Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Praying friends

Praise God for friends, for friends who practice hospitality, for friends getting together after a while, for friends prepared not just to have friends round for a lovely evening but to pray together.

Saturday, 26 August 2006


Another driving lesson this morning - and I discovered that in England not only are drivers in the first year of their full license not restricted (as in Norn Iron) to 45mph, but neither are learners restricted! So there I was merrily aiming at 45 on a dual carriageway and I found my instructor urging me on to 70mph - that was a rude shock.

While driving, my instructor asked me what I'd been away at this week. A training conference for the start of my job, I replied. The obvious question followed - what was my job? At that point I had running through my mind Tim Rudge's exhortations and excellent advice on how to explain what we do. Unfortunately though, having only got back last night from the conference, I hadn't had time to think through this and work out how I'd answer this question well. So, concentrating hard and going into 3rd gear, I managed something like, 'I work with students ['We'll be turning right at the next junction'] - I help them investigate the Bible, and who Jesus is, so that they'll trust in him ['SLOW DOWN FOR THE JUNCTION - how much of the road can you see?'] and know how to follow him.'
'Ah, ok. ... Well I won't be asking you any more questions as you clearly can't concentrate on the road at the same time.'


Monday, 21 August 2006

Fighting for justice

I was pondering double predestination yesterday, not studying in-depth: it just popped into my head with something someone said. And my thoughts were running something like: 'What's the problem? Everyone deserves hell, so God is just. The problem is not sending wicked people to hell; the problem is his mercy saving some. And that was shown to be just at the cross...' Then this morning, voilà - Challies posts something along the lines.

Wednesday, 16 August 2006


EverAfter Theatre Company's latest production is 'Hudson Taylor', based on the life of the pioneering missionary to China of the same name. It is being toured in association with OMF, the missionary organisation that he founded.
EverAfter’s brand new one man show is a dramatic retelling of the incredible true story of James Hudson Taylor, missionary to China. He was a man of great commitment to God, to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to reaching the Chinese people. His is a story of shipwrecks, riots, love, bereavement and success against all the odds. Hudson Taylor's life is one of remarkable faith, of both great joy and great sorrow and, above all, it is the story of the great God whom Hudson loved to serve. His story, interwoven with stories of missionaries in China today, is a profound encouragement and challenge and perfect for a riveting night's theatre.
The story of Hudson Taylor will be a great inspiration to churches in their faith, prayer and mission as well as being a great event to which to invite non-Christians. The show is touring in the UK from October 6th 2006 until March 31st 2007 and is offered free of charge to churches.

If you think that your church may be interested in hosting a performance, email to be sent the full promotional literature.

This should be good folks: get it booked for your church!

Sunday, 13 August 2006



In Brussels, student houses are usually large-ish buildings (tall and narrow with a few rooms on each floor) which have been converted into flats, each room self-contained: kitchenette, shower, desk, bed. There are no communal areas. You don't share a house, you rent a room. So of course houses are mixed - you can see very little of those in the other flats, just like in any appartment block! In my case, one of my IFES team-mates was in a room in the same building as me. But the buildings look like the non-flat converted family houses next to them.

Now that my team mate Barnaby and I have both moved from Brussels to our respective places in England, it transpired that this produced the following confusion for the children of our team leaders:

Parent: We're going to visit Rosemary.
4 yr old son: And Barnaby.
Parent: No, Barnaby's in his house, we're just going to Rosemary's house.
Son: But they live in the same house!
Parent: No... [suspecting what the reasoning was] they aren't married!
Son: Why not?


It never crossed our minds, as all Belgians know how it works with such student buildings... but it wasn't so obvious for a 4 yr old and 2 yr old. D'oh.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Speaking the truth in love

Challies pointed out a great post on Carolyn McCulley's blog Solo Femininity: responding to a single lady who feels she can't go on. Good reality check on longterm (really longterm) vision and fellowship, all coming from the gospel. Carolyn's own summary at the end is, "Four quick points - candid and firm, but loving nonetheless. Think of me as a coach standing on the sidelines, giving you the hard truth and shoving you back in the game. Go for the victory - a "well done, good and faithful servant" from your Master."

Reading this, I was struck by a more general thought: often hearing gospel truth into your life at a sore point from someone else who cares is worth more than saying it to yourself, however much you think you know it. Is that not a big part of fellowship? Getting back to the specifics, single ladies out there, let's not be afraid to say similar stuff (to her four points) to friends when you think it needful - even when you're sure they 'know it already'! And that applies more widely than this issue, of course.

Wine, warcraft & song

I'm safely in Birmingham, having flown across in the chaos that was yesterday. They made me put my violin in the hold. There are many better reasons to dislike terrorism, but that ranks somewhere in my list. Anyway, praise God that the police busted these terrorist plans before they were carried out.

Meanwhile, Marc Heinrich is inspired to a parody.

Monday, 7 August 2006

Don't tell me...

...we're not all infected by the bug Postmoderniti absurdosis. Conversation heard recently:

Anon 1*, putting a spoon in a mug while making tea: Oh! There's something in here!

Anon 2: It's a frog.

Anon 1: Life is good!

*Identities concealed as a concession to Anon 2, who said (when I'd recovered from laughing), "You're not going to put this in your blog are you?"

Sunday, 6 August 2006

When the truck hits the hedgehog

Or, 'When God-incidents don't happen.'
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! [Matt 7:7-11]
What a wonderful promise. Yet one that makes us feel uncomfortable... when it doesn't always seem to happen. Tim Challies quoted it while giving thanks to God for answered prayer in a car breakdown, and someone commented, 'I'm curious how you would have responded had a tow truck or emergency aid not shown up at all, and left you to either a) change the tire in the rain and traffic, or b) make a long hike to get help? Would you (would any of us) still have thought to thank God for providing for us?'

Closer to home, I failed my driving test last week. Many people fail their driving tests in the UK: 57% in fact (and higher for 1st time candidates). But in this instance, I needed to get it before this Thursday as I'm about to move to England where I'll need a car as I start working for UCCF:thechristianunions, travelling to various universities to support the students there in discipleship and evangelism. It costs a bomb to take lessons and take the test, and repeating in a different place would cost another £150 odd. So, many people were praying for me, that I'd pass this test. When I failed, several of those wonderfully faithful pray-ers who were in touch with me, said with disappointment, 'Oh. But I was praying for you!'

We believe God's in control.
They prayed. (And my driving instructor knew of it.)
I failed.
I was at fault.
I felt like I'd let them down.
So because I believe God's in control and because we were praying, I feel guilty and struggle to trust that God is really doing what's best. Something's wrong here!

(Yes I know, a driving test isn't really that huge in the grand scheme of things, but prayer is, so bear with me.)
If it were not for the death of Jesus everything you and I experience would be a token of God's wrath. But since Jesus has died and we have become beneficiaries of that death, everything that happens to us, even our trouble, is a token of God's love. ...

What has God done in order that our prayers might be answered? He has sent His dearly loved and only Son to absorb His own wrath against sin and to lead us into the green pastures of His favour where there is mercy and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus died for our sins that our prayers might be answered. - Piper

So what if our prayers don't seem to be answered?

Ultimately, he has better plans. It sounds trite, but it's true. Look, in John 15:7 Jesus says, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." Piper observes:

"We would not approve a father's behaviour who did everything a rebellious child wished. Not just because the child doesn't deserve it but because it would be bad for the child and a dishonour to the father's word. It is not a good thing to confirm a child in his waywardness by giving him whatever he asks. No, if my words abide in you, son, then ask what you will and I'll do it.

"There are many other places in Scripture where this same thing is taught. John says in his first letter (3:21-23),
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us we have confidence before God; and we receive from Him whatever we ask because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another just as He commanded us."
The Father gives us what pleases him. And what pleases him is that we grow more and more into the image of his Son, transformed by his Holy Spirit. Our plans are frequently so small and myopic in comparison. In this case, clearly God's plans are big enough to be worth a lot of frustration, time and money relating to a driving test. When I say it like that, it's obvious, isn't it? Or perhaps I should say, failure, frustrated plans and expense are worth learning how to develop a more God-trusting attitude to failure, frustrated plans and expense - plus whatever other good God will bring out of it.

In other words, if I felt frustrated, it was because the plans of those of us praying had been frustrated. We know that God's plans were not frustrated. And were I to persist in feeling frustrated, I'm effectively insisting that our ways would've been better than God's glorious, good ways! And so our attitude to prayer to our Father and Sovereign Lord turns out rather more like The Proclaimers' Hit the Highway than 'Not my will, but yours, be done.'

How then may we pray to avoid that? "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

  • So we must have God's words abiding in us: study and meditate on God's word to have our vision expanded to his, not imagining that our good intentions and plans don't matter (2 Thess.1:11-12), but having our good intentions and plans shaped by his words.
  • We must keep sights on how huge God is, meditating on what he has revealed of himself and his glory.
  • I must realise there's a difference between pleading on the basis of God's word and promises and giving God the list of watertight reasons I've worked out as to exactly why he should do according to my will - however much it seems to my little view of things that I'm arguing for his glory.

Further (and better) thoughts:
Piper on What Do Answers to Prayer Depend On? Part 1, Part 2

Tuesday, 1 August 2006


I was delighted to be able to join in wedding celebrations for 2 friends in Coventry at the weekend: the first time ever I could be in the same country as friends for their wedding! John was a 3rd year mathmo when I was a 1st year mathmo at Warwick, and evange sec on the CU exec which handed over to my first exec, and Sian was a 1st year when I was in 3rd year, and was on the CU exec to which we handed over after my second exec, becoming evange sec a year later. All make sense? They met in church: to (approx.) quote John, "I was preaching; Sian was taking notes - it was bound to be romance." The wedding was lovely.