Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is... a Trebuchet!

I'm normally at a loss about what I'd like for Christmas. A good mp3 player would be nice, as long as it works with Linux. Maybe some of the books on my Amazon Wish List. A new computer to replace my ageing laptop. More book shelves to create room for the books on my Amazon Wish List. A bicycle for touring (so I can get in training to do Land's End to John O'Groats sometime in the next 10 years).

But now I've found my dream present. Not only lots of fun, it would be an excellent aid for men's ministry and youth work. A combination of physics and history. I present to you...


That's right. I would like a trebuchet. I want to throw things a long distance, and break other things in the process. Here's a picture of the beauty:

This is a modern day version of the ultimate in medieval war machines. For a cheaper and more 'authentic' model visit here. And here's some video, although not of these models (much bigger ones!).


P.S. Did I mention my Wish List?

Monday, 3 December 2007

The Humility of God

Thanks to Byron (via Glen) I found an awesome quote I've been looking for for some time.

But it needs some introducing. A vital question in theology is this: does Jesus accurately reveal God to us?

Obviously: yes! After all, in Jesus Christ "the fullness of deity lives in bodily form." (Colossians 2:9)

But so many theologies actually assume that Jesus is kind of "God-lite" - a diet version of God - all the taste but 95% power reduced. You see it whenever people say that Jesus' humility / weakness / sorrow / emotional-life is only true according to his human nature... because God could never be humble / weak / emotional / etc.

Whenever you see this you should ask, "Okay - but how do you know this? How do you know that God could never be such things?" It's the problem of deciding what God is like (based on what is reasonable) before actually approaching the One who is God Revealed.

Karl Barth argued passionately that this approach is wrong. We must let God speak first - because he has in fact spoken first. We must let Jesus define what God is like.

When we do this, we realise that the true God is utterly different from all false gods. All false gods are a projection of our own ideas. The REAL God is proved real because no human would ever imagine a god like him. No human would imagine a Creator God who stoops to be born as man, a man who would glory in the cross. So Barth writes:
What marks out God above all false gods is that they are not capable and ready for this [humility]. In their otherworldliness and supernaturalness and otherness, etc., the gods are a reflection of the human pride which will not unbend, which will not stoop to that which is beneath it. God is not proud. In His high majesty He is humble.

- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 159.

Christmas is approaching - and we remember the King of the world born in humility: Jesus - the most humble man ever to live (Daniel 4:17).

(For another good quote, try here, and spend some time at Christ The Truth also.)

Thursday, 29 November 2007

A Remembrance Day Sermon

Earlier this month I preached on Remembrance Day (which was a Sunday). My text was Amos 5:24 "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

It was part of a series on Amos, otherwise the passage isn't the most obvious choice!

You can find it here courtesy of Google Docs.

A New Blog in Town - Christ The Truth

Head over to christthetruth.wordpress.com for a chance to worship God with your mind. You will find some awesome theology to get you thinking and get you praising! It's written by Glen Scrivener, one of my best friends since we lived and worked together at All Souls, Langham Place back in 2000-2001.

The name of the blog - "Christ The Truth" expresses its core conviction: that Jesus Christ IS The Truth. Just as there is no Way to God outside of Jesus, and we cannot experience the Life of God outside of Jesus, so also we do not know the Truth about God unless we begin with Jesus Christ. Yet very often we use the G word: G-O-D as if by simply using it everyone knows who we're talking about. This is not the case. If I were to say I enjoyed watching 11 men kicking a leather ball around a pitch, and you said the same, it could be that we support the same team but more likely we don't! It's the same in theology - which is to say it's true for all of life - the true meaning of G-O-D is discovered as the Spirit brings us into union with Jesus the Son of the Father.

So go and have a read. As you'll discover, one obvious point of relevance is in the whole issue of inter-faith dialogue, which I wrote about here.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

More free Christian Audio

Hurry hurry over to Christian Audio - you have three more days to download one of 6 books for FREE using the code THANKS2007. (It's a special Thanksgiving offer.)

I still haven't decided, but I'm tempted by John Piper's biographical-sermon of William Wilberforce. You may have seen the film "Amazing Grace" but that won't have told you just how evangelical Wilberforce was. While he is famous (rightly so) for fighting against slavery, he knew full well that only the gospel of Christ crucified and justification-by-faith could change the country.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

An intro to Leviticus

A bonus for those who came to "Foundations for Life" - here is a very good introduction to Leviticus. I'll quote a little bit, but go to David Field's blog for the full piece.

With the building of the tabernacle, a new stage of God’s dealings with his people arrives. It’s like a new world – which is why there are “sevens” everywhere and why the tabernacle is like Eden in many ways. And at this point God has come to live nearer to his people than before – which is both wonderful and dangerous. Leviticus is, therefore, a book of house rules for God’s young children at that stage in history and it teaches them how to keep clean and tidy and how to grow in character like their father.

...

The uncleanness laws of chapters 11-15 relate to death and the curse. It is not that uncleanness is itself sin but rather that God gave his children a picture system to teach them how to make distinctions. This would help them grow to be like their Father who also makes distinctions (as in Genesis 1). Clean animals, in chapter 11, are those which keep away from death and curse-dirt by wearing shoes and by digesting their food extra-thoroughly. Chapter 12 talks about childbirth and chapters 13 and 14 about 'leprosy'. Chapter 15 shows that what comes out of us is death until we are made new in Jesus.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Listen to Jonathan Edwards for free!


Every month the good people at Christian Audio release one of their books as a free download. This month the download is Jonathan Edwards' classic "The Religious Affections". Click here to order it and enter NOV2007 at the relevant stage to get it for free. You will have to register as a customer. Bear in mind that the download is 12 files, most of which are 35MB, so you're looking at over 400MB to download. Not one for dial up users! Quite helpfully each section will, when converted, fill an audio CD that could be played on a regular CD player.

But what a great offer - a chance to listen to a hugely important book. Section One is brilliant because it shows how important the affections (think emotions but deeper) are for true religion (by which Edwards' means true Christianity of course). Many Christians are divided into "lots of emotions but not much truth" vs. "lots of Bible truth but we never appear happy"! Okay, it's a caricature, but you may recognise the problem. This classic book is a never-bettered study on what does and does not constitute true religious affections.

Whether you download it or not, make a mental note to check Christian Audio each month for their latest offer.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

We do what at church?

It's always a favourite conversation among church leaders - what do we think about Baptism (infant or otherwise), the Lord's Supper (how often, at what age) and liturgy (why having it is wrong, even though we do everything the same way each week...). This post here - "Conversations with Nathan" - is a fantastic read - a true conversation between a teenager and father who visited one particular church in America. Even if you disagree with the teenager's point of view you will enjoy it.

A sample:
Nathan: Why are they so afraid of liturgy? We could explain that it isn’t hard to mean it when you say it.

Papa: But they won’t want to do it anyway. They want to be different every week.

Nathan: Really? Different every week?

Papa: Yes.

Nathan: What do they do differently? Do they sometimes take the offering at the end of the service instead of in the middle?

Papa: No. That’s always at the same time.

Nathan: Do they sometimes have the preaching at the beginning?

Papa: No, that’s at the same time too.

Nathan: Then what do they do that’s different?

Papa: They sing different songs.

Nathan: So does our church.

Papa: Well, it really comes down to the fact that they don’t have prayers and responses for the congregation to read.

Nathan: Why not?

Papa: They think that reading prayers and responses keeps people from worshiping.

Nathan: Really? What do they think the people should do instead?

Papa: Just sit there and do nothing.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

The Cross and other religions

Last Wednesday I attended some lectures about the challenges and opportunities of Christian Mission to the Muslim and Hindu communities in this country. It was a useful reminder that Christians should be engaging with these communities, showing friendship and hospitality, listening to what they believe (not just what we think they believe!) and also listening to their fears. For example, I didn't know that the Hindu community currently feel very marginalised: both government and Church are bending over backwards to engage with Muslims (for obvious reasons) but very little is heard about making such Hindus have their say.

However, as with many things Church of England, there was a rather obvious lack of engagement with the main questions:

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The speaker said yes. He mentioned one 'faithful Muslim' who loves going to Taize services - a display of unity despite 'doctrinal differences'. It seemed to be taken for granted that Muslims at least partly honour Jesus by declaring him a prophet.

Is there revelation outside Christ and the Bible? The speaker said yes, in response to a question which insisted we shouldn't ignore books such as the Bhagavad Gita. He mentioned approvingly church services in which there had been three readings: Old Testament, Gospel and Bhagavad Gita, although acknowledging that this would be difficult for some.

Although these main questions were touched on, as the examples show, there was no theological engagement with them.

One of Luther's best contributions to the Church was his distinction between a "Theology of Glory" and a "Theology of the Cross". Put simply, if we hold to a theology of glory we imagine God is rather like we think him to be. We claim to know intuitively what "strength" and "glory" and "power" are, and imagine God to be the most strong, most glorious and most powerful. (See here for a better, but still short, summary.)

Luther, like the apostle Paul (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 1-2), thought differently. Sin has darkened our minds so that we do not think straight. What God is like is not what we think him to be like, but he is as he has revealed himself, and this most clearly at the cross. God's true strength, glory and power are revealed in the weakness, shame and humility of the cross.

In other words: a god without the cross is not the True and Living God. Muslims claim to honour Jesus while denying that he was crucified, but this is to deny all that Jesus stood for. It is in fact to mock and dishonour the true Jesus who came, he said, to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Similarly, while the Bhagavad Gita may contain some nice stuff, it does not reveal Truth because it never takes us to Christ and him crucified.