Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Trick or treat?

When I was a young warthog... at hallowe'en kids dressed up in impressive costumes, knocked on the door and chorussed the entire stanza of, 'Hallowe'en is coming and goose is getting fat...'. Which at least required some effort in the dress and some ability to memorise a few words and speak ensemble. Even if it is wrong with roots in a syncretism of pagan druidism and Roman Catholicism. Now I've just had 2 separate kids at the door huddled in coats, in the dark and rain, mutter, 'Trick or treat' (at least, I think that was what the second one said from behind his scarf). I gave him a mandarin orange I had to hand - he'll need the VitC tomorrow when the cold takes hold.

That's the trick, now for the treat:

I do think it an infinitely preferable idea to celebrate today as Reformation Day. For twas on 31st October 1517 that a 30-something Augustinian monk called Martin posted some 95 points for discussion on his university town church blog. The Pope sent a bull after him, and then put him on a diet of Worms, but Martin burned the bull and wouldn't recant at the Diet as he was captive to God's word. Hm, for much more worthwhile reflections on Reformation Day see Dave, Pyro and Challies' most impressive round-up of most who are joining in the celebration today. And for a celebratory song this fits the tune of supercalifragilisticexpialodocious if you start with the chorus! Before, of course, you sing Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott!

Now I'll get back to composing a lunchbar talk on why there's one way to God in a world of many religions. The answer is Jesus, but I'll fill it out a little.

Sunday, 22 October 2006

The land of CovWarLeam

Down in Coventry on Friday, gathered to celebrate Jo's birthday [LHS of RH photo].

Then Chloe popped in from over Cardiff-way! And we worked out on Saturday morning that we hadn't seen each other in over 2 years. Shocking - but lovely to catch up in person on Saturday rather than on the phone.

Then it was out to Jonny's local with Peter and... Rich, who turned up from Reading-way (via Leicester, where he'd been speaking at CU). And I hadn't seen him in over 2 years either so that was another great catch-up - next time I'll just insist he brings Nicky.

On Saturday afternoon, Miss Amy Jarman married Mr Jonathan Lee, which means I can no longer call her AJ. It was all very lovely and exciting, as Amy is waving to indicate:

And at the reception I achieved one of my life's (lesser) ambitions: I got a photo of Pippa smiling. For the record, Pippa smiles an appropriately joyful amount, but not for the camera. I think it was the combination of Amy's wedding, Dave, and my pleading which did it:

It was, as always, wonderful in a gospel-and-Christian-love way to be back at Emmanuel on Sunday morning - they always make me feel I'm very much in the church. Bill preached on Hebrews 2.1-4 in his series on Hebrews, pointing out that while we may think the big dangers to the church are such as immorality in the church, or current popular heresies, the writer to the Hebrews considered the great danger to be drifting. Just merrily, inperceptably, gradually, effortlessly drifting. Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard!

And it was lunch at the James' before back to Birmingham in time for evening service in my church - in our series on the Fruit of the Spirit, Pastor Chris is helping us consider how God exhibits these characteristics, because it is in beholding God that we grow into his likeness - if the fruit is of the Spirit of God, it is because he is like that. This week was on faithfulness and we looked at Lamentations 3 and God's faithfulness - intrinsic and eternal as he cannot deny himself, tied to his truthfulness in our understanding as he reveals himself inseparably in his word, and in all he does - before looking at Matthew 25 and the call to be a faithful steward of what God entrusts to us.

Finally, I see on Saturday my November EN arrived, providing me with great reading material as well as information & stimulus for prayer, for the train journey down to Swansea tomorrow. Together with All things for good, which I'm determined to finish soon!

Books on the bandwagon

CT did an article on "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals: Landmark titles that changed the way we think, talk, witness, worship, and live."

The list makes for quite depressing reading, is of course from an American perspective since it's CT, and of course, has been a matter of great debate. In the Christian blogosphere many have offered critiques, and more just got on with the job of recommending 50 good alternatives by which we should be influenced, either sticking to 10, or a bite-the-bullet 50 books you should leave on the shelf. I'd say if the shelf then has that lot left on it, finish the job and burn the shelf.

Then Marc took the biscuit with a 50 potential Christian bestsellers.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

God and crying

A while ago I posted on the view of God given in one of Francis Cabrel's songs (which JB objected to me playing this morning - not for the theology, but because it was French): an impotent, sad god, come down to sit on the edge of the world, crying to see what we've made of it. Rather, this is the truth about God, crying, & what we've made of it - Boice on Gen 18.20-21, in which the Lord says, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know." Read Boice's comments.

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Theology is the Revolution

Smiley Mike Reeves on theology d'après Gideon (Judges 6.22-27)
Theology is smashing up idols - smashing up the idols in our minds and in our world. And not just smashing them up but replacing them with (v26) proper kinds of altars to the Lord our God: replacing them all with Jesus Christ.

The story here is: Gideon is surrounded by the idolatry of the Mideonite regime. And he begins the revolution against it by bulldozing Baal. And that is theology! It's not just reading books, studying languages, whatever. It is about rebelling against the world order, not just the Mideonites' little regime; rebelling against the whole world order as it rebels against God. Rebelling against it, bringing down the system, utterly replacing it; that is theology. Theology is The Revolution.


Theology is washing our brains by the Mediator rather than being brain-washed by the media.

A CUSW does not live on coffee alone

I haven't posted for almost a week, apart from the Pascal quote which generated an inordinate number of comments. Outside of the blogosphere, I've been dashing everywhere and each time arriving just in time.

Saturday SLOBS Got some quality small group leaders, who took a good few hours on a Saturday morning to get prepared for leading their small groups. No slobs in this SLOBS - one even suggested Saturday morning for our weekly training session! And not even a coffee in sight. Quality. Haven't discovered any of them blogging yet though...

Expresso after a rain storm. JB was surprised to witness me down an expresso after we'd both been soaked to the bone (umbrellas unavailing) going through town in a rain storm for a meeting that didn't materialise. Apparently drinking expresso makes me more hard-core than he'd thought. I don't know about hard-core: I was drenched, cold and facing the return trip back home, and there wasn't any filter coffee!

Coffees without coffee Meetings with strange (but lovely) student CU leaders. A couple in Wolverhampton and a couple in Aston. Strange? Well we met for coffee and they didn't want anything to drink! Strange but true. But encouraging to hear of relationships strengthening in Wolverhampton with more freshers than ever before, and very interested non-Christians coming along to meetings in Aston. I love that God has Christian students take part in his reaching of other students with his gospel. And that I get to share in it.

Rich Harvest My church mission week, with BCM helping out. This included a "Rich Coffee Morning". I mention this not that I was able to go to Rich Coffee, but because a coffee theme is developing in this post, perhaps because I'm hoping to redeem myself to my fellow-Coffee Bible Club Bloggers after having admitted a regular absence of coffee in my life.

© 1999 Mantis Design

So, who's for a bit of oh-so-holy must-have-coffee Christian busyness then? Midlands Staff Day in Nottingham included a look together at Chester's The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness. Challenge for me: "We are called to balance work and rest. But we are not called to balance service and self-indulgence. You were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). All of your life is now to be lived for Christ's glory and in his service." While we wrestled together with those of my colleagues with husband, wife & parental responsibilities on how gospel priorities & family responsibilities fit, I was compelled to praise God for my parents, who lived the following gospel priorities with us:

Whatever we say about ourselves, our true values come to the sufrace in our aspirations for our children. Do you hope your children will be comforable and well-paid? Or do you hope they will be radical, risk-taking gospel workers? If it's the latter then what better way to further that end than by modelling it for them? And not only modelling it, but involving them in it. What does family time actually mean? Watching the television, eating Big Macs, trips to the shopping centre? What values do these enforce? What about making the service of others what unites us as families? What about weekly times when the whole family does something together for the good of others?

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Pascal the Piperite

Les stoïques disent : « Rentrez au dedans de vous-même. C'est là où vous trouverez votre repos » - Et cela n'est pas vrai.
Les autres disent : « Sortez dehors et cherchez le bonheur en un divertissement. » Et cela n'est pas vrai. Les maladies viennent.
Le bonheur n'est ni hors de nous ni dans nous. Il est en Dieu, et hors et dans nous.
- Pascal, Pensée 26 [Edition Livre de Poche 2000].

Friday, 6 October 2006

Spanish kill Englishman in Belgium

470 years ago (6th October 1536), an Englishman called William Tyndale was strangled and his body burnt in the Flemish town of Vilvoorde, near Brussels. The incription on the local monument (seen in the link) blames the Spanish, who ruled the low countries at the time. (Nice trick - avoid Luke 11.47-like charges.) So who was this Englishman that the Spanish wanted to murder him in Belgium? Well, the French Wikipedia entry claims that Tyndale was a humanist. But that doesn't help overmuch, because the French have a tendancy to claim that anyone killed for a matter of principal by governing authorities in the past few hundred years was a humanist. It being generally accepted since 1975 that Liberté, Egalité & Fraternité are the only things that are worth dying for, everyone who ever died for a cause must necessarily have died for being a humanist. I suspect that many God-centred martyrs would turn in their graves on hearing that, if they weren't already enjoying God's presence well beyond the bounds of their graves.

Tyndale translated the Bible into English for the common people, at a time when it was only available in Latin for priests. The people weren't allowed to read the Bible. The Catholic church tries to get round this, objecting along the lines of, "We aren't against people reading the Bible! There wasn't demand for the Bible in English from the common people! Besides, portions were already available in English here and there." Well, if you effectively teach people that to be a good Christian they just need to go to mass to check the priest's doing his job right on their behalf in a mysterious God-language, then sure, you won't create much desire to read the very words of God in your own tongue. Keep God at arms length, keep from hearing what he said and says, and you can continue to be religious... God's word was silent in the land.

Tyndale saw the need for God's word and pressed ahead despite opposition - famously saying, "I defie the Pope and all his lawes. If God spare my life, ere many yeares I wyl cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust." And he saw the opportunity - the printing press.

He fled to the continent (he was fluent in most continental languages as well as Biblical Greek and Hebrew!) to publish the work, smuggling his New Testament into England in barrels. Betrayed and arrested in Antwerp in 1535, he was held in a castle until his heresy trial of 1536 and murder. What did he do in the castle? Mope? Feel sorry for himself? Do exercises to keep warm? No, his letter to a local landowner contains requests for a warmer coat as his is worn through and he's ill with cold - but most of all, for his Hebrew grammar, dictionary, and Hebrew Scriptures, so he could keep working on the translation of God's word for the common person.

He was just one man, who in translation made some mistakes. But thank God for how much he can use just one fallible man for the propagation of his powerful word, which is able to open not only the eyes of the king of England, but of all in whom the Spirit works.

Church & CU

Mike 'Smiley' Reeves' paper on church and CU is now available online here. Well worth the read (open it, see how long it is... get over it: it's well worth the read) for any Christian. We have such a tendency to individualism, compounded by our good concern for personal salvation, that frequently we have an ecclesiology only worthy of a Tobiah-like taunt.

Anyone else want to get Smiley Mike blogging?

Thursday, 5 October 2006

When justification isn't required

There's a lady with an accent of a non- anglo-saxon, celt, pict or scot variety, who keeps ringing my landline. She launches into trying to sell me a mobile phone - or rather, she would insist, give me a free mobile phone with a remarkable deal and marvellous gadgetry. How lovely of her.

The sceptic in me immediately looks for the catch and jumps in with, "Thank you, you've phoned me before - is this the one where it would cost £35pm after the first 6 months?" Oh NOOO, she cries, not at all: listen... But leaving aside my curious scepticism, [and does any Brit not find it wierd/wrong that Krispy Kremes donut café in the USA not only has such strange spelling of Crispy, Cream, and doughnut, but also gives away a free doughnut simply on request?], what's really wrong here?

Last time she (or one of several poor telesales ladies with similar accents and phone deals) phoned, I'd learned from experience - it's lovely to be polite to the poor people, but I haven't time to waste. "Thank you," I said, as soon as she'd told me of a free mobile with x, y & z, "I'm not interested in a new mobile phone at this time, goodbye." And as I was putting the phone down, a thin wailing voice came back: "But whyyyy?"

Eh? I now have to justify not buying something? I have to justify not wanting to have the latest in mobile phone technology? What, have I committed a crime against the economy? Headline: Woman arrested on charges of anti-consumerism. The court heard recordings of calls from telesales rep X to... It is an etirely perverted attitude to things, which requires justification for not consuming, updating, etc.

Instead of using what things we have to serve others to God's glory, we use others to get what things we want to our own glory. Now that needs justification.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Stealing glory

"...the grand story of the Bible. With all of its locations and people, with all of the dramatic events of nature and history, at the centre of the story is the Lord. It is his story. Paul summarises the story this way, "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." (Rom.11:36).

"We were made for his glory, and we are called to display his glory in everything we do. This theme of glory is the last of [the] three overarching themes [of the story of redemption]. Sin makes us glory thieves. There is probably not a day when we do not plot to steal glory that rightfully belongs to the Lord. When we compete with one another for glory, we fail to experience the unity that can only be found when we join together to live for him.

"At the bottom of a broken marriage, a shattered family, or a forsaken friendship you will always find stolen glory. We crave glory that does not belong to us, and we step on one another to get it. Rather than glorifying God by using the things he has given us to love other people, we use people to get the glory we love. Sin causes us to steal the story and rewrite it with ourseves as the lead, and with our lives at centre stage.

"But there is only one stage and it belongs to the Lord. Any attempt to put ourselves in his place puts us in a war with him. it is an intensely vertical war, a fight for divine glory, a plot to take the very position of God. It is the drama that lies behind every sad earthly drama. Sin has made us glory robbers. We do not suffer well, because suffering interferes with our glory. We do not find relationships easy, because others compete with us for glory. We do not serve well, because in our quest for glory, we want to be served.

"But the story of Scripture is the story of the Lord's glory. It calls me to an agenda that is bigger than myself. It offers me something truly worth living for. The Redeemer has come so that glory thieves would joyfully live for the glory of Another. There is no deeper personal joy and satisfaction than to live committed to his glory.

- Paul David Tripp, from Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Church & Theology today - intro

Yesterday I went to the Theology For All conference in Richmond where Carl Trueman was speaking on Church and Theology today: What is really at stake? The day was marvellous, and I was glad to be able to chat through some of what we heard with Dave Bish, who I'm sure was also as glad as I(?) to be at a conference where real coffee was being served. It was also good to see Gareth Batten, of my Relay year, and to see that Nathan Burley exists outside of the blogosphere. Gareth has already helpfully posted an overview of the talks, with the declared aim of getting in there before Dave & me. Given that he posted at 5pm, which was an hour before I was even on my coach for the 3.5 hour journey back home, I consider that a rather low aim. I'll post when I get my notes typed up - think of it as the extended version. But admittedly, unlike Gareth and Dave [*click!*], I have no accompanying photos of CRT in full flow.