up trying to participate in the discussion. [I'm not being racist, ok? Rather exasperated I suggested to them that they weren't listening to each other and that I couldn't hear what they were saying because as a non-mother tongue French speaker I couldn't pick it up when they were all talking simultaneously: Oh no, they assured me, it wasn't my linguistic ability; it's cultural. I gave up.]

The singing & prayer sessions (someone tell me a good name for these eh?) which I co-led with an Ichtus staff worker seemed to help the students to pray and worship - the first one we led through the themes of creation, fall, redemption and looking to final restoration, and in the second we praised God for his trinity and applied ourselves to singing about grace and unity. There isn't much in the song, "We are one in the Spirit" (is that how it is in English?), but once you've taken the best verse in Flemish and compiled/rewritten a verse in French to focus on working together to tell the world that Jesus is the Saviour, and take the chorus in English, you've got a great song expression of unity in the gospel!

Mostly the mixture of languages worked ok in singing - though some day I'm going to track down whoever translated most of the songs into French and kneecap them for their musical ineptitude*: I spent a fair amount of time and energy rewriting portions of songs in French to make the words actually fit the music. (* Ok, grace abounds even more than musical ineptitude.) And Be Thou My Vision is going to haunt me for a while, musically speaking. Notes to musicians/song leaders: 1) don't attempt a time change in a song if your bongos player has disappeared unless you're sure your guitarists can change time, 2) don't attempt to NOT go up 2 keys in the course of a song if the music from which your guitarists are reading DOES go up 2 keys in the course of the song: they won't think to read from the beginning and 3) don't attempt to combine the musical traditions of 3 countries in one song: just go for one. But you already knew that, didn't you?

A few books were bought, and most students bought some of Chawkat's books which is good. The students enjoyed being together French and Flemish. I enjoyed being involved in organisation and interpreting the talks French-English for a Londoner there with his Flemish girlfriend.

And the daft language thing of the weekend for me was not a confusion of French, Flemish and English: no, it was in a public question time slightly mispronouncing the French word for "mouth", so that I asked the speaker about, "If you confess with your log that Jesus is Lord...", causing much frivolity for the girls in front of me.

The Coffee Bible Club Blog

The Coffee Bible Club Blog have kindly invited me to join in their global discussion with my Bible and my mug of Belgian coffee (correction, Belgian mug of Oxfam Latin American & African coffee). I don't know that I have anything to say at the moment as Andy, Dave and Mo are saying lots of good stuff to which I have nothing to add, but it's nice to be there!

It must also be noted that to reflect our priorities of course the title of the blog should be The Bible Coffee Club Blog, but although that would be nicely palondromic, it wouldn't be as tricky to say 20 times quickly.