People are surprising.
It can be quite a shock when you have a certain view of someone and then you discover that they are not at all what you thought they were. Sometimes it's a very pleasant thing, like finding a jewel in a box of buttons. Sometimes it's not so nice. I've experienced both extremes, and all I can say for sure is that - people are surprising!
It's also a good lesson to make sure that we know who we are. We can be influenced by many, and we can all too easily put people on pedestals (which are just a slightly more precarious version of boxes!) There's nothing wrong with respecting people who do and believe things we admire, but it's important to separate them out. If we believe those things, our foundation for doing that needs to be that we have been convinced of them, not just that someone else we trust and admire believes those things.
I think of Peter, telling believers to 'make their calling and election sure'. How well he must have known the importance of owning your own faith, and not just having confidence in the confidence of someone else.
Why not examine your heart today? Ponder what you hold fast to, and your reasons for that.
Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. (Romans 14:5b)
People are surprising.
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, my person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God with me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood hide all my transgressions from view.
The work which His goodness began, the arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen, and never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now, nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo, or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains, in marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure, the glorified spirits in Heav’n.
- Augustus Toplady
When I was in my late teens, one of the first proper sermons I ever heard was by a man called Alun McNabb. I was the product of a largely atheistic home, and he was still the pastor of Dudley Baptist Church, where one of my school friends had invited me.
I recall the warm atmosphere of people who looked and lived very differently to me, and how very homely it all felt, even though it was a world away from normality to me. Even though it was a plain, unadorned church, there was a heavy sense of reverence through the whole service, and I've never forgotten the sermon, preached with real passion about an obscure verse at the end of one of Paul's letters.
A good few years later, when I was married and a mother, I visited the church again, and he was still there, winsomely calling people to repentance and faith. He has retired now, but I believe he is still speaking at some conferences. I was thrilled recently to discover that someone has archived many of his sermons online, and I wanted to share the resource with you.
How grateful we should be for faithful preachers, in love with the Word of God, and gifted to help us mine the riches of it.
See this? It's my mug. I'm tremendously careful with it, because mugs don't really have a long life-expectancy in this house. I like my mug, but sadly I am too often a little bit like it.
It's a talking mug, meaning that it has a soundbox in the bottom of it, playing various Dr Who snippets of music and so on. I don't leave the soundbox in because, apart from the fact that I would be bound to put it in the washing-up water by accident, a small snippet of the Dr Who theme tune gets old pretty quickly.
Now, these light summer nights have been quite lovely, and the lights don't often go on until quite late in the evening, and usually only when I walk into the kitchen to make myself a drink in my TARDIS mug.
I did this the other night, Ant was out and I was rather tired. It really had grown very dark indeed by the time I flicked the kitchen strip light on. Suddenly, the whole room was filled with the distinctive noise of a TARDIS rematerializing, and I was honestly about as excited as I've ever been in my life for a few seconds... before I realized that the light had activated the soundbox on the shelf.
Of course, it didn't take more than a second for me to remember that the TARDIS doesn't actually exist. I am quite a sensible person normally, but I do have these moments of total geekery.
...and then I read this.
When these crazy people say things like this, I shake my head in despair. It really is a mindset the Western mind needs to wake up to. When I was growing up, if I clobbered my brother because he was teasing me, I was told that his provocation was no excuse at all for me to behave violently.
But according to a certain set of people running countries that have large Islamic constituencies, if someone says or does something you don't like, it's entirely reasonable to make veiled threats of violence and tell the person it's really all their fault for saying things that the bully didn't like.
It's exactly what an abusive husband says to justify beating his wife for over-cooking the steak, because, after all, he'd told her how he liked it and warned what would happen if she got it wrong.
Well, a big old disrespectful raspberry to that. The British will do what we like within the bounds of our own laws and freedoms, and you can tell Mr Ahmadinejad I said so.
Original content is proving a little hard to come by at the moment - I'm really focused on trying to get our family life and home in some semblance of order, and I'm deliberately squashing the desire to blog. I know, it's unthinkable :-) I mostly visit blogs when I'm feeding Reuben, who is getting to be quite the big heavy bruiser, and typing out a post one-handed is a challenge. Anyway, I'll be back to it soon enough, but meanwhile, this is well worth reading if you've got the time.
I've noticed some discussion around the blogosphere about the fate of small children and babies. I happened to catch John MacArthur's teaching about on Grace To You last week, and I have to say, I was comforted very profoundly.
I have lost at least three children myself, one a twin of my third daughter, and all I was ever offered as comfort was sentimentality and a bare plea to the justice of God. I don't have any desire to start an argument, and I trust that my readers will have the good taste to respect that, but I have to say, I was blessed by someone saying that babies who die go to heaven, and providing a scriptural argument for it. As John MacArthur says in his book 'Safe in the arms of God', the only basis for lasting comfort is Scriptural truth. I even bought three copies of the book to give away, I was so blessed by it.
Anyway, the point of this here post is just to say how enormously powerful it is to be persuaded of something through scripture. I often muse on salvation, and sometimes get to the place of being so excited about the reality of it, that I get caught in a loop of saying 'it feels too good to be true, but it is true'. It can be the simplest point of scriptural comfort, but it is so powerful. I felt the same reading about Spurgeon's conversion.
The promises of scripture can sometimes feel very, very remote. But the more you take time to meditate on them and be fully persuaded of them, the more thrilling and immanent they get.
I need to get out of the habit of reading the comments at a certain blog. I rarely comment there myself, because most of the comments I form in my head tend to be withering putdowns. It's not the content of the blog itself - that is excellent - but there are a couple of regular commenters that, to use the vernacular, drive me crackers. They display astonishing arrogance and conceit, are incredibly snobbish about theological learning, and have the most jaw-dropping double-standards when it comes to being rude about other Christians.
A commenter I respect greatly (who I think Matt Gumm wants to be when he grows up) comments there all the time too, and I am always blessed by his patience and faithfulness in responding to the others. He is a treasure. But I think, even with that blessing, I've got to stop reading the other comments - it's never edifying to read that kind of nonsense, largely because, unlike the commenter I have mentioned, it does not bring out the best in me, it brings out the worst.
Are there places you refrain from going, not for sin reasons, but because you get so fired up you want to have at it and that's not always helpful? Or is it just me?
There's a politics programme in the UK called 'Question Time'. (Update: you can see the programme I reference here for short time here.) The idea is that a panel representing a broad range of views answer topical questions posed by a studio of audience of 'the public'. Politicians, media people and various other people take part.
Now, I use the phrase 'broad range' advisedly because it's a BBC programme, and most often it's a parade of left-leaning fluff. You occasionally get someone on from the Daily Mail for people to boo at, but few are of the calibre of Melanie Phillips. She's a woman with an enormous amount of Chuzpah, and as soon as I heard David Dimbleby (the compere) read out her name, I stayed my finger on the off button and decided to watch.
It was wonderful. Not least because no less than Tony Benn was also on the panel. His contributions consisted pretty much of "Guantanamo bay, Nuclear weapons should be scrapped and we should offer to give kittens to people who want us dead, Guantanamo Bay, the British imprisoned Nelson Mandela, where's my foil hat disappeared to, I'm sure I had it somewhere.... Did I mention Guantanamo Bay.."
Melanie Phillips consistently spoke with balance and good sense, addressing the very real and dangerous threats in our world posed by Iran and others. Sadly, frothy nonsense also formed part of the questions and my particular favourite moment was the well-judged scorn she poured on the idea of Man-made climate change.
A Lib-Dem treasury spokeswoman on the panel had obviously never even contemplated that you could argue with the idea, and she spluttered "but..but..what about the industrial revolution?" She'd obviously done a project on it for her history GCSE.
Phillips was soundly shouted down (which is the standard tactic for daring to question the new climate change religion), but she tenaciously finished her point and she did manage to elicit some brave applause from a few audience members, who will no doubt be taken out and given some re-education about their carbon footprint forthwith.
She absolutely gives me hope that it's still possible not to have checked your brain out, purchased your carbon credits and think that mature statesmanship is to stick your fingers in your ears and insist that the people hate us because we're bad and it's all Bush's fault.
Yeah, I know, I'm a reactionary conservative. ;-)