Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2.0

It’s that time again! All newsletters and charity gifts posted and our Jesse Tree now complete with items representing the ancestors of Jesus we are relaxing and enjoying our twelve days of Christmas – sharing small gifts around the dinner table for twelve days of the holidays.

Just thought that if you enjoy Nativity plays and singing carols like ‘We Three Kings’ as well as social networking on the internet then you might like this video - Christmas 2.0:


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Re-Enchanting Christianity

Click here for my review of Dave Tomlinson's book Re-Enchanting Christianity.

Dave Tomlinson

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Should We All Speak At The Same Time in Tongues?

In a new article Holy Gobbledygook on his site David Matthew argues for the use of speaking in tongues today but at the same time he is critical of the practice of everyone speaking at the same time in tongues.

He particularly looks at 1 Corinthians 14 and comes to the conclusion that primarily tongues are for private devotions. There is also a place for them in public worship but Paul puts tight guidelines on this such as tongues should not be heard in public without an interpretation. The message in tongues is to be given clear enough for everyone to know it is meant to be a public contribution and is to be followed by an interpretation.

David goes on to show that the quote from Isaiah in 1 Corinthians 14 serves to show that tongue speaking without interpretation tends to put visitors off. Careful analysis shows that it is a reference to foreign languages being a sign of God’s judgement when the Assyrians invaded Israel and carried the Israelites off into captivity. Today people hearing un-interpreted tongues my think, “These Christians are nuts. I’m not coming here again.”

So what do we make of it when someone speaks in tongues in a gathering in a way that is quiet enough for others to know that it is not a public contribution but loudly enough to hear? David refers to such use as ‘unhelpfully intrusive”. He evidently understands that speaking to yourself and to God in 1 Corinthians 14:28 will mean being inaudible to others around you. In a subsequent email discussion David confirmed this.

Interestingly in a recent post by Scott Lencke, as part of a series on speaking in tongues, Scott looks also looks at this verse. Generally he comes to similar conclusions to Dave about tongues and interpretation. But rather than an injunction to remain completely silent Scott sees this as simply not raising your voice but continuing to speak “at a much lower decibel”. I have great respect for Scott’s opinions but I just can’t see any basis for this one. Surely silent means silent!

What does this mean to the common charismatic practice of corporate singing in tongues? Though David sees singing in tongues as following much the same principles as when spoken he does admit that perhaps everyone singing in tongues may be more acceptable in worship than everyone speaking in tongues. Though the Bible is silent on this issue David suggests that it could be seen as similar to everyone worshipping on instruments. But then I must ask: why do un-interpreted tongues cease to be a negative sign to unbelievers just because they are sung rather than spoken?

These ideas have some real practical applications to those of us who use or are seeking to use tongues in our worship gatherings. If you have any further thoughts on this please leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

5 Links for Advent
At this time of year there are usually a few good advent resources and advent calendars around. Here are five that I’ve found this year.

1. i-church

I have found i-church’s calendar here that I am opening each day. Behind each door there is a reflection and a song. At the foot of it there are also a few links that are worth exploring.

2. Paperless Christmas

Paperless Christmas’s advent calendar that I did last year is still there and with my little daughter Callie we are watching the Christmas story being retold in a very contemporary setting here.

3. Ready Steady Slow

There are also some devotions at Ready Steady Slow. They were a bit too wordy for Callie but I am enjoying listening to them.

4. Beach Huts

The link for the beech hut advent calendars on i-church is out of date but I still found them. There are now actually now two sets of beach huts. So this link is two for the price of one! You can find the blog of the Bridlington Beach Huts here and the link for the Brighton Beach huts here. I think the beach hut advent calendars are a brilliant idea as each day a hut is opened with a full art installation themed related to advent or Christmas. Look at the photos and read the descriptions as part of your advent devotions.

5. Proost

If you want some resources to purchase for example for church services then I would recommend looking at proost. There is an outline on Jonny Baker’s blog of what is available here. There are some interesting animations and liturgies that you might find interesting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

God Waits Patiently

I thought it apt for the first day of Advent - a season traditionally about waiting - when at church this morning Helen spoke about how God waits patiently. It was part of a series on the characteristics of God and the series just brought us to God’s patience today but this really struck me both because of the season and because of how it spoke personally to me.

Among many verses Helen quoted 2 Peter 3:9:
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”

God is patient with his people. When we sin he could respond with anger but actually ‘he is slow to anger’ and bears with us patiently. Yes God’s timing is impeccable. He came to this earth at the right time, he will come again at the right time and he comes to us to meet our needs just at the right time - whatever we may say.

Patience is rare. We get so wound up when things don’t go fast enough or when we are driving and another driver cuts in front of us forcing us to slow down. We now live at such a pace that we cannot wait for the sort of “slow food” that was common a century or more ago. Helen gave the illustration that someone might even say “hurry up” to the microwave. By the way you might be interested Helen that there is a trend to recapture that idea of slow food. You can find out about slow food movement here and here.

God isn’t like us. His patience is unlimited. It is his nature to calmly endure delay without complaining; to wait with calmness and endurance. But amazingly as Christians we can actually be carriers of God’s patience to others – just as we can carry many of his other characteristics such as his mercy and grace to others. One memorable point was that the fact we are told in Colossians 3:12 to clothe ourselves with, amongst other things, patience indicates that it must be in our wardrobe. I also liked the little insight that we get impatient when we see a lack, a lack of time, a lack of ability, a lack of power but God doesn’t lack anything - yes of course - and with God neither do we.

So when people try our patience – as our children often do – it is to see if our patience is any good. At first it might not be but don’t be afraid they will keep giving you opportunities to develop it!

This really spoke to me not just because I am reading about advent in my own devotions but also because I becoming aware just how impatient I have sometimes been and sense that God is beginning to build this character strength in me.

Thanks for that word Helen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Christian Perspective on Positive Psychology

Recently I have been reading through some books on Positive Psychology and trying to get my head round these from a Christian viewpoint. In doing so I found this series of talks by John Van Sloten from New Hope Church Calgary. You can find Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 on YouTube. I found these talks really helpful as he looks at one of these books that I have been reading in the light of the Bible. Van Sloten appears to talk regularly on cultural issues relating them to the Bible. I am finding these talks very inspiring and relevant.

Van Sloten’s starting point is that an optimistic outlook gives you more confidence for life – life feels more do-able when we feel positive. He argues that positive emotions and thoughts are a gift from God who made us with positive psychological capacities to give us a full life – to be fully human and to know God fully. For instance, in Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness we find this capacity inside of us whereas in the Bible we find this capacity outside of us – from God – whose Spirit has come to live within us.

John Van Sloten looks at what this worldwide phenomena of positive psychology and he looks at what one particular this key book Authentic Happiness has to say to the Bible and visa versa. I can identify with the way that Van Sloten felt he had to overcome a prejudice that ‘positive thinking’ was denial of truth. But I would tend to agree that there is a deeper understanding in Seligman’s book than I have found with positive thinking or positive confession teaching.

Van Sloten goes on to draw some interesting parallels between the signature strengths outlined and spiritual gifts and fruit of the spirit as defining characteristics that God has given us to enable us to live out of God’s love including loving ourselves – not in a selfish way – but in order to love others.

He relates the psychology phenomena of flow – when you are totally lost in a moment and time stops for you – to the Biblical idea of joy. He sees both of these as being times when we are doing what we are here to do when we are working to overcome a challenge by making things right. Perhaps worship when we are in this flow with God in mind?

He quoted Seligman “Flow occurs when the challenges you face perfectly mesh with your abilities to meet them” He then compares this to something he had often heard Christian preachers say, “Your calling is where your greatest gifts and talents meet the worlds greatest needs.”

As I have been listening to these talks I am getting more and more convinced that there is a lot to be gained from looking at books like Authentic Happiness and other books on positive psychology and examining them from a Christian perspective. Of course it is important to do this with discernment and I am particularly wary of a superficial positive perspective.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

How To Make Money Blogging

Darren Rowse’s blog ProBlogger is an excellent blog that tells you how to make money by blogging and I have just noticed a recent post that tells me he has also started running on online course. Such bloggers the latest types infopreneurs – entrepreneurs who trade in information. Infopreneurs are not new. They used to sell there own books and recordings of their talks and conferences. Now they blog.

So how can writing a blog make you money? According to blogs and books like Problogger the basic idea is that you write some good stuff – “killer content” and attract readers to your blog and get them to keep coming back for more. You need to understand who you are writing for and develop one or more niche markets but basically you write about what you know or are interested in and find others that are also interested in those things. It sounds like an ideal job!

The money comes from adding adverts with links. AdSense being one of the most common but there are also partnerships with, for example, Amazon and even Ebay that you can develop so that you make referrals to them. This is called “monetizing” your blog. When people click through the ads it earns you money.

You can also sell things over the internet that will interest your niche market. This will probably be books or ebooks based on the content of your blog. Darren says that you shouldn’t worry too much about the fact that you give so much information away for free on your blog – as surprising people do still pay for a repackaged version of your blog with that 10% that you held back. He calls this the bikini effect. The more you reveal just increases the desire for small parts that are hidden!

Looking at Amazon the book ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garret (updated to it’s second edition this year) is the best selling book on this subject. But I still think you should take the subtitle of Darren & Chris’s book with a pinch of salt – ‘Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income’! It sounds like a lot of work to even attempt to make it that successful and they don’t recommend giving up you day job until you are getting a reasonable income to live on.

Neverless I might have a go!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reservoir Mural

reservoir mural
Originally uploaded by dave & nettes.
As part of Ladywood Arts Trail along with local residents we painted a mural on the wall of the Tower Ballroom on Edgbaston Reservoir. It was really good to get involved with this initiative. Thanks to Phillipa Allenby from Springs To Life and the All Being Well team at Karis Neighbour Scheme.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Recommended reading for Sunday School teachers

At a recent training day for children’s workers in our church Sam Donoghue mentioned some books. I have just got around to reading some reviews and previews of them and they look really good. I have used previews in Amazon some for some time to read samples of books to see if I want to buy them. But I am discovering that google books can have much longer previews.

The Growth of Love by Keith White doesn't have a preview but has some reviews here and here.

The Spirit of the Child by David Hay has a preview available here through google books.

Children’s Spirituality by Rebecca Nye also has a preview available here through google books. And this one looks like the best of the bunch. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Prayer and Awareness Day

In September I went to a day hearing about and praying for those working with the homeless and drug addicts in our city.

Reach Out Network
The day was run by Reach Out Network a small organisation of several volunteers who venture out into the city centre with food that they distribute to rough sleepers in Birmingham. They chat about Jesus and offer referrals to others who work with the homeless.

This was their third Prayer and Awareness Day – a chance to hear from related organisations and to pray for their work. This time it was hosted in the premises of Betel of Britain. We discussed and prayed for a number of projects. Here are just some of the highlights of the day.

life for the world
Patrick Prosser from Life For The World told us how - after setting up rehabilitation centres themselves - they responded to the call to “stop reaching the few and to equip the church to reach the many”. They set up training courses on the best way for churches to rise to the challenge of reaching out to those with addiction without suffering burn out or being taken to the cleaners. They now have a certificate course validated by the University of Gloucester that they are running nationwide and want to start a class here in Birmingham.

redeeming our communities
Patricia Hoskins – project co-ordinator for the Birmingham branch of Redeeming Our Communities, explained how they were linking together organisations such as the police, council groups, residence groups and churches and other faith groups to bring people together in unity to make a positive change in our city. Redeeming Our Communities is planning a launch event at the NIA on the evening of Tuesday 16th November with the aim to map the good things that are happening across Birmingham and inspire people to do more. 

Betel of Britain, Birmingham 
We also heard from Betel of Britain in whose premises the day was based. This is a Christian rehabilitation community that has bases in a number of UK cities and has links in Spain and the States. We heard the story of one of the members of the community including how community life had changed helped him to get free from his previous addictions. Kent Martin the director of Betel of Britain then spoke about some the difficulties that Betel had been through over the past few years and how he had learnt to develop a deeper tolerance of God's mysteries and learnt to trust God in trials rather than to put God on trial.

This was a really profitable time and Reach Out Network hope to run another Awareness Day in a few months time.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Greenbelt Music Reviews

If you look closely you might be able to find three of my reviews in the Cross Rhythms’ Greenbelt music reviews this year. I reviewed Grace’s performance of Landskapes, the King\Cave Project and Transcendence. Just search the pages for Dancin' Dave Derbyshire.  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Greenbelt's Worship Co-operative

photo by mr ush
The venue that I frequented the most at this year's Greenbelt was the Worship Co-operative. For many years now Greenbelt has been the home of new creative forms of worship that were pioneered in the 90s as alternative worship. This year instead of having individual sessions run by different alternative worship communities there were four all day worship sessions each one run by a few groups working together with a common theme.

One Friday the theme was peripheral visions and I dropped in and explored prayer stations looking at writing at unusual angles through mirrors, finding a sculpture of a cross that only made sense from one angle and listening to CD with a short talk on the paralysed man while lying on my back. An interesting thought from this was that often disabled people may not be given a choice about what they do or where they go so Jesus may have been the first person to give this man a choice when Jesus asked him to take up his bed and walk.

On Saturday the theme was ‘Here Comes Everybody’ based on Clay Shirky’s book that looks at the power of groups and communication and the Ubantu Theology of Desmond Tutu looking at the African ideas of relationship, community and hospitality. I weaved out names into a tapestry, wrote on a prayer wall and had my photo taken to go on another wall all while images played on screens around the room picking up on the this theme.

Sunday was ‘Life As Jazz’ and it was good to pop in with my little daughter Callie. There were four stations outlining four moods of Jazz: a strident/angry station where we hammered in a nail, a celebration station where we could have a drink of juice at the jazz party, a jazz/blues station where we could be sad or poignantly reflective or a cool jazz station where we could relax as if on a beach and Callie could draw on postcards. I came back in the evening the King/Cave Project was playing.

On Monday morning I found a very different musical style as Blackthorn Crescent were playing some rock songs as I explored the stations looking at the theme of ‘on the edge’. I found this deeply moving as I explored stations that looking out the idea of being an insider and an outsider based on the story of Legion and the story of Hagar. One activity involved writing two labels one with a name you had been called that labelled you an outsider and the other with a name you owned such as a profession or interest. You ripped up the first label and sprinkled it into a mush from which new paper could be made and you new label embedded.

I dropped in for about 45 minutes each time but this venue had me coming back each day to see what was happening each day. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our Messy Church is called Family Church

Over August our church has doing other things such as barbecues rather than our usual Sunday gatherings. One Saturday two or three weeks ago and we did our own version of Messy Church called Family Church. "Centred around creativity, hospitality and celebration" our aim was, like Messy Church, " help other families that might not have any church connection to discover the fun of following Jesus together."

We had a number of activities including craft, cake decoration, street dance, sports and a spot of bike maintenance. We told the story of Zacchaeus and a number of the children – including our little daughter Callie - sung ‘I am a friend of God’. Finally we all had a meal together. There lots of new people joined us and it was a really good time.

More photos on facebook here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Birmingham Alive Mission

Our church recently had a mission. This meant that several of us were busy for a few days experimenting with different ways of having conversations about God and serving people.

Here are a just few examples of the sorts of things that we were up to:

• We delivered some free Christian literature around the houses close to where we often meet and were presently surprised by the positive responses we received. It was good to be a listening ear to people and people remembered us doing community clear-ups, carol singing and free barbeques.

• We chatted with in coffee shops.

• One evening we went out with Paul & Jackie distributing sandwiches and teas and coffees to people sleeping rough in Birmingham city centre – chatting and praying with people as we went.

• A few of the team were out late the following night having a conversation in one of the bars in Bindley Place. The original plan was to head for clubs on Broad Street and I thought it might not be my scene. But they had a good conversation in a quiet bar so I think I’ll join them next time.

• We joined in with a nearby Vineyard Church in their Healing in the Streets. We were impressed how gently this was done and we found many people spontaneously coming to us for prayer.

Throughout the whole mission I really enjoyed the conversations we had both with others and among ourselves. Being an introvert it was encouraging to me to rediscover that you don’t have to be a extravert to do this sort of thing.

This was all very exciting!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Community Fun Day

Originally uploaded by dave & nettes.
I have just loaded a few photo's from this year's Community Fun Day onto our photostream on flickr. I have added these to last year's photos in the Community Fun Day set. As a church we were involved in setting up and stewarding just like last year. And we ran the Prayer Tent again.

Related post: Reflections on the Community Fun Day

Monday, August 09, 2010

Should I smack my little girl?

One of the most helpful inputs that I have had in my parenting has been the positive parenting classes that I did through my local Sure Start. They have a great emphasis on rewarding good behaviour rather than punishing bad behaviour, though we did discuss some suggested sanctions that may sometimes be necessary. Such techniques like you may have seen on TV, in for example Supernanny, have proved to be very effective. So I have always tried to avoid physical punishment in the disciplining my little daughter.

Recently I have been looking at the few verses about parenting in Proverbs and have come to the conclusion that they need some careful hermeneutics. In particular I am not convinced that we can take the verses that speak of a ‘rod of correction’ as a command that to use corporal punishment. Perhaps the ‘rod of correction’ is, as my NIV study Bible says ‘a figure of speech for discipline of any kind’. Could these verses simply be observations of the dire consequences of lack of any discipline?

I can understand that some see nothing wrong with smacking their children and use such verses to support it and see it as a good thing. Perhaps those that oppose smacking need to realise that what such Christians are proposing is using smacking as a consistent and restrained sanction and would utterly condemn losing your temper with your child. Nevertheless I would need to see something a lot clearer in the Bible before I would be convinced that smacking my little girl would be a good thing.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

is it time to be a bit more positive?

I have just come across a recent branch of psychology called positive psychology. Nettes got a couple of books out of the library that I read when I got the chance - Authentic Happiness and Flow.

Authentic Happiness not only describes happiness psychologically but also outlines some empirical research on it. . I liked the way Seligman uses such terms as forgiveness and hope when looking at aspects of happiness from different time perspectives. We were so impressed that we actually bought this book

Flow is about the experience of being absorbed in our work. Flow’s spiritual side is more to do with controlling our consciousness nevertheless spirituality does appear to be an important element in positive psychology.

I am also still reading Spiritual Intelligence  – which is written by Christian author Brian Draper and uses the term flow and appears very much in line with what positive psychology is saying.

Positive psychology books appear popular with life coaches and I also have noticed a link to a life coach on the Greenbelt site who recommends some of these positive psychology books.

This new school of thinking appears strong on application and it may be a good counterpoint to some recent thinking that takes a more post-modern or discursive approach. Understanding that each of us is a product of our culture and has a unique perspective is important. But I wonder if such a critical approach to psychology can leave us too cynical. If in the end it leaves you without anything that you can be sure of doesn’t it start to undermine any application? I think I prefer the approach of positive psychology.

I was also lent the book Human Givens which again we so impressed with that we brought. This is about a rapidly growing new approach to therapy taught at Mindfields College. This is the approach being used by in our area by Springs to Life in their All Being Well project. Some have called this approach ‘the missing heart of positive psychology.’

Is it possible to have a positive psychology overdose?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pagan rituals and freemasonary? All in a day at Wirksworth Carnival

I’ve just got back from a great day at Wirksworth Carnival. This is an annual festival in the town where I grew up. It was good to see some old friends, see the fancy dress procession with the floats and look around the well dressings.

The Well Dressings are clay plaques decorated with petals that are placed around the town. The tradition is thought to date from medieval times when Christians were thanking God for clean water but they could easily date back further and come from ancient pagan rituals. Today they are simply a tourist attraction put on by local community groups to raise money for charity.

This year I noticed that the Freemasons had a well and that they also had their meeting place the Moot Hall open. So we took the opportunity to look around and have a chat about the history of the lead mining court that is also held in the building, as well as a chat about freemasonary itself. It was refreshing to see a group like this being so open about what they do and wanting to promote themselves in this way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Trinity Debate

Scott Lencke has been following an interesting discussion between Trinitarian Rob Bowman and Unitarian Dave Burke, on the theological blog Parchment and Pen. If you are intersted in understanding the Trinity better or in understanding Unitarianism it could be worth a look.

But be warned. It is very wordy.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

time to tackle gluttony

I am very impressed at how Jamie Oliver is helping tackle the sin of gluttony alongside Christians in a church in Huntington, West Virginia in ABC's Food Revolution.

This is challenging stuff. I am still working on eating more healthily myself - having recently cut out supper. But I've still got further to go.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Evangelical Scholar Believes in Evolution

Fundementalist Christians over-react to a very sensible comment and it gets on the news - only in America!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Photos from Easter Sunday

I've now uploaded several photo's from our Easter Sunday service onto flickr. We had a great time with our Resurrection Party that included breakfast, a quiz and making Easter garden - all as part of our worship to God as we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.

"Happy Resurrection Day"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Proverbs Illustrated

‘Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart’. Proverbs 25:20. Ever wondered what vinegar poured on soda is like? Well it erupts like a volcano as you see in this science experiment.

Last Thursday in our home group we were chatting about a few proverbs over one of our regular bring-and-share meals and Harry did a volcano like this as an illustration. This provoked some interesting thoughts about people may react to ‘pat’ answers or how when we are grieving we might not appreciate happy-clappy-worship songs.

We also looked at Proverbs 6:6-8 and learnt a few things about ants using this illustration I've blogged before and 11:11 using this gif from Andrew Jones's blog. A laptops and wireless internet at home group! Whatever next?

And Proverbs 27:17 ‘iron sharpens iron’ raised some interesting thoughts about mutual accountability and 29:18 ‘without revelation the people cast off restraint’ got us examining our motivation. Thanks for those thoughts too Harry. It was a great.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Messy Fiesta

On Saturday my wife Nettes and Simon - a friend of ours from our church - went to Messy Fiesta - a conference all about Messy Church - a technique that took off a few years ago when it was featured on a DVD by Fresh Expressions. Both Nettes and Simon came back very enthusiastic about beginning to do something like this with the families of the kids that come to our kids club.

Today Nettes took Callie and a couple of Callie’s friends from church to Kidz Aloud who run their own mix of Messy Church and Godly Play. A good time was had by all.

These are brilliant ideas for kids and families. If they are new to you please check out the links above and Barnabas in Churches for more details.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

honest confession from our Time With God

During our church’s ‘Time With God’ last weekend the following quote was written on the wall. - well, actually on flip chart paper blu-tacked to the wall. We were struck at how honest this confession was and I am sure that it spoke to a number of us when we were looking around the rooms:

Lord, I want to know your security
as I step forward and take the risks
that you have called me to.
For too long I have felt over-looked
and not taken those opportunities
because of my personality type.
'Why is it like this?' I cry.
But do I really need to know?
I long to let go of the bitterness
and be born anew.
I gladly share with you the cup of suffering
in my daily hassles.
And sense that as I drink it,
it becomes a cup of blessing to me
and to others.
But only as I step forward
and, at last, take those risks.

‘Time With God’ happens once or twice a year and is a time when our little building is open 24 hours for people to spend time with God. We have plenty of beanbags, throws and drapes and bring in candles and tee-lights. There are usually a few creative installations too. This time there was a cross that Ruth made - to which people stuck post-its with their thoughts and prayers on. Ruth had also put together a rolling slideshow for the evening.

It is often commented that during these times people find God speaking really deeply to them. The prayer above was probably written during someone’s individual time when people tended to stay in one of the rooms as opposed to the ‘corporate times’ we had more people there and they could move more freely around the installations.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Wisdom of Rules

I recently found this video of a lecture from psychologist Barry Schwatz on the importance of wisdom and how this relates to following rules. It is on a site called TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) whose mission is simply to spread ideas that they feel are worth spreading.

Though I found the link through a post by Brother Maynard there is no indication that Barry Schwartz is a Christian. Yet I am struck just how much this echoes the teaching of the Paul in the New Testament on role of the law.

One quote from the video that sums this up for me is when he says, “The wise person knows when and how to make the exception to every rule.”

You see, just following the letter of rules without appreciating the spirit behind them is what Christians often call legalism. When we listen to some sermons particularly ones that emphasise personal righteousness we can feel brow beaten by our failure to keep the rules. I don't think I'm the only one. The message we hear is "try harder". We hear more rules that we should keep and despair of ever really living up to our Christian standards. Of course this doesn't mean that righteousness should not be preached but that we need an understanding of grace to appreciate how to apply it to our lives.

In the past I have tried to keep as far away as possible from sin that I've denied myself opportunities to relax both with believers and non-believers and many of the positive results that this could have led to. I've got over-anxious about what other might people think in my desire to be 'a good witness'. I can’t go there. I can’t do that. People might think I’m doing something I shouldn't be. Yet in my experience my non-Christian friends were often not as concerned about these issues as I was. They may even have felt my attempt to be righteous was at best silly or at worst unfriendly.

When we hear a preacher give examples of righteousness it is only human nature to deduce from these sets of rules – rules that can easily be misapplied. Unfortunately in sermons there often isn't space to ask questions and point out the exceptions to these rules or to explore what is behind what we hear. If we were to do so we might discover some deeper principles. And we might also be surprised at the variety of ways that each of us applies these principles to our lives.

A simple example is that in applying the principle of self control one person might be more sensitive to being effected by alcohol than another. Of course there is a balance here: on one side we fall into legalism and on the other into drunkenness; the righteous path is the one in between. It is that path that enables us to have a deep and meaningful conversation with our work colleague one evening over a pint or two.

I recently heard a challenging sermon that addressed such areas as our relationships with members of the opposite sex when applying principles of chastity, or faithfulness to our partners, and also brought up issues of honesty in our work environment. I have been asking myself what are the principles that apply in these situations, and how can I really apply them? But asking not only what are the dangers of licence in these circumstances but also what are the dangers of legalism.

I did like Brother Maynard’s closing comment that asking such questioning might not be rebellion or lack of faith as is sometimes suggested, but actually a pursuit of wisdom.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don't forget to book your Time with God

Joe recorded this video promoting our forthcoming 'Time With God'. (I've now managed to load it onto our church website.)

Every few months we have a period when our little building is open for 24 hours for people to interact with God. You can see some of the things that we’ve got up to before here.

It's great to have Ruth on board.

And this time, as well as encouraging people to spend time on their own with God creatively, we are also including times of corporate creative worship. But don't forget we are still aiming to cover the whole 24 hour period and you need to see me to book your time slots.

Friday, February 05, 2010

praying for the homeless as local hostels close

Last night we were praying about the ministry to the homeless and in particular the effects that the new government funding strategies will have on the homeless in Birmingham.

St Anne’s Hostel that provides about 40 beds is closing due to cuts in council funding. More imminently Snow Hill Hostel, which is much larger, is also closing although this is to redevelop it into a large number of self contained units for previously homeless people over the next couple of years (see homeless link).

But in the meantime this could cause a crisis of increased number of people sleeping rough in the city. The council are referring people to 24-hour hub services that include housing associations in an attempt to re-house people. Yet it still looks like we might find an increasing demand for our help when the team goes out on the streets with soup and rolls.

It certainly is a time to intercede for those in authority that people might live peaceful lives and won’t have to worry about what they will eat or where they will sleep tonight.

Friday, January 29, 2010

had a good time at the drop in

As usual this week I visited the Drop In Centre that has developed out our ministry to the homeless.

This week at the drop in we had a few songs from singer/songwriter Wes Harding who is associated with a local prison chaplaincy. He sounds quite good with just his acoustic guitar.

Afterwards a few of us played our usual game of Mexican Train dominoes – a trend which some of us have taught the people who come to the Drop In.

The Drop In is a safe place for all sorts of people to hang out drink coffee and get a bite to eat. It’s just great being around these guys.

See also this post about the Drop In.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

History of Now

I've just been watching the first two parts of this fascinating BBC documentary - the History of Now: The Story Of The Noughties. At first I thought it was just going to be a round up of the decade - the sort of thing you get on New Year's Eve. But it turned out to be much more. It's more like a popular introduction to sociology - picking out themes and trends of the decade.

The first part focus on how age has become such a watershed in our culture. The second one looks at class and concludes that though it appears that the barriers are disappearing in fact social mobility has got a lot harder. It also gives the new definition of social class that emerged in the last decade - postcodes. I've been exploring this site where you can put in a postcode and get quite an accurate description of the people that live there. Go on have a go.

I haven't watched the third part yet but the trailer said that it was going to be about globalisation.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The End of Time

Callie manged to watch her first full grown up Doctor Who story over Christmas. She joined ten million in the now regularly Christmas tradition. But this was not just another Christmas special. It was David Tennant's final story as the Doctor and featured a show down between the Doctor and the Master.

I felt it was pitched about right for Callie's introduction to Doctor Who. It wasn't too scary and there were some exciting and moving moments. As usual there were a number of moral and spiritual themes. The Doctor reluctantly takes a gun to face the Master. The Doctor's pacifist beliefs win out in the end as he doesn't end up using the gun on anyone. The returning Time Lords plan to ascend into an etheral state and destroy the universe in the process. But of course the Doctor stops them.

It is interesting that the writer R.T.Davies continually plays not just with morality but also with ideas about the afterlife.