Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Long to Reign Over us

We missed this yesterday - we were having a late lunch. 
Her Majesty speaks (again) of Jesus with clarity and humility. Long may she reign over us. 
"This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son 'to serve, not to be served'. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. 
"It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others. 
"The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: 'What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part'. The carol gives the answer 'Yet what I can I give him - give my heart'. 
[FULL TEXT OF SPEECH HERE]

The Story

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Christmas Poem

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost---how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wife's tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall all men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

[GK Chesterton]

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent 5

Confession clarifies Confusion


Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; 
yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.  
[Westminster Confession of Faith 8.7]

The works that Christ did, then, were not simply the works of a human; they are the works of the mediator, who is both fully God and fully man. Therefore the value of Christ's death is infinite because of the worth of the person. In other words, one who was a human being only could not have paid the debt owed to God for so great a number of people. Yet because Christ had a true human nature he was able to pay the debt on behalf of sinful humanity. [p22-23 of Mark Jones' A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ.] 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sometimes the mask slips


Astute observation from Archbishop Cranmer as he reads some amazing coverage of news of a royal pregnancy. Even papers like the Guardian speak in glowing terms of the 'Royal Baby' (they quote Barak Obama's press secretary congratulating William and Kate on their first child!)

Surely such 'pro-choice' newspapers and journals (and people) should be talking about a bunch of pluripotent stem cells, an embryo or a foetus? For reports suggest that the Duchess is still in her first trimester, so this is not yet a baby; and certainly nothing with any kind of destiny. At this stage, surely, it is a non-person, just like the other 201,931 non-persons who last year were evacuated from wombs in England, Scotland and Wales. 
Or are royal foetuses endowed with full humanity from the point of conception?
Read more here.

Christmas is like knitting

you'know basically good ... but responsible for a lot of bad things.


click on the image for an excellent minute and a half by Milton Jones. #4thought

Advent 4

Friday, 30 November 2012

The blessing of unwrapping a gift

Much wisdom here on handling Christmas gifts so that our children enjoy the overflow of blessings!  

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cur Deus Homo

Good 'Advent' Reading

Why did God become a man? Anselm's book (Cur Deus Homo: "Why God Became Man") gave the answer that many Christians might give: God became a man to repair the damage done by sin ... or 'for us and for our salvation' as the Nicene Creed puts it. But that is not all. There is something deeper and more wonderful to say in answer to the question Cur Deus Homo? 
(according to Goodwin) the principal reason that the Son of God became man was not that sinners might be saved by his meritorious work, though of course that was also a reason. Rather, in Goodwin’s view, the benefits procured by Christ ‘are all far inferior to the gift of his person unto us, and much more the glory of the person itself. his person is of infinite more worth than they all can be of.’ 
Therefore, God’s chief end was not to bring Christ into the world for us, but us for Christ .... and God contrived all things that do fall out, and even redemption itself, for the setting forth of Christ’s glory, more than our salvation’.

God speaks of his children as those who are ‘called by [his] name, whom [he] created for [his] glory, whom [he] formed and made’ Isaiah 43:7 
(p3-4 A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Questions of God

Good 'Advent' Reading
When Jesus was a young man helping his father Joseph in carpentry, would it have been appropriate for Jesus to ask what a certain tool was? 
Or, being fully God, did Christ know the answer already?   
When Jesus prayed, did he do so because he needed to or just as an example for believers?  
Our answers to these questions depend entirely upon the view we have of Christ's person. 
(A Christian's Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ p1)

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee



Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Esau was an hairy man, Jacob was a big girl's blouse?

That is our suspicion. And Alan Bennet nails this firmly then to Anglican clergymen. 
Well, leaving aside the issue of clergy and gender, perhaps we at least need to reassess our view of Jacob.
Why did Rebekah love Jacob?

It is commonly assumed that we can finish the sentence something like this, “Rebekah loved Jacob because he was a home-loving momma’s boy.” Esau was a real man — wild at heart; Jacob was a sally. But the Bible resists our childish notions of masculinity. Esau was hairy not because he was a Sean Connery action hero, but because his appearance revealed his bestial nature; he was a half-man, and he was driven by animalistic desires. Hunting is not bad, but perhaps the description of Esau as “a skillful hunter,” is intended to recall Nimrod, “a mighty hunter before Yahweh,” son of Ham and founder of a false religion at Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). And, in any case, the Scriptures tell us why Rebekah loved Jacob. She loved him because God loved him.

In contrast, why did Isaac love Esau?

Isaac loved Esau because he loved his own belly: “Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game.” (Genesis 25:28) In chapter 27, this will be his condition for bestowing the blessing Esau (Genesis 27:3-4). By this stage in his life, Isaac was a fleshly man, driven by his appetites. As such, he was a pattern for his foolish unbelieving son (Genesis 25:29-34). There was a kinship between Isaac and Esau that went beyond shared blood; both despised God’s promise for the sake of filling their gut. The apple doesn’t fall far from the bough, and when it did Esau and Isaac were on hand to gobble it up before Jacob could say “birthright”.
This from Matthew Mason's Fourth Post on Jacob as he builds the case that we should believe that Jacob was a blameless man (Genesis 25:27).

Thursday, 22 November 2012

gifts not the giver

It is an anti-ranty. But not so much at Santy.
It's deeper and very much for the grown ups.   

Hot & Spicy

Genesis 25:34
As we read the story, we must not forget that the birthright is not properly Esau’s. Ordinarily it would have been, but God has decreed otherwise (25:23). Jacob isn’t taking what does not belong to him; he’s asking for it back. In any case, Jacob’s demand is absurd: who, in possession of the birthright which, in Abraham’s family contained all the promises of God, would give it up for a meal of lentils? Had Esau any sense, he would have said “Forget it”, and prepared himself a meal. Jacob’s words were a test, and they revealed his brother’s wicked heart. Like Adam, Esau chose to eat and despised the promises of God.
Matthew Mason's 3rd Post on Jacob really is worth a careful read.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

An exciting new artist

Malcolm Piggot 

©God (the links)

Click here for links to the songs we sang during the conference on Saturday (©God - the Psalms and Worship Today)
A number of these were new to me! Like 10000 Reasons by Matt Redman (everyone else seemed to know it!):

And Down into Darkness (with it's James Bond undertones!!): 


















All in all it was a very helpful day and definitely a conference I'd recommend. 
It is probably hitting the middle ground well (meaty without being too theologically heavy nor too musically technical -- though I did opt for the technically light seminars ... so I think a keen musician or PA person could have got loads more of that than I chose). 
It was a bit light on it's engagement with the Psalms and singing them today - that idea was not dismissed exactly but seemed to be sidelined a bit too easily.  Psalms are a pattern for our worship to inform and shape our emotions and our response to God - which is rich and varied, including grief and agony as well as joy and gladness. I agreed and found all that was said very helpful. I guess the talks will be available online in due course. I had just hoped for a bit more help in thinking through actually, you know, singing Psalms. 
The day handled the whole area of music very wisely and in the context of John 13, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12-14 ... so with a strongly anti-consumer mentality, encouraging us all in our musical choices to put service in love first as we seek to build up others (and the body of Christ).
All in all, a big thank you to Graham Beynon and the Music Ministry guys. 

Tipton Christians Against Poverty

We've just begun to connect with Christians Against Poverty as a church (and thanks to them I have just enjoyed a superb breakfast at Frankie and Benny's!). A few weeks ago at Grace we had the local Tipton Against Poverty Team visit our evening service. They are lovely and doing good work. It is a privilege to begin to get behind them in this. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Jacob was what kind of man?

Matthew Mason's second part on Jacob (Genesis 25:27):
the evidence from the rest of the Hebrew Bible, and especially from the way Genesis describes major characters, points strongly to the translation, “Jacob was a blameless man.” And this in contrast to wicked Esau and wicked Laban, and, as we shall see, wicked Isaac.

What is for the public benefit?

What is for the public benefit? 
On what basis do we decide that? 
Are those criteria obvious? To who?
How do they know their criteria are right?
How do they measure benefit? 
How do they know that they've measure right? 
And why should I or anyone else accept what they say?

I've have these questions in my mind for awhile. So I found myself reading the Charity Commission's booklet:  Charities and Public Benefit.

I can't believe it. But I did. 

And murky is the way I would describe it. I'd be delighted if someone would show me a clear paragraph explaining exactly what this concept of 'public benefit' is, how it is measured and judged. 

The best I got was this: 

There are two key principles both of which must be met in order to show that an organisation's aims are for the public benefit. Within each principle there are some important factors that must be considered in all cases. These are: 
Principle 1: There must be an identifiable benefit or benefits
Principle 1a It must be clear what the benefits are (see section E2)
Principle 1b The benefits must be related to the aims (see section E3)
Principle 1c Benefits must be balanced against any detriment or harm (see section E4)
 
Principle 2: Benefit must be to the public, or a section of the public
Principle 2a The beneficiaries must be appropriate to the aims (see section F2)
Principle 2b Where benefit is to a section of the public, the opportunity to benefit must not be unreasonably restricted: (see section F3)

But this section begs all the questions that I have! It must be a field day for the lawyers. 

(Oh, right, I get it now!)

But the reason this matters is not first of all because lawyers will get fat on it. Though that will bring problems and victims - many of them unseen and unknown to us (not to God). The reason it matters is when someone (or the majority of people ... 51%?) thinks the way Bertram Russell does, and they come to define and enforce public benefit all religious charities will lose that status: 
The question of the truth of a religion is one thing, but the question of its usefulness is another. I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue. Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics)

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The names of the Patriarchs

Home is a sick bay today. 
Came back from church though and found that Jane at least knows the names of the Patriarchs! So a productive morning.
She'd been listening to this:

The most embarrassing verse in the Bible?


"Say what you like,” we shall be told, “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”

C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night: And Other Essays, p.97

C.S. Lewis is embarrassed of Jesus?  I was sure the quote was taken out of context, so I looked it up... No such luck.  Lewis goes on to explain how he solves the problem: With the assertion that Jesus probably really did not know how or when the "world would end". He continues:

"Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side... The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance."


I found the above from a post here. It concludes very sensibly:  
It seems appropriate to me to be embarrassed about what C.S. Lewis said, not about what Jesus said. 
You'll have to be at church this morning to find out why I agree with that (we are in Mark 13:3-37)! And why that matters. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

God's economic upheaval

This is to be a time of unprecedented upheaval in the life and leadership of the people of God. Jerusalem, and the temple which is the focus of its authority, is about to lose its central role in God's economy. The divine government, the kingdom of God, is to find a new focus. 
The Gospel of Mark (The new international Greek testament commentary) RT France) p497-8 in the commentary on Mark 13:3-37. 

The Most Slandered Man in Christendom?

The most slandered man in Christendom is…our father in the faith Jacob: a blameless man throughout his life, rejected by his father, despised by his brother, swindled by his uncle, and slandered by generations of preachers ever since. Robbed of his birthright by his father, robbed of his bride and flocks by his uncle, he has been robbed of his reputation by us. But God is faithful to his promises: Jacob received his inheritance, his Rachel, and his sheep. Now, contrarian to the last, I hope to restore to him his name. 
In the next few posts, I hope to make a case that in his dealings with brother, father, and uncle, our father Jacob was just what Genesis tells us: a blameless man. I hope also to make the case that in misreading the story and portraying him as a scheming villain, we miss powerful lessons for our own lives.
Love it. I am looking forward to Matthew Mason's next posts

Friday, 9 November 2012

these great buildings

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 - David Roberts

Remember this


As I prepare for Remembrance Sunday this is a sobering discovery:

British have invaded nine out of ten countries - so look out Luxembourg

Apparently it is easier to list the countries we haven't attacked in the course of our nation's history. Here they are:
  • Andorra
  • Belarus
  • Bolivia
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Congo, Republic of
  • Guatemala
  • Ivory Coast
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Mali
  • Marshall Islands
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Paraguay
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Sweden
  • Tajikistan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vatican City
So now I have another book to add to my Christmas list:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

everyday church

Starts tonight for our house group!

LIVE Western Wall Footage

Pretty amazing what you can do these days. I'm reading something in a book - google 'Western Wall' and get this: 

CLick here for live views of the Western Wall in Jerusalem!


This 'was not part of the temple, but only the supporting structure for the platform on which it was built' [The Gospel of Mark (The new international Greek testament commentary) France p 496].

Herod's Temple

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod JJ Tissot

Previous Notes on Josephus' account of Herod's Building Work (and therefore the politically explosive nature of any comments about destroying the temple)

The temple was not only the heart of Israel’s religious life but also the symbol of its national identity. The rededication and purification of the temple in 164 AD after Antiochus Epiphanes had defiled it with the worship and altar of Zeus and the restoration of temple worship were the high points of the Maccabean victory and were commemorated annually thereafter in the feast of Dedication in December. The patriotic as well as religious symbolism of the temple was thus enormous, and the magnificence of Herod’s rebuilding matched its symbolic significance.  The Gospel of Mark (The new international Greek testament commentary) - RT France) p436-7

LIVE event

We had a great time at this LIVE event last night.
Around 20 11-14 year olds from West Brom, Tipton and Wolverhampton. Isaiah 40:6-8. A huge bonfire. Stacks of fireworks. Great hotdogs. And surprising fun doing gravestone rubbings in the dark. All in all an explosive mix!

How should we then live (5)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

When will 70 AD happen?

 'Do you see these great buildings?' replied Jesus  [referring back to the discples comment in Mark 13:1]
'Not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.' Mark 13:2

This is a very helpful analysis of this chapter by France:

v2
(No time indicator in prediction) 

v4
WHEN? 
(and what will be the sign..?)


v5 Watch Out - it is NOT YET (v7b)



v8 all this is only the BEGINNING


v9 Watch Out - it is NOT YET



v10 gospel to all nations FIRST



v13 the ‘end’ still in the future

v 14 But when
i.e., as opposed to the NOT YET of v5-13, here the sequence begins (in ‘those days’, v19)


v21 At that time    this is not the end


v23 Watch out     still beware of assuming too much

v 24 But in those days
             following that distress
reference back 
to v19 - 

             so a direct, unbroken sequence from the when of v14. 
v 26 
And then
Here at last is the answer to When? v4
v 27
And then

v 28f The fig tree (a parable of necessary chronological sequence) shows that these things indicate that ‘it is near’

v30f and therefore all these things must inevitably occur within ‘this generation’.
v 32
But about THAT day or hour ...


      WHICH day or hour? - no (singular) day or hour so far mentioned

v 33 Watch out - it may be ANY time

v 32-37 speak throughout of an UNKNOWN time, which comes without announcement, in stark contrast to the 


NOT YET
BUT WHEN
THEN
WITHIN GENERATION
of vv 5-31




Saying Goodbye

‘Miscarriage is often something that’s not acknowledged or talked about in the UK, and people certainly do not appreciate how utterly distressing it is for women, and indeed their extended families. 
It’s a loss of a precious life, and whether the loss happens in early or late pregnancy it’s traumatic, and a natural grief process must be allowed to happen.
Sadly a lot of doctors and nurses see miscarriage on such a regular basis, the right support and follow up advice is just not offered, which results in the vast amount of women never coming to terms with losing their baby, and sadly they are not able to move forward with their lives as they become stuck in a cycle of grief.
I am delighted to be an ambassador for a marvellous new organisation called 'Saying Goodbye'. Following losing five babies themselves, Zoe and Andrew Clark-Coates, the directors of CCEM, decided to launch the first national set of commemorative services, which will allow families to come together to mourn their babies. 
I hope that these services will be a turning point in the nation, and through this new organisation miscarriage [Saying Goodbye] will become more widely understood, and families will know that their pain and loss has been heard and recognized.’ [Robert Winston]
From Peter Saunder's Blog

HT Tudor Boddom-Whetham via FB

How should we then live (4)


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Because He Lives

Space Academy

We are LAUNCHING this today at our morning service  
I hope those 'Space Cadets' who sign up will enjoy it as much as we've enjoyed planning it. 
Booking will open in the New Year