Thursday, 30 September 2010

Jekyll & Hyde

Thanks to my lovely wife, I had the opportunity on my day off this week to find some space, rummage around a bookshop and then read my purchase in Costa - a great morning.

I found a copy of 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' by Robert Louis Stevenson in the local Oxfam for a couple of quid and managed to finish it that same day (it's not quite what I call a short story but clearly not as long as you might first think either).

Apart from having had a previous interest in English Literature (got it as a minor on my degree) I'd heard from somewhere how this story represents something of the human wrestling over good and evil (sin) in our life.

Here is my summary of the story:
Dr Jekyll is a seemingly respectable member of society who does good works, gives to charity and regularly hosts his peers at jovial dinner party's BUT has a secret addictions and a shady, shameful hidden life. Recognising this he attempts, by way of a chemical compound, to seperate these conflicting parts of his personality.
He is successful in transforming himself into Mr Hyde, the essence of evil from within him yet when he returns to being Dr Jekyll, instead of being all that was good he remains both good and evil, just as before.
Jekyl continues to indulge his evil desires as Mr Hyde, allowing this part of him to grow in influence yet with few consequences as when he transforms back to Jekyll, there is no one left to answer for the evil previously produced.
This continues until Hyde commits murder. Jekyll resolves to never again take his compound and so never let Hyde out again. He strives to undo sone of Hyde's evil enterprises, gives himself to charitable works and re-establishes himself as a pillar of the community and then....
comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect. And at the very moment of that vainglorious thought......I was once again Mr Hyde.

Jekyll's pride in his good works was the trigger for evil to once more become the dominant force in his life. From this point on it is the persona of Jekyll that is restricted and to which the compound releases rather than the other way round, as it was with Hyde.
The story ends with the suicide of Jekyll/Hyde who would have been sent to the gallows anyway for the murder that had previosuly taken place.

There you go - the book is a better read than that and full of more insightful observations such as the initial relative weakness and stature of Hyde when Jekyll's propensity to evil is more restrained and then the growing strength of that persona as he is given more freedom to exercise his wickedness.
The book is also much better than most cinematic portrayals of Hyde who is generally cast as a giant freak of a man with superhuman strength rather than a fragile character who's inclination to harm others (the murder for instance) is more shaped by his disregard for consequences or a need to moralise his actions rather than his physiocal capabilities.

Anyway, I loved this and have been deliberating any lessons we can learn from this piece of fiction which seems to make some genuinely insightful comments on the condition of man.
- Men (or women), however good they may be, all have an inclination towards evil/wickedness
- Men, are conscious of this duality of persona and attempt to subdue one by concentrating more on the other. This mostly comes out as good over evil (but not always)
- What we see of people in public may have little bearing on what happens in private. Even (particulalry) professing believers can create a public persona whose primary purpose is to conceal hidden sin and shame. Unbelievers do this but often don't have the same degree of moral dilemma as their goals are not be focused on the Christian hope.
- The more we indulge our evil desires (sinful nature) the more blurred our sense of right and wrong becomes and the more detached we become from our inclination towards good.
- There comes a point when you have to make a choice between what you know to be good and fruitful and the opportunities that are seemingly the more attractive but which you know will be of little or no benefit.
- Pride is a catalyst for wrong/evil/wickedness
- Good works in themselves do not produce a good person.
- Good works will benfit others but do not necessarily do anything for you. They are not the primary means by which we become better people.

In conclusion - good book worth reading which does not intend to convey an overtly Christian message (Stevenson was a rebelling Protestant) but does provide food for thought on the inner wrestlings between good and evil contained in us all.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Bonhoeffer on children

'Children are a heritage from the Lord' (Psalm 127:3) and they should be acknowledged as such. It is from God that parents receive their children, and it is to God that they should lead them.

Couldn't agree more Dietrich. Too often 'man' takes his right to have children for granted and then once they are here, does not bear the responsibility well ofaising them.
With the advances of medical science, there are a whole manner of ways to bring a child into this world yet I still believe that it is still God, as Bonhoeffer puts it, "allows man to share in his continual work of creation". This is at the initiative of God and not, as we presume, under our control. It is a priviledge and not a presumption. When we take decisions about when and how we bring a child into this world (I'm not going any further on ethical/moral implications) we are placing ourselves in God's shoes which should be an extremely sobering thought yet completely underplayed by most.
I now have 2 boys, Daniel aged 3 and James aged 1, and the joy they give me must surely come from God, not sure I could have created these treasures given even my best attention - they must be gifts from God!

Once our children come, we are again tempted to play God by making them into our own image.Of course they will take after us and initially learn all that they know from their parents but each of them has their own unique future, hopefully shaped by God.
We should become like stewards of a great treasure that is not our own and be ready to obey the one whose treasure it really is. Those instructions are given in some detail throughout the Bible and yet often as 'stewards' we know better and bow to contemporary or cultural thinking.

Last year a group of parents at Emmanuel Church spent some time reading 'Shepherding A Child's Heart' by Ted Tripp, watching the accompanying dvd's and then discussing what we felt was a loyal Biblical outworking of parenting.

We found this material to be challenging and provocative primarily because much of it was seemingly counter-cultural and, for me, exposed how much my thoughts on parenting came from the world rather than from God. If I am to lead my sons to God then I'm sure that I must do it in a way it is directed by God.

Psalm 127 says that,
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
I love this verse. It evokes my inner warrior! (love that Band of Brothers stuff). It also reminds me what weapons of the kingdom my boys could be if shaped, honed, sharpened etc. What a legacy I could leave if my boys became warriors for God, arrows that will fly well, are true to their intended course, impact and embed in their target, cause damage for the kingdom.

Our children are not our own but whilst we've got them, lets give them our best shot (arrow pun intended!)

Monday, 21 June 2010

Thoughts of Bonhoeffer, comments by me

I found this little gem of a book called 'Letters and Papers from Prison' by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Oxfam shop in Blackheath a while back and have found it a really interesting read. You can find some great Christian material in charity or 2nd hand book shops, particularly near big, old churches, as old preacher's libraries often find their way there.

I intend to begin a series of posts that I hope will be of interest but also stimulate me to blog more often on this and other trains of thought.

Bonhoeffer was a German theologian (see Wikipedia profile here), imprisoned and eventually executed at the hands of the Nazis during WWII.

Now that I've finished the book, I've gone back through to find all the parts I've underlined and will attempt to add some meaningful comments of my own to Bonhoeffer's observations.

Bonhoeffer on marriage:
"Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal - it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man..........It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love."

I think that these thoughts are what separate Christian marriage from secular, worldy relationships which, in the current context, seem to me to have no greater value expressed through marriage than when expressed in any other sort of long term commitment (co-habiting for example).
There is definitely a responsibility that comes with the public commitment that marriage entails that is not felt, or often acknowledged, in other relationships. By marrying in church, presumed by me if you are Christians, and making vows you are including all those present in your new covenant. You are introducing, and to some extent welcoming, accountability to your guests. You are exposing what had been primarily an exclusive relationship to public scrutiny. From that point on your marriage becomes an example to those around you, for good or bad. There are far more consequences to your ceremony than you realise, not forgetting the covenant you are now making with your new spouse. Bonhoeffer goes on to say,
"What God has joined together, can no man put asunder. Free from all the anxiety that is always a characteristic of love, you can now say to each other with complete and confident assurance: We can never lose each other now; by the will of God we belong to each other til death."

Nobody informed me of these responsibilities before I said 'I do!'. I was still lost in the dizzy haze of love and whilst I knew the commitment I was making was a big deal, I was not aware of the seriousness of the responsibility that goes with not only being a husband (loving my lady like Jesus loves the church, Col 3 - phew) but also in the public office of 'husband'.

Another truth that Bonhoeffer reveals that it has taken me a few years to accept is that I may not always love Beki in the same way that I do now. I cant imagine ever not loving her but there may come days when my passion, attraction, enthusiasm etc may wain and in those days I will need to uphold my marriage more than ever. When John Piper speaks on marriage (I highly recommend Lionhearted and Lamblike) he honestly explains his need for marriage counselling at times and the effort required to value your marriage covenant throughout the decades. When the lean days of love appear, it is our commitment to covenant (as a reflection of God's commitment to covenant - another blog for another day!) that will keep the marriage alive. My observations are that love does return and that in any human relationship there will be times when all is not rosy but all good things are worth fighting for. I think that is why divorce is so prevalent in the world, because when the love fades (don't think that it ever truly disappears but sometimes is obscured by life or dimmed by trials) there is no Christian understanding of covenant to fall back on. The easy option is to move on and that has become increasingly culturally acceptable. I don't think (can't prove it) that this was the case in previous generations when not only was it less culturally acceptable but it was also a society more rooted in Christian values.

More from Bonhoeffer next time!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Life is always busy

Having just lived through a couple of very busy weeks with another fast approaching, I've concluded that life is just busy.

When I actually review how I've spent my time, I find that I actually spent lots of it being very unproductive. It's all about choices really. I can always fill my days, weeks, months etc with busyness or I can choose to spend my time more wisely.

I sometimes envy others who I perceive to have more 'free time' yet they too all say, 'I need more time!'. I want to say things like, 'wait until you have kids!' yet young(er) men I know still manage to fill their time quite easily.

It raises the question, what is a good use of my time?

I usually try to organise life in terms of my priorities which, for the most part, remain pretty constant. My list usually looks like this: disciple of Jesus, husband, father, son, individual, church leader. Each area has some sub-categories but it is with regard to these headings that I generally try to allocate my time. Do I always get it right? No. Often my priorities get confused, particularly since I began serving the church full time, and I make some time choices that adversely affect my wife and children.

Solomon reminds us in chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything. He doesn't clearly say when that time is! He also shows us that our lifetime is fleeting compared to the eternity that awaits the believer. My problem is overcoming the apathy that holds me in laziness instead of treating time as precious until the day comes when I get to see my Lord.

From a secular perspective, Stephen Covey asserts in '7 Habits of Highly Effective People', that time management can be divided into 4 quadrants that reflect whether activities are important/unimportant and urgent/non-urgent. He advocates spending more time on important and non-urgent activities, which basically means forward planning, in order not to waste time on urgent but unimportant tasks that often crop up and occupy time that would be better spent elsewhere.

I'm now feeling slightly hypocritical for spending time on this blog yet currently deem it more fruitful than many of the alternatives filling my head.

My summary thoughts are that I need to consider more carefully how I spend my time, who I spend that time with and not look back with regret that I filled lots of time with little to show for it.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Love Your Enemy

I've been reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 'Letters and Papers from Prison' and was massively challenged by this observation of his:
"it is only when God's wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one's enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts"

This thought brings a whole new perspective on Jesus teaching to love your enemy (Matthew 5:44).
I think that most people apply this instruction in a passive way, interpreting love your enemy to mean in practice, leave each other in peace. This requires very little of us other than not to be a protagonist against those we consider 'against us'.
Since being challenged by Bonhoeffer to consider the reality of the future awaiting my enemies, I have thought much more about what it means to really love an enemy. Surely it has to be an active response requiring me to overcome any enmity between us, to foster reconciliation and to practice love, much like I would when applying 'love thy neighbour'.
As a believer who has acknowledged the 'hell' that would be an eternity apart from the presence of God, I would not consider that an appropriate future for any man, if given the opportunity to respond to the gospel of grace from our God.

I'm not convinced that I can currently think of anybody who I personally consider an enemy but there are social, cultural, religious (even world) contexts where as Christians we appear (appearances can be deceptive depending on where you stand) in opposition to many others. Are these our enemies? Do our opponents consider us as enemies? Either way our response should be love and more than just the thought of it.

It is too soon for me to work out all of the practicalities of what this might look like in my everyday life but it does cause you to pray.

The most challenging thing for me from this train of thought is if this causes a change in my approach to my enemies, how much more does it apply to those who I love who don't yet know Jesus?

Thursday, 22 April 2010

LIke Father, Like Son

Was reading Genesis 26 earlier this week and was again amazed at the actions of one of the great characters in the OT, Isaac, who, having been obedient to the will of God, immediately commits an act of unnecessary deception. After determining to stay put in the land of Gerar, Isaac tells everyone that the beautiful Rebekah is his sister and not his wife so as not to entice the locals to kill him in order to have Rebekah for themselves.

Here is the promise of God to Isaac that you would think would give him full confidence of his security whilst living in a 'foreign' land:

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for a to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (ESV translation)

How is it that you can hear so clearly from God, he did hear otherwise he'd have been off to Egypt to wait out the famine, and then in the next breath not trust Him to take care of you. Surely in order for this promise to be fulfilled, Isaac needs Rebekah to fulfill the whole offspring deal.

Where would a man of faith find precedent for such actions? Well, like father, like son! Abraham had pulled the same trick not just once but twice (although Sarah was technically his half sister that does not let him off the hook!).
In one sense we too are the children of Abraham and so we find all too natural to follow in his ways. We can be people of faith yet let ourselves down, even in the midst of God's great plans for us. I know all too well that particular inclination towards deception (however slight) in order for self-preservation.

I'm sure I'm not the first to immediately think of another Father and Son relationship that sets a much healthier precedent. Jesus was the 'model' (understated!!) Son to the best Father and repeatedly referred to only doing what He saw from His father. Just last night I was struck by the reality that Jesus willingly left the perfect relationship He had with His Father, which contained perfect love, to come to our fallen world, to lead the imperfect into that same relationship. What an amazing God we have.

There are many ways that we can follow Jesus example and follow in the footsteps of our Father. We have the great privilege of personal access to our God, we have the inspired word of God freely available to us, through the Holy Spirit we can receive prophetic direction and so on.

My heart is that the phrase 'Like father, like son' would be more than an observation of a 'natural' relationship but would instead reflect the reality of a 'supernatural' relationship that is ongoing in my life.

My own Dad was a great man who sadly passed too early in life for my liking but he was not a Christian man and so I cannot say that I learnt much from him with regards to my faith. I've had the privilege of being around many good men, spiritual fathers you might say, not least my now father-in-law, who have led me well in the ways of God yet it will be of no real surprise to say that I must first seek out my heavenly Father to learn to live this life well.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Mumford & Sons

Have been listening to Mumford & Sons 'Sigh No More' album on 'spotify', on the recommendation of a good friend and I love it. Not only is it to my musical taste but I found many of the lyrics challenging, thought provoking and led me to God.

Here is one example of a verse from 'Roll Away Your Stone':
It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say 'Thats exactly how this grace thing works'
Its not the long walk hone that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

Don't get me wrong, this is in no way a worship album as we know it but it contains raw emotions that reflect mans struggles to be in the world whilst trusting God as 'the' truth. I'm not trying to stretch this too far but I felt faint echoes from the book of Psalms and David's wranglings with his circumstances in light of his faith in God.

I came across this comment on the band which also contains some of their songs and their lyrics (not read this blog before so I take no responsibility for what else is on there!).

Friday, 26 March 2010

Who's your greatest influence?

Where did the month go? This blogging lark is harder to fit in than I thought. Had loads of thoughts recently which will hopefully form lots of new posts but here's the first:
Who is your greatest influence?
Whenever this question is asked in those interviews that routinely crop up with Christians of note, either in magazines or now on blogs, the routine response is to refer to great theologians or writers of the past.
Whilst I completely agree that we greatly benefit from the influence of great preachers, missionaries, writers, thinkers, doers from our Christian heritage, I can't help but think that I personally benefit hugely from great men (and women) of God around me right now.
I'd like to take this opportunity to honour a few of those influences who are right now shaping me and my ministry and at the same time advocate that we recognise the great people in the present without ignoring those from the past.

Stu Gibbs - my current church leader at Emmanuel is a great man of God whose thinking is provocative and who regularly challenges me to be a better disciple of Christ, a better husband, a better father and a better leader (in that order). He's not perfect but he is not happy to settle for a routine personal or church life and so, sometimes frustratingly, is constantly searching for the right/best way to work out his faith and to shape our church. I genuinely feel privileged to serve alongside him.

Steve Tibbert - another great leader who, by virtue of sharing the offices at Kings Church Catford, I get to see in action and spend some time with. Steve has also been part of my leadership training this year, sharing his experience of leading a large and still growing church. Steve is big on 'know yourself' and we come out almost identically on all sorts of personality profiles which means I identify hugely with him. This guy is inspirational in his mix of vision and faith alongside his thorough, practical approach to leading causing me to ask lots of questions about how and why we do things in church without excluding the Holy Spirit from the equation.
His current blog on 'rest' has been very helpful as has his views on protecting his marriage. See
Steve's blog.

Mick Taylor - another of the leaders at Catford who also heads up theological thought with New Frontiers. Mick is perhaps the cleverest man I know yet has that unique ability to communicate to us novices so clearly without in any way being patronising (as does an old friend - Mark Heath who has a great blog). In the last 6 months there have been countless times when I've picked Mick's brains or benefitted from his supervision of my leadership training. This guy more than anyone (even C.S. Lewis!) has inspired me to study the word and take it seriously in order to make a real difference in my Christian walk.

My wife! - Beki is my daily inspiration who forces me (sometimes literally) to examine who I am, what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. In our marriage she is the one who leans towards the spirit whilst I lean towards the word so we end up both complimenting each other and challenging each other to redress the balance in our personal faith.
Without her influence there is now way that I would be the relatively good man that I am today and would almost certainly not have been used by God as I have without her support, prayers and confidence in me.

I should now do the obligatory mention of influences who I don't know personally so I read a lot of Piper, Keller and Hybels. I find Driscoll challenging (although sometime repetitive) and am in awe of Andrew Wilson's (I have met him a few times) perspective on the gospel. As a new believer I devoured all things C.S. Lewis and am now intrigued by early theologians such as Augustine and newer ones like Luther.

Hope to blog again soon.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Don't let politicians bully you

Received a copy of the Daily Mail with my Tesco shop (honestly I didn't buy it) and came across this from former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey:
We have reached the point where politicians are mocked for merely expressing
their faith. I cannot imagine any politician expressing concern that Britain
should remain a Christian country. That reticence is a scandal and a disgrace to
our history

"He complained yesterday of a 'strident and bullying campaign' to marginalise Christianity in the name of political correctness."
(Follow this link for the full article)

Lord Carey calls for Christians 'to return to the public square'. For me this means engaging with the world in an unapologetic manner, without fear of man (Proverbs 29:25), knowing that our God is worth fighting for. I have great respect for Christians who are involved in the political sphere and think that there should be more who represent our faith in these circles of influence.
This is not to say that all believers cannot be God's ambassadors wherever they are. We are called to be salt and light which means affecting the 'taste of life'. I was once taught that our role as salt was to act like a moral preservative in the world, at the very least stopping it from getting any worse.

These are challenging days for Christians but also an opportunity to speak into the various trials of life that our friends, families, colleagues and peers find themselves in. We must do this by being faithful to our God and His word and not by shirking in the face of worldly opposition.
Nobody said it would be easy!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Ringelmann Effect

As a former A-level PE teacher I am intrigued by the 'Ringelmann Effect' in sport whereby the effort of a team with less players increases to compensate for reduced numbers. This may more accurately expressed by saying that as numbers increase, effort reduces (originally proposed by a guy named Ringelmann studying tug of war of all things!). Basically, individual effort is reduced as the perception of a shared load increases.

Is this true in church?

As a church grows in size, is it fair to say that the effort of the individual decreases as they perceive their efforts can reduce as there are more to share the load?

My observation is that whilst the Bible calls us to make every effort on our part to walk in His ways, to serve, to work (in the secular sense) (Col3:23) to press on (Phil 3:14), to run the race as though to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24), it is common for believers to make less effort the longer they go on in their faith.
This may be reflected in their serving within the church or in their personal spiritual practices. It is a church stereotype that there are a core of church members who do all of the work regardless of how many other members there actually are. I think that most stereotypes are rooted in truth somewhere which is why they appear common place. This may not be exactly the 'Ringelmann Effect' whereby many who were trying hard (I am not making comment here about our path to salvation but our efforts to stay the course once on the journey) now ease off but rather that the core just mentioned are those 'straining forward to what lies ahead (Phil 3:13), those who are willing, joyful servers who seek first the kingdom (not quite the full context of Matthew 6:33).
If everyone in church retained the willingness to serve literally wholeheartedly then what a difference the local church could make. I know full well myself the temptation to veg in front of the t.v. or to occupy myself with anything that doesn't require me to think of others before myself or to share the load in the life of the church. Some I know appear more conscientious and read/study a lot about the activities of the local church but then fail to actually participate in those activities.

These thoughts are not primarily about work or effort but more about life in general approached through a Biblical worldview. A life given to the 'bride of Christ', the advancement of the kingdom, an appreciation that this life is momentary in comparison to eternity and so to make the most of it. These are grand thoughts that few honestly work out in reality but I am sure that many of us could get much closer.
I have recently felt God's promptings that 'there must be more than this' (O breath of God come breathe within, Spirit of God we wait on you - too true Mr Hughes) and I have been praying again and again for the inspiration of God to lead me on in His plans and purposes and so avoiding my inclination to lethargy or the pursuit of fleeting pleasures.

I am sure that somewhere out there there is some research that investigates this train of thought further but for now these are my ramblings.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Healthy marriage (with male headship)

Although I would have always said I had a good marriage I have always been aware that it is far from perfect and that many of the areas that could be improved rest with me. Last term (as a former teacher I still think of life in terms as do many churches) Beki and I did the Marriage Course at HTB, the home of the course, which was a great experience for us both and highly beneficial. Within the comfortable and, to some extent, intimate atmosphere on the course we were able to talk at length about communication, our family history, sex and other areas of our marriage that had at best been discussed superficially.
I also got hold of a pair of books called 'For Couples Only' by Jeff & Shaunti Feldhahn, that were recommended by Steve Tibbert. Based on extensive surveying of Christian married couples, these books, one addressed to men and one to women, were really insightful and a genuine blessing in how Beki and I understood each other.
I highly recommend both the books and the marriage course to any married couple ALTHOUGH........the issue of headship was not covered which remains one of the challenges in my marriage. I presume that this issue is a little too contentious for a generic course that is accessible to non-Christians but is I believe a fundamental principle in a Christian marriage.

The best teaching on male headship in marriage that I've seen so far has been from John Piper in a 2 part sermon from a series called 'Marriage, Christ and Covenant: One flesh for the glory of God', links below:

Listening to these with Beki was challenging and refreshing and helped us both, it is helpful if you both agree!, come to a better Biblical understanding over the issue of headship and submission within marriage. When you come to appreciate the reflection that marriage is of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church, then some of your personal hang-ups appear very trivial indeed. When you then hold up some of your issues in comparison to what Jesus accomplished through His life, death & resurrection then you are much more able to submit to firstly Him, and then secondly to the role He has asked of you within your marriage.

Already I am seeing the positive repercussions in all areas of my life as a result of making progress in my headship of my marriage and my family (not to say my church leadership).

Praying this snapshot inspires you (particularly men) to investigate this further.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Reading the OT in light of covenants

Having received some training recently on OT theology I've become more aware of reading the OT in light of the covenant the people were living under. It makes for an insightful exercise to first consider the particulars of the covenant before examining the response of the people.
We see in all of the covenants made between God and man that relatively little is required of man compared to the promises made by God. It continues to amaze me that these were days when the presence of God was amongst the people and when God Himself would walk and talk with men. Despite this, the people repeatedly chose to follow the influences of the world around them rather than the God who had literally offered them the world itself (see promises to Abraham in Genesis 17). When you also consider the faithful, unfailing nature of God, the people had no just cause to doubt the fulfillment of the various covenants yet time and again they sought to go it alone, hence the need for repeated covenants with the men that God found righteous amongst them.

I had always wondered why God communicated so many instructions concerning how the Israelites were to live, particularly regarding life situations which we as believers don't support/endorse (divorce for instance, see Deuteronomy 24 amongst other scriptures). Although God does not support such actions, those which are contrary to His intended creation plan, He does provide thorough instructions in order to protect the weak and vulnerable created by such situations. This is how God regulates a sinful society when He had previously made covenant with Noah to never again 'strike down every living creature' (Gen 8:21), a judgement that our deserves.

Having said all of that, the continuing theme of every covenant is consistently that, 'if you (the people) will walk in My (God's) ways' then the people will know the favour of the Lord. This remains true today and demonstrates God's continuing grace towards us despite our continuing failure to stay the course - thank you Lord.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Big Questions

Talking of questions ( I seem to be doing a weeks worth of blogging in a day!), I watched 'The Big Questions' on BBC1 on Sunday morning and have to say that I quite enjoyed this topical debate show. Unlike others of its genre, namely 'The Wright Stuff' where the host clearly has an agenda, often anti-Christian if not anti-religion altogether, and stifles any discussion in opposition to that agenda, Nicky Cambell as host allows differing opinions space to be aired and mediates well between those viewpoints.

This weeks show included discussions on 'should marriage survive infidelity?' and 'should the Anglican church split?'. I particulalry enjoyed the Bible believing Christian who opposed the gay vicar and (probably) feminist Christian panelist during the second of these debates.
Worth a watch

'The Big Questions'

Unanswered questions now answered

On the weekend I listened to a John Piper sermon on the role of husbands in marriage ('Lionhearted & lamb like') and came away not only deeply challenged but also with an answer to a question that i'd never received before.

Q. Why will there be no marriage in Heaven?

A. Because God's institution of marriage, Genesis 2:24 , is not a means to an end in itself. It is a copy/type of Christ's relationship with the church, the 'mystery' revealed by Paul in Ephesians 5:31&32.
'"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh." The mystery is profound, and I am
saying that it refers to Christ and the church.'

As Christ will be with His church when the world is made new, there will be no need for the copy, no need for marriage.

Thanks Piper - why couldn't anyone have explained it that simply before.

Book Review

'What on earth is the church for?' - Dave Devonish

Just finished reading this challenging, informative and helpful book about the role of the church both from a Biblical perspective and in a culturally relevant way.

A while ago I was thinking that although since becoming a Christian I have always been within New Frontiers (NF) churches, I dont actually read much from leaders within that movement. Since then I have regularly followed blogs of men within NF and read this book.

Dave Devonish is great at encouraging the church to be missional in its DNA rather than do mission and demonstrates this clearly from scripture. He gives numerous examples of his own experience in each chapter and manages to merge the theoretical, theological and practical into a cohesive, common sense argument.
There are clear implications here for those who feel God is calling them to specific mission (overseas for instance), to those involved in church planting a have unique opportunities to shape the culture of their church now but also to all those who take the local church seriously and seek to play their role in its activity. Bill Hybels is commonly quoted as saying, 'the local church is the hope of the world' and this is the recurring theme of this book.

I found this book inspiring not only for my vision of the local church but also in its implications on all parts of life. There is a great section on your workplace as your mission field.

I highly recommend this read.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Must see 80's films

Having spoken with a number of younger in my church, there seems to be a huge hole in their knowledge and experience of classic 80's films. For me this is a 'rite of passage' of sorts that involves exposure to lessons in life from cinematic quality such as 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', 'War Games' (completely random that they are both Matthew Broderick films), 'Tron' and others.

So the list begins here and I invite you to not only list your film choices from this era but also the life lesson it teaches:

War Games - nobody wins in thermo-nuclear war

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - life is for living

Tron - if life were a computer game it would be even more dangerous, particularly if you happened to find yourself in one of today's violent offerings

Ghostbusters - (the first film I remember seeing at the cinema) 'I aint afraid of no ghost'

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Half the gospel

Have been reading 'What on earth is the church for?' by David Devonish and was provoked by this quote:

"It is important, therefore, that we have a kingdom theology as well as a church
theology. Sadly, I believe many Christians have neither, but only a 'personal
salvation' theology."
This struck me as being a subtle yet widespread truth in the local church. Alpha and our inherited personal discipleship methods tend to focus primarily on the individual and then later challenge that individual into service, ministry and mission. This is only half the gospel that also fully includes becoming part of the body of Christ, where each member has a different yet equally significant role to play (Romans 12, Ephesians 4:16), and also a call to mission, whereby the kingdom is brought more and more into the world.
To embrace the full gospel is not to preach worldly prosperity but as Jesus puts it:
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
(Matthew 5:11&12)

There is no promise of an easy life in the Bible once you have put your faith in Jesus but there are an abundance of promises that more than compensate (seems a huge understatement) for this such as the eternal love and relationship of the living God.
There has been a recent rising of faith that revival is around the corner in the United Kingdom but I believe that God's primary tool for doing this is faith-filled, motivated Christian 'missionaries', us for want of a better word! This will only happen when believers accept the call to live as part of a community that includes the local church but also the wider community where they live, work and play. This will require sacrifices of time and energy as well as putting aside our selfish desires for self-gain and self-promotion and replace them with compassion for the lost and a heart of mercy for those who have yet to receive Jesus into their lives, essentially living without hope and heading for an eternity apart from Him.
That is a snapshot of the real gospel, which does include that Jesus died for MY sin but also embraces that Jesus came for all people.

Last word to Dave Devonish on this:
"Sometimes it seems to me that a gospel is presented which is not much more
than an alternative method of self-help, focusing on my personal needs and my
personal prosperity rather than my commitment to God's programme in the
Harsh but fair?

Monday, 1 February 2010


Hello to anyone/everyone out there - this is my first ever blog post and I hope many more will follow that will stir your interest and your comments.

I've linked to the website of my church which is the focal point of pretty much all that I'm about and what primarily takes most of my time and interest.
Emmanuel Church is where I worship, lead and work full time. The local church is my passion and my calling and what I will spend lots of time talking about.

I'll also attempt some book reviews, some comment on contemporary issues and some fun. I guess there might also be a fair bit of sports on here as a leftover from my PE teaching days and my love of sport.

I look forward to speaking with you all again soon.


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