Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Testing out flock

A long time ago I read about a new browser that offered all sorts of advantages over Explorer. Based around Firefox, Flock integrates photos and blogging tools into your browser. Using straightforward drag and drop technology, you can blog away to your heart's content.

Apparently it also handles RSS feeds, but I haven't looked at that yet because it took a little time to set up the blogging tools.

Get it here if you want to try it.

Blogged with Flock

A view from here to the Lakes

Just in case you don't know what the English Lake District looks like...

it looks like this...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Does God still love me when I …

If you are at all like me, then you’ve asked this question in some form or another at some stage of your life. If you’re very like me, then you’ve asked it at least a 1,000 times if not more. Somehow it’s always a struggle to accept that God loves me. That when God says, “I love you”, that’s the end of the matter. There are no if’s, no but’s and no whatever’s when it comes to God’s love for you and me.

I need a regular reminder of this truth because everyday the reality of God’s love gets chipped away at in my heart. Things I do, things I say, things I don’t do and things I don’t say, eat away at my beloved status before God.

So here’s a favourite reminder of this simple truth for all of us who need to remember:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom.8:37-39)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lost is life’s default mode

You don’t have to do much at all to get lost. Trust me, I know about such things. On Sunday we found ourselves on top of a fell somewhere in the Lakes, with no visible path to be seen. We knew it should be there, we were confident we knew where we were, but the path had disappeared under bracken. It is a path that hadn’t been travelled for some time.

In this situation “lost” is a relative term. We knew where we were, we even knew where we wanted to be as a next destination, there was just this little problem of no recognisable path to get there.

I wonder how many people live their lives with no visible path?

I wonder how many Christians hide the path?
I wonder how much Jesus longs for us to live life on the path so that others might see the way and follow it?

The wonderful lakes

So here I am in the Lake District, my favourite part of England, with my extended family for a week of walking, laughing, more walking and lots more laughing. Now I’m not a seasoned pro when it comes to walking, and my dodgy knees are likely to complain as I cajole them to drag my not insubstantial frame up and down hills and fells. On the other hand I just love to walk. Leave the car parked behind the rented house and search out a footpath to follow up and over a peak, or preferably these days, around one.

I’m fully kitted out for these sojourns into the wilderness of the Western Lakes. I have my GPS (that the thing that tells me just how lost I am), I have my whistle (although with my young great-nephew in tow, one is not often in need of anything else that would fall into the broad category of “loud-noise-making-device”), and I have my walking pole, waterproof jacket, walking shoes/boots (depending on terrain, weather and blister count), embarrassing hat (not to me but to those with whom I walk) and most important of all…. fruit cake. No adventure is complete without a suitable piece of fruit cake to enjoy on the way.

So why do I do it? If I end up with sore knees and sore feet and temporary deafness (don’t forget the nephew) why do I keep walking? Well I guess it’s because I enjoy the walk and I enjoy getting slightly lost and found. Unless I’ve walked the route before (and that offers no guarantee) I usually take a wrong turn here and there. The GPS has been a great blessing over the years I’ve had it. At least now I can look at the position and check where I am on the map. I’ve never been great at map reading anyway, the GPS helps solve that problem.

Discovering an old path, getting back on the right path and emerging at your final destination after anything from a few miles to too many miles, is just plain simple fun. And then there are the views. If you’ve never explored the Lake District, you won’t know what I’m talking about, but if you have, or if you know a similar hill strewn landscape, you may well know the joy of climbing a few hundred or even a few thousand feet just to see what it look likes from there.

The other great delight is the food you can eat, because you know that tomorrow is another calorie burning adventure. So, as I write I can hear tonight’s chefs rummaging in the kitchen. Very soon the air will be filled with the wondrous smells of “Italian night”, and the pastor gets to eat the pasta!

A Proud Dad

We've been away on holiday this last week, and so we were not around the radio or the TV much to hear the annual debate about GCSE's getting easier year by year. As a father of a 16 year-old I've sat up at night trying to help and support my daughter as she dealt with the pressures of coursework for a wide range of subjects. The pressure she felt was enormous and I'm glad it's over for her at least until next year and A Level deadlines start to appear.

Anyway, whether you think GCSE's are easier now than ever before, I want to celebrate my daughter's achievements. So here's the news...

Ally sat 10 GCSE's and got 8 A's, 3 at A* and 2 B's.

Way to go Ally, I'm really proud of you.

Now, what did we decide was the going rate for A's, I think I owe you a small fortune!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Subversive Church

Over the next 10 to 15 years, the landscape of our ministry here in Cotton End is going to change significantly. Within 3 miles of us an expected 5,500 to 8,000 new homes are being built. A whole new town is under development, and it’s really exciting. I can’t imagine ever being presented with such an opportunity more than once in a generation or more as a church. But when I talk to people about this opportunity one of the first questions that I consistently get asked is: “are they building a church?

Why, when we all know that church is about people not buildings, do we constrain our thinking about new church in new communities so quickly to buildings? And anyway, with 8,000 new homes being built, why can’t we see them all as possible places of worship, places from where we can serve the community? If you’ve got a building, you need a minister, and if you’ve got a minister you need a house for the minister and family. Suddenly starting a church is about having thousands of pounds before you start. When you start with people, all you need is imagination. When you need a building, rent it.

I think we can be, should be, more subtle than bricks and mortar. I want to do something subversive. It seems to me that Jesus was subversive. He undermined the common viewpoint, he chipped away at preconceived ideas and challenged conventional wisdom. He dropped thoughts and ideas into the hearts and minds of his hearers, he offered love unconditionally, he called the people to follow him and he went to them in their places of need and lived among them. He started a worldwide movement without a building and without a budget, although he had access to all the resources of heaven.

For me the excitement comes from the thought of doing church in a new way for this new community. I want the church to grow with the community, to become part of the community’s DNA, so connected with the community that it influences and affects and transforms the community as it grows. It means meeting the community where it is, serving it where it is, and influencing it where it is.

I guess that’s harder work. It’s much easier to open a building and then blame the community for not wanting to come and share in worship it doesn’t understand and talk a language it hasn’t learnt.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A great post

Jeff Noble has written a great post about forgiveness and the problem of sin that I really enjoyed reading. Check it out here.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The men of Issachar again

I asked some time ago where the men of Issachar had got to, and I'm still wondering about it. Like fellow blogger Jeff Noble, I'd like to be one if only I could figure out what it means to be a man of Issachar.

If you remember, they understood the times and knew what Israel should do.

To be a modern-day man of Issachar may not relate to making political decisions (the context of the OT verse), but maybe it does. Maybe it's time we thought less about whether we elect the right Christians to office and more about whether we are electing people who can understand the times and act accordingly.

Anyway, when I began thinking about men of Issachar, I was thinking primarily about the church and the need to understand the times and act accordingly as God's people as we seek to bring his message of hope and transformation to a world desperately in need of both.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm still thinking about it, and while I'm thinking about it, here's a description of someone who might fit the bill.

Ezra had determined to study and obey the law of the Lord and to teach those laws and regulations to the people of Israel. (Ezra 7:10)

According to the context, this was the reason that the gracious hand of his God was with him.

The wonder of God's mercy

The wonder of your mercy Lord
The beauty of your grace
That you would even pardon me
and bring me to this place
I stand before your holiness
I can only stand amazed
The sinless Saviour died to make
A covenant of grace

Justice is getting what you deserve. If you want justice, then God will give you justice.

Mercy is not getting what you deserve. If you will forgo justice, then God offers you mercy. God does not punish us as our sins deserve (Psalm 103)

Grace is getting what you don't deserve. I don't deserve his love but I receive it as the free gift it has always been.

Today is a great day to live in the grace of God.

Perplexed and concerned

As I watch the events unfold in Lebanon and Israel, I can't help but wonder about where it all fits. I know Christians who are strong supporters of Israel and I don't want to cause offense, but it bothers me that the evangelical community seems unwilling to challenge Israel in almost any circumstance.

The political situation in Palestine is volatile and complicated. I know that. I know that Israel suffers attacks from all sides too, but I'm not sure that justifies what I see on the news in these days as Southern Lebanon is bombarded from the air and from the ground. While we argue about the theological implications of the State of Israel, and wonder why other countries continue to supply arms to both sides, people are dying. Violence begets more violence and the innocent seem to suffer most.

Has our theology of Israel in some way contributed to the problems? Have we unwittingly given credence to a skewed view of what is right and wrong for the Middle East?

And still the innocent suffer.

For all those verses in the Bible that speak powerfully and profoundly about the place Israel and the people of Israel have in the heart of God, it also speaks boldly about responsibility too.

As I casually read Habbakuk again this last week (I was looking to put to a particular verse into it's wider context) I came across this comment from the prophet.

The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them. Hab.2:17