Thursday, December 24, 2009
Nettes is continuing to do agency work as a support worker in City College with adults with additional needs/learning difficulties as well as running a crèche for an ESOL group one morning a week for Karis Neighbour Scheme, a charity that has links with our church. Nettes is still also leading our church’s Sunday school. After a recent recruitment drive we have a few more workers. This is good as some children have come up from crèche and we are now running three groups rather than two. But that’s not all she does. After getting a Grade 2 in last year’s module she now has only one more year to go on her Open University Degree in Psychology.
I am still teaching Psychology. This year the merger of Matthew Boulton College and Sutton Coldfield College to form Birmingham Metropolitan College was finally made official in September. As well as teaching some time in the sixth form I still have my evening class although because of funding issues it is not certain that this will continue next academic year. We both continue to visit our church’s drop in centre that grew out of the work with the homeless. Over the summer I went on a trip with them to Stratford. And this year I have taken over some responsibility for the church’s website.
Our little daughter Callie is now in Year 2 and is getting some glowing reports from school. This year she has enrolled in Rainbows. On her birthday she enjoyed a visit to Blakesley Hall with friends, and has had fun sleeping over with her friends on occasions. In the summer holidays she went to Stratford with Nettes and one of her college classes. They all had fun brass rubbing. Callie has just got back from Cadbury World which was a very special treat!
This year as a family we went to Spring Harvest at Easter, which we all enjoyed very much. Nettes and Callie then went on from there to visit Callie’s friend Holly at Ashford in Kent. Over the summer we were very involved in our local community fun day, where Nettes ran a bric-a-brac stall. And then we went to the celebration event for our network of churches that was held in Swansea.
We regularly visit my mum Joyce who is in a residential care home in Birmingham. She is continuing to slowly decline in health. She is now in bed all the time being turned every hour and it doesn’t help having a broken leg that refuses to heal.
Anyway, Merry Christmas! Have a great one! God's richest blessings on you this season!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Across the country many of their shops look like they will be closing shortly unless more buyers step in. Some have been taken over by CLC and some – including the one in Birmingham - by Australian Christian bookshop chain Koorong who have also taken over the related publishing business of Authentic Books. Authentic Music has been taken over by Kingsway.
Not long ago we saw the collapse of SPCK and possibly this is partly due to a knock-on effect. I also suspect that a lot of people now buy books through Amazon rather than making the trek to their local bookshop. If you consider that a lot of Christian bookshops rely on volunteers then you will realise that situation is even worse than you might have thought.
This means that a lot of the Christian bookshops in the UK are now either closed, for sale or broke. Is this the end of Christian bookshops in the UK? Some like St Andrews still appear to be going strong. But generally the future of Christian bookshops doesn't look promising.
Lord we pray for those affected who might be worrying about their jobs over Christmas. Give them your peace.
HT: Church Times on Wesley Owen
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It was great that there were so many candles and that there were a few creative contributions. Andy read my advent poem and Nettes did a monologue as Mary with a few slides I'd prepared.
I really enjoyed singing carols such as 'O Holy Night' and 'Little Town of Bethlehem'. (As a family tonight we just put our little daughter to bed and sung 'Away in a Manger'.)
I was out preparing the mulled wine, being careful not to confuse the alcoholic with the non-alcoholic versions, so I missed Joe and Ellie's video. But I just got an email telling me that it's on YouTube. So enjoy...
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
We step into our HD screens.
To escape the stress of our work
We long for our lives to be changed.
We are waiting. We are longing.
We are waiting. We are longing.
Waiting for the doorbell to ring.
Preparing food, tidying up,
In all the busyness of life,
Suddenly catching breath we stop.
We are waiting. We are longing.
We are waiting. We are longing.
You crossed the threshold to this world
One day you will break in again.
Your kingdom has already come,
So, here and now, please in us reign.
We are waiting. We are longing.
We are waiting. We are longing.
In scary new exciting ways
We’re ready to engage with this.
Open up the conversations.
Creative God you’re worth the risk.
We are waiting. We are longing.
We are waiting. We are longing.
Not passive waiting; active change.
A growing yearning deep inside.
Some attitudes to still adjust.
Dear God break in upon our lives.
We are waiting. We are longing.
We are waiting. We are longing
© David Derbyshire 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Kuhn said that science exists in a cultural context. This tells scientists what is acceptable to study and what research methods are reasonable to use and what constitutes legitimate data and acceptable evidence. He called this context a paradigm.
He said that rather than seeing science as building one idea upon another actually it involves revolutionary change where one set of assumptions is abandoned in favour of a new set. Scientific disciplines advance through stable periods of one paradigm to moments of crisis or paradigm shift like this to times when a new paradigm is established.
In physics we see a crisis moment when Newton’s theory of gravity was shown inadequate by Eddington’s astronomical observations. Einstein’s ideas were then accepted as the new paradigm. Events such as these have become known as a paradigm shifts.
According to Popper for a theory to be scientific you need to be able to show that it is false. One example that contradicts this is enough. For example the discovery of the platypus shows that not all mammals give birth to their young alive – at least one mammal lays eggs. But actually one example is rarely enough as often there may be other explanations offered. But as these examples build up we slowly loose faith in the way that we thought and start looking for a new way to explain things.
On this basis psychoanalysis can be rejected as unscientific as it cannot be falsified - interestingly according to Popper we can reject Darwin’s theory of evolution on the same criteria. But in psychology we can still see paradigms such as behavioural, cognitive and biological all competing to be today's paradigm.
But across disciplines there is a growing view that an important paradigm shift is occurring. This is a move from 'modern' thinking (that wants everything to fit into the logical propositions of the enlightenment) to 'post-modern' thinking (which based on narrative and is more tolerant of ambiguity). Perhaps that means the new paradigm is tolerant of competing paradigms like those in psychology?
Of course none of this is new. These ideas have been around for decades and I'm probably way behind in thinking about these. But I’m still happily wondering about some of the implications of all this.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
It was great to see Scott Lencke and his wife Cat and to chat at the dinner table with among others Joel & Beth Tarbutton from New Life Church Letchworth. There was plenty of time for food and fellowship and also teaching, sung worship and loads more. Here are some things that I hastily scribbled down over the weekend.
Geoff Brown spoke on moving on with God. When Israel was in the wilderness they would camp for a time and then move on – lead at the front by the tribe of Issachar – ‘who recognised the times and the seasons and knew what Israel should do’. The climate is changing. In the past churches have split when new revelation came. Now churches are coming together. When Israel moved on they took the tabernacle with them. As we move on there are things we hold on to even if for a time they are ‘folded’ like the canvass of the tabernacle.
Ian Rawley began the next day with some leadership lessons from Nehemiah encouraging us to not to neglect ‘building the walls’ that is not just building the church but also engaging the world. He gave a good critique of post-modern thinking: narrative is important but we must not forget the need to be clear about the church, the gospel and the kingdom. The church should be a safe place. Flat structures are good but there is still a place for leadership and authority.
Alan Scotland encouraged us not to hold back. He warned of the virus of individuality and to beware the illusion of connectedness through media. We need to ensure that we seek authentic community.
In the evening David Latham spoke about the power of God. He was very impressed with our churches especially how we live out authentic community. Something that I noted in what he said was a line from one of Wesley’s hymns: ‘the mystic power of godliness’.
The day ended well with us simply breaking up into small groups to pray.
On Sunday Kobus Swart talked about being in a time of transition. He said that it is God who changes the seasons. He quoted George Barna who had said that by the mid-21st century the church would be totally irrelevant - unless there is a new move of God. Kobus spoke of the present move as ‘the apostolic reformation’ and of his own involvement in working with other very different churches in what he called a ‘city eldership’. In this time of transition we need to hold onto the revelation we have as we embrace the new.
Finally Tim Morley taught us some lessons from Timothy & Epaphroditus (1 Timothy 2) mentioning unity in diversity and emphasising the importance of relationship above gifting.
We finished with a time of breaking of bread and prayer followed by a Sunday lunch together before we all headed home.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The faithworks site contains some good material to get you rethinking your commitment to building stronger links with other groups in the community. This is something that we are doing as a church and recently we had a great opportunity to be involved with a community fun day.
They have some challenging thoughts about having greater transparency and accountability with finances and the like. This is important in developing a sustainable funding structure and ensuring that not only meet legal requirements but that people have confidence in how things are handled.
There is also quite a lot about developing procedures and policies. Faithworks even have a charter that churches and other Christian organisations can choose to adopt. As a church that values informality being based on relationship rather than hierarchy we are not overly keen on things like policies and procedures. But it makes you aware that some of it is essential such as police checking and child and vulnerable adult protection policies.
An interesting and challenging site.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
The first think that you’ll notice is that it’s got plenty of photos of us. A key to understanding Church Alive is to realise that it is based on relationships. We are in essence a group of friends who gather together in various places and ways both to enjoy each other’s company and to enjoy God.
There are also some sections on what we believe. But this is not dry doctrine. We believe that what we learn from the Bible has practical application to our workplaces, family life and neighbourhoods. And we outwork that in our relationships with each other.
An essential part of what we believe that church means people and not a building. But we do have a small building - the Ledbury Centre - situated centrally to Ladywood in Birmingham - the main urban area which we wish to reach. But most of the time we meet either in the adjacent community centre (most Sundays) or in each other’s homes (most weeks). Though we meet in the Ledbury Centre on occasions we mainly use it as a Drop In Centre one day a week.
On the website you can read about the Drop In Centre and the Ministry to the Homeless And you read about Kids Alive our weekly kids club that Nettes help run. You can follow through the link to a local charity Karis Neighbour Scheme, with which we have a long standing relationship. Through Karis we have developed relationships with people in the area including a number of asylum seekers and refugees.
Perhaps one of our main challenges comes from us being mainly (although not exclusively) white professionals living some distance from Ladywood, which is much more ethnically diverse area with a lot people of a lower socio-economic status. Yet we are finding opportunities to serve our community – particularly the people on the margins - and be like Jesus to them.
We all live very busy lives and don’t always find it easy to find time to do the things we would like to do as a church. Nevertheless I am always amazed how people give generously both of money and time volunteering.
This is my church and I am proud of it.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Anyway here are a few of the links that I have found:
Here is a very positive and thoughtful review of the 2009 film Creation which examines Darwin’s relationship to the church in a sensitive way.
The review also has a link at the end to some resources that can be used to host some sensible discussions about the movie.
Nick Spencer author of God and Darwin discusses the relationship between Darwin’s ideas and the Christian faith in this podcast.
Here is an interview with Michael Dowd about his book Thank God For Evolution, which uses evolution to discuss the nature of sin.
And finally, here are some quotes from Charles Foster’s The Selfless Gene - a book that David Matthew rates as outstanding book. It makes a very convincing case for evolution that cannot be easily dismissed by Christians and sees it as compatible with the Bible. If you’re interested you can download a PDF of David Matthew’s notes too.
Of course there still are a lot of fundamentalist seven day creationism ideas out there too. But I am more and more drawn to the idea that evolution as a sound scientific basis and is compatible with a level headed view of Biblical Christianity.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Alan discussed with us the role of the apostle and the apostolic ministry. He looked at Ephesians 4 which talks about the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers which he saw all working together in relationship to produce growth - each ministry being like a different finger of a hand. He talked about how apostles worked together in what he called ‘apostolic companies’. These weren’t just teams working on job but companions who were also friends.
He showed that an apostle wasn’t necessarily a church planter but someone who was sent by God. This might involve pioneering but it might also involve building up the church. Alan himself spends a lot of his time in the background supporting church leaders. Having discussed this tension he went on to explain how the church itself should be apostolic. The true church is a church sent by God on a mission. ‘This mission is glocal’, he said, ‘both local and global at the same time’, as in the HSBC slogan ‘The World's Local Bank’
Alan talked about the diversity of the early apostles and discussed how today each church, he works alongside as an apostle, is unique. He mentioned Jonathon Sax’s book on diversity The Dignity of Difference and discussed how he saw this diversity in the church as being like a family – messy at times. And though it might involve fights and fall outs – it certainly did in the book of Acts – there is a great sense of purpose as we all work together for God.
UPDATE: It is worth checking out the account of Alan's recent visit to Syria with the Awareness Foundation whose work involve dialogue between Christians and Muslims. In the video Alan makes is an impassioned plea for peace in the Middle East.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Godly Play is a very specific way of telling Bible stories based on the Montessori teaching method. The stories are tightly scripted with simple carefully crafted props. This time we heard the story of Moses bringing the people of God out of captivity in Egypt.
After some starter activities we queued up to go into another room for the story. Callie helped carry the Kidz Aloud cloth that holds our badges as we process in. All the children then sat down quietly on cushions and listen to the story teller. (I wonder if by having in the other room explains why the children behave so well?)
The story teller told used a simple sand tray with wooden figures and two pieces of blue cloth to represent the Red Sea. She then led a discussion about the story with some standard question which worked well. We could then respond to the story using different forms of art materials. Callie loved this.
To conclude we had the ‘feast’ a simple meal of grapes & juice but this time also with also some matzo as we had been talking about Passover. Callie was very good helping serve the feast as well as carrying the cloth out at the very end.
Callie thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Could Godly Play be something we could do at our little Sunday school? I wonder.
Friday, October 09, 2009
On the notice board in the Ledbury Centre - our church’s little building - are some leaflets about All Being Well. This is a project serving Ladywood set up in partnership between Karis Neighbour Scheme - a Christian charity that we work with - and Spring To Life – which runs as a Community Interest Company (one of the relatively new legal statuses for social enterprises). All Being Well is run by Jude Greenwood whom I met at the recent Community Fun Day. Jude runs a number of courses such as stress management, assertiveness training and anger management. These look like places for locals to discuss how to overcome their problems and learn principles that they can apply to their lives.
These courses reminded me of the personal and social development courses that I've been to at Fircroft College. The idea is to discuss some really practical psychological principles and apply them to your life. On Fircroft's site there are testimonies of how they have impacted people lives. I assume at Fircroft they are funded like other college courses as we did learner agreements and achieved qualifications whereas the All Being Well courses are funded by the National Lottery. It is clear on the Spring To Life site that they are working with a Christian ethos.
Interestingly I have just noticed that the same people who taught me on the self development course at Fircroft also teach a couple of courses on bid writing and funding strategies. Might be worth doing these courses next?
I seem to remember that one of the original aims the Ledbury Centre was to run projects into the community. It’s great that now we have our Drop In Centre running there one day a week. These sound like the sort of courses that our church was thinking about running when we first got this little building. I wonder if there still are lots of things that could be set up and run in Ladywood. How would a multi-media or multi-sensory approach to such courses go down in our community? Perhaps we could incorporate music or art? A community arts project even? Just crazy some ideas!
Karis Neighbour Scheme probably knows more about the needs in Ladywood and whether there could be any need for anything like this. The examples of social enterprises from Greenbelt made me think along the lines of fair trade stalls perhaps selling eco-friendly stuff as well. But we can see from the All Being Well example that if someone knows what they are doing they might be able to set up social enterprise to get sustainable funding perhaps from a variety of sources to run courses and projects like these into the community.
What do you think?
Saturday, October 03, 2009
There was a brilliant article on this in the New York Times a couple of years back: Businesses Try To Make Money and Save The World that is quoted in Andrew Jones’s post on the Fourth Sector. Andrew has just been at the Feast – a conference for social enterprise.
There is a growing trend of people starting social enterprises. Hopefully this trend may help bring us out of recession. Many Christians are setting up such projects. Last year Nettes went to some sessions at Greenbelt about social enterprise run by NET - network of entrepreneurial talent. Christians are seeing it as part of their Christian mission to serve the world and the communities where they are based. Over the next year the Jones’s plan to travel around Europe helping to equip what they refer to as missional entrepreneurs.
Also on this topic the Faithworks site is worth checking out. For instance, their Community Audit Pack looks interesting. It is about assessing the needs in your local community. And they have links to information about funding.
You know what? This is beginning to look doable.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The romantic image of pirates often overlooks their violent criminal behaviour. But historically this behaviour can be understood. ‘Let’s plunder these ships for ourselves rather than for the government’, was the thinking behind piracy in the 17th & 18th centuries. As such pirates are anti-establishment rather than purely anti-social. Their behaviour could be seen as a critique of the established order of greedy capitalism rather than just as personal selfishness. So argues Kester Brewin in a recent series of posts.
Illegal rebellion in this way can be seen as a way of social change. Pirate radio stations originally transmitted new styles of music that the legal radio stations did not. But eventually Radio 1 was born. Similarly, illegal music downloads eventually gave way to legal ways such as Spotify. Change occurs and we realise that the pirates were there before us. In the same way, Kester Brewin argues that Jesus was like a pirate in the way that he broke the religious rules overturning the stated order of his day.
Is there a motif here for Christians? Well, we do seek to be radical and do things differently. This inevitably critiques the established order – both of the world’s way of working and of religious ways of thinking. So why is this idea controversial? I am oversimplifying it, but in an answer to Kester Brewin, Richard Sudworth posts that we should not so easily dismiss Christians with a different revelation who are actually following God. Pete Rollins then takes this up arguing the importance of being considered heretical in order remain orthodox and Richard Sudworth comes back, among other things, playing the faithfulness card.
I think there is an important tension here between producing change by overthrowing systems in order to make progress and maintaining cohesive effective systems. It isn’t that that Kester and Pete are going too far. Surely we should look for innovation and not be afraid to make big changes? But if posible, shouldn't we do this without alienating others? Yes, sometimes Jesus and Christians may appear like pirates but I think there are some dangers with this image and that it needs to be carefully balanced with the concept of faithfulness.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
On Saturday we had some of Nettes' family with us who took part in the record breaking bhangra dancing. While they were doing that I took Callie to see a a Rainforest Symphony a taster for an interactive children's play by the Play House about the rainforest at the REP. There was plenty to see as we wandered around the stalls and exhibitions and caught two or three of the bands. We dropped in on the Barbar Institute of Fine Arts doing their usual story telling session based around a painting.
On Sunday Callie and I ventured into the city centre again exploring some of artsfest again as we walked over to Kidz Aloud in Carrs Lane Church Centre that happened to be on the same weekend.
I thoroughly enjoy this weekend. Artsfest has now become a regular tradition.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
Now this book has received some circulation he obviously feels the situation has changed slightly. The author feels that there are now enough people that have read the book and seen that universalism can be argued from the Bible, and so is a legitimate evangelical position – even if they don’t agree with it. Hence he now feels confident enough to reveal his identity.
So who is the Evangelical Universalist?
Robin Parry - the Editorial Director for the Christian publishing house Paternoster Press and author of Worshipping Trinity.
Thanks to Maggi Dawn for the tip off.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The kids recieved a variety of teaching methods moving round different activities. So when they came to us we were chatting about what the words meant to them or what they had learnt through the other activities as they decorated the letters. One activity I liked was when the children were given a prayer cube that they used both as a learning aid and then to pray with. And they could take these home at the end.
In the final meeting the kids presented what they had learnt and we held up the frieze and to finish off everyone at the celebration reciting the Lord’s Prayer with us.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
So what's the problem?
Is it Todd's recent divorce and remarriage? Well actually Todd is now going through a time of "restoration". He has made himself accountable to Rick Joyner. This is documented in videos on his new site. Of course falling as Todd did is a very human failing. We can and should learn to rebuild our trust of him in this area.
No, I have a different concern – the whipping up audiences especially using exaggerated claims. Todd claimed some incredible miracles. News media such as ABC's Nightline broadcast concluded that not one of these could be independently verified. Nevertheless his staff worked overtime collating testimonies and medical reports. So what are we to think? I am sure that some people were really touched but also I think there was a lot of hype.
Don't get me wrong. I am a great believer in prayer and I look for God to heal today. But observing the way that phenomena such as this spread makes me wonder to what extent human psychology is involved. And in fact whenever I see people called forward after hearing a motivational message I wonder how much of what follows is due to suggestion. I'm not saying that the emotional manipulation is always intentional. But when the focus is on an individual and their needs people tend to get over emotional. Those that do respond in this way may even start to get dependant on this emotional experience.
In our church we are careful not to make claims we can’t back up and not to whip up emotions. Times of “ministry prayer” are thankfully rare and, when they do occur, often the meeting is formerly closed so that we can get a coffee if we prefer, which I do. But I long for more of God and I feel that sometimes it would be good to respond to him with a physical act but, to be honest, for all the above reasons most of these "appeals" give me the willies.
So what are the alternatives? Well I think we can be more creative. Why can't we have activities in which we can all take part if we want to – not just those “in need of prayer”? Let's not be so intense about it.
On occasions in our worship we have been encouraged write or draw something to give thanks for and bring that forward to be displayed. Once during our Time With God we wrote down things that we were praying for God to get rid of such as debt or injustices and dropped them into a litter bin. I saw a number of activities like this at Prayer House at Spring Harvest this year. And in previous years I have seen many ideas in worship sessions at Greenbelt. On my bookshelf I have a series of books with many innovative multi-sensory ideas by Sue Wallace. The list could go on. I’m sure we can think of more of these ourselves and use them as ways to respond in our services.
More “ministry prayer”? No thanks!
But I would love to see more of these creative and relaxed ways for us all to respond to God. Come on! Let’s go for it!
For a related article by a friend of mine see Catching Men by David Matthew.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Instead of meeting on Sunday our church threw itself into supporting this event and many of us came as volunteers. This was our worship. A few helped with the set up and stewarding, Heather & Roo did face painting, I was involved with a team from our church in organising a prayer tent and my wife Nettes ran the bric-a-brac stall. The day was initiated by Karis Neighbour Scheme and lots of local organisations got together to arrange it. Everyone worked very hard. Apologies to any I have missed.
In the prayer tent we offered prayer including prayer for healing and laying on of hands. A few completed prayer-cards and posted them in the box. We had a good time praying with these cards at the end of the day. And we prayed with a few in person, anointing at least a couple of people with oil. It was good being a listening ear. People also took away some of the free resources. There were some booklets, we had printed some of Stephanie's poems on card and printed these downloads on how to pray from an excellent website called rejesus.
It was a steep learning curve for me. I'd never really done anything like this before. But I knew that a few from our church had run a prayer tent last year. So I was very greatful to have people around me who knew what they were doing. It is a lot harder than I realised to put up signs on a tent. And one problem with being in a tent is that your papers tend to blow around. It was very quiet at first and I thought that we might have no vistors. But in the end we were encouraged and felt that all who came to the tent received a blessing.
Across the site some good relationships were built with people in the community. For example, both Nettes and I had a chat with the people from our local LETS. I also met Karis's Jude Greenwood, for the first time, who among other things is an associate of Spring To Life specialising in life coaching. And through this event I met Gwen the minister of the Church of the Redeemer who mentioned that her church was starting a Messy Church.
All in all it was a great day. A special thanks to Annabel from Karis for getting this off the ground!
Monday, August 10, 2009
We will offer to pray for people in person or give them the opportunity to jot down a prayer or request on a card and post it in a box. We will pray with these cards when we open the box at the end of the day. We will have some other free resources on the stall and trust that people will come along and be blessed.
The other week I was invited to a planning meeting for the event at Karis Neighbour Scheme and it looks like this is now going to be a regular event.
Please pray that this goes well.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
The Shack tells the story of one man’s experience God - how this has been affected by a tragedy in his life that has left to him living with depression and a love/hate relationship with the Almighty. This relationship takes an unexpected turn when the protagonist Mack receives an invitation – apparently from God – to spend the weekend together at an old abandoned shack.
The narrative in the book starts off being realistic. At first I thought the book was going to be mainly a detective novel. But then the snowy world around the shack suddenly changes into spring and Mack meets manifestations of the Trinity. Jesus is, as you would expect, a carpenter from the Middle East but Father is portrayed as a black woman called Papa and Holy Spirit as an oriental woman Sarayu. God appearing as female may shock some but Young quickly clarifies that the purpose of this is to challenge religious stereotypes. As the story progresses we are left wondering if Mack is lying unconscious in the shack dreaming or having visions or that perhaps he has died and this is the afterlife. I couldn’t help thinking of parallels to the TV series’ Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes where the heroes’ adventures take place in a dream world while in a coma.
The bulk of the novel is about Mack’s conversations with the Trinity. And there are some moving descriptions of how the three characters relate to each other and to Mack. Unfortunately, Young also tries to explain some of his own theory of the Trinity. It was here that I initially got stuck. It is difficult when discussing the Trinity to avoid the accusations of heresy unless you are a theological scholar, which Young is not. But I didn’t immediately jump on Young’s ideas as error as some have. The first time through I just got bored. It wasn’t until I got past this section and realised the novel isn’t about the Trinity per se but about how we can relate to God in tragedy then the whole thing took off for me again.
The Shack challenges the traditional view of God as distant and judgemental emphasising instead his loving relational nature. This is controversial for some and clichéd for others. However the message of the book clearly comes through: everyone is special to God, he cares, he is not the cause of our pain and we can run to him for comfort. This is not just intellectually argued but depicted in an emotionally powerful way that many have testified has touched them deeply.
The plot works well. The conversations climax as Mack realises how much he blames God for his plight. The dialogue with each member of the Trinity then sensitively unravels this. I loved it, in one of these chats, when Jesus points out that New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation doesn’t refer to heaven but to the church. The description of the church Young offers is not one of an institution but of a community built on the sort of relationships modelled in Papa, Jesus and Sarayu. As Larry Crabb would say, we join in the dance of the Trinity. Papa condemns religion as man-made deception. And I am still trying to get my head around some of the discussions of law and grace and about how God wants to set us free from the expectations of others.
The Shack has produced heated debates across the internet. Some love it and want the world to read it. Others condemn it as heresy. I agree it is a good book and I’m glad I finished it. I must confess to a few reservations but I would not say it’s heretical.
If you want to read more about this book I recommend fellow blogger Scott Lencke’s lengthy three-part post that looks at some of the main criticism.
Part One summarises the plot and looks at how The Shack stops short of the universalism and does in fact honour scripture.
Part Two defends Young’s description of a non-judgemental God but finds Young’s view of God’s sovereignty lacking and criticises his position on Open Theism.
Part Three concludes that The Shack does not teach heretical views on the Trinity - such as Modalism - but says that Young has not always chosen his words well. It also discusses the reasons for God appearing female.
Also two books published February 2009 discuss the theology of the Shack. Confusingly they are both called ‘Finding God In The Shack’ - one by Randal Rauser and one by Roger E Olson. Skimming the reviews there doesn’t seem much to choose between them but the one by Olson looks a little more critical of Young’s ideas.
I hope you’ve found these ramblings helpful. In the end, whatever we think of this novel, my prayer is that we all learn something about the nature of God revealed in The Shack. I trust we will learn to run to him in times of trouble and not away.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Terry’s thoughts are outlined in the video embedded in that post. Although it was helpful to receive a wake up call in the way that he did, Terry explains, it is unhelpful to think of one person succeeding him as the new leader. Instead he sees the way forward is to acknowledge a number of emerging apostles. In the video Terry also teaches on the role of apostles today and what he calls 'apostolic spheres'.
Terry names John Kpikpi in West-Africa author of God’s New Tribe and Edward Buria in Kenya as a couple of examples of these new emerging apostles. Whether these new ministries will continue to work together under the title of New Frontiers or not only time will tell. But I get the impression that Terry Virgo intends to stay around for at least a few more years.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
They wanted to get married in church and attended that church for some time in order to do so yet I don’t think they would wholeheartedly claim to be Christians. But what impressed me about their wedding was the Christian content. There was a clear talk about Christian marriage and prayers for the couple with which I felt a strong agreement.
I have been to traditional church weddings before and found them quite boring and been frustrated that the message was watered down. Perhaps this church was different or perhaps I have changed and over the years become more accepting of Christian traditions different from my own.
Like many people getting married today Dave & Sally had been living together for a while. Nowadays of course no-one bats an eyelid at an unmarried couple even signing into a hotel room together. And a forty year old virgin makes good material for a comedy.
So the idea of wanting to remain a virgin until your wedding is an unusual one. But I am not ashamed to say that that is what I did. Therefore I can understand others wanting to wait and those who become Christians who begin to learn about marriage from the Bible feeling that they should stop sleeping together until after their wedding.
But I wonder if we can also see that a relationship like my friends’ could be considered a marriage in biblical terms if the couple have already set up home? After all, Genesis 2:24 says nothing about a ceremony. People may then want to ratify such an existing relationship legally and before God. Personally, this is how I would see what Dave & Sally were doing on that day.
Congratulations to them and I pray that God will bless their marriage.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
And people will come. But, when local churches may lament how poorly attended their prayer meetings are, what is drawing them? A longing for more in their lives? A desire for God? A move of the Holy Spirit? Yes, I’m sure it is all of those things. But one element that marks out the 24-7 prayer movement is their use of creativity in prayer. If you’re not familiar with this movement then check out the 24-7 Prayer website to get a flavour of what is happening.
Across the UK and now across the world prayer rooms are appearing populated with people praying in shifts for a week or more around the clock. In a typical prayer room we see prayers graffitied on the walls, we see original pieces of art work sculpted or painted as prayers during the prayer times. There are candles to set the ambience and CDs are often playing.
Another element that may surprise some is the rediscovery of liturgy. In prayer room across the world people are searching out and reading ancient prayers. Celtic prayers and prayers of medieval monks are again touching people as God breaths new life into these words. People in these prayer rooms are also writing new liturgies. Having just finished reading the 24-7 Prayer Manual I want to read Punk Monk for some insights from the monastic traditions that can be applied today.
People can wander around a prayer room looking icons in the form of artwork and read prayers written on the walls or sometimes follow specific trails with items to pray about at various points. Some of this is created spontaneously while to room is open but also a lot of work can go into preparing prayer stations. On occasions, 24-7 prayer rooms have even used labyrinths so that people can walk meditatively around the room as they pray – their attention brought to certain items at certain points. As you can see in this prayer room organised by Bath City Church - log on to facebook to see the photos.
People are being drawn together and motivated to pray. They are finding prayer interesting. They are finding prayer exciting. People are praying: not out of duty, not because they are made to feel guilty, not even as an exercise in self disciple. They are praying because they want to. They are enjoying it.
In our church we have seen a glimpse of this in our Time With God where we do just one 24 hour stint every few months. I long to see more of this. Don’t you?
Monday, July 20, 2009
It was good to be with our homegroup at the same time as watching the dance. And Callie really enjoyed playing with the other children in our group afterwards. Thanks to Alan for organising this.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Paul Page is a site dedicated to the New Perspective on Paul and contains many articles. N.T Wright himself has written an article called ‘The Shape of Justification’. I found his comments on the relationship between the gospel and justification interesting:
"By 'the gospel' Paul does not mean 'justification by faith' itself. He means the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord. To believe this message, to give believing allegiance to Jesus as Messiah and Lord, is to be justified… by faith (whether or not one has even heard of justification by faith). Justification by faith itself is a second-order doctrine: to believe it is both to have assurance… and to know that one belongs in the... family of God… But one is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith… but by believing in Jesus…
“Let me make it clear that I do not, in any way, drive a wedge between 'the gospel' and 'justification'. They belong intimately together… But they are not the same thing. 'The gospel', for Paul, is the proclamation that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of the world. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, or Athens, or Corinth, or wherever, we know what he announced, because he tells us: The Messiah died for our sins and rose again... [Whereas] 'justification' is the declaration which God at once makes, that all who share this faith belong to Christ, to his sin-forgiven family, the one family of believing Jews and believing Gentiles together, and are assured of final glorification.”
I agree that it does sound sensible to preach Jesus’ death and resurrection – as the apostles did in Acts - and then teach the principles of justification later when someone has been a Christian for some time. I do wonder if gospel summaries would be better emphasising these facts about Jesus more than trying to explain justification. It is what Wright actually means by justification that needs further investigation.
I have also found a number of videos by Wright on YouTube including this one on what he believes about hell. I don’t think this is a major emphasis of his but some may feel that he is watering down the gospel here. What he says about hell sounds sensible to me but I wondered where exactly he was coming from.
I found this blog entry that pointed me to Wright’s book ‘For All The Saints’ very helpful. There he discusses the fact that universalism – the idea that all are saved in the end – “has gained enormous popularity in mainstream Western Christianity and compares this with the traditional teaching of eternal conscious torment”, and with a “middle position of “the ‘conditionalists’”. He explains that conditionalist teach that, “since humans are not by nature immortal, only those who are saved are granted immortality, so that all others are simply extinguished…” Wright then comments that he doesn’t “find any of these three traditional options completely satisfactory, but I think a somewhat different form of conditionalism may be the best we can do.”
Here I would tend to agree with Wright again. I rejected the idea of hell being everlasting conscious torment some twenty years ago now after reading John Stott’s chapter in Essentials where Stott argued for hell being a place of annihilation. More I recently investigated Universalism. I found it a lot more plausible than I expected but I couldn’t quite embrace it. (For more on this see David Matthew’s notes from the Evangelical Universalist.) I don’t find the Bible that clear on what happens to us after we die. I am looking forward to being with God for eternity but I fear I must agree with Wright that not all will make it but I cannot see that meaning those who don't will burn forever.
Anyway, it looks like Wright’s new book Justification is a key one to get – along with Piper’s book that he is answering. Skimming an extensive review of Wright’s book here I was struck by the reviewer’s comment that told how he previously “favoured evangelism over what I perceived as a liberal concern for social action and justice.” But then “began to explore the work of N.T. Wright.” And found himself “developing a larger theology in which God is calling a people to himself to be a blessing to the world. A gospel which embraced justice and social concern as well as a need to evangelise.” Once again I would say that this reflects my own journey and is an emphasis I would appreciate.
Whether I come to agree with him on justification or not Wright does appear to have some good points that are well worth listening to.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Jonny ‘slays the sacred cow’ of the sermon being a long monologue and looks at other ways to engage people in learning about God creatively and interactively. In Jonny’s ‘remix’ of the sermon things look very different. He doesn’t see the preacher as someone who merely spoon feeds information and opinions to the congregation. Instead he sees the preacher as just one voice among many as people are encouraged to take part discussing, interacting and responding in various imaginative ways. Jonny clearly outlines the principles to follow that will get you going in this direction.
This provocative little booklet is now published by Grove Books and can be purchased from them here for £3.50 or from Church House bookshop here. But I’ll let you into a secret: Jonny originally wrote this as a chapter for a book on preaching. When it didn't make the final volume he made his chapter available as a free download from his own site here.
If you have anything to do with preaching then please get hold of this booklet, read it and put it into practice.
Saturday, July 04, 2009
There are some old chestnuts like whether violence in the media makes us more aggressive. But now we look at computer games and the internet and not just films & TV. But still the evidence is not as conclusive as you might think. There is also evidence for media like computer games actually being good for us.
The booklet also covers how media persuades us and influences our attitudes and a section that looks at why we are so interested in celebrities and how much we worship them.
If we get to publish the booklet somewhere as a PDF I’ll add the link.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
We had a picnic by the river Avon and then half of us went on some boats. There was plenty of time to explore and some of us ended the day hanging out at Starbucks.
I think this was such a treat for the guys especially as a few of them are homeless.
I am glad that I went.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
There is a feeling that as we reorganise this is an opportunity to deepen our encouragement of each other as disciples of Jesus. I feel that it’s time to get real with each other and to grow in our understanding. It’s time for us to allow each other to all get on board, take initiatives and to play our part. It’s time for us to do more interesting and creative activities together, to discuss the Bible over meals together, and to break bread together as well as a time to be outward looking.
I’m excited about the new groups. So this week I have been reading Houses that Change the World by Wolfgang Simson. And I've ordered The Rabbit and the Elephant by Tony & Felicity Dale from Amazon. These are two good books about church in the home. Though these books are more about small churches that meet in homes there is a lot that can be applied to our groups.
Our group is meeting for dinner this Sunday.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
Many thanks to Mike Rimmer for setting this up.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
God along side us, we call You Jesus,
God within us, we call You Holy Spirit.
You are the Eternal Mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, even us, and even me.
Every name falls short of your Goodness and Greatness.
We can only see who You are in what is. We ask for such perfect seeing.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.
by Richard Rohr.
Thanks to Mike Morrel for the link.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Many years ago I seem to remember singing this hymn in my Pentecostal church on Pentecost Sunday. I think some of my Pentecostal friends interpreted it as someone seeking the baptism in the Spirit. I always thought this was strange considering it was a Wesleyan hymn.
David shows that this hymn probably is about an idea of a second experience following conversion, but one that they called ‘entire sanctification’. Some have even gone as far as saying that this experience could result in sinless perfection in this life. This was never a popular doctrine. So over the years the words have been tweaked to hide the real meaning - leaving us with some puzzling lyrics.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
UPDATE: A sermon on the ascension by N.T. Wright. Thanks to Andrew Jones for the link.
Friday, May 15, 2009
For many years I never expected to have a child nor had any desire to have one. In my late thirties I was very content being single and was rapidly coming to the conclusion that God wanted me to stay that way. But then I met Nettes and it wasn't long before Callie was born. God gave me Callie even though I didn’t ask for her. I never expected her to bring me such joy.
Callie also teaches me so much. I am learning to appreciate all my own parents did for me. Being a dad gives me glimpses of what it means that God is our father. And I am still learning how to communicate with Callie at her stage of development. I often say ‘Do you want to…?’ rather than just tell her to do things expecting her to do them ‘because I say so’. I expect her to think things through herself too much. I talk to her like she’s sixteen and easily forget that she isn’t even six yet.
I feel so privileged that God has entrusted her to me.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Today they retold the story of Jesus healing the paralysed man by stuffing some old clothes and putting them on a cardboard stretcher and lowering them from the balcony. It was a noisy one! Callie enjoyed it and is looking forward to going again. I'm keen to see some of the Godly Play. But next month they have a family fun day and then they’re not on again until September.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Paul in Athens - Russ Parker
Russ Parker author of Healing Dreams and Healing Wounded History talks about the importance of contextualising the Gospel. He shows from Paul’s awareness of the culture in Athens that evangelism does not begin with proclamation but with listening. Russ also tells stories of how God has spoken to him and how he has been prompted by the Holy Spirit to make public apologies both to Muslims for the Crusades and to Catholics in Northern Ireland. Interesting stuff.
Growing - Mark Knight and Russell Rook
Practicing spiritual disciplines is what enables us to grow in God. These are not just Bible reading and prayer – there is a long list. But resolving to improve all of them by next week is impractical. Mark Knight and Russell Rook point out that different churches have different emphases and there is a tendency to judge others, and ourselves, on progress in the disciplines that are popular in our own church. Instead we are encouraged to find out about other disciplines from different Christian traditions. We can then, starting with what suits us best, take one discipline, work on it until it becomes part of our life’s rhythm and then move on to the next. They make it sound so simple.
Go - Phil Wall
Just before Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28 we read that some doubted. Phil Wall points out the difference between this doubt and what James talks about as 'being pushed around with every idea'. Phil talks about how we can still have plenty to discuss about our faith even we are unsure about some things. In evangelism we should not pretend that we have it all sorted. We need to be able admit that we have not quite got some things yet. People will respect these honest authentic questions. So even with our doubts let us go and talk to people about Jesus.
Monday, May 04, 2009
If you’ve been following stories you may have found yourself being drawn into a media distortion that has spread panic across the world. The media focus on this disease is way out of proportion to the actual threat. When you begin to look at the statistics you find that the risk of fatalities is comparable with ordinary flu but you may have got the impression it was closer to the risk of say the Black Death in medieval Europe.
Also the risk of death through many other diseases in the Third World is much greater. But when a highly contagious disease threatens Westerners, even in the midst of the worst recession for 80 years, we pour our resources into protecting ourselves. I wonder how this compares with aid we are sending to countries to combat disease and poor living conditions there. Why not see what the Church Times has to say on this?
And by the way, you don't need to get a mask!