Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March Review

It's the last day of the month of March, so time for another review of the month's blog postings. March 2009 had 37 bloggings, the busiest March since records began, although March 2007 came close with 35.

So what has been happening in my life and on the blog this month?

Like the (most of) the rest of Northern Ireland and the wider world, there was shock when murder at the hands of terrorists returned to our wee province, first with the murder of the two Sappers, then of Constable Carroll.

My two preachings in March were from Titus, as we began a new series in the evenings, and after I introduced Titus (audio), I spoke on the qualifications for Christian leaders (audio).

On the music front, there were the Hayley Westenra and Il Divo concerts, as well as thoughts on Kelly Clarkson and Flo Rida. We also launched a new feature, 'what's on your iPod?' part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

My reading yielded reviews of Max Lucado's Cast of Characters, Mark Driscoll's Death by Love, Kirsten Birkett's The Essence of Darwinism, and John Grisham's The Appeal. More books were read during March thanks to the week's relaxing holiday in Lanzarote, but the reviews will come during April.

I think my favourite posting of the month was my reflection on Psalm 67, 'The Answer to Their Prayers.'

The Appeal: Book Review

John Grisham has long been one of my favourite authors. With his fine descriptive style, tense legal thrillers with cautionary moral tales, he takes the reader on journeys into US courtrooms and prisons. The Appeal, his twentieth fiction offering continues in the same style, with another compelling story.

After a huge verdict in favour of a widow whose husband died in a village whose water supply was poisoned (allegedly) by a chemical firm, the firm launch an appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The novel follows the experiences, ups and downs of the family lawyers who risked everything for the widow as they prepare for the appeal hearing. The twist is that before the case will come up, there's an election for a seat on the Supreme Court, and big business seeks to influence the election by promoting a candidate who will be much less sympathetic to huge plaintiff damage verdicts.

It seems that this book is written as a personal plea from Grisham, himself a former member of the House of Representatives in Mississippi to America at large to change the way Supreme Court Justices are appointed, thus preventing big business from 'buying' justice. An excellent read, with plenty of characteristic twists along the way.

Monday, March 30, 2009

No, But Seriously...

Last week, I shared how Adrian Dorrian is moving on from Newtownards to the Antrim Road, from St Mark's to St Peter's. This week, I'm delighted to provide a link to his new blog! Adrian's always been very interested in blogging, but never started. Now, after a long time of prodding and 'nagging', he has taken up the challenge, and launched his blog. Not much there yet, but bookmark it or subscribe for his continuing content.

Happy Holidays

Despite the published updates last week, I wasn't near a computer the whole time. The advance publication took on blogger really is great - write up your posts, publish with a future time, and the post is held until that time is reached. Voila!

Anyway, the reason I wasn't near a computer was that Lyns and myself were off on holiday, to the volcanic island of Lanzarote. Some winter/spring sun and a much-needed break. Great stuff.

Temperatures were about 21 - 25 degrees Celsius / Centigrade, which is hot enough for me! Lots of relaxing by the pool, reading, sightseeing, and taking things easy. By Tuesday I had finished all my books, and in the end had to buy one for the journey home, having read all of Lynsey's too! Reviews to come in the near future. Lesson for next holiday - take more books!

One of the highlights was a camel ride near Timanfaya National Park - I'll have some photos of that, and also the sights of the island on Flickr some time soon.

For now, though, it's back to work, with the Easter Vestry on Thursday night, and Holy Week looming next week. There's also a stack of emails, and 575 new blog entries to read on Google Reader at some point. I'm refreshed and ready to go!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Auld Enemy (4)

The book Esther may be famous for being the only book in the Bible which doesn't mention God. However, it is less famous for the final clash between God's people and their ancient enemy, the Amalekites. God had declared that he would war against Amalek throughout all generations, and once again, the old conflict raises its head.

Amalek was a Satan-inspired nation which sought to destroy the people of the Jews, and therefore destroy the family line of the Messiah who was to come. By now, Israel has fallen to the Assyrians, and Jerusalem to the Babylonians. Babylon has fallen to the Medes and Persians, so Israel is well in exile.

Having won a palace beauty competition, Esther, Hadassah, has been made Queen, in place of the feminist Vashti. Esther had been raised by her cousin, Mordecai, who was of the family line of Benjamin, a son of Kish. He was a descendant of the very family of King Saul, who had messed up when it came to destroying the Amalekites.

On the opposite side, we have Haman the Agagite. Agagite meaning son of Agag, which means that we have the great- grandson of Agag king of the Amalekites on one side, and the great- grandson of Saul on the other.

Haman takes out a grudge against Mordecai as he refuses to bow in Haman's presence. Haman then persuades the king to sign an order to allow the widespread slaughter of the Jews, throughout the entire empire. Panic time.

Yet Mordecai keeps his head (literally, as well as metaphorically), and encourages Esther to speak on behalf of her people to the king. 'And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?' (Esther 4:14).

Esther is successful, the plot is overthrown, and Haman ends up on his own gallows, intended for Mordecai. Mordecai defeats his enemy, Haman, and God defeats the enemy of his people, the Amalekites, preserving his people, and ensuring that Jesus could be born under the Law to save those under the Law, and to bring salvation to all nations.

The ancient enemy is defeated, and God is vindicated! All praise to our God, who defeats our enemies and delivers us from danger!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Endlessly Explosive

Another in my 'what's on your iPod' series, at the end of the E's this time.

Endlessly - Muse
Enough - Chris Tomlin
Enough Love - Duffy
Escape - Muse
Evacuate - The Boxer Rebellion
Everybody Hurts - The Corrs
Everybody Knows (Except You) - The Divine Comedy
Everybody's Fool - Evanescence
Everything Will Be Alright - The Killers
Exo-Politics - Muse
Explosive - Bond

Anything missing from the list that everybody is listening to? Add suggestions in the comments box.

The Auld Enemy (3)

We've been thinking this week about the enemies of God's people, the Amalekites. God had declared them his enemies, and sanctioned the warfare with them through the centuries until the memory of them is blotted out. Eventually, Israel has a King, and it looks like he will obey God's command and defeat his enemies.

'And [Saul] did valiantly and struck the Amalekites and delivered Israel out of the hands of those who plundered them.' (1 Samuel 14:48) A promising sign indeed. And then it all goes horribly wrong.

God's command is simple: "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" (1 Samuel 15:2-3).

While we may find it difficult that God commands such widespread slaughter, not just of animals but also people, it is clear that this is the action of a just and gracious God. The Amalekites had been consistently oppressing the people of God, and the measure of their sins was full. God's wrath comes slow, but when it falls, it surely comes.

But Saul failed to carry through his orders. Missing the 'all', he spared their king, Agag, and some of the best of the sheep and the oxen and the fattened calves and the lambs (1 Samuel 15:8-9).

Saul, the protector and leader of God's people fails in his task. Because of his disobedience and rejection of God's commands, God rejects him as king, and thus David is anointed for the top job. 'Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.' (1 Samuel 15:22)

Samuel himself kills Agag, and yet some Amalekites live to see another day, to yet again oppose the people of God... In that generation, with a raid on David's family at Ziklag, and had carried off David and his men's wives, sons and daughters to be captives. David attacked, leaving just 400 Amalekites to ride off to safety on camels (1 Samuel 30:17). Yet, in another generation an Amalekite will seek to destroy the children of Israel and the Messianic line for good...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Auld Enemy (2)

We've been thinking about how Amalek is the ancient enemy of God's people. The first attack when Israel came out of the land of Egypt was by the Amalekites. Now forty years later, Moses is giving final instructions to his people before they enter the Promised Land.

"Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt, how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. Therefore when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your enemies around you, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget." (Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

This passage sheds some light on the reason for detesting Amalek. The nation hadn't even targeted soldier, but rather the weak and lowly of the Israelites, those lagging behind. It was like ancient guerilla warfare, picking off easy targets rather than standing up for a fight.

Time may have moved on, yet the command is the same - Amalek is not to be tolerated, but to be destroyed. What will happen when Israel moves into the land? Will it obey God's commands?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Auld Enemy (1)

After Israel had crossed the Red Sea, their first battle was against Amalek. While the soldiers on the ground may have seen the victory of the children of Israel due to any number of military factors, the Scriptures remind us that it was a supernatural victory.

On a hill overlooking the battle, Moses stood with the staff of God in his hands. While the staff was raised, Israel prevailed, and when his arms grew tired, the Amalekites began to gain ground. What to do? Moses wasn't a young man (he was about 8o by now), and his arms were getting tired.

Aaron and Hur stood on either side, holding up his arms until Joshua led the people in complete victory. Imagine it - a smelly calling that day, to stare into Moses' armpit, his oxter, and yet a vital one to secure victory for God's people.

To remind Joshua of the victory, the LORD tells Moses: "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." (Exodus 17:14)

Why was it that Amalek was chosen for such special treatment? It appears to be because they first opposed the free children of God, and as such were inspired of the devil, to prevent the coming forth (in due time) of the Messiah. As we shall see, their scheming continued through the generations.

What a fearful thing for the LORD to declare war against you. And yet millions of our neighbours and friends are currently God's enemies, as they live in opposition to the Lord Jesus, in rejection of his rightful rule.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving On Up

Got a pleasant surprise when I heard that my brother minister Adrian is moving on up, from an 'umble curacy in St Mark's Newtownards to be rector of St Peter's on the Antrim Road. Not only a big step up in terms of responsibility, but also crossing the river, and the diocesan boundaries. He's only really on short-term loan to the Diocese of Connor!

Having been one of Adrian's confidantes through much of his recent parish hunting, it's been an interesting time to watch it all unfold. Seeing him think through where it was God was calling him, as well as the type of parish he was seeking, has started me thinking about these things too. After all, Adrian is now the first of my college colleagues to be appointed Rector. In two short years it could be my turn to move on from Dundonald either to a second curacy or even a first incumbency.

Where could that be? Another 'city church' or more rural life? An established parish or a church plant? I cannot tell right now, but the Lord knows the future, and the plans he has for me. I'm happy to wait and see, and work in the meantime where I am now, rather than obsessing about the future...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Coming and Going

Two smaller alphabet slices today in the 'what's on your iPod' series.

Come and Follow me - Andy Park
Come and Listen - Passion
Come and See - Piano Chill
Come Like You Promise - Delirious
Come To Me - Les Miserables
Come Unto Me - Kingsway
Come Walk Among Us - Andy Park
Go, Go, Go Joseph - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

I suppose the surprising thing is that I don't have at least one version of 'Come, now is the time to worship' on the iPod. Given its almost complete saturation of every worship event and cd, it's not yet on my iTunes!

A New Form of Nosiness

Google have launched their Street View feature on maps now, and it's live on Belfast. Google maps have long been my source of information, especially when planning routes of pastoral visitation in a new and strange area. Call up an address, and you get a fairly good map, which you can zoom in and out, move around and find your bearings.

Now, they've taken it to the next level. For considerable parts of Belfast, you can drag the 'orange man' (no significance, though) onto a street, and the view changes to an interactive picture. It's as if you were standing on that street, having a look around. You can navigate up and down streets, zoom in and out, look up, down and all around, and see what you would see if you're there. Except number plates and faces are obscured.

Have a look yourself and see what you can find. Flickr friends have found their works lorry in Dalry Park, and several have spotted their own houses.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Finger of God

Anthropomorphisms are ways of speaking about God using language we know and understand. So we attribute to God the features of people like us. We talk of God's hands and feet.

I've been reading Exodus, and been noticing such a happening there. Moses has appeared on the scene in Egypt, demanding freedom for the children of Israel. Yet, just as God warned, Pharaoh hardens his heart and says no. So the plagues begin. The river Nile is turned to blood, which the Egyptian magicians copy (which was exactly what Egypt needed - even more blood!). Same with the frogs.

But then Moses does something the wise men couldn't copy. God sends gnats on the land. 'The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.' (Exodus 8:18-19).

The finger of God. The same description Jesus uses of his own work. 'But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.' (Luke 11:20).

Do we see the finger of God at work? Imagine how much power God has in one finger! It was by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm that He brought Israel out of Egypt (Psalm 136:12). How great is our God!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Paddy's Picks

With St Patrick's Day yesterday, lots of bloggers were reflecting on various aspects of the man and his day.

Alan in Belfast was at the St Patrick's Day concert in the Waterfront, for the music of Bill Whelan (of Riverdance fame), and a special appearance by Sharon Corr.

Over at Slugger O'Toole, they're discussing the now annual student street party riot in the Holy Lands.

The best series of posts, however, come from étrangère. Rosemary Greer writes of how we miss the point on St Patrick's Day, as well as writing on Patrick the man, Patrick the mission, and Patrick the message. Excellent stuff to read.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saint Patrick

St Patrick Window

Today Irish people and adopted Irish people from across the world join together to celebrate all things Irish, and especially the man of the day, who ironically wasn't Irish, Saint Patrick himself.

Patrick, who came from somewhere in the west of Britain, probably Scotland or Wales, had been kidnapped by Irish raiders and was carried across the Irish Sea. Having tended pigs on Slemish, he eventually escaped, but not before becoming a Christian and putting his faith in the God of his fathers.

Having trained for gospel work, he heard in a dream the voice of the Irish calling to him to come back and tell people the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of God on this island. This he did, and many places today are named ~Patrick in his honour (e.g. Templepatrick, Seapatrick, Downpatrick, etc).

His first church was in a barn given by a local chief in Saul, County Down, just outside Downpatrick, and this photo is of the stained glass window in the St Patrick's Memorial Church at Saul, which was built in 1932 to mark the 1500th anniversary of St Patrick.

Considering that Patrick was someone who loved the Lord Jesus and served him, it's a bit weird that his name and day is an excuse for a whole pile of drinking, when half the world, it seems, wants to try a Guinness. Especially if it's green and costs three times as much.

Almighty God, in your providence you chose your servant Patrick to be the apostle of the Irish people, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of your Word: Grant that walking in that light we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sermon Audio: Titus 1: 5-9

On Sunday night I was preaching from Titus chapter 1 on Paul;s directions to Titus to appoint elders and overseers/bishops. Here's the sermon audio mp3 from the meeting in the halls.

Download this sermon

Sermon: Titus 1: 5-9 Christian Leaders

I wonder if you’ve ever been to Crete. It’s an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and the holiday brochures look great. With white beaches and stunning mountains, you can see why someone would go there on holiday.

Tonight we’re continuing our study in the letter of Paul to Titus, and as we see, Titus is not there for a holiday. As we found last week, Titus is a younger colleague of Paul’s, involved in preaching the good news of Jesus and leading the church in that place. From the start of tonight’s reading, it’s clear what the task of Titus is. ‘This is why I left you in Crete, that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.’ (v. 5)

So Titus is to appoint church leaders. What should he be looking for in prospective leaders? And for us – what should we be looking for in church leaders, both current, and future? Well, as we’ll see, the important things to look for in church leaders link in with the overall theme of the letter to Titus: Truth which accords with godliness. (1:1)

So as we look at our passage tonight, we’ll see that church leaders must hold to the truth, and also must have a life of godliness. But just before we get into that, a quick reminder of just who church leaders are. Look at verse 7. ‘For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.’ So the church leader, in whatever role, (here the words elder and overseer/bishop refer to the same people), is a steward of God. It’s the position of responsibility over a household, the chief servant – illustrations that help us to see that Christian leadership isn’t about lording it over people, but about following in the example of the Lord Jesus in humble service.

So what should Christian leaders look like? First, we’ll look at their knowledge of the truth, then we’ll look at the accompanying godliness. So what of the truth in their lives?

Verse 9 shows us clearly. ‘He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.’ You see, the leader is not free to make up his own doctrine, or to invent new things to teach about God and the gospel. There is the ‘trustworthy word’ – the authentic, authoritative word of the gospel, passed on by Jesus and the apostles to faithful men who have passed it on to us. We have the trustworthy word in the Scriptures – as Paul says, the trustworthy word as taught. We can only trust the words of the Bible, the authentic teaching about the Lord Jesus.

So many supposedly Christian leaders are departing from the trustworthy word, and their people suffer.

The leader then, in particular, must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught. Holding firm – I was visiting a house this week, and a wee dog came and grabbed the front of my shoe, and it held on firm! It wasn’t going to let go! Or think of someone who has slipped from a balcony, holding firm to the edge – to do otherwise is to perish.

Yet, as we see from the rest of the verse, it’s not just holding firm to the Scriptures in order to pass a ‘soundness test’ or a doctrine exam. No, it’s in order to do two connected things. First, to give instruction in sound doctrine; and second to rebuke those who contradict it. Next week we’ll see just why the need for holding firm and rebuking was so vital, with false teachers on Crete.

Remember that the theme of the letter is truth and godliness. This is just as much necessary in Christian leaders, who will then be able to lead and help the rest of the church to progress in these matters. We see the concern with godliness in verses 6 to 8. Each verse neatly breaks down the matter of godliness for prospective leaders into three areas – home, negatives, and positives.

Starting with home, then, verse 6. ‘If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery and insubordination.’ That ‘above reproach’ doesn’t mean that Christian leaders are perfect. Far from it – if the bar for leadership was perfection, then there would be no leaders! But what it does mean is that there could be no accusations against the person. You’ll see it repeated in verse 7, but first what would no accusations mean in home life? Well, he would be faithful to his wife, if married, and his family will be believers. Why is this? Well, the church is a family, albeit bigger than our individual families. As Paul writes to Timothy, ‘for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?’ (1 Tim 3:5).

We’ve already noticed the start of verse 7, and again we see the words ‘must be above reproach’. What does it mean for the church leader’s conduct to be above reproach? Paul outlines five negatives, and then six positives.

‘He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.’ As we look at this list, it’s probably very easy to see why these qualities would not be useful for those in the teacher-pastor role of leadership. It might be easy to be arrogant if we hold the truth, but it will not help the proclamation of that truth. In pastoring people, it’s not a good idea to be quick-tempered or violent – disastrous things may result! Similarly, the drunkard’s dependence is not on God, but on something else – in this case the bottle. And finally, some may see leadership as a way to gain financially. Do you see how these various features are all about putting self first – my opinions, my anger, my addictions, my fists, my pocket. And all stem from a lack of self-control.

As we scan the other list, verse 8, the positive qualities to look for in Christian leaders, we see the opposite of self first. In contrast to the lack of self-control, we find it twice here, being ‘self-controlled and disciplined.’ This putting of others first also shows up in being hospitable (willing to open your home and life), and in being a lover of good. The last two words speak of being upright and holy. Upright is in terms of being honest in your dealings with people, and holy is the word for devout in your attitude to God.

So what do we do with our passage tonight? If you’re already in church leadership (and I’m speaking to myself here as much as anyone else), then are these qualities developing all the more? How is your knowledge of the truth and your godliness growing?

If you’re considering Christian leadership soon or at some point in the future, then are these qualities evident in your life?

But maybe you’ve been sitting back thinking, well, all that’s well and good, but I’m never going to be in leadership. I’ve no intention, and therefore it all doesn’t apply to me. Friends, there is still much to respond to here in the passage. First, be praying for those who lead – that they will hold firm in the midst of temptations and pressures from lots of sources. Also pray for those who are considering leadership, and for those who make the selections.

But also vitally important to recognise is this: truth and godliness is not just the reserve of the rector and the curate. It’s not just a thing for the Select Vestry. It’s not just for the keen people who turn up to everything. Knowledge of the truth and godliness of the leaders is important, precisely as they can lead the Christians in the church to follow the same path.

In a few weeks time we’ll see that in practice for all members of the church, in chapter 2. So even now I’ll challenge you – as the leaders seek to grow in truth and godliness, are you also growing?

There’s a section of the ordination service, which I want to finish with this evening: ‘Because none of us can bear the weight of this ministry in our own strength, but only by the grace and power of God, let us pray earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on these persons. Let us pray also that God will each day enlarge and enlighten their understanding of the Scriptures, so that they may grow stronger and more mature in their ministry, as they fashion their lives and the lives of the people they serve on the word of God.’

There’s that double emphasis on truth and godliness. Even so, let us pray!

Discussion Questions

1. What does Paul mean by requiring elders to be above reproach? Why is this so important?

2. Is the quality of life expected of church leaders in the public eye too high or too low? Do we expect more from them than the ‘normal’ Christian? Why?

3. What does it mean to hold firm to the trustworthy word?

This sermon was preached at Sundays at 6.30 in St Elizabeth's Halls, Dundonald on Sunday evening 15th March, 2009, continuing our new series in the Letter to Titus.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Answer To Their Prayers

With my background in traditional Anglican robed choirs in the Cathedral, I still appreciate the Psalms sung to Anglican Chant. In our parish, we don't chant the psalms, but I have a few CDs I can listen to meditate on the Psalms in this way.

Yesterday evening I was listening to the Choir of King's College, Cambridge singing 67 to a chant by Bairstow. Here are the words of the Psalm:

1May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us,

2that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

6The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

It was particularly verses 3 and 5 which struck me. Hear it as the earnest prayer of the ancient nation of Israel, the people of God. Let all the peoples praise you! They were in covenant relationship with the one true living God, and their desire was to see all the nations come to join in the praise of their God.

If you're reading this and you're a Christian, there's a fair chance that you are a Gentile Christian, not part of the commonwealth of Israel according to the flesh. And if so, then you're the answer to their prayers. I'm the answer to their prayers.

The British, the Irish, the American, the French, the Colombian, the Chinese, the Indian, the Australian, the Canadian, the Brazilian, the Ugandan, the Nigerian, the do you get the idea? As people from these various peoples and tongues and nations come to believe in the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we are the answer to the earnest prayers of the ancient people of God. His saving power is indeed known among all the nations.

So let's praise God for His mercy to include us among His people. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Essence of Darwinism: Book Review

Matthias Media and The Good Book Company have been producing excellent books on current issues from a Christian perspective for a long time now. Dr Kirsten Birkett in particular has been advancing her series on 'The Essence of ...'. Given the hype about this 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, this book, on the Essence of Darwinism, is very useful reading.

Birkett presents complex arguments in fairly straightforward ways, and reveals the surprising fact that 'Darwinism' or evolutionary biology is not as unified as it can sometimes appear to the outsider. Indeed, to call it Darwinism at all is unusual, given that Darwin's original theory has been modified and rejected such that Darwin now wouldn't even recognise the modern evolutionary biology which bears his name.

Similarly helpful is her reminder that Darwinism cannot help us to answer the questions of the purpose of life, or reveal the living God through its observations and experiments. Simply put, evolution by natural selection is the best theory we have now, but it may be superseded some day by another theory which better accounts for the evidence.

As Birkett says: If evolutionary theory (whatever becomes of it) describes a physical process that truly happened, then we have learned something about the natural world, and that is a good thing. But we have not learned anything about who we really are as people. We have not learned anything particularly special about God, for we already knew that he uses physical processes when he wants to. We have not learned how to relate to God or how to understand our own perceptions of value and morality and evil. Even if what evolutionary theory tells us is true, it does not tell us what is really important.

The Essence of Darwinism is available from the Good Book Company Website. Well worth a read.

Friday, March 13, 2009

You and Yours

Another instalment in my 'What's on your iPod?' series. From the beginning of the alphabet, to near the end this time. As always, suggestions welcome as to what is missing.

You Alone - Sam Perry at Passion
You Are My Joy - David Crowder Band at Passion
You Are My King - Christy Nockels at Passion
You Are Not Alone - Michael Jackson
You Came - Andy Flannagan
You Do All Things Well - Chris Tomlin
You Don't Love Me - The Kooks
You Give Love A Bad Name - Bon Jovi
You Give Me Something - James Morrison
You Know I'm No Good - Arctic Monkeys (Radio 1 Live Lounge)
You Laugh - Andy Flannagan
You Led Me To The Cross - Matt Redman
You Must Increase - Matt Redman
You Never Let Go - Matt Redman
You Raise Me Up - City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
You Rock My World - Michael Jackson
You Showed Me - The Lightning Seeds
You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth - Meatloaf
(You're The) Devil In Disguise - Elvis Presley
You're Worthy Of My Praise - Charlie Hall at Passion
Your Daddy's Car - The Divine Comedy
Your Grace Is Enough - Chris Tomlin
Your Protector - Fleet Foxes
Your Song - Elton John

What do YOU think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Right Round

Flo Rida has the top spot in the UK Top 40 this week, but I can't even bring myself to write about the song, because it's just so awful. Basically, it's all about how he showers money on women and they want to be with him, in short, debauchery.

At least the title of the song suggests what he needs to do, if he continues in this lifestyle - turn right round (repentance) and instead of seeking pleasure or women as his god, turn to the true and living God.

Death By Love: Book Review

Mark Driscoll has recently been a publishing phenomenon. Hot on the heels of his The Radical Reformission, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Vintage Jesus, Vintage Church and Porn-Again Christian, comes his latest book, Death By Love. Having recently finished it, I have to highly recommend it.

The book, after an introduction on the importance of penal substitution, consists of twelve pastoral letters to people he knows. They're a mixture of Christians and non-Christians, and through the letters, Driscoll applies an aspect of the cross of Jesus Christ to their specific situation. So, for someone struggling with the sin of molesting a child, the aspect of justification is brought out. Or for someone wanting to know what God is like, the aspect of God's self-revelation on the cross is highlighted.

Driscoll has sometimes been criticised of being arrogant and heavy-handed, but here his pastoral concern is very apparent. Further, it is clear that he is solely concerned with the welfare of people, and in leading them to appreciate the cross of Jesus, in all its many aspects and facets.

The situations described are terrible, with reader discretion possibly required for younger readers, or those particularly sensitive souls. Yet having felt the utter hopelessness and sheer horror of some of the people's problems, the good news of the cross shines through all the clearer.

Some minor things, though, annoyed me enough to raise in a review. Firstly, sometimes his handling of Scripture leaves a lot to be desired. I know that sometimes mistakes are easily made, but he completely misrepresents the slaughter of the innocents as Herod seeking to kill the first-born sons in Bethlehem. Mixing his Bible stories, somewhat!

Also, as the pastoral letters were originally written to twelve separate individuals, who wouldn't have been reading the letters to the others, then he has to explain specific details in each of the letters. For the reader, this then means that the details of the Day of Atonement, with the two goats, one sacrificed and one the scape-goat are repeated time and again. Yes, it's probably helpful to be reminded, but it did seem overkill.

These minor issues, though, aren't enough to prevent me saying that Death by Love is an incredibly helpful and very necessary book. With lots to think about, and good examples of application of biblical truth to specific people and their needs, it is a great book for pastors especially, but also for any Christian to take and learn from.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Goodbye Woolworths, Hello Wellworths!

Following the closure of Woolworths stores across the UK, one entertaining store manager has re-launched her branch under a new name, which was opened today by Chris Evans. Yet for people from Northern Ireland, the name will be a familiar reminder of days gone by.

The new shop's name is Wellworths. Yes, the old Northern Ireland department store's name has been resurrected by Claire Robertson. It's certainly not a new name for an alternative to Woolies. Wellworths used to be in nearly every big town in Northern Ireland - I can certainly remember one in Banbridge, on the opposite side of Newry Street from Woolworths. Back in 1996, the chain was bought over, with the smaller shops bought by the Musgrave Group, trading as Supervalu, and the larger ones were taken over by Safeway (which became Morrisons, which became Asda).

I wonder though, who owns the trading name of Wellworths? My guess is the Musgrave Group / Supervalu, as some stores were Wellworths-Supervalu for a while before the Wellworths name was dropped. The Wikipedia article is saying that the new shop won't be selling CDs or DVDs, so things are drastically changing.

No matter the controversy about the name, we wish Claire well with her venture - it's good to see people investing and creating jobs in the current economic climate. Shopping at Wellworths is well worth it - just like in the old days in Banbridge!

Numb (Part 2)

Last week it was the right side, this time it's the left side. Numb. Without feeling. Lopsided smiles and an inability to talk properly. (Although some of you are saying what's new on that one...)

Two more fillings today, but that's it all fixed now, and I can hopefully slot into the regular routine of 6-monthly check-ups. Rather than having a weekly appointment, which is much too much!

Dentophobia is the fear of dentists, and it's easy to see why some people would be afraid - holding your mouth open while someone sticks things into your mouth, drills and pointy things and suction things. Thankfully I am not afflicted by that fear, and my teeth will be better for it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Memories Repeated?

One of my clearest memories from childhood is the evening of 8th November 1987. I was 6 years old at the time, and the TV news was on. Those from Northern Ireland will recognise the date, as the day the IRA bombed the Poppy Day Parade in Enniskillen. I wasn't very old, yet I remember thinking that this was terrible, and that there were evil men and women destroying things and murdering people.

The following year, the Troubles visited Dromore for the first time in my memory*, when Terence Delaney was murdered by the UFF while waiting for a lift to work on 6th July 1988. These things had always happened in other places, but now, my home town was the setting for violence and murder too.

Bad memories for children to grow up with. One can only wonder what those who lived at such close quarters must deal with - those children who grew up without a father because of a murder, or those whose houses were attacked because their family served to protect the entire community of Northern Ireland in the Police or UDR.

Talking to some young people at church on Sunday after the double murder of soldiers at Massereene barracks in Antrim occured on Saturday night, it appears that they have no recollection of the Troubles of violence. For many, this is their first taste of the shock of terrorist activity. Such memories will have been compounded following the murder last night of Constable Stephen Paul Carroll in Craigavon, the first member of the PSNI to be murdered by terrorists.

We cannot allow the current generation of young people to grow up in the fear and uncertainty that my generation knows only too well. That is why all decent people must stop the Real IRA and Continuity IRA (who are probably the same people) from dragging us back to the past and resuming the darkest days of the Troubles. And may the so-called Loyalists not take up their arms again to counter this threat - such an action would escalate things further and be destructive of everything.

No more children need to have tarnished memories sullied by the evil acts of terrorists. Please God, restrain the hand of evil men, and grant us peace in this land. Amen.

* Three members of the Herron family had died in an IRA incendiary bomb attack on their family shop and residence in Market Square, Dromore in April 1976, but this was before I was born.

Il Divo In Concert

Last night was the eventual completion of the in-laws' Christmas present, having bought tickets for the Il Divo concert way back last year. Il Divo ('the stars') put on a tremendous show in Belfast's Odyssey Arena, on their return to Belfast, for one night only. With their own orchestra and accomplished musicians, the sound was loud and large, combined with their powerful voices, and a heart-pounding bass from the speakers.

I hadn't really heard them before, so this was my first experience of Il Divo, but I need not have worried. Most of their songs were familiar (although sung in languages other than English, which was a tad annoying), but the lady behind gave a running commentary to her neighbour which I overheard, including what songs were from which album, and which were her favourites... Less good was that fact that said lady then proceeded to sing along, making me wonder whether she realised we could hear her in front!

One last comment from her illustrates my slight unease at being present at what may be described as a female hormone rush. As they were introducing the singers of Il Divo, she proceeded to say very loudly, "Oh, he's gorgeous" when they came to her favourite of the group. The Spanish chap in the group, Carlos Marin, welcomed all the laydeez to the event, and proceeded to flirt with them the rest of the evening. Ladies night indeed.

One of their finale songs was Amazing Grace. Why is it that most singers use this as a song for the finale? However, it wasn't as good as Hayley Westenra's version - at least Hayley had a live piper with her, whereas Il Divo had video footage of a piper on the back screen and a horrible sounding pipe voice on the keyboard. Must do better! While most people in the audience were praising Il Divo at the end of this one with their applause, cheers and whistles, I must confess that my heart was praising King Jesus, for the amazing grace he rescued me with, and which will carry me home. So it wasn't all bad!

All in all, a good concert, but something must be done about the Odyssey car park. We spent half an hour in the queue to get out, as they were taking the money off cars at the barrier, rather than using the ticket machines. I think this actually took longer. Is there a better system to clear the car park quicker?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sermon: Titus 1: 1-4 Introducing Titus

Imagine that you’ve been travelling with the apostle Paul. Together, you’ve been preaching the gospel, and people have believed in God. You’re now on the island of Crete, but Paul moves on towards Ephesus, and leaves you behind to continue the work. What do you do? How do you do it?

Tonight we’re beginning a new series in the letter to Titus. As you will see, it’s quite a short book in the Bible – 3 chapters, 46 verses. And yet it’s an important book as we seek to live as Christians in God’s world. Paul writes to Titus with some instructions for himself and the church on Crete, which are also helpful for us.

As we launch into the letter tonight, we’re just going to look at one sentence. Not much, you might think, but in that one sentence, there is much treasure. The theme for tonight is ‘Introducing Titus’, but as you’ll see, we get a good bargain tonight, with three introductions for the price of one. First, Paul introduces himself, then he introduces God, then he introduces Titus.

First up, then, the introduction of Paul. Unlike modern letters, where the name of the person writing comes at the very end – yours sincerely, Gary – here, we find that the writer identifies himself straight away. The first word of the letter is Paul. So how does Paul introduce himself?

‘Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ.’ What an introduction! The first sets out that he is God’s servant, entirely occupied at serving and pleasing God. It’s an Old Testament title, used of Moses (Joshua 1:2), Joshua (Joshua 24:29), and the prophets (Jeremiah 7:25), as well as the suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13). But don’t think this is a place of weakness. The next title shows that Paul has authority – as ‘an apostle of Jesus Christ.’

The letter isn’t just a social letter, bringing Titus up to date with what Paul has been doing. Rather, it is a letter which has authority – the authority of the apostle of Jesus Christ – to command Titus in his role, and also for the churches to obey.

It’s like receiving a letter from Revenue and Customs, or a summons to go to court. The letter commands us to do something because it is rooted in the authority of the letter-writer – who represents the Queen. Here, then, Paul, as an apostle, is writing to Titus, his colleague, with the authority of Jesus Christ.

If we look at the rest of verse 1, we see why Paul has authority. Or if you like, why he is an apostle. ‘For the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life.’ These four major factors are seen throughout the rest of the letter – faith, knowledge of truth, godliness and hope, but the two key features, indeed, the very theme of the entire letter, are the two middle ones. Our knowledge of the truth and our godliness.

As we’ll see in the coming weeks, it’s vital to hold both together – truth and godliness. Or to put it another way, how sound doctrine must lead to sound living. You see, we’re in trouble if we only have one and not the other. To have good works, without a knowledge of the truth may be an attempt to serve God without knowing God. Good works won’t save us – we simply can’t earn God’s favour in this way.

But the equal danger is to have a knowledge of the truth without godliness. To believe the right things but then do nothing about it – to go on living how we please. There’s a word for people like that – hypocrites! At the end of chapter 1, Paul says of the false teachers, ‘They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.’ (1:16)

As Paul sets out for Titus, and also for us, what we believe about God must make an impact on how we live. Otherwise, those around us may well wonder what the gospel is really all about. What about you?

As well as introducing himself, Paul also introduces God in the letter. Already we’ve seen mention of Him, as Paul is God’s servant, and also in the mention of God’s elect – those whom God has chosen to be part of his family, from all tribes and tongues and nations. But here, Paul gives a glimpse behind the scenes, at the character and purposes of God.

Paul’s writing about the faith, truth, godliness, and especially the hope of eternal life. It is this hope that God has promised, for his chosen people. Do you notice the startling description of God there? ‘God, who never lies.’ This is in contrast to the character of the Cretans (not the cretins!)(1:12), who ‘are always liars.’ So while these residents of Crete may not be able to trust what their neighbours say, they can be confident in God keeping His word.

But more than that, not only does God not lie, He has also promised the hope of eternal life ‘before the ages began.’ Before the creation existed, before God said ‘Let there be light’, God had purposed and promised the hope of eternal life for his people. How is this possible, especially since God, who knew us, also knew that we would mess things up? Well, because God is also ‘our Saviour.’ God is the one who has taken the initiative, in sending Jesus to die for us; and in sending the apostles to spread the good news through their preaching.

Finally, we come to Titus himself. Now, obviously within the letter, Titus didn’t need introduced to himself, but here we can see how Paul regards Titus. It is, if you will, Paul introducing Titus to us. So how does Paul describe Titus? ‘My true child in a common faith.’

The letter to Titus is one of several letters in the New Testament called the Pastoral Epistles. Rather than being written to churches as such, they are written to Paul’s colleagues in ministry, Timothy and Titus. In 1 Timothy 1:2, Paul also calls Timothy ‘my true child in the faith.’ Titus and Timothy are therefore younger men, also engaged in the preaching of the gospel, and the letters written to them are to encourage them in the places where Paul has sent them, and to remind them of what to teach. The letters would then have been read when the church gathered together.

Titus is found in Galatians 2:3. He was a Greek Christian – a Gentile, yet wasn’t circumcised. ‘But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.’ (Gal 2:3)

Titus seems to have been Paul’s ‘troubleshooter’ – the person who goes in when things are difficult and sorts it out, like the people in the banks who are trying to turn things around. Earlier, he had been in Corinth several times: (‘But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.’ 2 Corinthians 8:16-17) (2 Corinthians 8:23), which wasn’t an easy place to be, and later he is found in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia, 2 Timothy 4:10). But here, Titus is left behind on the island of Crete, with the task of getting things into order after Paul’s initial gospel work.

And what is the pressing need? As we’ll see next week, church leaders who both hold on to the trustworthy word – the knowledge of the truth – as well as living lives of godliness.

As we begin to read Paul’s letter with Titus, then a number of challenges immediately confront us. Are we trusting in the Lord – do we stand in the faith? Is our knowledge of the truth growing? And linked to that – does what we believe really impact on how we live?

This sermon was preached in St Elizabeth's Halls on Sunday 8th March 2009.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sermon Audio: Titus 1: 1-4

Tonight in church we launched a new series, in Paul's letter to Titus. Here's the mp3 file to listen or download. Transcript will come tomorrow, as this was recorded directly on the MacBook Pro and was ready for instant upload!

Download this sermon

Return To Terror

Normally on a Sunday morning, I catch some news before I head out to church, but this morning I missed the radio updates. I was shocked, therefore, to hear that two soldiers were murdered, probably by Republican Dissidents last night at Massereene Barracks in Antrim town. A return to the bad old days of terrorism and murder.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the murdered soldiers, and also with the injured soldiers and pizza delivery men.

Please God, that we don't return to the days of murder and evil.

Sadly, it was looking increasingly likely that they would 'get lucky.' Terry Spence, from the Police Foundation said on Radio Ulster that if the republican terrorists had been successful in their recent murder bids, then 45 police officers would have died. Now, though, they have targeted the army, in a cruel, heartless, cowardly attack. It's encouraging at least to see the leadership of Sinn Fein calling for people to help with the police investigation, and (eventually) condemning the murderers.

Will the murders succeed in taking us backwards, or will they be counter-productive to the terrorist agenda and stir up our community to continue to build peace? Time will tell.

Friday, March 06, 2009

What's On Your iPod?

I've seen this feature on a couple of blogs, mostly famously on Slacktivist. The idea is to give a series of connected songs, discuss them, and then open the floor for suggestions of additional songs in the range that could or should be added to my collection.

So, to kick off, here's the first Friday's offering, All the Alls.

All Bow Down - Chris Tomlin
All Hail The Power Of Jesus' Name - David Morris at New Horizon
All I Ever Wanted - Prince of Egypt Soundtrack
All I Want - Lightning Seeds
All Over The World - Matt Redman at Passion
All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
All Sparks - Editors
All The Earth - David Morris at New Horizon
All The Love In The World - The Corrs
All The Way - Delirious
All These Things That I've Done - The Killers
All They That See Him Laugh Him to Scorn - Handel's Messiah
All We Like Sheep - Handel's Messiah
Already Over - Orson
Alright - Booley
Always - Bon Jovi
Always The Last To Know - Del Amitri

Quite an eclectic collection already, as you may have noticed! Booley is now better known as Duke Special, and is reaching a wider audience now.

I think my favourite out of this batch has to be All These Things That I've Done by The Killers, with the infectious bridge in the middle 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier.'

Any other 'all' suggestions?

Thursday, March 05, 2009


What is forgiveness? We often speak about forgiving others, and about being forgiven. But what does it actually mean for us to forgive someone who has sinned against us?

I'm currently reading an excellent pastoral book from Pastor Mark Driscoll, called Death by Love. The book takes the form of letters (pastoral epistles, if you will) to members of his congregation outlining various aspects of the cross and how it applies to their specific situations and issues.

I'll post a full review when I've finished the book, but right now, here's the quote on forgiveness, written to a victim of child abuse, and other horrendous sins:

Because so many sins of both omission and commission have been committed against you, Satan will also seek to gain ground in your life through bitterness (Eph 4:17-32). The sad truth is that there is virtually no way that everyone who has ever sinned against you will come forward to repent and ask your forgiveness. If you wait for the people who have sinned against you to repent before you can forgive them, you will be prone to bitterness, which Hebrews 12:15 describes as a root that will feed other demonic weeds in your life.

Therefore, as God the Holy Spirit brings to mind the people who have sinned against you, you must forgive them. This does not mean minimising or accepting what they have done, but rather entrusting them to God for his justice through Jesus' suffering on the cross or their deserved torment in hell. Your part in forgiveness is giving up your just right to hurt them for the hurt they did to you. God may also ask you to confront some of them in order to give them an opportunity to repent, and if they do not, you must trust Jesus to judge and sentence them justly on the day of final judgement.

When thinking about forgiveness, we don't often think about it in this way. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

One Hour ...

One Hour on our Wedding Day

I've recently joined a new group on Flickr called 'One Hour.' It's designed to host mosaics on a related subject, with all the photos taken within one hour. Not having had the opportunity to take a new batch of photos for a mosaic, I put together a couple of mosaics from photos already on Flickr. This is one of them, entitled 'One Hour on our Wedding Day.' Check out the group and see the brilliant mosaics already uploaded!


It's a good job that blogs are written media, and not spoken, or else it would be most difficult for me to blog this lunchtime. Having avoided Dentists for at least 10 years, maybe 12, I was there this morning to start some remedial work. Last week's check-up revealed some necessary fillings, so at the moment, the right side of my mouth is still numb from 3 new fillings making their home in my teeth.

Numb, yet slightly uncomfortable, and I can barely speak. As well as all that, there's the eating ban for several hours, so I won't even get lunch until later on. Hope I have my full speaking ability back for the next session of The Money Revolution in church later. Otherwise my group will get an easy night without any input from me!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Face in the Crowd

Over at Gigapan, there's an incredible photo on view at present. It's from the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, and is so detailed, you can zoom in and see almost every face in the crowd, in focus!

It was taken on a 1474 Megapixel camera - mine makes it as far as 10 Megapixels. For any Americans reading, see if you can see yourself in the crowd!

Cast of Characters: Book Review

Max Lucado must be one of the most prolific Christian writers around today. Inside the latest of his offerings, there is a list of 24 Inspirational books, 29 Children's books, 25 Gift books, 3 works of fiction and 3 Bibles on which he has been the General Editor. Having spotted the latest book on offer in the Evangelical Bookshop in Belfast, I bought it, and have now finished reading it.

It was only as I recognised some of the chapters that I realised that it says on the front cover 'From the writings of Max Lucado.' So the book Cast of Characters is actually a re-hashing of pre-released chapters from other books. Like a Pick And Max, if you will. If you've ever read He Still Moves Stones, Next Door Saviour, A Love Worth Giving, In The Grip of Grace, Six Hours One Friday, A Gentle Thunder, Facing Your Giants, He Chose The Nails, When God Whispers Your Name, The Great House of God, 3:16, The Applause of Heaven, or No Wonder They Call Him the Saviour, then you might be reading old material.

That said, it's maybe no bad thing. For this volume there is a new introduction and conclusion, which ties them together. The point Lucado makes is that if God uses this mixed bag of failures and flops, then maybe God can also use us, and include us within His Kingdom.

However, the reason I read Lucado's books is because he is a great illustrator. Read even one chapter of one of his books, and you'll see he is a wordsmith, with carefully constructed clauses and stirring sentences. Light reading, yet good reading at the same time.

Monday, March 02, 2009

My Life Would Suck Without You

Well, Lily Allen has fallen spectacularly from the UK Number One spot, to fifth place. In her place comes Kelly Clarkson with her song My Life Would Suck Without You. The song seems to come after a break up and reconciliation with her partner. But what is it all about?

The first verse suggests that the fault all lies on the side of her man:

Guess this means you're sorry
You're standing at my door
Guess this means you take back
All you said before
Like how much you wanted
Anyone but me
Said you'd never come back
But here you are again

'Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
And honestly,
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you

Yet the second verse balances the scales by admitting, perhaps even confessing, that the fault lies on both sides:

Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye
Maybe I was wrong for tryin' to pick a fight
I know that I've got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way, I found out I'm nothing without you

'Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
And honestly,
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you

So what is Kelly saying? I think she captures that relationships are an important part of our lives, and she recognises the pain involved when things break down. Saying sorry and enjoying reconciliation is the driving force of the song, precisely because she realises that life would be nothing without her partner. How much more then, to live life without the Lord Jesus in your life? Truly life would suck!

In that broken relationship, we also need to admit the wrong things we have done, to resolve to change, and to enjoy the reconciliation provided for us through the cross of the Lord Jesus.

Hayley Westenra in concert

On Saturday evening, I was over in Bangor Elim, also know as the Bangor Conference and Corporate Centre to see Hayley Westenra in concert. The New Zealand classical star was the guest of the Bangor Ladies Choir, but Hayley was definitely the star of the show.

She appeared twice to do solo sets, mostly songs from her 'best of' album, as well as some others which weren't as familiar. She then appeared with the choir in the finale. All in all, Hayley made it a great night, and hopefully she won't leave it too long until she returns to Northern Ireland again.

Her voice was so pure, it was as if it was CD quality - no need for editing in the post-production of her CDs! She also interacted well with the audience, telling the stories of the songs and a bit about herself and her musicians as well. At her site you can see and hear lots of sample audio and videos, so go hear Hayley Westenra for yourself!