Archive for September, 2009

Differences between Translations #2

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Differences between Translations #2

Ben Witherington writing on Beliefnet about the forthcoming 2011 NIV Bible and the politics behind bible translation.

Hitching through The Bible

Monday, September 14th, 2009

As a simple but authoritative overview of the Bible, I have found ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Bible: Thumbing through the Old and New Testaments’ by Colin Sinclair to be very useful.  Despite the lightweight title, the book is a marvellously detailed resource and provides a full overview of The Bible and how the books relate to one another.  It receives good reviews from and is recommended by the Scripture Union and various Bible Societies.  I find it accessible, easy to read and enlightening – it also dovetailed very well with the overview I heard given by Rod Thompson of Laidlaw College a year or so back.

"Sorry, you deserved so much better."

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

It took the Catholic Church over 350 years to recognise it had been wrong about Galileo’s theories and for Pope John Paul II to issue a reversal of his condemnation.  By comparison, the 57 years it has taken the British Government to apologise to Alan Turing might seem quick but I’d argue otherwise.

This week, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown released a statement concerning Alan Turing the Enigma code breaking mathematician, in which he recognised the “appalling” way Turing was treated by the Government simply for being gay.  Alan Turing and the work he led almost certainly changed the tide of the Second World War. Among geeks, he is remembered not just for his work on breaking the German codes at Bletchley Park but also his significant contribution to early computing.

I can barely begin to comprehend how alone and wretched Turing must have felt when Cold War suspicions, paranoia and homophobia caused his former paymasters to turn on and hound him.  Convicted of a trumped-up charge of ‘gross indecency’ – the same charge leveled against Oscar Wilde – in 1952, Turing was sentenced to chemical castration.  Stripped of his security clearance and forbidden to speak of his work, Turing endured two years of ignominy before committing suicide in 1954.

Previously only remember in the naming of an inner city ring road, a university building and a clutch of statues, a man of Turing’s stature and accomplishments deserved, as Brown said, so much better.

Doing the Right Thing

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Affluent lifestyle creates related expectations, so when we develop an addiction to consumerism we become the authors of our own local problems too. One of the yardsticks for measuring poverty is determining the point at which people are able to participate in society. It doesn’t take much wit to see that the more simply a community lives, the greater the number of its citizens who will be able to attain contentment.

Where the price of basic accommodation is driven up beyond the reach of a large percentage of ordinary people, and where towns and work requirements are planned in the expectation that everyone in the community will own and drive a car, a situation is created that automatically shunts many citizens in the direction of experiencing poverty quite needlessly.

There is so much hidden poverty [which is] a direct by-product of the expectations of an affluent society. This manifests not only in street-dwellers and beggars and squatters, or in people who have given up hope and taken refuge in alcohol and drugs, but in a myriad quiet, respectable, unremarkable lives lived in private desperation – without drama, but haunted by constant anxiety and a pervading sense of shame, with a hold all too precarious on what little they have, and prospects of unremitting self denial as a constant feature of life.

These people, the unremarkable, uncomplaining, invisible poor, are there in every community, and their struggle is the direct legacy of affluence and consumerism.

Rob Frost
Doing the Right Thing: 10 issues on which Christians have to take a stand
Monarch Books 2008

Finding God in the Shack

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Finding God in the Shack

Spotted whilst browsing in the local branch of Manna.

Spiritual Gifts

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

A while back, I competed a spiritual gifts questionnaire and I was intrigued not only by the results but more so by my initial reaction to them.  The top three – exhortation, hospitality and mercy – are not what I would have guessed, or rather, are words/gifts that I haven’t really considered in relation to myself before.  Following these are two same-scored sets of four seemingly related gifts – wisdom, knowledge, discernment & service and then pastoral, evangelical, faith & leadership.

Through reflection and study, I have become more familiar and comfortable with each of these and how it plays out in my life.  As a simple example of this, I have come to see that hospitality is alive in my love of opening our home and enjoying shared meals and good fellowship with engaging company.  However, as the word exhortation is not so common these days, I felt a little research was required to deepening my understanding of my highest-ranking gift.

I found that ‘the word “exhortation” comes from the Greek word PARAKALEO which means to “appeal to, urge, exhort, or to encourage” someone to take a certain action. If we try to motivate someone to be kind to another person, we are exhorting him or her to action. Exhortation is something that pastors, teachers, and at times every Christian should do’.

Digging a little deeper, reading on the gift of exhortation in William McRae’s The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, I see this is a prospective and a retrospective gift – in providing exhortation and consolation  respectively – helping others to a position where they might say ‘I can see that’ or ‘I can do that’.  This had me laughing, for all the above attributes are exactly what people look for in a coach.   As some who was a business and life coach long before I came to Christ, the fact that it was predestined was quite God moment for me!

I was very surprised to discover that I was disappointed that pastoral, evangelical, faith and leadership didn’t appear higher in my chart.  I’m not quite sure what to make of that but I suspect it has to do with being in a leadership role in my job and my naturally assuming this would be apparent in my primary gifts.  That said, I am humbled that I share a gift with someone like Barnabas, a ’Son of Encouragement’ who provided counsel and guidance for both Paul and John Mark and who, along with other exhorters, ‘ministered to aching hearts and tired souls’.

All this resonates with me and speaks to the things I feel God is exhorting me to consider doing with my life.

Differences between Translations

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Differences between Translations

Three interesting NLT blog posts exploring some of the differences between the NLT and other translations and looking at underlying differences between dynamic equivalence (“word-for-word”) translations and formal equivalence (“essentially literal”) translations.

Biblical call plan, anyone?

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Just found a note of a funny exchange I had with my mobile phone company a few years back…

Me: Can you please just put me back on the basic off-peak call plan?

Vodafone: “Ah, so you’d be wanting to go on to Gethsemane then?”

Me: “Sorry?!”

Vodafone: “You’re wanting to go on to Gethsemane then?”

Me: “Gethsemane?”

Vodafone: “No – Get 70 – the Get 70 call plan!”

Me: “Ah…yes, please.”

Seek not to understand

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.
St. Augustine

Peeking round the church door

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

If, as our Pastor preached last week, my life’s map is drawn by God, then that map has been coloured in by my children.

One’s personal salvation is unique – an amalgam of emotion, spirit, enlightenment, sensation and faith, brought together in one time and one place – just for that individual.

For some, salvation is found in the charged atmosphere of an altar call, for others it comes amid the conquering of an addiction.  For me, it was the quiet culmination of years of avoidance, searching and questions and was found through books and music, the prayers of my wife and the unquenchable grace I found in my children.

I can only guess at the influence of my wife’s prayers and whether they were answered or not, for they were silent or at least never in my hearing.  However, I doubt that it is is merely coincidence that you’ll find a slim book on one of our bookshelves called ‘The Power of A Praying Wife’.

Along with the rest of the family, I read a great deal – which is not always a good thing – but I enjoy seeing through other’s eyes; the opportunities for learning and the challenging of my assumptions that reading offers.  This being the case, it might seem strange that I didn’t turn to the Bible for the answers I sought – well, not to begin with anyway.

Of the all the authors I read in my quest to find answers, there were two who helped guide me across the line between ‘stubborn and curious atheist’ and ‘stubborn and curious Christian’ – Francis Collins and C.S. Lewis.

As a renowned geneticist and director of The Human Genome Project, Francis Collins might not be the obvious choice for those seeking God.  However, in his book ‘The Language of God’, Collins sets out a strong and balanced case that science and faith do not have to be mutually exclusive.

In the book, Collins describes how, early in his career as a physician, he encountered a woman suffering from severe angina who appeared to take great comfort in her faith.  During a conversation one day, she put the young Collins on the spot by asking him what he believed. The question shook him. A staunch atheist up to that point, he wrote, “suddenly all my arguments seemed very thin, and I had the sensation that the ice under my feet was cracking.”   While Collins’ theistic-evolutionist stance will trouble some of you I’m sure, his argument for faith was the best I had heard up to that point.

Like thousands of others, the writing of C.S. Lewis provided me with great insight and great comfort as I read of his coming-to-faith.  Lewis compared his conversion to waking up from a sleep, “a long sleep” he called it.  He became aware that his blindness to God had been what he described as a “willful blindness” – a phrase that perfectly reflected my own state through the years.

Around the same time I was reading Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I was introduced to Brooke Fraser’s music through my girls.  Listening to her CD in the car, I was struck by the lyrics of one song in particular:

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here […]
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free,
wanting to come alive?
‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become.

These words really spoke to me for they described the type of growing uncertainty and anxiousness I was feeling.  So you can imagine the God moment I felt when I finished my journey, looked down at the CD cover and discovered the song was called ‘The C.S. Lewis Song’.

As someone once wrote, Lewis had resisted God because he wanted to be his own lord.  But he also realized that Jesus was the deepest Joy for which he had been longing since he was a boy.  After his surrender to Christ he experienced a peace and delight he had never known before.  I found that same peace and delight one evening when my wife left a note on my pillow, pointing me to Jeremiah 29:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.  If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.  I will be found by you,” says the Lord.”

In that one passage were the exact words describing where I was in my journey at that moment.  For the first time since I left the Quaker Meeting for Worship I had last attended 30 years before, I found myself in a place where I was able to conceive of and accept the existence of God.

As Easter approached, I continued to struggle with the fact that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that my salvation was secured through a Father’s sacrifice of His only Son.  As a father of four beautiful girls, I found this simply too hard to comprehend and I floundered, failing to understand that my self-reliance and intellectual reasoning were the proverbial planks in my eyes preventing me from seeing the bigger picture.

The girls were involved in the Easter production at church and, dropping them at rehearsals one day, I peeked round the door to see what was going on.  No-one seemed to notice so I watched for a while.  Before I knew it, I had been co-opted into the stage crew by the director and was helping rig lights and shift scenery – all stuff I was familiar with and enjoyed doing.

In the weeks that followed, to no greater surprise than my own, I spent more time in a church than I had since our wedding and the girls’ christenings.  At one rehearsal, I looked up and saw that two of my girls were on stage dancing to Michael Smith’s worship song, ‘Above All’.  During that dance, I finally saw myself as broken and, squatting in the hushed dark of the sanctuary, I gave my life to Christ.

Like a typical bloke, I didn’t tell anyone.  I felt shocked and relieved, confused and elated all at once.  My stubborn pride sewed my lips shut and I carried my salvation like a secret through each performance hoping that, in the dark, no-one would see the tears in my eyes or the stupid grin on my face.

God knew I needed another push to get me across the line and he chose the after-show party to make sure I heard Him loud and clear.  In thanking everyone for their help on the show, the director said that she wanted to single out a woman who had, without fuss and with a servant heart, helped out wherever it was needed during the production.

To this day, I don’t recall the director’s exact words or the examples she gave but I do remember thinking that, whoever the woman was, she must be a mighty woman of God.  When the director spoke my daughter’s name, the axis of my world shifted irrevocably for the second time in as many weeks.  I baled out the church hall fire doors wondering how it was that others saw things in my own children that I had missed.  That night, when I went to tuck them into bed and kiss them goodnight, I swallowed my pride, got on my knees and asked my two youngest to teach me how to pray.

Since then, I have continued to grow in faith and I have learned much that I can share with my own girls and the fantastic kids at our Friday intermediate youth club.  From those early days of reading anything but the Bible, my Bible collection has grown considerably.  Just this week, I was happy to pass on my first study Bible to my to the daughter in whom others saw so much.

As an older ‘young’ Christian, there are two pieces of Scripture I would like to speak into your hearts and leave you with on this Father’s Day.  For the parents, grown ups and older siblings, my sharing is from Psalm 127:

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.”

And for all the children and young people here, I can find no better words than those of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:12:

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

Try and keep these in your hearts – because you never know when the next lost soul will be peeking round the church door.

Peeking round the church door: a father’s testimony

Father’s Day Service, Sunday 6th September 2009