Saturday, December 31, 2005
So... a Happy New Year to you!
Oh yeah - just while I'm here (I keep forgetting things - a sign of my getting old), God's richest blessings to Stewart as he leads the services in Brigh, Albany and 1st Stewartstown tomorrow, and to Bryan as he preaches. Let us know how it goes, boys!
Friday, December 30, 2005
Yet, while the Christmas Gospel in the particular set of readings from the Revised Common Lectionary we used on Saturday night don't really set the verses in context, we'll deal with them in context here. But first, a bit of background.
Paul is writing to Titus, as he also wrote to Timothy, leaving some encouragement, as well as instruction to those who will carry on the work of the gospel, in terms of preaching and teaching, and overseeing the church. Titus is in Crete (1:5) to appoint elders. But he is also to teach certain things to certain people, and the early part of chapter 2 details what each group needs to hear, in order to live a good and holy life. I find this particularly interesting, because an older Christian I respect always argued that there was no place for a children's talk in a church meeting or service, because they should listen to the sermon and find teaching in it. Yet here, in Titus 2:1-10, Paul outlines the specific ways of living, so that all people, whether older men or women, and younger men and women, as well as slaves can live 'what accords with sound doctrine' (2:1).
But there is a specific reason why we should live holy and godly lives: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)
We should live holy lives because Jesus has redeemed us to be his holy people, as we wait on the appearing of his glory. So as in all the Epistles, we find the ethical instruction, not just for its own good, but rather, as a direct result of the theological implications of the Gospel. It is just like the 'Therefore' at Romans 12:1.
So at this Christmas period, we find in this reading both the Advent hope, and the Christmas message. The blessed hope of Jesus' second coming, when his glory will appear, which we have been thinking about for those weeks of Advent. But also the great news that the grace of God has come, bringing salvation for all people. This salvation, however, means that there's going to have to be changes within us - changes that can only come about through the gospel, and the Holy Spirit working through us - as He trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. As Paul says elsewhere: 'and such were some of you' (1 Corinthians 6:11). Each of us have lived for ourselves too long, revelling in ungodliness and in worldly passions. The Spirit trains us to turn our backs on them.
Yet there's something I have noticed more and more recently in Timothy and Titus. And this is that where there is an instruction to flee from something, then there will come a corresponding instruction to flee towards something (for example, in 2 Timothy 2:22, 'Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness')- and here we find it again! When we are being trained to turn away from ungodliness and worldly passions, we are also being encouraged to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives' (2:12). This is because Jesus, who was born in the stable of Bethlehem, who grew up to die on the cross of Calvary, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, this Jesus is coming again to gather this people of his own possession who are zealous for good works.
May we all find salvation in the Babe of Bethlehem, the Lamb of God, the King and Judge, and so flee from ungodliness and live holy and righteous lives as we wait with the blessed hope for His coming again! Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Tonight we were bowling in the last game of the year. Now, bear in mind that I am still injured with that thumb (which is still sore), for which I got a tonne of slagging about, but I am pleased to report that I managed to win the game! Stewart finished second with about 110 or so, but I got 130. Bryan came third, just not being on form tonight at all. In the battle of the Wilky's, Lynsey triumphed, by two points, which was all the more interesting, seeing that twice the machine knocked over a pin for her when it was picking up the pins in between her goes. But we'll not mention those!!! Very surprisingly, Neil came last - a far cry from his days gone by of getting reasonably good scores in the alley at Lurgan.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Then yesterday we hit the shops in Belfast, but I didn't really get much... nor today in the Abbeycentre. And my evenings have mostly been spent in Heifer Ridge, or as it is known in English, Dromara. Even with the cold frosty weather which we're having at the minute... which led to lots of laughs for Lynsey and Mummy Wilky when I went on my bottom last night going out to the car. I also managed to somehow cut my thumb with my keys, so have a bit of a plaster on it at present. Ouch!
Oh - one thing I did buy which will be very beneficial in the future was a sort of Bible software thingy in Wesley Owen in Belfast, which contains 115 books as well as lots of versions of the Bible etc... all for the bargainous price of £16.50. And even better, it acts as an expansion of the English Standard Version bible software cd I received free from the publishers when I bought my new ESV small bible! So I'm all trigged up in terms of software and stuff!
Sunday, December 25, 2005
This morning was the usual Christmas morning, with the frenzy of wrapping paper and the presents. Out to church, and then back to the house before having lunch. This afternoon then, we played a couple of games - first up, the Telly Addicts dvd game. And the teams were set - 'oldies' (that is, the parents), versus the 'young ones' (me and Neil). The oldies took the first game by one point, but we managed to redeem the situation in the second game, winning by two points clear. So Neil and myself reasoned that we had won overall, given the fact that our total score was higher then theirs... but the parents are holding out for a draw, and calling for a rematch at some point in the near future!
The second game was one of those electric shock games, and we got the parents playing too. You know the sort, where when the light changes colour, you have to press the button, and the last one to press the button gets a wee shock. Well, we played a few rounds of that, with ma and Neil getting a few volts through them! Then we shifted to the extreme version, whereby the first person to press the button avoids the shock while the rest get it! And behold, I escaped the shock again!
Since then I haven't really been doing much - watched the new Lee Evans dvd which was one of my presents, and blogged... Nothing else to report! Have a good Christmas (if you happen to be reading this in the last few minutes of this Christmas night!)
Saturday, December 24, 2005
One such was last night, in 2 Timothy 4 - have a look:
'Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.' (2 Tim 4:8)
Those who have loved his appearing. That set me thinking. The message of Advent, Jesus' return, is indeed sure and certain - he is coming! But perhaps the criteria for the judgement (to be a bit crude for a moment), is how we will respond to his appearing - the award or reward is for those who have loved his appearing. We can therefore assume that those who haven't loved his appearing won't be receiving an award.
But maybe we should turn it round the other way... if we are saved, then we will be looking forward to Jesus' return, and the reward will come with it. If our hope is in Jesus' return, then we will indeed be looking forward to him coming, and love his appearing.
So who will there be that could possibly not like his return? The way modern society seems to think, and even the church to some extent, is that if Jesus should possibly come back, then either everyone will be afraid of him, or else he won't be coming in judgement - that we'll have a 'cuddly Jesus' when he comes. And how did I come to this conclusion? Well, consider one advent hymn, which is perhaps my favourite, in which a verse was changed from this:
Every eye shall now behold him, Robed in dreadful majesty
Those who set at nought and sold him, Pierced and nailed him to the Tree;
Deeply wailing, Shall the true Messiah see.
Every eye shall now behold him, robed in dreadful majesty,
We who set at nought and sold him, pierced and nailed him to the tree,
Lord, have mercy, Let us all thine Advent see.
So what has changed? Well, we have moved from a biblical view of the second coming (based on Revelation 1:7), to the view that we all will be afraid of Jesus' coming. Is it some form of political correctness creeping into the church, and a fear of being labelled as anti-Semitic, in moving away from the 'those who pierced him' idea? Or is it some sort of false humility on the part of those within the church? But surely there is no condemnation for the believer - those who have loved his appearing, and therefore no need to plead for mercy, as we are covered by the Blood of Jesus?
So on this Christmas Eve, as we come to the end of the season of Advent and move into the season of Christmas - are you looking forward to Jesus' return, so that when he comes, you will have loved his appearing?
Friday, December 23, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
So Narnia. I saw The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in Yorkgate on Monday night, and I have to say, it was absolutely brilliant!!! There were some wee bits that were changed from the book, for example, the description of Aslan being 'not safe but good' should come near the start when they're in the Beaver's house, rather than at the very end. But the effects were good (and certainly a lot better than those of the BBC series in the 1980's/90's).
Ach, do you know what? I can't be bothered updating much more tonight - you probably don't want to know about carol services and stuff, cos if you read this, you were probably at them! But please, leave a comment if you're still reading this - am I getting boring and predictable now, cos I haven't had any comments in ages on the blog!!!
Monday, December 19, 2005
Topics to be covered include the joy and delight of Handel's Messiah on Saturday night in the Waterfront, being completely carolled out after attending two carol services in the Cathedral and one in Banbridge Road Presbyterian on Sunday, and then today's trip to Newtownstewart to visit the staff of West Tyrone Voice and then on to Londonderry for some sights and shopping and then to Belfast for dinner and the cinema, where we saw the new film, the one I had been waiting to see for ages - The Chronicles of Narnia; The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe! Absolutely amazing!!!
More fuller comments will follow in due time...
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The book is all about evangelism, and how we can engage in evangelism to the post-modern generation around us. Why is such a book necessary? Well, the fact is that, while interest in spirituality is increasing (just look in any bookshop at the 'religion or self-help or spirituality' section), there is a corresponding decline in the numbers attending church. And yet we can sometimes feel inadequate about reaching out to others – what should we say? What should we do?
Graham Cray looks at the topic in an interesting way, by considering the local church first and foremost as the unit of evangelism. He asks if we are indeed a provocative church. For example, if someone new were to call into our service, would they be provoked to ask the question about Jesus, or would they be interested enough to come back the following week?
Or as we go about our daily lives, do those around us see something different about us, which provokes them to ask us about the hope we have? This is brought out from the verse in 1 Peter 3:15: 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.' The fact is that while our current evangelism training (through things like Alpha etc) for church members can help them with the answers, we are pre-supposing a question... which maybe doesn't come so often.
For Tomlin, the answer comes through the first part of the verse – In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.' It is in these few words that we find the entire centre of evangelism for our current day. AS we live our lives out under the rule of Christ, showing his love, and generosity, and being gracious, then people will indeed see something different in our lives and ask the questions – which then lead us to the place where we can talk about what God has done for us, in our lives, and then, if our church has it together, tell them that while we personally can't answer their harder questions, there is a course they could attend where there can ask questions and discuss these topics with others.
For me, this has been one of the best books I read this year (all 65 of them...), and will continue to inspire and challenge me on how we do things in the church.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Today was taken up with the much more important task of re-visiting Belfast. I hadn't properly been in the city since about August, and felt like I was missing out, although now I realise nothing much has changed. But it was nice just being able to wander about with no pressure or work to worry about! And I was able to use up a voucher I had for Faith Mission, getting a few wee books and a cd.
I went visiting yesterday, to the new building of St Saviour's in Dollingstown. It is an amazing building, with its curved seats looking towards the front. I have to point out, though, that it is by no means a 'normal' Church of Ireland parish church, given that there is no pulpit/lectern on either side of the Lord's Table... but rather, it has a central lectern, and the Table well behind it. Another missing feature from a 'normal' church is the Communion Rail... but is this really necessary?
I suppose to some extent it will depend on the importance of church practice and theology on these matters - at a simple level, whether we are 'high' or 'low' church people... and while kneeling to receive Holy Communion can show a sign of humbleness, could it be interpreted as in some sense 'worshipping' the bread and wine?
And is it vital to have the different places to do specific functions - for example, the lectern where the Word is read, and the pulpit where the Word is preached? Should they be separate, or be done in the same place?
Thisis, of course, by no means a complete discussion, or even a fully-thought out theory... but it might just provoke you to some thought on the matter... what way should the buildings we meet in for worship be laid out?
I have another posting in the making on the issues raised in a book I have been reading... it's called 'The Provocative Church' by Graham Tomlin. More will come in due time!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
And, hard as it is to believe, it is now my last night in college of 2005! The end of the term has finally come, well, once I get the two hours of Systematic Theology in the morning over and done with. The only other official business of this term now is the visit to the Principal's house tonight for a wee reception, with all the students who haven't already hit the road home. I'm so very glad that I have managed to survive to the end of the term without getting thrown out!
Yesterday was a crazy mad day... between the Carol Service, the Dinner and the Party. In the service I was doing both a reading (as First Year Rep), and a solo in the opening hymn 'O Come, O Come Emmanuel'. The Archbishop of Dublin was along to provide a meditation on the theme of light coming into the world (John 1), and to add some solemnity to the whole event.
The Dinner was very good, with the dining hall transformed from a clinical eating place, to a warm, homely dimly lit Christmas Dinner venue. For a whole three-course meal, and all, you couldn't beat it. However, I cannot possibly say it was better than what I'll get at home, so it was just the second-best Christmas dinner I'll have this year!
But the end of my term means that I have just one week to wait until Lynsey gets home from Dundee! I can't wait til then, because I'll see her again - I don't want to make anyone sick, but I must point out in my defence that this has been the longest we haven't seen each other since we started going out... An added bonus is that on Saturday week we're going to see Handel's Messiah.
On previous postings I have mentioned my liking of Messiah, but it is even more hyped up now. Since the middle of November, I haven't listened to my cds of it, so that it will be fresh and new when I hear it performed! [In fact, I could have been away to see it tonight somewhere in Dublin, but refused!]
Messiah is a two-hour oratorio, in that it combines orchestral music, soloists, and choral pieces. It is, as the name suggests, all about the Messiah, and takes us on the journey of redemption, from the prophecies about Jesus (starting with Isaiah 40:1 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people' - and not, as I at first thought 'Come for tea my people'), and building up the prophecies.
We then move into the coming of Jesus, with the lively 'For unto us a son is given', and the description of his birth and the angels appearing to the shepherds. The interesting point to note, though, is that the passages about Jesus' life and ministry come not from the Gospels, but from the prophets again. We then move through the crucifixion, with a particularly heart-rending 'He was despised and rejected of men', before moving into the triumph of resurrection, and the ascension, quoting Psalm 24 'Lift up your head, O ye gates'. The second section continues with the preaching of the kingdom, and the end times, culminating in the one piece that everyone knows from Messiah - the Hallelujah Chorus!
Section three then applies the message to Jesus' followers - speaking of our redemption, and how if God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31). We then move into the end times again, with the tremendous prophecy that the trumpet will sound (which is, I think, one of only three times in the whole piece that trumpets are used - the other two being the message of the angels in 'Glory to God' and in the Hallelujah Chorus). The whole oratorio ends with the finale of 'Worthy is the Lamb' from Revelation 4 and 5, and an 'Amen' that goes on for about 4 minutes!
Seeing I have given a brief resume of the entire thing, I might as well add that the premiere of Messiah was performed here in this very city of Dublin - in one of the two cathedrals (I can't remember whether it was Christ Church or St Patrick's, but have a hunch it was St Patrick's given their choir school dating back to 1432).
I may have a ticket or two, if anyone would be interested in coming along?
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Why, I hear you ask, were we doing such things?
Well, our Christmas party tonight has a general theme of Narnia, and so, to represent the snow, we have lots of branches painted white, or sprayed with snow spray... and will have silvery tinsel overhead and all other such things. We're currently trying to work out a way of having the doors of the Jenkins Room turned into a wardrobe, so that you go 'through the wardrobe' to get to Narnia [and not getting into or out of the closet as some rather rude people are suggesting!]
To that end, we were away shopping this morning to get buckets of fake snow and other tacky decorations, and then in about 10 minutes we have choir practice... so today is being a busy busy day! I'd better head on... more update later, maybe!
Monday, December 05, 2005
So what have I been up to in December? Well, not overly much really. I was at the cinema on Saturday night, and we saw Flightpath, which I am still analysing and trying to work out what it was about. The film had a lot of twists, and a lot of false clues and I didn't know what was going on for the most bit, and there are still parts of the script and plot that I can't work out why such things happened, but all in all, I think it was a decent film, and I'm glad I went.
Yesterday we had the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Association Carol Service in the cathedral, and it all seemed to go well. There seemed to be a decent enough crowd out, and a silver band, and the choir. Sadly Capella, from Wallace High (my old school) couldn't make it, but we managed all right (apart from one wee dodgy line where the men forgot to come in!)
And guess what... we are now in the last week of term here in the College! It seems to have come so quickly, after seeming to be so very far off for so long. But it's going to be a hectic week, with not only the usual lectures, but extra seasonal festive events and entertainments. So the brief schedule for me is choir practice tonight and tomorrow night, then Wednesday is the Advent Carol Service, Christmas Dinner, and Christmas Party (organised by the first years)... I was also hoping to get to see Narnia on Thursday night, but I can't seem to find it on the cinema listings in Dublin for then, so I'll just have to wait and see it back at home when I'm off...
I know some people who aren't too fussed on the story, but I love the whole Chronicles of Narnia, but more especially The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - as it is an allegory of the story of the gospel, with Aslan voluntarily being slain for the rebel, and him rising again to new life. Just think how great it is that so many thousands of cinema-goers willbe confronted with the gospel, and giving them something to think about, and in their own cultural environment too... people who would never go to church, but who will happily sit for a couple of hours and watch a film.
And yet, I suppose, that Christmas is the best time for church-based evangelism, cos people who wouldn't normally come, will come and sing the carols. So how can we, as people in church, who believe that Christ did indeed come into the world to save sinners ( 1 Tim 1:15), allow people to think that the baby Jesus is so cute, and leave it at that? The baby Jesus grew up to be a man, who went to a cross and died - and through that death he paid for our sins. I wonder how many people actually realise that when they come to sing 'away in a manger'?
[I'm having a bit of a de javu moment, so if I have written something like this before, plase forgive me!]
Well now; that's all I can think of to write at the moment, but I'm sure I'll post again sometime soon, before the month changes again at the very least! In other news, Lynsey's blog has been updated, as she beings a journey to Ephesus...
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
However, this week has also been a week of endings, as the second Great Hebrew Revolt took place. So my best wishes to Stephen, who is going it alone in Hebrew. I was just finding that I didn't have enough time or inclination to be learning both Greek and Hebrew at the same time, with two grammars, and vocabs and all the rest. So Greek has won my vote, and is absorbing my efforts now!
On Sunday night, the Advent Carol Service, an innovation in Dromore, seemed to go very well. The choir did several anthems, including 'I know a rose tree springing', 'The angel Gabriel from heaven came' and 'Personent Hodie' - which I am convinced is a Latin medieval recipe for Christmas cake or mince pies or something.
I also had a fun weekend meeting the Wilkinson family, both on Friday night and then more fully on Saturday night... and the amazing thing is that they think I'm all right! Hehe! I must have fooled them well! But then the fun bit comes when Lynsey has to meet the McMurray clan... Dear help her!
Other than that, I haven't much more for to tell you all about... oh, except that yesterday was my thirteenth 'second birthday' - when I came to faith at the end of the week of mission in the Cathedral in the Decade of Evangelism. The missioner was Neil Steadman from Cumbria Diocese. I'm so glad I made that decision, and would urge you, reader, if you don't know Jesus, to come to faith, and be saved!
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Since my last posting, on Monday evening, I have spent several wonderful days in bed, being unable to do very much at all. As I said at the end of my last update, I had a bit of a sore throat... In chapel on Monday evening, I got worser, and ended up having to go to bed very soon afterwards.
And there I remained until Wednesday lunchtime, with my cold/flu/sore throat/sick feeling and all else... But thankfully I'm now almost better, and able to go out and about again.
There's not much else to report on at present, other than the great news that Lynsey is home in Northern Ireland again this weekend!!! I lifted her from the airport last night, and soon we're heading out for a big family meal with the Wilky's...
Oh - and tomorrow night is the Advent Carol service in Dromore Cathedral, which starts at 8pm.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Commitment: A Sermon preached in Dollingstown & Magheralin churches on Sunday 20th November 2005. Readings: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25, Philippians 3:10-21
This morning we're going to learn about a big choice that a group of people had to make many years ago, and see how we have that choice to make as well.
Joshua had been leading the Israelites after Moses died. In that time, he had brought them into Canaan, the land that God had promised to them. They had defeated the inhabitants of the land and were now established in their new country. But Joshua was coming to the end of his life so he called them all to come together in one place to make sure that they would continue to live according to God's way.
He was speaking to them, and told them to make a choice. Were they going to serve God, or would they choose to serve some other gods? It was almost like an election, who would they pick?
And yet, the decision was actually quite straight forward. Because why would they choose to serve some foreign god, when they could serve the true God? Joshua gave them some reasons from their history why they should serve God. It was God who had called Abraham, in the first place, which led to the nation of Israel being established; it was God who had cared for them and brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they had been slaves; and it was God who had given them the land they now lived in, where they could enjoy the fruits and all the good things the land produced.
Whereas, on the other hand, the other candidates were false gods, they were just idols, statues of wood or stone or gold, that couldn't really do anything, and shouldn't be worshipped.
Joshua was a brave leader, and said that even if everyone else would choose to serve the false gods, he would still serve the true God.
So who would they choose? God, or the false idols?
The people decided that they would serve the Lord, the true God. Yet Joshua wanted to make sure that they were genuine, that they meant what they were saying, so he challenged them, and tested them three times. So they committed themselves three times to worship God, and live for him. And they made a covenant – an agreement with God that they would serve him.
So what has this story got to teach us, who live in the 21st century? Is there anything we can learn from Joshua and the people of Israel?
Well, we all have a choice to make – who are we going to serve? What are we going to put first in our lives?
What sort of things are there that people can worship? Any ideas? Some people worship popstars, or footballers, and want to be like them, and think about them a lot. Other people worship money, and put it first in their life, by working long hours to get as much as they can.
But, just as Joshua called on the people to worship God, the true God, so I call on you today, and encourage you to serve God. Why would we want to do that?
Well, just as Joshua could give a series of reasons why the Israelites would worship God, so there are also reasons why we should put God first in our lives. The first is because God has created each of us, and knows us better than we know ourselves, and so he is worthy to be worshipped. Further, God has provided salvation for us, by sending Jesus to die for us on the cross, to pay for our sins, and to bring us to heaven with him. And just as Joshua looked back on how God had provided in the past, we can see how God has been faithful in the past. He has given us faithful Christians who have taught us about God, [D: and provided us with a growing church, as we look forward to a new building for meeting in] [M: and provided us with these organisations where we can learn about God while having fun with our friends].
[M: Today, as you are enrolled in the Boys Brigade and the Girls Friendly Society, you will make some promises. You will make a commitment to attend each week, and to be a good member by doing your best, in the activities.]
But the choice remains for each one of us today – choose this day who you will serve! If you have never made the decision to follow Jesus, never made a commitment to him, then make it today! Maybe you have been coming to church all your life, and have always heard about Jesus. Maybe you know all about him, but you don't know him. That was me – I grew up through church, and was in the Boys Brigade and most times won the Scripture Exam, because I knew a good bit of the Bible. I knew about Jesus, but I didn't know him.
And thirteen years ago this month, I came to know Jesus, and made a commitment to him, to follow him, and to come to know him more through reading my Bible and praying to him. And, do you know what? It was the best decision I ever made! I have never looked back!
But the decision isn't just a one-off – something you make once and that's it finished with. Following Jesus is a life-long commitment. It is a commitment to serve God for the rest of your life. And it isn't just for the boys and girls, it is for every person in church. You have to keep going, because while things aren't always easy, it is the best way.
In our Second Reading today, we heard from the apostle Paul, who was writing to the church in Philippi. In the reading we discover how we should be committed, and the reason for that commitment. He says that the reason for being committed to God is that we're looking forward into the future, towards 'the prize for which God has called' us. There is the reward waiting for us, if we're faithful.
So how should we be committed? How should we live? 'Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the prize'. All your thoughts, words and actions should be lived out looking forward to the last times, and the reward waiting for us. So when you have a decision to make, make it remembering forward to the reward. As the bracelets that some of the young people might be wearing say: WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?
So what can we learn today; what can you take away with you? How will you respond to the challenge that Joshua first put to God's people all those years ago: 'Choose this day who you will serve.'
Make that commitment today, come to Jesus, and continue in it, as you grow and develop.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Last Tuesday we had the pleasure of not having Greek in the afternoon as the tutor was in London, so I made the most of it and spent the afternoon wandering round the main shopping parts of the city centre, just looking in the shops and spending very little money!
then on Wednesday at the Communion service I was cantoring the Psalm - the way we did it was me plainsong chanting it, with the congregation singing a four-part antiphon after every second verse... Thankfully it seemed to go ok. Then after the reception and dinner, there was a seminar by Colin Corebridge, of CMSI, who was speaking on the church's mission to the post-modern world... Spike, as he is more commonly known was also the preacher at Communion - the best we've had so far this year.
Thursday was the day of just one class, which worked out well, as it gave me time to work on the sermon for Sunday in Magheralin (which will follow in due time, when I get it onto my flash drive for copying to here).
Thursday morning also made for an interesting time in chapel. The last time I read was a few weeks back, and it was Nehemiah 8. Now, within that wonderful chapter, there are two long lists of people's names which are virtually unpronounceable... and I struggled through them. On Thursday, the appointed reading was Nehemiah 9, and guess what... not only was it very long (and took me ages), there were two more wonderful lists of unpronounceables!!! Afterwards, the staff of the college were saying they think that the compiler of the rotas, none other than my good friend Adrian, actually has it in for me, cos my readings are always harder than anyone else's! So thank you very much Adrian!!!
We also had a 'new' version of the Lord's Prayer, where due to an unfortunate typo, the service sheet led us to pray 'Lead us into temptation'...
Then at the weekend, I was in Rostrevor, at the Kilbroney Centre, for the Reload Weekend. Reload is an event organised by the diocesan Youth Council, and has been going for about 6 years now? I've been at most of them (I think I missed the first one ever), and always enjoy them. This year we had a speaker who had travelled from Ipswich for it, none other than Magheralin's Martin Montgomery, who looked at the book of Esther, to see how it applies to our lives today.
[As an aside, did you know that in Ipswich, those young men who are called 'spides' or 'steeks' in Northern Ireland, are called 'Gary-boys'!!!]
On Saturday afternoon we had a very funny game of 'Hunt the Leader', except we were dressed as fantasy fiction characters, such as Aslan, Gandalf, Hagrid, Harry Potter, and myself as an Orc! The groups also filmed their own version of certain music videos - the best of which was the version of Coldplay's video for 'The Scientist', in which everything happens backwards.
Yesterday morning I was preaching at the family service in Dollingstown, and the BB&GFS Enrollment in Magheralin churches, and it seemed to go well. The churches are both friendly places, although I think Dollingstown was marginally better, simply because it was less formal, as they currently meet in a mobile building in the grounds of the Orange Hall, until their new building is opened on 10th December. My impression might have been boosted by the fact that I knew more of the people in Dollingstown as well.
I really enjoyed being in the parish, and working with Gareth again, seeing he had been our Curate in Dromore from 1998 - 2002. He definitely hasn't changed, and is as funny (or strange) as ever he was! But Gareth, I know you will be reading this, that is a good thing!
And that's really about all I have to talk about, apart from the bad sore throat I have had since last night... which made me sleep even less than normal! I'm now on various types of sweets and medication and a never-ending stream of tissues...
Sunday, November 20, 2005
I'm now in the house for a couple of hours before I head off to church, Yf and Dublin again... with this weekend being spent in Rostrevor, at the Down and Dromore Reload Weekend, and then this morning preaching in Dollingstown and Magheralin.
I don't have time for to write all that I would like today, but I will indeed at some point in the very near future... although I've an essay due in for Friday, and a lot of other stuff on this week too... so keep checking back until you hear all that has been going on with me!
Monday, November 14, 2005
Saturday saw us going to St Andrews, where Prince William went to university. It was a nice enough place, with just a wee touch of rain when we were walking about. It seems to have been a major centre of population and importance, as there is an ancient huge Cathedral in ruins, and a castle. There also seems to be, as only the Scottish can do, a large number of Church of Scotland churches.
Then we went back to Dundee and had a wander about some of the shopping centre type places, and went looking for the second hand bookshop, but alas, it was closed, due to flood damage!
In the evening we were back to St Andrews for the birthday meal, then back to Dundee and up to the Law - a high hill the Dundee seems to be built around, with a sort of monument on the top. So we drove up it, and had a look out at the size of the city - amazingly big, and well lit at night, and across the Tay Bridge towards Newport and Tayport.
Sunday was Remembrance Day, and we were at the Steeple again, where there was good teaching again, on John 6 - the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus being the Bread of Life. Then we had lunch, and then back to the flat to prepare to leave... then the leaving and the driving back to Glasgow airport, and the flying - rather smooth!
Then back to Dromore and on to Dublin, and so ended my little break... and Lynsey's birthday.
Today has gone well so far, and I think I actually made a tiny bit of progress in Hebrew, if only I could get motivated to learn the vocab... although I was very close to giving it up today. I'm going to stick at it for at least another few weeks - possibly as far as Christmas and see how we go.
So now I have a busy week, with an essay due next Friday, and also preparations to be made for the weekend, in terms of the DDYC Reload weekend, and a couple of preachings next Sunday morning. So this is the time I ask myself, why am I wasting time online writing a blog when I should be working? Well, I suppose it is easier to write about what has happened over the past few days, it isn't being marked (although this will probably start a flurry of comments with some grading system being passed), and also because a certain young lady is on msn talking as I write this!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
With the winds yesterday, the plane was just a wee bit rough, especially when coming in to land in Glasgow... it was like being no a boat, all up and down and from side to side, but we landed safely enough, so no harm done! And there, waiting on me was Lynsey!
So we got the hire car, and actually, a rather fancy Seat Toledo in black, which I'm really enjoying driving. And we set off, following about 3 or 4 different sets of directions, and managing to find East Kilbride, where the reception was. But we were well early, and needed something to eat, so we found a big shopping centre place, and I though, great stuff, we'll be able to get something to eat here, and then even have a wander round the shops to kill some time before going to the reception. But alas, no! It seems, for some strange reason, that shops in Scotland shut at 6pm on a Friday evening, even the big shopping centres, so we didn't stay long, and didn't get anything to eat.
Then we went out, and saw an ice rink place just round the corner. Surely there would be something to eat in it? Well, it too was getting ready to close... and the eating places were all getting tidied up, but we managed to get stuff in a Chinese type establishment.
Oh - but before all that, in the first centre's car par we had an interesting time as I tried to find reverse... In the Corsa, you lift the gearstick up and move it to the position for first. But on the Seat, you do something different... and we were almost into a parking space and I wanted to reverse to straighten up coming in to it... and I kept trying what I thought was reverse, and we edged forward just a wee bit more, and again, and a bit closer to the wall... and again! So then I had to consult the manual, which was hidden away in the boot, to discover how to do it. So now I can reverse and all!!!
So the wedding party. The party was great! We had a great time, during the ceilidh. There were some of the dances I could actually do, assisted by the fact of the band playing the same dance twice in a row. And it was great seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time - Christopher himself, and his whole family, and Gordon Bingham, and Esther Somerville, and Simon Thompson.
But then it was a long-ish drive back north up to Dundee. So now we have Saturday stretching out in front of us, and I think we're heading towards St Andrew's for a wander about, then Lynsey's birthday dinner later on!
Thursday, November 10, 2005
So what has happened in this week? The aftermath of the Great Hebrew Revolt continues, with the two of us who remain still going to stick with it for another while - although, I can't really get motivated to learn the vocab... Greek is so much better, it seems. And after all, didn't Jesus say 'no man can serve two masters' - and I think Greek will become my favoured master in terms of Biblical languages... But I'm still going to the class and trying to see what I can do in Hebrew.
Last night the choir was back in operation for the College Communion service, with a couple of harmony pieces unaccompanied, and we had an absolute blast in 'We Are Marching in the light of God', where Tom, the Pastoral Studies Director (who also oversees our choir-ing for the Communions) was encouraging us to stamp our feet and move about and all that... Craig, who was doing the dismissal afterwards could hardly get the words out for laughing!
I shall pass on my greetings now, in case I'm not back on the computer beforehand, but a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Lynsey, who will turn 21 on Sunday. May God continue to bless you richly as you get older in his service. Love you lots!
And also congratulations to Christopher and Jennifer, who, DV, will be married tomorrow in Strathaven, in Scotland.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Today, however, is much more exciting, and will go down in the annals of history as the day of the Great Hebrew Revolt. Half of our Hebrew class has resigned today, leaving just two brave (foolish) souls to continue trying to make sense of the series of squiggles, dots and dashes which is Hebrew... I am now tempted myself to give up too, simply because I'm not making any progress in it myself - as homework we had to try to start to read Psalm 23, and I cannot get any of the words!
I'm looking forward to the weekend too, as I'm jetting back to Scotland again, for the wedding of Chris Somerville, who I went to school with. I'm assuming it's going to be a ceilhe (or however you spell a mad Scottish dance night), so should be good craic. Then it's off up to Dundee again to stay in Lynsey's flat again for her birthday weekend - it all worked out rather well that I would be in Scotland that weekend! And I know it's just a week since I last saw her, but I can't wait to see her again!
But for now, it's back to the reading of Hebrew in an attempt to prepare for the two hours of a nearly empty classroom - we will have nowhere to hide now!
Friday, November 04, 2005
But this weekend will bring a nice easy time, with not much doing! I'm looking forward to the Ripple Effect - a youth event in Stewartstown tomorrow night, but we'll see how it goes.
Nothing else much to report on... so I'll finish!
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
We got on the train in Dundee, and who should be sitting sort of behind us, only a girl who was at Queens doing politics the same time I was there - only she didn't like me, so I didn't say hello to her - I don't think she recognised me, but I knowed her!
So we got to Glasgow, and I was quite lost for the first wee bit as I tried to figure out the station in relation to the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre - it's a good job Lynsey was there, or I might have been lost without her! We dumped our bags into the bus station and took a walk down Sauchiehall Street, and we went into TK Maxx and down the escalator. At the bottom, I felt someone pulling at my shoulder, and I turned around to see this strange woman smiling and staring at me, and before I could speak, she just walked off up the escalator... so very strange! Unless she maybe thought I was someone else and when I turned round she realised she had made a mistake, but you would think she would have spoken!
Then a bit further up the street I went in to Sainsbury's to top up my phone, and silly, silly me - I handed over the Nectar card and the money and asked her to put £20 on it please... and she just stared and asked me for the phone top-up card! Doh! How stupid could I be?!
After that, Glasgow seemed to go reasonably well, having a bit of a wander along, and getting lunch and all, then off to the airport. And then, behold, we had to sit on the plane an extra hour as there was a broken part, but thankfully they had a spare in the stores, and we were able eventually to get on our way to Aldergrove again.
So after having left Lynsey home, I dumped off some clothes and packed others and set off for Dublin. It being Hallowe'en night, there were lots of fireworks about - actually, flying over Belfast was amazing to see all the different fireworks and the colours and all that. But there were two dodgy moments at Newry.
First off, the police were out diverting traffic at the first roundabout on the bypass, not letting anyone down into the city on the Belfast Road. So that was ok, cars had to go along the bypass. But about 200 yards past where the police were standing, at the Cloghanramer Road, there were wee rips standing at the side of the road throwing lit fireworks out into the middle of the road and under cars etc... Great to see the police keeping them under control.
Then second, as you climb the big hill from the Five Ways Roundabout up towards Altnaveigh, right at the side of the road, there was a huge bonfire and a big crowd standing watching it. [I thought it was the Eleventh night!] I certainly wasn't expecting to see anything like it.
Well, that concludes my update on Monday! It's amazing how many strange things can happen in the one day - and there was me thinking that strange things only happen when I was out and about with David McCarthy!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Then this morning in Chapel, I heard that one of our third year students lost his baby daughter yesterday. She was just a month old, and the news has hit the whole college community hard. After the long weekend break, things just aren't the same - from talking to people, it seems that we all had a good weekend off but it pales into insignificance after the news of this morning. So please hold John and Jane in your prayers as they face this difficult time.
I have lots more to write about, but today just isn't the time to do it... Normal service will resume at some stage soon.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Then we went for dinner last night, which was very nice, and then on to the Dundee Comteporary Arts centre place thingy, where we saw Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. What a great film!!! So very funny, and very enjoyable. And the dear vicar, bless him! Singing hymns and praying over his vegetables (as well as sprinkling holy water on them).
This morning, then, we went to Lynsey's church, which is the afore-mentioned Steeple church (which oddly enough, doesn't have a steeple, but instead has a broad tower). The minister was very good, as he started his lead-up to Christmas series looking at the seven signs of John's Gospel, which manifested Jesus' glory (from the prologue of John, 1:1-14). He started this, because there are only seven more Sundays before Christmas, which means we're getting close to is all now!
So this morning, it was the wedding at Cana, and how Jesus enters shameful situations to remove the shame, and about how Jesus comes to bring change and new life. The praise was also good, with a mix of traditional hymns (including the majestic paraphrase of Psalm 24 'Lift up your heads ye gates') and modern praise, led by a big band.
We're back tonight, as they're having a Mission reports night, where students who were abroad in the summer are going to report on their work. Louise (lynsey's sister) is going to be talking about Mozambique, and Lynsey is singing 'Light of the world' in Bulgarian.
Oh. and it is raining. Lots of rain. Heavy rain. Raining a lot! I suppose I should expect it, seeing we're in Scotland, but that's how it goes.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
It's now Saturday morning and the whole day lies free before us. What to do... No doubt Lynsey will have plans. We'll probably go exploring to see what there is in the town/city. ONe thing I am looking forward to seeing, though, is a big statue of Desperate Dan somewhere (cos Dundee is the home of DC Thompson, which produces the Beano and the Dandy and such other newspapers and stuff).
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Recently I have been feeling reasonably tired, which wasn't very good at all. So last night I was in bed before 10.30pm in an attempt to sort myself out. It seemed to go reasonably well, in that I got caught up on sleep I had probably missed, but I can distinctly remember at least two occasions when I got up out of bed, and stood up, then realised what I was doing and got back into bed. Rage!!! I know I had been waking before, but I think last night was the first time I actually got up out of bed. It certainly is not something I want to be doing a lot!
Today's Greek class went very well, and I was enjoying it, as we started learning some verbs now. But the homework will reveal if I'm actually learning any of it and getting used to it!
Today was the first Tuesday I cycled into Dublin for the classes at Trinity. I managed to get into the city in about 25 minutes, which I was pleased at, which gave me about an hour and a half before my class. So it was into the Bank of Ireland to check about my Laser card application (which they are now saying they know nothing about, despite them photocopying bank statements and getting me to fill in all the forms last week). Then on to get a hair cut in some basement place just off Grafton Street, which I'm not entirely happy with yet... maybe it was the way he blow dried my hair... hm... We'll see how it turns out tomorrow when I go for the gel and the slightly messy look I'm used to now!
Monday, October 24, 2005
Anyway... back to what I was going to write about. We're now in the 5th week here at College, and the work is starting to pile on. All our lecturers are starting to talk about the first dreaded 'e' word: Essays. The deadlines are now lining up, and in a slightly scary mode, some of the lecturers aren't going to give us essay questions, but instead make us think up our own question and then answer it. Hm... some thought required!
[By the way, the second dreaded 'e' word comes in May/June - exams!]
Suddenly there seems to be a bit of a gap emerging between the two biblical languages, and I'm preferring Greek to Hebrew. It seems to make more sense, and is less of a struggle to manage all the rules and alphabet. For example - the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, all consonants, but then there is a series of dots and strokes etc in and around the letters to signify consonants... whereas the Greek alphabet has 24 letters, all of which are reasonably normal!
Then tonight we had an official reception in Room 23. The inhabitant decided that his room was slightly bland, so he undertook a full renovation and redecoration, including painting, antique furniture, new dimmer switches and new light fittings, and all the rest. So he got Mrs Empey (the Principal's wife) in to do the official opening, cutting the ribbon etc... then held a reception in the room with nibbles and drinks etc... Very funny, altogether. I wonder how the video I took for him turned out!
So as you can see, we are using some measure of humour to get through the whole college experience. Thankfully, though, I haven't had any more hands in through my window recently!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Reaping and Sowing (Galatians 6:7). A sermon preached at Harvest Services in St John's Dromara on 9th October & Dromore Cathedral on 16th October
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,  for each one should carry his own load.
 Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.
 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
It is a great privilege to be with you this morning in Dromara, to share in your harvest thanksgiving. Harvest is one of my favourite times of the year, when we are reminded vividly of the love and care and provision of God, through the plenty he has blessed us with. It is wonderful to see all the decorations, to see the beauty, and the colours of all that God has made.
And yet, the question I want to pose to you this morning is this, and I hope you won't think it odd. How did the farmer get the potatoes, or the turnips? How was it that these things grew and developed? It's a rather simple question, and also brings a rather simple answer. We have these potatoes or whatever, because the farmer sowed and planted the seeds or the young plants. Then, when they were in the ground, they developed.
If you are sowing potatoes, you will harvest potatoes. That is a simple fact of life! Or, as Jesus put it in our gospel reading, 'Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?' (Matt 7:16). No! Whatever the farmer sows, is what he will expect to harvest.
And, do you know, this simple principle applies in so much of life. If you wanted roses to grow in your garden, you wouldn't plant tulip bulbs. The time to make the decisions about what to grow don't come at harvest time – it is too late then. The decisions about what to grow have to be made at seed time, when sowing the seeds. After the seeds have been planted and developed, they can then be harvested.
Just as this principle applies in agriculture and in the garden, it also applies to the spiritual and moral worlds. As John Stott remarks, 'If a man is faithful and conscientious in his sowing, then he can confidently expect a good harvest. If he sows 'wild oats', as we sometimes say, then he must not expect to reap strawberries!'
We are all sowing before a great harvest. Paul, writing to the Galatians, tells them plainly: 'A man reaps what he sows' (Gal 6:7). The harvest will come at the end of the world, when Jesus comes as Judge. As 2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us: 'For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.'
We are reminded of this in the hymn 'Come, ye thankful people, come'. Verse three tells us:
For the Lord our God will come, and shall take his harvest home,
From his field shall in that day, all offences purge away.
Give his angels charge at last, in the fire the tares to cast,
But the fruitful ears to store in his garner evermore.
If that Final Day is the harvest, then now is the time of sowing. Every action, and thought and word is a sowing of seed toward the final harvest. All things will be brought to account and settled, with the subsequent reward or punishment. But before we look at the outcomes of the final harvest, and how we should be sowing, it is vitally important to recognise that this harvest, this judgement will actually happen.
It was so important to Paul that he emphasises the statement 'A man reaps what he sows' with both a command and a statement. The command is: 'Do not be deceived', and the statement is that 'God cannot be mocked'.
Many people are deceived about this life, and about the eternal consequences of their actions. They think that it is fine to live as they want, that it doesn't matter. They have been blinded by sin, and by the devil, and cannot see that there will be a day of reckoning, when all things are brought to account. Or that you shouldn't get too religious, or worry about heaven or God or any of that sort of thing – because this life is all there is. They are led astray by the false promises of the material world and of pleasure.
'They sow their seeds thoughtlessly, and blind themselves to the fact that the seeds they sow will inevitably produce a corresponding harvest. Or they sow seed of one kind and expect to reap a harvest of another. They imagine that somehow they can get away with it. But this is impossible.'
Paul adds the statement: 'God cannot be mocked'. To believe these lies of the devil might fool yourself, but God cannot be fooled. Further, God is perfect justice, so to imagine that we could escape his justice is not only fooling ourselves, but also mocking God. 'They may go on sowing their seeds and closing their eyes to the consequences, but one day God Himself will bring in the harvest.
So now that we know that this harvest is sure, that the judgement is coming, what are the possible outcomes of the harvest? What is it we can expect to reap?
There are only two possible outcomes of the harvest, as verse 8 tells us: either destruction or eternal life. Or in other words, hell or heaven.
Which is it you want to aim for? Destruction, or eternal life? The passage we read this morning also tells us how we aim for these products or ends: 'The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life' (Gal 6:8).
You will note that both types of sowing are intended to please someone. You can either sow to please yourself (your sinful nature), and so follow your own values and feelings, and do what you want; or you can sow to please the Spirit, to do those things that God wants us to do. It is as if we have two fields in which we can sow, but only one bag of seed. If we sow in the field of our sinful nature, we will reap a harvest of destruction, whereas if we sow in the field of the Spirit, we will reap a harvest of eternal life.
How could we sow to please the sinful nature? It is all about our thoughts and deeds. When we think impure thoughts, and continue to nurse and brood on them, or when we harbour a grudge, or remember a grievance and so develop anger or rage. Or when we read or watch impure things in books or on TV, or take the safe, easy option, rather than doing what we ought to be doing, whether it be praying, or telling our neighbours and friends about our faith; or when we spend time in bad company which corrupts us. The New Bible Commentary suggests that 'if we devote our resources to satisfy the sinful nature rather than the Spirit, we will receive what is due to us' (NBC p 1220).
So if we do these things, and sow to please the sinful nature, then the result will be destruction.
On the other hand, if we sow to please the Spirit, then we will reap a harvest of eternal life. So the question stands, how can we please the Spirit? What can we do to ensure the harvest of eternal life?
The first way that we can please the Spirit is by coming to faith in Christ. We find this stated in 1 John 3:22,23: 'whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.' We cannot please the Spirit until we have been born again of the Spirit. So if you are here today, and are wanting to reap the harvest of eternal life on the last day, then you need to be born again today – you need to come to faith in Jesus Christ, and to trust in his blood.
It is only after we have been saved that we can then seek to please the Spirit through the way we live our life, and by the works we do. Hear this plainly today – I am not preaching a gospel of salvation by good works. Salvation is only through the blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross. As Ephesians 2 tells us, 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast' (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet Jesus says that 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent' (John 6:29).
The deciding factor in salvation is on this one work – whether you have trusted in Jesus or not. So I invite you today, if you have never come to faith before, to come and believe in Christ. Find forgiveness, and peace, and the hope of eternal life in heaven with Jesus today.
And yet, when we are saved, we must sow to please the Spirit, through the books we read, the company we keep, and the activities we do. But there are also those hidden things which no on else may know about, which are so important in sowing to please the Spirit. These include the regular practice of Bible reading and of prayer – things which while hidden, and may seem like an inconvenience, produce the fruits of the Spirit, through walking with the Spirit daily.
How will this work out in practice in your daily life? Well, you have choices to make. Say you have half an hour until bedtime. You might just sit and watch another half hour of TV, filling your mind with nonsense, or you could spend that time in prayer for yourself, your family and friends, and this church. You have choices to make about how you will use your money. Will you spend all your money on yourself, to get that latest widescreen tv, or the newest car? Or will you sow to please the Spirit, by seeking to share God's gifts with those who are in need? You can sow to please the sinful nature, or you can sow to please the Spirit.
Just before I finish this morning, I want to say something to those who are new on the Christian journey, or have been saved for a long time. It can be so easy to become weary, or disillusioned, or a bit frustrated by continuing in the faith. You might see those around you who have no fear of God, who seem to be prospering, at least, in the world's eyes. But our reading contains some important words of encouragement for you today, to keep going:
'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up' (Galatians 6:9). There is a time delay between the sowing of the seed, and the harvesting of the crops. But keep on going, and you will indeed receive the harvest of eternal life.
As we finish, then, the challenge is plain for you today – how will you respond? Will you continue to sow to please your sinful nature, knowing that you will reap destruction? Or will you start today to sow to please the Spirit, and be sure of that great harvest of eternal life?
'Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.'
Thursday, October 20, 2005
So we got there, and there were such a lot of cassocks and albs and stoles and all sorts... And we also found prayer-desks at less than half what the other place were quoting as their minimum price. And we all ended up buying at least something, due to the very good prices - so now my cassock is hanging on the back of the door...
But the craic we had was mighty! It was well worth going for the drive and spending time with people outside of classes or dinner, even if I was getting a lot of stick from Adrian (but then, what is new?).
Oh - and as I got back to the college, it turned out that Hunter-erguson had rung home to say that my measured robes are ready and waiting me in Crumlin!
Next Thursday I have to lead the morning serice in the Chapel for the first time, so be praying about that as I prepare for it, and as it happens.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
So the highlight of my week are definitely the weekends. Friday past, our lecturer let us end early, so before I was expecting to, I was able to head round the M50 and up the M1 back to Ulster! And it was first stop Belfast (yes, I know it is was away on past Dromore the other way, but it was important). There I was able to get into the various Christian bookshops and secondhand bookshops, to see about getting some of my books for the course, or just anything else that interested me.
Friday night was a bit of visiting - as Lesley has now moved into her own house in Kinallen, so I called in to see how she is getting on.
Then on Saturday it was a run over towards Bangor and a wander about while mum looked round the shops. Then I was in Cookstown in the evening to meet up with some friends who were very pleased, namely Stewart and Bryan, as they have been recommended by the Presbytery of Tyrone in the next stage of applications for ordinaed ministry. (PS - I hope this is ok me writing this, you two, and if not, tell me and I will remove it)
Sunday was a hectic day, being the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival in the Cathedral. And it was also 'Ordinands Sunday' as the two ordinands from the parish were preaching. Alan Barr did the morning service, and then I preached at the evening service. As usual, the text of the sermon will soon be available - it turned out to be a similar sermon to that of Dromara the week before, so I will publish a sort of hybrid version of the two.
The choir did two anthems, both by John Rutter, namely 'For the Beauty of the Earth' and 'A Gaelic Blessing', both of which seemed to turn out ok, although as I was singing, I can't really comment. Although from my vantage point of the Chancel during the evening service, they sounded good.
Then it was back to Dublin again, this time with the company of Alan, so we analysed the sermons and then discussed much more interesting things! So far this week in Dublin we have had lots of classes, and have now started on New Testament studies as well. We're looking at the Gospel of Mark.
One thing I'm quite pleased with is that so far I am managing to get on ok with both Hebrew and Greek. Although we're going to have to put a lot of time into it to try and remember all the vocab and grammar and stuff.
Anyways... that's my update for now. Will update again soon.
Oh - last night we had the House Meeting, when all the residents and staff come together to try and settle issues, or to make decisions for the community. One of the results of that meeting is that I am now the Respresentative for Proclamation Trust in the College. Proc Trust is the organisation that Stanley, and David and me went to in London during the summer. Hopefully I will be able to promote their work, and equip some of our students to preach the powerful Gospel of Christ more effectively.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I might have written about my small adventure on Monday as far as Rathmines, well, now it is serious. Yesterday we had just one class at 9am, and today our classes were cancelled, so I decided I would go out on the bike and do a bit of adventuring/exploring. So yesterday I went down into Dublin, and stayed about the south side, having a look about Grafton Street, and trying to open a bank account with a debit card, but still to no avail as I now need bank statements to show I don't go crazy with spending.
Today I crossed over to the Northside, and first stop was Irish Church Missions, on Bachelor's Walk. I called into the bookshop, and then Eddie Coulter, the Superintendent, got David Martin to give me the full guided tour land we had a chat about SOCM. This is a new initiaitive being held in ISM, and starting tomorrow, which is called the School of Christian Ministry. Through the course, we will look at areas of ministry including preaching and teaching, discipling, talking about our faith, and personal holiness and character building. I think I'm going to go along, to boost and add to the 'training' I'm getting in Trinity.
So after I left ICM, I had a wander about the north side, and in through the Henry Street shopping area. I didn't buy anything, though, except for a book on the cross which I found in a secondhand bookshop. Then I cycled back out to Rathmines and called in to the Sunday School Resource Centre, where I spent a voucher we had received for there, then came back a slightly different route which avoids the killer hill between Rathmines and Rathgar.
I might just check again with Adrian what route he takes into and out of the city, to see if there is a better route - so Adrian, when you're reading this, comment and let me know... if I haven't been in your room (or you in mine) listening to you ranting on the way you always do!
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
So we're now attempting to learn not one, but two new languages at the one time. Now, admitedly, it is my own choice to do both Greek and Hebrew, but this is our only opportunity for doing the 'Intro to x' classes, and I think it will be important to be able to handle the Biblical texts in their original languages, to assist my preaching and teaching in the years to come. So we have: aleph, bet, gimel, dalet, he, vav, zayin, het, tet, and so on in Hebrew, and alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, and so on in Greek... aaaaaaaaagh! The recommendation of the lecturers is 10 or 20 minutes per day on each language to learn them, rather than cramming for the wek in one or two hours. But I am slightly concerned I'll be all jumbled up and get the alphabets mixed up. We'll see how it goes though.
In Old Testament this week we have been looking at similarities between the Hebrew Scriptures and other 'myths' from the middle East talking about creation etc, so I know that this whole area of study will be interesting and difficult, as I try to make sense of how it all fits with the knowledge that God's Word is truth, and that it is sufficient for our salvation.
Other than that, I am enjoying college life - tomorrow we have one class at 9am, and then on Thursday our lectures have been cancelled so it is a completely free day. So I can see a few wee trips out on my bike around parts of Dublin, or at least the city centre, to get to know it alll a bit better, and to have some time away from the college. If only it wouldn't rain! This past few days the rain has been fairly constant, and it means we get wet when we're out and about (yes, imagine that... people get wet in the rain! - and Lynsey said my blog was deep???). I do have a waterproof coat, but might have to invest in some decent waterproof trousers too, so that I stay a bit dryer when cycling!
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Well, it had to come... our honeymoon was over, and it was back to the thrills and spills of supporting Northern Ireland at a windy Windsor Park today.
In a fairly evenly matched game, we certainly had plenty of chances, yet the problem was that we were also exposed at the back, with holes appearing in the defences when we progressed. And so it was that we found ourselves 2-0 down coming up to halftime. And then the penalty that shouldn't have been. But thankfully, it was saved by big Maik Taylor.
So half time and 2-0 down... What could Lawrie Sanchez do to inspire the troops?
I'm not sure what he did, but lo and behold, Northern Ireland at the start of the second half were like a different side, pushing forward, making chances and putting pressure on the Welsh defence. For what seemed like ages and ages we were camped at the edge of the penalty box. And YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! Two goals within five minutes of the re-start meant that we were back to 2-2!!!!! Goals from Keith Gillespie (only his second goal in 11 years), and Steve Davis (our man of the match), meant that we were back in the game.
After that, it was back to the fairly even game, with both sides creating chances. And then the ref gave a free kick on the edge of our box, which was a blatant dive... and Giggs stepped up. And goal. 3-2 down, but that's ok - we still had about 20 minutes to get another equaliser and maybe even a winner. In another period of intense pressure, where we got about 6 corners in a row, with lots of shots etc, and two penalty claims that were both refused... and then the last few moments when we also sought to get the equaliser, but it just didn't come. 3-2 down. After the euphoria of beating England, we succumb to lowly Wales. Let's just hope we can get a result in Austria on Wednesday night, and bring the World Cup Qualifiers to a reasonable end, and look forward with renewed confidence to the next European Qualifiers!
On another note relatign to today's game, the crowd was quite disrespectful during the Welsh National Anthem... Neil was saying something about there being a history of the Welsh booing during 'The Queen' at previous games, but I didn't think it was right to boo or sing during their anthem.
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Thursday, October 06, 2005
However, we also said goodbye to Kevin, the College Chaplain, who is leaving us to go back to America, to take up a new post in Philadelphia. So soon after saying hello to him, we're now saying goodbye, but he seems to have been well liked by the returning students and will be missed.
Today we're finishing off our Communications module, which involves recording a radio Thought for the Day thing... hm... maybe I should be thinking about it and writing it, rather than sitting ranting into cyberspace... This morning we were doing interviews between ourselves as if we were on the radio, introducing the other person and asking them questions on a particular topic. I was the first interviewer, and seemed to get on ok... but then I was involved in a set-up... Damienwas interviewing me, but the tutor told me to be mono-syllabic and to be boring and say very little (yeah, I know... what's new there?) and Damien struggled through the interview for the first four or five questions, then the tutor began laughing and the game was up! The last one was also a set-up, where Stephen was to interview Martin on his teaching career, yet launched into a series of questions on 'the church and the media' - to see Martin's face was hilarious, but, to his credit, he continued on well and answered the questions put to him!
The good thing is that if we finish the module today, then it will be another Thursday night jaunt up the M1 and home to Dromore, which means a nice relaxing Friday to do all the things I won't get done on Saturday, because Northern Ireland are playing Wales in the World Cup Qualifiers. Let's hope we can repeat the form we had against England, and manage to win another match (and get to finish ahead of Wales in the qualifying group).
Anyways... I'll finish here and go and pack for the weekend!
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Tomorrow might be a totally different story. We'll see!
I haven't been updating since Saturday night. Sunday night we took our YF to Stewartstown (cue everyone: 'Where?') for a joint YF meeting. There, after a good bit of catering by the fellas (pointed out by Donna), we went upstairs for some praise and then a talk by Dr Andy Bell, who was in South Africa over the summer with a team from Exodus in Portstewart. It was a very good evening, and hopefully we'll have our friends from Stewartstown back to Dromore some time soon.
However Sunday night was a hectic night, in that I set off for Dublin after getting back from Stewartstown... but I was in Dublin before midnight, which was good timing! But then, I stupidly went visiting to Adrian's room, where I was until just after 1am... which meant that I didn't sleep much that night!
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
The journey home was rough enough. Maybe I was slightly naive, but I thought the traffic in the centre of Dublin would be cleared up by about 6.45pm or 7pm... but it was bumper to bumper going nowhere in about Camden, heading towards Dame Street, still on the southside of the river. So I tok a series of diversions in round wee streets (frankly not knowing much where I was for most of it), ending up in Crumlin, and getting out to the M50... where the traffic was again going very slowly.
Another question: Why is it that no matter which queue I join at the toll bridges (and I normally go for the quick drop-your-money-in-the-bucket lane), it will always go slow, probably because someone has dropped their money on the road, or they don't put enough in or whatever???
It's not that I'm not enjoying Dublin - it is great being with lots of people - actually, I'm enjoying the community and eating meals with people better than I imagined I would, and I'm enjoying having my own wee space, my own room in Dublin, where other students can drop in and chat, or from whcih I can go and chat in other people's rooms. But it's nice to be away from the atmosphere for a few days - it can seem intense always being around lots of people.
Come Sunday night it will be back down again - next week we're doing a module on Communications, including making a 'Thought for the Day' type radio programme, and some sort of audio-visual presentation! Now that should be interesting!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Some of the highlights include having my own space in the college, my room which has posters and things from home, which is good - it's somewhere to retire to, and relax and reflect. The mealtimes are good as well - decent food, and I've been able to sit with different people at most mealtimes, so that I get to know most of them. I've also been elected as Year Rep, which is basically the representative or councillor for the year group.
Today we were out for an almost sort of retreat day in the mountains overlooking Dublin, and it was a great venue to be away from college for a wee bit, and to continue in our learning out there.
I'm finding it an interesting experience with the three chapel services per day - they are normally a variety of morning prayer, evening prayer, compline, praise services, and last night there was sung compline. That was rather interesting, but a bit hard to get into the way of singing the whole service.
But we're still in the first pre-term week, and lectures are still a week and a half off... we'll see how it goes then.
Monday, September 26, 2005
This afternoon I was free, so checked out the LUAS service into the city centre. Now, I won't be teaching you Irish words every time - as this is about the full extent of my own Gaelige - but luas means 'speed'. And it is indeed a reasonably speedy service - within half an hour I had went from St Stephen's Green to my room in college. I also took the opportunity to meet up with a friend from uni for coffee, which was good as we hadn't seen other in a while. But then, the good Dublin weather broke, and the rain wasn't ordinary! Very heavy... so by the time I had walked the mile from the LUAS stop at Windy Arbour (sounds very grand, doesn't it) to the college, I was like a drowned rat!
My night time patterns are getting there - although I have been waking at odd times the past few nights - 5.30am one night, and a couple of times last night!!! But they will settle down, and at least I haven't been sleepwalking yet!
Sunday, September 25, 2005
This afternoon we had the afternoon free, so I went out for a walk along the Dodder River, which flows along behind the college. And you'll never guess what I encountered in the river... a rhinocerous! Well, okay, it wasn't a real one, but it was a metal statue type thing of a rhino in the middle of the river... very unusual!
This evening we had the opening Communion service, after the returning students arrived - they all seem to be a good bunch, and we're getting to know them, which is all good! Then since, we have just been chatting, although Compline (a short service at the end of the day) is in about 15 minutes, so I'd better go and see what is happening.
Tomorrow the fun stuff begins, with us getting various introductions and then going to Overseas House for stuff.
Earlier I got talking to Stephen on msn, so it's good to still have those contacts with the parish while I'm away - and we're sorry to be saying goodbye to Neville Willerton, who is moving to England, to Shrewsbury to work in a church plant. But I hear that as a leaving present he got a photograph of the Healy goal against England (Neville being English), so he can remember that famous moment for a long time! (So long as it isn't used on the dartboard in the church plant!
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
On other matters - thank you, anonymous, for your comment on my spelling. I never check my spelling when I type the blog - it just goes as it goes... so there will inevitably be some mistakes, but you can still read it!
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Earlier today I was in Dublin, moving some stuff into my new room, and purchased a mobile phone for my time in the south... But that's all I have to report on today!
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
1 Cor. 6:1-20 If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?  Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!  Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!  I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?  But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers!  The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?  Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.  Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  "Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.  "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh."  But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.  Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.
I particularly want to look at verses 9-11. In them, Paul makes the declaration that sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God - by naming specific examples of sinners... We, all of us, fit into some of those categories - have you ever put something above God - to make an idol of something? Ever stolen anything, or been greedy? So what will we do? How can we inherit the kingdom of God?
Well, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, to those who have been saved. So how did it happen? Notice two things that struck me, and are the key to the passage:
1) The past tense: 'And that is what some of you were'
2) The glorious 'BUT': Paul obviously didn't have someone correcting his grammar (although, of course he wasn't writing in English, but indulge me on this one for a minute...), because he starts a sentence with the word 'but' - 'But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified'. Thanks be to God who has provided for our washing, sanctifiying and justification through what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
Those in Corinth were no longer what they were, because 'if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation' (2 Corinthians 5:17). You, reader, if you are in Christ, then you also were washed, sanctified and justified. And if you are still in your sins, then come to Christ, and find that salvation freely offered to you.