Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Call

Preach the Word! We're called
“to depict the beauty of Christ and his saving work with a heartfelt urgency of love that labours to help people find their satisfaction in him.”
Preaching the word to waken a taste for God in people. Setting the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ before people.
"We don’t work to persuade people that the gospel will meet all their felt needs, rather that they were made for the soul-satisfying glory of God in the gospel."
That is task I feel compelled to give my life to. To set the gospel before people that they may gaze upon Christ! That the Spirit of God may work in them to transform them.

That is a task I know I'm not up to in myself- to proclaim and portray the one who made all things, and for whom all things were made. To preach him, to preach the cross of Christ. The cross by which I can preach, by which the word of the cross can be recieved, by which sinful humanity (myself included) can come near to God.

That is what we are made for - to delight in the soul-satisfying glory of God, that God would be seen! The harvest is plentiful and God welcomes sinners with great joy. There is work to be done, not as slaves but as his sons! Let us rejoice in the God we have found and invite others!

Let us preach Christ that they would turn from sin.
Let us preach Christ that they would escape God's judgement.
Let us preach Christ that they would come to feast at his banquet.
Let us preach Christ that they would find pleasure forever in him!


Quotes from Piper, God's Passion for His Glory, with some thoughts from Luke chapters 9-19, 2 Corinthians 3v12-4v6. See also Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Joyfully wise, or pitifully stupid

Jesus Christ lived and died, charged with blasphemy by his own people - since they saw he claimed to be God, executed by the ruling Roman Empire on a cross. The significance of this stands on what happened next.

If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead then Christians are pitiful fools. They imagine a relationship with a dead man, wasting their lives. In that case the wise live away from Christ.

If Jesus Christ rose from the dead then eternal life and pleasure with him is available. Available to all who believe in Jesus death as their ground of confidence before God. A certainty confirmed by his words and by his being alive, even today! In that case those who live away from Christ are fools. Where do you stand? It stands or falls on this: did Jesus rise from the dead?

Imagine

Imagine... an idea so good that if it wasn't happening you would want to invent it. Imagine... a radical witnessing Christian community at the heart of every University and College. Imagine... vibrant mission teams of students committed to reaching other students with the good news of Jesus. Imagine... a generation being equipped for effective leadership in church, community and work place. Imagine... Christian Unions.

You don't have to imagine - it's happening now. But to grow the work we need your help. Imagine... Christian Unions. An idea so good that if it wasn't happening you want want to invent it. UCCF believes that students are the best palced to reach other students with the good news of Jesus.

Our vision is to unite, in Christian Unions, students from all church backgrounds, around the central truths of the gospel. These Christian Unions exist to take the good news to every student on campus in word and action.
Our strategy is that tehse groups are led by students and are resourced, trained and encouraged by local UCCF Staff and Relay Workers.

Can you imagine the impact that well led, well resourced Christian Unions could have on thsi generation fo students and, through them, on our nations and even our world?

If you have that kind of imagination, we want to hear from you. The work is supported by many churches, graduates and individual friends who share a visio to reach today's students for Christ. Will you pray and give to make this vision a powerful reality. If you want God to do more than you can hope for or imagine with today's students - get involved: uccf:thechristianunions

Saturday, March 26, 2005

No rules, just grace.

Word Alive 2005 should be remembered for one thing: Grace. Nearly 2000 students gathered for a week to meet with God in his word. Spring Harvest Word Alive week is distinctive for it's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Bible streams which cover chronological and thematic overviews of God's story, and also how to understand, apply and teach the Bible.

DAY ONE
The evening student celebrations this year worked through Galatians. Graham Daniels of Christians In Sport kicked us off with the message of free grace, daring us to be accused of lawlessness as we preach about Jesus. Jesus the only one who rescues us from this evil age, the one who does so completely by his death. We were called to take D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones' words serious, if we've not been accused of this, we've not preached the gospel.... Graham dared us to preach in such a way that people would ask - "so shall I sin more so that I get more grace?" reminding us in J.B.Philips words that this question is answered by Paul as "What a ghastley thought!".

DAY TWO
UCCF Director, Richard Cunningham, took us on into chapter 2, challenging what John Piper calls "the debtor's ethic". Calling us to never attempt to pay God back for his grace to us. Questions were already beginning to rise within us - how then do we live? what do we do about sin? (plenty of Piper references during the week - more and more we need to grapple with joyful satisfaction in Christ, to the glory of God!)

DAY THREE
Marcus Honeysett, UCCF London Team Leader, then took us into chapter 3 - let us comprehend and enjoy the status of sons of God, not slaves. Let us rejoice in the life we have in the Spirit of God, calling out "Abba, Father". Life that comes from the curse-bearing death of Jesus. Law does not bring life. Legalism is deadly, leading only to guilt and condemnation. Let us find life in the Spirit. Where is our joy? Are we dehydrated by a lack of experience of the Spirit? Let us be "Christ-exalting, great-exploit-doing Christians!" (great fun had exploring this over breakfast with Marcus and the rest of the guys in the chalet)

DAY FOUR
Bill Bygroves arrived from Bridge Chapel, Liverpool, with invites to MerseyFest, to take us into Galatians 4, showing us something deceptive, something distinctive, something destructive and someothing decisive. Let us stand firm! Let us stand free!

As we wrestled with this message of Free Grace and No Rules it was great to see God at work transforming people and redefining what Christian life means. After four nights we were desperate for practical direction.

DAY FIVE
St. Helen's Nigel Beynon opened up chapter 5 for us. Nigel showed us we were set free TO lovingly serve each other and set free TO be changed by the Spirit. We wanted rules but we found none. Christain life should feel like a conflict - as the Spirit battles with our sinful nature. Have we surrendered the battle? Are we fighting with the Spirit, walking with the Spirit, living by the Spirit. There is where our life is found. Let us ask God to "help me, fill me with your Spirit, empower me to change", and let us act and seek to change! We can't persuade ourselves to change, we need to be changed by God. (Nigel's chronological overview of the Bible was excellent each morning)

DAY SIX
On the final morning UCCF Relay Coordinator Andy Shudall took us into Galatians 6. Andy's honest passion for the gospel has inspired Em & I over the last few years, on Relay and as he spoke at our wedding. Andy's move to New Zealand this summer will be a loss greatly felt. But Andy would not draw our vision to himself, only to Jesus.

Andy skillfully exposed religion as shallow hypocrisy, outward shows that prove nothing. Whether it is our evangelistic prowess, our personal devotions, our wristbands. None of these is a reliable guide to our standing with God. We'd be idiots to judge ourselves by them. And to do so is a path to hell. If we insist on valuing ourselves by worthless things then Christ's death becomes of no value to us. God sees through our religion - he is not impressed.

Religion is an outward appeal for approval - but the life of faith is lived from approval. The Christian life is based upon the reality of having become sons of God because of the death of Jesus. As we left our focus was set - the cross as the sole ground of Christian confidence. We are free to be free! Approved by the Father!! Being religious or unreligious counts for nothing - all that counts is being a new creation, something that lasts forever!

Let us only seek the marks of discipleship, the scars of gospel service, the wounds of repentance, marks that point to Jesus and speak of grace. No rules, no appeals for approval - simply fellowship with Jesus by his grace, by his death, by the Holy Spirit!

Great to catch up with Rich and loads of other ex-Relay guys, to have loads of Reading CU students (tastefully attired in pink t-shirts - yes, those were my students!), and Cat from Surrey CU there. My hope is that we'll see even more next year. Book your place at Word Alive 2006 now

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Scandalous Manifesto for Life

Preached at Arborfield this morning: The message of the cross. Looking at God's intent to humble us of our pride and desire to believe in what is powerful and wise, calling us to stake all our hope in the death of Jesus on a cross. Humbling the pride that elevates us and robs God of glory, and so pointing all attention to God and his great purposes.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

This isn't how I go

Edward Bloom gets a vision of his future at the start of his life. The vision shows him how he'll die. Knowing this he is able to face endless risky situations without fear of death - knowing "This isn't how I go". His story is full of embelishments and imagination that make his life more flowery and inspiring. Yet, knowledge of the way things end is the kind of thing that can change the way we live.

Common wisdom says that global warming, or nuclear war or an asteroid, or the death of the sun will finish us off. But God says differently. The end will come when He calls time.

We fail to believe this because we fail to believe God's promise and we prefer to follow our own desires. If we believe that God will call time and call everyone to account for their lives then we cannot merely follow our own evil desires - we would need to pursue God's true desire - that we find life in him. But ignorant of the eternal pleasure found in him. In our ignorance we don't believe we're accountable for our lives, nor what is on offer to us.

We fail to believe God's promise also because we forget that the same God who will call time on this age is the one who began it. And he began it with a Word, speaking creation into existence. Previously he has judged the world with a flood. Now he is preserving the world (so we know that it is not our place to end the age by destroying the world, it wont happen). And in due course God will call time. But ignorant of his word we don't believe.

We fail to believe because we misunderstand time. We think that Jesus left 2000 years ago, why is he not back yet! The same questions were asked within a generation. But God is not slow to answer - time is different from his perspective. And every day that arrives is a day of mercy. Everyday is one more day for us to discover his mercy and come to know him.

God will call time. That is how this age will end. When he comes everyone will face either his judgement or his mercy. Let us not forget. Let us remember that God has spoken. And let us be stirred to action, to live in the light of our certain knowledge of the future.

"The future is Jesus!"
Read more at 2 Peter 3:1-10

Friday, March 18, 2005

Cat & Dog Theology


Following hard on the heals of Piper and Storms comes Cat & Dog Theology from Bob Sjogren and Gerald Robison. Their challenge to contemporary Christianity hinges on the difference between cats and dogs.

A dog says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God"
A cat says, "You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God"

And so, they observe we work out our theology. The danger they warn is that we become cats. Cat Theology is idolatrous because it says I'm the centre of everything. Dog Theology says God is central and everything is for the purpose of making God look glorious. Cats have staff, Dogs have masters.

This is a quirky, easy to read but not so easy to put into pratice book that has masses to say to the church today - and indeed to the wider world, this is the anti-cat gospel and it is very much needed.

Thanks to Rich for supplying the book, I needed to hear this again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Shut Up / Speak Up

On the train, Monday afternoon. We sat on Platform 2 at Reading waiting to leave for Basingstoke for 25 minutes. My journey had a 28 minute connection window at Basingstoke for Portsmouth. While we waited our driver insisted on telling us that "I'm sorry for the delay, I don't know why. And I've check with lots of other people, and they don't know either..." Later my Basingstoke-Portsmouth train also suffered, at Micheldever we were informed that "I think that odd sound was one of our engines failing". I'm not sure I wanted to know in either case. Some people just can't help their verbal diarrhea.

Monday night, preached at University of Portsmouth Christian Union. My first trip to Portsmouth since Natwest put me up in the Marriot & Hilton for a week's induction 2.5 years ago. Was good to spend the evening with the guys there - an extended time of worship followed by my talk. After which I had to run for the train. The return journey was less eventful.

It was great to speak to them from 2 Timothy 4, on the priority of "Preaching the Word", and the need to do so together. Attempting to show them that God's call on their lives is to live in view of the coming judge and to love his coming. In view of this we must preach the word because the world hates the truth and loves itself, to preach the Word to them. The war is won, and there are battles to fight - not with violence, but by plain, clear, faithful speaking of the Word.

But why does the world hate the truth? On the train I was reading the end of D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans 2v1-3v20. God has really been challenging me on this over the last few days (also connected to preparing 1 Corinthians 1v18-25 for church). The world hates the truth because the truth silences its excuses. The gospel stops every mouth. In the message of the Cross God speaks and tells us to shut up and stop trying to justify ourselves.

Our sinful instincts immediately seek to defend us when our guilt is exposed. We protest. We come up with incredible justifications for our behaviour. Adam & Eve did it, and we are no better today. In the face of this God says "Shut up". Stop your whining, stop your pitiful excuses. Shut up and listen.

The message of the cross is foolishness to the world, its absurd. But believing in it is the only way to silence our excuses. And once believed our mouths are open with new words - what can we do but speak about this message to the world? It is the one thing that the world needs to hear above all else.

Shut up! Speak Up!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Together, under the shadow of God's wings

Reflecting on Ruth. An awesome story of God's kindness and sovereign grace. Naomi returns empty and bitter after her disobedient self-emposed exile in Moab. She returns with the Moabite Ruth who makes an amazing commitment - "your God will be my God, your people will be my people".

She steps into the purposes of God and the people God. As she seeks refuge under God's wings God demonstrates his great kindess and love. Naomi's perceptions are reversed, as she ends the story full not empty, and back in the people of God herself.

Through Boaz, Ruth is shown God's kindness to her as an outsider. His sovereign grace works out in the ordinary things of community life to establish her in the people of God. And, as the story is told generations later, in the line of King David... and consequently Messiah Jesus. His backstory telling of the grace that comes through his death at the cross.

I've been struck studying this with Steve over the last few weeks at the way that she is included into the community - and as we reflect on God's grace to save its way more than just personal salvation achieved at the cross (not less that though). By his grace God is creating a new community - where the misfits are more than welcome, where the nations are all welcome.

I'm loving working that out in community with our church - in the meetings and conversations, sharing vision for the years ahead (church planting! c'mon!), in prayer and gathering around God's word. This is where intimacy with God works out, not just alone with God. Together we come under the shadow of God's wings, finding refuge in King Jesus!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Surprised by the Power of the Spirit?

This book was given to me by Bill Lees and the mission support guys at Wycliffe Baptist Church. It tells the story of professor Jack Deere's journey from cessationism to charismatic theology in the 1980s, leading to his dismissal from Dallas Theological Seminary and a move into the Vineyard Church.

The charismatic theology Deere teaches centres on the ongoing presence of miraculous healing in the church today, and some comment on prophecy - which a later book expands. Through the ministry of John White (author of The Fight), Jack Deere encountered healing and deliverance for the first time in the late 1980s. This, he tells, led him to examine the Bible afresh, and also to meet Vineyard founder John Wimber who influenced him greatly.

Deere outlines many of his newfound concerns about his prior cessationist theology along with many of the concerns people have about charismatic theology. His declared intent is to examine scripture on his own terms, admitting that experience influences both his new charismatic theology, and his prior theology. His observations on Dallas interview processes, challenging students to found their convictions (such as the deity of Christ) in scripture rather than tradition are provocative.

One argument is often stated in the book. Deere argues that a new believer left in a locked room with a bible would conclude that the miraculous is a normal part of Christian life. This thesis seems compelling but also slightly flawed. As one who believes in the value of scholarship and the ministry of teachers (as presumably Deere does) I'm reluctant to presume a new belivers conclusions to be entirely correct! It's not entirely impossible but neither is it guarenteed.

Deere directs us to examine the Scriptures for ourselves to find our theology there. This is something we all ought to do on all matters. The danger with books that instruct in good bible handling is that we trust them too easily. Deere's words ought to be tested in the berean style he commends. Deere is honest about the abuses of the miraculous in the church, but one wonders 12 years after he wrote is book, whether many have heeded his words. My own experience of the charismatic movement, has been of much enthusiasm and less caution.

Suprised by the Power of the Spirit was written in 1993 (notably, pre-Toronto) and I can't comment on any of Deere's other theology or works since, but this book is one of the most careful examinations of the issue I've seen. It is encouraging to see Deere's experience tested against scripture since this is not always the case. I was also encouraged to see God's transforming lives in the stories he tells.

As with all Christian books it should be weighed and tested against the Bible. A cursory google search indicates that many vigorously disagree with Deere and they should be listened to. Whilst Deere makes many careful arguments from scripture there are others texts that I would have appreciated further discussion of which were merely cited, and other overlooked.

Inevitably, as someone whose theological position has changed radically, Deere is hailed a hero by many and a heretic by others. The benefits of his book will (ironically) vary by experience. Some will find his story useful to ground their experience in scripture. Others who are suspicious of the charismatic movement may find it helpful to at least understand more of the issues invoved and hear him out.

I'm not entirely convinced by his case, but I find that Surprised by the Power of the Spirit offers much helpful insight. Reading the book has awakened me again to both study the scriptures more intently, and to look for the Holy Spirit's power at work in my daily life and those around me.

Further reading:
Sam Storms on Divine Healing
"Are Miraculous Gifts for Today" edited by Wayne Grudem, in which Sam Storms writes the third wave view that Deere supports whilst interacting with Cessationist, Cautious and Pentecostal views.

POSTSCRIPT
What frustrates me about books such as Deere's is not so much they desire to see God miraculously at work. I sympathise, and actually agree that God is miraculously at work in his church. What sadly seems absent in the desire to seek miracles is any emphasis on those works that strike me as most displaying God's power through the Holy Spirit.

1. The Spirit as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Galatians 3v14) to bring the presence of God to dwell with sinners because of Jesus death.
2. The power of the Spirit to give boldness to speak about Jesus to the world that remains under God's judgement until they repent and believe in him(Luke 24v45-49, Acts 1v8).
3. The power of the Spirit to fight against the sin in my life (e.g. Galatians 5v16-17) which I need far more than any healing or miracles. In fairness to Deere he does address this a bit, but too often sin is viewed as something that hinders full-life rather than the terrible offense to God that it actually is.
4. The Spirit who inspired the Bible. Whilst I accept prophecy as ongoing in the church it pains me when we think it more likely that we'll hear God there than when God's Word is read and preached. The old word is still God speaking.

A theology of the Spirit that builds from here remains centred upon the gospel and can never get caught in excesses that distract from the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ultimately the Spirit must direct our attention to him, and if our vision is on him and hearing his word then we'll be on the right track!

Grace!

An achievement today, with Tim (CU Cell Coordinator)! We worked out the Reading University CU cell group programme for the summer term.

Following our rough pattern of Gospels (Term 1), New Testament Letters (Term 2), Old Testament (Term 3) we've studied Matthew 3-8 and Philippians this year, next we move to:

Jonah - God's Outrageous Grace: Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Ruth - God's Sovereign Grace: God's kindness includes sinners.

Week 1. Social / Evangelistic
Week 2. Jonah 1v1-16
Week 3. Jonah 1v17-3v4
Week 4. Jonah 3v5-10
Week 5. Jonah 4v1-11
Week 6. Social / Evangelistic
Week 7. Ruth 1
Week 8. Ruth 2
Week 9. Ruth 3
Week 10. Ruth 4

Keeping

Finished Philippians with the Reading Cell Leaders today. Notes now online at thebluefish.org.uk/cell. Many lessons in finding satisfaction in Jesus Christ alone, contentment in him rather than pursuing satisfaction in any number of alternative places.

"God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him"

Socrates, Descartes, Pascal, Newton and Einstein all have the same Myers-Briggs as me, so they say... comical! High company to keep, still there is more to genius than personality I suppose, and more to people than personality! (INTP).

Considering Pastoral Care with Reading's Cell Pastoral Care people, Tim & Rachel today. It was good to remember that people are created beings, not pastoral projects. As we looked through Jude we saw the danger of sin, which is destructive to people and terribly offensive to God.

Jude sets our vision to remember that sin and false teaching will come but to fight against it. Seeing that we should seek to keep ourselves in the faith, and keep others. And knowing above all that Jesus will keep us in him. In similar words 2 Peter makes many challenges to remember, remember and remember the truth about Jesus, so we'd grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.

And he keeps us to glorify himself! Keeping us satisfied in him to enjoy him and live for him. And his desire is to keep us in him, whoever we are - not to draw attention to us, but to himself! O, that my life would show how wonderful he is!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Personality Testing

So, all the Surrey CU bloggers are doing personality tests. So here's mine. At the end of the day I am who God made me which is more than my personality, and he's also changing me daily. A fair part of the result also rests on how consistently/honestly the survey questions are answered...

Advanced Big 30 Personality Test Results
Sociability ||||||||| 30%
Aggressiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 64%
Assertiveness |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 87%
Activity Level |||||||||||||||||| 60%
Excitement-Seeking |||||| 16%
Enthusiasm |||||||||||||||||||||||| 75%
Extroversion |||||||||||||||||| 55%
Trust |||||||||||| 32%
Morality ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 92%
Altruism ||||||||| 22%
Cooperation ||||||||| 29%
Modesty |||||||||||||||||| 57%
Sympathy |||||| 15%
Friendliness ||||||||||||||| 41%
Confidence |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 86%
Neatness ||||||||||||||||||||| 68%
Dutifulness ||||||||||||||||||||| 68%
Achievement ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 93%
Self-Discipline |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 84%
Cautiousness |||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 86%
Orderliness |||||||||||||||||||||||| 80%
Anxiety |||||| 13%
Volatility ||| 8%
Depression |||||| 18%
Self-Consciousness |||||||||||||||||| 52%
Impulsiveness |||||||||||||||||| 57%
Vulnerability ||||||||| 23%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||||||||| 72%
Imagination |||||||||||||||||| 51%
Artistic Interests ||||||||||||||||||||| 68%
Introspection ||||||||||||||||||||| 63%
Adventurousness ||||||||||||||||||||| 61%
Intellect ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 92%
Liberalism ||| 1%
Openmindedness |||||||||||||||||| 56%
Take Free Advanced Big 30 Personality Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

Myers-Briggs is basically about:
1. Energy - where you get it from, people (Extrovert) or self (Introvert)
2. Information Processing - facts (Sensing), or exploring possibilities (Intuition)
3. Decision Making - objective logic (Thinking), or experience and preferences (Feelings)
4. Organising Life - stable (Judging), or go with the flow (Perception),

From which I come out INTP. This is basically about preference rather than being absolute definition of who I am, and we can always go against our natural preference.

Who are you?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Shocking!

Just how shocking is the Gospel?
Should this really feel as provocative as it does? Reading this casts my mind back to my study of Jonah with Steve last month as we witnessed Jonah's outrage at God's grace to Nineveh... even as beneficiaries of the same grace how is that we begin to count ourselves better than others? Let us delight that God is gracious!

The message of Jesus death confounds proud minds, it runs against our sinful instincts and desire to justify ourselves for our every failing. How much we need to keep returning to God for grace! And how sufficient his mercy to those who do believe. The same message of the Cross that seems foolish to some is the greatest wisdom to those who are being saved. What is weakness to the proud is supreme power to the humbled.

How hard is it for us to just say sorry and stop making excuses? How hard to belive that we are recieved by God not on the basis of who we are or what we've done? How hard to believe that we are recieved by God, for him, on the basis of who he is and what he has done?

Start again.

Ozymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
(Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1892-1822)

Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. What will remain? The things of this world don't last forever, much like Shelley himself. A sobering reminder from a rather depressing dead relative. Yet there is hope beyond what he knew. Shelley, who declared The Necessity of Atheism missed the point. He raised his questions but did not listen to what God had already spoken.
If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?
If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future?
If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers?
If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?
If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has, filled with weaknesses?
If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them?
If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him?
If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable?
If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees?
If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him?
IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED?
If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest.
(The Necessity of Atheism, Percy Bysshe Shelley 1811/1813)

How true it is that God has frustrated the intelligence of the intelligent - God's great power and wisdom standing above and beyond man's. Empty religion and proud posturing and questions will come to nothing in the end. The message of the Cross of Christ thwarts even the greatest of minds.

How I would have liked to talk with my relative, to explore answers to his questions, to search God's self-revelation and find the one king who rules forever. The one who is gracious and just. The one who does speak and desires to know us. The one the human race seems largely intent on ignoring. The one in whom we truly can find joy, but on his terms not ours.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Film 2005 - It has got to get better than this....


1. The Village (why didn't we see it last year?)
2. Collateral (why didn't we see it last year?)
3. Code 46 (gattaca/lostintranslation-esque)
4. The Aviator (long but ok)
5. National Treasure (really not that good)
6. Oceans 12 (self-indulgent hollywood fluff)
7. Dodgeball (dumb and mildly fun)
8. Man on Fire (well films but average)
9. Flight of the Phoenix (didn't care if they survived)
10. ??

So then roughly 20% of the way into the year here's the best I've seen / been able to see thus far thanks to the wonderful selection our local cinemas fail to offer.... upcoming DVD releases and hopefully many better films will wipe much of this top 10 from memory by the end of the year... If more than the top 3 remain at the end of the year it'll be tragic.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Isn’t being good enough?

“But all my thoughts turned to death. I thought of Gwen’s body rotting away. I thought about what a nice person she was. So full of life & good will. If there is a heaven, Gwen would be there, giving makeovers and offering helpful advice… I thought that if I died today, what would happen to me, a hateful girl, a selfish girl, an adulteress, a liar…” (Justine, The Good Girl)

"I'm a good person. In most ways. But I'm beginning to think that being a good person in most ways doesn't count for anything very much, if you're a bad person in one way. Because most people are good people, aren't they? Most people want to help others, and if their work doesn't allow them to help others then they do it however they can - by manning the phones at the Samaritans once a month, or going on sponsored walks, or filling in standing orders. It's no good me telling you that I'm a doctor, because I'm only a doctor during weekdays. I’ve been sleeping with someone other than my husband outside working hours - I'm not so bad that I'd do it inside working hours - and at the moment, being a doctor can't make up for that, however many rectal boils I look at." (Katie Carr, p 48-49 How To Be Good, Nick Hornby, Penguin 2001)

When we ask questions about goodness and badness in our lives we’re immediately putting ourselves before someone who could answer them. We’re assuming that life counts for something. We assume some basis for goodness and badness. We play it by comparison, ranking ourselves against others. Faced with this issue Jesus says goodness is doing the works of God. And he says that God’s works for us are to believe in the one God sent to us . (John 6v27-29). Which is a way of Jesus saying – believe in him.

Perhaps we reply by saying we believe Jesus to be a good man, a good teacher. Jesus wont let us stop there. Jesus pulls us up on our assumptions about goodness, how can we call him good? Only God is good , he says. The water heats up – are we prepared to face the implications…
“At the end of the day I think I do more good than bad” (Stephen Delano, Changing Lanes)

The question remains – what must I do? Jesus confronts our standards of goodness. As one command after another is listed we claim compliance, but Jesus drives the knife deeper and eventually hits the heart. For some it is money, others power or love… somewhere along the line we prove ourselves self-obsessed rather than God-obsessed. And that’s a problem. Turns out we don’t really do the works of God after all.

As the man leaves Jesus speaks to the eye-witnesses. “How difficult it is to enter God’s kingdom!” And those famous words – “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom”. Which is another way of saying – it’s impossible. The crowd respond, “What hope is there?”

To focus on our actions misses the point. The heart of our problem is our self-obsession. The scales never balance in our favour. We’re simply not good. And right has her self-examination is, Justine is still wrong to think that the nice and the decent will inherit God’s kingdom.

Far from that, Jesus opens the door wide for the bad and the ugly. He directs our gaze from ourselves to himself. The only way to be good is via the only person who is good. Only a work of God can get any of us into God’s kingdom. That sort of trust is only going to come when we take an honest look at ourselves and our bankruptcy, and an honest look at Jesus – this man claiming to be from God, and to be God. The quest for goodness must be taken up with him.


See also: John 6v27-29; Mark 10:17-27