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Showing posts from December, 2004

Pitiless Indifference?

Whilst the rescue efforts begin and aid is finally getting through to the survivors I see that the press are raising the seemingly inevitable questions about why? In one sense it is refreshing to see people raise the questions, and yet I wonder whether we really ask the right questions.

How can religious people explain something like this? (The Guardian - 28/12/04), At a loss for an explanation (letters responding to the article)

We live in a society that has dedicated itself to scientific naturalism, a society that take Richard Dawkins as its authoritative philosopher. And yet we seem unable to accept what it proposes. In his terms, surely we have to simply say that this is the pitiless indifference of the universe. That in a scientific world devoid of the divine then bad stuff happens, though even that goes too far doesn't it? Stuff happens is surely as far as we can go.

The reality is that our scientific society has no comfort for us. All it can say is that the world has tectoni…

Devastation in South East Asia

This morning the reports say that nearly 70,000 are known to have died after the South East Asia Tsunami/Earthquake disaster, and the number keeps rising. No easy answers seem to fit in the light of such events. Here though are three articles by John Piper, on living in the light of the tragedies of this world.
Don't Waste Your Life (after the 2003 Iran Earthquake)
Humane Confidence vs. Destructive Doubt (after the 2004 Beslan tragedy)
Tsunami, Sovereignty & Mercy

Give to the South East Asia Disaster Appeal (via Tearfund)
Disasters Emergency Committee

Fools Play This Waiting Game

These days, everyone's a good guy
These days, scales are in your favour
Man says, “I never did, I never hurt
Never double crossed no-one”

Been double crossed by my own mind
(self confused we need therapy)
I say, “Can't be free, defeat myself
Never did my best”


No defence, unclean hands
Guilty man, a godless friend
No defence, filthy rags
Take me in, Take me home

These days, the truth stands twisted
These days, they think things in reverse
Man says, “I’m good, God knows I am
I hold the future in my hands”

Only fools play this waiting game
(Can’t win better quit and walk away)
I say, “I failed, I broke the rules
Ignored your every word”


Lyrics © Dave Bish, 2004
Music © Emmalee Bish, 2004

Who rules the world? How can I be happy?

At Christmas time we surely find ourselves seeking happiness in all kinds of ways. Most years we even do this by attempting to shut ourselves off from questions concerning the state of the world. Escapism cures the pain. We surround ourselves with the experience of Christmas, of family and friends, of carols and mince pies, mulled wine and gifts. For most of us normal life shuts down, the roads are empty and the shops are closed. We emerse ourselves in a fairy tale, wishing for a white Christmas.

Yet every few years disaster or conflict breaks into our solace and ruins the story of Christmas for us. Our pursuit of happiness is interupted by raging wars and the fragility and flaws of our leaders. Is anyone in control? Who really rules the world? These questions seem to stand at odds with our escape to happiness. And yet their answers should really coincide.

Let me take you back into the historic story of Christmas. To the middle east at a time when it knew the heart of the biggest sto…

2004 Top 10... Films I've seen (released in 2004)

I've been thwarted often this year by local cinemas only showing really mainstream stuff so there are some I wanted to see that I've not yet been able to. As before, comment your top ten.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufmann does it again!
2. The Incredibles
Comedic Capers all the way!
3. I heart Huckabees
A bit disturbing but quirky and I liked it. Shame we had to go to Oxford to see it.
4. Shrek 2
More of a good thing and Puss was hilarious.
5. Finding Neverland
Nice bit of drama.
6. Starsky & Hutch
Simply funny! Never saw the originals but nevermind...
7. School of Rock
Also funny and Em (being a nusic teacher) loved it.
8. The Day after Tomorrow
Gotta have one blockbuster in there, and it was so much better than Troy, King Arthur etc.
9. Stage Beauty
Missed at the cinema but caught it on TV last weekend, Shakespeare in Love again but still good.
10. Farenheit 9/11
Very biased and I thought he got a big bogged down but still quite insightful and interesting.…

2004 Top 10... Places I've drunk most coffee

1. Dol.che Vita at University of Reading
2. Sorrento at University of Surrey (since Sept 2004)
3. Cafe Mondial at University of Reading
4. Roots at University of Surrey
5. Costa Coffee in Reading Station
6. Coffee Republic at The Oracle, Reading
7. Costa Coffee in Ottakars, Guildford
8. Starbucks in Guildford
9. Caffe Nero in Winchester
10. Caffe Nero in Reading

After which I descend into a whole load of places I've drunk one cup in...Mine'll be a Mocha or a black Americano thanks... Good Coffee, Strong Coffee! Drinking coffee is of course not so much about quantity but the quality and the company and the conversation. That kind of chart however would only end up offending, so I'm not going there.

2004 Top 10... Places I've slept

1. Home 265
2. My Parents 18
3. The Quinta 16
4. Skegness 11
5. Em's Parents 10
6. Southampton 6
7. Isle of Jura 5
8. Canterbury 4
9. Hothorpe Hall 4
10. A hotel in St.Ives 4

My top ten's of 2004 continues... but I'm lacking inspiration as to where to take this next... Please note the above is approximate and the list of places extends beyond ten...

2004 Top 10... Christian Books I've read this year

1. Stop Dating the Church, Josh Harris
(best book on church I've read, prophetically relevant)
2. Shadow of the Almighty, Elisabeth Elliot
(Biography of martyr Jim Elliot, here is the man who knew it was no sacrifice)
3. The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper
(teaching the bible to make God look really good)
4. One Thing, Sam Storms
(Really helpful book on delighting in God, great illustrations)
5. A new way to be human, Charlie Peacock
(people/presence of God, easy to read, and by an artist which is cool)
6. Temple & The Church's Mission, Greg Beale
(people/presence of God, big book but worth pressing through it)
7. Cinderella with Amnesia, Michael Griffiths
(second best book on church, 30 years old and prophetically relevant, tragically)
8. Christ and his People, David Peterson
(on Isaiah/Old Testament, shows his working really helpfully)
9. Life's Big Questions, Vaughan Roberts
(bible overviews of key topics, with bible study outlines)
10. Sacrifice, Howard …

Don't Waste Your Life

Just browsing Amazon tonight and saw a great deal on a special edition of Don't Waste Your Life by Piper, which includes a DVD of a talk on the same theme.

"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.
The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ.
You don't have to have good looks or riches, or come from a fine family or a fine school. Instead you have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things-or one great all-embracing thing-and be set on fire by them."…

Stand With Us!

Leaders and visiting speakers of the Christian Unions I work with are asked to sign a confession of faith. Often called the Doctrinal Basis or DB this document outlines the core convictions of the Christian Union as well as a it's core vision and strategy.

Such documents are much maligned, often viewed as checks of soundness, objects for exclusion or marks of judgement upon those who cannot sign them in good conscience. This is not the intent!

Confessional Christianity is the mainstream historical form of Christianity. In creeds and statements Christians have expressed their beliefs as a form of celebration and worship, in the act of preaching and teaching, to unite together - not merely around the title "Christian" but a specific Biblical definition of this.

Why be specific? Because what we believe is important. It matters who Christ is. It matters what his life and death achieved. It matters what the future holds. It matters what our priorities today are. As Christia…

Meaning

Just finished Peter Williams book (I wish I could believe in meaning). V.interesting refutation of nihilism and naturalism as inconsistent and incoherent. Whether its adherants would buy his arguments I don't know. The book is a bit long and a bit dense with quotes from people but beyond that is very good. I particularly appreciated the sections on beauty, a concept hard to justify if the universe is meaningless, and yet something it's very difficult to deny when living in this universe.
I Wish I Could Believe

Christmas, is about Christ

This is a plea to preachers, please preach Christ at Christmas. In the last few years I've sat through Christmas sermons telling me Christmas is all about Mary, or all about Joseph. Whilst I don't belittle them, they are not the stars of the story (I'm sure they'd agree). And more so they are not who Matthew or Luke are writing about either. Neither has in mind that we model ourselves upon Mary or Joseph (actually they're not even out to have us model our lives on Christ, in most cases they are determined to show how he is like no-one else). Both gospel-writers are deeply concerned that we see who Jesus is and why he was born. That is what we desperately need to be taught about.

Let's not presume we know. Let's not think we can assume Christ. Rather let us remind ourselves all the more about him. As I've taught through Matthew 1-9 this term I've been overwhelmed by Matthew's portrait of King Jesus. Having my faith stirred. Being convicted agai…

Word of the Year - 2004

Mirriam-Webster report that:
Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer

Is the Word of 2004, that which has been searched for more often than any other word on their dictionary. The top ten is completed by: incumbent; electoral; insurgent; hurricane; cicada; peloton; partisan; sovereignty; defenestration. Probably, I'm the thousandth person to blog this fact... such is the nature of blogdom (which probably isn't a real word yet).

What we're looking for on google

A light shining in the darkness of my heart

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51v10-12, The Bible.


Church meeting this morning took us back to the aftermath of King David's adultery with Bathsheba, words David writes after Nathan has confronted him with the depths of the evil he has committed.

Being reminded of these things gives me no reason to stand superior to him. In my own ways I am as evil. As David says, it is against God that he has sinned (v4). Yes, we wrong each other time and again but our true offense is against God. To be confronted again with this highlights the serious peril of the human condition as most of humanity continues to pursue independence from God. Against God have we sinned.

Talking over coffee we considered the ease with which we seem to be able to omit the above from our message. …

Freedom

It's one of the great ambitions people have. A great desire of the human heart. One of those things that points towards a reality that we seem yet to have acquired. What is freedom and how is it acquired and retained? Common wisdom suggests that freedom is the ability to do whatever we want to do, to cast off all restraint. Thus a society in which everything is permissible is the ultimate place of freedom.

As I've wandered through Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia with my Relay worker and some students this term I've been shaken and inspired by the nature of real freedom.

Paul is a staunch defender of true freedom. He will not have it taken away. Paul says we're right to observe the natural captivity of humanity. We are enslaved to sin and to law. Bound and gagged. And yet when the message of "justification by faith in the death of Christ" comes we can be freed. When we are at last counted clean in the sight of God, not by our efforts but by the …

Let me entertain you?

"How will our people ever come to feel in their bones the awful magnitude of what is at stake in the eternal destiny of the unevangelized, if our homiletical maxim is to start with a joke and keep the people entertained with anecdotes along the way. How will the people ever come to know and feel the crags and peaks and snowcapped heights of God's glory if our preaching and worship services are more like picnics in the valley than thunder on the ice face of Mt. Everest?"
John Piper, the pastors role in world missions

What would Jesus say to... you?

I've just spoken to a small gathering of students at Reading Uni (about a dozen of us in a little teaching room)on the topic of: What would Jesus say to you?

The question is not immediately easy to answer. Jesus wasn't much into formulaic responses to people but dealt with them in their situation. He did speak generally to crowds too and essentially his message was always the same.

We turned to a 3000 year old song - Psalm 2 - for answers. Here we find the writers diagnosis of the world, shaking it's fist at God and claiming to have no need of him anymore. Whether atheist, agnostic, following other gods... ignorant or well informed this is easily observable. The world claims to have outgrown God.

And how does God answer this? The songwriter takes into the throne room of heaven and tells us that God is laughing at us. He finds our fist-shaking to be pathetic and unimpressive. God is not shaken by our efforts to eliminate him. Instead God appoints his Son ruler of the world,…

Evangelism or Deception

"...The more you adjust or obscure biblical doctrine in order to make Christian reality acceptable to unbelievers, the less Christian reality there is when they arrive...If you alter or obscure the biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you do not get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. That is not evangelism; that is deception..."

John Piper on Romans 9

Martyrs Today

In The Times today I read some responses to an article from the previous week, the offending article's main thrust was that since Christians don't do suicide bombing then they don't believe in the after-life. The responses indicate the utter ridiculous nature of the argument. Christians very firmly believe in after-life, as well as life now. The key flaw in the argument of course being that Christians (for all the failures counter examples could produce) don't believe in killing our enemies, we believe in loving them. And if that means laying down our lives for them then so be it.

The article also claims that Christian Martyrdom doesn't happen anymore. This of course is patently false - perhaps not in western Europe, but we don't need to travel to far to find examples in large numbers. Christians live under the banner - "to live is Christ; to die is gain". Normal Christian experience to believe and to suffer for believing (Philippians 1v21,29).

We we…

Lord, let your glory fall?

Following my last study project on The Sovereignty of God in Romans 9 I'm going to spend the next five months looking at the question of:

How to preach 2 Chronicles 1-7?

This combines my two major interests of the church/presence-of-God/temple with my interest in developing a Christian understanding and application of the Old Testament. The ideas isn't just to do something theoretical but to engage with the text and a way that results in life changing application to the life of the Christian. I've not looked much at 2 Chronicles before apart from doing a re-write on Matt Redman's Lord, let your glory fall a couple of years ago.

If anyone has any ideas, tips on useful sermons or study guides on 2 Chronicles that'd be much appreciated!


And now let's move into a time of nonsense?

Nick Page's new book on Christian worship songs (And now let's move into a time of nonsense) is both funny and cutting... essentially as a writer he looks at the language we use when we sing - and the way that most of it makes absolutely no sense unless you spend half an hour searching dictionaries and the Bible... and thats before he turns on the mixed metaphors and poor quality of writing. Makes me think again about some of the drivel I've written.

This book is one that musicians and songwriters and worship leaders ought to read... my concern is whether those who need it most will read it. It's high time we started singing sense, and how much richer our worship will be when we do!