Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year in Review: 2006

Reading

It's nice to be home. We had a great time in Switzerland - beautiful scenery, lovely town to stay in, great weather too! My brother and I weren't too keen on the lack of snow, but we were still able to ski every day.

Anyway, it's nearly a year since I started blogging, and 2006 has been pretty eventful. It struck me, for example, that October was the only month when I didn't go abroad! Here then are some of my unashamedly hedonistic highlights, month by month. Some of the pictures have been on here before.

January:

I flew to Canada on the 2nd, and spent the first week or so settling in to life at York University in Toronto. At first everything seemed pretty normal and not as extraordinary as people had led me to believe. At least, that was until I started meeting Canadians...

February:

Still in Canada. Still freezing cold. In our "reading week" - ie. week off - Kate, Nat, Jay and I (all exchange students) went to Quebec, Montreal and Ottowa to have a poke around. Quebec was great, very French in some ways, very Canadian in others. Montreal was quite nice... more like Toronto but with a French accent. Ottowa was just cold.

March:

Developed some great friendships in a surprisingly short period of time (for me). I enjoyed attending GFC nearly every week, despite the early start and overly tall preacher! The international student office organised a day trip to the Warkworth Maple Syrup Festival - a very odd little town about two hours away. I bought some syrup.

April:

The term at York finished early in the month, and after my one exam (!), a week or so of exploring the city more, going to the pub with hall-mates and frenzied packing at the end, I left Toronto (sniff). For the next four weeks I was in the USA - starting in New York City, then flying to California where I rented a car and drove all over for a week... (continued in May!)

May:

(from April) Still in the USA, I took a 57 hour train journey across the country, and then a succession of buses to visit friends in the Midwest. On the 23rd I finally made it back to the UK! Seeing family and friends again was very nice!

June:

Southampton uni finished at the start of June, and I went away with some of the lads from the CU to Italy for a few days of basically bumming around and playing board games. Good fun!

July:

England crashed out of the World Cup, and I spent four weeks on short term mission in Poland as an English teacher-cum-general summer camp dogsbody. It's exhausting stuff, but very worthwhile and I think some of the kids were spiritually impacted by the talks and Bible studies.

August:

A relatively quiet month... started working on my dissertation but had to stop soon afterwards; worked for a week at the university on the admissions hotline; evangelised at the Reading Festival; oh, and spent a week in France with my parents!

September:

Away for two weeks in Europe (yes, again) firstly on a fieldtrip in Berlin: I got to know some coursemates a lot better than I'd had chance to before, and discovered the true face of "cultural geography"! Straight afterwards my friend Steve and I went driving around Europe for a week. I set a new land-speed personal record of 203km/h on the Autobahn (while listening to John Piper!) amongst other exploits.

October:

Started doing something called "studying" again after 6 months off. It was rather strange, as was moving back to Southampton. As you can see, the marks of Canada are still with me...

November:

Working hard at uni, both on academic and CU grounds. One day three of us went on a jolly to France to buy vast quantities of cheap wine for the CU carol service. It was also my 22nd birthday and 7th birth-again-day (is there a term for this?) during November.

December:

Lots of coursework deadlines to meet in the first two weeks, along with the CU carol services, which were a great success. I've just come back (today) from a week skiing in Switzerland over Christmas, which was both very enjoyable and rather foolish given how much work I still have to do!

All the best for 2007. I don't imagine I'll be doing quite so much travelling, but the year could turn out to be pretty interesting. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Big money

Saas Fee, Switzerland

I've made it to the mountains. This is just a post to say that the Swiss are rather silly. Yesterday I trumped my previous record of "most ludicrous denomination of banknote to dispense from ATM" - 1000 Czech crowns, which is worth about £25. I asked for 200 Swiss francs, and low and behold I got it - in one note! That's about £70 worth of paper in one fragile sheet. Yikes. Yet it seems you can get a 1000 franc note, worth even more than €500 in one go.

Long live Mastercard...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Off again

Winter is (nearly) upon us in temperate England, and so is Christmas. I have three weeks of holiday - in which I need to write 5000 words, half a dissertation and start revising for exams. But most importantly, it's started snowing in the Alps! So today my family and I are off to Saas Fee for a week. While I'm there I'll be investigating the effects of modernistic tourism on a dynamic landscape; also studying the impacts of post-holocene climate change on glacial features.

In other words, I'm skiing for a week. Bye, and happy Christmas!
 

Thursday, December 14, 2006

School's out for winter

The carol service was a great success! We had over 2900 people attending, who consumed 2800 mince pies, 230 litres of mulled wine, took over a thousand gospels and tracts, sang carols and heard the Gospel preached faithfully - praise God!

Since Sunday I've been very busy catching up on all the work I should have been doing while organising the carol service... never mind. As of this morning I have no more deadlines this term - just two essays to write for January and a dissertation to get on with.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Many a mince pie

Tomorrow the CU is hosting our annual carol service(s). This year there are four services through the afternoon and evening, at a church near campus. We're hoping for about 700 people to each of the services! This week we've baked 2700 mince pies, given out 5000 flyers, stuck up 150 posters, and invited thousands of people. Roger Carswell will be preaching on "Away or a manger or here with us now?" (his title not ours!) at all of the services, which should be a faithful gospel presentation.



I've been involved in the organisation of this service since September, so it will be both a blessing and a relief when it's over tomorrow night! Please pray for the services - that many people will attend, that the message will be relevant and impact people, and that there will be effective follow-up of all enquirers (starting in January/February, in tandem with our Events Week).



Of course, celebrating Christ's incarnation is always worth whatever we put in! We sang "Hark the Herald" last week and the words of verse 2 struck me again:



Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Consider it pure joy

Things are just beginning to heat up for students in the UK. Christian Unions have existed for ages - 75 years at Southampton, more like 150 at Cambridge... and of course the Wesleys set up the "Holy Club" at Oxford in the 18th century! In the last couple of months four CUs have seen varying degrees of backlash from their student unions/guilds, or their host universities, for a variety of reasons:
  • There have been criticisms that CUs should rename themselves as "Evangelical Christian Unions" because leaders, committee members and speakers have to agree to the UCCF Doctrinal Basis. The DB that all CUs adhere to is deliberately written to be both Biblical on all primary issues, but silent on most secondary issues, in line with the UCCF conviction that 'CU is not a church'. In that sense it is 'evangelical', but only in the true Gospel sense, not the pejorative sense.
  • Another problem for some student bodies is that CUs are not subscribing to equal opportunity policies in terms of gender, faith and sexuality. For example, most CUs don't have women presidents, there are in general very few GLBT members of CU - especially in leadership - and not a Muslim in sight :o)
  • The issue of sexuality discrimination came to a head in Edinburgh recently when the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) society wanted to ban the CU from running the UCCF's "Pure" course, because it recommends literature that believes homosexuality can, and should, be "cured". They set up a protest group on Facebook, which attracted some 1500 members, some of whom have called for the CU to be thrown out of the Student Guild for apparently suggesting such things. The University - on whose premises the course was to be run, eventually allowed it only if alternative literature was provided.
The Times has a good mini-section on its website with various articles about most of the issues above.

Overall, CUs still enjoy a good relationship with their university. Certainly here at Southampton, we are able to use facilities of both the SU and the University without charge and without opposition. Individually, too, nearly everyone we meet is supportive of what the CU does. Some of the CU's activities - especially giving out hot drinks to students leaving the Cube nightclub on Friday nights, have resulted in both good evangelism and good relationships. Only when we run mission weeks or do extensive tracting and questionnairing do students begin to resent the CU's evangelism.

I think the challenge facing us as a CU in Southampton - and more widely - is to learn how to speak the truth in love. Unfortunately, many members of the CU see their responsibilities starting and stopping at attending the weekly meeting. How can we engage with the student culture to share the Gospel with those around us? Surely we have to speak as well as act - and with our friends more than with "randoms"... I know this is true for my own relationships.

Maybe in the next 10 years there will be a wider backlash against religion in universities. That would be a great shame - university is supposed to be a time of learning and widening one's horizons, and the opportunity to explore Christianity has been crucial in the conversion of many a student.

Let's pray for CU members, that we may be bold in our lives and actions. Pray also for student unions and non-Christian students, that we might not offend them with anything except Christ crucified, and especially for sensitive situations as I've outlined above.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Are you a heretic?

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant.
Congratulations, you're not a heretic.
You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin.
Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant

100%

Nestorianism

67%

Monophysitism

33%

Pelagianism

17%

Docetism

0%

Arianism

0%

Adoptionist

0%

Donatism

0%

Apollanarian

0%

Gnosticism

0%

Monarchianism

0%

Albigensianism

0%

Modalism

0%

Socinianism

0%

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com


HT: Matt Hewling

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

7

I'm a bit like the Queen. We're both British, we both live in Berkshire (the Royal County, no less) and we both have two birthdays. Today is exactly seven years since I was born again! Praise the Lord for his grace. During a baptism service of five of my friends at Carey on November 28, 1999, each of them gave their testimony. I remember realising then that despite my best efforts (and at that time my efforts weren't great anyway) I hadn't become a Christian by coming to church each week and having lots of knowledge about the Bible in my head. God convicted me that I needed to stop trying to save myself, and trust wholly and only in Him. I did, and received assurance then that my sins were paid for wholly and completely by Jesus' death on the cross.


I didn't receive any gifts to mark this occasion, except the opportunity to come back to Reading for a few days to research my dissertation. Today I walked around all of the city centre, marking which premises are shops, and which shops are independent rather than part of chains. Tomorrow I'll head in to some and survey their owners on how Reading has changed since the Oracle shopping centre opened... 7 years ago.

Friday, November 24, 2006

22

Thanksgiving time? Well, I'm thankful to have lived for 22 years non-stop as of today! I received some very exciting gifts:





Better give up all hope of graduating then...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The things I do for the CU...

We put on a student carol service every December, and invite as many people as possible. This year we're having 4 services on Sunday 10th December, and are expecting at least 2500 people to turn up! As we're offering free mince pies and mulled wine after the services, we need a lot of supplies.

As such, the task fell upon me to drive to France last Saturday with two girls from the CU to buy 120 litres of extremely cheap wine!








Each 5 litre box cost €4.10, which is about £2.50. Thus the total cost was £68, as opposed to about £320 for the cheapest wine we could have bought in England! Quite a saving.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bible Doctrine (4)

[Updated 21/11/06]
Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to God's wrath and condemnation.

This week we considered what it means to be human: how did God create us, what were we like, and what are we like now? Firstly I'll look at Man as the image-bearer of God; secondly, at the effects of the Fall.

True humanity: God's image-bearers

Genesis 1:26-7:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule
over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all
the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

What are the hallmarks of true humanity?

  • Male and female: both genders were created to work together. Eve is described as the "helper" of Adam, but this is the term used of the Holy Spirit - essential and indisposable for Adam. Man and woman were designed to be together, to both be human in its ultimate form, and to have different but complementary roles in ruling over creation.
  • Holy: we think of God as the only holy person in the universe, but are the angels also holy? We are called to "be holy, as [God is] holy" (1 Peter 1:16). Adam and Eve were holy until they fell - they were "very good", the pinnacle of creation.
  • Like God: We have been created in the likeness of God.
"Man is like God and represents God" (Grudem, p.189), which means that we are "similar but not identical" to God in many of His aspects (not all, though!). Some of these aspects are (Grudem, p.191-2):
  • Morally - our conscience tells us right from wrong, and when we act justly then we reflect God. Accordingly, we will be judged and held accountable for the moral decisions we've made.
  • Spiritually - we can "act in ways that are significant in the immaterial, spiritual realm of existence" not just the temporal world we live in. We are also immortal and will not cease to exist at bodily death. John Stott, in his commentary on Romans, suggests that "God originally had something better in mind, something less degrading and squalid than death, decay and decomposition..." (Stott, p.166) - perhaps like Jesus' transfiguration, or Enoch and Elijah's translation into Heaven.
  • Mentally - we have the ability to reason and think. This causes us to develop both personally and corporately, in fields of technology, philosophy, agriculture, science and so on.
  • Relationally - we can relate not only to God, but to each other in a way that is deeper and more significant than animals' communities: in marriage, a family, or a church. We were also created to rule over the rest of creation, and we can assert our authority on our planet and our fellow inhabitants.

What does this mean? Well, we should rejoice in our great Creator. Every time we follow God's precepts and live in a way that is like Him then we reflect His glory and show the great dignity of the human race. Remember, too, that we have a great Saviour - the ultimate image-bearer of God, God Himself as Jesus Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:16).

Are we just animals?

We had a brief discussion on the differences between man (the species, not the gender) and the rest of creation. Just some thoughts...

Firstly, there's no reason for animals to be stupid. God created them as "good", and they bear the same hallmarks of design that we do - albeit mostly in a physical sense. Thus we shouldn't be shocked or surprised that elephants are self-aware, that dolphins can sing or that primates understand human communication.

However - it's almost too obvious a point to make - we are so far advanced in nearly every way that it is clear from a cursory glance which species on the Earth is most dominant. While many animals have advanced techniques for catching food, building nests or finding mates, there are no philosophical porcupines. In fields such as agriculture, education, language, art, religion, philosophy, military technology and many others mankind continues to develop and advance our knowledge and ability. Termites may build amazing anthills, but they do so the same way they've always done.

How else do we differ? In the bullet points above about our likeness to God, we are also unlike animals. Moral accountability (although look at Genesis 9:5), spiritual awareness, mental agility and changing relationships with each other. We have instincts, but we can over-ride them.

Were we created ex nihilo or formed of animal stock? Interestingly, John Stott thinks the latter (p.164): it makes sense given the biological evidence of DNA likeness and so on that God 'chose' Adam as the creature to bear the divine likeness. Whether God then conferred the same likeness on other human beings in existence, or whether we are all descended from Adam and Eve is another interesting quetion. I tend to oscillate between positions on this debate.

Fallen humanity: imagining ourselves as God

Genesis 3 recounts the invasion of sin into the previously perfect world. I'm going to think very briefly about these implications.

Genesis 5:1 says that when Adam had a son (Seth), he was "in his likeness" - ie. like Adam, in sin. After that, Adam eventually died. So did Seth... so did everyone. Sin leads to death, inexorably.

We inherit two things from Adam: guilt and corruption. Guilt in the eyes of God, which would lead to punishment on its own; corruption which causes us to desire to sin. Our accountability means that punishment must be meted for sin.

Is it fair for God to punish us? Is infinite punishment for finite sins just? Are we just being punished for something we haven't done?

Romans 5 says that "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin", and through Adam's sin "many were made sinners". Adam, as our representative, sinned, and thus we all fall under condemnation. In western culture this seems unfair, yet in many cultures this is the way of things. If we think it unfair to be represented by Adam, we should also think it unfair to be represented by Christ, because God imputes righteousness to us in the same way that he imputed sin to us through Adam (Grudem, p.214).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bible Doctrine (3)

The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.

What is it that we base our faith on? Is it merely on "feelings", emotions, experiences? Or is there a more tangible, reliable, logical basis for belief?

Thankfully, the answer is yes! We have the most detailed and reliable ancient document in existence - the Bible. Let's delve into the various parts of the statement above:

The Bible

What is the Bible? The collection of 66 books written by dozens of authors across a 1600 year time period throughout the ancient world is a mixture of different writings: poetry, history, prophecy, genealogy, letters and so on.

As originally given

God inspired the writers of the Bible to write exactly what they did. While there are no complete original documents, by comparing many hundreds of fragments and dating them, we can be certain that over 99% of our current Bible is the same as the original text, except for translation. God may not have inspired any particular translation, but He has providentially maintained the text for us to read, and blessed us with many good translations... at least in English. Spare a thought for the 2500+ people groups in the world yet to have any of the Bible in their own language!

Is the inspired and infallible

There are several terms we can use to describe the authority of the Bible. None of them seems to quite hit the mark, and so we end up with combinations.

  • "Inspired" means that God has decreed what should be written, within the context of each writer's personality and culture. It doesn't just mean that the Bible is "inspirational". "All Scripture is God-breathed..." (2 Timothy 3:16) - this translation is probably most accurate regarding "inspiration".
  • "Infallible" means that the Bible will not fail us, whatever test we may put it to: it's perfect... but a criticism is that it might just be perfect for what we use it for, ie. "faith and practice" as Grudem says (p.43), and not for some historical or scientific facts. This goes against the teachings of Paul (Acts 24:14), Jesus (Luke 24:25) and various psalmists (Psalm 12:6, Psalm 119:96), who state that all the Bible is true and reliable.
  • "Inerrant" is the other frequently used term, although not in the UCCF doctrinal basis above. It means that the Bible is without error: perfect and truthful in every way. It has a different emphasis than infallible - it's stronger in what it does affirm, but arguably starts from a negative viewpoint.

What does inerrant mean? Well, it makes allowances for things like "loose" quoting as we would see it. When the New Testament quotes from the Old, the wording is often slightly different, or maybe many verses will be combined into one. We live in an age of search engines and libraries, where precise wording is necessary for a reliable quotation. In ancient times, the purpose of quoting was to convey the meaning of the original text.

Inerrancy also allows for authors to use ordinary language. God speaks through the authors using human language, but never compromises His holiness or perfection in so doing.

Word of God

How is the Bible God's Word? It displays God's characteristics: it is pure, truthful, holy, trustworthy and faithful, to name but a few. "Every word of God proves true" (Proverbs 30:5).

The "Word of God" is revealed to us in the Bible. But God's ultimate speaking is through Himself - in the person of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament prophesies about him, and the New Testament provides testimony of eye-witnesses to him. Thus the whole Bible focuses on Jesus, and the words that he spoke.

It is the supreme authority

The Bible is reliable because it is the Word of God. It attests to this itself many hundreds of times: in the Old Testament the words "Thus says the Lord" indicate a direct revelation, and because all the words of the Law/Covenant were to be treated as such, the whole Old Testament is God's Word: " After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD : "Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you." (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

Similarly, the New Testament makes claims about itself - and the Old Testament. Jesus frequently quotes from the Old Testament, making clear that he regarded it as reliable (not surprisingly, as he wrote it!). The famous 2 Timothy 3:16 states that scripture is theopneustos, or "breathed out by God". The word he uses for "scripture" usually means the Old Testament Jewish scriptures - but several examples include New Testament writings as well, for example 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes from both the Old and New Testaments, and Paul calls them both "scripture." Peter affirms Paul's writings as scripture in 2 Peter 3:16.

Some object that using the Bible to prove the Bible is a circular argument. Well... yes and no. Every appeal to a supreme authority has to use that authority to prove itself. For example, "I believe in the physical universe only, because nothing I have experienced is outside of that". The Bible makes claims about itself, but if you examine the Bible, you come to see that its claims are true and that God is faithful. Grudem describes this as more of a "sprial" than a typical circular argument (p.38).

In all matters of belief and behaviour

The wonder of the Bible is that it is not just cerebral theology - it is applicable to us in our lives. Theology is, of course, very important - the Bible tells us about Jesus' life, death and resurrection and provides the basis for our faith. We don't just find out about this core teaching from the Bible, but also many great doctrines of God - like the ones I am hesitantly exploring on this blog.

When we say that the Bible "is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour", it means that secondary sources, for example the writings of theologians, the teaching of pastors, and our own experiences, must come secondary to the Bible. It alone is the revealed Truth.

How should we act in response to this great revelation? Firstly, let's praise and thank the Lord for giving us his Word. Without it our only way of seeing Him would be through our conscience - which provides a guide and conviction - and creation - which reveals the glory of God. Because of the Bible, we can know so much more about God; primarily because of the embodied Word, who became flesh - Jesus Christ.

Problems of interpretation

It would be great if Christians always agreed on what the Bible says. Once the problems of quoting out of context, and mistranslation are taken care of, we still end up in the situation of disagreeing on various secondary issues: the historicity of Genesis, the application of the Law in the New Testament, whether or not to have women preachers, eschatological issues arising from Revelation, and so on. I have found that my opinions on many of these issues have altered over the years of being a Christian. We can be confident that there is a correct interpretation of each of the contentious passages of Scripture - what we can't always be confident of is whether we have it! How to resolve them? Read your Bible and pray... next question?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Casino Royale trailer

The name's Craig... Daniel Craig.

Ohhh yes!

Monday, November 06, 2006

God's sovereignty in a busy weekend

After a rather academic post last time, I've been blessed with so many examples of God's providence over the past few days I had to collate them!

I have to write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of my choice by March 12 2007. The date is still a long way off, but we're supposed to start the project over the summer and do the research we need. I did start, but found that my project was not feasible, so I had to change - and then the same thing happened again! After those two disappointments I was feeling downhearted about finding a new topic. I'd been praying for guidance on a new project, but felt that time was ticking by - so last week I prayed fervently (I think of it as banging on God's door) and then on Friday I talked to the professor of one of my courses, and he gave me some great guidance on a new dissertation. Praise God!

It was supposed to be the CU's houseparty weekend, but the booking for our venue fell through. We already had Roger Carswell booked to speak though, so we merely relocated to Southampton for a day of activities on Saturday, as well as Friday evening's meetings. You can download his talks here. The ones I heard were really excellent, and very applicable to student life - as you'd expect from Roger. Praise God!

I had other things to do than stay in Southampton, however. Every year Carey hosts a barbeque/bonfire/fireworks evening with a short evangelistic talk to mark Bonfire Night, which everyone is welcome to attend. I got back to Reading at 3pm and headed almost straight for the farm where it's held. Sadly I got there a little too late and had to cook vegetarian "burgers" and "sausages". Yuck. After the fireworks were over (and they were excellent this year) Frazer and I stood at the gate counting people out. We normally cater for 500, but this year there were (about) 680 people there - praise God!

On Sunday a group of us had been invited to a friend's house outside Reading for Sunday lunch to celebrate his 21st birthday. We left in several cars to head there after church. The road to his house is quite narrow and winding, and we were all several minutes apart... well, I don't want to over-egg the pudding here, but the first car with five people in (not me) crashed at about 50mph. Its driver had to swerve to avoid an oncoming car on the narrow lane, and then got the wheels caught in the bank at the side of the road. The car spun, flipped, and rolled 1 3/4 times, ending on its side. The aftermath looked like this:




Incredibly, all five of my friends climbed out of the car with only a stiff neck and a bumped head between them. Praise God! We arrived (in the red car above) 2 minutes after the accident, by which time they'd all got out of the car, but were pretty shocked by the ordeal. As you can see there were other vehicles around, and the emergency services were raised immediately. Within 10 minutes 4 police cars, 2 fire engines and an air ambulance all arrived!

We were all able to continue eventually to our friend's house and enjoy a (slightly subdued) lunch. But what a lunch... three joints of roast pork and four desserts - praise God (for Acts 10)!

I'm blessed with a great friendship group at church. Many of us are away much of the time, but we keep in touch, and in praying for the salvation of those of us who aren't yet Christians. On Sunday night my friend James told us he'd been saved! He had previously prayed for the Lord to save him, but didn't have assurance of it until yesterday. In any case... praise God!

I had to get back to Southampton last night for a 9am lecture this morning (praise God...) so went to the station to catch the train - only to discover that there were no trains to Southampton all night! Great. It just so happened that my friend Steve was driving back to Portsmouth - also for a 9am - so he could give me a lift. Praise God!

WOW. How much do we have to give thanks to God for!? I've been feeling very aware of God's grace and providence this weekend, and I pray that it continues through this week and beyond, so that I can worship Him wholly with my life.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bible Doctrine (2)

[Note: I am not a theologian! These notes are probably more beneficial to me than they are to you. If I have made a mistake, then please add a comment.]

God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.

God's providence is one of the most mysterious subjects that it is possible to study. From our perspective it can seem impossible to reconcile the following truths:

  1. God is totally sovereign
  2. We are totally responsible

Grudem defines three areas in which God is sovereign: preservation, concurrence and government.

Preservation

This is probably the simplest (and least controversial) concept of providence to understand. Jesus, having created the universe, continues to sustain ("The Son is ... sustaining all things by his powerful word" Hebrews 1:3) and uphold it constantly ("for by him all things were created ... he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" Colossians 1:16-17).

God's preservation applies not only to the universe as a whole, but to everything created within it. The basis of civilisation and science is that objects retain their properties, and the laws of physics do not alter. We also, as his people, are sustained by his word, whether we are Jews ("The Lord made a covenant with Abram and said "To your descendents I give this land"" Genesis 15:18) or Gentiles (""I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep"" John 10:11).

Concurrence

This is the concept that "God co-operates with created things in every action, directing their disctinctive properties to cause them to act as they do" (Grudem, p.143). God brings all things about to fulfil His will and add to His glory. By "all things" Grudem refers to a host of creation, from inanimate objects, through plants and animals, to humans. For brevity I'll not go into detail on most of these, but skip to humans.

We work every day to earn a salary, and yet pray for God to "give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). Why is this? Do we not have to work? Do we not have to pray? No on both counts! God works in an invisible way, yet far more powerfully than we do. He, therefore, is the primary cause of any action. Yet we, the creation, act in ways consisten with our natural properties: if we don't eat then we go hungry, so we earn money to buy food.

Our direction and movement are ordained by God: "a man's steps are ordered by the Lord" (Proverbs 20:24). Whether or not we pass an exam or get a job promotion is similarly the doing of God, and our natural and spiritual gifts, of course, are given by God: "What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) In receiving it, though, we have a responsibility to use it. Our actions are significant and responsible, and God will hold us accountable for how we live - so we can't let ourselves off the hook because "God causes everything"!

If God causes "all things" to happen, does that include evil? Clearly, as God is totally good, He cannot perform evil - that would be contrary to His nature ("For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you" Psalm 86:5). In terms of concurrence, we have learned that God and Man are fully responsible for their actions and both cause events to occur. This can be seen in Exodus, where Pharoah hardens his heart, and God also hardens his heart. If God and Man are both fully responsible, then both can cause Pharoah's heart to be hardened. Pharoah was punished for his sin, and God was glorified by causing His will to be done.

God can righteously bring about evil events; He uses all things for His glory, including evil. The supreme example of this is Jesus' death by crucifixion. Judas betrayed Jesus to death, the Jewish authorities and Romans arrested him, the mob called for his death, and the soldiers crucified him. All were fully responsible for what they did. Yet without those actions we could not be forgiven! God not only glorifies Himself (although that would be a perfect reason for Him to do anything) but brings about our good as well ("Herod and Pontius Pilate ... [did what] ... your plan had predestined to take place" Acts 4:27).

Having said this, it is important to remember that God never does evil, and is never to blame for evil. The blame for evil is on the responsible creature (Grudem, p.150). Even if we object that we cannot resist God's will, we must accept that we willingly choose to do evil, and even if we are tempted, we do not resist the temptation. God's righteousness demands that He punishes evil according to His perfect justice. Does it make sense? Well... not exactly. This is the most mind-bending piece of theology to understand, in my opinion. Anyone who understands this is probably already dead and in heaven!

Government

God providentially directs all things to happen according to His purpose ("For from him and through him and to him are all things" Romans 11:36). He is supremely powerful to ensure that this happens (""I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted"" Job 42:2). As a result we can be confident that "in all things God works together for the good of those who love him" (Romans 8:28). Praise God!

Application

So... theology is not about male bonding, or head knowledge. What does it mean? Well, if God is sovereign, then we can trust that whatever happens is ultimately good. Yet we must take responsibility for everything we do. In prayer, recognising the truth of both God's sovereignty and our responsibility means that we should be fervent and passionate prayers. In evangelism, we must pray all the more that God would convict people of their sin, but not fall into the trap of thinking that we don't have to worry about what we do.

Calvinism

As a brief note, there are approximately four positions that Christians hold with regards to providence. I have been espousing a Calvinist point of view, which seeks to hold (1) God's sovereignty and (2) human responsibility in balance, without necessarily understanding how they fit together. The other evangelical position is Arminianism, which leans more towards (2) than (1). Grudem lists a lot of objections to this position, but I won't go into them. The other two positions, open theism and hyper-Calvinism, are way out on the spectrum of (2) and (1) respectively. There isn't much Biblical basis for either.

[Phew!]

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bible Doctrine (1)

There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Wayne Grudem (and others, presumably) writes the three truths of the Trinity in his book:
  1. God is three persons
  2. All three persons are equally God
  3. There is only one God

How do you square these? We talked about several analogies: the egg (shell, white, yolk), a clover (three leaves, one plant), water (ice, water, steam) - and concluded that while they helped in some senses, they all fell short of capturing all three truths. The closest analogy is that of a closed box at 4ºC with water inside. At this temperature, the water can be steam, water and ice all at the same time. Of course, each molecule can only be one at once, but if the box is closed there is a Schrödinger's Cat scenario where you don't know which it is until the box is opened...

Anyway, some scriptural references:

  1. God is three persons: "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."" (Mark 1:9-11)
  2. All three persons are equally God: "The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
    Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
    Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
    "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
    Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?""
    (John 10:24-36) (This doesn't mention the Holy Spirit - He is mentioned as God's agent in the world as early as Genesis 1:2 where He "hovers over the waters" of the unformed Earth)
  3. There is only one God: ""Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me."" (Isaiah 46:9)

Fundamentally, the Trinity is a mystery to us: one of God's eternal characteristics that we cannot understand with our human brains. But praise God for Jesus! God became a man so that we might know God through Jesus.

Bible Doctrine (0)

At ABC's student group (3:16) we've begun to study Bible doctrine, using the UCCF doctrinal basis as a framework. I'll try and blog a summary of each point each week... although we've already had two, so they're coming soon!

Here is the UCCF doctrinal basis. I think it's pretty sound.

The basis of the Fellowship shall be the fundamental truths of
Christianity, as revealed in Holy Scripture, including:
  1. There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  2. God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
  3. The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.
  4. Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
  5. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son, is fully God; he was born of a virgin; his humanity is real and sinless; he died on the cross, was raised bodily from death and is now reigning over heaven and earth.
  6. Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God.
  7. Those who believe in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God's sight only because of the righteousness of Christ credited to them; this justification is God's act of undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts.
  8. The Holy Spirit alone makes the work of Christ effective to individual sinners, enabling them to turn to God from their sin and to trust in Jesus Christ.
  9. The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christlike in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world.
  10. The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.
  11. The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jack Bauer Must Die

Check out the trailer for season 6 of 24. It looks AWESOME.

www.24trailer.com

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Word of the week

Oligopsonistic

The practice of using the market dominance of your cartel to force suppliers to lower prices. As seen by 5 supermarkets in the UK who control over 60% of the total food market.

A monopoly is one company supplying goods.

An oligopoly is a cartel of companies supplying goods.

An oligopsony is a cartel of companies buying goods: their practices are oligopsonistic.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Time to celebrate

SUCU Celebrate 75

Around 300 people gathered in a church near campus this afternoon to celebrate 75 years of a Christian Union at Southampton University! It was incredibly encouraging to see people of all ages together to worship and give thanks to God for His faithfulness to us. Three people gave testimony - the CU President from 1951 (!); a student from 1970; and Rich Fountain, who became a Christian on a CU mission week in 2003. Roger Carswell - a Soton graduate - preached a great message of encouragement and exhortation for the spread of the Gospel. Hallelujah!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chop chop

I seem to have been afflicted with a strange sense of enthusiasm on my return to Southampton - perhaps trying to make up for a semester away?

I'm currently studying four courses, which is one too many. One of them stems from the Berlin fieldtrip, so I can't give that one up. The other three have to stand on their own merits, however; which does present a bit of a quandary. I can study Geographies of Welfare and Wellbeing - which is looking very interesting after the first two lectures; European Economic Geographies - which is OK; and Geographies of Retail and Consumption - which is supposedly quite well-known and has produced some successful geographers over the last 15 years. My head says, take the second two, my heart (and spirit) says take the first and last, because I can learn about ethical responses to poverty and deprivation, which I don't understand enough about.

I've also bitten off a lot of CU activities: the evangelism team, where I'll be heading up questionnaires; the Carol Service team, which met today to start planning for the services on/around December 10 for over 2000 people; and I've also been along to the International Café where we befriend international students and build relationships with them. Tonight I met a Pole who likes Zywiec and went to York Canada for an exchange like me! Nonetheless, I feel I might have to reel back a little bit as the work for my courses hots up...

Mmm, wordy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jobs for the boys

I've started watching a great documentary about British politics. It focuses on a new minister in the civil service, and his battle to wrest power from the incumbent (and incomprehensible) civil servants who work there.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Studying

I've started a few new things this week. First lectures for over six months and first quiet time for... a few months.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Counter-cultural

Southampton

I've been back in the fair city of Soton for nearly a week. It's been nice to catch up with several people who I haven't seen for nine months (!), as well as some who I have seen. I had a bit of a Toronto reunion on Wednesday when I visited Chichester, home of Kate, Nat and Polly - three other exchange students who I lived near in Founders. Kate knew I was coming, but Nat and Polly were pretty astonished to see me... which was nice :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mission

John Piper preaching to students at Wheaton College on "Doing Missions when Dying is Gain" - absolutely worth a listen.

Blogroll

So here I am reading reformed blogs from Canada and the US all the time, when it turns out that the UCCF Staff worker in Reading has a great blog! I'll forgive the greengrocer's apostrophe on his profile page.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Richard Dawkins - "The God Delusion"

The Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (author of The Blind Watchmaker and other famous books) has turned his hand to theology... interesting, as he has no training in it nor seemingly any knowledge of it! He appears baffled that Christians can be critical scientists, accusing them of "compartmentalised thinking". He also quotes extensively from the Old Testament, rather than the New; and credits the apostle Paul with inventing Christianity. I may try and read this book to find out what the atheists of the next few years will be using to back up their beliefs.

See a preview from two chapters and almost 1000 reader comments on the BBC here.

Autumn

Reading

The summer is nearly over... I'm packing to go back to uni tomorrow. It's going to be pretty weird to live in Southampton again, after more than nine months away. I'll also have to start working again, which will be a rude shock!

Not until next Monday though, so I'll survive. Six months off, finally finished!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Piccies

Enjoy... more here.










Radio Luxembourg

Reading

I made it home! Steve and I had a bit of an epic last two days of the trip from Geneva back to here. On the Thursday we left Geneva in the morning, stopped in Bern for lunch (and Montreux to see the Freddy Mercury statue) and then trucked up to Luxembourg for the night. Steve's GPS has some campsites listed, so I picked one at random and headed towards it. When we got there we discovered that (a) it's literally underneath a motorway viaduct and (b) otherwise full of Dutch caravanners. Bizarre.

On Friday morning we had a quick look around Luxembourg itself. It's not the biggest of places, but because the country is so rich they make it look very nice. We even found some postcards to buy, although there wasn't a great selection...

We spent all of Friday afternoon and evening on motorways back to Reading. It was a pretty dull journey, and we were both pretty knackered when we got home!

So that's that. No more foreign jaunts for me for the next few months at least. On this trip we visited:

Germany
Czech Republic
Austria
Switzerland
Liechtenstein
Italy
France
Luxembourg
Belgium
England
... and yesterday I went to Wales for the day, to see my ex-pastor be inducted as the Principal of a seminary there. According to the Welsh, it's a different country!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ups and downs

Geneva

We're still going! Since I last wrote Steve and I have been through another 5 countries - Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein (look it up), Italy and France. We've also driven over 5 alpine passes and covered about 500 miles. Driving in the Alps is awesome - as good as, if not better than, driving in California back in April (was it really 5 months ago!?). The roads are immaculate, and the engineering matches the jaw-dropping scenery.

On Monday we left Munich in the morning and went down to Lake Konstanz for lunch in Lindau. We passed through a corner of Austria into Switzerland, and then about 30km later, into the so-called country of Liechtenstein. I say so-called, because there aren't any border controls or even an announcement that you cross it! Only the sign saying 'Vaduz' gives a clue, because Vaduz is the city in Liechtenstein...

We made a slightly spontaneous decision later on at the top of the Splügenpass to carry on into Italy. It was a good one, because we ended up at a really nice campsite by Lake Como. On Tuesday morning we re-entered Switzerland at Lugano, and headed north over the St. Gotthard pass - amazing - and the Sustenpass - also amazing - to Interlaken. We saw the north face of the Eiger at Grindelwald and I had a very brief swim in one of the lakes. Glacial lakes are cold.

On Tuesday night we camped at Zweisimmen, and this morning left to go west to Martigny, and then south over the Gt. St. Bernard pass into Italy (again!). After that one we turned back towards France, and drove through the Mt Blanc tunnel... it's pretty boring really. After an afternoon stop in Chamonix we ended up here in Geneva!

Phew... I don't have much time to write. Tomorrow we hope to end up in Strasbourg, and the day after, at home.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Life in the fast lane

Munich

Yesterday morning I listened to a John Piper sermon while driving at 200km/h. Legally!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had a great week in Berlin, and got to know lots of people on my course who I didn't know before, and didn't see while I was in Canada. We studied various things, some of which were more airy-fairy than others. One of the more interesting topics was "memory and the city", which in Berlin is quite easy. There is so much history in the city, and so recent, that nearly any street has an interesting past - maybe it was by the Wall, maybe it used to be a city gate, or is named after someone or somewhere.

We were staying in Kreuzberg, an area just south of the city centre. It was a nice neighbourhood - plenty of people around, and lots of immigrants. As such there were loads of interesting and cheap places to eat, such as Mexican, Turkish, German, Italian and so on.

Unfortunately my room-mate, Tony, had a cold during the week and I picked it up just before the end of the fieldtrip. My head feels weird.

On Sunday morning I met up with Steve near to where I was staying, and we set off southwards. We made it here to Munich in 8 hours, including a brief diversion into the Czech Republic. Driving on the autobahn was amazing - I took a stint at the wheel halfway through the journey, and cruised at 150km/h. People were flying past regularly in BMWs, Audis etc. On one downhill open stretch I floored it and reached a top speed (GPS measured) of 203km/h! That was fast.

Once we arrived in Munich, we headed into the centre, and to Oktoberfest! There are an awful lot of people there - 14 beer tents, each with a couple of thousand revellers inside; plus a huge fairground and lots of people milling around. I managed a "Mass" - 1 litre of very nice Hacker Pschorr, but slept very well as a result!

We're off to Switzerland today, via Austria and Liechtenstein - my 25th country, if all goes to plan...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Deutschland

Well, I'm going away again (shock horror!), this time to Germany. I'm flying to Berlin very early tomorrow morning - so much so that I'm leaving tonight - and spending a week there on a geography fieldtrip. We'll be looking at various airy-fairy cultural geography such as "rhythym and meaning in the city". It should be fun, though we'll be working quite hard apparently...

Then next Sunday I'm meeting my friend Steve in Berlin with his car, and we're going on a good ol' roadtrip down to Switzerland, through the Alps and back home again. On the way we may even pop into the Munich Oktoberfest!

So that's all for now. I will try and post an update while I'm on the continent, otherwise I'll be back on Saturday 23rd.

Auf wiedersehen!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Je l'aime beaucoup

I returned from France on Sunday evening, as promised...

It was a good holiday, although a little short! I made it through the ultra-stringent airport security on Tuesday afternoon, and stayed with my parents in an apartment in a complex full of English people from Tuesday-Saturday. For two of the three days we sat around the pool and read books - ie. doing very little - but on one day we went on a wee excursion to the town of Sarlat, about 70km east of Bergerac. On the way we stopped in a small village/castle (pictured) built near the Dordogne river. The town of Sarlat itself was very nice, and bearably touristy!

On Saturday morning we loaded up the car and set off north. Unfortunately we chose the same day to travel as everyone else in France, returning from their holidays. As a result it took about 9 hours to get to Paris, where we stayed overnight. We had enough time to climb the Arc de Triomphe, walk under the Eiffel Tower, have dinner; and on the next morning visit the Montmartre - thus ticking off the three big touristy sights. Ah well, one of these days I'll actually explore the city! We left Paris at lunchtime and made it back to Reading at 10pm, after a pretty choppy ferry crossing.

Driving my Dad's Golf GTI was pretty fun :) although there weren't enough opportunities to really stretch its legs...

This week I'm doing some reading for my thesis, and then on Monday morning I'm off to Berlin! More of that later. Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 28, 2006

Next trip

This afternoon I took my brother to the airport, where he flew to Hong Kong. He's going to be in China for a month, visiting the south - and Tibet - with two friends, one of whom is Chinese.

I'm not at all jealous.

OK, I am. But to compensate, I'm off to southern France tomorrow for five days. My parents drove down there on Friday/Saturday, but I stayed to do the festival evangelism. I'm not really sure what to do when I'm there, but in any case on Saturday morning we set off for the drive back home. My Dad wisely decided not to do all the driving himself, so put me on the insurance for a week. In his new Golf GTI...

Back on Sunday night! (hopefully)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Festivities

I've spent most of the last three days in Reading handing out tracts or speaking to people about God.

On Thursday a group of 5 of us went to the train station at 10am armed with 2000 maps to hand out, which told people how to get to the festival, and also had a Gospel message on them. We got rid of 2000 in 2 hours! - and another 2000 over the rest of the day. So there were 4000 people walking around with the Gospel in their pockets.

On Friday and Saturday we spent about 6 hours down by the festival site, next to the River Thames. We had a display board (pictured) and went out from there in pairs with more tracts and surveys to talk to people. Over the 2 days we had conversations with something like 100 people, and handed tracts to thousands more.

So that was our work. Pray that the Holy Spirit can now do His work in the hearts, minds and souls of everyone at the festival. Some of them are up to their eyes in drugs, drink and immorality - but none of them are beyond salvation. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New look

This template seems to be quite popular these days - and I was a bit tired of the bodged blue-and-yellow thing that was going on before.

Festival evangelism

Reading

This weekend an estimated 250,000 people will come to our town to hear some of these bands play. I, as part of a team of people from churches in Reading and further afield, will be seeking to share the Gospel with as many of them as we can! In the past it's been a very fruitful ministry - the festival attracts mostly young, disillusioned, postmodern people so we don't get people running up to us asking "what must we do to be saved?" Nevertheless we can give out a lot of gospels, do questionnaires and just talk with many people, which sows a seed for the future.


If you are a Christian, please pray for us this weekend, that we would be faithful to the Gospel and that many might find their visit to Reading of eternal significance...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Google Earth with added Bible

Some enterprising soul has made a plug-in for Google Earth that shows the locations of about 200 Biblical places, with brief commentary on each. See some information here, or click here to open Google Earth with it.

If you don't have Google Earth... you should be ashamed of yourself.

URZ! (2)

It's good to be back. Reading's first match in the Premiership - ever - was on Saturday and my Dad and I managed to get tickets for the game! The match started pretty badly - within 20 minutes Middlesbrough were 2-0 up and Reading looked shellshocked. But they started playing as if they had nothing to lose, and then just before the end of the first half scored 2 goals in 2 minutes.

After the break the teams came back out and it was clear that Boro were on the back foot. Sure enough, after 10 minutes Leroy Lita scored our third goal :)

Business as usual - Saturday afternoon at the Madejski and we score 3 goals and win the match! I'm not sure how long this run will last, especially as in September we play Man United, Chelsea and Arsenal...

Match report here. More newspaper reports on the fans' forum here.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sign up

Southampton

This week I've actually had a job - gasp - working for the university on their Clearing Hotline. The deal is that 18 year olds get their exam results this week (they had them on Thursday) and those who are going to university check what they got against their offer. If they got the grades they needed, great! They're off to uni in October. If they didn't then they enter a process called Clearing, which all universities use to fill up spaces in their programs. All I'm doing is answering the phone and either transferring calls to various faculties' admissions tutors, or telling students that they need to look elsewhere...

The most over-subscribed course by far is Medicine - it's completely full and didn't even enter Clearing this year. That hasn't stopped hundreds of people ringing to ask for a place. I personally have turned down three students with AAAA grades and four or five others with AAA grades. On the other end of the scale, there have been people ringing up with one E, or DD and asking for a place on various courses. Unfortunately there the answer is always no!

Thursday was rather busy - I took 101 calls during the day but still had quite a lot of time off the phone. Today, though, was practically dead in comparison - I took only 25 calls in 7 hours of working! The boss started to ask us to leave from about 1pm because it was so quiet (there are nearly 30 of us working there) but I figured that I'd rather get paid to surf the internet than go home and do it for free. Goodness knows what it will be like on Sunday...!

Tonight my housemate Brian and I went to see SNAKES ON A PLANE which is a simply awesome film. Samuel L Jackson kicks butt, which is always fun to see.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Flights of fancy

Well, following my somewhat trite summary of the terrorist arrests the other day, it turns out it's all a bit closer to home than I'd thought:

- an internet café in Reading had its computers seized;

- my friend and housemate, Simon, was quite shocked on reading the names of those arrested to see that one of them was a good friend of his from school.

Once again, this is very much home-grown terrorism - like the 7/7 attacks last year, most of the suspects are British citizens. How can people live in a society like ours and turn their backs on it to the extent that they are willing to kill their fellow countrymen?

Ironically, the evangelical Christian community shares some of its conservative values with the conservative Muslim community. The only difference, of course, is that the evangelical Christian community doesn't generate terrorists.

I watched "V for Vendetta" this week, which is a very good film set in England in a fascist future. It postulates that a fundamentalist Christian movement ("Strength through Unity - Unity through Faith") takes power of the country following a breakdown of society and spate of terrorist activity. The film was very Orwellian and there are definite hints of 1984 to it, but it's still impossible to happen - I hope.

Fun and games...

Friday, August 11, 2006

WWJD

I've resumed watching 24 which I'd previously seen up to the end of the 4th season. Some friends and I spent most of yesterday watching 6 (!) episodes at the start of season 5. I've also got my brother hooked, although he has to start from season 1. The irony was not lost on us, therefore, when we stopped watching TV and put on the news to see RED ALERT everywhere. The hand of Jack Bauer was definitely on the police yesterday. In fact, I bet he's in the police station now, torturing the suspects until they tell him what he wants to hear.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tree killing

All over the place

Crumbs. I used some of my copious free time this afternoon to tot up every commercial flight I've ever taken...



It all adds up to a carbon-tastic 80,000 miles and 53 flights (including the rest of this summer). On a more positive note, had I known that my flight home from Poland 2 weeks ago was my 50th, I would have celebrated my half-century! Champagne all round, except that I don't think Ryanair have any.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bargain

I try and keep my ear to the ground with regards to cheap travel: megabus, megatrain, easyJet and so on. If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to travel nearly so much!

I've become a bit of a regular on Ryanair recently. They're so ridiculously cheap, and fly to lots of places that I need to... as such I'm making four trips with them this summer alone. I was pretty excited to see on their website that they're starting to fly to Morocco this autumn! I've never been to Africa, and flights over there are traditionally pretty expensive. Next year I might head over there for a week or two, and hopefully persuade the lads to come along too.

Or - I might make it back to Canada! Both Canadian Affair and Zoom offer temptingly cheap deals to the big T.O. so watch this space...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Reading list

Reading, UK

I've been back for a week. What have I been up to? Well... not a lot, to be perfectly honest. I spent an hour or so sorting photos from Poland, I spent another few hours uploading more photos from the US and Italy, I spent an hour or so reassembling and cleaning my bike (unused since mid-December), I've rejoiced that Southampton made it to Facebook...

And so on. I have a dissertation (thesis) to be getting on with - it's not due until March next year but I need to research it this summer, and unfortunately that means contacting strangers and going to interview them. Bleugh. Still, I'm sure it'll be fine once I get started.

I've got a job too - for 7 days at least, later in August. So you can be glad that this summer won't be a total disaster financially.

There have been a few books sitting next to my bed for the last few weeks, and last night I couldn't get to sleep so started reading one - "Willing to Believe" by R.C. Sproul [what does R.C. stand for?]. I got through the first chapter and a half, which were about the precepts of Pelagianism: no original sin, man is capable of perfection, etc. etc. It's moved on to Augustine now, which seems a lot more reasonable...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Back in town

Wroclaw, Poland

Well, I made it back! The last week has been the most tiring, not just because it was our third in a row, but also because we had to do a lot more planning for lessons ("let's learn about family!") and take a lead with workshops and sports. The camp took a while to get going, but after 3 or 4 days the kids stopped whining and I got a new burst of energy to be enthusiastic - so the past few days have been great.

Anyway, I'm very tired and we're off to the centre to eat, shop and relax for a few days. Peace out!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Update 2

Marianówka, Poland

Hello everyone. I don't have long so will make this quick!

Last time I wrote was after week 1 with the little kids. That seems a long time ago... we've had another week and a bit since. The second week was for teenagers - 13-18 years old, about a third of whom I knew from previous years. I was the "teacher" of a group of 6 15-year old guys: Marcin, Piotr (x2), Maciek, Mariusz and Michał.

To start the week I did a few normal lessons on the media, newspapers etc. - but they and I found them boring, so with Rebecca's advice I switched to more discussion-based lessons. We talked about war and peace, geopolitics, leadership and the role of men - not all at the same time - and I segued into a brief Bible study at the end. I was so encouraged by the classes: I don't know how many are believers but I am praying (and ask you to do the same) that they will have found them, as well as the regular Bible studies, useful and challenging.

I was also able to give my testimony on Sunday morning at the service here. I laid the need to make a decision on the line for them and challenged them to follow Christ with their whole lives, not merely on Sunday, as most in Catholic Poland do.

We were all sad to see the teenagers leave yesterday, and somewhat surprised when the busload of new kids arrived an hour early! Thankfully we were able to get ready quickly. They're a nice bunch, mostly from ages 10-13 but with an errant but very cute 7-year old also here! I am taking the lowest group this week, so it's back to colouring and games rather than discussion.

Tomorrow we're off on a hike in the hills for half a day, then back to camp for an English lesson, Bible hour and crazy games in the evening.

Please continue to pray for me and the staff on camp, that we would have energy in the last few days, to love the kids and provide the best experience we can for them; and that our testimonies would speak to them of their need of salvation.

That's all for now. Thanks.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Quick update 1

Kłodzko, Poland

Hello all. I've just finished the first week of camps, which was with 35 6-10 year olds. It went quite well from our point of view - there's only so much conversation practice you can have with kids who don't understand words like "where" and "how much"! My group of 8 kids did a lot of colouring in, singing and playing games. Outside of 90 minutes a day of English, we took them on hikes, to the (murky) swimming pool, to play baseball and around the campfire.

The team I'm part of consisted of 7 'native speakers' - Rebecca, Jenny, Britney and Katlyn from the USA, and Jamie Clegg, John Guddat and myself from England. In addition there were four Polish staff members - Dominika, Ela, Łukas and Jacek, who kept the kids in line as much as possible!

We're staying in the hills near the Czech border (in fact, my cellphone thinks it's in Czech half the time) in very pretty countryside, although we're a long way from anywhere. The local shop has a sign outside advertising its wares: bread, sausage and beer; two of which have been our staple diet! We have cereal for breakfast every few days, and some pasta to vary the supper diet a few times. Yesterday the pasta was served with strawberry sauce! Bizarre.

Next week we'll be with 40 teenagers, from 13-18 years old. I'll be teaching the highest level group which I'm looking forward to, as I shouldn't have to lower my English level when I'm speaking, and we can talk about subjects other than my family and other animals.

That's all for now! Please continue to pray for us as we seek to meet the felt needs of the kids, and thus the real spiritual needs...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Are you ready to go...?

Wroclaw, Poland

This is the calm before the storm :) I'm staying with missionary friends in the city of Wroclaw before our camps begin tomorrow. I've met the team of English, Americans and Poles I'll be working with (some of whom I know already) and I'm excited already.

Yesterday the other native speakers went to Auschwitz for the day. It's something that everyone should do once - but only once. I went in 2004 and harboured no desire to return, so Rebecca - the American who's leading the camps for us - and I went for a cycle ride around Wroclaw! It was a lovely day and we had a lot of fun... more fun than the others I think. Anyway, from now on it's all go.

35 7-9 year olds this week; 40 13-18 year olds next week; 30 10-13 year olds the final week. I'll be teaching on my own (yikes!) but I have a lot of materials to use.

I also have a cricket set for a bit of cultural education!

Signing off for now. I'll try and write next week sometime - in the meantime, please be praying for us that we'll do a good job as teachers and that we can be useful for God's service in whatever other ways we can: encouraging, challenging and just being with the other Polish staff and the kids are the main ways.

Cześć!

Friday, June 30, 2006

Polska

On Sunday I'm flying to Wroclaw in south-west Poland for nearly four weeks. I'm going to be a native English-speaking teacher on three summer camps for children from the city. This will be the third time I've been, which gives me more of an idea of what to expect... not entirely a good thing! We'll be staying in a hotel/hostel in the Carpathian mountains near the Czech border (here, in fact).

See the camp website here or my pictures from 2004 and 2005 or the blog I wrote last year.


The village we stayed in in 2004. L-R Sandy, Erin, Jess, me, Lucy

Every day will consist of mostly the same things: 90 minutes of English teaching in the morning, then sports, then lunch, then another 45 minute English lesson, a Bible story/study, more sports, supper and then some evening activities. On some days we'll go out for half-day or full-day excursions in the mountains, which will be a nice break for us :)

If you're a Christian, would you please pray for me? I'll be going as part of a team of 7 foreigners, plus Rebecca our co-ordinator, who works at the Arka school in Wroclaw full-time.

Please pray:

  • for safety in travelling for us and for the kids to and from camp every week, and in the activities while we're there (last year I broke my collarbone! I've spent enough time in a Polish hospital for the time being);
  • for inspiration and wisdom as we try and teach good lessons and help the kids improve their English (this is the major attraction for parents, and they'll only send their kids back if we do a reasonable job!);
  • that we can build up relationships with the kids and other Polish staff-members (some of whom aren't Christians). As we get to know them in a short period of time pray that we'll make the time count;
  • for Rebecca, who works her socks off organising us and everyone else
  • for the Polish leaders, especially those leading the spiritual times. Pray that they will preach the Gospel faithfully;
  • that some of the kids (and maybe the adults!) will become believers (they're all "Christians" already in Poland, of course...);
  • for good weather

I think that's it for the moment! I'll have infrequent internet access while I'm over there, so I will try and update this blog every week or so.

All that remains, then, is to pack and cheer on England tomorrow! Serve your King...

PS: if you're feeling posty, then you could send me some post while I'm there! Cheers.

Ośrodek Wczasowy
Pinokio
Marianówka 3
57-512 Idzików
Poland

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Great CD

I recently received a CD that I'd ordered from the States called "Songs for the Cross-centered Life" produced by Sovereign Grace Music, and I'd like to plug it enormously. It's a selection of music based on CJ Mahaney's book "The Cross-centered Life". Of the 15 tracks on it, I'd only heard of one (Before the Throne) before I went to Canada. Attending a Sovereign Grace church does broaden one's horizons though, so I wanted some Bible-centred music to add to my collection. Of all the songs on the CD, I like "I will Glory in my Redeemer" and "I come by the Blood" the most.

"I will glory in my redeemer
My life he bought, my love he owns
I have no longings for another,
I'm satisfied in him alone..."

"I come by the blood,
I come by the cross,
Where your mercy flows from hands pierced for me
My every hope rests on what Christ has done..."

My only caveat to this recommendation is the music itself - I find it a little wishy-washy (the same could not be said of the lyrics!) but hey, nothing wrong with a little variety in music. Buy it!

PS: the picture has nothing to do with the post. I just thought I'd make it look pretty - it's Strasbourg, in France. Posted by Picasa