Friday, 26 March 2010

Jesus' blood never failed me yet.

This article tells of the history of the simple song/hymn :'Jesus' blood never failed me yet.'It is a 'rigged' duet, sung by an unnamed homeless person and the popular Tom Waits. As described below the homeless man was not a drunk, a stark reminder that people can be made homeless for a variety of reasons not just alcohol abuse! For instance many have been made homeless as a result of a breakdown or lost their money in a business venture-even though they often end up so low that they hit the drink in order to numb the pain.

Whatever the reason,he remembered this song from somewhere or perhaps even made it up.He might also have been an angel in disquise(Heb.13.1-2) or even an ev-angel-ist, there on the street sharing the message of hope and salvation to those without hope.The simple words of the song are powerful, and for every Christian, and for those who put their trust in Christ a confession of spiritual strength in the midst of trouble, feelings of rejection, alienation and distress.

'The man upon the tree' swallowed 'all the poison' that Satan offered him on the cross and came through it victorious.Through his shed blood,forgiveness and the power to conquer sin and Satan is now available to all who call on his name. Even after 2000 years his blood is still as fresh, and as powerful as it was all those years ago, and will,as the song makes clear, never fail you.AK

In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song - sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads - and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song - 13 bars in length - formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the tramp's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism.

The piece was originally recorded on Brian Eno's Obscure label in 1975 and a substantially revised and extended version for Point Records in 1993. The version which is played by my ensemble was specially created in 1993 to coincided with this last recording.

Gavin Bryars.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Two thoughts for the day.

And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed."—Matthew 26:39.
HERE are several instructive features in our Saviour's prayer in His hour of trial. It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from His three favoured disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God's.
It was humble prayer. Luke says He knelt, but another evangelist says He "fell on His face." Where, then, must be Your place, your humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that He may exalt us in due time.
It was filial prayer. "Abba, Father." You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child's right to a father's protection. Be not afraid to say, "My Father, hear my cry."
Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.
Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. "Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be content to leave your prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, you shall surely prevail.


The more numerous your enemies become, the more you ought to abandon yourself with complete trust in the Lord. He will always sustain you with his powerful arm so that you may not stumble.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Saint Columba, Apostle to the Picts

Columba is probably after Patrick the most famous Irish saint and his name will be forever associated with island of Iona where he founded a monastry.However he is no whiter than white saint and was known for his anger and had much blood on his hands which he sought to cleanse through his missionary activities.It has been argued by some Roman Catholic historians that he was under the Pope's authority and part of the Roman Church, but the argument for this, to my mind, is weak. Like Patrick before him and many of the other early Irish saints and heroes he was part of the Celtic Church with it being much later when it came under their jurisdiction and authority of Rome.He can therefore be seen as belonging the Christian Church as opposed to one particular denomination.For sure Columba loved the Bible,loved the Lord and loved the lost-a true follower of Christ indeed. AK Saint Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597 AD), also known as Colum Cille (meaning "Dove of the church") (Norse name: Kolbjørn, meaning black bear (cave dweller), or Kolban was an outstanding figure among the Gaelic Irish missionary monks who, some of his advocates claim, introduced Christianity to the Picts during the Early Medieval Period. He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

Early life in Ireland
Columba was born to Fedlimid and Eithne of the Cenel Conaill in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, County Donegal, in Ireland. On his father's side he was great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish high king of the 5th century.

In early Christian Ireland the druidic tradition collapsed due to the spread of the new Christian faith. The study of Latin learning and Christian theology in monasteries flourished. Columba became a pupil at the monastic school at Clonard Abbey, situated on the River Boyne in modern County Meath. During the sixth century, some of the most significant names in the history of Irish Christianity studied at the Clonard monastery. It is said that the average number of scholars under instruction at Clonard was 3,000.[2] Twelve students who studied under St. Finian became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, Columba was one of these. He became a monk and was ordained as a priest.

Tradition asserts that, sometime around 560, he became involved in a quarrel with Saint Finnian of Moville over a psalter. Columba copied the manuscript at the scriptorium under Saint Finnian, intending to keep the copy. Saint Finnian disputed his right to keep the copy. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cúl Dreimhne in 561, during which many men were killed. A synod of clerics and scholars threatened to excommunicate him for these deaths, but St. Brendan of Birr spoke on his behalf with the result that he was allowed to go into exile instead. Columba suggested that he would work as a missionary in Scotland to help convert as many people as had been killed in the battle. He exiled himself from Ireland, to return only once again, several years later.

Columba's copy of the psalter has been traditionally associated with the Cathach of St. Columba.

In 563 he travelled to Scotland with twelve companions, where according to his legend he first landed at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near Southend. However, being still in sight of his native land he moved further north up the west coast of Scotland. In 563 he was granted land on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland which became the centre of his evangelising mission to the Picts. However, there is a sense in which he was not leaving his native people, as the Irish Gaels had been colonizing the west coast of Scotland for the previous couple of centuries.Aside from the services he provided guiding the only centre of literacy in the region, his reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the tribes;there are also many stories of miracles which he performed during his work to convert the Picts. He visited the pagan king Bridei, king of Fortriu, at his base in Inverness, winning the king's respect, although not his conversion. He subsequently played a major role in the politics of the country. He was also very energetic in his evangelical work, and, in addition to founding several churches in the Hebrides, he worked to turn his monastery at Iona into a school for missionaries. He was a renowned man of letters, having written several hymns and being credited with having transcribed 300 books. One of the few, if not the only, times he left Scotland after his arrival was toward the end of his life, when he returned to Ireland to found the monastery at Durrow.

Columba died on Iona and was buried by his monks in the abbey he created. He was later disinterred and is reputed to be buried in Downpatrick, County Down, with St. Patrick and St. Brigid or at Saul Church neighbouring Downpatrick.

Several islands are named after Columba in Scotland, including Ì Chaluim Chille (one of the Scottish Gaelic names of Iona), Inchcolm and Eilean Chaluim Chille

Lasting legacy
Columba is credited as being a leading figure in the revitalization of monasticism, and "His achievements illustrated the importance of the Celtic church in bringing a revival of Christianity to Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire." It is said Clan Robertson are heirs of Columba. Clan MacKinnon may also have some claim to being descendant of St Columcille as after he founded his Church on Isle Iona, The MacKinnons were the abbotts to the Church for centuries. This would also account for the fact that Clan MacKinnon is among the ancient clans of Scotland.

The Parish of Saint Columbkille serves the neighborhood of Brighton, MA with a church and grammar school. The current church was built to be the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston since it is in the same neighborhood as the former Cardinal's residence, but does not serve in this function. Papillion, Nebraska also has a church and grammar school named after Saint Columbkille.

Today, Aer Lingus, Ireland's national flag carrier has named one of its A330 aircraft in commemoration of the saint (reg: EI-DUO).

Saint Columba is the patron saint of the city of Derry in Ireland. The saint founded a monastic settlement there in c. AD 540. The name of the city in Irish is Doire Colmcille and is derived from the native oak trees in the area and the city's association with the great saint. Today, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Columba's Long Tower stands at the spot of this original settlement.

For more see first comment.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Maelrubha: 642-722 AD

I'm thinking of Irish saints today with St Patrick's day being yesterday. This article is about Maelrubha a little known missionary and saint, but nevertheless one of my favourite heroes.I first heard about him from an old Scottish Presbyterian minister from Aberdeen called William Still who used to come over to Bangor Co.Down each year in the 1970's to preach to a group of young people.At his Swansong he said he was repaying part of the debt SCotland owed to Maelrubha.William Still was a humble man and a great preacher whose works can still be purchased and are highly recommended. Maelrubha, like Patrick and Columba before him was a fearless man and having left his native Ireland was to give his life to the preaching of the gospel in the wild and rugged highlands of Scotland. May God raise up many more men like him and bring revival and reformation to to these islands again!AK

What Colmcille and Moluag accomplished in Ancient Scotland in the sixth century, Maelrubha rivalled in the seventh with a final great flowering of the Celtic Church before the Vikings. Mealrubha was of princely Niall lineage on this father's side, and through his mother was of Comgall's race of Irish Picts. He went to the monastery Comgall had founded for his education to the priesthood. His mission at Applecross, like Moluag's was an offshoot of Bangor.

The saint's Applecross brethren ranged widely over both Pictland and Scottish Dalriada, and Maelrubha's name is recorded in place names scattered over the length and breadth of Scotland. He won great fresh extensions of the Celtic territory, all of the rugged , almost inaccessible western seaboard between Loch Carron and Loch Broom, the south and west parts of the Isle of Skye and eastern Ross. Twenty-one known parishes were dedicated to Maelrubha under such forms of his name as Maree, Mulruby, Mary, Murry, Summuruff, Summereve. For fifty years he tramped the high roads and the low roads with such a reputation for sanctity and miracles he was regarded as the patron Saint throughout all of that territory. To the north of Applecross in the long narrow scenic Loch Maree is Maelrubha's little island, Inis Maree, "the favoured isle of the saint." On it besides his oratory and a cemetery was his holy well, a spring "of power unspeakable" in cases of insanity. It was famous until very recent times for the cures obtained there. He is still invoked for mental illness in Scotland.

Scottish legend makes Maelrubha a martyr at the hands of the Norse pirates and the parish church at Urquhart is said to occupy the site of the chapel first built to mark the spot where he died. A mound outside Applecross, Cloadh Maree, is pointed out as his grave. Within a radius of six miles of this the area was accorded all rights and privileges of sanctuary.

Irish abbots continued at Applecross for a while. In 737 Failbhe, "Comharb of Maelrubha," perished with twenty-two of his religious at sea.

The annals of Ulster enter the death of 'MacOigi of Aporcrossan" in 801. Memory of Maelrubha seems to have survived a long time. In the time of clan warfare, when one of the MacDonald partisans in the feud with the MacKinsies in the seventeenth century was told it was a sacrilege to kill a MacKinsie within Maelrubha's sanctuary, MacDonald replied it was no sin to kill a MacKinsie wherever they might be found.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Making community work: Taking the initiative to resolve conflict:Tim Chester

This is a instructive article by Tim Chester on resolving conflict in a community situation, and in particualr a church or fellowship context. Disagreements are bound to occur so guidelines on how to resolve them is of the utmost importance for any Christian community.For other articles by him check out his blog at AK

How do you respond to the idea of ‘missional community’? Excitement? Idealism? Threat? Intrusive? Missional community sounds fine as an ideal. But does it bare any relation to reality? How can community work with real people?

First, taking the initiative to resolve conflict.
Conflict is a normal part of life. So don’t suppress conflict. If you can forget about it then do so. But if it affect your attitudes then you need to take the initiative to it (Ephesians 4:26-27). Talk with the person and involve others if necessary (Matthew 18:16).


Conflict arises from the desires that battle within us – when we don’t get what we want (James 4:1). Most conflicts involve fault on both sides. Where you’re at fault, repent and ask for forgiveness (don’t just say ‘sorry’ as that requires no response so can leave the issue unresolved). Where others are at fault, don’t make the issue all about you, but about them and God – about how their desires matter more to them than God.


The sign of a true gospel community is not a community without conflict (whose message is ‘we’re nice people’), but a community that forgives (whose message is ‘God is gracious’). Forgiveness says: ‘This does matter to me, but I still forgive you’. This, in effect, is what God declared at the cross: ‘Your sin matters this much, but I still forgive you.’ It’s an act of will that may only be the beginning of the process of healing.

Conflict Resolution Tips

Cool off. Allow time for your emotions to calm down and use this time to pray and search your own heart.

Talk direct. Don’t moan to other people; talk to the person concerned. You may want to talk over the issue with a third party, but chose someone who’ll challenge your behaviour and desires.

Understand their perspective. Make an effort to understand the other person’s perspective. Check you’ve understood by repeating it back in your own words. Try to understand how you’ve contributed to the situation. Don’t trivialise the way they feel.

Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. For example, ‘I felt like I was being ignored’ rather than ‘You were ignoring me’.

Avoid saying ‘but’. In conflicts the word ‘but’ will cancel what you’ve just said. ‘I appreciate your efforts, but …’ = I don’t appreciate your efforts!

Do not bring up past issues. Remember: love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Being Tough Enough To Take It On The Chin!

So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!— to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn't get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It's the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.Paul to Timothy

This is a powerful passage! Scripture and Christianity isn't for spiritual or physical wimps - when the going gets tough the tough get going.But even if you are fearful and scared, God can give you His strength!

What initially kept me from fully giving myself over to Christ was the thought that it was for ‘mummy's boys’ and ‘softies’. I reckoned my Dad was as manly as they came (he was a blue collar, John Wayne and Charlton Heston type, and my hero since I was a little boy!), but as he didn't go to church much, and when I looked at those who did, I (wrongly) assumed they were all a bit soft!

I knew Christ was fearless but I needed to meet an ordinary Christian who also showed the same toughness and fearlessness!

Then I heard about the Russian Christian soldier called Vanya who was tortured to death for his his faith-that almost did it!

It was however a surprise to me by what finally convinced me that God was real and that I should follow Him.He sent two of his young servants to the Housing Estate where I lived-both of them were small -one would have perhaps been described as ugly,the other 'a skinny wimp’! They were certainly both uncool and not my idea of what a 'real man' was.Yet I was convicted by their courage and fearlessness. If God could take away the 'fear of man' in these guys (they would have had a hard enough time as it was, without going round telling people about Jesus in a Housing Estate),he was sure to be real and could change even the most fearful heart:He could even change mine! He did too-and He eventually changed my Dad's heart as well!

Sometimes as a Christian you have to fight-sometimes we must give in and walk away but sometimes we must be firm and take a stand. Read the life of Jesus and Paul and you will see that they were never pushed over when things got scary. Christ threw the money changers out of the Temple and Paul never minced his words when he believed false teachers were trying to lead his converts astray!The thing is- we need to know when to speak out and when to shut up, which means we need to get as close as we can to God,listen to the Spirit within and learn to hear his voice.AK

Friday, 5 March 2010


This is a double post in that there is a ten minute video of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill church and an article by Pastor Randy Stiver of Oregon in the United States. They both give a different perspective than the one commonly held by Christians and non Christians alike that Jesus didn't have a sense of humour.AK
The Humour of Jesus Christ
"I would read the Bible more," a young woman recently told me, "if it were just more interesting .
. . maybe, more humorous." How about you? Most people don't realize that Jesus, the great Teacher and Messiah, was often quite funny, even pointedly so.

The fact is that we have often developed a false pattern of Christ's character. Though we do not always say so directly, we habitually think of Him as mild in manner, endlessly patient, grave in speech, and serious almost to the point of dourness" (Elton Trueblood, The Humor of Christ, p. 16).

Wow . . . boring. That makes Christ sound like a dry and boring professor teaching "Invertebrate Studies of the Precambrian Era" every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 a.m. Good thing it isn't true!

When you get to know the true Jesus Christ, who He really was and is, it will amaze you. Suddenly He has personality, zest, brilliant hilarity, sparkling intellect—so incredibly bright He makes us glow like dim bulbs by comparison.

Pointedly foolish

An oxymoron is a conceptual wordplay that uses seemingly contradictory words or phrases, like "cruel kindness" or "make haste slowly." It's a Greek word that literally means pointedly foolish or humorous.

Jesus often popped balloons of absurd and foolish arguments and actions of others, using the pointedly humorous pinprick of a sharp oxymoron. Here's the story of one of His favorites: "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:24).

How can you help but chuckle and groan imagining someone opening wide enough to swallow a huge humpy camel?

Then there's the oxymoron: "blind guides." Get it? How can a blind person guide another person? Blind and guide don't naturally fit together—it's funny! OK, so it's not smack-you-in-the-face, belly-laugh, punch-line funny. It's more like, "Oooh, that's a good one. What did the other guys say to bring that on?" We chuckle and think at the same time. Christ used the "blind guides" oxymoron several times. Let's find out why.

Religious leaders historically have a bad habit of taking themselves too seriously. This is a recipe for various levels of fanaticism even today in all religions of the world, including Christianity as well as the basically godless religion of "Political Correctness." The religious leaders of Jesus' day were of this ilk and their fanaticism blinded them to the truth to the point that they refused to see themselves as fallible human beings. They had no sense of humor.

"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?'" (Matthew 15:1-3).

The Pharisees and scribes had a ceremony of washing their hands before eating, not for cleanliness like your mother taught you to do, but as a symbol of how inherently righteous they personally were. God did not command this type of washing. Instead, they made it up and considered it equal with the written Scripture.

How arrogant is that?

Appearing good, not being good

Jesus then took them to task for sinning by not caring for their own aging parents. He called them hypocrites who liked the appearance of goodness but didn't like to actually do good. He said their worship was, therefore, worthless.

Later Christ was told that His confrontation had offended the Pharisees. Generally, people who take personal offense at those who disagree with them lack a healthy sense of humor; they're basically insecure. And that's when Jesus lowered the pointedly humorous, oxymoronic boom as simultaneous instruction and enjoyment for His disciples:

"Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matthew 15:14). Blind leaders are the same as blind guides. Picture this: The disciples smile and nod knowingly. They got the point.

What can we learn from this humor strategy of Jesus—the best Professor?

• Take God's truth and law seriously.
• You must do good to be good.
• Don't take yourself too seriously.
• Good humor can deflate arrogant arguments. VT

Randy Stiver is the pastor of United Church of God congregations in Coos Bay, Eugene and Roseburg, Oregon.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Finish with yourself : Martyn Lloyd -Jones

My good friend John Fitzsimmons posted this on his blog and after reading it,it reminded me how good a Bible teacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones was. I recommend any of his many books! AK"

The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive. We all know about this, do we not? Is it not one of the greatest curses in life as a result of the fall--this sensitivity about self? We spend the whole of our lives watching ourselves. But when a man becomes meek he has finished with all that; he no longer worries about himself and what other people say.

To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending. So we are not on the defensive; all that is gone. The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, 'You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are to not understand you." He never thinks ' How wonderful I really am, if only other people gave me a chance.' Self-pity! What hours and years we waste in this! But the man who has become meek has finished with all that. To be meek, in other words, means that you are finished with yourself altogether, and you come to see you have no rights... at all. You come to realise that nobody can harm you. John Bunyan puts it perfectly. ' He that is down need fear no fall.'

When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad. You need not worry about what men may say or do; you know you deserve it all and more. Once again, therefore, I would define meekness like this. The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is it's essential quality."
Martyn Lloyd-Jones