Monthly Archives: October 2013

Finishing Well

Lately, as the end of the school year approaches, I have been urging my students, particularly the older ones, to finish the year well. “Give it all you have got!” “Do your best.” “Show your mettle.”

astro clock

Astronomical Clock – Prague

Then I reflected that I should be directing this message to myself as well. I am getting to an age when, traditionally, people retired. According to some European countries I am well past that age. They would have pensioned me off some time ago! But, I too, need to finish well. There are are times when I remember saying in the past, “There is no retirement in the Kingdom of God.” The time has come where I need to believe that for myself!

In recent year years I have heard a negative inner voice urge me to quit, stand back, take it easy and to pass the buck. “It is all to much.” Excuses wheedle their way in. It is the arthritis or the stamina or whatever excuse seems “usable” at the time. This surprises me because it goes against everything I have ever believed in.

It doesn’t help that we live in a culture that idolises youth and appearance. There is a, not too subtle, hint in western society that if you are over 50 or 60 you “over the hill.” Yet this gives us the very reason to “finish well”. We live in a society that needs wisdom, experience and stability. Our world needs firm but humble voices that hearken to values, beliefs and standards that deserve to be remembered and retained. All the more reason for older people not to “pull their heads in” but to speak with care and compassion into the modern world.

To put it simply, we need the passion, verve and energy of the young but also  the wisdom, experience and stories of those who are older. Isn’t that one of the remarkable attributes that make us human?

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Bringing Out the Worst

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  Galatian 5: 19-22

It surprises me that after all these years of living life and relating with all sorts of people, there are still moments when I see things in myself that I thought I had dealt with, or have not even been seen before. Sadly, I must confess, I refer to baser human traits rather than the more noble ones.

Baser traits seem easier to arouse and the people who arouse them are often fellow Christians. There is an obvious irony there!

In Galatians 5 Paul makes it clear what an unacceptable life looks like and he contrasts this with a life that reveals the fruit of the Spirit … love, joy, peace, forbearance and etc.  I wince when I read this because the first list is not eradicated and the second needs a lot of work.

Paul’s answer to this contradiction is to “keep in step with the Spirit”  whose guidance we are called to live by. The Christian life, despite knowing that we have been saved by grace, still requires a daily Spirit led discipline. It requires prayer and Scripture reading but also more than that. It needs that active decision to “keep in step with the Spirit.” There needs to be active choices to do the right and honourable things and make the wise and Godly choices and respond in Christlike ways. For most of us this is not an innate way of living. Well, it certainly isn’t for me.

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The Son of an Imperfectionist


My dad was not a perfectionist and neither am I. I was reminded of this truth the other day when the lawnmower refused to work. In a desperate effort to keep it going, and to my wife’s amusement, I noticed that it would continue to splutter on for a while when I bounced it about. Then, even that technique failed. There isn’t a mechanical bone in my body and I have vowed not to spend any more money on this recalcitrant mower. In desperation I knelt down next to it and noticed that when I manually moved the carburetor (it is surprising I know what a carburetor is!) up  the engine purred freely but if I let go it would splutter and fail. “Ah” I thought, “if I can jam a piece of wood under the carby I might get it to work.”  I couldn’t find the right piece of wood. Then I spied an old scrubbing brush. I pushed this underneath with the old bristles adding a little tension and the mower worked beautifully. Problem solved!

But it made me think of my dad. It was his sort of solution. My wife has banned me from electrical wires ever since I burned out the wiring in the car but it was an area that my dad had a blind fearlessness about. It has always been a surprise to me that it wasn’t electricity that killed him. There must have been an ‘arc’ angel looking after him. He would find any solution at hand. I remember one of my wooden toys holding up a broken foot on the piano, for years.

But in my family the curse of imperfection has been replaced with the greater curse of perfectionism. There is an exactness in my wife and daughters that I admire and wonder at. To be honest, it is beyond my comprehension. Precision, exactness, completion, harmony and the like, are words not often found in my vocabulary, but they are multiplied in the rest of my family.  Precise chemistry and engineering, exact drawing and meticulous artwork are all a natural part of their striving, but well beyond my ken.

I don’t understand this but then, I would rather have my car fixed or the plane I am flying on, built, by someone with this attitude than by me or dad.

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Formal Examinations and God

The room is quiet apart from the scribbling of pens and the occasional rustle of a turned page. It must be examination time again.

Tests, exams, quizzes, oral, written and now online as well, are so much part of school life. We assess to see what students have learnt and how effective our teaching has been. When we leave school, college or university there are now reviews of our work and workplace.

In the last few generations testing has broken out from the confines of school and has wheedled its way into all sorts of places. Even kindergartens are getting into the act!

Some Christians even have this view of God – the Chief Examiner. They believe that when Jesus  returns we will have the oral exam to beat all oral exams. I once heard a sermon in which the minister explained that when we get to Judgement Day a video of our lives and thoughts will shown and God will use that to judge us. Apart from being the worst home movie ever, is this really going to happen?

There is a story in Matthew 25 of the sheep and goats and the dividing of them into two groups – a metaphor for God’s judgement. But the “exam” has already happened. The exam was our life and even then, not how good or bad we were. After all, Paul reminds us that we have all f20131011-120609.jpgallen short. (Romans 3:23)

In Matt 22 with the story of the wedding banquet, we are further reminded that whether we are a sheep or goat depends on how we responded to the King’s invitation – and even then, as we find our after Matt 25, the King’s son completes the exam for us with a perfect score which we could never have attained.

There is an exam, or should I say, there was an exam but it was completed 2000 years ago. To receive the perfect score all we need to do is to place our trust in in the one who achieved it. Then it is ours too.

In the meantime, my students are still scribbling away because, unlike God, the school system doesn’t work that way.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Confessions of an eavesdropper

campfireI have to confess to being an eavesdropper, especially when I am on a camping trip. Tents have thin walls and people sit around campfires talking about all sorts of things – and I listen.

One conclusion that I have come to is that all people are religious. They speak (around the campfire) on all sorts of issues; the danger of red meat, politics, music, world events, tv – all with such an evangelical passion it is hard to maintain ones own faith while listening to these impassioned discourses.

John Calvin spoke of a “sensus divinitatus” – a sense of the divine. In simple terms it is the idea that every human is created with a sense of God. We in turn fill that hole with many “gods” of our making – hence the evangelical passion when discussing gluten free foods – or whatever.

In our rationalistic C21st lifestyle we have made an art of magnifying the trivial. Celebrities take on an air that neither their intelligence or contribution to the human race deserve. Foods and brands receive more airtime than they need. Sport is a whole area of irrational magnification of its own! However, in that process we have reduced the historical and traditional understanding of the Biblical God to the dust pile.

Yes, I am with Calvin. We can discover the majesty, power and awe of God in creation. But to understand His message for us personally we need to turn to His revelation of Himself in Scripture and discover the plans and fulfillment of those plans in the person of His son Jesus Christ.

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