Thursday, 31 January 2013

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Good Advice - Jamie Soles

This album is as good as it's CD Cover is bad. 
"Built on the premise that children prefer food to fluff, Good Advice treats children like grown-ups; it does not talk down to them, or play to their natural foolishness, but rather builds on the expectation that the child will one day be an adult. These are songs to grow by." [Jamie Soles]
This song list will give you a sense of what it covers (and if you click on the song name it will take you to a sample): 

Our 4 and 2 year old love this. But not as much as we do! I think Jane and I have learnt much more than they have. 
And what other children's albums are there that tackle Cain and Abel, Nadab and Abihu, Achan and Rahab?! 
These songs are slowly becoming the sound track to our home. We pray that this would be more than merely in song but in deeper holiness and happiness in Christ. 

Here are the lyrics of one of our favourites: 

Marah (Exodus 15.22-27)  [click for a sample]

There at Marah where the water was bitter
The people got bitter too
They said “Give us better water
Than this bitter bitter water!”
They grumbled and complained all day
“We don’t like manna!
We want new shoes!”
How they pouted, sulked and whined
But if they would have trusted the Lord their God
Then things would have been just fine
What do you think that the Lord will think
When He hears your voice today?
Thankful trust or angry lust
As you grumble and complain all day
So learn a lesson from the Israelites
Let your words be sweet today
You will wander in the desert UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD!
If you grumble and complain all day!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Burns Night Feast

Below is the menu for our Burns Night Meal last night. 
I would very much recommend the Hairy Biker's take on Haggis, neeps and tatties (the whisky sauce makes it I think!). We were not so keen on the dessert. 
But it was the first (can that be true?) Burns Night Meal, of our marriage. I might do that again sometime ... I had forgotten how good Haggis is. 

followed by

Friday, 25 January 2013

UK Brain Drain

Four of them are related to us: a nurse, a doctor, a banker and a management consultant.
This is both personally a heartache and nationally a big problem. Our economy is losing skilled, energetic, productive and innovative men and women. And their children. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

one another

How to treat one another in Christ's church, wherever we live, whoever we are:

love [1 Peter 1:22; most of 1 John!]
at peace and living in harmony [1 Peter 3:8; Romans 12:16] 
forgive [Col 3:13
agree [1 Cor 1:10]
be humble [Eph 4:2] 
accept [Romans 15:7]
forbearing [Eph 4:2]
kind and compassionate [Eph 4:32]
greeting with a kiss [1 Peter 5:14]
don’t judge [Romans 14:13]
don’t lie [Col 3:9]
don’t grumble [1 Peter 4:9]
don’t slander [James 4:11]
show hospitality [1 Peter 4:9]
confess your sins to  [James 5:16]
be kind [Eph 4:32]
be devoted to  [Romans 12:10]
serve [Gal 5:13]
do good [James 2:16]
instruct and teach [Eph 5:21; 1 Thess 5:11; Romans 15:14]
comfort and encourage [2 Cor 2:7]
rebuke/admonish* [Col 3:16]
spur on [Heb 10:25]
pray [Eph 6:18]

*NB remember prevention is better than cure!! (Hebrews 3:12-13)

This is a very wonderful/exciting/terrifying/prayer inducing/amazed by grace thinking/action taking/repentance making/Christ delighting/Spirit depending list of commands.

Lesbian Professor to Pastor's Wife

Rosaria Butterfield has written a book called: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Carl Trueman has reviewed it, saying: 'I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership' So it sounds like a book to read once it makes its way to this side of the pond. don't seem to have it yet, except for kindle 

In the same blog post [which really is worth a read] Carl Trueman (a Black Country Boy abroad in the States) amusingly and astutely writes about the Daily Mail 'protocol' and Christian Testimonies like this:

The second problem is what I call 'The Daily Mail protocol.' For those who live in blissful ignorance of Britain's newspaper, The Daily Mail, it is an absurdly right wing production which covers exactly the same kind of bedhopping kiss-and-tell scandals as the other, more notorious tabloids, but it always does so with an air of moral outrage and splenetic indignation. Thus, the reader has access to all of the prurient details of the latest activities of some ghastly boy band but without feeling that they have dirtied themselves in finding out the information. Such, it seems to me, are many of the Christian memoirs that become popular with plotlines such "I was a murderous biker/a porn star/a drug addict/a politician but then I found Jesus." If we are honest, most of us read such books for the salacious details of the preconversion life of the author, not the testimony to God's grace. Indeed, I have often thought of writing my own Christian autobiography: 'I was a basically well-behaved studious teenager from a good home and then I found Jesus and continued to be basically well-behaved and studious.' Unlikely to make it to the Barnes and Noble Top Ten, I suspect.
Hear hear. 
But this is not that: 

How an Unbelieving Lesbian English Professor became a Pastor's Wife

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Eight chapters in one verse

The righteous will live by faith ... or ... 
He who through faith is righteous shall live.
(Romans 1:17)
Which ever reading is followed, however, the quotation becomes the 'text' on which  the exposition of the next eight chapters is based, with 'the righteous' and 'by faith' occupying the Apostle's attention in 1:18-4:25, while 'shall live' is dealt with in 5:1-8:39.  
(p 26 Power of God: Exposition of Paul's Letter to the Romans, James Philip)
If you are flush with cash get this ... it is expensive (between £30 and 50!!) because it is out of print. Paul Levy is right about it.) However don't despair because another version of James Philip's Notes on Romans (mostly the same) is FREE online at St George's Tron. Bless them. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Romans Introduction

I have messed up our church news webpage (oops!). I'm not quite sure what I did. But it spectacularly does not work now. So, until I can get that fixed, I thought I would post  our Romans series so far here:

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

economics must be taught!

... we live in a society plagued by an activist government. Unlike other scientific disciplines, the basic truths of economics must be taught to enough people in order to preserve society itself. It really doesn't matter if the man on the street thinks quantum mechanics is a hoax; the physicists can go on with their research without the approval of the average Joe. But if most people believe that minimum wage laws help the poor, or that low interest rates cure a recession, then the trained economists are helpless to avert the damage that these policies will inflict on society. (p8-9 Lessons for the Young Economist - Robert Murphy)

An intriguing evangelistic shape to this: ('only economics can save us')! But still very interesting nonetheless and hard to argue against the importance of studying the real exchanges of real people in all their vast array. I thought economics was dull and irrelevant when I chose not to study it at school. How wrong I was. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

What is a 'fair price'?

Last night I observed our lads at BB doing a very simple Banana Role Play Game. I don't know where it came from - possibly BB HQ? But it presented itself as an exercise in economics (the 'banana trade') and in justice. By the end it seemed more like an exercise in propaganda for FAIRTRADE™ - even if that wasn't the intent.

So five minutes digging yielded some interesting fruit. There is another side to this! 
  • an Adam Smith 2008 report about Fairtrade: unfair trade
  • a short documentary film The Bitter Aftertaste: 

The terms 'fairness', 'that's not fair', 'fair trade' were all used a lot both by the material last night and by the lads in response to the 'scenario'. But, I think it is fair to say this 'fairness' business is not as simple as an emotive call to side with (poor) workers of the world against the (evil) 'rich guys' [in this case 'LESCO' ... mmm, some more propaganda going on!].  This is  especially so when the role play game consisted of only one worker, one producer, one exporter, one importer and one supermarket - thus eliminating a very important aspect of trade. Choice. 

So it reminded me. 
Watch out for banana skins! 
It is possible to slip on one. Even if it is fairly traded. 
Maybe especially if it is fairly traded. 

So, back to the question of a fair price. What is a 'fair price' ... whether it is a 'fair' labourer's wage (in this case he or she is selling their labour to someone who wants to buy it) or the amount we pay for the bunch at the supermarket?
'any price agreed upon between a willing buyer and a willing seller the just price, that alone is what makes it the just price.'
'People exchange goods in a market economy to their mutual advantage. Each party to an exchange values what he receives more than what he exchanges for it. Both parties are better off after an exchange than they were before the exchange. In a free market, suppliers compete with suppliers and buyers compete with buyers. Suppliers do not compete with buyers. The only exchanges that result in winners and losers are Christmas gift exchanges between parents and children. But even that is a voluntary loss. Competition for business between suppliers reduces prices, which is to the advantage of the consumer, while the bidding of consumers against each other for goods raises prices, which is to the advantage of the supplier. The free market allows suppliers (who naturally want the highest price they can get for their goods) and consumers (who wish to acquire those goods at the lowest price possible) to come together in harmony.' 
[from The Myth of the Just Price]

Saul or Paul

This is something that has puzzled me for a while. We encounter Paul the apostle in the NT under two names: Saul and Paul. A common misunderstanding that I had until recently is this: that Saul the Pharisee changed his name to Paul when he came to faith in Jesus. 

At first glance that seems reasonable because:
a) there is a tradition of name changes that correspond to important moments in a person's life (Abram/Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Simon/Peter).
b) When we first encounter Saul, he's persecuting the church and standing by as Stephen is stoned (Acts 8:1). Later, however, in Acts 13-28 the missionary, apostle is referred to as Paul.
Conclusion: he changed his name when he accepted Jesus as Messiah. 
Sounds reasonable, right?

On closer investigation, however, we find out this is not the case. 
First, Saul is converted or called in Acts 9. He's baptized and engages in apparently a significant period of Christian discipleship and ministry under the name of Saul. In Acts 13:1-3 Saul along with several others are leaders in the church at Antioch when the Holy Spirit sets them a part for the Gentile mission. In Acts 13:6 Saul is called Paul for the first time ("But Saul, who was also known as Paul, . . . ") on the island of Cyprus. For the rest of the book and in all of his letters he is referred to as Paul. So what is going on?

Saul was a Pharisaic Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. If Jewish tradition were followed--and there is no reason to think it wasn't--he was given his Jewish name on the day of his circumcision. So Saul was his Jewish name, the name of Israel's first king. 

But Saul was a Roman citizen as well which means that he needed a Roman name. Perhaps Paul was taken because it was a family name or the name of someone who helped provide citizenship to his family, we don't know. But the name Paulos in Greek means something like "little fellow." 

So when Saul is around Jews, he uses his Jewish name. But when Saul is around Greeks and Romans, he uses his Roman name. In Antioch where the Jewish population of Christ-believers was significant it made sense that he'd use his Jewish name. But during the Gentile mission, he encountered primarily, well . . . Gentiles. So he used his Roman name then. 

I am not sure of the significance of all this. Probably nothing. But it has bugged me for a while and I am glad to be getting a little clearer.

Monday, 14 January 2013

The righteousness of God makes me ...

Martin Luther's wrestle with Romans 1:16-17:
“I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the Decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with His righteousness
and wrath!"
“I hated Paul with all my heart when I read that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel” 
“At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ 
There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by the gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness of God with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ 
Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.” 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Is there Space for you?

Why Did Paul Write Romans?

Pick up and read!

Augustine in great crisis of soul, captive to his lusts, yet drawn to God was ‘weeping in bitter agony of my heart’ when ...”suddenly I heard a voice from a nearby house chanting as if it might be a boy or a girl (I do not know which), saying and repeating over and over again ‘Pick up and read, pick up and read.’ At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children’s game in which such a chant is used. But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me to open the book and read the first chapter I might find. ... So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting. There I had put down the book of the apostle when I got up. I seized it, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: ‘Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts’ (Romans 13:13-14).
I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled. [The Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) Bk 8.29, p153]

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Christianophobia by Rupert Shortt  published in December, 2012. I missed it in the Christmas rush. 

An article about this in the Independent

and on the Barnabas website

and a blog piece on it - which makes a distinction between 'the West' (where ideologically the Christian faith  is mocked and resisted) and 'the rest of the World' (where Christians are being killed). Then there is a brief attempt to connect them. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

The Limits of Revolution

AN Wilson writes :
The truth is that the Sexual Revolution had the power to alter our way of life, but it could not alter our essential nature; it could not alter the reality of who and what we are as human beings. [click here for the entire (and very good) article]