Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 2010 Review

This is the 25th blog post of July, the 188th posting of this year so far. Here's some of what has been happening in my life on the blog this month:

July is an important month of cultural events in Northern Ireland, with some thoughts on the Twelfth, Londonderry's culture award, and a Belfast photowalk. There were also family celebrations for a wedding and a wedding anniversary.

There were a few books read this month, with reviews of Sovereign by CJ Sansom, Bible Delight by Christopher Ash, The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham, and The Unheeded Christ by David Cook. By my reckoning, that's 30 books so far this year - an average of one per week, so I'm hopefully on course to read 50 books this year.

My preaching included a dreaded fortnight of preacher's choices, so my sermons were from Luke 15:1-10 (audio), Luke 15:11-32 (audio), Hebrews 10, and Mark 9 (audio). We also had another study in Zephaniah, Shameless.

In other news, I thought about being in London on the day of 7/7 five years on, reflected on a year as a Twit, and looked at lifestyle choices in advertising. There was also a McFlurry's McLinks, the 15th variety to be released.

My favourite post this month was on lifestyle choices, and my 365 photo of July was today's:
212/365:2010 Drum Major

Friday, July 30, 2010

A City of Culture for All?

Very recently, it was cheers all round for the Derry, Londonderry, Legenderry victory in the UK City of Culture awards for 2013. The people of the city had combined to present a unified front, recognising divisions, yet also the shared space with its cultural richness. A great success for the Maiden City, and one that bodes well for 2013 with an influx of visitors anticipated as well as premier cultural and social events being held in the city. A fitting marking of the 400th anniversary of the charter to begin the building of the city by The Honourable, The Irish Society in 1613.

Yet there were always unspoken concerns that not all cultures are equally welcomed within and without the famous Derry's walls. Just last August, there was an attempt to burn a Protestant Bishop's portrait on a bonfire.

Burning the Bishop?

Today the BBC are reporting that the minority culture is again being attacked in the city, in the run up to the Maiden City Festival. Another historical figure has been targeted, this time the (remains) of the statue of Rev George Walker, one of the joint governors of the city during the siege of 1688-89.


The BBC NI website has a picture from today, with one arm completely off following the attack. So what message does this send out from the UK City of Culture? That some cultures are less welcomed? Even one of the central cultures within the city itself?

It could, of course, be the work of a small group of 'activists' wanting to be seen to strike a blow against the Protestant community. Regardless of how many were involved, though, the message is loud and clear - will this be the theme of the City of Culture year?

It's good to see that Pat Ramsey of the SDLP has condemned the attack, as he said: "The people of Derry will be appalled to learn of this act of wanton vandalism.

"Respect for different cultures and traditions are essential as we strive to build a shared society and promote Derry as a shared city," he said.

"This type of reckless and thoughtless behaviour sends out the wrong message especially at this time of year when the streets of our city are packed with tourists from all over the globe.

"Derry has been in the media spotlight for so many good reasons lately we will not let anyone drag us back to the past," Mr Ramsey added.

Let's hope that all cultures are respected and welcomed in the run up to 2013.

Book Review: The Unheeded Christ

David Cook begins his book by citing another book, The 100. That book surveyed the 100 most influential people from world history, a ranking in which the Lord Jesus came third. Why not first? Because the author thinks that even among Christians, Jesus doesn't have sufficient influence, due to many of his teaching being disregarded. For Cook, Principal of Syndey Missionary and Bible College, Jesus is the Unheeded Christ - heard, but not heeded.

Originating in Principal's Hour sermons from the college, the book's transcriptions really capture Cook's lively personality as he teaches from the Bible. The sermons are a series from the Gospel according to Matthew, taking some ethical teachings which are unheeded, some parables and miracles which are unheeded, as well as the teaching on punishment, hell, and Jesus' return. I've previously heard David teach at a Proclamation Trust Student Ministers' Conference five years ago (during 7/7 in London), and he is a great teacher and communicator.

Taking each Bible passage, he helpfully puts it in its immediate context, as well as discussing the issues arising through the rest of the Scriptures. His stories and illustrations are well-chosen, and really do assist the message, pressing the urgency of the claims of Christ for Christians to obey. The 13 chapters were quickly consumed, but the putting of this teaching into practice will be a longer-term effort. Indeed, this may be a chapter-per-week type of book to work through the issues being raised and applying them to your life.

I would heartily recommend this book, with the sure confidence that having read it, Jesus will no longer be the Unheeded Christ.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lifestyle Choices

Yesterday as I was having my lunch, I caught a few minutes of TV. Trying to avoid those Loose Women (who terrify me!), I flicked through the Freeview schedule, and saw the last minutes of My Wife and Kids. The programme ended, and up popped on the screen a little funny caption from the station - Virgin 1. Earlier, it had said 'Don't move' and then after a few ads, 'You're still there.' But this one was perhaps the most honest - perhaps even too honest:

Now three minutes of lifestyle choices.

The advertisements on the channel are portrayed as lifestyle choices. Things like a new phone, a holiday, car insurance, just lifestyle choices. But all pushing in one direction - towards materialism. For the TV channel and its advertisers, really there's no choice in lifestyle - everyone should be pushing for materialism. The only choice is which car to drive or which phone to use.

Lifestyle choices, but biased towards more complicated, more expensive, more extravagant living. Surely for a choice they should also show ads promoting a simpler life, service of others, reducing consumption. But then they don't make a profit.

So will we buy the advertisers lies that the only lifestyle choice is for materialism? Other lifestyles are available. Don't be bought and sold for a lie.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sermon Audio: Mark 9: 30-37

Here's the mp3 file from Sunday's sermon on true greatness, as the disciples debated among themselves about Who's The Greatest?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review: The Ever-Loving Truth

Voddie Baucham is a big guy with a big personality, and a powerful Christian apologist in a hostile culture. Last November he spoke at the Northern Ireland Ministry Assembly, and made a big impact with his forthright style and cultural analysis. In this book, written back in 2004, Voddie examines the cultural opposition to Christianity before discussing what Christians should be doing in response.

In some senses, we've come full circle, to a similar culture to that of the early church. 'Much of what we are experiencing in post-Christian America is eerily similar to what the early church experienced in pre-Christian Rome.' The thing is that our response to this culture is so different to the first Christians - they challenged, we conform. Indeed, the problem is more stark than that - 'In many ways the church has begun to look too much like the prevailing culture and is therefore unable to provide a viable alternative.'

The three suppositions of our culture are relativism, tolerance and pluralism, which he discusses in turn before showing how they are myths. However I sometimes found his arguments hard to follow, with occasionally weak arguments. His purpose was spot on, but his arguments were weaker than (for example) Don Carson's in his 'Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church.' He then moves on to survey the media's portrayal of Christians, with a number of stereotypes, never very positive.

In perhaps his strongest section, Voddie moves on to present an exposition of 2 Peter 1 on why we believe the Bible (which he had preached at NIMA, and which inspired my own sermon a couple of months ago), as well as the essential truth about Jesus. It was a good reminder of the 'fundamentals' of the faith, if that word can be used in a positive sense.

However, I did feel that sometimes I wasn't following what was being said, due to it being primarily an examination of American culture. For us Brits/Irish/outsiders, while we can find the cultural analysis helpful to some degree, it was very American. Further, Voddie seems to be writing with a certain political agenda regarding affirmative action and racial politics in the US, which may or may not be a greater influence than the gospel at certain points.

All in all, those interested in apologetics and culture could well find this useful, but really, it would be most useful for American Christians.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sermon: Mark 9: 30-37 The Greatest Disciple

It’s the most anticipated night of the year. The venue is ready, the stage is set. Famous people are getting out of stretch limos, the cameras are out, flash bulbs popping along the red carpet. It’s just like the Oscars, or the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, except this is the Greatest Christian of the Year Awards. Lots of famous Christians have arrived and take their seats, nervously waiting to see if they’ll get the award this year.

There are bishops and archbishops, politicians, celebrities, each one thinking that they will pull it off and win the Greatest Christian of the Year Award. But there’s a shock when the golden envelope is opened, and no one has ever heard of the winner. In fact, they haven’t even turned up at the venue, too humble to think it could be them. Too busy getting on with the work of serving people in need, reaching people with the good news about Jesus.

While there’s no such thing as the ‘Greatest Christian of the Year Award’ - at least as far as I know of (!) there are probably moments when you would put yourself forward for the title. Running through that list of reasons (at least in your head), and looking down on all those lesser Christians who don’t quite meet your standards. It might seem ludicrous, and yet it probably happens more than you would admit.

You see, it even happened to the first disciples of Jesus. These were the twelve, who spent the most time with Jesus, living, walking, talking, working with him for three years, and one day, as they’re walking along, they indulge in this Christian of the Year award - look at verse 34. ‘They had argued with one another about who was the greatest.’ Not the greatest footballer, or the greatest at tiddliwinks, but the greatest disciple.

You can see them walking along, Jesus out in front leading his disciples towards Capernaum (and ultimately on his way to Jerusalem), and the disciples ‘discussing’, trying to show how they are greater than each other. Each convinced that they are a better disciple than the one next to them.

But Jesus gives them a shock as he teaches about true greatness. We’re going to see what he says under two short headings - 1. The path to greatness begins by knowing the servant king (30-31); 2. The path to greatness is through service (32-37).

So first, the path to greatness is by following the servant king. No matter when we’re reading something from the Bible, we need to see where it fits, both in terms of the book it’s in, and also the Bible as a whole. Mark’s Gospel is one of the four eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, his life story. Here in Mark 9, Jesus has been with the twelve disciples for around two and a half years, and they’ve seen him teaching the crowds, healing the sick, calming the wind and the waves, feeding over 5000 hungry people with a few loaves and a few small fish, and many other miracles.

Having seen all these things, the disciples are slowly coming to realise who Jesus is - the Son of God, God’s King promised from long ago. Now that they know who Jesus is, he moves to the next stage of his mission, and he’s on the way to Jerusalem. Once already, he has predicted what will happen to him (we saw that in 8:31). Look at verse 31. Jesus is teaching his disciples, and here’s what he says to them: ‘The Son of Man (that’s a title for Jesus) is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.’

Long before it happens, Jesus is able to say what will happen when he gets to Jerusalem. He will be arrested, tried, crucified, and killed. Jesus, the Son of God, will give up his life for us. Jesus, the one who created all things, the one whom angels praised, the one who was seated in heaven, yet he gave up all that to come to this earth to die for us. The apostle Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.’ (2 Cor 8:9)

Jesus, the Son of God came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45) The first step on the path to being a great disciple is to become a disciple - by seeing what Jesus has done for us - giving up all he had for us, so that we can receive what he has - and trusting in Jesus. It’s what we declared earlier on, as we said what it is we believe about God.

Jesus is talking about how he will shortly die for his disciples, and they still don’t understand. They just don’t get what he’s talking about - so is it any wonder they turn to argue about which of them is the greatest disciple? You see, the fact that Jesus gave his life for us means that Jesus is the truly great one. He is the one who deserves all the praise - we are humbled straight away by seeing what it took for us to be saved, nothing less than the death of the Son of God. Do you know this Jesus today? Have you realised what he did, for you? Have you thanked him for dying in your place? Asked him to save you, so that your sins are removed, so that you can look forward to eternity with him?

The path to greatness begins by knowing the servant king. It’s hardly surprising then that if our king is known as the servant king, that those who follow him are also called to service. 2. The path to greatness is through service. All of us naturally think that the path to greatness is through promoting yourself, putting yourself first - your needs, wants, desires, skills, talents. The pressure to achieve is immense - whether it’s in school exams, or the biggest house, or the best paid job.

But Jesus says that the path to greatness, being a truly great follower of Jesus, is to put everyone else before yourself. ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ It just sounds so strange to our ears - it’s the opposite of what culture and society and family and friends tell us. If anyone would be first - yes, we all want that! He must be last of all and servant of all. The way to be first is to put yourself last. [It reminds me of a tractor race I recently heard about - it’s all about the slowest tractor over the course, while still moving forward - to win, you have to come last!] To put the needs of others before your own, to serve others. To follow (in other words) the example of the servant king.

Diotrephes may not be a name familiar to you, but he was one of the early Christians, and he’s mentioned in the Bible. Sadly though, it’s not for his devotion, or service, or being a great disciple. Rather John writes ‘Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.’ He likes to put himself first - but he wasn’t doing it the way Jesus says - rather through the way the world does.

It’s completely counter-cultural, but it is the way of Jesus. To consider others better than yourself, to look out for others, to put them ahead of yourself, to serve people.This is the way of the cross.

Jesus then goes on to show an example of what this will look like. He takes a child, puts him in the middle of them, then lifts him in his arms. At this time, children were maybe not even seen and not heard, because they were considered to be the lowest of society, not real full people yet, just children. Yet Jesus serves the child, welcomes him, takes him into his arms. Will we reach out to the lowest, the least, the lost? Jesus’ final words in these verses are a bit surprising, and, to be honest, a little hard to get your head around. I’ve struggled a bit all week with them, because of the amazing truth they reveal.

They are words of grace, and encouragement for us who are called to serve and put the needs of others before our own. They are amazing, because our acts of service are not missed by heaven, they are noticed, and there is great blessing which comes through service.

‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.’ There’s a lot of receiving there, but let me summarise what Jesus is saying. That whatever we do in Jesus’ name - whatever we do for him, all our acts of service - when we serve others (like this child, like someone who needs our help, like anyone), it’s as if we’re serving Jesus himself - that it’s as if we were welcoming Jesus, but not only that - when we welcome Jesus, we welcome the one who sent Jesus - God the Father himself.

It’s like the parable Jesus tells of the sheep and the goats - ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers (that is, a Christian), you did it to me.’ When we serve one another, we are serving Jesus; when we welcome one another, we are welcoming Jesus.

Perhaps today you realise that you’re living for yourself. You desire to be great and pursue that through money, sport, sex, intellect, or whatever it is. You put yourself first in your priorities. Think again about the Lord Jesus, the one who had it all, but gave it all up to give his life for you. The servant king died so that you might live.

Or perhaps you’re a Christian, you’re trusting in Jesus, but want to be known as a great Christian. Stop trying to do that by putting yourself first. Look around at those in need. Serve your brothers and sisters. True greatness is not achieved by the world’s standards - but by knowing the servant king, and following in his ways. ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 25th July 2010.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

McFlurry's McLinks (15)

Last month we had a World Cup special, so lots of goodies to link to in this portion of McFlurry's McLinks:

On Bible study, Peter Whyte asked why we need chapters and verses. He also linked to some articles on reading. étrangère argues for slow reading. The Ugley Vicar divided Hebrews for preaching.

Abraham Piper had some pews for sleeping. Mark Meynell had the words of a more realistic hymn: Backward Christian Soldiers.

On ministry, David Keen (who has sadly quit blogging) has some helpful tips on weddings. Kevin DeYoung looks at the minister's toolbox. Meanwhile Irish Calvinist takes Rick Warren to task on style.

Mark Meynell had an interesting piece on the omniscience of Google. Irish Calvinist reported on a church removing a cross to be less offensive.

étrangère laments the New Atheists. Stafford Carson linked to an article on the digital age. All Souls are thinking through their website - perhaps your church website needs to be thought about too?

On photography, iced coffee had a very clever bar chart of the most popular beers during the recent Twelfth parade in Belfast.

We always have an interesting video, and this month we have the one-man choir:

Sermon Audio: Luke 15: 11-32

Here's the sermon mp3 from Sunday morning past, preaching on the parable of the Prodigal Son, or as I called it, The Lost Sons.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sermon: Hebrews 10: 19-25 Since We Have, Let Us

If I were to ask you today ‘what do you have’, you might think it a terribly rude question. You might turn your mind to your house, possessions, bank accounts, family, friends or that special ornament that sits in the living room and reminds you of someone special. You see, while some of us may not have much, we can all quickly put together a list of the various things that we have.

But if I were to ask that question, would you think of spiritual blessings too, or would your focus only be on the material things you have? The reason I ask is because our reading from Hebrews today is a great reminder of the spiritual blessings we have been given - as the writer says ‘we have’ access and a priest.

The letter to the Hebrews can sometimes be seen as difficult to understand. All that stuff about blood and sacrifices and priests and temples and tabernacles and Melchizedek - we just don’t see what it’s all about. I’m going to let you in on a secret today - our verses are a great summary of what Hebrews is all about. You notice the very first word in verse 19: therefore. Having reached the climax of his argument, the writer is summarising all that has gone before, as he reminds us what we have, and then what we need to do about it.

So first of all, what we have. 1. ‘Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus’. This is all about access. Two years ago we were in London, and we were standing outside Buckingham Palace waiting for the changing of the guard. The Queen may well have been seated in her throneroom, but I wasn’t going to get anywhere near. The big walls and fences, the policemen, the guards, the courtiers, the corgis - all of these things would be stopping me from coming in to see the Queen.

The Old covenant was the same - God dwelt in the holy of holies, but only the high priest could enter once a year. The ordinary people were at least three sections removed (sorry ladies, you were further back!). But because of Jesus’ death (his blood), we now have access to God, to come right into his presence, the holy place, the throneroom of heaven, the seat of the king of kings.. If you are a believer today, then you have confidence to approach God whenever you want.

But more than that, 2. We also ‘have a great priest over the house of God.’ Jesus Christ is our priest, the one who prays for us, bringing us before the throne, the one who secures our blessing. Sometimes it can feel as if you have no one for you. As if no one cares about you. The Prayer Diary is a great way of praying for our church family, remembering certain people each day, and if you haven’t got one, then take one with you - and if you’re not in it, then tell me and I’ll include you in the next one. But more than the people of God praying for you - Jesus Christ is interceding for you!

These are the things we have - confidence to enter the holy places, and a priest praying for us. Both come to us because of Jesus, and his death on the cross. As we celebrate his death in the Communion, we celebrate the things that we have through him. But the writer isn’t finished. Yes, he has summarised all that we have, but we must do something about it. So the application is given to us in the passage. Look at how it is written: ‘Therefore, since we have... and since we have... (verse 22 starts with:) let us’. I call this the ‘lettuce’ passage, because we have three lettuces all in a row (4 in the NIV!)

Firstly, 1. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. We have this access, so make sure you’re using it! Don’t come fearfully, if you are trusting in Jesus, but come boldly - true heart, full assurance. Look up (to God)

Secondly, 2. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Look forward (to our hope). Later in the letter, we see what this looking forward without wavering is all about, when we’re told to look to Jesus as we run (12:2). How can we be sure about the future? Because he who promised is faithful. God does not change his mind, what he has said is sure. Those poor travellers hoping to go to Turkey and Greece with Goldtrail were left stranded, because the firm’s promise of a holiday failed. But God keeps his word. All the good promises he has given us, that we will dwell with him, forever, can not be taken away from us.

Thirdly, 3. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. We’ve looked up, looked forward, and now we also have to look around, at our brothers and sisters. Christianity isn’t about getting a golden ticket to glory and then waiting in the departure lounge; it’s about being part of the family of God, helping one another, supporting one another, encouraging one another - because some are giving up on meeting together (a dangerous situation, trying to be a lone ranger Christian); and because the Day is approaching.

So how are we doing based on this passage today? Do you first of all realise just what you have - immensely better than your bank account or your prized possession. We have access and a priest. All because of Jesus’ death. And then what are you doing about it? Are you confidently coming? Are you trusting the promises? Are you encouraging your brothers and sisters?

The Christian life is not easy. I don’t have to tell you that. But it can be a great encouragement, a great help to have a brother or sister quietly remind you of the promises. Don’t be down - we have one who is praying for you. Don’t worry about the future - remember what God has prepared for you.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Lord's Supper at St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Wednesday 21st July 2010.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photo Walk Belfast

As you've probably guessed, I'm getting into my photography more and more. We're more than halfway through the 365 photo challenge, and Flickr keeps me taking and sharing photos, and seeing the work of other people (which is so much better than mine).


Every so often, we have a Flickr meet-up in Belfast (photo from the last I was at, just before Christmas!), normally setting off from the City Hall gates and heading off in a particular direction to see what we can see and take photos of. But this Saturday, things are going international. It's time for the third annual Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk in Belfast.

At present there are over 28,000 people signed up to do over 1100 photowalks worldwide, and there's one this Saturday in Belfast. Meeting at 9.45am we'll go for a dander, some craic, some photos, and some food (hopefully). There are still 33 spaces for the group of 50 max, so if you've got any sort of a camera, come along - it'll be well worth it for the fun alone!

If you're not in Belfast, check out the website for other walks happening this Saturday.

Some time next week I'll upload the photos from the day on Flickr and share some here too...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review: Bible Delight

The longest chapter in the Bible has always been slightly mysterious for me. Psalm 119, with its 176 verses arranged in 22 sections of 8 verses each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, was gold nugget territory. Pick a random well-known verse and use it, but never seeing any structure in the whole thing, or understanding the big picture of Psalm 119. I can't say that any more, as a result of reading Bible Delight by Christopher Ash.

I know it's remarkable to say it given that we're barely halfway through the year, but I think I've read my best book of 2010. Bible Delight is exceptional exegesis, coupled with great application and wonderful wee illustrations peppered with humour from Ash. Early on, he says that the preacher's task is didactic (teaching the meaning), affectional (tuning in to the feelings) and volitional (moving the will to join in). Ash certainly achieves his goal in a book that will be returned to time and again.

Arranged in the twenty-two chapters, one for each section, the book could usefully be the basis for a month of daily readings and devotions, using Sunday as a catch-up or to review the week's readings and discussion questions. I didn't use it that way, preferring instead to continue on and read it, but at some point I'll use it at a slower pace.

The book has the appropriately high view of Scripture needed, with Ash pointing out the eight 'word' words used throughout the Psalm, each of which is helpfully explained, and together which are facets of the Covenant, 'two-directional words whose first direction is grace.' But the book isn't just produced to increase our Bible knowledge. Rather, like the Psalm being studied, 'This Psalm is about formation more than it is about information. It is about the habits that change the heart.'

Ash is also incredibly realistic and open about the struggles of the normal Christian life. No prosperity gospel here, but rather in his own words, 'the Adversity Gospel' with enemies surrounding. Yet the affliction is identified as 'God's good gift to his people', because it brings us to God and his word. Not that we worry about those enemies - there is an assymetrical attentiveness: while my enemies wait for me, I wait upon God. He is also frank about the dangers for 'professional' Christians like pastors of turning from speaking to God in the second person to speaking of God in the third person exclusively.

Bible Delight: Heartbeat of the Word of God: Psalm 119 for the Bible teacher and Bible hearer (what a long title!) is the first completed volume of a new series of books being produced by the Proclamation Trust on the point and purpose of preaching. If the rest of the series continue in the vein that Christoper Ash has begun with this volume, then it will be a mighty series.

I would heartily recommend Bible Delight to any Christian, new or old, because it will be profitable to explore just what the Bible is; how Christian obedience and discipleship works; what the normal Christian life is like; how to understand Scripture; how to face difficulties and opposition; and how to glory in God and his word. A brilliant book, which will drive us back to The Book, which is surely the purpose of all preaching and all Christian writing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two Years Ago Today

Our Wedding

I married my wonderful wife Lynsey. Today we're celebrating God's goodness to us and our first two years of married life.

Sermon: Luke 15: 11-32 The Lost Sons

It’s probably one of the best known of Jesus’ parables. Most people have heard of it, but what is it all about? A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, a human story that tells us something about God.

In the story as Jesus tells it, there are three characters - a father, and his two sons. Each character is important, and points us to the patient grace and mercy of God, through the shocking nature of the story. We’ll take them in the order of the story: 1. The Lost Son; 2. The Forgiving Father; 3. The (Other) Lost Son.

First up, then, the Lost Son. The shock comes straight in verse 12. This man is the younger son, and he asks for his share of the inheritance now. Give me what is mine - which some believe to be another way of saying that he wishes his father were dead. He receives the money and soon sets off with his independence. Far from home, far from his dad, far from his responsibilities. And far from sense.

The money is soon gone, squandered in reckless living. It’s like the lottery winner who fritters away the £2 million in a lot of months, with nothing to show for it, and probably more miserable at the end than at the beginning. But there’s a double misfortune - just as the money has dried up, so has the land, and there’s famine. Everyone is tightening their belts, and can’t help out this waster.

Add more shock as he takes the only job going, feeding pigs. For a good Jewish boy, this is the ultimate disgrace, spending time in the fields with the pigs. The unclean animal is now your best friend. You’re at the lowest of the low. Think of the most disgusting job you could do, and you’re halfway to this guy among the pigs.

As he sits there, definitely not as happy as a pig in muck, he remembers home, and how even the servants at home had plenty to eat, even they are better off than him. Jesus says ‘he came to himself.’ He realised where he was and what he was doing.

So off he goes, on the long road home (not even enough for the bus fare home), rehearsing his speech: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ This is true confession - expressing who you are and what you’ve done. Acknowledging the sins you’ve committed.

Yet in verse 20, as he walks home, there’s the second surprise in our second point. ‘But while he was a long way off...’ The forgiving father has been looking out for him. Seeing his son in the distance, the father breaks all social custom, and respectable practice, by running, embracing and kissing him. As we turn to God, we find he runs to greet us.

But there’s more! The prodigal doesn’t even get through his speech about not being worthy and applying for a job as a servant. No, straight away the father is giving orders to his servants, asking for a robe, and a ring, and shoes, as well as the fattened calf to be killed. The robe, ring and shoes are the signs of sonship. The father has forgiven, and restored him to his position as son.

What a great God we serve, as we see him portrayed in this story of Jesus. No matter how far away from God we have gone (just like Adam and Eve, all of us turn our own way), it is true that when we call on the name of the Lord, we are saved. We are welcomed home and restored to our position. The apostle John writes ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1 Jn 3:1) We who ill-deserve it like this prodigal are welcomed by what Tim Keller calls, our Prodigal God - not in the sense of God being lost, but in his ‘recklessly spendthrift’ way of not counting our sin against us or demanding repayment.

You may be someone who has gone astray. Gone your own way in the world, turning your back on God and seeking your independence. And it was fun for a while. But when you come to yourself, you realise how miserable sin truly is, and your poor state. Yet you’re afraid of coming back to God, afraid of his reaction - perhaps you’ve only really heard of the law and holiness of God. You know you don’t deserve anything.

This parable shows the great grace of God towards you - if you will but come. Remember the context of the parable, and those words of the Pharisees: ‘This man receives sinners.’ How true, and how glorious. The welcome is there for you. Come home.

As we come to verse 24, it seems to be the climax: ‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to celebrate.’ It’s the same point that we saw in the two previous parables of the lost sheep and coin. The rejoicing when one who is lost is now found. The story could so easily finish there, but Jesus is not finished. Back at the start, he said that the man had two sons, and so we come to our third and final point: The (Other) Lost Son.

While the younger son had gone off to seek his fame and fortune, the older son had stayed at home with his father. Even now on this special day, he was out in the fields, working away. It’s only as he comes home that he hears the music and dancing. It’s a wild party, and the noise carries. When he asks one of the servants what is happening, he’s told the news: ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ (27).

The servant probably thinks he’s telling him good news. But here we come to the final shock. The old brother is angry at the news. The rest of the household is rejoicing with the father, but the older brother is angry. As his father comes to plead with him, the reason becomes clear. This older brother hasn’t understood what being a son is all about. Look at verse 29: ‘Look, these many years I have served you...’ That word served is probably better translated ‘slaved’. These years of service have been a slavery for him, rather than enjoying the privileges of sonship. Indeed, he doesn’t even identify with his brother - calling him instead ‘this son of yours’.

On the surface, he has never strayed, and yet he is just as lost as his brother was. Outward obedience is nothing without heart obedience. We can go through the motions without ever enjoying the blessings of sonship.

Remember the context of these parables. The Pharisees and scribes were complaining that Jesus was welcoming sinners, as the tax collectors flocked to him. The sinners are obviously the younger brother, the prodigal. Years of disobedience, but now that they are coming to Jesus, they are being welcomed home. They experience God’s grace and forgiveness. We’ve seen the same point in the three parables Jesus told.

But the older brother is the Pharisee, the righteous person of verse 7 who thinks they don’t need to repent. Rather than rejoicing that people were finding salvation and coming to Jesus, they were grumbling. The warning of the parable is the warning for them. Will they too realise their lostness and need for repentance? Will they realise what being a son of God is all about? Relationship, not religion; sonship not slavery.

One of the commentators says that this parable is the one in which we can most easily identify ourselves. If we’re a Christian, we can probably look back and see our prodigal days, how we had gone astray, but were found by Jesus. We can celebrate the welcome that we received, and rejoice in our salvation.

But we may also find ourselves in the role of the older brother, on occasion too. Refusing to rejoice at the salvation of others, thinking that they’re too bad to be saved, that they don’t deserve it, convinced of our own rightness and moral superiority. Forgetting the privileges of being a child of God and turning our relationship with him into a slavery of rules.

Is this what’s stopping us from reaching out into the community? Preventing us from going into the less desirable neighbourhoods and estates to tell them of God’s love and seeing sinners brought home? Are we too good to reach the lost? Or think them too bad to tell them of the searching saviour?

The story ends without any conclusion being reached. I’ve mentioned before about the cliffhanger ending, the dum dum dum at the end of Eastenders. The father’s closing words repeat the climax of earlier - the necessity of rejoicing when the lost are found. But we aren’t told the older brother’s response. It’s left open for us - if you’re an older brother, what will your response be? Rejoicing at the lost being found, or rejection of God’s grace?

As some think about this parable, they look at how the prodigal is welcomed back straight away and therefore ask - why doesn’t God just forgive sin? But we need to remember that there was another son in the story. One who never went astray like the prodigal; who never forgot the privilege of sonship; who perfectly obeyed his father in everything. That son died for the sins of both sons, to open the way for their acceptance, and died for your sins, so that you too can be welcomed home with open arms. That Son was the one who told the story, the one who receives sinners, whether prodigals or older brothers.

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 18th July 2010.

Friday, July 16, 2010


It's been a while since we looked at Zephaniah, but today's section looks forward to that time when sin and the shame of that sin are removed from the people of God. Since Adam and Eve first rebelled, our sinful actions have been accompanied by a sense of shame. We know that we're doing wrong, and are ashamed at our actions. For Adam and Eve, it was hiding from God when they realised they were naked.

So how can we remove the shame that we rightly feel at what we have done? Is there some magic formula for shame-removal? Some daily prescription to take and work the shame away? Not quite. Rather, with the removal of our sin by God himself (as finally occurred at the cross of the Lord Jesus), Zephaniah looks forward to when the rebellious are themselves removed.

"On that day you shall not be put to shame
because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me;
for then I will remove from your midst
your proudly exultant ones,
and you shall no longer be haughty
in my holy mountain."
(Zeph 3:11)

The remedy for rebellion is the removal of the stubbornly rebellious, and the exchange of haughtiness for humility. Instead of the haughty, the proud ones, the LORD will leave the humble and lowly in Israel. And what is the mark of being lowly and humble?

'They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, those who are left in Israel.' (Zeph 3:12)

That is, rather than depending on yourself for what you need and for your deliverance, the humble trust in the LORD, fleeing to him for refuge and shelter. But Zephaniah goes further. Not only do these humble, the properly shameless, trust in the LORD, this dependence issues in their changed lives.

Rather than pursuing their own agenda and own interests, by whatever means, the humble instead are marked by no injustice, no lies and no deceitful tongue. How we deal with others is so completely changed when we come to the LORD for salvation. Yet I'm only too aware that I'm a work in progress. That I'm by no means perfect - and to spend any time in a church family, you'll soon realise that we aren't finished yet. God has promised this through Zephaniah, and we come to realise that this is a picture of the redeemed community in glory, when sin has been banished forever.

When we do encounter hurtful experiences in church, we are driven to pray all the more for the day to come soon when sin is finished with, and we do enjoy this perfect community, when we will (in the words of verse 13) graze and lie down, and none shall make us afraid - a picture of peace, safety and security.

So which group of people are part of? The shameful, those who are haughty and proud in your rebellion against God; or the to-be shameless, trusting in the LORD for refuge, preparing for this sinless eternity with the people of God?

For those who will trust, the promise is sure. No fear. No shame.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sermon Audio: Luke 15: 1-10

On Sunday mornings in Dundonald we're preaching through a section of Mark's Gospel, but for the two holiday Sundays of the Twelfth fortnight, we break from that for two preacher's choice. I decided to preach Luke 15, so here's the first sermon, Lost and Found.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Year on Twitter

I just realised this morning that I've been a Twit* for one full year. I signed up initially on 13th July last year to follow the Slugger O'Toole coverage of the Twelfth festivities, and to help in reporting on the Belfast and Banbridge parades I was attending. 365 days and roughly 412 tweets later, what have I learnt over my debut year on Twitter?

- It can be a useful tool for blog promotion. My blog is set up to automatically provide a tweeted link to the latest blog post, so that people can know when new stuff is appearing on the blog. It can be interesting playing with blog post titles to try to capture peoples' imagination. It can also be a tool for spamming, which is the downside of the promoting advantage. While some may think my tweets are spam, there are truly genuine spammers using Twitter, which can be a bit off-putting. The block button can come in very handy on those occasions.

- It can be a good way to keep up to date with news stories as they happen, with eyewitness reports and opinion. Sometimes, even before mainstream media even know that something is happening. It's always good to remember that often it is opinion being reported, rather than fact, and that sometimes, discretion is required.

- It can be a good way to keep in touch with friends, particularly 'internet friends' - if that doesn't sound too weird or geeky. So there are some people who I have come to know primarily through Flickr, and it can be useful to see what they're up to, where they're going to, and what they're taking photos of through Twitter. However, the downside of this is that conversations are difficult to follow, especially if several people are involved, so perhaps Facebook is more accessible and easier to follow on a wall post or status update.

- It pays to get stuck in. The only way to truly understand (?) and appreciate Twitter is by getting involved and using it properly. Many don't see the point if they have few followers, but even by starting conversations and building networks, Twitter can be useful and fun.

- It can be used for good purpose. Some American pastors in particular use it regularly to post a devotional thought, or a short nugget of Bible truth, which may be just what is needed at that precise moment. Adrian Warnock also hosts discussion of his book Raised With Christ on Twitter. See also CS Lewis daily.

A full year on, and I'm probably more of a Twit than before. Sometimes it can be a bit unnecessary or narcissistic, but Twitter can be used for good. So go ahead, be a Twit like me!

* or is that a Twitterer?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Twelfth of Never

Today is the Twelfth of July, a public holiday in Northern Ireland, and the day when Orange parades are held to celebrate a Dutch World Cup victory the Battle of the Boyne. But why the Twelfth, when the actual battle was on the 1st July?

You see, the Battle of the Boyne was fought on the 1st July 1690 under the Julian calendar. In 1750, when Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar, ten days were added to bring Britain in line with Europe, which makes the 1st July Old Style into 11th July New Style. The bonfires on the evening of the 11th are as if the word is just reaching the towns and villages, and then the celebrations and processions are held on the next day, the Twelfth, unless it's on a Sunday.

The only thing that happened on 12th July (OS) was the Battle of Aughrim in 1691, the truly decisive battle of the Williamite Wars in Ireland. King Billy was long gone, though, safely in London governing his kingdoms. But then the actual anniversary of Aughrim would be the 22nd July according to our calendars.

So the glorious Twelfth is here. But how many Orangemen will realise that it's all down to Pope Gregory that they're marching on the Twelfth?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sermon: Luke 15: 1-10 Lost and Found

What do the following things have in common: a stuffed puffer fish; a case full of dentures; a human skull; hundreds of umbrellas; and a pound coin. All have been lost on the London underground! These are just some of the thousands of items that pass through the Lost Property Office of Transport for London. Every so often a newspaper or a website will have a few photos or a report from there, and some of the ridiculous things that have been left behind on the tube.

Compared to those lost items, the two that Sylvia read about earlier - the lost sheep and the lost coin - may have seemed rather tame. It may be that you’ve heard these parables of Jesus many times, that you think you know what they’re all about, and that you can have a nice snooze for a few minutes.

Actually, far from being nice little comforting stories, as Jesus told them, they were shocking for their original hearers. In order to hear the fully scandalous nature of the stories, we need to see them in context, which is our first point today: Grumbling.

Look at verse 1. Jesus is on his way up to Jerusalem, where he will be crucified. The crowds have been flocking to hear his teaching, to see him, and among the crowds, there was a certain group of people. The tax collectors and sinners. The tax collectors were those Jews who had signed up to work for the Roman state. They were working for the enemy, and making money off it too - so long as they gave the Romans what they expected, the tax collectors could demand more, which they kept for themselves. Not very popular among the Jews, for obvious reasons.

The sinners, well, that’s a term used by the so-called ‘good people’, the ‘religious people’, for those who were on the outside. So people like prostitutes, and others who were seen as unclean, as the sinners. Do you see the contrast between the sinners and verse 2, the Pharisees and scribes? These were the holy people, the so-called righteous people, very religious. And they see all these sinners coming to Jesus to hear him teach, and they don’t like it. Verse 2 again - they grumbled. They complained. They whinged. You know, the crowd following Jesus used to be so good, but then they turned up. He’s just not bringing in the right class of people any more. Isn’t it terrible how things are now?

As a church family - do we ever grumble? Or do you ever grumble within the church family? Are we happy with church as it is (or as it used to be?)? All the good people coming - but please don’t reach out into the community and bring in different people, people who maybe don’t know how to behave in church, or, perish the thought, sinners! Or we look at SET on Sunday nights and think - why can’t it just be the nice church kids, and not those horrible non-Christian kids. I know they come along every week and hear a Bible talk and see Christians in action, but look at the way they get on, and look at their lives, and...

The Pharisees and scribes are grumbling, and that’s the context for the parables in this chapter (we’ll look at the lost son next week). They were grumbling (verse 3) so he told them this parable... And then we get two for the price of one. Two stories, two parables which are basically the same - as Sylvia read, you may have noticed the same words or phrases came up in both. The lost sheep, and the lost coin, but look how Jesus introduces them: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them...’ (4) ‘Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin...’ (8).

Our second point is seeking - and Jesus makes the very obvious point that if a man in the crowd had lost one of his sheep, he would go and look for it; or if a woman had lost a coin, she would go and look for it. This wasn’t just a pound coin down the back of the sofa - it was equivalent of a day’s wages, a precious coin, perhaps even strung together with other coins as a headdress, or just as a tenth of her savings. It’s precious to her, so she’ll naturally look for it, carefully sweeping the dust and dirt on the ground until she finds it. Likewise the sheep is precious to the man, so he’ll go and look for it.

Jesus is saying if we would make a point of looking for something lost that is precious to us - then how much more will the Lord Jesus, God himself, search for his lost ones, precious to him? The Pharisees looked at these undesirables and called them sinners. The Lord Jesus looks at them and calls them his lost ones. As the prophet Isaiah says ‘all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way.’ (Is 53:6) As Jesus says later in Luke’s Gospel ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ (Luke 19:10)

How do we see those on the outside of church? As foul sinners, undesirables, unclean people? Or as lost people needing to be found, to be reached, to be brought back to God? We need to see people as Jesus sees them - in only one of two possible categories - lost or found. When we see as Jesus sees, and realise that our friends and neighbours are lost, then we’ll want to help them be found.

So far we’ve looked at grumbling and seeking. Our final point this morning is rejoicing. Two years ago, not long after we were married, Lynsey and I went to London for a wee holiday. One particular day, we bought the sightseeing bus tour ticket and went off on one of the red buses. In the afternoon, we were in the Tower of London, looking at the crown jewels, when suddenly I realised that I had lost the tickets. They weren’t in my pockets/wallet/bag. These were expensive tickets - and without them we couldn’t get all the way back across London to the hotel. We would have to buy new tickets. We retraced our steps round the castle, but it was pointless. Lost. Gone. As we walked out through the gates, Lynsey noticed a bit of paper flapping on the ground. We looked - and it was our tickets! Talk about relief!

In the parables, the same thing happens - the man or woman calls together friends and neighbours, and they have a party: ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found [my sheep/the coin] that was lost.’ If we rejoice over lost things being found, then how much more is there a party in heaven when a lost sinner is found.

As before, though, there’s a shock. Look at verse 7. ‘Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’ The lost being found is described by Jesus as them repenting - to turn from sin and towards God. You see, so often we think of repentance in a bad way - all the things we can no longer do. But Jesus describes the party in heaven when we turn towards God!

And there’s more joy over one sinner repenting than those ninety-nine righteous people not needing repentance. These aren’t already good - rather, Jesus is describing the Pharisees and scribes, those who are ‘self-righteous’, those who think they’re right with God and so don’t need to repent themselves. In fact, they’re more lost, because they don’t even recognise their lostness. As Jesus says earlier in Luke: ‘I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ (Luke 5:32)

We thought a wee bit earlier about how we see others, those on the outside. Do we label them as sinners or as lost people. But now the focus turns on us. Are we self-righteous, thinking that we’re all right? Are you a Pharisee, convinced of your own goodness? Or do we see ourselves as sinners who also needed to be found by Jesus. Who have been changed by him - not that we deserve it any more than those outside.

Or perhaps you’re still lost. You have wandered away and are out on your own. The Lord Jesus is still the good shepherd, and is still in the business of finding the lost. Listen to his voice.

The Pharisees grumbled ‘This man receives sinners.’ In criticising, they were speaking the truth, and giving a great testimony of the Lord Jesus. He still receives sinners, he will not turn us away when we come to him. He is the seeking saviour, the rejoicing redeemer. We celebrate this truth, this grace, as we gather round the Lord’s Table.

This sermon was preached at St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Sunday 11th July 2010.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Book Review: Sovereign

This, the third in the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom, took quite a while to read, partly because it is a bit longer than the previous books, and partly because it wasn't until I was on holiday that I got some extended reading time to finish it off.

Sovereign again escapes Tudor London for the most part, with Shardlake and his sidekick Barack finding themselves on several missions in York, just as the Royal Progress is coming towards the great city. As you would expect in a historical murder mystery, a murder occurs and Shardlake is plunged into the intrigue as he seeks to catch the murderer while escaping being murdered himself.

Expect (as in the previous ones) lots of twists and turns, and even when some things are revealed, the mystery and surprise is far from over. Several times in this book, unlike the previous ones, I almost felt that it was dragging slightly, being just too long, but just when I had that feeling, bang, another shock event turned up and my interest rose again.

With Thomas Cromwell executed, Shardlake now finds himself working for Archbishop Cranmer, which gives Sansom the opportunity to portray the godly reforming bishop in tender tones, perhaps slightly out of his depth among the political machinations. As well, there is an extended description and analysis of the reign of Henry VIII and the expensive royal court on the move as he came to subjugate his rebellious northern subjects in York.

Linked to this, and perhaps one of the reasons I first got into the whole series, was the recommendation from Christopher Wright on the description of the parousia, the royal visit, which the apostle Paul uses to anticipate King Jesus' return to this world. The preparations of the leading citizens of York, their submission, the appearance and reverence of the king, all was usefully portrayed, even if poor Shardlake comes off the worst from it.

I'm not sure what more I can really say that I haven't already said about the two previous episodes, Dissolution and Dark Fire. Excellent historical re-creations, great descriptions of events, characters and general ambiance of life in medieval England, and the finest murder mystery elements (and unusual and inventive methods of murder!). Here, there are even more surprises, and one massive one towards the end with the leading character finding himself in somewhere you wouldn't expect to place your lead character!

Sovereign could probably be enjoyed on its own, but even more so if you read them in order. Start today!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Preacher's Choice

There are two words that can strike fear and anxiety into my heart. Two words that appear on our preaching rota in church in the wee box for the appointed passage: 'Preacher's Choice.'

You see, normally, we follow what has been described as 'SCEOTS' - Systematic Continuous Exposition of the Scriptures. So, we preach through a Bible book (or section of a book), then take another and start again. Since I've been in Dundonald we have preached through the whole of 1 Corinthians, Titus, Daniel, Ephesians, 1 Thessalonians, as well as sections of Mark, and a lot of Psalms. It's easy to know the next passage - wherever we stopped last week, then we start there next week.

The hard work has been done by the person preparing the series in dividing the section into preachable passages. The text is provided, so the hard work all week is done on the text - what does it mean, what is God saying, and how do we apply it?

But every so often, we're not preaching from the series. Perhaps there are more Sundays than sections in the three-month period of the preaching schedule. Perhaps they have been built in to provide a break from a lengthy series. Perhaps it's a holiday time. And those two scary words appear - Preacher's Choice.

So, as the week begins, the pressure is on to first of all pick the passage, before working on what the passage means. And that's where the problem begins. With over 31,000 verses arranged in 1189 chapters, how do you pick a passage? It's the ultimate in indecision and multiple choice!

How to get the right passage for this particular Sunday, with this particular congregation? To preach from Old Testament or New? A familiar passage or a relatively unknown passage? A previously preached passage or a completely new one? It's a good job that it isn't ultimately in our hands - God is in control, and through prayer and meditation, we can discern what we should be preaching.

So, having picked the passage, the task is just beginning, and the harder work of exegesis and application lies before me. Here goes...

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sermon Audio: Mark 9: 2-13

Another sermon catch-up, this time from Sunday 27th June, when England's hopes were still high in the World Cup... Listen To Him!

7/7 Five Years On

Time seems to move so quickly, yet the memories are vivid. Particularly in dealing with terrorist incidents, those caught up in the events will never forget, while the rest of the world moves on and barely remembers at all. It was the case with the terrorism in Northern Ireland, and also with the more recent terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and various other places.

The media have been covering the fifth anniversary of the 7/7 atrocity today, when the transport network in London was attacked by a co-ordinated series of bombs, just the day after London had learnt that it was to host the 2012 Olympic Games. 52 innocent people died, as well as the suicide bombers themselves, and hundreds were injured as the bombs exploded on underground trains (the Tube), and on a double decker bus.

Strangely, I was in London that day. I had travelled over to London with Stanley and David for the Proclamation Trust Student Minister's Preaching Conference, four days of honing the skills needed to handle and teach God's word. For those looking on from outside, it was a worrying time - the mobile phone networks couldn't cope, so contact was virtually impossible, so the only source of information was the TV news reports.

In London, things were very confused. At the time, I blogged about that day when I got home to Northern Ireland. We slept in that morning, and on getting to Victoria, the underground was shut, leading to thousands of people trying to jump on buses. We headed on a bus so far (passing Betty Boothroyd walking down Victoria Street), then had to walk the rest of the way.

I remember an anxious moment on the bus when someone with a strong Irish accent was talking on his mobile phone and said "So it's happening then?" and reached into his rucksack... But it turned out to be Muslim terrorists, rather than those of Irish extraction.

Perhaps the most bizarre point of the day came when David and myself went on the London by night bus tour - the driver seeking to return to normal life as quickly as possible, and to show that Londoners wouldn't be defeated by such terror tactics.

Scenes of carnage, similar to many bomb attacks here in Northern Ireland, and many victims left with continuing scars, both physical and psychological. Remember those who are suffering today, and who lost loved ones as they journeyed to work.

Another day of man's evil towards man. Another day of sickness and suffering. But one day these things will have perished, and all things will be restored. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sermon Audio: Genesis 32: 1-32

We got a bit behind with uploading the sermons from St Elizabeth's, so here's the sermon mp3 from 20th June, when I was preaching from Genesis 32: Wrestling With God

Donard and Galgorm

It's been another quiet week on the blog - last week we were on holiday, so apart from a few pre-ordered posts, I didn't think about the blog at all. Didn't go too far away, just a few relaxing days in Newcastle at the Slieve Donard enjoying the spa and the view of where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Misty Mournes

179/365:2010 The Slieve Donard

Then on Friday we had a family wedding, with Jonathan and Paula pledging lifelong commitment. A great glimpse of the covenant love of Christ for his bride in the wedding ceremony, and a heartwarming reminder of his commitment to us which will never be broken.

183/365:2010 The Happy Couple!

The reception was up in the Galgorm, a place I'd never been before, and one that was very good, as well as the interesting grounds with waterfalls and weirs and canals feeding a generator.

Today it's back to work for us, and just getting into the routine again before the Rector goes on his holidays at the end of the week. There may well be a more regular blogging pattern emerging too, but we'll see how it works out as the week progresses. The 365 photo-a-day challenge is now into the second half, although I've been resorting to iPhone captures again. Must use big camera!