Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year in absentia

Firstly, can I wish you all a very happy, peaceful and blessed New Year. However, I probably won't be able to blog for the next week or two as my laptop has broken down... none of the keys are working, so I can't actually type anything, or even get into the computer. So off to the manufacturers it is for the laptop... Thankfully I can have emergency access in Dromara, should I need to check emails. (That is, if Lynsey allows me for to get on the internet!)

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

Another Seasonal Message: Titus 2

Remember what I said on Christmas Eve about finding things you never really noticed before when reading certain passages in particular seasons? Well, here's another! In fact, it first came to light to me on Christmas Eve at the Communion service in the Cathedral, but these past few days I have been reading the Epistle to Titus, and it has struck me again, just what this current season of Christmas is all about.

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

Lazy Hallion-ness

Yeah, ok, so I admit it. I am a lazy hallion. Not all the time, really, but just today. For no particular reason. But today, I definitely was. You see, I only rose from my bed at approximately 14:00... Shock horror! But I am on holidays, and I didn't sleep that whole time. I distinctly remember hearing the Simpsons being on TV (although I couldn't tell you anything about the episode), and I saw part of the cult film, The Goonies, and heard part of Neighbours. But sure, I'm on holiday, so I might as well take the good of it while it lasts! Just over a week to go now, and then it is back to porridge in Dublin for another few weeks until I'm off for the 'Easter holidays' at the start of March (even though Easter isn't until way later). And still those two essays haven't been done - the 'my view of pastoral ministry' one, and the Old Testament analysis of the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon according to the Biblical record found in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.

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


So there we are, Christmas is but a distant memory again for another time. Boxing Day was spent in Dromara, with the Wilky's for another full Christmas Dinner and family time. We also went for a bit of an adventure up Slieve Croob.

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

Christmas Night

So here we are... Christmas Night and it is all nearly over for another year. Today has been busy busy, starting with last night! Following a near disaster in the kitchen (whereby, after me making my dinner, I proceeded to turn the cooker off whilst the turkey was being cooked... whoops! Thankfully it was quickly discovered by the rest of the family). Then it was off to Dromara for a wee while in with the Wilky's, then back to Dromore with Lynsey in our house for a while before we went to church. Unaccompanied carol singing and First Communion of Christmas - what more could you want? Oh, especially when it was teamed with a couple of fire hazards when the candles stuck in the branches set fire to the said branches!!! Then back to Dromara in the freezing fog to leave Lynsey off home.

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

An Advent Thought on Christmas Eve

Recently I've been reading 1 & 2 Timothy, and have been richly blessed through the reading of them. I'm not saying that my eyes would normally miss some parts of what is contained in the Bible (well, actually, that may well be true...), but reading parts of the Bible during specific seasons of the year can help bring out new features which I haven't noticed before.

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.

To this:

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

DDYC Website relaunch!

Just a quick posting to alert you to the fact that the DDYC Website is being relaunched today (Friday)... go along and see what it is all about.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The longest day...

So here we are, with a wee bit of time while I am online to update the blog a bit better. But with so much to talk about, it's hard to know what to deal with first! So I think I'll make you all just a wee bit sick... We're coming very close now to the Winter Solstice, which is the longest day of the year - yet today has seemed to be the longest day for me, as I haven't seen Miss Wilky all day!

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


Boys oh! It seems that I've been on the go fairly constantly since Lyns got back from Dundee... So much has happened since my last posting, and I really should do a proper one - but that might happen tomorrow when I have a bit of time.

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 Provocative Church' by Graham Tomlin - a book review

Normally when the words 'provocative' and 'church' are used in the same sentence, the thought that springs to mind is some small sect bring controversial about an issue, or perhaps even the Anglican Communion and the debate about the Windsor Report... But I've just finished reading a book of that title: 'The Provocative Church', and it has inspired me to a lot of thinking.

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

Holiday Day One

Day One of my holidays is nearly over - for the purposes of holiday-counting, we are on weekdays only, seeing that we always have the weekends off! And to my shame, I have to report that no work has been done on the essays yet. On the other hand, the big pile of post and letters and papers that had been sitting on the floor beside my bed has been sorted and cleared!

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

Last night in college!!!

Pardon me for these wee almost pointless updates, but I feel I have to type something, as this is a positive way to spend time and even process some of my thoughts.

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

Last week of term...

It's hard to imagine, but we're now halfway through the last week, and so far, no work has been done in terms of those two essays hovering over my head... Yes, it is probably my own fault, but I'm going to blame the Carol Service and other festivities here in the college. Monday night we were in Choir Practice, then I had a chat with Adrian, and then I came over all tired and wasn't fit for much else. And last night we had choir practice, then the resident first years and our systematics lecturer were painting branches and twigs white.

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


After coming under some pressure from a certain young lady, who has pointed out that it is now December, and I haven't posted 'since last month', I felt that I was under a certain obligation to post something. Even though the certain young lady hadn't posted anything since September until yesterday! Ah well... these things you just have to do... even with a mountain of work to do, you have to keep the young lady happy!

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...