For them as wants to know about the Master. Honestly, it's not like Wiki is in another dimension *rolls eyes*
As a human being, it is remarkable how easy it is to be led by emotion. I imagine that, before the fall, this was a delightful thing, and no doubt in eternity, it will be part of what enables us to truly enjoy God.
But in this period of human existence, it is more than a little frustrating. It's often very difficult to hold on to what we know to be true in the face of conflicting feelings - apathy, strong affections and so on. We get pulled about by different things at different times, of course, but I know that I personally have things which are recurring temptations, and there are times when I find myself in a place I've been before, kicking myself for the stupid process I should have recognized before I got to that place again.
Due to my health, I am often vulnerable to a sense of dislocation from a church community. I don't get to church on a regular basis, and it really does make an enormous difference to my spiritual equilibrium, which then sets everything else askew. I've just changed some of my medication, due to some rather debilitating side-effects, and I personally haven't been to a church service in six weeks. It doesn't seem so long ago when I was rejoicing at having made it to 4 services in a row.
At first, the lack of fellowship is felt keenly. I miss the teaching that is decided upon by someone else, rather than on what I choose to listen to, and the healthy sense of spiritual muscles being stretched. But after a few weeks, instead of missing the service with a whole-hearted desire to be there at the next opportunity, my emotions take over and a sort of spiritual lethargy takes over. I find that I know I will not get to church, and it's too depressing to think about, so I don't.
Rather than take the time when I would be at church and do something spiritually constructive with it, I find the whole exercise just depresses me because I know it's not a real substitute, and so I stop. The things that would encourage me spiritually just rub the wound sorer, so I leave the books alone, I stop listening to the content-rich sermons, and my prayer-life just sort of bounces off the bedroom walls, and I have that awful sense of being in a spiritual echo-chamber.
Because I'm in this emotional flump, I find that I'm actually dulling my sense of discernment on purpose. I know that I'm being led by emotions instead of holding on to reality, so I know I would be a hypocrite to challenge others, and before long, because my emotions have led me to a horrid, lonely place, I'm giving assent to things that normally would make me extraordinarily uncomfortable, just to assuage the loneliness.
I dimly realize that if I go along with the emotional pull, then things which I once considered important seem entirely inconsequential, and I begin to sense a real disquiet as I acknowledge that everything that once gave me an anchor among the storms of life is being cut away the more I follow what feels right to me.
I actually become offended by the certainties I once held to, and I find myself embracing an 'everything's relative' attitude to spiritual things, reluctantly acknowledging that I must allow things I can't really agree with for others, because otherwise, I won't be able to follow what is scratching my own itches.
Before I know it, I've set up a little religion of my own making, worshipping a little idol I've set up for myself that bears scant resemblance to the Almighty, thrice Holy God. There's no-one to hold me accountable because that would be judgemental and I've hived myself off in a little self-congratulatory cul-de-sac that is all about being led by emotions and doing the same thing as me - dulling their conscience about exhorting others because they don't want the two-edged sword to shear their own religious fantasies into pieces.
And I'm writing this and seeing it in myself, and others, and knowing that it's spiritual death, and knowing that there is only one answer - Hold fast to the truth. I fear to openly acknowledge it, and that is emotion again trying to steer me away from what is real.
What is real is real is real, Libbie. It doesn't matter how you feel. Really, it doesn't. Surely the years of turmoil you've lived through, sometimes in your right mind, sometimes completely out of it and being controlled by medication, have taught you that emotions are the least trustworthy travel guide in the world?
So, I come to the familiar bottom of the pit, and I feel the same ground beneath me that I've felt so many times before. I know that He won't let me just lie there, as much as I'd like to do just that. He's brought me there for a reason, and it's not to leave me there, it's never to leave me there.
In saying that my sins are forgiven, He says "Pick up your mat, and walk". I'm walking again, back in real Light, rather than the tinny electric bulb I'd been foolishly contented to sit under. I take the steps and suddenly, following reality rather than emotion, I find my heart lighter and I'm breathing fresh spiritual air again.
One day I might stop wasting my own time like this.
... I don't really have any right now. I'm sleeping very badly, and dealing with the usual pot pourri of health issues. I can tell you that Eden has decided that attempts to depict Christ are pointless because "He will look more amazing than we can imagine".
And I can show you this, which made me squee with joy.
Told you, completely substance-free. But fun, none-the-less.
1) If you are in an emergency situation, in which thousands of people are about to be killed by a tidal wave/volcanic explosion/alien death ray, the priority for you should be to save any pets that are in the vicinity.
2)If you are not the most famous person in a group of people trapped in a blocked tunnel/upturned ship/burning tower block, and you behave in an overly cocky, self-assured manner, it is quite likely you will meet your end fairly soon. If it's any comfort, there will be a certain sense of justice in your death, i.e. the onlookers will think you deserved it.
3)If faced with the onslaught of an alien death ray/sun flare/instant permafreeze, it's entirely likely that you will be able to improvise something nonsensical that will, as if by magic, keep you safe.
For example, if a fiery death-ray explosion is rushing down a road-tunnel, you may escape death by hiding in one of those little maintenance side-tunnels. If you combine this with pet-rescue, you will do well.
Alternatively, if you find yourself being chased down a corridor by a snap-freeze that is crystallizing everything in its path, it's a good idea to find a kitchen, close the door and turn on all the rings on a gas hob.
4)If you are a Republican senator, you should probably have an insurance policy in place that will take into account your certain death in grisly circumstances.
Rowan Williams has weighed in on the growing issue of abortion law in the UK. Channel 4 reportedly showed a film illustrating the graphic reality of abortions, with the remains of babies a powerful testimony to their humanity.
The Archbishop is ostensibly against abortion, and he argues that a shift has taken place in society, creating an odd tension that means we frown upon a woman who smokes in pregnancy, and talk about 'foetal rights' to stop her affecting her unborn child through smoke; but she may have the child killed with impunity and a fanfare of 'women's rights'.
This isn't a paradox, as he claims, though. It's hypocrisy. We know the unborn child is a child. We know that the minute a woman is pregnant, she needs to be aware of whats she consumes, because it will have an effect on the child she now carries.
We've just been conditioned, by the very fact that 40 years ago the government said it was ok to kill babies in certain circumstances, to believe that a woman possesses an inalienable right to something abhorrent.
We need to shake out of our stupor, and acknowledge reality. When a pregnancy is terminated, a child is killed. This is not something we need to be encouraged to debate. This is simple fact, as the growing uneasiness about the topic among the British public, illustrates very well.
I'm glad the ABC has written his article, but I'm saddened to see him liken the legislation about the deliberate killing of children to the divorce laws, or civil partnerships. This kind of relativity ethic is the very last thing that will make people acknowledge what they already know.
Rowan Williams, as hard as it may be for the leader of the Anglican church to do - talk about an absolute, because you certainly have the skill with words to do so. Stand up for those whose voice is only that small, insistent nudging of our conscience.
Warning for the DJP school of spoiler avoidance Mild spoilers to follow...
When I was a child, I had the enormous privilege of seeing The King and I on a cinema screen. Technicolour blazed in front of me, sumptuous costumes bought to dazzling life. I cried buckets at the end of it and I've loved it ever since.
One of my other favourite films was made at a similar time, The Prisoner of Zenda, which contains, I think, one of the best onscreen sword fights ever.
The two films have one significant thing in common - they both starred one of my favourite actresses, Deborah Kerr, who has just died. I remember that, even though I was a complete tomboy, I was dazzled by how tremendously beautiful she was, and how well suited to the portrayal of exquisite, painful sadness.
Neither film ends happily for the individuals involved - in stark contrast to today's thinking, personal emotions are secondary to bigger concepts of duty, respect and honour. I do like Casablanca, too, but The Prisoner of Zenda is, I think, a more striking example of selfless decisions.
If you've never seen them, please do. Knowing that the endings are bittersweet won't spoil it for you, I promise. The Prisoner of Zenda is a remarkable film for a movie made when CGI was a mere fantasy, and the witty villainy of James Mason is so much fun.
So, immigration is in the news once more. Shall we just take as read that I think illegal immigration is a bad thing, taking in refugees is a good thing, and people who want to commit murder, be it mass or singular, should be thrown out on their ear?
Good, because then I can say - I like immigrants. We have some living next door to us, and aside from the usual neighbourly teething troubles, we've found them polite and hard-working people.
My Father-in-law has had a little work done on his property recently. The first job was by a company who used indigenous workers. They were lazy, incompetent and ended up taking too long and costing more money.
The second was done by an English company employing immigrant labour, who were, to a man, diligent and respectful. The work was completed to a high standard, and Father-in-law was extremely impressed.
If the situation was reversed I may think immigration is not so good. But right now, I think there are quite enough feckless and lazy English natives, and if people want to come here and work their socks off legally, then come, and welcome.
The original legalization of abortion in the UK was promoted to 'stop backstreet abortions' and make child murder safer for the mothers who wanted it, by putting it into a hospital setting.
Now the abortion backers are pushing for the medical safeguards to be removed; so no need for two doctors to agree that the potential abortion is neccessary for the woman's health and mental well-being, and not even a need for a hospital environment - just take a pill in your bedroom.
Those who want euthanasia made legal in certain compassionate circumstances, take note. You may have the very best intentions, but eventually, once the door has been pushed ajar, those with less noble intentions will be able to force through that gap.
Note - please remember to tread gently in the comment section. Disagreements are ok, but bear in mind that this can be an enormously painful and personal topic for some.
I'd appreciate your prayers, my medication has just changed, and I'm having considerable trouble sleeping. It's a good illustration of the fact that we are dust, because physical frailty really can have such an enormous affect on state of mind. I'm in a little bit of emotional mush at the moment, as I will shortly be hosting my father for a few weeks, from whom I was estranged for much of my teens and twenties.
It will be both a privilege and a challenge, and I do rather wish I was in a stronger position to face all the tests it will present me with. Having said that, I'm fairly sure that the Lord works best through me when there is less of me to get in the way. I'm having a 'groping-in-the-dark' moment, and I'm grateful that His word is a lamp to my feet, so that I can see far enough on the path not to stumble, but not see so much of it that I faint with fear.
It's not an easy thing to be a Christian. You fight against your own sinful inclinations, the troubles of being committed to a disparate group of people who may have only their salvation in common with you, and sometimes, you face outright persecution.
I'm aware the readership of my blog is fairly widespread around the world, but also that the majority of it is from the US and the UK, and I write this with that primarily in mind.
You are, mostly likely, really not being persecuted. Honestly. You may be misunderstood, the butt of a few jokes, or perhaps mildly inconvenienced, but I would be very surprised if you were persecuted.
We're certainly living in a post-Christian age, when it is no longer the default assumption that Christianity is true. But 'Winterval' and being asked not to wear a gold cross around your neck does not persecution make.
We're generally not taken very seriously by the press and we're often mocked. But if that equals persecution, then most members of parliament could lay a claim to it, too.
I find it tremendously odd when some artist tries to grab headlines by subverting some Christian theme, and Christians respond in a certain way. Don't misunderstand me - I am quite happy for Christians to protest about such things. I would hope that they would use each and every opportunity the world throws up to explain the gospel to those who may have been stirred to attention.
I mean this phrase - "They know they can get away with it, because Christians won't start chopping heads off or setting off bombs."
Do you seriously think that is a bad thing? Yes, some Muslims will scream bloody murder at the least provocation. It is commendable that Christians do not respond the same way, not lamentable.
We live in a society that places no restrictions on the preaching of the gospel. We can freely stand on the streets proclaiming it. We can use national media. We can freely meet together on any day we want to.
It is not popular, but that does not mean we are persecuted. I find it very frustrating when I hear Christians who wouldn't say boo to a goose complain of persecution because the BBC showed Jerry Springer, The Opera. It was indeed a gross and despicable thing for the BBC to do, but it didn't equal persecution.
When we are, each of us, taking a bold stand for Christ at every opportunity we get, we might start facing persecution. Until then, we cheapen the testimony of those who really are persecuted, and we completely waste dozens of real opportunities to share the Good News that means we don't have to jealously protect the Lord from the slightest negative comment.
This story is very bizarre, but one thing in particular jumped out at me.
The dead man had told his wife he was leaving her for another woman. A very short time later, he died in a garden shed inferno (my word, is that a barmy thing to write). His wife was bringing the washing in at the time. She claims he has always had suicidal tendencies.
The mistress has disputed this, but it was her grounds for doing so which intrigued me. She said that he was a Christian, and therefore believed harming himself in this manner was wrong, so therefore, it could not have been suicide.
I hope you're seeing the great big glaring inconsistency there. His mistress, about whom his Christian conscience seemed unperturbed, is insisting that said Christian conscience was very much more defined in the area of his personal well-being.
Well, it's that time of year again. There isn't a shop to visit that isn't covered in spiderwebs and the kind of thing that, a few years ago would have given a film an automatic 18 certificate, but now merits maybe a 12 if you're lucky.
I recall a couple of years ago, Eden was sheltered enough to think that people were dressed as Marshwiggles instead of witches, but she knows what a witch is now. Thankfully, she still thinks it's very strange to want to dress up as things that God doesn't like, like witches and devils. She thinks it's just a bit harmlessly mad to dress up as a pumpkin (and I have to agree with her there).
We'll be battening down the hatches on the 31st, largely because I will have little ones asleep, and I'm not opening the door to a steady stream of children begging for sweets. We gave out tracts and sweeties a few years ago, but I'd rather just not open the door at this point.
We've watched a few things about Luther on secular television this past month, and they were actually tremendously edifying. It's a little surreal to find yourself hearing the gospel presented on BBC Four, though. But if God spoke through a Donkey, I suppose anything's possible.
There have been years when we've done a little more to commemorate Reformation Day, and no doubt we will resume those things in years to come. It seems even more important to do so when the Reformation is as maligned as it is in our ecumenical age. It's easy to forget the very important foundational reasons for it, and it's interesting to note Luther's behaviour in the face of church error, particularly in the light of my previous post.
Not all of us are called to a 'Here I stand' moment - most of us have to simply plod along with a careful witness. I think of Luther, and his well documented faults, and I'm reminded again of having treasure in earthen vessels.
I am certainly very far from what I long to be as a Christian, and if laid out plainly, there's many an unguarded remark which may well condemn me in the eyes of subsequent generations. But what truth I hold comes from an eternal book, and all my words should be held to that test. If I speak error, it's my own.
One of my little personality quirks is the need to say sorry almost immediately. Growing up, my mother and I clashed, many times. We had a similar hot temper, and flash-points were random, and not always obvious. Over time, I learnt that my mother would never say sorry. She would always wait me out, and I would have to come to her and say sorry.
Eventually, I cut out the middle man, and knew to apologize straight away after an argument, even if I knew full well that I wasn't in the wrong. I'm quite confident I wasn't a believer when I started doing that, but I think it's something useful that God put in me through circumstances, and it hasn't left me. Now I hate leaving a situation where I have offended someone, by intent or by accident, more than a few minutes.
Ant laughs at me because, on the occasions where we have a 'frank exchange of views', I will fire out a sharp retort and instantly know, (usually, even as I'm saying it) that it is totally out of order, and a truly repentant apology will follow before the angry words have hit the floor.
To those who are concerned, I am working very hard at not saying the cutting remark in the first place, too.
So I think it's important to acknowledge when we get it wrong. So I'm going to say it now - I think we were wrong to leave our old church. I'll do a Dan Phillips and underline what I don't mean by that.
I don't mean that our current church is bad, or not the place we should be. I don't mean that there weren't significant issues with our old church.
I mean that our reasons for leaving were not good enough, and we should have stayed. Frank Turk has really challenged me about this over the last year, as his doctrine of the local church is so antithetical to the individualism rampant in the Western church - even the good and sound ones - that it just takes you, turns you upside down and shakes all the loose thinking out of you.
There are bad reasons to leave a church, there are understandable reasons to leave a church, there are good reasons to leave a church, and there are unavoidable reasons to leave a church.
Firstly, leaving a church because you've had an argument with another believer, or because you don't like the 'style', or liturgy, or choruses etc. These are bad reasons. The first is outright sinful pride, and the second is entirely superficial.
Secondly, leaving a church because they refuse to discipline an unrepentant sinner, or because they use Rick Warren's sermons, or because most people there often have shaky theology, or because no-one really speaks to you, are understandable reasons. But they're still wrong.
Thirdly, leaving a church because you have been sent out as a missionary, this is a good reason to leave a church - but you're not really leaving it, I suppose.
The fourth set of reasons - the unavoidable ones - are probably the least numerous of all church-leaving reasons. But I think they're the only appropriate ones apart from the good ones.
We left our church because of 'bad' and 'understandable' reasons. We had no quarrel with the pastor or people, but I will admit to eventually finding the modern worship style spirit-crushing. That was certainly one of my reasons, and it was a bad reason to leave a church.
The teaching was pretty fluffy, really. There were both purpose-driven elements and 'new expressions' (a term I'm using instead of emerging, which I'm trying to avoid because it's just such a soupy one now) elements, particularly among the youth. We were increasingly concerned that we didn't want our children to grow up in that atmosphere. These were understandable reasons. But they were still wrong.
We spent a little time there, a couple of years, maybe, facing up to some thorny questions, realizing we were way off course, and then attempting to fit in with the church in our new shape. We discovered that theology wasn't something just for academics, and that the bible was a deeper well than we ever imagined before. The more we had of it, the more we wanted.
And in that time, we really didn't try hard enough to love our brothers and sisters in that church. We co-led a homegroup, but our attempts to lead it away from 'this verse means this to me' style study were two-thirds-hearted at best. We didn't go out of our way to serve, apart from a stint in a Sunday School group for lower-primary age children and a men's breakfast.
We got frustrated and judgemental, and when my husband finally made the decision to leave, I confess my first thoughts were of a refugee fleeing a sinking ship, and I am ashamed that I cared so little for those we left behind. The Lord has broken my heart over it in these years since.
Our right doctrine wasn't right at all, because it didn't lead us to right practice which should have been the natural outworking of knowing truth. Now, our Father has been very gracious to us. In His providence, we did find a very good church that we are now part of, and He dealt tenderly with us when we were still just toddlers in faith, really.
My time is not mine to live again, but if it were, I know that we would not have left that church, and I know that we would never leave a church for those reasons again. Our only right reason for leaving that church should have been unavoidable - it should have been because we loved the truth, we loved the people and stood, and stood and stood, serving them in His love until they had their fill of us, and showed us the door. It would have been very difficult, and it would have involved pouring our hearts out sacrificially, but, dear me, what else should Christian service be?
He loves His church. He laid His life down for His Bride, and He gives us no leave to run away from being a true part of that bride, no matter how understandable our reasons. So, I was wrong, and we were wrong to leave. Please, don't step that way yourself. What an astonishing church we would have on this earth if we all loved the church as we should!
Addendum: I want to clarify something which has come up in a few of the comments.
I've called the second set of reasons understandable, because I completely understand them. You don't need to convince me that they are very serious. I agree. But leaving a church over them should only be because things have shifted into the 'unavoidable' category. You can't just sit in a church that does those things and say next to nothing, do next to nothing, and then leave for the sake of your spiritual welfare.
I'm not disputing that, sadly in many cases, protest will fall on deaf ears and leaving may eventually become the only option. I'm just saying we need to fight harder for His church than we often do.
Ant has just discovered he can watch baseball on a random satellite channel. He watched some last night, and I noticed, as I passed by on my way to bed, that the commentary was a strange hybrid of cricket commentary and (proper) football commentary. It was fast-paced, but there was still a sort of rambling, conversational quality to it.
I find American games very interesting, but I'm not really into sport very much. I follow an English football team, but not to the point of checking where they are in the table after every game. Ant likes his football and cricket, and he's long had an affection for baseball. He's hoping that by watching it, he'll actually work out what the rules are.
I'm not a big cricket fan. But there is something amusingly English about the 'character' of it. It's very sedate, slow, and civilized, with a keen sense of fair-play, and the occasional flash of eccentric brilliance. Most of the fielders are as much spectators as the crowd, and half the fun is enjoying the weather, or speculating about the rain.
Football is English in a different way. It's passionate, athletic in an everyday manner, braves all weathers, and caters very well to the English love of an underdog. I always think of Rugby as resolutely Welsh, envisioning big beefy Welshmen crashing into each other shoulders first (without any of that daft padding American footballers get trussed up in.)
I shall enjoy seeing if I like baseball. I always enjoyed playing rounders at school, and it seems to be a very similar game. I sort of see it like an American version of cricket, and illustrative of a certain difference in character. Americans take English things and make them rather jazzy and colourful. We have cricket whites, you have all the colours of the rainbow and matching jackets.
Re-watching the Sound of Drums and still thinking it was lots of fun.
Realizing it takes a lot to distract my son from looking at me.
I have been rather under the weather over the past week, and have, a few times, felt pinned down and troubled from all sides. By the side of my bed is a bookcase, and next to it a big pile of books that are currently 'on the go'. I never know quite what I will be in the mood for, so it's a jumbled collection of puritan writers, John MacArthur and Amy Carmichael. The other day, I read this excerpt, and it has been quite an encouragement to me this week. Yet again, a puritan writer finds the perfect illustration for a precious truth.
Although you see the stars sometimes by their reflections in a puddle, or in the bottom of a well, ay, in a stinking ditch, yet the stars have their situation in heaven. So, though you see a godly man in a poor, miserable, low, despised condition for the things of this world, yet he is fixed in heaven, in the region of heaven: 'Who hath raised us up,' saith the apostle, 'and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.'
From Precious remedies against Satan's devices, by Thomas Brooks.