Friday, 27 January 2012

Love Affairs

How much can the first few chapters of Proverbs be considered to be about the Holy Spirit (i.e. equating 'wisdom' with the Spirit)? If they can, then should chapters 5 to 9 be read symbolically. In other words are they describing a life that seeks God and His Spirit against a life that goes off with foreign gods?

The warnings against adultery would then align with the illustrations used in the prophets, where Israel's attention to foreign gods is described as blatant adultery. That therefore makes sense. What is more interesting is then is the latter part of chapter 5 which uses quite sexually explicit language. Can this be (symbolically) referring to a life lived with God, the wife of Israel's youth?

If so then our life with and seeking after God can be described legitimately as a beautiful love affair; one that leads to blessing, to truth and right ways of living.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


Before Christmas we decided to go to a carol service at a Cathedral not so far away. It was packed out. The choir was in good form, leading us in the familiar congregational carols as well as singing other special pieces for us. It was somewhat high brow for me, to be honest not really my thing, but I have to say done very well done all round.

Last summer we went to a regular Hillsong service in London which was also well attended. The music style was obviously different (and more to my taste), a very inefficient sermon (words to real content ratio) but with all the flashing lights and other razzmattaz I would say it was also very well done.

Yet during the Cathedral service I realised something that I believe connects the two. In their own respective ways is there not a big danger that they are both 'religio-tainment' - entertaining the crowds with the best that their styles can offer?

For one the style dates from two or three centuries back, the other represents the contemporary worship set full on. I'm sure back in its day the Cathedral style was the bees knees of worship for people who could get there to attend, currently Hillsong fits that bill for us.

The New Testament doesn't give us that much to go on in terms of format for a worship service, but 1 Corinthians 14 does suggest most or all bringing something they can contribute. That might sound like a recipe for chaos - well yes, hence the need for Paul to write that chapter to find some order! The point for me is that there was clearly interaction across and between members of the body. It clearly wasn't simply religio-tainment professionally led from the front.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Getting real with God: men, women and children

The Israelites had high points and low points. There were also times when as a collective people they found themselves before God and up for critical self-evaluation. These were profound moments in their corporate life.

The last couple of chapters of Ezra is one of these occasions. Realising that God sees everything, their pretence of previous years is now stripped away and reality hits home. God had given them a high calling as a people which quite simply they had not lived up to. They could hide no longer - they now understood for themselves how much they were found to be lacking.

They could run away, try and explain it away, try and excuse their way out of it, or simply face up to it. In chapter 10 verse 1 they do the latter, gathering round Ezra and letting their emotions floood out. Not very British, but this wasn't a time to be British, it was a time to get real with God.

An extraordinary aspect of this episode is that they all took part: men, women and children. An all age gathering on a serious scale at a critical point in their life. The children were not hived off to 'age appropriate activities', but were part of the collective interaction between God and His people.

What kind of year will 2012 be for you? One where you try and just carry on, one where you continue to be on the run. A year of fresh explanations, or one where you find excuses. Or will it be a year where you come before God, good and bad, and let it all come out - to be real as you can possibly be with the One who grants you your existence.

Whoever you are, however you have succeeded or failed in the past, stop hiding, remove the veneer. Make it your aim to join others in getting real with God: men, women AND children.