Posts Tagged With: God

Fish Selling and the Glory of God

This morning I was listening to excerpts from St Matthew’s Passion by Bach. “Kommt ihr Tochter” (Come ye Daughters). It is a glorious piece of music reflecting on the punishment that the innocent Christ received on our behalf. As with all his music, Bach wrote this for the glory of God. But to do something to the glory of God doesn’t mean it has to be spectacular.

Calvin Seerveld, in his little pamphlet “Christian Workers Unite” speaks of his father as a “seller of fish”. Seerveld describes the haggling over price, the dressing, gutting and cleaning of fish, taking the fish scraps to the dump – he describes, what for most of us, would seem a dirty and unsavoury job. He concludes this anecdote:

Scandinavia (44)My brothers and I at work in the dumps, laughing and struggling, happy to be bodily alive there too: it is like a little hallelujah chorus sung by the South Bay Fish Market, the kind of earthly hallelujah, priestly service, angels fain would sing, but God has reserved for the believing man, (let me add: and woman!) the Christian worker.

It made me think that a true test of the “success” of a Christian life is exactly that – Do I live my life to the glory God? This life is not lived out of any sense that we are trying to earn God’s favour, but rather out of the deepest sense that we have understood, what Bach and Calvin Seeveld’s dad did, that the creator of the universe came down to earth and dealt with our sin on the cross and continues to prepare a Kingdom for his children. That is the motive to give all Glory to God and to sing “earthly hallelujahs!”

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Gritty Grains

And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:12

Anglesea (Australia) on a Summer's day.

Anglesea (Australia) on a Summer’s day.

Today, before one of our daughters returns to sea-less Switzerland, we went to the beach. It was 30 degrees C and we hired a boat to paddle for a while. Quite idyllic.

However, the thing I hate about beaches is the sand – it gets into everything. For God however it is an object lesson. Grains of sand remind us that His promises are boundless. He promised Abraham a family – a spiritual family. That family is now spread throughout the whole world. From that family the Messiah came. Every Christian believer is beholden to that patriarch from 4000 years ago.

So I might find sand annoying but God tells me through each scratchy grain in my shorts, that his promises are amazing. Yet I still hope the beaches by the Sea of Crystal are nice cool, manicured lawns.

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Obituary of Gabriel Antoine Vahanian

The name in the title may not ring a bell but for those who are my age and older the debate he and his colleagues started will. In 1961 he wrote The Death of God: The Culture of Our Post-Christian Era. This started, the poorly named, “God is dead debate”. We may not have always liked the answers but many of the questions he and his colleagues raised are still important and in a real sense were a portent of the era in which we now live.

The following is his obituary from the NY Times (via The Age):

Gabriel Antoine Vahanian 1927-2012.

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What’s Missing?

A friend  alerted me to a book by the well know Christian author Larry Crabb: Becoming a True Spiritual Community- A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be.

In this book he raises a question that many people are asking, “What is missing in the church?”

Crabb speaks for many of us when he states:

And I’m disappointed, overwhelmingly so, when I take stock of the current state of Christian community. In my own life, there are several bright pockets of relational joy, for which I am extremely grateful, but none that quite measure up to Trinitarian standards.

And he continues by declaring.

I am willing to risk giving up my cultural definition of church and try to define it biblically.

When I read this I knew someone else understood my plight. My desire for something more profound wasn’t just an idle and foolish wish. More over it reminded me how profound our revisioning of the church needs to be. Larry Crabb’s offering adds to the other excellent work being done by people such as Michael Frost (Exiles) and Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Everyday Church). Crabb’s book takes us deeper into the heart of the Christian community. He looks at what stifles spiritual community and suggests ways in which it can be/must be enhanced.

It is dangerous using a phrase like “Spiritual Community” because we all have our own understanding of it – usually shaped by our experiences. Larry Crabb speaks of “turning our souls towards one another”. He references people such as Henri Nouwen, Teresa of Avila and Dietrich Bonhoffer – who all take us beyond institution to a perspective that is far more intimate and relational with God and each other.

This book also challenges many of the attitudes and values of counselling and therapy and explores how our healing/restoration will be far more effective if, in community, we point each other towards God, and if we see suffering as a means of drawing closer to Him.

This is a book I haven’t finished yet, and I already know I will have to re-read. What it is calling for is a paradigm shift in the way we “do” church. I hope to say more about this book and its impact in future posts.

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Youth

“Youth is wasted on the young” George Bernard Shaw

Energy to spend
on chasing, running and childishness.
To have passions that ignite.
Intoxicating dreams that abound
of worlds and hopes, futures
and possibilities.
To be young again!
To have time to wonder
and aspire,
fall and rise
without broken bones –
or bruised hearts.
To be a Jeremiah
– set apart,
Josiah
– doing what is right
David
– with a youthful love of God
or Mary
– with a humble heart.
The priceless, momentary
gift of being young
must not be chained or bound
in our past mistakes.
Free the young
to prophesy and envision,
thrive and grow
so our jaded hearts are gladdened
and God rejoices.
Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Poem, poetry, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seasons

A few years ago we lived in the UK for 16 months. What struck us was the distinctiveness of the seasons – the warmth and humidity of the Summer, the cold of the Winter and either the coming to life or the dying of Spring and Autumn.

Below are two videos taken from either end of a local street made up of photos taken approximately once every week (or so) over a year. This was not a technically precise exercise. (Click on the photos to be taken to the videos).

Stanier Square

Stanier - Other end

Even in a suburban environment we have glimpses of God. We don’t have to go to the edge of the Grand Canyon or into the starry outback in Australia. The changes of the seasons, the springing into life of the trees, the blossoming of flowers, wherever we are, are all reminders of the divine hand of God.

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The Bible and the Enigma Code

Subtitled: The Bible and Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park Mansion

In 2005 one of the first things I did when we arrived in the UK was visit Bletchley Park. It was just across the railway line and up the road a little from where we lived. As I didn’t have a car, it was an easy visit that I could tick off my list of things to see.

Bletchley Park was/is home to to the first programmable computer – the Colossus (in recent years it has been restored). It was utilised to decipher the German Enigma Code, a sophisticated encryption machine used to encrypt secret messages to be sent around the Reich – particularly to ships. Cracking the code made a huge difference to the Allied war effort.

The Turing Bombe

Where does the Bible fit into the picture? Many people I come across treat Scripture like an encrypted German message and they respond in a variety of ways. Some tell me the Bible is too complicated and they can’t be bothered decoding it. Others spend a lifetime searching for the key. Like some human “Colossus,” their brains are whirring away trying to decipher a secret code that underpins the Bible. If it is not a form of numerology, it is another scheme they try to develop by which the “truth” may be found. Countless hours have been spent and many books written on aspects of Scripture that, sadly, do not draw us closer to the truth.

In fact, the truth of Scripture is quite plain. Maybe it is too easy! The truth of the gospel is quite simple. We are sinners. We cannot in our own strength be reunited with God, so God sent His own son to take the punishment we deserve, by which the affront to His holiness is dealt with and we can be restored to God. And even at this point God applies this truth through the amazing person of the Holy Spirit. In short, we have a triune God dealing with our deepest needs. All we need to do is believe and accept the gift He offers.Now how complicated is that?! There are no spiritual gymnastics required and any efforts on our part to obtain salvation are of no use.

The apostle John wrote nearly 2000 years  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,  that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Jn 3:16) It was true then. It is true now.

Yes there is more, There is the Kingdom of God, there is the call of God on the life of His children, and many other wonderful qualities. All of these extra truths are anchored on the simple gospel truth mentioned in John 3:16 (above).

One final anecdote: I had a wonderful cousin who had Down Syndrome. Stephen understood the gospel and was in love with his Saviour. The gospel message was simple enough and clear enough for him to understand and clasp to himself. He loved telling people about God’s love for them. He did not need a secret code book, or a spiritual decrypter. All he had was a simple faith. That was all he needed.

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… and narrow the road … leads to life

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Mt 7:14

Robin Hood's Bay

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Christians – Have You Said Thank You?

Have you ever said thank you; thank you to all those involved in your salvation – your membership of the Kingdom of Christ?

For those of us who have been around Jesus for a long time there have been many who either led us to, or helped us remain faithful, to the name of Jesus.

Naturally, the abundance of our thanks and praise must go to God who through Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Our thanks to the Father who sent the son, the son who died in our place and the Spirit who applies that faith to our lives, can know no bounds. However, there are many other who have faithfully laboured as instruments of God’s love and grace in our lives.

There have been parents, even though struggling with their own imperfection, who have

Stained Glass Window Cologne Cathedral

taught and shown what the gospel means. Then their are grandparents and other family members, friends and church members who have done the same. Think of the pastors who have faithfully taught God’s word and prayed for you. If you are a reader, Christian books will have led you you and challenged you on your journey and opened up previously unconsidered vistas.

For those who have come from a non-Christian background, who did God use to reveal life to you? Who assisted in you in those first baby steps? Who has continued to encourage you?

Providence (which we often call chance or accidents) has meant there have been unknown people and events who have made an indelible mark on your life due to a, seemingly, chance meeting. They may have given you a sense of direction or calling, picked you up at a low moment, challenged or chastised you.

So, have you said, “Thank you”; first of all a life of praise to God for what he has done and the people and events he has placed in your path? And, have you said thank you personally to the parents, friends, pastors and others who have confirmed you as a child of God’s? If you are like me you tend to take these people and events for granted and need to be reminded of how profound this cloud of earthly angels really is. They are all signs of God’s love for you.

Have you said thank you? If not, now is a good time. For those we need to thank who have passed on, send up a prayer of thanks. They’ll get the message.

Categories: Devotional, Faith, Jesus, Life | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dwarfs on Giants’ Shoulders

John of Salisbury quoted Bernard of Chartres (circa 1100 AD) who said, “We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.”

What a profound thought! As C21st people there is an arrogance in our spirit that we know it all or can know it all. In science, technology, medicine and a whole host of other areas we puff out our chest. We even decry the feebleness and simplicity of earlier generations.  We fail to understand what Bernard did. Our understanding, education or knowledge only came about because of the mighty works of others. In fact, we are the dwarfs and they are the giants.

It hearkens back to an earlier time that is found in Genesis 11. Then, as now, there was a supreme arrogance in humankind. They thought they could do anything, including, building a tower to the heavens so that “we may make a name for ourselves.” Pride wasn’t in short supply.

God thwarts their plan by confusing their language.

My question is this? How do we maintain a proper and healthy perspective today? How do we actively place ourselves in a continuum of history rather than seeing ourselves as some sort of apex of it?

The Bible has some handy reminders. First of all we are created beings. We are beholden to a supreme God for our existence. Our gifts and talents come from Him. Secondly, we have rebelled and sinned. Our understanding is not as perfect and sharp as it should be or could be. We are constantly in need of grace. We see that in our failures; in the evil that many of our clever creations engender. We made computers but there are those engineering viruses. We made the internet but pornographers run rampant with it. We made penicillin but super bugs have developed.

Modern humanity should learn from the giants on whose shoulder we stand. We only need to think of examples such as Galileo and Copernicus for whom their research was an extension of their faith and acknowledgement of God. Much of maths, philosophy, science and medicine was driven because of faith, not despite it.

We think we are so big but we have jettisoned a Biblical concept of family, life and morality. Socially today, we are disfigured and ugly. Just look at the murders that occur within broken families, riots, corrupt politicians and myriad other example that slap us in the face every day.

The people of Babel were humbled by God. They became confused and spread throughout the earth. We too need to be humbled. We are created creatures. We were created to worship God – not ourselves. Self worship has got us into the moral morass we see today. For the Christian, humility starts at the cross. The journey commences before a Saviour who came to give us life to its greatest extent – eternal life in an eternal kingdom. With this fresh set of eyes we reflect on science, medicine, family, society and the multitude of other areas that make up what we call “life” and ask: How does my Creator want me to use, utilise and serve Him and my neighbour with the gifts he has give me?

The giants of the past weren’t perfect either but what set the true giants apart from the rest was that they knew and depended on their God. If there was ever a moment in history where that realignment with God was needed, especially for us in the West, it is now.

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