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Showing posts from December, 2013

Prayer: Am I mature enough to ask for help?

Prayer is both instinctive and seemingly impossible.

In the late Spring of 1979 I was born six weeks early. As a result I spent the first month of my life in intensive care in a Sheffield hospital. I was small and weak and utterly dependent on others. I would then, and for many more months to come, cry out when I was in need.

Fast-forward twenty years and I've grown physically, intellectually, socially and in many other ways. I'm studying Maths at Bath University. I'd been a big fish in a small pond but I was now a very small fish in a big pond, struggling to keep up with high level mathematics. Would I ask for assistance and direction from my tutor? No, I made every effort to cover up, to pretend things were ok and to avoid the one person who might assist me.

It occurs to me that for all the growing I'd done I had perhaps become less mature too?

What could be so difficult about asking for help?

To pray is to ask.

Jesus' friends asked him: teach us to pray (Luke 11…

Review: From heaven he came and sought her

Central to any understanding of Christianity is understanding the signficance of the historical crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Everything flows from this. So it makes sense for any Christian who can to meditate deeply on the meaning of the cross of Christ as much as possible. 

I've really valued taking time to slowly read through heavy weight books like John Stott'sThe Cross of Christ, Ovey, Sach & Jeffery's Pierced for our Transgressions, The Cross from a Distanceby Peter Boltand excellent essay collections The Glory of the AtonementandIn my place condemned he stood. More pop-level books like Cross Examinedare great too.

Chapter titles suggest the focus: "We trust in the Saving Blood", "For the Glory of the Father and the Salvation of His People", "Because He Loved Your Forefathers", "For Whom did Christ die?" and "The Glorious, Indivisible, Trinitarian Work of God in Christ." 

I worked with Jonny and David Gibson…

Waste Land: I never thought I would be a work of art

Lucy Walker's film of artist Vik Muniz is fascinating and deeply moving. Muniz is a Brazilian artist who returns to his home country to Jardim Gamacho, thirty miles over the shoulder of the famous Christ our Redeemer statue, Rio de Janerio's major landfill site. A place that is quite literally the end of the line... as working there is for many of its Catadors, who pick through the rubbish to separate out the recyclable material. From them and with them Muniz creates art. One of them later reflecting: "I never thought I would be a work of art"

The 90min documentary explores their world, their stories, the way that Muniz creates art and disrupts the lives of the Catadors offering them hope and the possibility of a different life. Is that good? Is it destructive? Can art really change people? We watched it together as a team recently and I'm still chewing over many of the questions it raises.

Get Waste Land on DVD

Worship God UK: Bob Kauflin interview (part 2)

Concluding my conversation with Bob Kauflin about church music and the Worship God UK conference he's hosting in 2014....

Who are your role-models/teachers when it comes to music in church? 
Keith Green showed me that you don’t have to sit still when you play the piano. Matt Redman taught me how brief spontaneous moments can allow people to engage more deeply with the songs they’re singing. Paul Baloche has shown me much about what it means to be a humble musician. Stuart Townend has modeled beautiful, thoughtful, and theologically faithful lyric writing. Keith Getty has taught me a lot about passion for theology, diligence in writing, and beautiful melodies. C.J. Mahaney taught me about 90% of what has been important to me as I lead congregational song - listening to the Holy Spirit, caring for people’s souls as you lead, the importance of lyrics, the importance of actually seeking to encounter God as you sing and not merely sing songs, the centrality and power of the gospel, hu…

Mary's Song

It's a first century equivalent of the Pregnancy-Scan Facebook post. The Magnficat is a remarkable song. Named for its opening words in Latin translation, in English translation the pregnant Mary sings: My soul magnifies the Lord.

Download mp3: Mary's song.

The song, though speaking of the baby Mary is carrying barely mentions the pregnancy, though it's subject is "God my Saviour" who is indeed the baby in her womb.

God steps into her world, like Vik Muniz stepping into the world of the workers at the Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janerio (in Lucy Walker's film Waste Land). Artist Muniz introduced hope and inspiration to the lives of the workers at a vast landfill site. Is that arrogant interference or presumption to turn up in someone else's world? Or might it be the very best thing that could happen. What happens when Jesus steps into this world?

The God who became one of us
Its a song that captures the essence of the Christmas story in which God comes to us…

Patterns, structures, maps and context

The Bible isn't a list of propositions it's a brilliantly written library of great literature - in narrative, poems, wisdom and also in letters. The letters are not just off-the-cuff emails. They're carefully crafted communication.

This term across the South West some of the Christian Unions have immersed themselves in Paul's letter to the church in Rome. It's ideal because it hits the basics of faith in the form of a letter designed to catch the Roman church up into a united participation in God's missionary movement in his world.

There's much structure in the letter. I love seeing the big picture and in a letter like this the context is vital to making sense of the whole.

1:16-18 tells of the revelation of righteousness and wrath in the gospel with the subsequent sections showing how God has long been patient with Israel, in kindness giving them time to repent. They hadn't and so the name of God has been held in contempt. Is it worth believing in this…

Worship God UK: Bob Kauflin interview (part 1)

I met Bob in at an airport luggage collection area in 2008. I'd enjoyed his blog on worship and a number of his songs and I'd just picked up a copy of his book on worship. I was glad to hear recently that he's working with my friend Nathan to host a conference on worship in Bath in March 2014.  So, I pinged Bob an email with a few questions to whet your appetite....

Where does your interest in music come from? 
I've been involved in music for as long as I can remember, making up songs on the piano from the time I was 6. My mother was the primary influence and wanted all of her four children to study music of some kind. We had music playing in the house and in the car all the time, mostly classical and standards. By the time I was 12 years old I was hooked on studying classical music and playing everything I could by ear.

Why is music important for Christians? 
That’s a broad question because there are so many ways we can interact with music! Listening, singing, playing.…

Sin, death, wrath and Ashton Kutcher

Warning. This post contains words like sin and death and wrath.
Serious words filled with anguish and emotion and pain and sorrow.

It also has a paragraph about Ashton Kutcher.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of Ashton Kutcher's work but the 2004 film The Butterfly Effect is both deeply disturbing, upsetting and profound. Kutcher's character Evan finds he has the ability to change situations but it becomes apparent that each positive change has negative consequences... the ripples of chaos theory frustrate his attempts to fix his life. Ultimately, Evan concludes the only hope is to prevent his being born. Better not to have lived than to cause such trouble. It's a (sci-fi) solution to the deathly effects of sin but surely not the only way?

In Romans 6 Paul writes to the church in Rome saying:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. The Christian message doesn&#…

But why?

Early December and early March are the two seasons in my year when my job steps away from frontline student ministry to be involved in recruitment for new Staff and Interns. That process spreads over the preceding months to connect with people and invite them to apply, but then we come to interview.

Hour after hour of asking questions.
Hearing answers and examining them.
Thinking hard to understand the assumptions behind the answers.
Asking more questions. And then more.

Yes, but what do you mean by that?
Yes, and how did you do that?
Yes, and why did you do that?

It's good practice for normal life, for discipleship, for evangelism. The approach is very similar... the only difference is that in a formal interview permission has been granted to ask and ask and ask.

I find it to be a sharpening experience. A bit exhaustinng but enriching and envigorating.

It fights against just accepting forms of words and jargon and assumed ideas but making me dig deeper, questioning more carefull…

One Forever (Rory Shiner)

I've really enjoyed Rory Shiner's short book One Forever recently which unpacks the centre of Christianity - our union with Christ. Here's his key illustration:

You can get the book and also access the original sermons in audio and video form from AFES.
Saved in Christ
Right in Christ
Holy in Christ
Gathered in Christ
See also Mike Reeves mp3s: Union with Christ