Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Fools for Christ? ... or Just Fools?

Don't ask me how I found this, but I did - a Clown Service at this "church". I don't even know what to say about it. I'm speechless (just like they were). But if you want to know why the church is a laughing stock for all the wrong reasons, this is it.

A service without words? It's a denial of the gospel.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Reflections on Ministry

The experience of being in part-time ministry over the last few months has been an interesting one. It could be amply described by the phrase "out of my depth". It is tempting to give the impression that I know what I am doing most of the time. But frankly, I don't. The experience has been cushioned by the fact that there have been no major crises - just the odd 'blip' - but the feeling of things being not quite under control is not very pleasant.

So, off the top of my head, here are some issues I find create the sense of 'floating':
  1. Preaching. It was difficult to adjust to the metronome of weekly preaching. I have had weekly deadlines before in my previous profession. However these were usually of the work-in-progress kind. When one steps up to preach, it must be a finished article. The preacher is serving up the best spiritual meal he can.

  2. Personal spiritual life. As one who now has complete control of his day there is all the more reason to pursue the spiritual disciplines. However, it is just as difficult to be disciplined now as it ever was.

  3. Holiness. A pastor, like it or not, models the holy life for the flock. I am more aware now of my want/lack of this than ever.

  4. Handling people. The honeymoon is over. Impatience is rising. "Get a grip!" pops into the mind often. Keeping clear, open lines of communication is essential. Love the brothers and sisters.

  5. Leadership. "Who me?" I'm now the guy who didn't step backwards. I want to see the people living lives of positive definite worship of God, publicly and privately. What does this mean for my task?

  6. Family. Taking care to spend enough time with my wife and daughter. They are beginning to expect me not to be around. Not good.

  7. Time-management. Related to 6. The adage goes, "There's always time for the things you want to do." Trouble is that I keep running out of time for the things I know I should do. Sluggardliness needs to be controlled.

  8. Future. When I finish studies, what do we do then? What are the implications for the family? Will they like them? Over the last few years we have learned to expect a much closer time-horizon beyond which we can't see. It would be nice to know. But much more important to learn better that the LORD is my Shepherd.

But enough time-wasting! Back to work!

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Beware then of the vortex of dissipation...

From Thoughts on Religious Experience (A. Alexander) p.304.

Or, was is Hitch-hiker's Guide...

Or, whatever...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Calvin quotes Augustine in his Institutes (II.iv.8, Battles):
Scripture, if diligently searched, shows...
That's such an important if, don't you think?

Another Planet

At Derwent Free Church we have a bunch of kids, aged from 6 to 11, who have started coming to our evening services. We didn't go looking for them, we didn't invite them - they just came. They have kept coming for the last four or five weeks. We don't have a fancy service or anything, just simple hymns, prayers, scripture reading, sermon, tea/coffee afterwards. But they have kept coming.

I asked one of the boys (aged 8 or 9) of them directly, Why do you keep coming?

He answered, I like coming. It's like going to a different country.

I was quite taken aback. I expected him to like the biscuits or something.

Some would say that, yes, a Reformed Evangelical church is on another planet, irrelevant, disconnected from the real world. Surely it needs to change!

But isn't it striking that this kid recognises a big difference from his normal existence, and keeps coming back?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Music Quiz

From Jon

Don't you just hate these things? Well, here goes...

Amount of Music on my computer: About 22GB in iTunes. But wait! There is good reason. I just took charge of my brother's old PowerMac G4 and it is full of his gubbins. Well, about 12GB of it. Of the rest, about 7.5GB is music.

The last CD I bought: Dookie - Green Day, about 6 months ago. I'm still a punk rock fan at heart and this fits pretty well.

Item playing right now: None. I can't work with music. If you had asked me last week, you might have got me listening to Celine Dion. It was sunny, my elderly neighbour had her windows and doors wide open, and had the volume cranked RIGHT UP. Weird that 'ASBO' should pop into mind when thinking of an elderly person.

5 songs I listen to a lot:
I don't listen to much music nowadays, but I looked on iTunes to see which came out as most played....

  1. Caught by the Fuzz - Supergrass. 2m 16s of fun. Like the guitar work.

  2. Then I Met You - The Proclaimers. Bit embarassing really. Susan must have been using this machine.

  3. Yellow - Coldplay. I liked Parachutes when it came out. But seems to have spawned a number of sound-alike bands which are boring.

  4. Walking Blues - Eric Clapton. From the Unplugged album. I mess about with blues on my own guitar. I can almost play along with this.

  5. Psalm 128 - Ian White. I first started to listen to Ian White's psalms in the mid 80's. As a bit of background, I generally don't like 'Christian' music at all. I tend to think that there are too many young people writing on Christian themes (which is fine in itself) but who then think they are in a 'worship ministry', and the rest of us are supposed to join in and be encouraging. But frankly there's too much of themselves and not enough of Christ. However, White took the psalms virtually word for word (using the NIV) and put them to music. Volumes 1 and 2 were especially good. Susan and I played them a lot on out honeymoon.

Five people to whom I'm passing the baton:

Any five who read this and feel like telling us.

OK, I'm a wimp.

A Sign, A Sign!

This site is funny, sad, infuriating ... but not boring.

Update on Misery

I'm tired. I'm in the middle of working towards my exams mid June. Every semester I say to myself, "Next semester will be better!" Why? Because I seem to get to the end not having made the progress through the coursework I wanted to.

I said it in an especially vigorous fashion last semester, probably with a hat on, and here I am worse than ever! Big problems with Hebrew Grammar. Funny thing is, I have no idea how it happened. Did I sleep for 3 months?

Hey ho.

* * * * *

I was encouraged by this:
[Self examination] is displeasing to the pride of the heart, because wandering thoughts are apt to intrude, and because of the deceitfulness of the heart. When a Christian first looks into his heart he sees nothing but confusion -- a heap of sins, and very little good, mixed up together; and he knows not how to separate them, or how to begin self examination. But let him persevere in his efforts, and order will arise out of confusion.

(From A. Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience p.222, where he quotes from a conversation Rev. Edward Payson (1783-1827) had with his daughter while he was on his death bed.)

Quite useful to remember, I think.

However, seconds later I read this:
...when young Christians make confessions, unless there is an obvious call for it, it commonly proceeds from one of the following motives: either they wish to be thought very humble, and to possess great knowledge of their own hearts; or they think it is a fault which the other has perceived, and they are willing to have the credit of having discovered and striven against it; or they confess some fault from which they are remarkably free, in order to elicit a compliment.

(p.222 again, quoting from the same dying man.)

Now, each of these motives are worth bearing in mind, I suppose. However, my first reaction to this passage was, "Having given us the benefit of his wisdom about looking into one's own heart, he has now begun to look into other people's hearts!" Am I right in this? Is this a danger of too much introspection?

But whatever! Not nearly as interesting as weak pe gutteral verbs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Susan likes this.

I think it is pretty cool too, but in a manly, take-it-or-leave-it, not-really-interested-in-such-things kind of way.

You know.

More Star Wars

Looks like someone was already on the case. Look! a Star Wars all-day-er!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Star Wars in Bits

The new Star Wars movie is out this week in the UK. The final piece of the jigsaw will be in place and many of the loose ends will be tied up. I loved the original movies when they first came out. I had never seen anything like them before and they were enthralling. I remember the local cinema putting on a Star Wars evening and going with student friends to see Episodes IV to VI in succession - a six hour extravaganza. It all clicked - it made sense.

Except for the question: what happened to Episodes I to III? Well, now we have them. Maybe a local cinema will put on an all-nighter so that we can see all six, or just get some friends together, pool the DVDs (when the last becomes available) and enjoy 12 hours straight. Will it all fit together? Will it still make sense?

Imagine we didn't have an all-nighter. Instead,
  • suppose we agreed that we would only watch 10 minutes a week together.

  • Suppose some of us hadn't seen all the films, some had only seen, say, one of them, and maybe we had some friends who had never seen any of them, but wanted to find out what they were all about.

  • Suppose also we asked those who had seen all the movies to choose the most important 10-minute slots for the rest of us to watch so that as soon as possible the less experienced watchers would "get-it".

So we would all sit down to watch on the first evening. One person would shout out two numbers. The first would be between 1 and 6 - the episode number. The second would be between 1 and roughly 120 - the number of minutes into the film from where we were to watch. Another person would select the right DVD and get it to the right place and press "play". The assembled group would watch the 10-minute slot and then have pizza afterwards.

And so on it would go, week after week, watching 10-minute slots. I wonder how long it would take for everyone to "get it"? For quite a number of weeks they would just be random snatches of the movie and wouldn't make much sense. Occasionally, there might be an overlap with a part that was watched before and so it would begin to fit. Those who had seen the movies before would have an advantage. With their background knowledge they would be able to place each 10-minute slot in the grand scheme of things. They might be able to talk about it over pizza. But those who had no background wouldn't have much idea for a long time and would much rather talk about chilli pepper topping.

You would hope that eventually someone might stand up and say, "Look, wouldn't it be better if we just set aside some 2-hour slots, and decide to watch them one after the other? Even better, let's have an all-nighter!"


It seems to me that the church is full of people who do not read the Bible very often. They will read it on Sunday in the services, but forget about it in-between. Such people have a couple of toe-holds on the truth, but not much more. They live in a sea of mystery and confusion about the rest of it. In modern times such mystery and confusion has become a virtue - a badge of 'honesty'. They explore their feelings and 'struggles' with the faith. They will share their struggles in blogs, pontificate at house-groups. But they never seem to get anywhere. The issues always seem to be the same.

Here's a suggestion. Set aside chunks of time and read the Bible. Good chunks. Plenty of them. Read systematically. Follow a plan (M'Cheyne's is good). Aim to read the Bible in a year. As you do so think about how it fits with what you have already read. When you have finished, do it again. On the second lap you are more familiar with the terrain. You find it gets easier to fit it all together. Go for a third lap. A fourth. A fifth... All the time more and more pieces of the jigsaw fall into place. You will begin to "get it".

Whatever you do, keep going! You can stop when you die. That's allowed.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

On This Election Day...

... a sobering note from Ian Hamilton of Cambridge Presbyterian Church on the Banner of Truth website. The final paragraph reads:
Christians of all people cannot subscribe to the secularist mantra that religion and politics must always be separated. Our Saviour has called us to be salt and light, penetrating the putrefying and confusing effects of sin in the world with the light of God's wholesome and saving truth. When the truths of the Christian faith are eclipsed in a nation, its moral and ultimate demise is inevitable. Let me say again, this letter is NOT an attempt to parade the virtues of one political party over another. It is, however, an unashamed attempt to provoke us to take perhaps more seriously than some of us have done before, what our political leaders are saying about abortion. If we do not speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, who will?

(Thanks David.)