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!