Saturday, May 30, 2009

David Matthew on the Hymn 'Love Divine'

Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling’ is an enduring favourite at weddings and funerals. My old friend David Matthew has just published an analysis of its lyrics under the title of ‘Charles's Off-Day ’.

Many years ago I seem to remember singing this hymn in my Pentecostal church on Pentecost Sunday. I think some of my Pentecostal friends interpreted it as someone seeking the baptism in the Spirit. I always thought this was strange considering it was a Wesleyan hymn.

David shows that this hymn probably is about an idea of a second experience following conversion, but one that they called ‘entire sanctification’. Some have even gone as far as saying that this experience could result in sinless perfection in this life. This was never a popular doctrine. So over the years the words have been tweaked to hide the real meaning - leaving us with some puzzling lyrics.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Interesting Sunday

Our Sunday morning church meeting in the style of a pub quiz certainly got a lot of people involved. And a few of us also had a good time in the evening on outreach. We met some interesting people including one man who was involved in organised a squatters protest in Edgbaston. As it was bank holiday weekend more people were out on Sunday night and also some events from Birmingham Pride were still going on. As usual we gave out sandwiches and teas & coffees to some of the guys who were sleeping rough around the city centre.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Day

Today is Ascension Day and Maggi Dawn is blogging about it here. I'll be in college interviewing potential students this evening and Ascension Day isn't something our church celebrates anyway. But I am fascinated by the church year and think there are important lessons that can be learnt by following it. Go on have a look at what Maggi has to say.

UPDATE: A sermon on the ascension by N.T. Wright. Thanks to Andrew Jones for the link.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Little Daughter Callie

On Saturday I will be 47 and next week Callie will be six.

For many years I never expected to have a child nor had any desire to have one. In my late thirties I was very content being single and was rapidly coming to the conclusion that God wanted me to stay that way. But then I met Nettes and it wasn't long before Callie was born. God gave me Callie even though I didn’t ask for her. I never expected her to bring me such joy.

Callie also teaches me so much. I am learning to appreciate all my own parents did for me. Being a dad gives me glimpses of what it means that God is our father. And I am still learning how to communicate with Callie at her stage of development. I often say ‘Do you want to…?’ rather than just tell her to do things expecting her to do them ‘because I say so’. I expect her to think things through herself too much. I talk to her like she’s sixteen and easily forget that she isn’t even six yet.

I feel so privileged that God has entrusted her to me.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kidz Aloud

This afternoon I went with Callie to try out Kidz Aloud a children’s club which runs once a month at Carr’s Lane Christian Centre. They alternate between Godly Play which is fairly quiet and other creative activities which tend to be noisier. We’ve been to Godly Play at Greenbelt before and enjoyed it.

Today they retold the story of Jesus healing the paralysed man by stuffing some old clothes and putting them on a cardboard stretcher and lowering them from the balcony. It was a noisy one! Callie enjoyed it and is looking forward to going again. I'm keen to see some of the Godly Play. But next month they have a family fun day and then they’re not on again until September.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Three Favourite Spring Harvest Talks

Talks from this year’s Spring Harvest and are available on CD from Essential Christian. This year we went there as a family. Of the talks that I heard these are my three favourites.

Paul in Athens - Russ Parker
Russ Parker author of Healing Dreams and Healing Wounded History talks about the importance of contextualising the Gospel. He shows from Paul’s awareness of the culture in Athens that evangelism does not begin with proclamation but with listening. Russ also tells stories of how God has spoken to him and how he has been prompted by the Holy Spirit to make public apologies both to Muslims for the Crusades and to Catholics in Northern Ireland. Interesting stuff.

Growing - Mark Knight and Russell Rook
Practicing spiritual disciplines is what enables us to grow in God. These are not just Bible reading and prayer – there is a long list. But resolving to improve all of them by next week is impractical. Mark Knight and Russell Rook point out that different churches have different emphases and there is a tendency to judge others, and ourselves, on progress in the disciplines that are popular in our own church. Instead we are encouraged to find out about other disciplines from different Christian traditions. We can then, starting with what suits us best, take one discipline, work on it until it becomes part of our life’s rhythm and then move on to the next. They make it sound so simple.

Go - Phil Wall
Just before Jesus gives the Great Commission in Matthew 28 we read that some doubted. Phil Wall points out the difference between this doubt and what James talks about as 'being pushed around with every idea'. Phil talks about how we can still have plenty to discuss about our faith even we are unsure about some things. In evangelism we should not pretend that we have it all sorted. We need to be able admit that we have not quite got some things yet. People will respect these honest authentic questions. So even with our doubts let us go and talk to people about Jesus.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Swine Flu Hype

The recent deaths by Swine Flu are of course tragic. Let us not forget to pray for the families affected. The World Health Organisation is still saying that we cannot be complacent. But there doesn’t seem to be the sustained spread of this flu throughout the world as we feared. And the cost of preparing to combat this pandemic, in a time of economic recession, is still not fully appreciated.

If you’ve been following stories you may have found yourself being drawn into a media distortion that has spread panic across the world. The media focus on this disease is way out of proportion to the actual threat. When you begin to look at the statistics you find that the risk of fatalities is comparable with ordinary flu but you may have got the impression it was closer to the risk of say the Black Death in medieval Europe.

Also the risk of death through many other diseases in the Third World is much greater. But when a highly contagious disease threatens Westerners, even in the midst of the worst recession for 80 years, we pour our resources into protecting ourselves. I wonder how this compares with aid we are sending to countries to combat disease and poor living conditions there. Why not see what the Church Times has to say on this?

And by the way, you don't need to get a mask!