Thursday, July 30, 2009

What hast thou done...?

This is something I read in Simon Guillebaud’s book ‘For What It’s Worth’...that a year or two ago awoke me to the seriousness of our task on earth –the task of being Christ’s ambassadors, proclaiming the message of reconciliation, the Gospel.

You can read a little more about her here or here.

I have her autobiography to read eventually. You can borrow it if you so wish. Drop me a line...
So, this is the vision she had, and wrote down in the following description, which is quite hard hitting, so be warned... :

The tom toms thumped on all night, and the darkness shuddered around me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, and it seemed like this:

I stood on a grassy sward [meadow], and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. I drew back, dizzy at the depth. Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call. Though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of Hell.

Then I saw, like the pictures of peace, a group of people under some trees, their backs turned to the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes, when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it rather a vulgar noise. And if one of their members started up and wanted to go do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite ‘call’ to go. You haven’t finished your daisy chains. It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get some more sentries out; but they found very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles at the edge.

One girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and the other relatives called, and reminded her furlong was due; she must not break the ‘rules’. And, being tired and needed a change, had to go and rest awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap; and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

One a child caught a tuft of grass that grew on the very brink of the cliff; the child clung convulsively, and it called but nobody seemed to hear. And the little girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little cry, sprang up and wanted to go; at which her relatives reproved her, reminding her no one is necessary anywhere – the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was – the Cry of the Blood.

Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord. And he thundered, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth out to me from the ground.”

The tom toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shivered and shuddered around me; I heard the yell of the devil-dancers and the weird wild shrieks of the demon-possessed just outside the gate.

Amy Carmichael

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Piper on Twitter...

Found this a week or so back, John Piper, of all people, is now on Twitter. I find this quite amusing! Amusing enough to warrent a short blog post that is...

I can't just imagine him doing it...then again, they are pretty serious ones!

Check it out:

Monday, July 6, 2009

The grass withers, the flower fades...

...but the Word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40:8

Saw today in the "Weird & Wonderful" section of the BBC News website, that "about 800 pages of the earliest surviving Christian Bible have been recovered and put on the internet", under the headline "Historic Bible pages put online".

Now, initially, I was just going to point this out to readers just for something interesting. However, I spotted a link named "What is missing from the Codex Sinaiticus?" by a guy named Roger Bolton. Written in 2008. He writes this:

"For those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, there will be some very uncomfortable questions to answer. It shows there have been thousands of alterations to today's bible."

The Codex, probably the oldest Bible we have, also has books which are missing from the Authorised Version that most Christians are familiar with today - and it does not have crucial verses relating to the Resurrection"

This has led me on a little late night journey investigating the views and responses. I will not hide what I read has made me think.

I then though maybe I wouldn't blog upon this topic any more!

However, upon reflection, (and as WLC mentions later in the blog post) I know from my personal experience Jesus Christ is living, and the Holy Spirt lives within me. I followed this through, looking for answers. As Michael Ots said in our Events Week (2009) recently, he/we/I have no desire to believe and follow something that is not true. I am -and was sure that there was more to it than this. I couldn't turn a blind eye and write them off as rubbish. I am ans was sure that what we read in the Bible is true. That Jesus rose from the dead, and the glorious rest of it.

So, here is my brief search to find out if there is any truth in Bolton's claims. Many of my thoughts as this has taken place have now escaped me, for it is hard to put momentary thoughts down here fast enough. So give me credit for any jumps in reasoning, questioning, or whatever. Remember that thinking in the moment is easier and more extensive than I am able to convey here over an hour later. So here goes...

Firstly in response to Bolton's claims that "the Codex - and other early manuscripts - omit[s] some mentions of ascension of Jesus into heaven, and key references to the Resurrection". I opened up and went to the end of Luke. Just because I like Luke, and it seemed a good place to start.

Luke 24:1-9 -according to the Codex Sinaiticus, says thus:

24:1 But on the first of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher, bringing the spices that they had prepared.

2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher;

3 but entering, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus.

4 And it came to pass as they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in bright clothing

5 and the women being afraid and bowing their faces to the earth the angels said to them: Why see among the dead for him that lives?

6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee,

7 saying of the Son of man that he must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and rise on the third day

8 And they remembered his words,

9 and returned from the sepulcher and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Ressurection? It seems the Codex Sinaiticus would agree... (notably pretty similar the Bible I have in front of me, if you'll excuse the changing of the word 'sepulcher'...) If it was not 12:47 then I would continue to find more references (I am now tempted to go find another...yes 2 Corinthians 5:21, and all the wonderful rest of it either side, is there! Haha! Christ is Lord! He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God! See left picture to prove it!)

There are more questions Proffeser Erhman raises (who is cited by Bolton), which do indeed need answering, relating to why anti-sematic books such as the Epistle of Barnabas is found collated alongside the rest (which initially makes me think how by the time it was produced, more such 'Epistles' could well have been written. But see the later point* for more on the) but my next step was looking up a bit about who Bart Ehrman is (Via his Wikipedia page!), and found there a debate transcript between William Lane Craig. And here I find that I can rest assured there are answers to Bolton/Erhman's comments.

As mentioned earlier, Craig speaks:

"As a result of my studies, I became even more convinced of the historical credibility of that event. Of course, ever since my conversion, I believed in the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of my personal experience, and I still think this experiential approach to the resurrection is a perfectly valid way to knowing that Christ has risen. It’s the way that most Christians today know that Jesus is risen and alive. But as a result of my studies, I came to see that a remarkably good case can be made for Jesus’ resurrection historically as well"

This quote fills me with confidence, it rings so true of the thoughts in my head and heart.

And reading on, he says this about Erhman and his arguments:

"I was stunned to discover that the philosophical argument he gives for this claim is an old argument against the identification of miracles which I had studied during my doctoral research and which is regarded by most philosophers today as demonstrably fallacious. So as not to steal Dr. Ehrman’s thunder, I’ll wait until he’s presented his argument before I show where the fallacy lies."

I look forward to reading the rest of the debate. As I skim through, I see that again Erhman has some good points. Though some pretty shocking ones too. I encourage you to have a read to.

*On second read, while Bolton does argue that this is a big problem for us, see this quote from him later on in the article:

"But the picture is complicated. Some argue that another early Bible, the Codex Vaticanus, is in fact older. And there are other earlier texts of almost all the books in the bible, though none pulled together into a single volume."

This is not exactly 'the oldest manuscript' but the 'largest AND oldest' manuscript. Not exactly what he made out at the start -"probably the oldest Bible we have". There are older copies, just not all together as this seems to be. This is not therefore, the 'be-all and end-all' as it is made out to be.

So, after this search, I -and hopefully you- have increased in my confidence in Hebrews 4:12, that the word of God is living and active, it is trustworthy, and we can pray with confidence, as I feel compelled to now...

Thank you Father, that you loved us so much that you gave your Son, so that we might be reconciled to you. Thank you that You live -you came and died and rose again- and that I can be so sure of that, through the Bible and your Holy Spirit. Thank you... :D

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die...

“The ultimate answer to the question, Who crucified Jesus? is: God did.”

Whilst browsing the internet when I should be in bed, I discovered a great opportunity for you (few) readers...

Instead of browsing Facebook for an hour a day, you can now download for FREE John Piper's short(ish) book on 50 reasons why Jesus came to die. Why not read one each day for the next 50 days?!

That sounds like a good idea for a blog...check back sometime soon to see if I've been able to follow through this idea I have as I write which is not et fully thought through....

Anyway! Head here to download this great resource to feast on the truth of the Cross.
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Colossians 2:13-15 example that really stirs me to realise the awesomeness of the cross -not a defeat, but a victory! Death has lost its sting! We are now more than conquerors! He has triumphed over sin in the cross....

"The death of Jesus is of foremost importance for the world. And the central issue of Jesus’ death is not the cause, but the meaning—God’s meaning.

In this book, revised and updated from the previously published The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper has gathered from the New Testament fifty reasons behind the crucifixion of the Christ. Not fifty causes, but fifty purposes—in answer to the most important question facing us in the twenty-first century: Why did Jesus suffer and die? "

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Response to IK...

Ian! Great to hear from you...

A few initial thoughts that pop into my head as I read:

Firstly: This is no prosperity gospel!!! I can assure you of that. The same man who wrote the above blog also preached this:

(or if the video is not working, which it isn't at the moment)

...which is pretty hard hitting, but makes it very clear John Piper does not preach a prosperity Gospel!

I see your point though, but if you read my earlier blog, which this post is a response to, my initial direction was that we should not be pre-occupied with the blessing/reward. I highlighted a bit of the above writings of JP which said it much better than I did! I think if our sole motivation is the reward, then we should start worrying...but I’m sure this is not what JP is saying, and neither I.

As Lewis (see earlier post which inspired these last few blogs) also writes, God is to be obey on the basis of simply who He is. He goes onto say how:

“God is such that if (per impossibile) his power could vanish and His other attributes remain, so that the supreme right were forever robbed of the supreme might, we should still owe Him precisely the same kind and degree of allegiance as we do right now”
Pg 185, Surprised by Joy
C.S. Lewis

So (not wanting to get too caught up in Lewis’ quote) what comes first in all this is God’s glory.
It is not a case of needing/wanting to be happy and stumbling upon that in Christianity. We are however, built to be happy, and as Piper says, “obeying God is the only route to final and lasting happiness”. Piper writes more extensively in his well-known and read book ‘Desiring God’ that “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. I strongly encourage you Ian (and everyone else!) to get hold of a copy of this book and have a read.

In fact, I have a spare copy, and will give it to someone who promises to read it! But yes, our purpose in life is not to be happy and have great comfort –that’s not the picture we get from the Bible, or indeed the verse I’ve put below! I was also blogging about Hebrews (the book) a few weeks back, and especially Chapter 11, where these great examples of the faith “did not receive what had been promised”.
One other thought:

40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Acts 5:40-42

Nothing much to say, it just popped into my head!

I’m not sure if I’ve answered any of your points, or put my thoughts across well, but what I would strongly suggest is to put the blog from Piper needs to be taken in context, and read his book ‘Desiring God’. It’s probably worth noting he’s no crazy American randomer with some controversial thing to say, but a man searching after God with his whole heart, committed to Biblical truth, and has a reputation for being ‘solid’!

Ps. I hope you don't mind me making a post out of this! It just seemed easier... :) Let me know your thoughts.

Also check out Will Eley's post for more on Idols and Satisfaction in God....

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Joy & John Piper...

This is in response to my earlier post, in which I seem to have waded too deep into the theology of Christian Hedonism without realising! But here is a good little post from John Piper about the subject, and arguing against the view that Joy/etc is not to be sought.

He says it much better and with a much clearer structure than I have. Basically, a part of what I was thinking is this > *

I would really like to see JP and CSL have a discussion about this.

I have put a few things I find interesting in Italics...

We Want You to Be a Christian Hedonist!
By John Piper August 31, 2006

What Is Christian Hedonism?
My shortest summary of Christian Hedonism is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.

By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.

The Difference Between Worldly and Christian Hedonism
Some people are inclined to believe that Christians are supposed to seek God’s will as opposed to pursuing their own pleasure. But what makes Biblical morality different than worldly hedonism is not that Biblical morality is disinterested and duty-driven, *but that it is interested in vastly greater and purer things. Christian Hedonism is Biblical morality because it recognizes that obeying God is the only route to final and lasting happiness*. Here are some examples of this from the Bible:

Luke 6:35 says, "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great." It is clear when Jesus says “expect nothing in return” that we should not be motivated by worldly aggrandizement, but we are given strength to suffer loss by the promise of a future reward.

Again, in Luke 14:12-14: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor . . . and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." That is, don't do good deeds for worldly advantage; rather, do them for spiritual, heavenly benefits.

Should Duty Be Our Main Motivation?
But some will say, "No, no. These texts only describe what reward will result if you act disinterestedly. They do not teach us to actually seek the reward."

Two answers to this objection:

1) It would be foolish to say, "If you take this pill, I’ll give you a nickel," if you expect the desire for the nickel to ruin the pill. But Jesus was not foolish. He would not offer blessing to those who obey him and then hold it against us if these blessings motivated our obedience.

2) Even more importantly, there are texts that not only commend that we do good in the hope of future blessing, but command it.

Luke 12:33 says, "Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail." The connection here between alms and having eternal treasure in heaven is not a chance result—it is the explicit purpose: "Make it your aim to have treasure in heaven, and the way to do this is to sell your possessions and give alms."

And again, Luke 16:9 says, "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal habitations." Luke does not say that the result of using possessions properly is to receive eternal habitations. He says, "Make it your aim to secure an eternal habitation by the way you use your possessions."

Therefore, a resounding NO to the belief that morality should be inspired more by duty than delight.

Don’t Be Too Easily Satisfied
Hebrews 11:6 teaches, "Without faith it is impossible to please [God]. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” You cannot please God if you do not come to him looking for reward. Therefore, faith that pleases God is the hedonistic pursuit of God.

As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. It is never a problem to want to be satisfied. The problem is being satisfied too easily. We believe that everyone who longs for satisfaction should no longer seek it from money or power or lust, but should come glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35); that they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Philippians 3:8); that the aim of all of Jesus' commandments is that their joy be full (John 15:11); that if they delight themselves in the Lord he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4); that there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6); and that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

We will not try to motivate anyone with appeals to mere duty. We will tell them that in God’s presence is full and lasting joy (Psalm 16:11) and our only duty is to come to him, seeking this pleasure.

(Adapted from John Piper’s article, Christian Hedonism: Forgive the Label, but Don't Miss the Truth.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Surprised By Joy...

What I picked up for some light reading has in fact turned out to be something far deeper and thoughtful than your everyday testimony. In this autobiography, Lewis talks you through his early life and later his philospoical thoughts in his typically clear and descriptive way, leading to the point where:

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."
Surprised By Joy

It is not hard to see from his account of his life in the early chapters, how Lewis was able to have such a clear grasp of Philosophy/Theology to come to this point, and reading this book makes me mourn the lost of the culture Lewis grew up in, when reading books -in particular what we ignorantly now call 'the classics' without any idea what they are (I speak for non-English Lit students!)-, learning Greek and Latin, reading and knowing Plato, Homer and a whole trail of ancient writers, not only in English, but the original, as Lewis did with the 'Great Knock' around chapter 9. Surely we have lost a great deal in this day and age with such learning replaced with Gameboys and televisions.

The main theme, or to be more accurate -'thread'- throughout the book is his 'experience' and search -that is "enjoyment" & "contemplation" (Pg 174)- of 'Joy'. Instead of reviewing it any further though -you may aswell go and buy it on the cheap from Amazon or somewhere like I did. Instead there a few things I wish to comment upon after reading this and having my mindset turning...

One relates closely to what Lewis' purpose is in writing this: Joy, and how it is found.Lewis throughout the story (please do read it for yourselves to fully understand what he means by 'Joy') discovers that:

"Only when your whole attention and desire are fixed on something else -whether a distant mountain, or the past, or the gods of Asgard -does this 'thrill' arise. It is a by-product. Its very existance presupposes that you desire not it but something other and outer"
Pg 136

Joy is a 'by-product' of seeking something else. It will not come if we seek the thing itself. We won't find it if is the very thing we pursue. When you are completely unaware or unconcerned by attaining it, focusing instead upon "something other and outer".

Now, again, Lewis describes the siginificance of this further in the book. But what strikes me about this point, this observation of pursuit of a thing, is that it seems (as far as I can tell, while also being aware of the over-simplicity of such analogies) that this is very similar to our own relationship with God and our experience of Him. We so often search for an 'experience' of God, going to church, praying and worshipping through music/singing, and want to 'feel' God's presence, or somehow 'experience' Him. I struggle to find the words to describe what we look for, but maybe you know know what I mean. This experience of God is not a bad thing -God in his gracious nature does give us this, gives us the Holy Spirit. I won't go into examples now, but again I'm sure you get my side-point. But in my own past, and through talking with and observing others, this is what happens. We want to get this feeling from interaction with God and church, and without realising this becomes our aim each week or even day, and when -unsurprisingly- we don't find it often, and increasingly less so, we find ourselves struggling with our faith. People I have recently talked this through with seriously doubt their faith, and worry they have completely backslidden. There are of course many reasons and other helpful advice that comes with this, but Lewis gives us a extremely helpful insight into how we can avoid this -one I myself have unconciously taken at some point in my last four years of seriously persuing God.

The only ways we will 'experience' God are firstly- by God's grace, unconditional on our spiritual condition. Secondly, which comes from Lewis' observations, if we persue God himself, and not any experience of our own or benefit for ourselves.

"I have never seen how a preoccupation with that subject at the outset could fail to corrupt the whole thing. I have been brought up to believe that goodness was goodness only if it were disinterested, and that any hope of reward or fear of punishment contaminated the will"
Pg 185

Lewis laments the fact that so often a faith is shipwrecked by a preoccupation with a reward, namely that of Heaven, or 'experience'. If we want an 'experience' of God, then we shouldn't go looking for that, in the same way that Lewis writes we cannot find Joy if that is what we are seeking -it is merely a sign post to something better. We need to focus ourselves entirely on God's glory, not our pleasure. We need to worship Him in church not with the thought in our mind we might feel good if we do. We need to read our Bible cover to cover, not just looking for verses that talk about about experiencing God, looking to pursue holiness in all areas. If you are struggling with a lack of 'experience' of God, then leave this worry behind and seek to glorify Him more and more in your worship of Him, and don't worry about yourself. He will take of that.

It's kind of like this...

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
Matthew 6:33

Jesus says it best as always. If we seek Him first, His glory, His way in our life without regard for ourselves, then He of course will pour out blessings upon us. If we want closeness with Him, we must seek Him entirely, not anything for ourselves. We know that He is gracious, so surely we can do this with confidence!

Thats what the Bible does tell us, God is gracious, longing to bless us and to gloryfy himself, and point to and admire our great Heavenly Father.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

Got Questions...?

I like questions... And this is a quality site that I hope to spend more time exploring, which is about questions. It has Biblical answers to pretty much everything I can think of, and I'm pretty sure having checkout their Statement of Faith/DB etc, they are 'sound'. Good times. They offer an impartial explanation (where necessary) and then maybe give what they think, sometimes. But generally, it is a really helpful resource, so go enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Power of Forgiveness...

This is something we can often forget as we get so caught up in confidence in the Word of God, apologetics, theological strength of the Bible and so on. This is all good and helpful and so on. But forgiveness is something so powerful that totally goes against what the world has to say about how we respond to others hurting us, sinning against us, whatever. All sorts of things that the world shouts ‘Revenge!’ at us. Part of that comes from our sense of Justice which CS Lewis so clearly argues in the opening chapters of ‘Mere Christianity’ comes from God. But our deceptive hearts (Mark 7:21-23, Jeremiah 17:9) twist that to jealousy, revenge and back biting, amongst other such unsavoury things we are all so often capable of. But we see Jesus forgiving left right and centre. Brother Andrew makes it his priority to offer forgiveness to the Muslims he reaches out to. See this talk at least from Forum 2007, and just read all his great books! It’s so powerful! It messes with people’s minds...we ask for their forgiveness! Listen to this talk from Dr Richard Winter.

The gospels are littered full of parables and Jesus’ teachings on this. I will myself listen to these talks again and come back with a more biblical blog post. And I’ll read through all of the gospels to find the aforementioned parables and teachings from Jesus. But recently talking through with different friends, I realise again just how powerful it is. I struggle to communicate what I mean again trying to repeat words said last Saturday. They aren’t really coming! Ask me in person if you would like to discuss it and get excited about the Gospel together.

But what other religion offers such love and unconditional forgiveness? Can you think of one that compares to what we freely receive? So many arguments and disputs could so easily solved by us putting aside our pride, and apologising for our part –however small- and asking forgiveness. Our pride so often gets in the way. Think of all the films or cartoons that the whole story is based upon two estranged people that both think the other is to blame, and should be the first to apologise. The film ends when, by whatever the plot is, the one of them having the guts to say sorry –probably after some near death incident- which then immediately results in the other stumbling over themselves to take not just thier part of the blame, but often all of it!

Imagine the goes me attempt at writing out the one in my mind:

Chap 1: Look, all this, really all my fault. I should’ve ........... I was really .........
Chap 2: No no, it was really my fault. I shouldn’t have ............... If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t have ............. . I was out of order.
Chap 1: But you wouldn’t have had to if only I had .......... I’m very sorry for my actions.
Chap 2: No, I’m the one who should be sorry..... etc!

These two are very polite in their delivery, but can you picture us in our lives living this out?
Asking forgiveness, motivated by the forgiveness we have received and a desire to reconcile (I love that word. I might have to even write a blog on it!), even when it is not deserved, will convict the other of their own need. It heals us and the hurt inside us.

And Reading University Campus needs to hear about this forgiveness. We all secretly long for it:

“I wonder what I’d do, if I could wake up every morning, with a clean slate.”
Keane, ‘Pretend That You’re Alone’, Perfect Symmetry

Well, you know what? You can. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die in our sins, and gives us new life having broken the chains of sin, making us slaves of righteousness -and then, not slaves, but as Jesus said, 'friends', even 'brothers' (John 15:15, and somewhere else I'm not sure of...)

Yes theology is great. Yes apologetics works. But at Reading, I feel people here don’t all (many do, which we welcome very much so!) care about the historicity of the Gospel of Mark. They care about love, security, acceptance, exam stress, sex, relationships, freedom, peace... forgiveness. They don’t always realise this, but that’s what people here think about, and they are questions we all have. Most people aren't philosophers, and if we are reaching the whole of campus, we need to engage with the questions that people secretly have. The reasons they drink their loans away, sleep around, get consumed by a social group of club that has no real value, pursue acceptance and glory in sports teams, so many things which are in themselves great things -sports, drinks, money, relationships, sex, friendship, lock picking. But when they get into our sinful hands....we make idols of them (See Will Eley's 'Idol Chatter'). We need to show that we have those questions too, but a different answer to them....Jesus’ blood. Grace. Forgiveness.

More on that when I get hold of the NWA 09 seminar talks...I will return to this issue with Biblical ammunition...but don’t hold your breath! Go listen and read for yourself, and unleash the power of forgiveness to the people around your and mend broken relationships. Do it now. The blog won't have been updated and will still be here when you get back...

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Few Reflections of a Few Verses...

(Originally written at the same time as the Reflections on Hebrews post)

Now I think of writing this, the list of verses that I sincerely love keep popping into mind. We’ll see how far I get...

Again, I don’t intend to attempt any amazing exposition of these, but read them and digest them for yourself and hopefully be challenged and encouraged. I don’t know if you find this, but its really hard to explain things that have struck you, encouraged you, or depressed you after the moment has passed. And as that is what I’m pretty much expecting to do, you shouldn’t expect much commentary!

[The first one I have removed, as I noticed a trend in some of them, and thus affording them a whole blog post to themselves!]

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Romans 3:23-24

There is more to be delved into either side, but studying this in a committee meeting last week, I was struck with the very simple fact that v24 comes after v23. Let me explain: I know v23 off by heart. It’s quoted so often in our ‘gospel presentations’, becoming a buzz phrase for the condition of this world, of which is truly a very accurate description of all of us. We have all sinned, and in doing so fallen short of God and His great and immeasurable glory.

But, I have never before noticed that immediately after this crushing verdict, comes v24: “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. No questions. In the same sentence, as if a great beam of light has shone into the verse, God has rescued us by his Grace! I have so often quoted v23 with a downcast heart –which yes, is entirely appropriate because it is so true- without realising in the same sentence we are told of the awesome, yes ‘awesome’ free gift of Grace that is given without question. Do you get my drift? This is where one is again reminded of the ‘better hope’, of wave upon wave of Grace over us, summed up in Romans 5:6 and especially Ephesians 2:4-7. I hope you understand....


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Pro 27:17

Because it’s good to talk, challenge, and talk about Grace and it’s victories in our lives...


13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him/the cross (NIV).

Colossians 2:13-15

I love how what seems like such a defeat for Jesus, and triumph for evil, in fact...the greatest victory ever! I once saw a friend of mine who was into heavy metal music quote a song lyric on his MSN name thing. Something like: “your washed up religion is broken and dead” –in reference to the cross and Jesus death. But no! He has triumphed over them. God has defeated death once and for all.

I have nothing more to add but sheer awe at the comprehension of the Cross this verse brings, the angle it takes. I hope it moves you too...


As anyone on my RUCU Events Team or the old RUCU Events Week Planning Team will know, I love 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2. Maybe I will, at another time, ‘expound’ these verses, as I love it so much as to write a blog on it! Now you know you’ve made it when I get round to writing a blog about you/something! Anyway, recently, v15 has really struck me:

15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
2 Corinthians 5:15

We, who live because of what Christ has done, do and should not live for ourselves –I am not to live for myself and my own desires, whims, whatever- but for Him who died for me. I am so convicted of that line in the hymn, ‘When I Survey’ which I love singing so much: ‘Demands my soul, my life, my all...” which, in light of the great and fantastic and awesome thing Christ has done (see Colossians comments above!), demands my whole life to follow him, in the footsteps of Christ and those listed in Hebrews 11 (see previous blog post). Wow. God doesn’t just require our obedience, he deserves it. So that’s what struck me lately.


A similar list to the one in Hebrews that is an inspiring list, can be found in 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, straight after the section just commented on. I decided to keep reading for once...and found the example of Paul so challenging:

3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honour and dishonour, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
2 Corinthians 6:3-13

Fussing about exams pales into comparison after reading what Paul has gone through. In each of these circumstances, it is a given that God is the same. I read this and know what Paul means in Philippians:

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 3:10-13

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

'Never Went To Church'...

A song by 'band' The Streets, which intrigues me. What is Mike Skinner, the writer getting at? What would I say to him if I met him after listening to this song? More to the purpose of this blog, what would YOU say...?

Is this song an encouragement or a sad reflection of so many hearts missing out on the fountain of life, which will never leave them thirsty?

Never Went To Church

Two great European narcotics,
Alcohol and Christianity,
I know which one I prefer

We never went to church,
Just get on with work and sometimes things'll hurt,
But it's hit me since you left us,
And it's so hard not to search.

If you were still about,
I'd ask you what I'm supposed to do now,
I just get a bit scared,
Every now,
Hope I made you proud.

On your birthday when mum passed the forks and spoons,
I put my head on the table I was so distraught with you,
You tidied your things into the bin,
The more poorly you grew,
So there's nothing of yours to hold or to talk to.

You put your hand up and interrupt the conversation with a, but...
People say I interrupt people with the same look.
Sometimes I think so hard I can't remember how your face looked,
Started reading about dreams in your favourite book.
I panic and pace when I can't see the right thing to do.
You'd be scratching your head through the best advice you knew.
And I feel sad I can't hear you reciting it through,
I miss you dad, but I've got nothing to remind me of you

We never went to church,
Just get on with work and sometimes things'll hurt,
But it's hit me since you left us,
And it's so hard not to search.

I needed a break when your book about dreams was taken,
I needed to pray or see a priest that day,
I needed to leave this trade and just heave it away,
But I cleaned up my place like you so I could see things straight.

I never cared about God when life was sailin' in the calm,
So I said I'd get my head down and I'd deal with the ache in my heart,
And for that if God exists I'd reckon he'd pay me regard,
Mum says me and you are the same from the start.

I guess then you did leave me something to remind me of you,
Everytime I interrupt someone like you used to,
When I do something like you you'll be on my mind or through,
'Cause I forgot you left me behind to remind me of you.

Chorus x 2
We never went to church,
Just get on with work and sometimes things'll hurt,
But it's hit me since you left us,
And it's so hard not to search.

But you used to tell me how you didn't know what to do even now,
And then I'm not so scared somehow,
'Cause I know that you'd be proud.

I got a good one for you dad,
I'm gonna see a priest, a Rabbi and a Protestant clergyman,
You always said I should hedge my bets.

Are we praying for these people that have such huge influence on our nation? For Mike Skinner, for Chris Martin, for Gordon Brown, for David Cameron, for David Beckham, for Jonathan Ross, for Chris Moyles, for Simon Cowell, for Britney Spears, for Prince Charles, for Jason Mraz, Brad for Pitt, for Barak Obama, for Robbie Williams, for Andrew Marr, for Osama Bin Laden, for Mark Zukerberg (creator of Facebook), for Cristiano Ronaldo even?

These guys have such influence in our nation and the world -what if they became Christians living all out for Jesus? God is certainly capable of it.

We've been studying Jonah in RUCU Small Group these last four weeks. Reading the list -only a very few people that could have been listed- we can feel they don't deserve Salvation. There are many more important people to pray for and more important to pursue. We looked at Chapter 4 last night, and the love that God has even for the Ninevites. Jonah gets angry when the good thing that God has given him, that he hasn't had any role in doing, it taken away. In Chapter 3 he gets so upset that God is gracious and merciful, he doesn't think they deserve it, and that only he and the Israelites do. Let us not fall into the trap of having the same attitude and Jonah in Chapter 3 and 4, let us expect that God will be gracious and merciful, not surprised like Jonah the drama queen...because He is mighty to save and He will do it...(be at RFC this weekend to sing a new song on this from our own JJ)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The extent to which I like the ESV...

When I quote the ESV, which is most often always in this blog, I feel it’s a real demonstration about how much I enjoy using it...

This is what it looks like coming from

2 Corinthians 6:3-13 (English Standard Version)

3We(A) put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but(B) as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:(C) by great endurance,(D) in afflictions,(E) hardships, calamities, 5(F) beatings, imprisonments,(G) riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6(H) by purity,(I) knowledge, patience, kindness,(J) the Holy Spirit,(K) genuine love; 7by(L) truthful speech, and(M) the power of God; with(N) the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor,(O) through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and(P) yet well known;(Q) as dying, and behold, we live;(R) as punished, and yet not killed; 10(S) as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;(T) as poor, yet making many rich;(U) as having nothing,(V) yet possessing everything.

11We have spoken freely to you,[a] Corinthians;(W) our heart is wide open. 12You are not restricted by us, but(X) you are restricted in your own affections. 13(Y) In return (I speak(Z) as to children) widen your hearts also.

And it takes a good 5 minutes of editing to present it in my perfectionistic way, like this:

3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honour and dishonour, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.
2 Corinthians 6:3-13

Note: The English spelling, the spaces between the verses and text, and the removal of the notes!

BUT: The ESV does make one annoying...well, it’s not an error as such, but it makes one of my favourite verses much less...'compelling' shall we say:

2 Corinthians 5:14...

ESV: 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

NIV: 14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

‘Compel’ is so much more helpful (in my humble opinion)! And I personally feel much more encouraged by that word used. ‘Control’ is almost robotic...A phrase I found myself using a few terms ago leading RUCU cell/small group, that I didn’t want us to be ‘robot Christians’ –devoid of emotion when we talk of Grace or Salvation or Forgiveness or the Truth of the Bible or the Supremacy of Christ or our being Compelled on by Christ’s great love for us...I don’t want to be a robot Christian. I hope and pray sometime soon I can wake up each morning ‘Compelled’ to glorify Christ. ‘Controlled’ is indeed correct yes, I am now a 'slave to righteousness'. It should be my mindset and my default setting, and that is fantastic that it is! But as I think I mentioned a few posts back Jesus demands our obedience yes indeed, but also deserves it, and we should act like he does. Compels, personally, makes me realise how Christ deserves such a response from us.

Now, hopefully a massive argument about the use of words will not kick off too much! Only helpful and edifying things to be commented! But I am aware of the need for accuracy, and I rejoice in the accuracy and honesty of the Bible, which the ESV delivers, as hopefully I’ve just really, I don't mind that much, and am pretty happy to accept that the less prefered translation might well be a more accurate translation of the Greek. But I still like the other...

I’m late for the prayer meeting (Originally written last Wednesday). Oh dear...see ya.

Hope (a better one)...

I was writing up some verses I’ve been challenged by lately, and found the theme of ‘a better hope’ kept coming up, so I have given them a post of their own together. I don’t pretend this is an exhaustive list of all the ‘hope’ bits in the Bible, as it is full of hope, hope being intrinsically linked to Grace I think maybe/somehow. But now upon realising how these have all come up at a time when I have been struggling with plans and ideas for my future, lacking in direction and learning to give up control of my life to God, what John Piper says in the Ruth talks from Forum 2008 seems to be true –Naomi had no hope, and it stopped her from seeing the great things God was doing in her life, and the great plans He had for her. So I must have confidence in the Hope we have in God to be able to “run with endurance the race that is set for us” (Hebrews 12:1). I don’t think that makes much sense, but basically, listen to those Ruth talks, and also Sean Green at RFC on 10/05/09 –another gracious encouragement from our God. And have hope in God too!

But here are a few scribbled thoughts on ‘hope’...

Hebrews 7:18-25...
18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

Heb 7:18-25

I love the phrase ‘a better hope’, which describes what 1 Peter 1:3-5 describes this way:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5

Hebrews 11:8-9

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.

Heb 11:8-9

Abraham knew not what God had in store for him, but set off into the desert anyway. How trusting is that. I must learn from Abraham, and not be worrying about what is ahead because I cannot yet see it... (since writing this, God has in fact begun to graciously reveal his plan!)

Hebrews 11:16

16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Heb 11:16

It is heaven we focus on, and hope for, not lusting after the temporary things of this life (I’m sure there is a verse saying that better somewhere. Let me know if you know it).

Hebrews 11:32-40

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these,
though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Heb 11:32-40

Wow. I don’t really know what to say, that is quite a list (yes, another list readers!). Paul has one which I might put in the accompanying ‘verse blog’.

These guys did not get what they were promised. Why do I get so upset when God doesn’t tell me what to do for the year when I graduate? All these things they endured for our God. To say ‘our’ makes me feel so inadequate! But again, “thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15) that means my deficiency doesn’t matter, and I can stand alongside these guys, those “of whom the world was not worthy” (v38). I should follow their example, fixing my eyes the better thing God has prepared for us.

[By now you probably can guess I’ve been going through Hebrews lately!]

I’ve just looked up in my concordance all the verses on hope in the Bible, and there are so many that I remember as I look, so here’s a list of some of them for you to look up in your own time:

Titus 3:4-7
Titus 2:13
1 Timothy 4:10
Colossians 1:27
Colossians 1:15
Ephesians 1:18
Galatians 5:5
2 Cor :1:10
1 Cor 13:13
Romans 8:24
Romans 5:4
Psalm 42:5
Psalm 39:7

So, have hope! Most of this, as I said earlier, is as I find myself unsure of the next step after University, and learning to trust God more and more in that. Just some thoughts, but not all of them (there are usually to many to record here in time before they are forgotten):

It strikes me also that Jesus didn’t just turn 21 and start preaching. He got a job, and worked with his hands. He was 30 by the time he started out changing the world. 30. Most of us young scaly-wags see life as essentially over by then. In fact, so do most people. Well, if Jesus is our example, then I look forward to turning 30! I look at people like Sean Green, who I admire and find a great example (for a human that is, and after Jesus!), didn’t just go straight into ministry, but got a job, lived, grew up (I begin to generalise, I don’t actually know much about his life before he planted RFC) and ‘walked with God’. I’m not saying there is a technique or pattern, I’m just rebuking myself, and hopefully anyone else out there young, head full of theology and ‘UCCF-ed’ up, thinking they are God’s gift to the church (I exaggerate, hopefully you get my point, and nobody takes that the wrong way!) that: 1) God has a plan. His own one. A perfect one. One that will work out best for us and for his glory. 2) He doesn’t work on our timescale. 3) We might just have to get our heads down and work. 4) God will come and get us when he’s good and ready. 5) something else wise and helpful. Can be found at your local church leader, not here!


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Africa Needs God...

Hello. I found this on another blog a few months back, I think, and I am often telling people to have a read, as it is quite an interesting and encouraging read. I'm not yet such an effective blogger to be able to discuss it here for you all, but here it is for your own reading, and comments below to discuss...

December 27, 2008
As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Times Are In Thy Hand...

This is a poem my grandpa once printed out for me, which he had by his bed. For years I've had it by mine, and only in the last two weeks has it gripped me as it has done. To really read this is a real challenge. One that has to be taken. Have a read...

My times are in Thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul I leave
Entirely to Thy care.

My times are in Thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.

My times are in Thy hand;
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.

My times are in Thy hand,
Jesus, the crucified!
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

My times are in Thy hand,
I’ll always trust in Thee;
And, after death, at Thy right hand
I shall forever be.

William Freeman Lloyd 1791-1853

To know my grandpa, and the life he had lived, and to know he could read this, gives me energy to keep on running this race, and to live this out... :)

Another 'List'....

Josh Loves:
Sigur Ros
Romans & Hebrews
Hope (a better one)
Finally coming up with an idea for a dissertation
Good piano
Good drums
Good conversation
Singing 'half-heartedly'
Friends that rattle my cage
Getting excited about grace with these friends
The poem posted about after this...
Turning the world upside down
The sunshine
Forgiving friends
Writing stuff like this instead of revision
His family. Every one of them
Talking about himself in the third person
Asking questions
Being asked questions
Being part of RUCU
Laughing while playing football
Formula 1
His duvet
Jesus' priorities
Going to see a band live for the second time
People like ##, ##, ##, ##, ##, ##, ##, ##, ##, ##
CS Lewis quotes
International students
When others love grace
Prison Break
Romans 3:23 being in the same sentence as 3:24
Sovereignty (God's)
Loyal Mates (AD & DR at home...)
Unquestionable love.
Did I say Grace?
Probably lots of other things too...

Answers on a postcard.

....Back to revision...

(Written 3pm 02/05/09)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I've seen those two somewhere before...

Could this be the two kids from the Cadbury's advert....?!

(Video found Via Bish's blog post, referencing Joshua Harris)

Not a bad quality video either. HD y'know. Hidden Depths.

(Written 08/04/09)

Back on Blogging Wagon/Books...

Hey all/you few out there. I got a bit bored of blogging. So I stopped. Now I'm trying again. This kind of feels like some kind of mechanical weekend DIY project, that is being slowly worked on in one's spare time: grand ideas and desgins, then hitting initial difficulties, interjected with occasional spurts of progress before everything breaking down again and a hitting brick wall. I probably don't have to explain, you hopefully get what I mean. I don't think I can describe what is goin on in my head as well as the great CS Lewis can, whose autobiography I recently picked up for some 'light reading'. That man is clever. We should read more books like he did in his youth, which I do not doubt result made him the writer he was. I have 'plans' to blog about my thoughts on it. In the mean time, read it for yourself (Surprised By Joy; CS Lewis). Not just Christian-y books, but anything and everything. I listened to a sermon by Jerry Root on him, and one of his points, and something which is often stressed in seminars and talks, is the importance of being 'normal' and getting alongside people, befriending them and sharing the answers we have found to our mutual questions in the person of Jesus Christ, which is what JR points to one of the factors in making Lewis such a good and successful Christian 'apologist'. We, I, need to do more 'normal' things, not dismiss my interests as timewasting, but use them and develop them so that I may be an interesting person and be able to connect with people personally, and not be shut in my Christian bubble, which I am still as I write this, reluctant to pop.

But I digress from the more mundane purpose of this blog post, aimed at getting back on the blogging wagon. Though now my digression highlights just how I am not exactly fulfilling what I've set out to do! I still am excited about it though, and hopefully it is step in the right direction.

Recently I was in Scotland where my grandparents live/lived -my Grandpa Keith William Murray Sinclair paassing away 22nd Dec 2007 (He has 'to be with Christ, which is far better' as his epitaph, which I would hope would be something as accuratey said of me as we can confidently look back on his life and who he was knowing he meant it)- and found that the many shelves of books that I had wondered what on earth were, turned out to be great books Christian books, many of which are/were on my increasingly long list to buy. In particular, one book I had just heard John Piper give a talk on -Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton- which I strongly recommend you have a listen to, I found on the shelf! What joy! Really, I was very happy indeed, as you might well be if you listen to the talk and like me conclude you MUST read his story for yourself.

So, I wanted to list today all the books I found, and have now been given/taken, as no-one else wants them amongst my cousins, and destined for obscurity now WKMS has 'gone to be with Christ...' and added to my own growing 'library'. So why not list them on here? You reading are welcome to borrow any of these. Except the John G. Paton one, I want to read that as soon as possible! Did I mention he came from the other side of the town where my grandparents live? Yes, yes he did! How cool is that...well, it is to me!

Recommend or warn me as you see fit...

Here goes:
Keeping In Step With The Spirit; JI Packer
The Abolition of Man; CS Lewis
Broadcast Talks (the orginal!); CS Lewis
Screwtape Proposes A Toast and Other Peices; CS Lewis INCLUDING 'THE WEIGHT OF GLORY SERMON'! Again, oh joy. I have been looking for this after so many people have hailed it as a great essay/sermon. Sorry, outburst over.... :)
Our Ultimate Refuge; Oswald Chambers
Abraham, Friend of God (or The Obedience of Faith); FB Meyer
God's Fool; George N. Paterson
Christian Counter-Culture; John Stott

A Commentary On Genesis; John Calvin
The Message of Acts; John Stott x2
The Message of Galatians; John Stott x2
The Message of 2 Timothy; John Stott
The Message of Romans; John Stott
The Message of Jeremiah; Derek Kinder
The Message of Daniel; Ronald S. Wallace
The Message of Hosea; Derek Kinder
The Message of Genesis 12-50; Joyce G. Baldwin
The Daily Study Bible: Deuteronomy; David F. Payne
The Daily Study Bible: Psalms, Vol. 1&2; GAF Knight
Tyndale OT Commentaries, Ezra & Nehemiah; Derek Kinder
Tyndale OT Commentaries, Judges & Ruth; AE Cundall & Leon Morris
Tyndale NT Commentaries, Romans; FF Bruce
Hebrews for Everyone; Tom Wright
1 Kings - 2 Chronicles; Howard Marshall
Philippians; Geoffrey B. Wilson
The Message; Eugene H. Peterson
Proverbs; Eugene H. Peterson

Moody Without Sankey; JC Pollock
The Journal of John Wesley; Moody Press
John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography
Sirs, Be Of Good Cheer; Mrs Howard Taylor
George Muller of Bristol; Dr AT Pierson
Jungle Pilot, The Life & Witness of Nate Saint; RT Hitt
Biography of James Hudson Taylor; Dr & Mrs Taylor
John Calvin; THL Parker

See you in 20 years when I've read the good ones...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some Questions Christians Are Scared Of...(Tom Price)

Here is some potentially good reading courtesy of Tom Price ( It pretty self explanatory! You might not be 'scared' all or any, but... 1 Peter 3:15 and all that. Keep checking his blog for the 'answers'...

John Newton & Grace

"I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world, but still I am not what I used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am."
-John Newton

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

JJ and the J's @ in the Marquee/FREE Week '09...

Josh. James. Joe. Jethro = Quality music, quality event.

(featuring Benny Maslin on backing vocals -back behind the camera that is!)

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Juno" Film Discussion...

So, my first event as Events Co-ordinator! We did a film discussion in Palmer, watched the whole film "Juno", which was surprisingly good and a fresh and interesting and funny film. I highly recommend it to anyone with any taste, and recommend Tony Watkins and generally doing a film discussion. The popcorn was really good too.

Here is a quick MSN conversation between myself and Josh John about it, which sums up in part the evening:

Joshy - essay time says:
how was film?
Josh says:
really good film. surprised how much i enjoyed it
Josh says:
good event

Joshy - essay time says:
fair amount of pps?
Josh says:
10+ non c's
Joshy - essay time says:
thats good
Josh says:
at least 4 deep convos at the end
Josh says:
a few off posters and flyers
Joshy - essay time says:
Josh says:
good amount of cu people, dan and elli came on their own, and that worked really well, to make up numbers and talk to people who came on their one
Josh says:
the really tall girl from mojos came
Joshy - essay time says:
i know who you're talkin bout :)
Josh says:
and said the CU wasnt what she expected, and found us welcoming nice, friendly etc, not pushy
Josh says:
good times! just what i was going for
Joshy - essay time says:
thats amazing!
Josh says:
deeks was quality too
Joshy - essay time says:
Joshy - essay time says:
Josh says:
took me to shops, then stayed to help set up, then put himself of welcome and was really good at it!
Josh says:
cos he treats all the same, regardless of cu etc, and makes people feel welcome
Joshy - essay time says:
he is an absolute legend!

Another cool thing was that next door, the new RUSU TV station was filming a quiz, and we got be be a good witness to them , but agreeing to move rooms just before we started, so as not to interrupt their recording process because of being able to hear other rooms in Palmer. And, made some friends there, so maybe we can get them in on some events! Pray about this...

And there you have it! A great event, my first as Events Co-ordinator. Though I didn't really have to do much, thanks to Tony Watkins, Rachel P, Sonia A and Chris D. God seems to be doing cool stuff here in in people, and a few minor setbacks were easily overcome. I would write more, but short and sweet is probably better. You get the idea- answered prayer, a well attended event, people closer on their way to hearing and accepting the gospel, and misconceptions about the CU destroyed. Praise the Lord!

Hopefully more where this came from soon, Tony is really up for doing more which is great. Laters guys...

Ps Check out!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Blogging attempt 2...and a memory of FREE Week...

Currently Reading: Desiring God/John Piper; The Busy Christian's Guide To Busyness/Tim Chester

Currently Listening to: ()/Sigur Ros; In the Name of Love, Various Artists


Hello once again...sometime in the future i'll get round to summarising RUCU's FREE Week and the amazing-ness of God before, throughout, and after. I couldnt say which rates highest really, or which to emphasis more. In was, and continues to be good.

Just downloaded an amazing little application I orginally heard about from John Young, a fresher at Reading, and then Jethro Atherall, a good friend and fellow RUCU second year. It's called 'Spotify', and with it you can stream ANY song live, and best of all, its LEGAL! I may never have to buy music again...this thing was made for Christian students I'm sure.

That reminds me of a great quote Tom Riches told us at an RFC men's breakfast a while back, that we "are not students who happen to be Christians, but Christians who happen to be students" which he got off someone a few years before.

Via Spotify stubbled across a great album a teammate of mine in India had -an album of U2 covers by American (it think, mostly) Christian bands, including a Delirious?/Tree63 cover of 'Pride' which, I have to say, is almost as good as the original. I really like it...go check it out. [In the Name of Love, 2004, Artists United for Africa]

I digress: I felt a good way to get 'back' to blogging -assuming I was some kind of presence here in the first place- was to share a quality little thing that challenged me at approximatly 9am the (miraculously) frosty morning that the FREE marquee went up.

After aging 3 years the previous morning as the marquee guys turned up, and being told we couldn't put the marquee where the Uni had said it was ok to, and coming close to having to cancel the whole week, a few little miracles resulted in the marquee going up the next day behind Mojos/the Student Union, not a bad location at all.

I arrived at half 7 to pray over the site before the Marquee guys arrived, and was joined by Peter Harley, Lee Burgess, and 'Benny' Maslin, who had kindly volunteered to come help put the marquee up faster than the four Sandhurst marquee chaps could.

At a pause in our activity (putting up marquees is really easy btw!), we observed a student came riding up on a small BMX bike, and stopped on the patio area behind mojo's. He moved all the tables to the sides, and began to practice tricks and jumps silently and devotedly. Someone commented on how 'sad' it was, but it really struck me- this guy had got up on saturday, when everyone else was asleep, when he would normally have been sleeping, and come from his house outside campus, moved obstacles out of his way, so he could be alone and free to do the thing he loved, getting better at what he did and more in tune with how the bike handled. Now...when was the last time I got up early in the morning, went to a quiet place, moved heavy obstacles and put in physical effort, and read my Bible and prayed? Isn't that what I claim to be most important to me? Isn't that what I say that I love doing most? But when did I last show that kind of commitment to God and made such an effort to be with Him and learn about him? I can't recall... and He deserves better. He far did more than moving tables for me...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FREE Week Update....Gone!

Well...I think this blogging thing is out to do tis best to stop me!

I just wrote the beginnings of a blog update, and somehow, it has dissappeared. Yep, just gone and disappeared! Well, another time then. I need to go get food!

In short -Events week is going well, despite me finding leadership in the first few days very hard, God is doing some very cool stuff via our weakness :)

Keep praying!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

FREE: -2, -1, 0, 1.....

Well, I havent had time to update this properly surprise surprise. Tomorow I have only one short lecture so intend to get up to scratch updating the amazing stories of God's hand at work despite my weakness!

Just got back from one of the best Hall Events done at St Pats in a while, not just in terms of the many in depth, heartfelt conversations that were had, but a real encouragement to the first years to see Mark 4, which I have drilled into them in our small group times each week.

So, tomorow afternoon I shall recount:

-How the marquee almost had to be cancelled on friday; miracles; and general busyness!
-Saturday's miracles and marquee set up.
-The launch of sunday, the challenges of leading and in general one of my longest and toughest days!
-FREE day 1, where 10/15 non believers came to hear the first lunchbar on the reliability of the gospel, despite my disorganisation and general ovverwhelmed-ness at the task in hand. BUT GOD once again proved to be sovereign, and showed how he is in perfect control and can do great things through weak people. The CU and CUGs were great, and there were so many encouragments from individuals, which maybe I will expand upon tomorow.

But now...sleep is needed! Tomorow should go much smoother, and hopefully therefore more opportunities to share the gospel will come :)

Adios for now...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Good Idea...

Pray. This blog will still be here when you get back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

FREE Videos....



And...found this too: Our Encouragment...

Nice one Parsons. Nice.

Finally.....FREE is here....

Hi again....

Check these out for the Vision and manifestation of this Vision in the videos posted in the next blog (having problems posting them in this one)

Unfortunatly, my pretty awful performance in front of a camera meant the vision is not expressed so clearly! It comes down to this: we want to be bolder than ever before in proclaiming the gospel in Reading. We want to be a tanglible presence on campus, not letting the truth of Jesus be hidden, but displayed for all to see. We want to take away as many of the barriers that get in the way of people hearing the gospel as possible.

To do these things, we are having all our events in a 200 seater marquee in the very centre of campus, between the four most used buildings on campus. We are doing the same evening gospel focused talks with added invitational-ness, culminating in a Curry night on friday plus a full gospel talk from Micheal Ots. Five apologetics based lunchbars will happen, followed by 'Question Cafe' where people can stay behind and have drinks and discuss the talk and have thier questions answered. We will (hopefully!) have a smaller gazebo near the marquee giving out Free Gospel, and tea and toast in the mornings for those coming out of lectures. Monday night is given over to hall events, so we as a CU can realise the importance of these and take them seriously.

We hope and pray that having such an open venue and noticable venue those who normally wouldnt go out of their way come instead of continuing on their way, and that our vision to take the gospel out to campus, rather than drawing people in, will work for His glory!

Please pray there would be no de-railing problems in these last few days of prep, and that many people would hear the gospel and respond....

Pre-FREE Week Confessions & Chapter 4's...

Well. That wasnt the kind of start I imagined when I wrote that last blog! My last few weeks have been well and truely hijacked by a fast approaching deadline for the biggest single peice of coursework I have ever done, and the boldest RUCU events week ever attempted.

Planning this events week has been a real challenge. Its coming up to 6 months since I took on this assignment, and many of my 'endless thoughts' have focussed around it. I thought and described earlier today how I am currently in an 'events week shaped crucible', in which I am slowly being refined and strengthened. Doing this job has seriously challenged my dependance on God, how much I trust Him, my leadership skills, organisation, shown me the importance and effectiveness of prayer, why we do an events week, why we do CU at all, and many more things that I havent yet noticed.

One of the biggest things I have and am still learning is to trust in God in all circumstances. I often feel that we Christians can know all about a situation and Biblical truths and encouragments theoretically -that is, we could easily give a perfect answer to a dilemma, or to someone else in the situation or when challenged by someone on that issue, but often when I find myself in the position where the Biblical truth that once so easily slipped from my lips is forgotten. Practically don't know how to react to a situation. This seems so simple, but the fact it does so shows it to be true. We know its true theorically, but practically, when we are in the think of it, we find it hard to live out.

With this in mind, one way I have been refined by God (and still am bit by bit) is in the aforementioned trusting in God at all times that He is in control of Events Week, knowing in practice that it is not RUCU's week, Josh Betts', but in fact it belongs to Jesus. Salvation comes from Him, not us.

This truth was really brought home to me in two passages of scripture. The second and most recent a simple but profund lesson for me, which I have now explained tens of times, but still is hard to explain to a computer rather than a person! Will give it ago anyway..... Looking at our amazing FREE gospels at a cell leaders training event on the Sunday before term, we read though Mark 4. We did not dwell upon it, but Mark 4:35-41 jumped out of the pages at me:

Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

This perfectly sums up my own personal situation before God over Christmas, as I recieved the news we were not allowed to provide any food on campus that wasnt bought from them and had complete health and safety checks. This sort of screwed things up in my mind. Let me share with you how I have a problem in that I seem to need to be in total control of situations I am responsible for. And everything has to be perfect. So when my perfectly formed plans started to unravel, along with dreams of a massive public debate, bold first contact evanglism teams, big name testimonies falling through (that very phrase greatly encourages me now in hindsight as an image of God sifting through my plans to leave the ones that fit into his plans -with a plastic sieve like the one we seem to have lost in my house to my comparatively great annoyance! I just ruined that nice point with that insight into my imagination....dang) I was in a bit of a state.

Its hard to describe past thoughts and emotions, and convey them with the same weight they once had. Maybe if I got good at this blogging lark, I might capture them in the moment....Anyway, having worked this through, Mark 4 put the ball in the back of the net.

In those moments of frustration, I have called out almost exactly as the disciples did: "God! Do you not care that Events Week is about to fall to peices?!". For me, the situation reflected a whirlwind of decisions, impossibilities and chaos as I tried to hold down everything Events Week (EW). Here, the guys are in a situation much more tangible than the depths of my mind, a phycial storm. They should have been 'cool' with it, after all, Jesus was with them, and it was a safe bet that his 'time had not yet come'. But like me, they forgot in the 'practical' situation the truths they had learned thus far. To read verses 39 & 40 deeply challenged me. This is the same Giod. The same one here planning His glory through EW and beyond. Why was I afraid? Suddenly the clouds cleared and I saw so clearly, that He who has "delivered us from the domain of darkness" (Col 1:13) is so perfectly in control of my plans for EW and has not forgotten the task at hand. He is in control. Why did I ever doubt him? How great is that. That changes everything.

This put the icing on the cake of Philippians 4:4-20, which I had come across when wrestling these issues and more with my mentor-type, the amazing Keith Morgan, which is pretty self explanatory....

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
So, EW is only a few days here. Please pray for the practical details that still need to come together, of which there are many; for Micheal Ots, the speaker and his enegy and health as we are somehting like the 6th or 7th mission he has done this year (academic year!); finance -this is the boldest and most expensive events week we ever have run, and things like food -for reasons mentioned above- are cost huge amounts more than previous years. (I will outline the actual plans for the week in my next post) God has already provided huge amounts of money for it, but we still have a little way to go to be confident of pulling it all off; and most importantly, that the CU would grasp the urgency of the situation and grow in thier passion for God's glory, and invite their friends, and finally that God would soften hearts, open eyes and unblock deaf ears so people hear the gospel, respond and be saved! That God would be glorified by and through this week.
Phew. Serious blog no2 done. Didnt end up writing what I intended, but its a start! Another post coming soon covering the details of EW, and then day by day reports of it as it happens -I guess the phrase "I'll believe it when you see it" comes to mind......