Friday, December 15, 2006

long long ago,
before there was ever
a Central Department Store
a Robinson's
or a Tesco shop
to put up lights
to play songs
and dress fat men up in red...

there was the Light.

that Light tried to shine
but the darkness wouldn't let it in

there were people living in the darkness
who needed the light

so, the light said,
“i will go into the darkness myself...

“i will be born as one of the people in the darkness...

“then, i will grow up as one of them...

“then i will shine,
and the darkness can't stop me.”

so, the Light was born

the Light chose a poor mamma and pappa

it chose the darkest spot to be born

so it was born
and became a baby

it was so dark
there was no room for the poor mamma and pappa to have the baby

the baby had to be born in a place where they keep horses donkeys
and other dirty animals

that's really not a healthy place to have a baby

the Light was born in the darkness

but this was too special to keep as a secret

special messengers of the light appeared to some poor shepherds

these were poor people who had to stay up all night
looking after other people's sheep

they heard that the Light had been born
and came running to see

a star of the Light shone in the sky

some people who can read the stars saw it

they knew that the Light had been bornthey came from a distant country to see the Light
who had been born as a baby

and that baby grew up

He began to shine

the darkness hasn't been able to stop it

today we still celebrate that Light

that's not exactly why
Central Department Store
Robinsons and Tesco
put up lights
and play songs
and dress fat men up in red...

some of that has to do with the darkness...

but it's why we celebrate that Light on Christmas

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We've moved...

No, not the blog page, not the websites, but us, litterally.

We now live back in Bangkok. We arrived on the 20th of September.

I won't tell you of all our adventures of getting here, of our overweight baggage in Dublin, the fact that some of it is still lost in Bangkok's brand new. modern. efficient. etc., airport, etc. etc. But we're here.

Actually, I'm sitting at a guesthouse's internet PC in Kuala Lumpur, where I've applied for the type of visa I need to work in Thailand. I should be teaching English at a bilingual school soon.

Now, the little blurb you see immediately to the right of this entry is out of date.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Abie's Lullaby

What follows is the lyrics to a lullaby I made up for my son. The inspiration is another song that my Grandmother used to sing to me (she also sang it to my mom and my aunt), about a nest in an old oak tree, and the wee birds asleep in it. Abie likes that motif so much that when I launch into a different song, he says, "Birds in the wee wee nest?"

I don't just want to sing the same old song to him yet again, so I made this one up. As you can see, you can just keep singing it as the second stanza leads right into the first stanza again. The tune is a slow Irish style one:

there is a bird in a wee wee nest
up in a tree where he lays his head to rest
there the bird's papa does sing so sweet
he's singing a lullaby to put the wee bird to sleep

he sings of a boy in a wee wee bed
up in a bedroom he lays his sleepy head
there the boy's papa does sing so sweet
he's singing a lullaby to put the wee boy to sleep

he sings of a bird in a wee wee nest
(etc.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What's the Gospel about -- Kingdom or After-life?

For the last two or so years, I've had the fortune to work in an office right next to St. Georges Market in Belfast. Friday and Saturday are market days, and on Fridays, they have antiques, used items, books, cheeses and more. After sampling a few of the cheeses, and one or two olives I usually head over to the bookseller, who usually has a big selection of children's books, all for 25 p per copy. Thanks to that bookseller, Abie, at three and a half, now has a good sized library, including a good number of Beatrice Potter stories, Noddy, Postman Pat, books by current authors like Charlotte Voak, Shirley Hughes, Tony Ross, Allan and Janet Alburgh, as well as a few good Bible story books.
When reading them to Abie, I sometimes find myself telling the story to him rather than reading word-for-word, especially the Bible stories. I do that for others too, like The Tailor of Gloucester, just so Abie won't be bored by the wordiness of some of the narratives. For the Bible stories, I'm a little bit fussy about Bible accuracy, and what kind of message the story is getting across.
For instance, take this bit from The Storm on the Lake (Taffy Davies; Tamarin Books; 1995, UK). The scene opens with Yeshua on the shore of Galilee:
...Jesus healed the people who were ill and he answered question after question from people in the crowd.
'What's heaven like?'
'How can I get there?'
'Tell us, Jesus, why do you talk to people who do bad things?'
'Can you make my leg better?'
'Can you come and heal my mum?'...

So, what's wrong with that narration?
Nothing, if it were about Yeshua preaching to a group of farmers in Wyoming in the late twentieth century. People living in first century Galilee wouldn't have been asking those questions -- especially the first two -- and by pretending that they would, we sell the gospel short.
The questions they would have been asking were, 'Are you really the Messiah? If so, what's on the Kingdom agenda?' Moreover, Yeshua's message was very much tied in with the answering of those questions.
Here in the twenty-first century, we like to talk about how the Jews of the first century misunderstood Yeshua's ministry, and failed to grasp His role as the sacrificial Lamb ushering in the New Covenant. That is indeed so, but at the same time, we fail to realise that the the Kingdom of God -- meaning the Earthly Messianic Kingdom, or the revived Kingdom of David -- was never-the-less at the heart of it all. By not taking that into account, we miss half of what Yeshua's ministry was all about.
While we think the Jewish community has missed the whole point, they also think we've missed it. We're both right, and we're both wrong. They misunderstood Messiah's redemptive role, and we've misunderstood the part the Kingdom plays. No wonder we're not communicating!
It's not that the question of getting into heaven isn't a good one to ask. After all, people have been asking it, so it obviously reflects the concerns they have. Also, Yeshua did say a lot about the afterlife. It's just that that's not all there is to it. Heavenly rewards are only one part of the bigger picture.
It's all in how we understand two words: Gospel and Salvation.
The first century church saw the Gospel as being the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Salvation meant being saved from sin, and everything that keeps us back from being apart of that Kingdom.
The 'Kingdom' meant, God's will being accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. This had relevance both to the world that is now, and the world to come, the Millennium.
The Church is the Kingdom Community in the present world. Acts 20:28 refers to us as the Church of God which He has purchased with His own blood. Our new birth is our initiation as citizens of that Kingdom, but our role is established as we work out our salvations with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Salvation is all about enabling us to take an active part in the Kingdom in the world that exists now. It also makes us eligible for the world to come -- the Millennial reign, heaven, and all that -- but the goal of evangelism and discipleship is to build a people of God that will be the hope of the world, have an impact on the worlds problems, especially in the area of sickness, demonic bondage, hunger, despair, etc., the same as what Yeshua's earthly ministry was all about.
I don't believe this happens by gaining political control, or dominating the national cultural (though this may appear to be the result at times); rather, by our presence, even as a persecuted people. The passage that we call the Beatitudes sums this up by describing the ones to be included in the kingdom, and are therefore the blessed: the poor, the meek, those who weep, who make peace, the pure in heart, etc. To these, he says, even as they're suffering persecution, even as the supposed underdogs, 'you are the salt of the earth ... the light of the world. For you, the world exists. You will inherit it all.'
That was the gist of Yeshua's message to the crowd at the Galilee seaside -- along with, maybe, one ore two warnings about who might end up in hell, and not attain to the resurrection of the righteous.
So, how did our understanding of the message change?
I believe we didn't totally lose our concept of Kingdom as a present reality until very recently in history, although we did run with it in a few different directions, like turning it into a political agenda, etc.
We started out with a very Jewish concept of Kingdom.
The rabbis were staunchly pre-millennial. At times, some of them verged on being dispensational. Here's a small sampling of opinions you can find in the Talmud:
Rabbi Kattina said: Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, "And the Lord (alone) shall be exalted in that day." Abaye said: it will be desolate two [thousand], as it is said, "After two days will He revive us: in the third day, He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. (Hosea vi:2)
It has been taught in accordance with Rabbi Kattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, "And the Lord (alone) shall be exalted in that day," as it is further said, "A Psalm and song for the Sabbath day" (Ps xcii:1) meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath -- and it is also said, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past" (Ps xc:4)
It was taught in the School of Elijah, The world will endure six thousand years -- two thousand years in chaos, two thousand with Torah, and two thousand years will be the days of the Messiah. (all three of the above passages from: Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 97a)

It's interesting that Peter also quotes Psalm 90:4 in reference to Messiah's second coming:
Moreover, dear friends, do not ignore this: with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like on day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins. (II Peter 3:8,9 CJB)

Even apart from taking various passages in Revelation etc. at face value, there's also external evidence that the early believers were pre-millennial. Take this passage from Jerome:
Papias, a hearer of John, (and) bishop of Hierapolis in Asia, wrote only five books, which he entitled An Exposition of Discourses of the Lord. {...} This (Papias) is said to have promulgated the Jewish tradition of a Millennium, and he is followed by Irenaeus, Apollinarius and the others, who say that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints. - (JEROME de vir. illust. 18.)

If we consider that Papias was probably a pupil of John, as well as his scribe when he wrote his epistles, I think he should have known what John meant by his references to the Millennium. Therefore, I think it's safe to assume that John and the other apostles were also pre-millennial.
The difference between the early Messianic sect and the rabbis in this was that the Kingdom wasn't strictly a future thing, but something in the making. Messiah had come already, but that wasn't the end of it. He only initiated a process that would be complete at His second coming -- the resurrection. However it may seem that that process has stalled, and seems at times, non-existent, as Peter pointed out in the above passage, it is nevertheless a process that will complete at the return of Messiah.
By the time Jerome wrote the above bit, a couple hundred years later, things had obviously changed. The church had pretty much dumped anything that sounded too Jewish, and had adopted a Greek style philosophical outlook regarding things like Millennium, which meant they were Post-mil. Replacement theology had become the norm. However, there was still the concept of Kingdom. St. Augustine's City of God was all about the Kingdom of God as a present reality.
The Reformation didn't change very much, except to suggest that the Pope was the Antichrist. St. Augustine's theology remained at the centre of things. Much of what we attribute to John Calvin, is really from St. Augustine. Perhaps they didn't take some of the points made in The City of God quite as literally as the Roman church did, but the concept was still there.
In fact, many attribute the renaissance to the dynamics of the Kingdom of God at work. Things that began during that time led to changes in many areas, including the Industrial Revolution. Even Marxism has it's roots in some of the thoughts expressed at that time.
One thing that definitely had an influence was the invention of the printing press, by Gutenberg. The first book off the press was the Bible, so the masses could begin reading it for themselves and formulating their own interpretations. Another document that became widely distributed, thanks to the press, was Martin Luther's 95 theses, which became the starting point of the reformation.
After the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel, the printing press is probably the most world changing technology we've ever seen. Because books were suddenly available, people considered it worth their while to learn to read. Literacy became the norm instead of the exception. We now judge how stupid or smart people are by what they read, not if they can read. Leaders who learned to use the printed word, rose to power, and replaced those who didn't. The printing press is what enabled many of the world changing forces, including the spiritual.
One of Martin Luther's points was that each person had the right to read and understand the scripture for himself. How effective would this concept have been, had not the printing press come to use at the same time, making it possible to do just that?
But there were also Kingdom principals at work. I'm sure God's hand was on the timing of the invention of the press, as well as the other factors that formed the world we now live in.
Many of the norms of modern society that we now consider standard, such as the abolition of slavery in Western countries, social reform, welfare programs, child labour laws, health care and relief aid, were the direct result of people with the faith to apply Kingdom principals to their environment. I'm sure we could go on endlessly listing the various movements, ideas and such that made the world what it is today.
Today's world, that we're familiar with, is a totally different place than the one in which Yeshua held out the hope of the Kingdom. We don't worry about what we're going to eat or wear. We're much higher on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
That's not to say that in much of the world today, this isn't the case, but we've successfully hidden that fact from ourselves so that the true state of much of the world's population only occasionally peeps out at us from the odd World Vision poster. But even the fact that there is overpopulation in poor countries is due to advances in medicine that reduced the number of infant deaths, another knock-on effect of Kingdom dynamics.
It's this insular, user-friendly world that we live in -- the world that resulted from applying Kingdom principals -- that is partly the reason we no longer ask the right questions.
It's a supply demand problem. For the past 150 years or so, we've lived in a middle class culture that has never known the bondage and hardship that Israelites in the first century faced. We don't need an earthy Messianic Kingdom to alleviate our present suffering. We're quite comfortable enough as we are.
For us, eschatology is a spiritual hobbyhorse, the stuff of Christian science fiction stories, like Left Behind. For them it was a matter of, 'It had better happen soon, or we're done for!'
The only thing we need now is assurance of life in the hereafter. So, we're not asking, when will Yeshua set up His kingdom and chase away the baddies. We're asking the same question the characters in Abie's storybook were asking: 'What's heaven like? How can I get there?' Or, 'After a lifetime of happily living out the American Dream -- or living in this European paradise, enjoying my social benefits, etc., how can I be sure that I will be at least as happy in the next life as I am now?' Maybe that's being facetious, but you get the point.
It was in this setting that J.N. Darby, C.I. Schofield and the other proponents of Dispensationalism got started. That's the doctrine that puts the Kingdom of God squarely in the future rather than now. It's the environment in which their doctrine spread like wildfire; and the same, in which the conservative faction, who saw the 'going-to-heaven' issue as all important, parted ways with the liberals, who held to the kingdom dynamics of alleviating suffering; forcing the rest of us to choose either one or the other.
I suppose, if you consider how strong a force supply-demand is, it's only natural.
So, my only question is now, do we have to wait for a major crises that will shake the foundations of Western civilisation before we begin, once again, to ask the right questions?
In the mean time, I don't trust Bible storybook writers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Study on Judgment

As I said in yesterday's post, my story, Allegory, which has just been published on Next Wave ezine, is sure to raise questions about my view on heaven, hell and the possibility of purgatory. I promised to post something about it:

[29 August 2006] I had all posted here, but it was rather long, making it inconvenient for anyone trying to scroll down to see my earlier posts. I'll supply this link instead.

Besides being more convenient, I've also edited a bit more, and added some more to the end, which should put things in even more perspective. The editing isn't 100% complete yet, so this is a work in progress.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Allegory at Next Wave. org

My novella, Allegory, has now been published in the current issue of Next Wave.org.

I'm sure that the story is going to raise many questions about what I believe regarding Heaven, Hell and the possibility of Purgatory. Either tomorrow or the next day, I'll post a rather long study I made of the issue of Judgment.

In the mean time, there have been some interesting discussions in the Bloggisphere. Some time ago, there was this entry on Alan Creech's blogsite, about Purgatory, which attracted a lot of lively discussion. While Alan's fellowship isn't within the Roman Catholic fold, he himself had his spiritual upbringing in the Catholic Church, and he has never officially left it. He still considers himself a Roman Catholic. From all my reading of his blogs, I haven't found any reason to doubt his faith in the true God through Messiah.

There's also a poll put out by Scott McKnight asking people where they stood on the issue of eternal judgment. The poll is no longer active, so there are no graphs showing the results, but the discussion in the comment section is interesting.

Anyway, I hope to hame my tuppence worth up in the next few days.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Relationships -- not something to mess around with

In my last blog entry, I said, "The church is only as strong as the relationship between you, as a believer, and that member of your local congregation to whom you feel the least inclination to express your love." I believe that 100 per cent.

It's quite obvious that our relationships are something we are to take very seriously. Yeshua says in Matthew 5:23 and 24, If you are offering a saccrifice at the alter, and you remember that someone has a grudge against you, then leave your offering, go make up with that person, and then come back and finish the sacrifice.

Consider the expense people went through in Yeshua's day just to comply with the the Torah regulations regarding the offering of their sacrifices at the Temple. It was serious business. It would easily compare with just about anything we'd do in ministry or any form of worship or service we'd do in the church today. Yet, Yeshua says, "Stop. Put it all on hold. Make sure your relationships with your brothers and sisters are right first. Then go ahead with your act of worship/ministry/spiritual obligation."

Yet, look how much priority we give to relationships today. When we hear that brother so-and-so and sister whoever had a falling out, we shrug and say it's none of our business.

That's not how the early church reacted. They took it seriously, as this passage from the Didache indicates. The Didache is like a handbook for doing church, issued towards the end of the first century. It probably dates to before the Gospels began to circulate. The full title of the document is, THE DIDACHE or THE TEACHING OF THE LORD TO THE GENTILES BY THE TWELVE APOSTLES. Anyway, here is a quote from section 14 of that document:
Let no man who has a dispute with his fellow join your assembly until they have been reconciled, so that your sacrifice may not be defiled; for it was this sacrifice that was spoken of by the Lord; "In every place and at every time offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great king, says the Lord, and My name is wonderful among the nations."
What would you think of a church that applied this rule in their congregation today?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

how strong is your church?

Here's a thought:

The church is only as strong as the relationship between you, as a believer, and that member of your local congregation to whom you feel the least inclination to express your love.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Transitions

For the moment, the "About Me" collumn to the right is almost up to date. Abie is now 3 years and four months. However, it's about to become even more out of date in the near future. In September, we plan to move back to Bangkok. I hope to locate a teaching job there before we leave, but even if we don't, English teaching jobs are easy to find for native speakers of the language -- many of them good paying. I will go on working at my present job (as software tester) until a few days before our departure. My wife, Bless, hopes to become involved in YWAM ministries in some capacity. She has worked in leadership and administration with YWAM for 15 or so years. However, she'll try to do it part time, so she can spend time with Abie.

We've already moved out of our own rented house into my dad's place in preparation for the bigger move.

That's all for now...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Allegory [link]

As usual, the long pause in my blogging is because I had a sudden inspiration to write somthing, so I started writing. It's taken me about three weeks, but now I have it in good enough shape to post.

It's exactly as the title says, an allegory. I won't say what it's about; you have to glean that from the story. It does include a lot of the things that have been on my mide, and have been blogging about.

You might be able to read it in one sitting, depending on how fast a reader you are, and how much time you have. It's not long enough to be a novel, but probably too big to be a short story. I guess they call it a "novella".

Anyway, here it is: Allegory

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

that's the way to do a funeral [link]

I got this off Len's Next Reformation blog, although he got it off Scott Williams' blog It's about a funeral in a Black Baptist church, where the pastor knows how to make the truth come alive.

A "must read"...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Silent Comix [link]

Among other things, I'm an armchair cartoonist.

I've just posted a couple of my cartoon episodes on the site linked above. "Silent Comix" was inspiried by my English teaching. I sort of doodled them in my spare time in pencil, and had a new episode ready each week when I went to my tutoring session with my private studentsl. They're easy to understand drawings that tell a story, but without baloons or written captions. The student simply looks at it and tells me the story in English. I realised, after a while, they were probably worth sharing.

Anyway, if you like looking at pictures, and are too lazy to do a lot of reading, this site may be for you...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

WANTED: a Christian version of George Best

They're renaming the Belfast City Airport, "George Best Airport". That is very appropriate, because George Best is one of the only people of hero status I or anyone knows of who is equally honoured by both the Protestant and Catholic communities. Just try naming any public building or place after any other Northern Irish individual, and you'll have problems -- like they had trying to name a new railway bridge recently. Common denominators for both communities are few and far between, but George Best happens to be one of them.

My "wanted notice" (above) is for someone who thoroughly loves the Lord with all their heart, their mind and their strength, and loves his/her neighbour (all of them, including the "Samaritans") as his/her self, is known to be a believer in Yeshua (even if he/she calls Him "Jesus") -- AND is respected by both communities in Northern Ireland. It doesn't have to be for sports, though that could be an in-road.

One major obstacle that such a person would have to overcome is that anyone accepted as a Christian by one side is automatically under suspicion by the other side.

One possible candidate would be C.S.Lewis, if only his Belfast connections were more obvious. Perhaps, with the Narnia films coming out, that could happen, just like with The Titanic.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What Colour of Green are You

You Are Olive Green

You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.
For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.
You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.
People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.

Monday, March 13, 2006

money, happiness and repentance

Some of the comments from Scott Adams blog (see my previous post) are revealing, indeed, when you consider how important our attitude towards money is in the Kingdom of God.

The Gospels and Acts show repentance and one's attitude towards money as inseparably linked. The story of the rich young ruler is probably the best place to start.

If we begin with Yeshua's conversation with the rich young ruler, take in some of His other comments on discipleship, and work our way into Acts, and observe how the earliest believers responded to the call to repent, we definitely see a pattern. While no one told the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost, "Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Yeshua", as Yeshua told the rich young ruler, that's exactly what many of them did.

Before we go on to some of the more obvious hang-ups some may have with this pattern, let's consider two more aspects of this:

Consider the proverb, "The love of money is the root of all evil" (I Tim 6:10): If conversion is defined by deliverance from evil, then the early believers certainly proved it by showing that they were no longer controlled by the love of money.

If we defined it from a positive viewpoint, we could say that the life of Messiah is characterised by the commandment, "love your neighbour as yourself". What obvious characteristics would you expect of someone who truly loved their neighbour at least as equally as they loved themselves? How could such a person fail to be lavishly generous? That's exactly what the early believers in Jerusalem exemplified, and it's exactly the intent of Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler. Remember, that Yeshua built up to this answer by listing those of the Ten Commandments that would relate to loving ones neighbour.

The above description obviously doesn't describe the average Christian of our day. I won't even say it describes me, but I hope I'm on my way there. Because it is such a high ideal, and people don't tend to like measuring themselves by what they're not, this isn't a very popular train of thought.

Most believers today would choose not to associate Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler with Christian conversion. That's "Old Testament dispensation", they say. They'd rather look to Paul's answer to the Phillippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you'll be saved...".

I believe that Yeshua's answer to the rich young ruler is just as relevant to Christian conversion and the born again experience as Paul's answer to the Phillipian jailor. Despite some popular theology that says otherwise, there is no scripture passage in the Bible that says that Yeshua'a teachings are not meant for believers living in the "age of grace", which Yeshua came to innaugerate. The first New Testament church began on the foundation of Yeshua's teaching. Paul's epistles came later. To truly understand Paul, you have to know where he was coming from, and what his listeners already understood. In most cases, he was writing to churches that already had a solid foundation in Yeshua's teaching. When he talked about faith, they knew what it meant.

So, why didn't Paul tell the jailor in Phillippi to sell everything he had?

Because the Phillippian jailor was coming to Paul with a different attitude than that of the rich young ruler. He was trembling under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, whereas the rich young ruler was following a half hearted desire to be spiritually "with it". Up to that time, in the prison, Paul and Silas weren't just singing some nice little ditties to keep themselves happy despite their circumstances. They were doing spiritual warfare, which had begun with the exorcism of the spirit medium, and climaxed with the earthquake. The loosing of the fetters was symbolic of what was happening in the spirit realm. There was an atmosphere in that room like there was in Jerusalem, while Peter was preaching during Pentecost. He didn't have to tell them to sell everything and give it to the poor. The Holy Spirit did that.

It's also interesting that after such a start, the believers of Philippi were also noted for their generosity. Paul comments on that more than once in his epistles (II Corinthians and Philippians).

When Yeshua told the rich young ruler to sell everything, he wasn't laying down an Old Testament type law. He was giving him a tailor made plan to prepare him for the Kingdom of God, just like the Holy Spirit will do for each of us, if we let him, and like the Holy Spirit did for the early believers. Yeshua knew what his hang up was. He was probably saving him from a fate like that of Annanias and Sapphira.

We know it wasn't a hard and fast rule (selling all), because a few verses later, Zakkheus was so turned on that he announced he was giving half of his riches away to the poor. Yet, Yeshua didn't say, "Not enough, give it all". No. He said, "Salvation has come to this house".

I believe that if we had the discernment and the boldness that Yeshua had with the rich young ruler, that Peter had with Annias and Sapphira, Simon the sorcerer, etc., we'd begin to see the same power that the early church saw.

But are we willing to pay the price?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Money and Happiness

If you like the cartoon Dilbert, you'll probably also like Scott Adams' (the cartoonist's) blog.

Anyway, here's something from one of his recent posts:

Yesterday I asked two 8-year old girls the following question:

If you had to choose between being rich and just a little bit happy versus poor and extremely happy, which would you pick?

To find out how the wee girls responded (rather interesting), plus read a lot of interesting discussion from his readers -- go there ...

A few choice comments from his readers:

Perhaps people who think that money doesn't affect happiness have never been poor, but people who think that money can make you happy have never been rich...

Money may not buy happiness, but it ... makes misery more comfortable.

One simple phrase: "Happiness don't pay the bills."

I consulted the manufacturer's manual for humans, and found this:

Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

There are many more, 118 at the last count, and some are good but too long to include here.



Friday, March 03, 2006

Keith Green's legacy

I recently finished reading No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green, written by his wife, Melody Green.

The fact that it was written by his wife, is a good indicator. For many seeminly impressive individuals, their wife would be the last one they'd want telling their story. Wives know too much.

No Compromise is a must-read for every believer in Messiah. In parts, it's a tear-jerker -- and by that, I mean it's about facts and events that make God cry. Read about the revival that almost was at Oral Roberts University; which should have gone on for weeks and months, spread throughout the nation and the world, and could have made a difference in the state the Western church is in today; but instead, was abruply shut down through human intervention. Talk about grieving the Spirit.

Also, read of the general lukwarm state of the church then, Keith's burning desire to light a fire that would move believers from their apathy into true live-changing repentance, and then reflect on the state of the church today. Keith Green did influence a lot of individual believers, and continues to do so, but according to Barna's report, the Western Church is in an even worse state than ever.

Read it and weap.

I found my copy in a used book shop in the shoping arcade of Europa Bus Centre in Belfast. Besides the printed version, I see, on the website of Last Days Ministries that a computer text version is available on CD along with a complete selection of Keith Green's songs. There is also a large archive of articles by Keith Green and others on that website.

Friday, February 24, 2006

a limeric

I made this one up in the last couple of days. Click on the above heading for more:


when willie reinvented the wheel
we laughed and called him a shlemiel
while we were still laugh’n
he took out a patent
now, it’s his licence fees that make us reel


(disclaimer: the name 'willie' has absolutely no reference to anyone else of that name who likes to patent software to strenghen their monopoly)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in?

Another quiz from Quiz Farm. This one places you in the right spaceship crew where you will no doubt get along with like-minded space travellors.

I don't think I've seen Babylon 5. Could someone cue me in on if they're good people to work with?



You scored as Babylon 5 (Babylon 5). The universe is erupting into war and your government picks the wrong side. How much worse could things get? It doesn�t matter, because no matter what you have your friends and you�ll do the right thing. In the end that will be all that matters. Now if only the Psi Cops would leave you alone.

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


100%

Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


94%

Moya (Farscape)


88%

Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


81%

Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


75%

SG-1 (Stargate)


63%

Serenity (Firefly)


63%

FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


56%

Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


50%

Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


44%

Enterprise D (Star Trek)


44%

Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


44%

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Alan Creech on Brokenness

Alan Creech has a good series going on brokenness. That is -- "broken" as in "not in working order", or what makes us sin. Augustine called it "original sin", the rabbis, "the evil urge". These theologies are different, but both point to the fact that we're broken and need fixing.

I know there's also a very legitamate use of the term "broken" as in "broken and contrite", or being very humble before God. In fact, that's probably the ultimate answer to the "brokenness" Alan Chreech is talking about. I'm sure Alan would agree. However, his use of the term is not to be confused with the other.

In the Christian world, we tend to major on the Grace of God through Yeshua in terms of forgiveness of sin. That is an important concept, but we often fail to realise the other side -- Grace as power to resist the urge to sin, and in many cases, to heal us of that urge.

The urge to sin affects everyone differently. Some have just the usual urges, for normal sex, to over-eat, etc. Others, for reasons beyond their control, find themselves fighting other urges, such as homosexuality, the urge to have sex with children, etc. God doesn't love one group less than the other, although those who are more deeply fractured may need God's grace in a more profound way.

Anyway, here are the three posts Alan has out so far:

Brokenness 1
Brokenness 2
Brokenness 3

So...happy reading.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Racial Prejudice

Yet another article from the LAST issue of Infinite Matrix...

As far back as 1976, living in Southern California, I had started believing that thanks to Martin Luther King jr., the Flower Children and the Jesus Movement, racial prejudice was a thing of the past -- until I heard differently from my black friends. A white person like me just doesn't hit the walls or get the looks that black people do, so I would have gone on living in blissful ignorance.

A further observation: I would have never realised how many barriers there are towards Asians in Northern Ireland -- even within Christian groups that emphesise experience with the Holy Spirit -- had I not been living here married to a Thai person. It's been an uphill battle for my wife to make any friends here. She normally doesn't have trouble making friends -- she has plenty of those in Thailand, both Thai and Western. One difference there is that most of her Western friends are YWAM missionaries -- a mission that emphesises healing from blockages that would come in the way of relationships. Here, we are living in a small out-of-the-way town. I suppose Belfast would be more open, being a bit more cosmopolitan. My wife notes that many people she sees don't seem to have close friends -- period -- so she sometimes goes out of her way to reach out to some of these. We do have a few good friends now, but we plan to move back to Thailand later this year (but not for the negative reason of rejection of Asians here, but for a possitive one, to get involved in the work there).

Anyway, Pam Noles' article is a good read. It's about her growing up with a love for Science Fiction, as a black girl, despite the fact that very few characters were black, or even brown.

Among the things I would never have noticed (until I read the Pam' article), is that the very first episode of Starwars, which I saw back about 1976 or so, has not a single black actor. A few different shaped beings, yes, but not a single brown or black skinned human. In the entire "galaxy far far away", not a single back or brown person appears until the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, and even then it's not a character the black community can be proud of.

Even where writers like Ursula K. Le Guin have cast their characters in black and brown, the Hollywood television and film industry still insists on painting them white.

It's sad that the church, far from being the force for sharing healing love and breaking down those barriers, like we've been called to do, remains one of the most segregated institutions on earth ... something to seriously pray about ... and act on like our lives depended on it. Yeshua is coming back for a bride without spot or blemish, and according to the book of James, this is a major-major blemish.

Anyway, read away...

Monday, February 06, 2006

writing science fiction during the third world war

Before I comment on the above linked title, let me share how I see world forces aligning themselves.

We seem to be seeing quite a large number of new ideas and philosophies rising up to challenge old world standards. One example which would be most obvious to anyone whose been reading my blog would be the Emergent Church scene as opposed to the traditional way of doing church. There should be enough links on this page in case you're wondering what that's all about.

For a while, I've been thinking about how much the Emerging Church movement shares with the Open Source movement in computer software.

"Open Source" might require some explanation for some of my readers. Examples of Open Source software are the LINUX operating system, Open Office.org, Mozilla Firefox, and a host of other software projects that allow the user to download the software for free, and even modify it, with the condition that whatever modifications are made become available to the whole software development community. In the same way that Emerging Church is challenging the traditional churches, Open Source is causing headaches for corporate giants like Microsoft.

Maybe I should have titled this blog, Breaking the Monopolies.

The above link to the article by Eleanor Arnason takes the concept into another area, that of the power of the State, the forces behind globalisation, free trade, etc, versus local small farmers victimised by globalisation, AIDS victims who can't pay for patented drugs (and prevented by copyright law from using the cheaper varieties that could save their lives), the activists, and even terrorist organisations. Even war is beginning to be fought differently than before. Eleanor refers to an article by William Lind, called
Understanding Fourth Generation War, also interesting reading in this light.

Eleanor's essay was originally written during the early build-up to the war in Iraq. Even her update was written before the current uproar over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish press. The international uproar caused by a single nation's application of freedom of the press inside its own national boarders, further underlines her points.

So the alignment sort of looks like this. On one side, we have traditional church structure, big corporations with their proprietary technologies, the power of the State on which those corporations depend, WTO/G7 style globalisation, etc., all of which seem to be mutually supportive; and on the other: Emerging Church, Open Source software, people rights movements, various autonomous people groups fighting for liberation, and yes, terrorist organisations like Al Queda and Hamas.

Please don't think I'm equating Emerging Church and Open Source software with international terrorism. I'm simply observing the direction in which power and energy seem to be moving -- towards less centralisation, greater input by ordinary people, and and breaking up of monopolys. In some cases, it's for the better, and in others, for evil.

In a world like we seem to be approaching, the Emergent movement could be in a vary good position to bring the Kingdom of God into people's lives. If we're willing to leave our comfort zones (which look like their dissappearing anyway) there is untold opportunity. It's called being as wise as serpents while being as innocent as doves.

Anyway, do read
Eleanor's essay, and someone, please start a discussion somewhere (my own blog doesn't seem to be attracting many of those) on what the Kingdom of God will look like in the "Brave New World" that we can see approaching.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Homosexuality

In many Christian circles, it seems, the only way to deal with homosexuality is with a sledgehammer. The only other alternative, it seems, is to say it's okay.

Scott McKnight (again!) has been treatin the subject in his blog in what I find to be a well ballanced way. Below, I've listed the entries he has so far, in case you want to catch up:

Making Moral Decisions: Homosexuality
Homosexuality: Context 1 and 2
Homosexuality: Context 3 and 4
Context: Defining homosexuality 1
Context: Defining homosexuality 2
Jesus and Homosexuality 1
Jesus and Homosexuality 2
Jesus and Homosexuality 3

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Last Issue of Infinite Matrix is up

It looks like Infinite Matrix e-zine is going the way of the Rover and Studaker, though perhaps with a bit more style. They've just posted what they say is the very last issue. Not everything is there yet. Yet due is an essay by William Gibson, and a few other features. The last of David Langford's weekly blogs is also there (he still has a monthly e-zine at his Ansible website).

Apparently, it takes a lot of steam to keep an e-zine going, especially if you're using one that's uncluttered with pop-up adverts. A good free e-zine is necessarily shortlived.

Anyway, you sci-fi buffs, have a happy read...