Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is a new systematic theology needed?

I've never been a big fan of systematic theology. Maybe it's because there always seems to come a point where you have to adjust something to fit your system rather than adjusting the system. I'm just rebellious at heart!

On the other hand, I've begun to wonder if there isn't a need for a more systematic approach to theology as we do it in church. I don't think we actually need to look for an emerging systematic theology or go in search of a post-modern systematic theology either. But I just wonder if some of the issues I regularly see in pastoral ministry result in part from an absence of understanding of some fundamental truths and doctrines.

I suspect we might have to find a more subtle way of doing it than announcing an eight week series of doctrine of sin, but the challenge apart, a more consistent approach to educating ourselves about what we actually believe than what we think we believe or what makes us feel better about ourselves.

More thought to come I'm sure.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Final thoughts on the seminar

Well maybe not the final thoughts, but nearly the last blog on the subject unless I get carried away.

We finished the day with a meditation which involved listening to someone read The Father's Love Letter. You might have come across this via an email from someone or a chance search on the internet. I was sent it quite some time ago. It's very nice. It's quite comforting. It's all Scripture. It's only half the story.

My problem is that whilst everything it contains is drawn from well-known verses and passages throughout the Bible, it is just that, a collection of nice, comforting thoughts. We're encouraged these days to think a lot about the Father who loves us. One of the artists at Spring Harvest this year described their ministry about helping people to see that God is head-over-heels in love with them. 


The thing is, where is the Father who disciplines his children in all this? Where is the Holy God who judges us, finds us wanting and then offers himself as the solution?

Therein lies my problem with some of what we talked about today. It's not a complete picture. To be fair, I'm not sure how you'd paint a complete picture in one day, but for me a little more theological reflection wouldn't have gone amiss.

I agree with the statement made today that the negative voices that tell us we're not good enough, we're useless, we're failures, do not come from God. But I'm not sure that turning them into comforting voices that praise our effort and tell us that our best is good enough is the whole answer.

Take David for example. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged the murder of Uriah I suspect he felt pretty bad about himself. I'm guessing that he didn't feel connected to God, maybe even abandoned by him. The last thing David needed at that point was to turn to his inner voice and tell himself, "You're okay." Clearly he wasn't okay. He needed to deal with his sin in order to rebuild his self-esteem.

Then how about Moses? Was he suffering low self-esteem when he told God he couldn't possibly speak on his behalf  because of his speech problem? Maybe Moses was offering a realistic assessment of himself. Would God have used an articulate, confident Moses?

You see my point.

Low self-esteem is most definitely an issue with which many people, including many Christians,  struggle. But maybe the best solution is a healthy biblically based understanding of ourselves and of God's grace and mercy. Perhaps we need to engage more fully with the central doctrines of our faith in order to better understand these things.

It was interesting that when we were asked to think about various negative images of God as Father and choose the one that most reflects how we sometimes see him, I struggled to pick one. It wasn't because I don't have times when I feel abandoned or distant from him, it's just that as I thought about them I thought also about the theological understanding I carry with me that helps me address those feelings without having to think about how a positive parent might speak to me.

Overall the day did have real value for me as I reflected on the sources of low self-esteem and listened to the stories that some shared about their personal experiences. But I couldn't help feeling that something was missing and that something was about knowing God and knowing myself in God's eyes.

Self-Esteem Seminar

Halfway through the day looking at self-esteem and I'm struck by a number of things. Firstly, the theological framework of our understanding of self-esteem needs to be strengthened. It's very easy to get caught up in a framework that owes more to psychological interpretations than it does to a thorough Biblical understanding of self.

The second thing, which actually follows from the first, is the question of the place of sin in our self-understanding. Is it not possible that at times our self-esteem is rather dependent upon avoiding a sense of responsibility for our sin? Or maybe it's a case that if we have healthy self-esteem then we are better able to understand the nature of sin and what we are to do about it. In other words healthy self-esteem leads us to confession and contrition.

Thirdly it seems to me that self-esteem is about how we process what happens to us, rather than what actually happens. The good news that if we learn low self-esteem (or rather generate low self-esteem through the things we learn), through events and attitudes of others etc, then we can surely unlearn it as we embrace the truth of God's deep, compassionate and saving love for us.

Anyway, it's an interesting day so far, and there are many questions yet to answer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What price higher taxes?

I didn't watch the budget last week with any great interest. I know I'll be affected by some of the changes that were announced, but somehow I couldn't quite summon up the enthusiasm to listen to an over-optimistic chancellor describe an economic future designed to make his maths look better than it is.

Call me cynical, but I can't see things changing for quite some time.

What does bother me is the fixation there has been in certain parts of the media about the announcement to introduce a 50% tax rate for earnings over £150,000. My old college friend Simon Jones blogged about it last week here. His point is well made that there are far more people trying to survive on $1 a day (about 68p) than will be affected by the new tax rate. And remember, if it works like all the other tax rates, it will only be applied to earning above £150,000.

I have no reason to doubt Simon's maths, but when I did the calculations myself, deducting tax and National Insurance from £150,000 a year leaves £258 a day. Not a week, or a month, but a day. That surely sounds rich in any language by comparison to 68p. In fact, if your household income after tax is greater than £3000 a month then your household lives on £100 a day and if it's more than £2000, then you have one hundred times the financial resources of the poorest people on which to live every day. 

Perhaps as a first world nation we should take responsibility for what has happened and accept that it is going to cost us to sort things out and that we need a new model of equity in economics. 

Equity is not the same as equality. Everybody does not need to have the same, it just needs to be more equitably distributed. It simply cannot be right that the gap continues to rise between rich and poor.

I just wonder how we can get there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Gate

I went out the other day with my camera to take a few pictures of the new footpath that has been put in opposite the house. It leads into the new wood that has been planted in the last few years.

Inadvertently I switched my camera into black & white mode! however it was a nice trip down memory lane of my first forays into the world of photography when I was quite young. 

This is my favourite of the group of photographs I took that day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is a Christ-centred life?

Had a really interesting conversation today that's got me thinking about the church and the state of discipleship in the 21st century. I think the first thing I'd want to say is that I'm not so sure that discipleship was any better in previous generations than it is now. People may have read their Bibles more often, they may have understood intercessory prayer more deeply and they may have demonstrated greater commitment through greater attendance. But were they any more Christ-centred?

I'm not so sure. I've had my fair share of conversations with Christians from previous generations who know a lot, but apply very little.  The key is not to mistake knowledge for Christ-centred living.

So what is a Christ-centred life? Answers on a postcard to... The problem is that as we try to define it, we will inevitably define in terms of what fits for us. But let's run the risk, and try to offer at least some sort of framework.

I think a Christ-centred life has to be built on a firm foundation of a solid understanding of the core beliefs, values and practices of following Jesus. In other words, it has to have a foundation of sound doctrine. Now how you define sound doctrine is yet another thorny question, but the basics have to be place and I suspect that under the banner of evangelical, the foundational stuff is not that difficult to define.

But knowledge is not the end of the story. 

I preached recently about Jesus as the New Passover (John 6) and made the point that the Passover only works for those who participate, and so you must participate in Christ (the whole point of the eat my body, drink my blood metaphor) in order to receive the benefit of being in Christ. So we must add to our knowledge some experience. Experience without knowledge leads us down a dangerous path of doing what feels right to us without any checks and balances. But without experience, knowledge dessicates the soul.

Perhaps then, a Christ-centred life needs to be an active life, actively pursuing the goal of becoming more like Christ in action and in word. It's an incarnational life. Maybe we ought also to describe it as a purposeful life that honours God, is being transformed into the image of Jesus, involved in mission and ministry and part of the family.

The importance of answering this question is not just in order that we might better follow Christ, although that is clearly very important, but more a matter of fulfilling Christ's purposes for the church. If he has chosen to reach the world through the church, then this will only happen through people who are no longer centred on themselves but who are fully centred on Christ. People who are determined to live for his glory not just sing about it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sponsorship with a difference

Can I point to an organisation that I think is quite innovative when it comes to the idea of sponsorship?

 I remember hearing about the early beginnings of Smile International from Clive himself. I go to know him through connections in my first pastoral setting in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

From those early days the organisation has grown and now works in a wide range of countries. 

Whilst Smile isn't the only organisation to offer the opportunity to sponsor children (Compassion, World Vision, Action Aid to name three I know), I don't know of any other organisation that offers the opportunity to sponsor a widow or a pastor. There probably are organisations out there doing this, but if you already sponsor a child and want to do something different, why not visit Smile International's website and download the widow and/or pastor sponsorship forms.

Someone, somewhere will be glad you did!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Learning to shave (all over again)

Here's the thing. In a moment of sheer madness I found myself asking the barber a rather risky question. I've built up quite a good relationship with the good chaps at the barber shop over the years, so I thought I could ask my question without generating too much laughter. You see, I'm a beard man. If you look closely at my profile photograph you can see it although the years are showing in its greyness, even whiteness these days. At 52 (actually 51 and a half) I thought it was beginning to look untidy too much of the time and wondered if it was time to take the plunge towards removing it. 

And so it was that I asked my question. As he came towards the end of the haircut I said, "If I were to try a goatee rather than the full beard, where would I start to shape it?" We talked a little and then he said, "I'll do it for you if you want." In a moment of weakness, and strange curiosity, I said, "Okay." Out came the clippers and off came much of the beard. 

Now you need to know that I first grew my beard at the tender age of 19. I never was much good at shaving and there was no one around to teach me. Surprisingly I only recently discovered that most men stumble into shaving rather like falling through a secret doorway. Few fathers take the time to teach their sons how to shave. It's as if shaving is something you ought just to know how to do instinctively. It isn't. 

My best ever shave was done for me by a professional. The whole experience was very relaxing and incredibly smooth. It didn't last long. Almost immediately I began to grow the beard again.

During the 32 years of being bearded, I've shaved for about 6 weeks in total. This give me a problem. Firstly, I really don't know how to do it properly, secondly I've no idea what to buy and thirdly, my skin just isn't used to it at all. In fact it's rather sensitive, which make me think that my current shaving period will be fairly short-lived too.

Actually this makes me wonder about discipleship too. Do we stumble into that? Do we assume that this too is something that we will instinctively get a hold of if we've truly come to faith? Do we look to the internet for information? Where are the people who can guide us, teach us the disciplines of a good walk with Jesus?

Anyway, back to shaving. Having decided to give it a go I needed re-equipping for the task. Off to Tescos. Tell me, exactly how many blades do you actually need to shave with these days! Is it one, two, three, four or even five? Keeping it simple I chose one of the least multi-bladed tools, a soap stick and brush and looked in vain for a styptic pencil (this latter item was something I knew I would need!)

First discovery, shaping a goatee with a disposable razor is not easy. I needed a cut-throat! Amazon surprisingly sell one with a replaceable blade, so I ordered one and gave it a try. Now it's a bit of a skill to use one of these weapons, but after the first, rather disastrous attempt, I seem to be getting better. It's still a bit scary and the styptic is now on order along with a good old-fashioned safety razor.

As you can see from the photograph, my neck is pretty tender. What's interesting is that it is sore where the beard doesn't grow that much anyway. It's probably always been like it, it just shows up more now I've shaved it!

With a wedding to do in a few weeks, I can't stop shaving just yet, so I'll give it a month. Perhaps my skin will settle down and all the lotions and balms will soothe away the redness. Perseverance is the key!

And that too is fundamental to good discipleship.

I never knew learning to shave would have so much in common with learning to be a full devoted follower of Jesus!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Principles for a simpler church?

I thought this was worth reading:

We believe that discipleship is about restoring a right relationship with God, our families, and our community. The way we go about this is through:
  1. Conversation With God - in our worship service, called The Conversation
  2. Commitment to Growth - in our discipleship classes, called The Class
  3. Connection with Others - in our small groups, called Connection Groups
  4. Compassionate Service - in ministry partnerships [we don't have a good name yet]

Not so simple

A word of thanks to all the people, and I mean all the people, to whom I spoke this afternoon at O2.

A couple of days ago I decided to swap from "Pay As You Go" to a contract for my mobile 'phone. Contrary to popular belief I wasn't doing it to get an iPhone although under the right circumstances I might be tempted.  I opted for the web offer of a simplicity SIM at just under £20 a month. For that I get 800 minutes of call time and an inordinate number of texts (1600 as I recall). In fact I could send 56 text messages a day and still not use up the whole allowance! To that I was able to add a free "Bolt On" and I chose free landline calls in the UK. 

So far so good. 

The O2 website also clearly states that you can easily transfer your number from your prep-pay 'phone to your contract SIM. Just call customer services and they'll take care of you. So I did, and it has to be said eventually they did.

I did have to speak to five people to get there, but we got there in the end. The worrying thing is that as I got passed from one person to the next it became obvious that there are many departments in O2 and not all of them read the website. It came as quite a surprise to one employee that you didn't need a PAC code to swap numbers, something the website makes very clear.

Finally I spoke to the calm and collected Tony who made the process really easy. I now just wait for the transfer to happen, which should take place in the next 24 to 48 hours.

So here's hoping that when my 'phone goes dead, it will spring to life soon afterwards with a shiny new contract and no more top ups in the rain outside Tescos!

All in one place

If you're interested in mind mapping then you might be interested in a new resource that pulls together many of the blogs that are out there about Tony Buzan's creative concept for mapping ideas.

Alltop is an "online magazine rack of popular topics" and there is a page just for mind mapping junkies.

I like mind maps, but I tend not to follow the strict rules as laid down by Buzan. I use them to outline sermons and ideas, to map organisations and ministries and to dump stuff out of my head. I've used a few software packages, but the problem with these is often that it takes more effort to create the map you need than it does if you just grab a sketch book and a pen. In fact I have one notebook dedicated to mapping. 

Years ago you used to be able to buy a notebook that alternated plain pages and lined pages. If I could find an A4 spiral bound version of that notebook today, I'd buy them in bulk! Mind map on one side, outline on the other. Personally the best of both worlds! 

I feel the thread of another series of posts coming on... 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Memories of sad times in stadia

I do not wish to offend, but in recent days there has been much in the news about the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster where 96 Liverpool fans died. It was a disaster and with hindsight there are many lesson that were learnt and need continually to be learnt by each generation. 

At the time football was plagued by violence on and off the terraces. I remember the "no go" areas in my home town on match-days. The contribution that violence made to the way football crowds were policed and perceived by many, cannot and should not be underestimated.

It's great to see the fences down and families in the crowds again. I'm not a great fan of football, but those fences from the late 70's and early 80's were never a pretty sight and a terrible indictment of how far a small proportion of society had fallen.

And lest we forget, Hillsborough is not the only tragedy involving supporters at a ground. In 1985, 56 people died and 256 were injured when fire broke out at Bradford City. That same year 39 died and 600 were injured at Heysel and in 1971, 65 people lost their lives when a barrier collapsed at Ibrox.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Removing old addresses

Many of you may already know, but it's taken me a little while to work out how to delete an email address from Mail. I'd always thought that Mail used Leopard's Address Book and that if I deleted someone's old email address from there it would disappear from Mail. Not so.

The old address still appears in the "To:" field when you create a new message. That, quite frankly, is rather annoying. The solution however is quite simple. In Mail simply open the previous recipients window (you'll find it under on the menu bar) and delete the address from the list.

It's one of those little things that I just didn't know until today, and now you know if you didn't already!

Keeping track with accounts software

I blogged a little while ago about the need to find suitable accounting software for the Mac so that I don't have to keep firing up my old Windows laptop to do the household bills etc. My preferred choice would have been to return to Quicken. I used Quicken on a PC for a long time, and it just seemed logical to look for an up-to-date version for the Mac. Sadly it looks like it's going to be  a while before the updated version of Quicken for Mac is available, so I had to look elsewhere.

I decided on three possible applications, all mentioned previously. First I tried Liquid Ledger, but I didn't get on with very well. It didn't have a layout that suited the way my mind worked, and I quickly came to the conclusion that we wouldn't get along too easily. 

Next I tried iBank, and having passed through a bank reconciliation period and passed 75 transactions on one account, I taken the plunge and bought the software. I'm not overly enamoured of the data entry process. I seem to have to move around using the mouse a lot and it would be helpful to be able to keep adding entries without having to select "add new entry" every time.

The reconciliation page was quite good, once I got used to it. Being able to drag unreconciled items into the the reconciled window and see them reconcile right away is helpful. It certainly saves having to track back through additions as you do in Microsoft Money for example.

In truth, I don't use the full potential of any accounting software. I don't track taxes, I don't track investments, I just want to know how much money I've got, where it is and where it's going!

I could do this in a spreadsheet application, and if I tried, I could probably write some scripts to make it do exactly what I need it to do. I could, but I'm not going to. One reason is the number of accounts. What with ISA's and ordinary savings and credit cards and bank accounts, we have about 14 to manage, so a software package is a better choice.

In my limited experience, iBank does the job neatly and with a fairly easy to use interface. Now if only I could get it to say cheque instead of check, I'd be happy!

iBank is available as a trial download from iggsoftware.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

CEBC Times (2)

And the second big news story of the day...

Lost. Found. Lost again!

Earlier this week the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem went missing again. Police fear that this might be a celebrity kidnapping, but as yet no word has been received about the donkey’s location.

Arthur Fishmeal, the donkey’s owner said today, “He’s a really good worker that donkey. Our business is suffering. It’s costing us a small fortune having to hire transport. Pots and pans don’t deliver themselves you know! Even though he had one leg shorter than the others, he was one key donkey.”

The donkey shot to fame when he became the impromptu vehicle of choice of Jesus of Nazareth. The event caused quite a stir as crowds gathered and cheered him along the road into the capital. Jerusalem residents were less impressed.

“A prophet can’t come from Galilee,” they said, “It’s unheard of.”

The Pharisees were also indignant and demanded that Jesus quiet the crowd. He responded, telling them that if the crowd stopped, the stones would cry out!

If you see this donkey contact Sergeant Auspex Perspex on Jerusalem VVV-IXIXIX-IXIXIX.

A small reward may be offered for the safe recovery of this valuable animal.

CEBC Times

We did our Easter Celebration as a newscast with a variety of characters taking part. We had a great piece of animation and music to set the scene and underline the newscast theme. We also did our notice sheet in the style of a newspaper, and for fun we used Roman numerals for dates and times!!

There were two cover stories for our newspaper. Here's the first.

Body Disappears!

Early reports this morning suggest that the body of the Galilean rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, has disappeared from his tomb.

The sometimes controversial preacher was executed last Friday by the Roman authorities. But early this morning rumours began to surface about the disappearance of his body.

Government officials were not available for comment but religious leaders said, “We told Pilate that this might happen. This Jesus made some outrageous claims, one of which was that he’d rise from the dead. That’s why we asked for a guard on the tomb.”

When asked, one of the guards simply said, “He was there last time we looked!”

Speculation is high about what actually happened. In the confusion of the early hours, one of the guards spoke about an earthquake, others spoke about strange men dressed in white wandering around the area immediately surrounding the tomb.

Followers of the enigmatic prophet claim to know nothing of his whereabouts, but one early visitor to the site of the tomb claims that he might be alive and that they had spoken with him in the garden area outside the tomb where he is supposed to have been buried.

Translation please!

I know I'm not a big football fan and therefore may not be thoroughly conversant with the terminology, but could somebody please explain what the referee (Claus Bo Larsen) at the Liverpool-Chelsea match the other night meant when he said:

However, Larsen said: "When a player tried to jump after a goalkeeper who has the ball, to prevent the enemy from turning, then he must also pay at a bank. So he received the card anyway."

What enemy, turning where or from where or into what? Pay what at which bank?

Must be a language thing.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spring Harvest 2009 (5)

I remember at one time there was a suggestion that Paul tried a different evangelistic strategy in Athens that failed. The preferred, and more effective strategy, called power evangelism, was the strategy to which Paul returned after the failure of Athens.

Today, in our final Bible Reading, we heard a different story. We heard the story of a Pharisee who found himself stranded in Athens while he waited for his travelling companions. During his stay he walked around the city with a sense of disgust at what he saw. Idolatry was everywhere. But something changes.

By the time Paul addresses the areopagus he has begun to see things differently. The people that once disgusted him now matter to him because he’d found the key to unlocking their culture and knew that they mattered to God. “Men of Athens,” says Paul, “I can see that you are very religious.” He doesn’t say, “I see that you are very idolatrous.” Paul doesn’t judge them, he recognises God at work among them. It would be equivalent to you and I going to a psychic fair and saying, “I can see that you are very spiritual.” Not a thing I think we’d find easy to do.

Now that doesn’t mean he doesn’t challenge them, it doesn’t mean that we dilute the challenge or message of the cross. But it does mean that we draw back from judgement and move towards grace.

Paul listened to the culture and was probably amazed at what he heard. I wonder what we might hear if we listened more carefully to the cultures around us.

By the end of his speech, Paul has shared their story, he’s shared the story of Jesus and he’s shared the hope that comes through the message.

I've found the Bible Readings challenging and interesting once again. They are, for me, the highlight of the week.

Was it me he was talking about?

I've taken to using my MacBook as a notebook in seminars and talks. The only problem is that it does get noticed. I can't believe that David and I were the only two people in the whole of the Big Top taking notes directly to our computers, but apparently we might have been. Perhaps it's the glowing Apple motif that gives us away. At any rate there was a reference to those folks over there (pointing in our direction!) who are Googling away. And today we had our own bit of fun with Ally, David and I sitting in a row with Macs open and ready!

To give you an idea of how useful using the MacBook can be, I was in a seminar the other day and wanted to add a copy of a small (A6) handout to my notes. Quickly I used the built-in camera to take a picture, which I then edited in iPhoto and flipped the right way around and then dragged it into my notebook application. All very neat, all very easy.

So it has to be said that whilst I could just take hand written notes, and I do take notes like that, the MacBook is a really great tool.

Spring Harvest is about at an end. One last celebration evening and then the final morning. We'll pack up and get off after breakfast. There will be a pile of post to deal with and Easter Sunday is just around the corner.

Spring Harvest is not as significant an event for me as the Global Leadership Summit, but it's still a valuable time and I'm sure it continues to inspire many Christians to continue to live out their lives for the glory of God.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring Harvest 2009 (4)

This morning's Bible Reading was probably the best so far. A really interesting exploration of Acts 15. We explored the 3 principle characters, Paul, Peter and James and how they all responded to the changing boundaries that the gospel introduced to their worlds.

The church, we were told, is called to faithful improvisation, most easily understood as doing something new in the context of what has already been done, or out of what God has already done. In other words we are faithful to the past but not so locked into it that we cannot move out of the context it creates.

The challenge is expressed in a simple prayer: Holy Spirit show us what may change, what must change and what must not change.

Acts 15 is all about how the early church responded to a moment of significant change. What do you do with Gentiles who have no experience of Jewish spirituality? Do you make them Jews or not. The early church's solution was to look to the past (why burden them with a yoke we couldn't manage), look to the present (what is God doing now) and look to the future (what does the gospel ask of us). The decision they made, a decision that swept away hundreds of rules and regulations, opened the door to major expansion of the kingdom.

The gospel both affirms and challenges every culture. What the early church's response to the Gentile conversions shows us how they handled this in their day. So how should we handle it in our day? What are the distinctive marks of a Christian community in the 21st century? That's a question worth considering. If the Early Church decided that circumcision was no longer a necessary distinctive of the emerging church, what might the 21st century church need to set aside in order not to exclude or hinder people coming to faith?

Much to consider.

Problem solved!

And no sooner had I posted the previous entry than I discovered the simplest of solutions!!

For those for whom this might be useful, here's what I did... it really was this simple.

Open Mail and go to Preferences. Go to accounts and locate the Outgoing Mail Server.

From the drop down list choose  and then simply add a new server.

Mail creates an account and then provided you have "use any available server" ticked for your outgoing mail, things should work.

And I thought it was going to be complicated!

Mobile email

I've been using my mobile broadband connection while away at Spring Harvest only to discover that I can't use email. Well, that's not quite true. I can receive email and I can use my web based email, googlemail and probably my Tiscali account if I signed into the site.

I'd like to be able to use my ordinary email but I've just discovered that I need to change the outgoing mail server and port. Not a thing I want to do every time I'm away from home. So, I tried to create an account with the outgoing email settings but Mail didn't like me creating a fake account.

The thing is that you can tell mail to use any available server, so it would be nice just to add the mobile server to the list, but I can't find a way to do that without changing everything else.

If I find a solution I'll post it, but if you know of one, please tell me. It would be much appreciated!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Spring Harvest 2009 (3)

An interesting quote form Day Three at Spring Harvest: Peter's capacity to lead is directly related to his capacity to hear the voice of God.

We were looking at the story of Cornelius, or more specifically Peter's account of what happened. As Peter retells the story we get to see how he responded to what God was doing. God takes Peter out of his comfort zone but not out of God's comfort zone. And of course God, who gave the Law in the first place, is the one who now tells Peter to step out beyond that same Law.

In the afternoon I went to the second seminar on discipleship. Lots more to think about, many things that we've done in church but that we need to recapture and do again and again. The challenge is to help people to understand that their daily routine is important to God and to help them live both incarnationally and missionally in those situations.

So two good sessions and at the moment as I type, I'm watching the evening celebration on TV.

I also did a bit of work on an idea for a leaflet to give out on Sundays about what's happening. Not a reworking of the notices but something different. Ally and David helped me with some ideas last night and we'll work on it a lot more before we use it. Our goal is to use it for the 19th April when we have a dedication.

Tomorrow I need to give myself some time to work on the Easter to Pentecost series and maybe to do a bit of people watching in Skyline. I'm not being cynical, but I do wonder what difference all the book and t-shirt sales make to the ongoing daily expression of God at work in the individual. We're back at Peter's point that we have all we need for godliness, it's just that someone needs to tell the publishing houses and also remind the Christian that thinks that a new Bible will make all the difference.

Spring Harvest, Butlins and wi-fi

Without wanting to sound like a truly grumpy old man, it has to be said that Butlins has once again disappointed me in the area of wireless connectivity. I checked the websites and once again a free wi-fi connection was there the see, but alas nothing of a working nature seems to be available. There is something, but the signal in the two places I've tried so far is so poor that nothing works.

Still at least I have my trusty modem and that means some connection can be made. 

It's not that I need desperately to be connected constantly to the outside world, it's just frustrating when it's supposed to be here but can't be found!

Never mind. Maybe I just haven't found the right place yet. I'll try the Front Room Coffee shop next.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Spring Harvest 2009 (2)

So, Day Two began with a walk around the perimeter of the Butlins site. Saw a lot of runners, don't expect to see so many tomorrow! I don't run anymore, the knees can't take it.

We watched the Big Start in the chalet together and then set off to the Bible Reading. They have a different title these days, but it's an extended bible Study and usually it's a good place to start. This year the readings are from Acts and we began today with Acts 2.

Apart from being taken by surprise by the speaker's authoritative assertion that Luke was a Jew who knew the family of Jesus, it all went pretty much to type. Clearly I'd missed something in the world of New Testament studies, but a quick internet search found a number of articles exploring Luke's Jewishness. I thin I'm still of the opinion that he was a Gentile who travelled with Paul and wrote his gospel after careful research rather than first hand knowledge. But that's not terribly important.

In talking about Acts 2, we were pointed back to Acts 1 and a nice 3 point outline:

  • Trust God
  • Receive the Spirit
  • Tell the story of Jesus.

In the afternoon I went to a seminar about whole-life discipleship in the church which was very interesting. Some good ideas and thoughts.

We talked about the sacred/secular divide and about how we do church tends to reinforce this concept. And it's not just the fault of pastors (hurray) but the way people see their spiritual lives as separate from their everyday lives. There were some useful ideas about how to begin to break down this divide and I'll be giving it some thought when we get home.

We ended the day by going to the Cafe Church event. I think they struggled with the number of people who turned up and it didn't really work for me, but I think that might have been the setting, the distance between where we were sitting and the focus of the "stage", plus a few other factors. it did give me and idea for the dedication that's coming up in a couple of weeks time.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spring Harvest 2009

We've arrived at Spring Harvest 2009 and settled into our luxurious accommodation! Looking at the programme there are one or two interesting things to take in, but other than that it's business as usual. And I don't mean that in a negative way, just in case you misunderstood me!

I'm looking forward to a rest and the opportunity to get a little refreshed.

I'm also trying out a mobile broadband connection. It's working okay, but I'm struggling to send emails at the moment. Maybe that will resolve itself in the next few days. We will see.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It worked!

Not sure why I'm so surprised, but my script worked fine. So I now have a new calendar called scripts which has a recurring event at 10:00pm to run my script. The calendar is hidden so the "appointment" doesn't show.


Talking with Ally, we thought of some variations, but we need to find out a bit more about how to write the script to do them. I'm guessing, but it ought to be possible to set the status to bounce instead of delete and I thought about adding a growl notification to let you know that it was deleting a given number of messages. For me, just deleting the contents of the junk folder is enough.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Erase Junk Mail

One of the little bug-bears with some of the Apple applications are the little things that are missing. Take the fact that Mail doesn't have the ability to set a flag to delete the contents of the junk mail folder when you close Mail. Or better still, why not have a setting to delete the junk mail at the end of the day?

This got me thinking and after a little digging around I decided that it couldn't be that complicated to create an AppleScript to do the job. Someone must have done it already, but I couldn't find it so I had a go a writing one myself!

Here's the simple script that I've written:

tell application "Mail"
set junkMessages to every message of junk mailbox
repeat with junkMessage in junkMessages
set deleted status of junkMessage to true
end repeat
end tell

It seems to work. I've tested it a couple of times and enjoyed watching my junk mailbox empty before my very eyes.

Of course you might be thinking, why doesn't he just use the keyboard shortcut to do the job? Well I wanted to try something else. Having read about how you can launch scripts from iCal events, I thought that it might be rather neat to write the delete script and then schedule it in iCal at the end of each day.

If you open iCal and create an event "Delete Junk Mail" you can set the alarm to run the script. You can of course create this event as a recurring event in a hidden calendar so that it doesn't show up in your current view of iCal but works away in the background. 

I might try this for syncing my phone rather than the Proximity app running a script as I do now. As it is, I'm going to have to wait until tomorrow morning to see if my 10:00pm event to delete my junk mail works.

I'll let you know.

The BNP and Jesus

I guess it was only a matter of time before the BNP sought to invoke the name of Jesus in their drive for power and respectability. It's not a new device among political parties. Fortunately, before we all go off the deep end about it, I'm guessing that most people will see right through it, just as they see through any attempts at sound-bite posturing. 

However, I offer the following antidote to the suggestion that Jesus might in any way have some political sympathy with the BNP.

When asked to express the greatest commandment, Jesus responded with the famous couplet: "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind... To love you neighbour as yourself."

In the Old Testament, God made it clear that whilst his people were not to be influenced by other nations and people of other nation, they were not to mistreat them.

The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

So I don't think we have to worry that all of a sudden we're going to be targeted as right-wing nationalists. Unless of course we give people that impression. Perhaps the greater challenge of the new BNP campaign is to inspire us to live a clearer incarnational life of discipleship than we have done to date. That way, when people read the BNP literature they can say, "Well that doesn't sound like the kind of Jesus talked about by the Christians I know."

Just a thought.