Tuesday, 31 December 2013

To a new thing in 2014

One of the most encouraging things about new years, new weeks, new days, new places, new jobs, is that word ‘new.’ Consciously or not, it offers us the hope of being able to start all over again. I wonder whether that’s why the Scriptures are full of God doing new things. For example, He makes a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert; He empowers the weak and shames the strong; He vindicates the foolish and humbles the wise. Perhaps most remarkable of all, He, the King of Heaven chooses for His precious Son to be born in the muck and filth of a stable, attended by goats and asses and impoverished shepherds. The wonderful hope of this beautiful season that we’ve been celebrating is that God has done a new thing—He has made a home among a people who have a hard time feeling at home here themselves. In the midst of the ambition and striving and disappointment and homework and housework, it all seems very unlikely that God really cares. And yet… God is now among us. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Or as Chesterton put it, “our peace is put in impossible things.” So rather than enfeeble our expectations this New Year, rather than try stage-manage what the next 12 months will bring, let’s all remind each other what we often forget: God is forever at work, bringing wild impossibility to bear on the things we struggle to keep under our own control. Here’s to something new, even impossible this season and in the New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The people who challenged my atheism most were prostitutes and drug addicts

A recent article in The Guardian, acknowledges the intellectually bankruptcy of Atheism. It begins thus:
I've been reminded that life is not as rational as Richard Dawkins sees it. Perhaps atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.
Of the many honest (and surprising) insights, my favourite is the line:
In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes. Or, in Biblical terms, we are all sinners.
Read the full thing here

Monday, 23 December 2013

Dickens on Christmas: even pagans 'love' it

Epiphany Carol Service 2013
We had our carol service last night. It was beautiful (and no that's not our church - just a lovely pic I picked up somewhere). Anyway our church was completely full and the singing boisterous and I'm sure that's not just because of the well known hymns and the beautiful candlelit setting. I think the *fact* of the incarnation cannot but move even the hardiest pagan. Dickens has it absolutely right when he says:

Christmas time changes our hearts, its seems, whether we wish it so or not. There is a power the coming of Christ has over even the most obdurate unbeliever that simply cannot be escaped. Amen and Amen.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Calvinism v Arminianism - an illustration

It is the difference between the man who manufactures life vests and the man who pulls drowning people out of the water, between the man who makes a scalpel and the man who uses it to cut out a cancerous tumour to save a patient’s life. Creating a system to do something is a fundamentally different thing from actually doing it. Thus, saying that Jesus creates a salvation system rather than saving us gives us a  fundamentally different perspective on the cross and the empty tomb.”

Greg Forster, The Joy of Calvinism, p. 54-55

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Chandler v Hitchens - Chandler cornered, not a pretty sight

Chandler from Friends (aka Matthew Perry) was in a debate yesterday with Peter Hitchens (who knows a thing or two about drugs). The debate starts of gently but by the end there is blood on the studio floor! I'll leave you to work out whose...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Understanding suffering is like reading Hebrew

Some providences, like Hebrew letters must be read backwards.

—John Flavel, Puritan (1627/8-1691)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

C. S. Lewis on reality: it's all fantasy

"The lie of realism is that somehow we've let people define good fiction as that in which there is no soul, no spirit, no supernatural." Wrong! Nate Wilson explains why below:

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

How England has fallen - what Edward's abdication teaches us

On this day in December 1936, Britain's King Edward VIII abdicated his throne in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. Edward was the first British monarch to propose marrying a divorced woman and it's staggering, when one looks at the history annals to discover that his abdication came about not because of some law or constitutional demand but rather because neither the Prime Minister (Stanley Baldwin) nor other leaders of the world would accept the King being married to a divorcee. Can you imagine that happening today? If it did, we'd be getting ready to welcome King William and not Charles. 

The truth is given our quickness to affirm relationships simply because the individuals involved 'love each other' without defining what true love looks like, we've unwittingly championed a decedant morality devoid of Christian/life-long faithfulness, gender complementarity and home-centred commitments to child rearing. The end result is a culture where divorce/bleeding hearts are rife, where children are abused/depressed and where couples and especially women find themselves trying to do everything and failing miserably. As someone once said, arguing with Christian morality is like jumping off a cliff in order to quarrel with the law of gravity. You can marshall all the arguments you like on your way down, you will however eventually find yourself refuted in a messy way.

Well what is the solution to this mess? The Church needs to lead the reformation of our land by first, repenting of our own evil and malaise (in for example accepting and embracing things like 'marital breakdown' as an acceptable grounds for divorce) and second, by exhorting Christians to live out sacrificial and life-long marriages. This - and only this - is the hope for our nation.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A difficult Christmas quiz

Don't believe me? Try doing this without looking up the answers in the Bible. Once you've done it check your answers here

1. Joseph was originally from... (Luke 2:3)
    A. Bethlehem
    B. Nazareth
    C. Hebron
    D. Jerusalem 
    E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
    A. “There is no room in the inn.”
    B. “I have a stable you can use.”
    C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
    D. Both A and B
    E. None of the above

3. A manger is a...
    A. Stable for domestic animals
    B. Wooden hay storage bin
    C. Feeding trough
    D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
    A. Cows, sheep, goats
    B. Cows, Donkeys, goats
    C. Sheep and goats only
    D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
    E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
    A. Shepherds
    B. Mary and Joseph
    C. Three Kings
    D. Both A and C
    E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
    A. Camel
    B. Donkey
    C. Walked
    D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
    E. Horse-drawn chariot
    F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
    A. One
    B. Three
    C. Multitude
    D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
    A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
    B. “Alleluia”
    C. “Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given”
    D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
    E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
    A. The angel at the gate of heaven
    B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
    C. An angel choir
    D. An angel army
    E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas...
    A. Only in Bethlehem
    B. All over Israel
    C. Nowhere in Israel
    D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is Frankincense?
    A. A precious metal
    B. A precious fabric
    C. A precious perfume
    D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
    A. Men of the educated class
    B. Eastern Kings
    C. Men who studied the stars
    D. Sages

13. What is Myrrh?
    A. Middle Eastern Money
    B. A drink
    C. An easily shaped metal
    D. A spice used for burying people
    E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
   A. 3
   B. 6
   C. 9
   D. 12
   E. We don’t know.

15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
    A. In a manger
    B. In a stable
    C. In Nazareth
    D. In Saudi Arabia
    E. In a house
    F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was... (Matthew 2:11)
    A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
    B. A young child
    C. A boy in the temple
    D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed... (Matthew 2:9)
    A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
    B. Disappeared and reappeared
    C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
    D. Was just a mirage
    E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem... (Matthew 2:2)
    A. To inform Herod about Jesus
    B. To find out where Jesus was
    C. To ask about the star
    D. To buy presents
    E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
    A. Matthew
    B. Mark
    C. Luke
    D. John
    E. All of the above
    F. Only A and B
    G. Only A and C
    H. Only A, B, and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
    A. They got married
    B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
    C. Mary left town for three months
    D. A and B
    E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
    A. The angel chorus
    B. Mary’s mother
    C. Herod
    D. The shepherds
    E. Caesar Augustus

Remember to check your answers here

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Why Santa sucks

As it's the feast of St Nicholas, here's a helpful corrective re Santa followed by the collect and appointed readings for today

Almighty Father, lover of souls,
who didst choose thy servant Nicholas
to be a bishop in the Church,
that he might give freely out of the treasures of thy grace:
make us mindful of the needs of others
and, as we have received, so teach us also to give;
through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Epistle: 1 St. John 4:7-14
The Gospel: St. Mark 10:13-16

Friday, 6 December 2013

Friday Fury: Global Homosexual epidemic

Did you know that:
  • The HIV rate among active homosexual men is eight times that of the general population in low income countries? 
  • The HIV rate among active homosexual men is 23 times the general population rate in high income countries?
  • In no country in the world is the HIV prevalence lower in among active homosexual men than in the population as a whole?
  • The nation with the highest rate of new infections is the USA?
These are some of the key statistics highlighted by Professor Kevin Fenton at the recent British HIV Association's Autumn Conference. What is clear is that despite the increasing number of tools and resources to combat HIV infection, there is a growing epidemic in Homosexual men in every part of the world. And while I know that such statistics can be wildly abused, aren't they - after a careful reading of them - a sober warning of the wickedness of homosexuality? Here's one such warning from the Apostle Paul:
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Kyrie Eleison.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Luther on the Protestant work ethic

It is often claimed that Luther defended the value of all vocation by saying:
The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays -- not because she may sing a Christian hymn as she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
I've tried tracing this quotation in Luther to no avail. It's all over the internet mind you as one of Luther's sayings but no one ever sources where in Luther it comes from. Anyway I midst my searching I did come across something good that Luther did actually say regarding vocation:
The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbour, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him. That would be a good prince and ruler. When a prince sees his neighbour oppressed, he should think: That concerns me! I must protect and shield my neighbour. . . . The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbour. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living. 
– Martin Luther, “Sermon in the Castle Church at Weimar” (25 October 1522, Saturday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity)

In other words, Christians have such great liberty (and should be the most productive) because whatever lawful work they embark on - beer making, child rearing, road sweeping, chimney cleaning, love making, all that (and more!) can be considered the Lord's work. Praise be to our God and His Christ, for designing His world and our work in it to carry with such immense value. As Herbert put it: the world is charged with the grandeur of God. Indeed. And our labours therefore last into eternity.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Bonhoeffer describes Advent

While imprisoned by the Nazis, Bonhoeffer observed in a letter:
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
Completely makes sense of this stirring carol


[Choir of Clare College]

[Alternative/soft rock]