Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas To You All

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God's angel stood among them and God's glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, "Don't be afraid. I'm here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David's town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you're to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger."

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God's praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. "Let's get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us." They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they'd been told!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I wonder what Jesus thinks of...

I wonder what Jesus thinks of

Alcohol in 21st Century Britain
Penal Substitution
Modern worship songs
Modern Evangelical Christianity
The Media

Saturday, 19 December 2009

More Dreams

I have a lot of vivid dreams and have come to believe that this is one of the ways through which God speaks to me. Maybe it's because he knows that when I am awake I'm not very good at listening, so He has to speak to me when I'm asleep!

I had another really vivid dream last night, but it is not my dream I want to share with you but my bro's dream. He rang me this morning and shared it with me. Thought I would share it with you. It may mean absolutely nothing, or it may have some kind of meaning. Tom is an atheist, but wants to believe that God exists. Perhaps dreams are a means through which God will speak to him.
See what you think of the dream. I'd welcome people's interpretation of it if you think there is one.

Me and you (Joe) were in a hall or large building of some description. We were standing in there serving Holy Communion to Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. The communion wafers were cherry tomatoes and were in the shape of teaspoons.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Killing In The Name Of

So the campaign to get Rage Against The Machine to Christmas number 1 instead of X-Factor winner Joe is hotting up!

I think this is quite a fascinating story really, and interesting in terms of the song that has been chosen to disrupt the Christmas chart norm (Go here for more info if you've not yet heard about it).

Killing in the Name Of was released in 1992 and now looks pretty set to go to the top of the charts this Christmas. My take on the song is that it is against mindless war and against the establishment and those who seek to tell us how we should behave and what we should be doing. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that's how it comes across to me, especially the final part of the song! Maybe it is a sign of where some of society is right now and how it is feeling about politics, religion, and the media. Maybe people are fed up with being told how to behave and what to do? Maybe people's eyes are being opened to the prospect that they might be slaves to a system and they don't want to be anymore? Maybe people are looking for something else?

Or maybe it is simply that people are sick of X-Factor and want to do something about it.

Whatever the reasons, I like it. I think it shows that when people catch a common goal they'll get together to realise it. And whatever the reasons are for individuals buying Killing In The Name Of, I think it does in some way say to society that people are sick of the norm and don't want to be slaves to the system. Now I know that buying a song won't free us from that system, but we've got to start somewhere.

The thing is, if followers of Jesus where a bit more aware they might latch onto what is happening in our society. They might realise that people are unsatisfied, but that the 'establishment' is not going to provide the answers, that something different is needed, that Jesus' message needs to be spoken about and shown in new and radical ways outside of the establishment. Killing In The Name Of is a song that shouts out against the establishment.

I wonder when the Church will hear this section of societies voice?

Evangelical Spiel

Here you go Tom, some good evangelical spiel to keep us insane!!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Good Conversations

I really enjoy meeting and talking with people who are honest and straight talking. I think it gives people real integrity.

I don't like it when I'm talking to someone when I know that they are simply saying what they think I want to hear.

I don't like it when I'm with people and I say things I think they want to hear.

I like it when we can simply be honest about who we are with each other.

That's one of the reasons me and my bro Tom get on so well. We had a bite to eat together last night and it was good chatting, being honest with each other. It's always good.

I enjoy his company, and I enjoy listening to what he has to say. He has thought things through. He has read a lot. He knows what's going on in the world. We can have good conversation. We can laugh together.

I like that he will not let you spout off some evangelical spiel. He's heard it all before. And that's good for me. because it makes me think about what I believe. It makes me question the stuff I hear. It helps me believe what I believe because I believe it.

I think Christmas is all about honesty and integrity. I think it is about conventional understandings of God being blown out of the water. I think it is about challenging our notions and understandings of God, love and humanity and turning them upside down, causing us to think differently about them all.

I think that really is a good conversation worth having.

Friday, 11 December 2009

O Holy Night

I absolutely love this song. I think the words are beautiful and moving and sum up so beautifully the wonder, mystery and awe of Christmas. Thank God for Christmas.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Two things

I met with someone yesterday who I wanted some advice from in regard to my future.

We were chatting about church and he then told me a story about his uncle.

His uncle was a committed follower of Jesus who, when he was 18 years old, used to open air preach. He then got his girlfriend pregnant and the church they were both a part of threw them out. This was just before the second World War. He went to war and when he returned his faith had completely gone. The biggest reason for this being the way the church had treated him and his girlfriend.
Today this kind of reaction still happens where people in church speak condemnation and judgement over other Christians rather than speaking out love and grace.

S**t happens. The church needs to accept that.

Rather than tell people they've fallen into sin and bring judgement over them, we should be a community that seeks ways in which we can help bring healing, wholeness and love from the reality of our human experience.

What if the church had said to this uncle 'WOW! You're bringing new life into the world. How beautiful. Let's explore together how we can enable this child to best grow in the love and beauty of God and how as a couple you can discover the very best that God has for you.' I think just maybe the future may have been very different.


John Colwell, one of my lecturers from college (who is now Pastor of Budleigh Salterton Baptist Church) has written a book called 'Why Have You Forsaken Me?'

I'm looking forward to reading it. Should be out in a week or so.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Russel Brand and culture

I watched Russel Brand 'Skinned' last night on Channel 4.

Found him and it very interesting. He's obviously a clever guy with a good grasp of phraseology and words. He spoke about how he likes to shock people to give them a new thought or angle on a particular subject rather than being a comedian that simply reinforces already held beliefs...

I don't think he actually does that. He is completely a product of his fame culture and the British culture and doesn't actually share new insights into the culture we live but equally reinforces already held beliefs like most other celebrities, politicians and media people. He simply articulates it in a more nuanced and thoughtful way.

I think fame is quite simply the unattainable desire to make love to your own reflection, and Russel Brand is a product of that desire like 99% of all famous people. I think he speaks well and I quite like what I see of him on TV, but he cannot claim that he is approaching culture and topical issues from a new angle.

I think the reality is that I'm not sure I'm really hearing anywhere a new approach to the issues of our culture. Maybe I'm not listening enough. I hear whispers maybe. Can anyone show me the prophets who are digging holes through walls?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Essence of Christianity

Sam tagged me with: "To list an artwork, drama, piece of music, novel, and poem that you think each express something of the essence of Christianity and for each one explain why. Then tag five other people."

Artwork - Hospitality of Abraham by Andrei Rublev.
A painting that explores the very nature of God as triune and his desire to invite us to 'share in the divine nature'.

Drama - The Dark Knight
Dark to light, chaos to order, numbness to grief, despair to hope.

Music - Under Pressure by Queen
It is a song that challenges us to love and our understanding of love. I think this is at the heart of the Gospel.

Novel - The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
A book about mission, pain, redemption, love and grace. Some of it's understanding of God is suspect, but then that is true for every one of us.

Poem - The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
I know this may seem an odd one because their seems to be no redemption. But the more I read it the more I see the reality of the human condition that Scripture is not scared to speak about.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Liberty Trust

I've been looking further into cooperative economics and came across the Liberty Trust. They are a charity that has helped over 200 households get free from the banking system by offering interest free loans and therefore enabling people to become debt free far quicker. Once people are free from the banking system and then debt free, they can use their money to help those who are in need and poverty. They only operate in New Zealand at the moment.

Click here to go to their website and read more on what they do.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

What a load of crap

'The savage text is not the Bible. It is what Christians have made of the Bible when they use its pages to endorse cruelty, hatred, murder, oppression and condemnation, often of other Christians. The savage text is what the Bible, or parts of it, becomes when it enables Christians to convert the good news of God's revealed love in Jesus Christ into the bad news that people are the wrong colour, or race, or gender, or denomination, or orientation, or religion, or class, or empire, just because they differ from the Christians who are preaching the bad news....When the Bible becomes a savage text, the theology that is proclaimed is already faulty. The savage text makes hated holy.' Adrian Thatcher 'The Savage Text' p 4-5

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I wonder...

I wonder if there is the need for the UK church to consider what the Gospel is really all about?

I wonder if it is not that we need to learn new ways of saying the same thing?

I wonder if we have been saying the wrong thing?

I wonder if people are actually very spiritual?

I wonder if when we peel back all the layers of church movements (emergent, emerging, new frontiers, vineyard, purpose driven, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Free Church, etc etc etc) that all they are really concerned about is whether people go to heaven or hell when they die?

I wonder if this is actually a betrayal of the Gospel?

I wonder if the Gospel has been so misunderstood that we don't know how to understand it properly anymore (now that is a really post-modern statement!)?

I wonder if Jesus saw things so differently?

I wonder...

I believe that God is at work in the UK.

I believe the Gospel is the power for salvation.

I believe God is so loving and so gracious that we always have hope.

I believe the UK church will radically change over the next 20 years. Some will be good and some will be bad.

I believe that Jesus is our bright Morning Star.

I believe...