Monday, 28 September 2009

''Go again seven times''.1 Kings 18.43 - C. H. Spurgeon

Success is certain when the Lord has promised it. Although you may have pleaded month after month without evidence of answer, it is not possible that the Lord should be deaf when his people are earnest in a matter which concerns his glory. The prophet on the top of Carmel continued to wrestle with God, and never for a moment gave way to a fear that he should be non-suited in Jehovah’s courts.

Six times the servant returned, but on each occasion no word was spoken but “Go again.” We must not dream of unbelief, but hold to our faith even to seventy times seven. Faith sends expectant hope to look from Carmel’s brow, and if nothing is beheld, she sends again and again. So far from being crushed by repeated disappointment, faith is animated to plead more fervently with her God. She is humbled, but not abashed: her groans are deeper, and her sighings more vehement, but she never relaxes her hold or stays her hand. It would be more agreeable to flesh and blood to have a speedy answer, but believing souls have learned to be submissive, and to find it good to wait for as well as upon the Lord.

Delayed answers often set the heart searching itself, and so lead to contrition and spiritual reformation: deadly blows are thus struck at our corruption, and the chambers of imagery are cleansed. The great danger is lest men should faint, and miss the blessing. Reader, do not fall into that sin, but continue in prayer and watching.

At last the little cloud was seen, the sure forerunner of torrents of rain, and even so with you, the token for good shall surely be given, and you shall rise as a prevailing prince to enjoy the mercy you have sought. Elijah was a man of like passions with us: his power with God did not lie in his own merits. If his believing prayer availed so much, why not yours? Plead the precious blood with unceasing importunity, and it shall be with you according to your desire.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Creation-The Movie

Below is an article by Tony Watkins of Damaris Trust regarding the new film about Charles Darwin. This is still a hot issue in evangelical circles ever since the first edition of 'The Origin of Species'.I remember first trying to read when I was about 14 but gave up because its overabundance of technical words which were mainly in latin! Since then I've never tried to read it again. Christians fall into three main groups regarding the origins of the created earth. Some treat Genesis 1 as literal and that everything was created in 7 X 24 hour days- eg Ken Ham and Henry Morris.

Others believe that God used the process of evolution to create man- e.g. Alister McGrath who agrees with Dawkins regarding evolution but not on who began it.

A third group are agnostic regarding 'how' God made man. For instance Stott writes: 'my acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously. These hominids began to advance culturally. They made their cave drawings and buried their dead. It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. You may call them homo erectus. I think you may even call some of them homo sapiens, for these are arbitrary scientific names. But Adam was the first homo divinus, if I may coin a phrase, the first man to whom may be given the Biblical designation ‘made in the image of God’. Precisely what the divine likeness was, which was stamped upon him, we do not know, for Scripture nowhere tells us. But Scripture seems to suggest that it includes rational, moral, social, and spiritual faculties which make man unlike all other creatures and like God the creator, and on account of which he was given ‘dominion’ over the lower creation'.

Certainly Genesis teaches us 'who' made the Universe and 'why' he made it it does not go into technicalities, which if it did would have utterly confused the first readers of the book! AK

Today sees the release in UK cinemas of Creation, marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Husband and wife Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly give beautifully nuanced performances as Charles and Emma Darwin experiencing a difficult period of life. Directed by Jon Amiel, it’s a touching, unconventional biopic which looks at Darwin’s ideas, tensions in his marriage and his crumbling faith.

Primarily set in 1858, the year before On the Origin of the Species was published, the film has many flashbacks revealing Darwin’s struggles during the previous years. The key event was the death of his eldest daughter, Annie (Martha West). Charles was an unusually devoted father for his day, and Annie was his favourite child. He was with her, caring for her, while she died at the age of ten, far from home and the rest of the family. Her untimely death devastated him, and it made deeply personal what had been an intellectual struggle for years: the problem of suffering.
His careful observations of nature had confronted him with a brutal struggle for survival. It seemed utterly contrary to the agreeable world of William Paley’s Natural Theology, which had once greatly impressed Darwin. As the years went by, he never lost his conviction that a creator was behind the existence of the universe, but he doubted that God had any further involvement in it. He described himself as an agnostic, but his agnosticism had a distinctively deist hue.

Creation has been hailed by some as a celebration of atheism. On the Guardian website this week, Ariane Sherine described it as, ‘one of the most robust defences of atheism and agnosticism ever to appear in a mainstream film.’ It really isn’t. The one character who gives a strong atheist line is Thomas Huxley (Toby Jones), but he is portrayed as arrogant and bullying. He claims, like certain outspoken atheists today, that Darwin’s ideas have killed God, and that science and religion are at war.

Darwin himself doesn’t see it this way. Bettany portrays him as being distressed by this antagonism and anxious about the social consequences of undermining belief in God. Yes, we do see him lose faith in a personal, benevolent God, but it’s too simplistic to see this as simply a consequence of his scientific ideas, as Nick Spencer makes clear, also on the Guardian website.

Emma Darwin is an important ingredient in the story. She was a committed, thoughtful Christian and Creation shows her real concern for her husband’s spiritual well-being. Letters reveal, however, that it wasn’t Charles’s ideas which were the real issue, but the fact that he was too preoccupied with scientific proof: he couldn’t engage with the possibility that God may also reveal truth in ways that are outside the scope of science. At the end of the film, Charles asks Emma to decide whether or not Origin should be published. It’s a clever way of dramatising a discussion that must have taken place between them. Emma calls herself his ‘accomplice’ for agreeing to publication, but she would never have done so if she thought his ideas really undermine belief in God.

For Huxley, perhaps for Darwin, and for many atheists today, Darwin’s ideas provide an alibi for scepticism about God. But the fact that there are Christians like Emma whose faith is not undermined by evolution shows that the alibi is far from watertight.

The relationship between science and faith is a hot topic in our society, and Creation raises some important questions as it tells the moving and significant story of one man’s struggles. That’s why Damaris was happy to produce a number of resources for churches on behalf of Icon Film Distribution. These are vital issues to discuss, and this film provides a fascinating opportunity to do so.
Tony Watkins, Damaris

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Outlaw : Larry Norman

I first heard this song about thirty years ago and loved it then.It was a real Jesus people song with Jesus as the rebel hero of the people. Sadly Larry is away but his many classic songs still live on.

Some say he was an outlaw, that he roamed across the land,
With a band of unschooled ruffians and few old fishermen,
No one knew just where he came from, or exactly what he'd done,
But they said it must be something bad that kept him on the run.

Some say he was a poet, that he'd stand upon the hill
That his voice could calm an angry crowd and make the waves stand still,
That he spoke in many parables that few could understand,
But the people sat for hours just to listen to this man.

Some say a politician who spoke of being free,
He was followed by the masses on the shores of Galilee,
He spoke out against corruption and he bowed to no decree,
And they feared his strength and power so they nailed him to a tree.

Some say he was a sorcerer, a man of mystery,
He could walk upon the water, he could make a blind man see,
That he conjured wine at weddings and did tricks with fish and bread,
That he talked of being born again and raised people from the dead.

Some say he was the Son of God, a man above all men,
That he came to be a servant and to set us free from sin,
And that's who I believe he is cause that's what I believe,
And I think we should get ready cause it's time for us to leave

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Mission:Scene portraying one man's guilt, remorse, self effort, despair, grace, forgiveness, redemption and final restoration.

This clip shows one of my favourite scenes from ‘The Mission’. In it Mendosa (superbly acted by De Niro) is doing penance for the guilt of killing the brother he loved. He would have preferred to die for the killing but was talked out of it by Father Gabriel (Irons). When the native holds the knife to his throat it seems almost a relief to him. He had come to the end of his own self effort to free himself from the guilt but failed. To use the Pauline phrase of Romans 7 he had cried out in his heart: ‘Wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death’. It is then, when he comes to the end of himself, he receives grace and forgiveness when the tribesman cuts lose his burden and lets it fall along with his sins and guilt into the water. Here we see echoes of ‘Christian’ being set free from his burden in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress. He’s finally free at last.

Open Doors Brings Hope and Healing to Orphans of Christian Martyrs.

Most of us have heard of the many Christians throughout the world who have been killed for their faith but we often forget about the loved ones that are left behind, especially the children.This post has been taken from part of an article I received today from the missionary organization 'Open Doors'

When religious conflict flared in Maluku, Indonesia from 1999 to 2002, thousands of Christians were slaughtered by Muslims, and multiplied thousands of children were left parentless and alone. Many of these orphans were severely traumatized after seeing their parents murdered, often brutally.

Varinia Lewerissa, a Christian in Maluku, heard stories of children who had witnessed their parents’ gruesome deaths, and decided to start a counseling ministry to help them deal with their emotional scars. “I soon learned, however, that monthly counseling sessions were inadequate to help them recover,” said Varinia.

In 2003, two years after starting her counseling ministry, Varinia was able to start an orphanage called Caleb House. Since then, over 40 children have enjoyed the full-time care, schooling, spiritual nourishment and life-skills training that Varinia and her staff provide.

Lasting Wounds
Most of the children at Caleb House lost their parents almost a decade ago, but they still bear the emotional scars left by seeing their parents killed. One of 7 siblings, James, now 18, was only 9 years old when his parents were murdered.

When Open Doors recently interviewed him, James paused at length before he answered each question he was asked about the death of his parents. It was if he needed to gather the strength and courage to revisit those painful memories.

“After the funeral, I had a dream where my parents came back to life and visited me,” James said, staring at the floor. “In my dream, I was shocked and scared, because I knew they had passed away. In reality, I missed them and their love so much.”

Besides dealing with the grief and trauma associated with losing their parents so violently, Caleb House children like James have also had to deal with other issues that most orphans face, including anxiety and despair.

Counting God’s Blessings
Children of Caleb House are encouraged to grow in the Lord through morning and evening worship services, and through daily Bible reading and prayer. And while many of them have not completely recovered emotionally, the children are encouraged to always give thanks to God and to care for the needs of others.

Open Doors’ Contribution
Open Doors was recently able to help the children at Caleb House by providing a set of sewing machines, carpentry tools and agricultural training.

We were also able to provide Varinia with post-traumatic counseling training, where she found new skills and knowledge to help orphans like James recover from their emotional wounds.

“I put the method into practice right after the training, and amazingly, some of the children started to open up and tell personal secrets I had never heard of before,” Varinia said. “Thank you, Open Doors. If anyone would like to learn more about the work of Open Doors International please check out their website.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Church - Where is the love?

I always liked this song by Black Eyed Peas which asks the question:'Where is the love?'in the context of the world. It however has always made me think :'where is the love in the Church?'.I remember George Verwer saying one time that for someone to be known as 'sound' in doctrine but to be unloving, is for them not to be sound in doctrine at all as they have missed the most important aspect of what Scripture teaches.This I most certainly agree with.

Having returned home from the Greenbelt Festival in England I have been reflecting on the many people I met and chatted with.Apart from those of the Church Army and some from the C.M.S (Church Missionary Society)many of the people were now no longer within the evangelical Church as such. Their stories they are often sad ones where some speak of being controlled and manipulated by church leaders and then finally rejected when they dared to question the authority of that leadership.Others have felt excluded for a variety of reasons which also forced them to leave.Their Church or fellowship has certainly not been a place where there has been much love.

I am convinced that the one place on earth where you should be able to go to and experience real love, agape love, is the Church-but sadly it is usually not the case. I don't expect to find it in the secular world but strangely enough people often find secular clubs less judgemental, more caring and more inclusive than the Church. Why is this the case? On reflection, as it is the thing Christ wants to see most fully in his people,Satan will do his utmost to bring in backbiting, pride, jealousy,gossip,cliques etc,etc.

Jesus told his followers that the world would know his disciples by our love. Paul, Peter, John and James in their letters are full of encouragement to put on love, yet though we are often strong in doctrine we often lack even the milk of human kindness.We are not really people of the Word if we don't love, we may talk the talk well but if we don't walk the walk our words are merely , to quote Dylan,'worthless foam from the mouth'!

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.