Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Blackwood

We aim to do what Jesus said: love God and love one another

Hi there. Here you'll find what I call my Pastor's Ponderings.

There isn't anything particularly special, original, wise, or profound here. They are simply a few words to express my 'ponderings' at a particular moment in time. If they stimulate any 'God-thougths' in your mind, praise Him for that and do something about it.
 
25th August 2013
Rulers & authorities are good.
Legislators & law enforcers are good.
I don't necessarily mean each and every one of them (although most of the ones I've known are).
I mean, in principle, they are a good thing, a God thing.
Their task is to bring about a measure of rightness, the rightness that God is working to bring about in terms of confronting evil and bringing in His new creation.
To that end, the church must encourage all those with authority to get on with their task, while not being afraid to critique them when they abuse this vocation for their own ends.
 
18th August 2013
How do you see things? Your view of things will, to one degree or another, determine the amount of hope you have got.
Hope is what you get when you realise that a different way of seeing the world is possible, a world in which the powerful and the unscrupulous, the authoritarian and  the uncaring do not have the last word. This view of the world comes from realising that Jesus’ resurrection from death to life turned the world upside down.

 

11th August 2013
Faith? I have some.
Hope? I have some of that too.
Do I have enough? Well, it isn't really about the 'amount' we have, but about the 'type' we have and where its 'focus' is. Hence, I rather like Tom Wright's comment:
* Faith is the settled, unwavering trust in the one true God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ.
* Hope is the settled, unwavering confidence that this God will not leave us or forsake us.
 
19th July 2013
Humpy Dumptyism
The fictional character Humpty Dumpty in 'Through the Looking Glass' says to Alice, "When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean..."
Nonsense, don't you think? And yet, it's happened this week with the words - Marriage, Adultery, Consummation and Democracy.
With the passing of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 this week:-
- the word 'marrriage' has been 'abolished, redefined and recreated' (in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury),
- the words adultery and consummation have been confused,
- and the word Democracy - well, the definition hasn't changed, but the practice of it has. Proposals to change the definition of marriage were not in any political party manifestos or in the coalition government's agreement.  A government consultation only considered how to redefine marriage and did not enquire as to whether such a change was actually wanted. And, although it was supposed to be a free vote for MPs & Peers, each political party used their Whips office to back the bill or publicly endorsed it, including the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and the Scottish National Party.
 
The world will not end as a result of a few words changing their meaning, but the world becomes a bit more nonsensical when a word can mean what I choose it to mean!

19th May 2013

Disturb us, Lord, 
when we are too well pleased with ourselves; 
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little; 
When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly - 
to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

21st April 2013

I recently heard a summons for society to come back under ‘the authority of God’ with examples from the past of what happens when it does - slaves were freed, Factory Acts passed, and the NHS and social care established. To this list of the reformist efforts initiated or supported by Christians over the last two centuries one could add - campaigns on prison reform, homelessness, peace-making, drunkenness, palliative care, and more.

A society acknowledging ‘the authority of God’ is not one which seeks to impose religious faith on secular citizens or to establish a privileged place for the churches. It is, rather, one in which believing citizens strive, hand in hand with others, to advance equality, justice and compassion through ordinary social and political action. This takes the form of the slow, painstaking, collaborative efforts of Christians using the 'normal' channels of change and the 'privileged' channel of prayer.


14th April 2013

Sometimes clumsy things are revealing. 

The word 'unfearingness' is a clumsy word, yet wonderfully revealing. Let me explain:

Fear is a destabilising word and an undermining experience.

Fearingness is chronic fear; a continuing anxiety suspicious of reassurance.

Unfearingness is the opposite of each of these. Not chronic fear, but inner peace; not suspicious anxiety but confidence born of trust and persuaded that nothing can seperate us from the love of Gos in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

17th March 2013

The Pope raises a hand to bless ... and the world cheers with delight.
God raises His Son on a cross ... and the world jeers with derision. Well, not all the world; not I. What about you? 

10th March 2013

One thing we cannot do with Christian faith is turn it into a hobby. It’s not like stamp-collecting, sewing, playing games, or any other hobby. It can never be something you pick up when you want and put down when you’re bored or have something more important to do.  
If we give to God grudgingly, only out of duty, God is not impressed. We might be giving our time, talents or our treasure but God defines that as sowing sparingly if they’re given with the wrong attitude. God says, "Don’t give reluctantly. Don’t give under compulsion. Give cheerfully. Give yourself joyfully, willingly, to me."
 
24th February 2013
I stuck my head in the water and Wow! ... The place was teeming with life.
 
It was a glimpse of what Robert Murray M'Cheyne meant when he wrote:
Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again, you will never come to the bottom of these depths. How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hid in the deep recesses of the ocean caves! But there are unsearchable riches in Christ.

17th February 2013

Lent is ... 
is already underway  - it started Wednesday (you know, the day after you scoffed all those pancakes!)
is about 40 days (well, 40 days exactly, if you don't count Sundays)
is about giving things us - for some, it's about giving up their position (what does a Pope do in retirement?)
is about repentance, humility, suffering, sacrifice, death
is about preparing for Easter (and we've a lot to look forward to with a baptism on Easter Sunday morning)
is about mourning the darkness in our hearts and rejoicing in the light of God (who came into the world to save us)
is ALL ABOUT JESUS.
May you grow in your love and affection for Him.
6th January 2013
This year I will face who-knows-what. And you will too!
There are some things I do-know-what, at least, as far as one can be sure of anything.
For the things I know-not-what, I'll trust in the Lord (and not on my own understanding).
Among the things I do know, I know I'll be expected to share some words of wisdom with my fellow Ministers about my favourite theologian or preacher. The problem is - I don't have one; I have several. So, at some stage I'm going to have to choose, and that is going to be hard. What's not hard is to recount for them (and you) one of my favourite ever quotes from a theologian (who doesn't appear among my favourites, but would be a worthy inclusion - Abraham Kuyper). More than once I've told you what he said, but I say it again at the start of the year, lest we forget it's truth:
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Soveriegn over all, does not cry, "Mine!"

19th August 2012
I had withdrawal symptoms for a day or two! But then I realised, I’ve only got a few more days before I get to the see the Superhumans again.

The past two weeks have brought moments of sheer inspiration. Audiences, both live and via television, witnessed the fittest men and women in the world pushing the human body to the edge of its capabilities in pursuit of sporting excellence. At times the agony of competitors, whether winning or losing, has been almost too much to watch. Every medal won represents years of training, endurance and sheer determination.

Some of you are relieved it’s over. But, forgive me, I can’t wait to see the Superhumans again - rowing, swimming and running, playing handball, playing basketball etc. Yes, its just around the corner - bring on the Paralympics, meet the Superhumans, and praise God for the abilities He gives to those made in His image.

8th July 2012
Jesus died on a cross - agreed! So?
The cross is a tree
The cross is the tree in the middle of history
The cross is the tree of knowledge
The cross is the olive tree of Israel
The cross is the imperial tree of Empire
The cross is the throne of the King
The cross is the centre of the world - to which all previous history led, and from which all subsequent history flows.

18th March 2012

C. S. Lewis : Voyage of the Dawn Treader  (New York: HarperCollins, 1952/1994), 540-541.
“‘Please, Aslan,’ said Lucy. ‘Before we go, will you tell us when we can come back to Narnia again? Please. And oh, do, do, do make it soon.’

‘Dearest,’ said Aslan very gently, ‘you and your brother will never come back to Narnia.’

‘Oh, Aslan!!’ said Edmund and Lucy both together in despairing voices.

‘You are too old, children,’ said Aslan, ‘and you must begin to come close to your own world now.’

‘It isn’t Narnia, you know,’ sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?’

‘But you shall meet me, dear one,’ said Aslan.

‘Are– are you there too, Sir?’ said Edmund.

‘I am,’ said Aslan. ‘But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’”

11th March 2012
Do you sometimes wish the world were a better place?
One of my favourite singers (Newcommer) sings: If not now, tell me when?
One of my favourite authors (Wright) writes: If we face the question, "if not now, then when?" we may also hear the question, "if not us, then who?" And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?
 
26th February 2012
Some asked a Rabbi: 'I would like your help. I wake up each day sad and apprehensive. I can't concentrate. I find it hard to pray. I keep the commandments but find no spiritual satisfaction. I go to the synagogue but I feel alone. I being to wonder what life is about. I need help.

The Rabbi wrote a brilliant reply without using a single word. he circled the first word of every sentence in red, and sent the letter back. The circled 'I' symbolises the ego as the subject of every sentence - now that is a depressing thought.
I've already gone public on what I'm giving up for Lent. But it may be well be that what most needs giving up is the first person pronoun as the first word of every sentence!

 
12th February 2012
I am a slow learner, for it was only this week I learned that I am to forgive others unconditionally.
Forgiving others conditionally - on condition that they apologise / change - that is my preferred practice. But it's inadequate. I'm to forgive
i) not because I'm to do what God does,
ii) but because I've been forgiven by Him.
I wonder if I'll be just as 'slow' putting it in to practice? Well, that's the only evidence that I've actually learned it.

 
5th February 2012
What you do in the present - by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself - will last into God's future. (N.T.Wright)

1st January 2012
Check out these Proverbs for the New Year, which show what matters:-
* Family Matters, according to Prov 27v11, 515-16
* Friendship Matters, according to Prov 27v14 & 17
* Business Matters, according to Prov 27v23-27
* You Matter, according to Prov 27v19-22

 
23rd October 2011
When push comes to shove, or when vision comes to cash, responsible stewardship is regarded as the essential wisdom in dealing with money.
And yet I wonder - what was responsible stewardship for the woman who brought an alabaster jar of precious ointment and in an act of outrageous extravagance used it to anoint the feet of the Teacher who had helped her to a place where she could feel loved again? And, said Jesus, with not a hint of concession to responsible stewardship, "She has done a beautiful thing",
We are stewards, not only of money, but of an extravagant Gospel that commits us to a life that is creatively and persistently and inconveniently generous and uncalculating. 

 

 
31th July 2011
Rev. Dr. John R W Stott
27th April 1921 - 27th July 2011
In his final public address 'Uncle John' raised the question: what are we trying to do in this mission?
His unambiguous answer was - to help people become more like Christ.
And I say: hear, hear. 
Thank God for John Stott.

17th July 2011
Preparing for a holiday.
Preparing to go to work.
Preparing for a day out.
Preparing for a meeting.
Preparing for an interview.
Preparing for a baby.
Preparing for a marathon.
Preparing for a thunderstorm.
Preparing for a riot.
Preparing for a friend to visit.
Preparing... it's a good thing to do, and I've done some of the above.
Maybe you have too?
A prophet also prepared for a visit - from Jesus.
And God also prepared ... for a friendship with Him, and that comes via Jesus.
 
Other things to prepare for this coming week include the Church Members' Meeting.
If you would like a copy of the Minutes from the last meeting prior to Thursday please ask Colin Smith as soon as possible.
 
10th July 2011
As World No.1 and now this year's Wimbledon Champion, Djoko is clearly 'supreme'. 

But there is One who is more supreme in every way. Consider these (with thanks to John Piper):-

  • the supremacy of His wisdom that has never been perplexed by any complication;

  • the supremacy of His providence without which not a single bird falls to the ground, or a single hair of any head turns black or white;

  • the supremacy of His power to walk on water, cleanse lepers and heal the lame, open the eyes of the blind, cause the deaf to hear and storms to cease and the dead to rise, with a single word.

  • the supremacy of His patience to endure our dullness for decade after decade; 

  • the supremacy of His grace that gives life to spiritually dead rebels;

  • the supremacy of His love that willingly dies for us even while we were sinners and frees us for the ever-increasing joy in making much of Him forever.

26 June 2011
Sometimes I wonder about the future. Sometimes I ponder on the past. 
Here from my past, into my present, with the hope that it will affect my future (and maybe yours) are some words I read about 30 years in that genre of literature we call ' a modern classic':-
 
Our personal life is a finite thing: limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power.

But God is not so limited, He is eternal, infinite, and almighty... Like us, he is personal; but unlike us, He is great.

19th June 2011

We believe in One God:

 

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

But, phew! It can be hard to get your head around this wonderful turth. So, here are some words adapted from a wise man I know:-

 

Holy Trinity: Love in Triplicate.

Living Creator: Father of Mercies.

Reconciling Son: Love as Surrender.

Comforting Spirit: Truthful Advocate.

Holy Trinity: Love in Triplicate.


12 June 2011
My prayer, (or, to give credit where credit is due) a prayer by Sir Francis for us this week:
Disturb us, Lord, 
when we are too well pleased with ourselves; 
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little; 
when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly - 
to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

15th May 2011
It might be your favourite shop; it might not!
It might be the place you go every week, or, absolutely not!
It might be the best thing since sliced bread, or you might get your sliced bread from elsewhere!
Whatever you think of ASDA, I want you to know that from this week onwards the local Anglican Minister (Matthew) and I have been officially welcomed as Chaplains to the 430 or more staff working there. 
It's early days and we aren't sure what lies ahead. I guess you could call it a step of faith. What we do know is that there are over 430 reasons why it is good for us to be available to support staff, as a sign of our commitment to the welfare of all those who live and work in Blackwood.
And if you want to see some photos of the launch, check them out on this church website (here).

8th May 2011
Osama Bin Laden is dead. So, what do I think? What do I feel? What do I do now?
Weep? Partly.
Celebrate? Hardly.
Pray? Earnestly.
Work? Diligently.
Ancient Wisdom says: Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.
I think Ancient Wisdom might have a point.

17th April 2011

'Planning' - there is so much to it. There is Wedding P... Family P... Business P... Financial P... Town P... Economic P...  Strategic P... Succession P...  Contingency P...

Then there is MY planning, and I have two in mind at the moment:-

  1. to give away mini easter eggs to people on the High Street next Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes. If you can spare 1 hour to join me doing this, that would be great. 
  2. to display the various pictures, painting, poems, drawing, writings etc. in church over Easter. If you have something for us to display, could you pass it to me no later than Thursday.

And, of course, there is GOD's planning - sometimes mysterious, often surprising, always perfect. 
 

10 April 2011

Bran Cox has made me think.

Brian Cox recently presented a TV programme - Wonder of the Universe.

Brian Cox has been described as 'Patrick Moore's brain transplanted into Vernon Kay's body'.

Brian Cox is a worshipper and worship-leader - He knows what he loves and he sings, to a spectacularly orchestrated soundtrack. 

Brian Cox's worship of the gods of the Sun and Moon is compelling and enthusiastic.

Brian Cox says the light is the life of men. Someone said that before. 

The God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The light has a face.

 

27th March 2011
Last week 
someone I know sent a letter and someone I know replied,
someone I know suffered and someone I know died, 
someone I know rejoiced and someone I know cried.
If you've had a similar week, perhaps you share the same realisation that came over me today - 
that there is someone at our side...
For, amidst some very practical down-to-earth exhortations on how to live (advice about love, sex and money), there is the reassuring message from God, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you."

20th March 2011
I sometimes think that I share the same world as everyone else, yet at other times 'my world' seems to be completely different to everyone else's. And I think this is both inevitable and normal. After all, I share the same world and the same humanity as everyone else - made in the image of God, loved by Jesus, enabled to relate to Him by the Holy Spirit - whilst also being in a 'different world', unique to me because of the country, town, road and home I live in; because of the network of family and friends that I am linked to.
I've pondered this because ... one only has to be 'away' for a week to find that for some folk 'nothing much has changed' in their world, whilst for others their world has been battered & bruised, devastated & destroyed. Whichever it is for you - know that Jesus Christ also shares our common humanity and whilst being uniquely 'the man who is God'.
 
13th March 2011 (A guest Pondering from Graham Oakes)
The 700th edition of "The Sky at Night" occurred this week. Those of you with any fascination with astronomy - or just the might sky - may understand my love of the programme with its eclectic mix of fact, assumption and unprovable scientific theories.
The song "No eye has seen" is a testimony to the glorious saving love and 'lavish' grace of our Creator ... without whom Patrick Moore, or any of us, would have little to wonder at!


6th March 2011
Talking to God sometimes seems natural, somethings seems peculiar, but is always a bit mysterious in that it is Creature talking with Creator, Human taking with the Divine. Talking to God can also be a form of protest, which is how it has felt to me this last week. Not a protest against God, but against things that are happening. So I was delighted to come across these words from the theologian Karl Barth: 'to clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world'.
Thanks, Karl, that is exactly how I feel.

27th February 2011
A couple of weeks ago I made a flying visiting to one of my former colleges in order to do some thinking. The journey was long, the day was long, and the thinking I did that day is living long in my mind (along with the many wonderful conversations I had that fueled the thinking).
 
Perhaps, like me, you sometimes wish there were less things to 'do' and there was more time to 'think'. Well, I'm realistic enough to know that such a tension wont be resolved in the foreseeable future and for good reason: we are called to love God with all our mind and with all our strength, in our thinking and our doing, with our heads and with our hands.

13th February 2011
I've just got in from our Deacons Day at which Rev. Ifor Williams took us through some biblical material relating to a key principle of spiritual growth. You might want to know what that 'principle' is and I could tell you. But I'm not going to just at the moment, not because I want to be secretive or tease you, but because I would want you to know that much more important than what the principle is, is what we've come away thinking/feeling/sensing what the Lord wants us to do. And for what its worth, my overriding conviction from today is that the Lord wants us to be a generous church.
We now have to work out what that looks like in practice.

 

6th February 2011
I really hope that you can recite it easily and automatically by now. You know what I mean:
Love the Lord your God with all your ........  and with all your ..... and with all your .... and with all your .......
Oh, and don't forget the tough bit: love your ........... as .............
OK, so you can recite it, but how are you getting on living it? If you're finding it easy, can I suggest that you're not really doing it. The fact that God had to summon the people to love Him, suggests that it doesn't come naturally to us. And the fact that Jesus adds to that OT summons can only make it even tougher.
I'm trying to put it into practice, which is why, almost immediately after reciting these words yesterday, I nearly broke into my neighbours house. Believe me, it would have been the right thing to do!
And if you want to know why it would have been the right thing to do, you'll have to ask me!

 

23rd January 2011 

Things increase - value of the house, size of the debt, size of the waistline & corresponding size of trouser or skirt.
Things decrease - value of the house, size of the debt, size of the waistline & corresponding size of trouser or skirt.
Yes, the same things can either increase or decrease. 
John the Baptist said, 'he must increase, and I must decrease.'
This lack of personal ambition is an ambitious way of living:
Decreasing bitterness and jealousy. 
Increasing love for God and others.
Decreasing over-sensitivity and pretense.
Increasing love for God and others.
Decreasing personal preferences and favourite tendencies.
Increasing love for God and others.
John the Baptist was clearly on to something, although he never said it would be easy!
 
16th January 2011
In a new book entitled 'Discovering our Spiritual Identity' the author, Trevor Hudson says, 'The acid test of spirituality is compassion and love of God and of others, and it begins at home'. 
Well, that's easy to agree with. But then he goes on to explain what he means: 'Genuine love is love-in-action and not just love-in-claim. This has to do with those who are closest to us, too. And a key ingredient in all this is listening. Listening requires respectful silence to give the other person the space needed; and for us to posture ourselves to be listeners. It requires total attentiveness and it summons us to the appropriate response'.
I said it was easy to agree with. I didn't say it was easy to do!


9th January 2011

There are only two things you need to do, this year, any year, anytime, all the time - love God and love each other.
OK, so you think that's too simplistic? Well, if you didn't know already, we've got a church website (
www.baptistchurchblackwood.org.uk) and on it I've written that we aim to do what Jesus said: love God and love one another. This was THE most important thing to do according to Jesus, which is why i) I'm saying it's what we are going to aim to do as a church and ii) it should be what you're aiming to do this year, any year, anytime, all the time - love God and love one another

5th December 2010
There are consequences to saying 'Yes' to something. There are also consequences to saying 'No' but they aren't so scary. 
To say 'No' is to close the door on new possibilities and keep things just as they are. But to say 'Yes' is to open a door to the unknown, unsure, uncertain possibilities of whatever God has planned for us. Yes, He has plans (although he doesn't often share the details with us). He had BIG plans for young Mary, Jesus' mother. I'm so glad she said 'Yes'  ('let it be to me according to your word') even though she had no idea what lay ahead. It changed her life forever, it redefined the nature of divine love for all humanity, and it hung on her 'Yes'.
Perhaps it's time to say 'Yes' to God?

 

28th November 2010

So, it's the first sunday in Advent which, for me, means, not long now before I start thinking about Christmas!
That's right, I don't much think about it until now. To have all the shopping and planning done by the end of November - that's not for me. But Advent is the 'green light' to get ready, the time to prepare. And so, I'll probably be busy over the next few weeks. If you are already 'prepared', you'll have already been busy. 
No matter how much we thrive on activity, it's good to take a moment to reflect on God's blessings received, to enjoy God's presence now, and to hope in God's promises to come. So, ponder on Psalm 46 for a moment. I think it boils down to:-
Stop it. Take a moment. Focus on Me, on God.
Stop and allow yourself to be aware of Me.

 

7th November 2010
What do Chester, Cambridge, Yeovil, Peterborough, Rochester and Mount Pleasant have in common?
This December we are all encouraging people to Get in the Picture.
Heard something about this, but not sure you know what's happening? Well, it's like this:-
We will have a large nativity scene in the town's Christmas market on 4th and 5th December and shoppers will be encouraged to have their photograph taken as part of the nativity scene, maybe dressing up, maybe adding their faces to the scene. The photos will be available to view and download for free on the 'Get in the Picture' website (www.getinthepicture.org.uk) alongside information about church services and stories about what Christmas means to people today.

 

31st October 2010

Politics and empowerment.
Justice and injustice.
Fairness and the Big Society.
Putting the world to rights.
It's tempting to think that God is not involved in any of these aspects of life. 
On the contrary, we should acknowledge that the message of Jesus permeates all these aspects of life (and a whole lot more).

 

3rd October 2010

So, we celebrated 'harvest' last week and now we've moved on.
However, I can't shake the thought of harvest quite so quickly. It is still buzzing around in my mind. Or, at least, the wonder of God's creation is. This is not so surprising when each day this week I've driven past a wonderfully colourful tree as it changes from summer to autumn colours. And so I was pondering:-
When God says his creation is 'good' , he is not merely saying it is morally good, or that it is good for some purpose. It is aesthetically pleasing. It delights him, and I find it delightful too.

 

 

17th October 2010

"The savage man has a savage God; the cruel man a cruel God; the effeminate man has an effeminate God; while the good man lifts up holy hands to a God who rewards goodness."
Although written over a hundred years ago, I wonder if the author might be right.
 
On a similar theme - The author’s of a book called America’s Four Gods says, 
It is rare for a person to adopt a view of God that differs markedly from the story received from parents and community.” If there is any truth in this, what sort of image of God are you as an individual & we as a church projecting to others? That’s something to ponder.

 

10th October 2010

I've been pondering on whether it is possible to be friends with God and came across these words. I could tell you who they are from, but not just now.
Friendship with God
Only when God is seen does life truly begin.
Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.
We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
 
3rd October 2010
So, we celebrated 'harvest' last week and now we've moved on.
However, I can't shake the thought of harvest quite so quickly. It is still buzzing around in my mind. Or, at least, the wonder of God's creation is. This is not so surprising when each day this week I've driven past a wonderfully colourful tree as it changes from summer to autumn colours. And so I was pondering:-
When God says his creation is ‘good’ , he is not merely saying it is morally good, or that it is good for some purpose. It is aesthetically pleasing. It delights him, and I find it delightful too.

15th August 2010

Bearing one another's burdens - that sounds like a good idea. About this Jonathan Edwards (church leader not triple jumper) said, 
'If we are never obliged to relieve others' burdens except when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we hear our neighbour's burdens when we bear no burden at all?'
OK, admit it - do you find Edwards' comment challenging, inspiring, or just confusing?

 

1st August 2010
 CS Lewis wrote (before he wrote the Narnia Chronicles):-
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Too easily pleased? Really? It strikes me that some people are very hard to please, but probably about things that are frankly of little eternal significance.
 

25th July 2010

Abraham Heschel, writing about the joys and challenges of teaching, once said, 
Everything depends on the person who stands in front of the classroom. The teacher is not an automatic fountain from which intellectual beverages may be obtained....What we need more than anything else is not textbooks but textpeople.
I wonder if Heschel is onto something here.
Textpeople - not people who text, but people who are texts.

 

18th July 2010

Sometimes I have a searching and longing, a waiting and hoping, a desiring and expecting feeling in my bones. You too?
Sometimes I look up and see birds flying across the sky. You too?
Sometimes these birds make me think about life. You too?
Today it was the Canada goose - not silent, not alone, not gliding, but with a beating purposefulness, honking its way home and using its wing-beats to make it easier for others around it.
Ah yes, that’s life.
 
11th July 2010
Bruce Milne says, 
We are called to  worship Him without cessation
      obey Him without hesitation
      love Him without reservation
      serve Him without qualification
      follow Him without renunciation
Help me out here - What does that look like? Will you show me what that looks like today?

 

4th July 2010
 A moment of grace recently:-
Conversation, coffee, a concert and some challenges - none of them fixable in any quick way. You know the kind of day when you would feel more negative about things if only you had the energy to care. But the gentle and persistent intervention of one word - resurrection - and then you feel His grace.
* Grace is the gift we never asked for, looked for or worked for.
* Grace looks you in the eye and says you matter, no matter what.
* And yes, grace is what God is about, always and ever.

 

 

27 June 2010

James was in his late twenties when it happened and he described it like this: "It's as though I had gone into a deep sleep and woken up in a new world. I never knew what people were talking about with all that God stuff before, but now it all makes sense."
But he now found himself facing a big question: What am I to do now?
God loves me; yes.
He's transformed my life so that I want to abandon the old destructive ways I used to behave. That's great.
God wants me to tell other people about this good news. It feels a bit strange, and I'm not sure I'm very good at it, but I'll give it a go.
And obviously all this comes with the great promise that when I die Jesus has guaranteed that I will be with him forever. That's great too.
But, what now? What happens, as it were, after I believe?
 
What would you say to James?

 

20 June 2010

Here are some statements about what churches should be like. I've been pondering which of these statements I like. What about you? Which ones, if any, do you like? I'll tell you mine, if you tell me yours.
 
Church should be about:-
* Fewer services, more servicing.
* Fewer congregations, more home groups.
* Less Sunday, more everyday.
* Less believing, more belonging.
* Less certainty, more exploration.
* Less policing, more permission.
* Less meeting, more eating

 

13 June 2010

CS Lewis said: "I often wish life would get back to normal, and then I realise this is normal".
Mark wonders: Can 'normal' ever mean problem free, obligation free, change free? If so, wouldn't endless normality be tedious, lacking the oxygen of new possibility? Isn't there a place in our lives, when a new normality has to be allowed to emerge, routines established but always provisionally, because life never stays the same?  I hope so.