Tuesday, 30 November 2010


I was preaching from Haggai this weekend, and couldn't help myself from inferring a connection between Haggai 1:6 and the Irish economic bail-out:

You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.

Of course its not just the Irish, but basically all the Western economies. The fact is, we (including myself) are locked into a way of life defined by consumption, which dooms us to making things, consuming them, yet always wanting more. The bottom line is that it does not satisfy, yet (it seems) that is all we know.

I am convinced that the biggest 'enemy' of Christian faith in the West is not other faiths (though they pose real issues), nor is it even hard secularism, but it is actually consumerism - a life defined by consumption.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Getting Stuck In

Twice this week I have been encouraged that Christians and their churches are actually getting stuck in at the grass-roots level. As previously mentioned, I was at an award ceremony earlier this week. It struck me that all five of the award winning projects had significant involvement from churches, or Christian input.

Then I was at a Community Mission day seminar in London, where there were 40 to 45 Christians across the age and denomination spectra who were obviously all getting stuck in to a range of mission initiatives in their areas.

Numerically it might seem small, but God can do alot with the few. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Small Society

This week I was privileged to accept an award on behalf of the community association of council estate residents that I help run, since we won joint first prize for the street party the association organised on their estate earlier this year.

At the ceremony I had to do a short talk about the project. I took the opportunity to have a (somewhat tongue in cheek) dig at David Cameron's Big Society. Here is the text of that part of my speech:

"Whilst there is much talk of the 'Big Society', I would like to suggest an alternative, the 'Small Society', demonstrated by the work of our community association. You see the association represents the little people, the people who (let's be honest) most of society would prefer to pretend don't actually exist, investing their time and energy for the benefit of their fellow residents. Those same little people having a vision for their area (an area seen by many as insignificant and of no value) that says this area is a place to value, a place that despite its problems is one where things can get better, things can change.

Maybe if we all did that in our small societies, it would add up to something truly Big"

Now read The Magnificat, Luke 2:46 - 55, especially v52.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hard Secularism

Today I heard of an incident involving an adoption panel evaluating a person's suitability to adopt. Apparently a suggestion was made that the person may not be suitable, since as a committed Christian they may 'indoctrinate the child'.

Surely this kind view should be held up as religious discrimination. Maybe it should be countered with the suggestion that atheists or even ardent agnostics should similarly be seen as unsuitable, since they may well 'indoctrinate' the adopted child with an atheistic position.

So a Christian adopter may well want to take the child to a Sunday worship service? Indeed, just as an atheist might well take a child on a Sunday to a car boot sale, or worse, to a cathedral of materialism (shopping centre) for a regular dose of consumerist type worship.

I wonder, which is ultimately more harmful to the child, and to society as a whole?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Nebuchadnezzar rules ok

Ever stopped to marvel at how extraordinary Nebuchadnezzar's dream was (see Daniel 2:29 - 35)? Although he can't figure it out, it speaks of God's Kingdom which will fill all the earth and endure beyond all other kingdoms.

When Daniel interprets it for him, Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate and acknowledges God (v47). Now lets be clear, Neb was a mean dude with a style of leadership akin to a Vogon (see Vogons in The Hitchikers' Guide to the Galaxy). Just check out the beginning of Daniel 2 to get what I mean.

Yet isn't it interesting how God both speaks truth through and elicits homage from this rather nasty pagan king? Its a reminder that Christians don't have the monopoly on God acting and speaking.

What we can say, though, is that the dream without the interpretation would have not got very far (or worse, would have led to a lot of needless deaths!). Daniel had a role to play, mediating between God and the king. In effect, he acted as salt which brought out the full flavour of God's activity in the king's life.

A new angle on being salt and light perhaps?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Slave Drivers

Blogger Tim Challies recently posted about technology. It was picked by by Breathe, a network of Christians looking at how we can live more simply in our hectic Western world.

It is an excellent article, highlighting how technology designed to be our helper has in fact become our slave driver. The ubiquitous mobile phone, small enough to fit in your pocket, calls for our attention, our desire, our life, leaving us short when it comes to living real life.

Tim is absolutely right to point out that it is not the technology itself that is bad, just the way we relate to it. He does not advocate a mass trashing of mobiles, but says that ultimately we must be self-disciplined in our usage.

Paul talks in Romans of slavery. It forms a strong image of how we can become tied up, unable to break free. Paul goes on to explain that in Christ we can be set free, things can be restored to their proper role, their correct perspectives. From then on, it becomes a question of who or what we give ourselves to.

Maybe, from a mission perspective, mobiles thus become useful again: as an illustration of how easily we humans can become snared in something which, in theory at least, should have been be all good.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Its on the web, so it must be true

I've just returned from a relaxing few days in Cornwall. Driving down we were a bit apprehensive since the weather forecast on the web proclaimed rain, rain and more rain for the days of our stay. As it turned out the rainfall was only intermittent and relatively light. There were some exhilarating winds, but by and large we were able to venture out without getting wet.

The funny thing is that many people now seem surprised when the actual weather doesn't match the Internet projections. Has weather forecasting ever been that accurate (especially in the UK)? So why should it be any better just because it is available online?

It demonstrates the principle that our perception of truth is tied to the delivery medium rather than purely the facts themselves. For all our enlightenment, rationalism, and modernist way of working from objective data alone, we still evaluate things based on a variety of parameters. What is in front of us is simply not the full story. All kinds of other things factor into plausibility.

And so it is with belief in God: people choose to believe what they like, based on all kinds of ingredients. Our mission task, therefore, must bear this in mind.