Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Big Brother Audition Day

So here it is, the day of the Big Brother auditions in Dublin. 12 noon at the RDS. My big moment? Nope. Not at all. I'm in class all day today, and am serving at the Holy Communion service in the college chapel tonight. So there'll be no TV appearance for me. My audience appearances in Let's Talk, Insight and Question Time will have to do!

Travels with my camera

Yesterday I was out and about with my camera in between classes, and got some rather interesting photos of Dublin. Sadly, neither blogger or flickr is working on the wireless network to allow me to upload the photos to the net... so hopefully some time soon I'll get them up! Watch this space...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Stating the obvious!

Sometimes when you're reading something, you think to yourself - what's the author doing? They're stating the obvious... why say it at all? I had one of those instances recently in my Bible reading.

Do you remember the way I talked about the co-incidence of studying the text twice at the same time in different contexts? It happened with Jeremiah, in both my private study, as well as the Explore notes from The Good Book Company. Well, it's happening again. In our tutor group in college, we're working our way through the Pastoral Epistles, reading a chunk and discussing it. And in my own study, I'm reading 2 Timothy (in conjunction with John Stott's commentary on it in the Bible Speaks Today series from IVP).

And I came across Paul's instruction to Timothy in 2 Tim 2:8. 'Remember Jesus Christ'. Imagine. Paul's telling Timothy how to keep the church's witness going after the generation of the apostles dies, and he includes 'remember Jesus Christ.' Isn't Paul just stating the obvious? Surely Timothy would know to remember Jesus... after all, it's what the gospel is all about.

Is it like the time when Jesus told the disciples to 'Remember Lot's wife' (Luke 17:32)? But Lot's wife was a negative example, so it mustn't mean that. What can Paul mean when he says 'remember Jesus Christ'?

Once again, we fall into the trap of failing to see the context. Look at your Bible, and you'll see that the punctuation means that it isn't a bald statement on its own, but is carried on to explain it a bit better. So then, Paul says: 'Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!' (2 Tim 2:8-9).

So who is the Jesus Paul is calling Timothy to remember? Not the figment of imagination, or the made up story-teller, or cleverly devised fables. No, we find here both positive and negative affirmations of Jesus, the Jesus of history who is the Christ of faith.

Jesus Christ, risen from the dead: God's not dead, no, he is alive! Implicit in the conviction that Jesus is risen from the dead, we find the assertion that he died before he could be raised. So the Jesus Timothy is to remember (and therefore we should be remembering too) is not dead, gone and forgotten. Rather, Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, and seated in glory with the Father. More than this, the rising from the dead was seen as the proof that Jesus was divine, the Son of God (see Romans 1:4 - 'was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord')

Jesus Christ... the offspring of David: Jesus was not only fully divine, but he was also fully human, descended from the line of David. But not only this, the echoes of David's name should alert us to the other descent from David - that of the kingly line. Jesus is therefore 'Great David's Greater Son', the Christ (the anointed one).

Jesus Christ... as preached in my gospel: Not only do we need to be right about the person of Christ, but we also need to be right about the work of Christ, his sin-bearing work on the cross, as contained in Paul's gospel. Not that this necessarily means that Paul made it up, or invented it. Rather, it is Paul's gospel by way of him being entrusted with its message, which he is now passing on to Timothy. It's a similar idea to the translation of 2 Tim 1:12 'I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me' (italics added, footnote reports the Greek as saying 'my deposit').

This is the Jesus Christ Paul charges Timothy to remember, follow and preach. But it won't be easy. It will be hard to do this. It landed Paul in prison. Paul is chained up because of the gospel. And yet, that just confirms what Paul has been arguing - that the gospel minister is called to hard work and endurance. It's what the word pictures of soldier, athlete and farmer in the bit just before our verse point to. It's what Paul's experience points to. And it's even what remembering Jesus will point to. Because he had to endure the hardship and suffering before he could enter glory again, and bring us with him.

Yes, gospel work will be tough. It's no doddle. There's hardship and suffering. As someone once said, when Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die. And as a slogan goes - no cross, no crown. But there is encouragement. Paul might be chained up in Rome, awaiting execution. The future might be bleak for him in terms of this world. 'But the word of God is not bound!' (2 Tim 2:9) It is still being spread and bearing fruit.

Remember Jesus Christ!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Dublin Underground Scene

If you've been in Dublin any time over the past couple of years, you'll have noticed roadworks and congestion. Especially if you were going from the M1 to the city centre. All over the head of the new Port Tunnel - which whisks you straight from the M1 to the entrance to the Docks. It's been open a couple of weeks so far, but only for HGVs (which are allowed through it for free), but tonight when we were coming down the M1, the signs said 'Port Tunnel Open' with no restrictions. So Robert and me went through the new Port Tunnel.

It is amazing!!! To be just under the streets and houses of Dublin and yet on a free-flowing road is just great - we only saw one other car in it the whole way through. And it's a dual carriageway, with one-way direction for each tunnel - so really there are two port tunnels. (I wonder was that intentional - did one team start at one end and another at the other, and they ended up not meeting, but in the process providing two tunnels?)

What a feat of engineering, though, for the structure to be built at all. There's a 50 km/h speed limit in it, but it was an a digital display, so I presume it can be altered. I just wouldn't want to get stuck inside it...

We had a great time in the new tunnel, although it was a bit of a diversion - great craic to see, but not really handy for our route to college, as we then had to go over the Eastlink toll bridge and round by Blackrock. Now and again though, it''l be a nice diversion!

Smooth (ie) Operator

So yeah, I'm a smooth operator... As I previously blogged about, I bought a smoothie maker machine with my Christmas money. And so, our family has a new Sunday afternoon tradition - the making of smoothies! They are truly delicious!

And now I've discovered that Tesco stock frozen smoothie mixes - bags of fruit frozen and ready to go into a smoothie! Yesterday I was in a smaller Tesco store and they only had the tropical one. So it was dutifully bought and consumed. Really good stuff!!! And a good start to a regular week.


I've recently started using Flickr to host my photos. Have a look at my page there and enjoy the photos!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Just a quick update on my videos, which, you should know by now, are available over at YouTube. They have now topped 100, 000 views, which is amazing!!! The most popular, which has contributed 10, 000 of those views is the second David Healy goal against Spain. The full list of my videos can be found by accessing my profile page. Enjoy!

My Lovely Horse - from Father Ted

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Jesus Gospel - Book Review

On seeing this book in Faith Mission last Saturday, I immediately thought it was in the line of Steve Chalke's 'The Lost Message of Jesus' and set it back on the shelf. The tagline is 'recovering the lost message'. I wasn't really in the mood for any more speculation following the Da Vinci Code's plotline of secret messages and gnostics.

But then I noticed that one of the endorsements on the front was from Rico Tice, so I picked it up again and had a second look. And then I realised that the 'lost message' is the doctrine of penal substitution, so I bought it with some of my vouchers from Christmas.

The book moves through the Bible looking at the developing revelation of the precious blood of Christ, from the problem of sin and separation in Eden, the judgement of God in the flood and the salvation for Israel in the Passover and Day of Atonement. He then considers the Gospels, looking at Jesus' attitude to the cross, and its meaning, before looking at the interpretation of the cross by the apostles, and looking towards the final consummation of the blood-bought salvation with the new heavens and the new earth.

I found it a really good read, clear in its explanation of the Scriptures, and with good illustrations. As RT Kendall says, 'Every Christian should read this book.'

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Eat up, you're at your granny's"

So tonight, for the first time in years, I'm staying at granny's house. Yeah, she lives just across the estate from us, but still, I'm sleeping there. No fall outs at home, or anything like that - just gran wants a bit of company tonight after today. It's going to be fun. I reckon it must be at least 10 years since we stayed over - it used to be when the parents were going out for the night so we went to gran's and brought a book or game... which inevitably produced some disagreement between Neil and me. Anyways, the point of my posting is just to say that I'll not be online until I return home again some time on Friday...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The new Archbishop

As was previously noted on the blog, a new Archbishop of Armagh has been elected. I wish Archbishop-elect Alan every blessing for his new role of oversight in the Church of Ireland. My prayers are with him as he prepares for his enthronement. In relation to the previous posting, I apologise to anyone who was offended by its contents.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Le Weekend

Just a wee quick posting to update on the weekend's activities... Thursday I was up in Castledawson for a funeral - the Presbyterian Church was packed. It was good to see friends from BB Camp again, but not so good given the circumstances. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family.

Friday was placement, the final day, and into hospital again to do some visiting, and managed to combine it with family visiting too. Then on Friday night it was off to Lisburn for a birthday meal for Scott (who is rapidly approaching thirty... yeah, I know, I'm not 'that' far behind him...). We were in Ed's, the quite new place, and it was very good.

It must have been the weekend time for birthdays - yesterday I was at Korin's birthday party, she being 2 and very cute! And then today, four of my bebo friends all have birthdays - which is craaaazy!

So anyway, back to the weekend - Saturday I had a lie in, then away with me ma to Lisburn (not so far this week) and Tesco, then finished off my sermon for Magheralin, which was preached yesterday morning and is contained in the previous posting.

That's really all I have to update on... quite a busy time... which won't stop now as we're into the new timetable, being in the second semester - halfway through the year properly now!!! Tonight we have College Fellowship with Maurice Elliott speaking on the practicalities of preaching.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Jubilee 2007: A Sermon (basis) preached in Magheralin Parish Church on 21st January 2007. Luke 4:14-21

We’re potentially coming up to a time of elections, but don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about politics this morning, and I’ll not be telling you how to vote. But one of the features of the run up to elections is the mountain of mail they generate. You’re sitting at home, enjoying your breakfast (or maybe even your lunch – depending on the postal service), and suddenly there’s a thump, as a forest of paper lands on the mat.

All the parties publish their manifestos, and send them out to us. In them, they tell us what they aim to do, and how they plan to do it. It’s a sort of vision statement – depending on them getting your vote, of course.

This morning we’re going to look at the manifesto for Jesus’ ministry. He sets out his business, and where he’s going from here – at the start of his ministry. In the passage we find him returning to Nazareth, the place where he had been brought up (16). Elsewhere in the Gospels we find that he had lived in Capernaum for a while, but this was his return home.

The people were expecting a lot from his visit, after all, they had heard about his activities in other towns. Verse 15 tells us that he had been teaching in synagogues. News quickly spread through the countryside – perhaps nothing changes, as news still seems to spread rapidly from person to person and village to village. The news about Jesus was good too, because ‘everyone praised him.’

Jesus had come home. It being the Sabbath, he went to the synagogue – the meeting house where the Scriptures were read and taught and where prayer was offered. And just as he had taught in the other synagogues, there was the opportunity to teach there, in Nazareth.

His first sermon in front of his home town, and probably his family as well. What would he say? He had sat in the synagogue for so many years as he was growing up, listening to the teaching of the rabbis. What would he say today? And how would the congregation respond?

Next week, we’re going to look at the reaction, but in order to understand the reaction, we first have to hear and understand the message of Jesus’ first sermon in Nazareth.

At the time, the Scriptures were on scrolls – massive scrolls. The scrolls would be kept by the attendant of the synagogue, and given to the speaker. Imagine the anticipation – what would Jesus read from?

The prophetic scroll was given to him, and then he had liberty to choose his text. So he found the place and began to read from Isaiah 61 those very familiar words:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

No doubt these words had been read many times before in the synagogue. They were words of good news, of freedom, of release. Maybe the congregation thought, oh, that’s a nice choice of reading. Something encouraging and inspiring.

It seems that the reading was done standing up (out of respect for the word), but the teaching was done sitting down. And so Jesus sat down to give his message. All eyes were fixed on him. What would he say?

Luke only gives us his opening words – he obviously spoke longer than we have recorded here. But those words were dynamite: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

In order to grasp what is happening, we need to hear this word afresh today. What was Isaiah originally saying, and how was it fulfilled in Jesus?

The speaker in Isaiah 61 doesn’t identify himself directly, and isn’t introduced. He just begins to speak: ‘The Spirit of the (Sovereign – Is 61:1) Lord is on me.’ Yet immediately there is a confident authority in his words – he is anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, he is sent to proclaim and release. Who is it speaking? This is none other than the Messiah, the one to come. In other parts of Isaiah, it says that the Messiah will have the Spirit on him (11:1, 42:1)

But as well as that, the very title suggests the person. Messiah means ‘anointed one’ and points towards a combination of prophet, priest and king – the three jobs that were marked by the anointing of oil. Consider briefly Elisha, who was anointed by Elijah to be a prophet (1 Kings 19:16); Aaron, who was anointed by Moses to be high priest (Leviticus 8:12); and David, who was anointed by Samuel to be king (1 Samuel 16:13).

So Jesus is clearly identifying himself here as the Messiah, the Christ, the expected and anointed one. He also declares that the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit is on him, enabling and equipping him to act. Already in Luke’s Gospel we have seen this, as the Holy Spirit comes on Mary at the time of conception. We then find the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan, and leading him into the desert at the start of the temptations. Even in our passage this morning, we find Jesus returning to Galilee ‘in the power of the Spirit.’

But what is it the Spirit will empower Jesus to do? What is he fulfilling in front of their very eyes? Jesus announces the Jubilee of the Lord, with its favour and freedom and release and restoration. You see, in one sense, the Jubilee wasn’t new. It was contained in the Law, in Leviticus 25 and was the year of release, when liberty was proclaimed. With all this talk of Jubilee, you might have been reminded of Jubilee 2000 – the project aimed at reducing third world debt. This was the focus and basis of that campaign.

Imagine that you were a small farmer in Israel. In those days there were no subsidies or grants schemes for farming, so you had to make do with what you could grow. Then you realise you can’t sustain yourself any more – what is to be done? Well, you can sell yourself into slavery – sell your land to a neighbour, and they will look after you. In the short term that’s good, because you survive. But you’re a slave. You’ve lost your land, the land that your father and his father and his father lived on and owned. Not such a good situation.

But every fifty years, there was the Jubilee – the year of liberty. In that year, debts were cancelled, and the land was returned to its rightful owners. How great would the news of the Jubilee be? Truly good news, I think you’ll agree.

And this is what Jesus is doing in our passage. He identifies himself as the Messiah, the anointed one empowered by the Holy Spirit. He proclaims the good news of the Jubilee – the year of the Lord’s favour. He declares that freedom and liberty are available.

But the freedom and liberty he proclaims and achieves is not just the material freedom from slavery. The good news is for the poor of spirit (to quote from Matthew 5). Jesus releases those who are imprisoned by demons and illness – later in Luke 4. And ultimately, he provides release from the bondage of sin and death through his death on the cross.

Just think of the words of Charles Wesley in the hymn ‘And can it be’ –

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature’s night,
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light,
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

I mentioned at the start about the politician’s manifesto. The promises can look good on the paper, but they aren’t always achieved. We can rest assured, though, that the manifesto of Jesus is, and will be, fulfilled.

The Jubilee brought freedom and release to the oppressed and prisoner. Jesus brought good news to the poor and promised release for the prisoners and the blind and the oppressed – in announcing the year of the Lord’s favour.

We are still in this time of favour – or grace – as the promise of liberty is offered in Jesus. Are you still bound in your sins, trapped in the dungeon? Jesus offers you release. Are you blind to the purposes of God and his glory? Jesus offers you sight. Are you oppressed by circumstances, or your past, or guilt? Jesus offers liberty in him.

[But we must never take the time of favour lightly – one day it will be finished. Jesus stopped mid-sentence, as it were in Isaiah 61. Because, if you look at 61:2, we find that the proclamation is a double one – ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God.’ The favour of God is offered in these days of grace, but soon will come the Day of Judgement when sin will be punished. ]

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Mika: The extraordinarily high voice!

For some reason, I quite like this song. I don't know how the guy goes so high in his singing!

New webcam

Got a webcam today and am now registered with googletalk and skype, so add me if you can! My name on both of them is garymcmurray - hardly adventurous, but easy to find! I think googletalk will work better over the college wireless network, although I'm sure my technical adviser on such things (Robert) will clarify the situation!

Friday, January 19, 2007


Will there be no end to the number of 'contact' type websites, where you sign up, link to your friends and post comments and pictures? For a while bebo was my only such one, but the email invites from friends using other ones keep rolling in, and what is a fella to do? There's a danger you could miss keeping up to date with someone by using different sites altogether, so I'm hedging my bets and keeping a finger in all of the pies at the same time. And so, I announce to you, my faithful readers, that I am now a member of facebook. This one seems to be primarily based around university friends and contacts, so may be my membership of this one is particularly limited to just over a year... but in the meantime, I'm there, so be my friend!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Home early

It feels a bit weird being home from Dublin on a Wednesday night. To have the Community meal after the Communion service as the end of the college week is unusual, especially as there's lots happening in college this week and I'll miss the Old Testament classes tomorrow. But there's a purpose in being home and missing college.



Drawing alongside people in their sorrow and grief. Being present with those who mourn. Seeking to support somehow in the face of terrible circumstances.

It's good that college allows us to drop everything to be with grieving friends - a good model of pastoral care, and for that I'm grateful.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Does Richard Dawkins Exist?

I'm not sure if you have heard of Richard Dawkins. He's probably the leading sceptic in the world today, fighting against religious belief, and arguing against the existence of God. He's had a number of books published, including 'The Blind Watchmaker', 'The Selfish Gene' and 'The God Delusion.' The following is a parody of 'The God Delusion', in which Dawkins argues that God does not exist using various means of proof. This is very clever, and while this is only the first paragraph, the whole story can be read by clicking here.

As I thumbed my way through the pages of "The God Delusion", a question dropped into my head. Does Richard Dawkins really exist?

Being a scientific and rational person, I decided that I wasn't going to just accept any old theory on this question. If Richard Dawkins exists, then I would need to be shown the proper evidence for it. Others can have their own superstitious beliefs, based on who-knows-what, but I would only be convinced by empirical science. If there is a Dawkins, why hasn't he shown himself to me?

Firefox to the rescue!

Well well... after Internet Explorer causing me so much bother, it looks like Mozilla Firefox is coming to my rescue! Whereas IE would only let me work with one window open (opening a second caused a crash), Firefox is letting me open as many as I want - not that I'm using hundreds or anything... but it will be handier when searching for links to put in postings etc.

So success, for the meantime!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The basis of hope: great is thy faithfulness

I wonder have you ever read the book Lamentations? If not, then the title might sound a bit off-putting. Lamentations - like, as in people lamenting? It doesn't sound too attractive to read. And, to be honest, it can be a bit depressing - as I mentioned in a previous posting, it details the sufferings of the city of Jerusalem and its people after the Babylonian conquest. Chapter four is particularly fierce, with mothers unable to feed their children, or worse, boiling their children to eat and survive.

And yet, scattered throughout the book are some great gems. Wonderful beacons of light in the midst of the tremendous suffering. The prime one is probably well known, but I wanted to blog about it, or at least, to copy it here. Remember the conditions, and the situation it arises from, because it shows up the glory of the hope so much more:

'Remember my afflictions and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." ' (Lamentations 3:19-24).

In the midst of these horrific situations, with the terrible suffering and afflictions, there is yet hope - not in Judah becoming a mighty army again, or the remnant seeking to re-group and rebuild Jerusalem by themselves - there is hope only because God is faithful, God's love never comes to an end, God's mercies continue.

Where do you place your hope, when troubles come? In fate, in friends, in yourself? Or in the steadfast love of the Lord?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Flags of our Fathers

Tonight I met up with the Reverend Adrian Dorrian, having not seen him in ages and ages, for a meal and a catch up. We also caught a film, which was 'Flags of our Fathers'. Despite it receiving mixed reviews, I thought the film was really good. You must be warned, there are echoes of the Saving Private Ryan beach scene. But the film is poignant, and makes us wonder what makes a hero. And what we make of heroes.

With some funny moments [one of which Adrian particularly enjoyed], as well as the horrific scenes, Flags of our Fathers is a great film. Although I'm glad I didn't have popcorn in front of me!

Clear visions?

Another quick update from Lamentations. I have found Lamentations 2:14 quite a challenging verse. Here it is, then we'll think about it for a moment:

'Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.'

The verse comes in the context of a chapter of mourning for Jerusalem, describing in detail horrific aspects of the city's ruin - the gates sunk (8), bodies slain in the city (21), and infants and babies fainting in the streets (11). And how has this all come about? Why are there Lamentations at all?

Because God's spokesmen weren't actually speaking God's words. Instead, they were seeing false visions, deceptive visions, false oracles and misleading oracles. Not very helpful, I think you'll agree. But what were they like? Well, we find one such example in Jeremiah 6: 'They have healed the would of my people lightly, saying "Peace, peace," when there is no peace' (Jer 6:14).

Imagine the situation. The people are listening to the prophets, thinking they are hearing from God, hearing this message of peace, even as the Babylonians are coming towards the city. All will turn out well - for sure, the prophets are speaking this in God's name.

Except, they weren't. The prophets were making up their own messages, and speaking from their own hearts and minds. Not only that, they were also failing to do their duty, from the middle part of the verse: 'they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes.'

Rather than promising peace for the city and people that disobeyed the commands of God, the prophets should have been exposing the sin of the people; speaking against it, and calling them to repentance. It was only this recognising and confessing sin that would lead to the restoration of the people and their fortunes.

Look, after all, at what brought about the restoration of the exiles to the city - it was the confessing of corporate sin by Daniel (Daniel 9:3-23).

So why has this verse been challenging for me? As I approach the full-time task of gospel ministry, or rather, as I engage in full-time gospel ministry and prepare for ordination, how do I speak? How accurate are my messages? Do I preach the full counsel of God? Do I expose sin, and demonstrate the need of people to accept Jesus as their saviour?

I'm reading 'Robert Murray M'Cheyne: A Good Minister of Jesus Christ' by JC Smith at present. Have you heard of him? He was a minister in Dundee around 1839, and saw revival hit the city (ironically while he was on a mission to the Holy Land) - but the revival came through the grace of God and the faithfulness of M'Cheyne in praying for the people and preaching the sinfulness of sin. Revival was marked by the recognition of the people's sin.

O Lord, grant that I would not speak false and misleading messages, but would always speak your truth. Amen

Friday, January 12, 2007

Resuming the service

So here we are - I think I might be back on the internet... not entirely properly yet, but it's getting there. It seems that I can't have two internet explorer windows open at the same time - an error is reported almost straight away. I normally have three or so windows open to blog / email / forum etc at the same time (and who said blokes can't multi-task?), but not now!

So let's hope that later on I'll be able to do some blogging. I'm also planning to read (pronounced red) out my room to create a bit more space, so we'll see what I can blog about!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Well folks, my internet woes continue now that I'm home again... hence the title of internot... I can get about three minutes of internet explorer, and then some sort of error happens, or the whole thing just freezes... sooooo annoying! Let's hope this makes it through the system and onto the blog.

I must apologise though, that my last few postings have been complaining ones... If the internet holds up, I have a few more thoughts ready on Lamentations to post. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Network problems...

Well, following the optimism of the last posting, and having got Sunday night and Monday afternoon out of the network, it is now failing again... constantly! It's so annoying - the internet is something very useful and helpful (especially as we have no essays waiting to be done at the present time), but it's just not working.

Some of the computer guys in college have been trying their tricks, but nothing seems to help... I can find the network, but it just won't allocate an IP address to me. Rage!!!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dublin's trials and tribulations

And so I find myself back in Room 21, in Dublin once more for the start of the new term. Already, I've been met with some challenges and trials, and term hasn't started yet.

For one, the toll bridge fee has gone up at the Boyne. To beat the troll under the toll bridge and bypass Drogheda, you now have to splash out 1 euro 70, rather than 1.60. Thankfully, Robert knew about it as he had been down on the bus last week, so we were ready for that one. I'll have to mind it in future when I'm getting my change sorted before the journey north.

Then I land into my room, open the door, and am met by the base of a bed, standing to greet me! Oh no, I think, someone has stripped my bed and stood it upright as a practical joke for my return, but no, my bed is as it was... It (and the accompanying mattress) must have been left in my room for storage and forgotten about. Now, as you may know, these rooms are small enough without having an extra bed in them, any way up... I've managed to stand it up against the built-in bookcase at one end of the room so I can at least move about, get in and out, and access my wardrobe. It'll be moved in the morning, I'm telling ya!

But in the midst of these trials, there is one bright spot. Indeed, the fact that I can tell you about them at all is that bright spot. Yes, the wireless network seems to be properly working for me in my room! I've been able to access hotmail properly, as well as see my counter stats and review ebay purchases, and now blog. Is this just the first night success, as no one else is trying to access the network, but we'll be back to regular service tomorrow when everyone is back at college? Who knows... but in the meantime, I'm making use of the facilities while I can!

Returning to Dublin

Well there we are... the holidays have come to an end, and in a matter of hours I will be back in Dublin ready to start the new term of college. Where has the past month gone to? It's been a good time though, and very relaxing.

So now I return to college, with two weeks of the old timetable (for the first semester), before we move immediately to the second semester and the new range of courses - Soteriology and Hermeneutics for the first time.

Here goes!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Pheasant (and the venison too...)

Continuing my occasional food reviews, tonight we were in The Pheasant for a meal. Being there at 5,30pm, we were on the Lunch/Early Bird menu, rather than the main menu.

With a good range of choice, even on the 'smaller' menu, I thought I would go for something a wee bit different. So I plumped for the Gamekeeper Tower. A magnificent feast! Contained within was a venison burger, and a pheasant burger, between dried tomato bread with onions and some sort of sauce; and a generous side salad.

This was my first time having either venison or pheasant, and they were both nice. They weren't labelled, so I'm not sure which was yet - one was darker meat and the other sort of white... and I preferred the darker meat. But I think it'll be something I have again!

The only down sides to the meal were that the chips were very thin - a bit like McDonalds fries; and that the 'Profit Roles' (wrongly spelt profiteroles on the wrongly spelt 'desert' menu!) came with toffee sauce, and not chocolate sauce!

But all in all, a good feast to be had at the Pheasant.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Topping the Google Searches

As I've previously blogged about, I'm using Bravenet as my main stat counter. One of the features it provides is the list of referrers for the last ten people to visit the site. It tells me if someone clicked through, and if so, then what site they came from.

I think I can vaguely remember blogging about the strange searches which have directed people to my site. Really random things, like 'Simon, another magi, Acts 8 sermons'; or 'John Eldredge in Dublin.' Obviously, I have put some combination of the words together in the past, which brings people to the site.

Recently I've noticed that my visitor numbers have been increasing, with lots of referrers. The past three days we have had 41, 35 and 39 visits... quite a lot! And do you know the strange thing? Most of them are coming from google searches. In most of the searches coming in, I'm making it to the top page of the results (1-10)... I have no idea how it's happening, but there must be something about this blog, and the last two years that is getting the readers in!

So if this is your first time, or your thousandth time, keep reading, and keep coming back! Oh, and leave a wee comment - it won't hurt you, and might even provoke a bit of discussion!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Is it nothing to you?

I'm reading through Lamentations at present. Maybe not one of the usual books people read or study, but I felt it was the natural follow-on to my study in Jeremiah. After all, it may well have been written by Jeremiah. But even if not, it is part of the Scriptures, and describes the thoughts of those left behind in Jerusalem after the prophecy of Jeremiah, after the fall of the city under Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

A particularly poignant verse is found in 1:12:

'"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which was brought upon me, which the LORD inflicted on the day of his fierce anger."'

Jerusalem is in ruins, having been destroyed by the invading armies. The pride of Israel, even the joy of the whole earth (Ps 48:2) lies in ruins.

Israel was on one of the ancient trading routes, between Egypt and the rest of the world. Think of the traders who took Joseph and sold him in Egypt. That's why it was so important in the wider empire games of the bigger nations. If you controlled Israel, you had the trade routes. So Egypt always thought it important. The Philistines wanted it. The Edomites wanted it. And when Babylon came on the scene, it wanted Israel and Judah too - as a frontier land against the great enemy of Egypt.

And the plaintive cry arises from Jerusalem - is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? You traders and soldiers and whoever else you are - do you not care that Jerusalem has been destroyed? This is a great tragedy for the Jews, yet the rest of the world is not concerned. It couldn't give a stuff.

Now, should anyone else actually care about Jerusalem, then the rest of the verse gives us food for thought - an admission from the Jews about what had happened. A realistic appraisal of their situation. Yes, their sorrow is great - worse than any other sorrow. But where did it come from?

The LORD inflicted it 0n the day of his fierce anger. Outsiders looking at the situation could only see the invading army - the rather successful invading army. Obviously the Babylonians were more powerful. Or maybe their gods were stronger or better or wiser than the gods of Jerusalem?

Not at all! The fall of Jerusalem, the city of God, was permitted by that YAHWEH, the God of Israel. But why? Surely God fights for his people?

We fnid the answer, simply stated in verse 18. 'The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word.' Such a simple statement, yet it covers the period of Israelite history from Moses to Jeremiah. So, for example, even before they entered the land, Moses told the Israelites that their residency depended on their continued obedience. Just check out Leviticus 26- 'If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will...' (Lev 26:3-13), 'but if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments... then I will do this to you...' (Lev 26:14-45).

The verse has also been applied by Christians throughout the church to Jesus on the cross - abandoned and rejected of men, bearing our sins and sorrows. However, the author of the Welwyn Commentary from Evangelical Press argues that we shouldn't use the verse in connection with our Lord. I don't entirely agree, and so will leave you with the question:

'Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?'

The best way to slow me down...

So what do you think it is?

The new average speed cameras on the A1?

Fog or frosty weather?

No, actually, the best way to slow me down is to change the car I'm driving! Today we were heading over to Newcastle for a wee drive, and our normal visit to the seaside town. Just as we set of, Lyns suggested going in her car which was sitting at the house. So off we set in her Citroen Saxo.

Suddenly 35mph and 40mph seemed like so much quicker!!! Or maybe I didn't have the same confidence in the car that I would have in my own - so my rallying ability was greatly reduced.

Still, it was nice to experience a different car - not as nice as the Golf from the summer, but still nice!

So the way to slow me down is to put me in a different car... who would have thought!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

'Celebrity' Big Brother

Yeah, imagine me writing about this, but we happened to catch the entry into the house tonight at the start of 'Celebrity' Big Brother. I almost felt like ringing the Trading Standards people and taking Big Brother up under the Trades Descriptions Act... Yeah, so I might have heard of the Jackson Five (and hence whichever one of them that is in there - not Michael, not Janet...), and the A-Team; Steps and S Club 7; and even Leo Sayer (vaguely)... but who are the rest? Are they actually celebrities? how are these celebrities chosen?

I won't be watching the rest of it... but based on tonight's display, there'll be a lot of effing and blinding on it... (swearing, for the rest who don't understand me!)


On the Big Brother theme, though, I see that one of the auditions for the next Big Brother series is going to be held in Dublin soon... Would an Anglican ordinand be strange enough to get on the show? Should I have a go at it? Over to you...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Men's Night

This evening we intended to go to the new Pizza shop in Dromore for dinner. Well, I say new, but it has been opened over a year now, in Princes Street. I can't mind the name of it, but it's rather good!

Sadly, however, the shop was closed for the holidays, so instead we went down to Lisburn to Quincy's. It's situated at the Omniplex complex, and always provides good food as well. If you make it there between 4pm and 7pm, then the Early Bird menu is great. First up, is the free starter - we went for the pick and mix starter, so there were ribs, drumsticks, nachos, onion rings, and cheesy things galore! The main meal was also great stuff.

However, the thing we noticed was that all the waiting staff were men. No women at all on the staff last night. So how can this be? How do they get away without employing women? Are men the better waiters?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Risen from the dead!

Well, as I said previously, a happy new year to you!

And thankfully it has been a good start - today I have been risen from the dead, and was able to get out of my sickbed. Out of my sickbed so far that I made it to near Ravernet (or Ravernette, or however it's spelt!) to the Wilky family gathering. It was a great afternoon, with good food and plenty of craic! And I wasn't the only one suffering, with sickness seeming to be about...

Then tonight we had the last ever episode of the Vicar of Dibley. In some ways, it was a bit of a disappointment, and while there were some laughs, it wasn't as good as the individual episodes from a few years back. Ah well...

And so begins 2007. What will happen in the rest of the year? I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. And He is my heavenly Father - who is faithful.

So Lord, take me and use me in this new year, for your glory and your purposes. Amen.

Happy New Year!


May God bless you in 2007.