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Husbands, love your wives....

We just published our Men's Ministry Valentine's Day reminder: Don't take your marriage for granted.

Feel free to check it out.

All things are better in Koine

Genius.

How to turn a question on it's head

Jesus tells the parable of the widow and the unrighteous judge (Luke 18:1-6) in order to encourage us to pray - and not give up. He starts by tackling the idea the idea that our prayers have no impact: he talks about an unrighteous self-centred judge who answers petitions just to shut up a helpless widow so that she won't bug him any more - and then contrasts the unrighteous judge with the righteous judge of the world - God.

He then gives three encouragements to pray - and in so doing turns the whole question around:

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them a speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)

  1. The inductive: "And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?" A rhetorical question - given all that you already know about God, why would you doubt that he'll answer?
  2. The explicit: "I tell you, he will give justice to them a speedily."
    A strong affirmation that God isn't hanging around here - he's not busy and leaving you to go to answerphone - he's strongly committed to justice.
  3. The implicit: "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"
    Our knowledge of God leads us to be confident that he'll answer; the assurance of Jesus is that he'll answer so what's the real question? The real question is whether we'll pray.

Jesus' has turned the question on it's head: our real concern about prayer is shouldn't be about whether God will answer - but whether we'll even call. We can be confident that God will be faithful - but we can't assume that we will too.

Random quotes

  • He had been drawn to her looks, which were typical of a certain sort of English girl who, although not overly intellectual, nonetheless has intelligence sufficient to animate the face.
    -- Alexander McCall Smith, Corduroy Mansions, Chapter 5
  • What you have doesn't make you unhappy. What you want does.
    -- Seth Godin
  • One might say, for some girls, that a guy displaying humility publicly is the equivalent of catnip.

On the economic climate

I think it's good for us - we're a bit like the fat bloke who's car has broken down and now needs to cycle everywhere for a while. -- Luke F.

Miscellanea

  • Jonathan Lamb's wife works as an executive assistant to support him in his role as International Director of Preaching for Langham Partnership. I find that kind of cool - a reassuring example that ministry and marriage do not have to seriously conflict. Feel free to support the work of Langham Partnership as they help train and equip churches and church leaders in the majority world. As in give them your cash. And pray for them.
  • I've recently started cycling to work - it's a delightful 10 mile commute which goes through a local nature reserve. It's amazing how much more visible bits of glass lying on the ground are when you're cycling. Oh - and passers-by and taxi drivers laugh at you if, unfamiliar with your brand new clips, your foot gets stuck to your pedal and you almost fall over. Just in case you were wondering.
  • Mushrooms can be peeled. Utterly pointless, but strangely fun.

5 reasons for not oversleeping on a work morning...

  1. You have to postpone your quiet time and your soul suffers
  2. You can see it is a glorious day, but you don't have time to cycle to work
  3. You leave home in a hurry, forgetting to pick up the book you meant to read during your lunch break
  4. You feel hungry all morning because you didn't have time for breakfast
  5. You end up being late to work anyway

A few reasons why Christian guys stay single...

  • Immaturity. Prolonged adolescence, along with the rest of mankind. Or should I say western malekind.
  • Insecurity. Fear of rejection (being turned down hurts, you know).
  • Ineligibility. Besetting sin or lack of stability. Whether something addictive, like alcohol, drugs, porn, etc or simply not having the financial stability for marriage.
  • Isolation. Not knowing or having opportunities to meet eligible Christian women in the right age bracket.
  • Idiocy. Stupid or irrational reasons, like having completely absurd criterion for relationships. And lists harder to fulfil than all the messianic prophecies.

Immaturity is probably best addressed via close leadership. Boys need men who set examples that they can aspire to; who beat them up when they need it and know when to encourage them. My experience is that there are far more potential Timothys in the church than Pauls. Girls feel free to suggest this to leaders in your church.

Insecurity is probably best addressed in two ways: firstly pressure - which needs other guys who make sure that the consequences of wussing out are worse than being rejected. And secondly girls in particular need to be exceedingly careful in the way they talk about their Christian brothers. If you mock Jim when he's not around, Bill will assume you probably do the same to him.

Another aspect of insecurity relates to the way girls appear. A guy is often less likely to consider a girl if she appears to "have it together" too much. Too much ambition in a conflicting direction is a no-no. Likewise too much neediness is offputting. We either get the impression that we'll be incompatible or insufficient.

Ineligibility on account of a besetting sin is probably best dealt with with the help of other, preferably older, godly guys. And often you won't know anything about it - but pray for all the guys you know anyway. All guys are either struggling with sin or submitting to it. Either way they will be helped by your prayer.

Ineligibility because they have no steady income or immediate prospect of being able to support a wife is trickier. Again prayer. But choosing to honour guys who take their studies seriously and are willing to work and handle money sensibly will help create a culture in which this is less of an issue.

Idiocy is pretty much universal. And the application of a large leather bound bible to the forehead may well be appropriate. Guys who are waiting for the spirit of Mother Teresa in the body of Heidi Klum need to be woken up sharply. And they need to be taught what to value and cherish. Which, TBH, is probably best done with an open bible and a more mature guy - certainly in the gathered church and often one to one as well. Girls should probably raise this to with church leaders if it's not being adequately addressed.

It's not exhaustive, but those are a few of the issues that spring to mind. A penny* for your thoughts...

* Delivery of cash is subject to availability and requires personal collection with adequate proof that they were actually your thoughts. If this presents a problem, feel free to comment for free anway.

The dangers of second thoughts

No-one reads my blog. Apart from you. You are alone in the world: no-one else does.

Apart from my mother.

But basically it's just you.

And you probably came here because I wrote a comment on a blog that you actually care about. Possibly a really great blog like the unashamedly brilliant twentytwowords.com.

Or maybe you came from another great blog. Like Unfurling Flower. And if that is the case, I can only say sorry. I didn't mean it to come out that way. Honestly, I didn't.

Emily posted a request for questions. And so I posted one. It was meant to be a "what is it that keeps single christian girls single?" kinda question.

Only to ask it straight would be boring - it needed to be cheeky. So I made it cheeky. And then it was mutilated by a second thought and should have been killed by a third.

The comment read:

This may be missing the point of the invitation, but according to the evidence presented on your blog/blogger profile, you are serious in your pursuit of godliness, creative, intelligent, articulate and stunningly good looking... how come you're still single?

The second thought was: that's kind of presumptuous - it's not clear from Emily's self-description that she is single, so I changed it:

This may be missing the point of the invitation, but according to the evidence presented on your blog/blogger profile, you are serious in your pursuit of godliness, creative, intelligent, articulate and stunningly good looking... are you single?

The vital (but missing) third thought was: you can't post that - it completely changes the meaning!

I'm glad it made anna chuckle, but Harmony is right. That "Geoff Youngs" is neither worth having, nor is his question worth dignifying with an answer.

Paranoia, witch hunts and heresy

It's kinda funny. And kinda tragic.

Professor Michael Reiss, an evolutionist, ordained clergyman and formerly Director of Education for The Royal Society gave a talk in which he pointed out that there are children who have been brought up believing that the cosmos is the product of divine creation. And he pointed out that simply telling them that their parents, pastors, imams and ideas are wrong, wrong, wrong and they themselves are stupid tends not to persuade them to consider the evidence for evolution. And he pointed out that it might be worth, if they raise the issue, actually discussing their presuppositions (a.k.a. worldview) and how it differs from The Scientific Method™.

Apparently this is too preposterous to even be considered. We have Nobel prize winners and politicians who vehemently object to science teachers pointing out that these kids are looking for answers in a fundamentally different way. Discussions of epistemology and the means by which we arrive at truth are so unrelated to science that the poor professor was forced to resign.

The big question that remains unanswered seems to be: If the "scientific community" are so committed to truth and the careful weighing the evidence, why is it that none of those attacking Reiss appear to have any real comprehension of his position? If they have such scant regard for evidence, how seriously can anyone take their denunciation of creationism?

(FWIW, I'm far from convinced that evolution is an adequate explanation for the existence or the complexity of life.)

Convinced or committed?

Newbigin's characterisation of the fundamental difference between "fundamentalist" and "liberal" conceptions of spiritual truth and certainty set me thinking. (Essentially that liberals tend to be mired in subjectivism and the personal impact of belief and overlook the 'out there' reality that belief corresponds to, while fundamentalists tend focus almost exclusively on the 'out there' reality, with less thought of 'owning' the truth).

One result seems to be that the children of fundamentalists grow up more convinced of the truth of the gospel than committed to it. Unfortunately truth that was known but not loved was the basis for the most obnoxious manifestation of religious barbarism the world ever saw: it was the position of the pharisees who colluded to crucify Jesus.

What's the difference? Being convinced in your mind doesn't impact the heart or behaviour. Everyone knows, intellectually speaking, they're going to die - but almost everyone lives as though they're immortal.

Or to illustrate it another way, in Prison Break Season 1, both Michael Scofield and Paul Kellerman were certain of Lincoln Burrows' innocence. But Scofield was also committed.

In a world that has rejected truth, only those who love truth will have the courage and drive needed to speak it graciously or live it hopefully.

Lesslie Newbigin on responsible belief

When talking about the pathway to our contemporary western skepticism about truth.

...it seems to me that the fatal step was taken when it was supposed that there was available to us a kind of certainty about truth which could excuse use from the duty of taking personal responsibility for our beliefs.
Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, Lesslie Newbigin

Recovered from the Walrus Cruise...

... or mostly*, at least.

An excellent year, an excellent crew. And plenty of weather.

And no shower. (I'm rather proud of that. I managed to resist the lure of warm, free flowing, cleansing water at Hunter's Yard - making it the first Walrus Cruise I've been on without having a shower for about 8 years. If you've never been on the Walrus Cruise you won't understand what I'm talking about.)

Josh H - if you're reading this, I'm waiting for you to send me a link to your log blog.

* My washing machine has been groaning from a fairly continuous onslaught since my return: my Walrus fleece is the only outstanding garment requiring its attention.

Integrity

Integrity - Jonathan Lamb

I'm reading through Integrity - Leading with God watching with a local pastor who is graciously making time in his busy schedule to correct, challenge, exhort, rebuke and encourage this arrogant young jerk. It's sobering reading - I've grown up in an ecclesiastical tradition which is high on abstraction and low on application. Integrity is quite the opposite: Jonathan writes with remarkable clarity as he highlights my favourite sins and failures, as well as the ones I hadn't even noticed. And rather than leaving me wallowing in a soup of navel-engrossed self-pity, he is challenging, insightful and hopeful in his application.

I've actually overcome my natural reverence of books and antipathy towards marking them in anyway and every chapter thus far has sentences underlined and notes in the margin. It's that good. And that relevant.

A few choice quotes thus far:
  • Integrity, then, means a coherence in every area of life. (p19)
  • When leaders at any level fail to live with integrity, the fallout is deadly serious. It poisons community, destroys trust, torpedoes a coherent and unified mission and, most seriously of all, betrays the cause of Christ's gospel and dishonours the God whom we serve. But when Christian leaders live their words, keep their promises, serve their community - in short, show us Jesus Christ - then Christian community is built and Christian mission in enhanced. (p20)
  • Sincerity, consistency and reliability: failure to demonstrate integrity in these ways is quite possibly the most serious obstacle to any form of Christian ministry and, indeed, in the growth of God's work (p34)
  • the greatest motivation to live a life of integrity arises from a sense of gratitude. (p36)

Buy. Read. Apply.

Tomorrow we bury Granny

That’s it really. She breathed her last about 3.20am on Tuesday 4th March. Now she’s with Jesus.

It’s hard, but it’s not like I won’t see her again.