Monday, 21 June 2010

He (God) loves me!

Physical and emotional abuse takes its toll on a relationship. For many years, I gave up on trying to overcome the scars of an aloof, censorious father who preferred corporal punishment to a reassuring embrace. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was an unwitting casualty of my parents’ divorce. It didn’t have to be this way, but I eventually realised that my Dad was happier starting over again with a new family that didn’t include me.

Thanks be to God that life changed when I encountered Jesus. In my conversion, God bestowed an almost telepathic assurance that He understood and that He could heal and fulfil my life: changing everything for the better. For all my own mistakes, He didn’t fail. Numerous interventions later, I remember a song by a gospel singer called Evie that perfectly captures the overflowing assurances that He continues to bestow on an otherwise unlovable Dave through the power of my personal friend and living Lord Jesus:

‘He loves me and that’s a brand new story,

He loves me and that’s a brand new song,

He loves me! He loves me!

And I just can’t keep from singing,

And you ask me, Do I need Him?

Well does a river need the water to get along?’

‘Nuff said!

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Battle of Britain

In eleven days, we shall commemorate the 70th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s most famous House of Commons speech. As I read it today, I was moved by its simple, yet staggering resonance with what is best in British people: a steely resolve to commit ourselves to the most horrendous of challenges and then refer to it as our mere duty under God. As we fight tyranny and hardship today on several fronts, we should return to this commitment to duty, both towards the God who delivered our ancestors from Hitler and our fellow man:

‘We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

You ask, What is our policy? I will say; "It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy." You ask, What is our aim? I can answer with one word: Victory - victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.’

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Taking on Goliath: ‘Is there not a cause?’

God has called us to endeavour to ‘if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18). James also calls upon Christians to be: ‘quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19). This does not mean ‘peace at any price’. There have been many instances in which godly men have been rightly incensed by brazen contempt for God.

In Exodus 32, Moses leaves the Israelites at base camp to commune with God on Mount Sinai. In his absence and under the cowardly leadership of Aaron, the Israelites insultingly replace the prescribed worship of God (who transcends the material universe) with servile subjection to an embodiment of their mineral wealth, the golden calf. Today’s golden calf is the idol of self-reliant capitalism and consumption-obsessed business acumen. We proclaim them as the means by which we escaped the hardship of the past, or as Aaron put it: ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt’.

On his return, in disgust, anger and grief, Moses throws down the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. In comparison, how do we react to humanist contempt for the past deliverances of our nation by the One transcendent God today? Do we avoid confrontation at all cost?

The Philistines settled in the coastal region of what is now Lebanon. As a nation, they displayed great military prowess. They were involved in many border skirmishes with their Israelite neighbours.

Goliath was a mountain of a man, a fully armed and trained combat assassin with a terrifying body count to his name (1 Samuel 17). He taunted the Israelites on a daily basis, challenging one of their number to approach and engage him in mortal combat.

Today, we see liberal Goliaths, prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Philip Pullman, and sexual ‘free-thinkers’ like Peter Tatchell, who advocates lowering the age of consent to 14, throwing down the gauntlet before the Church every day. They trust in their armour of modern media savvy, derisory wit and the assumptions of materialist science: casting faith in Christ and the holy scriptures as an ill-informed choice at every turn.

David was simply running an errand for his father to carry food to his enlisted brothers and return with news from the front. David enquires about the bounty on Goliath’s head and declares his sheer contempt for anyone who would be stupid enough to think they can succeed in taking on the might of Yahweh’s army.

He is accused of the worst possible motives by his jealous elder brother. Inevitably, anyone who tries to end modern contempt will endure the same accusation of presumption. After all others have tried and failed: who do you think you are?

David’s reply is as meaningful today as it was then: ‘What have I now done? Is there not a cause?’ (1 Samuel 17:29) He is immediately incensed enough to take up the challenge of ending the mockery of God, but rather than meeting the challenge on Goliath’s terms, he abandons traditional combat armour and fights asymmetrically.

He resorts to guerrilla tactics: using speed of manoeuvre and a short-range missile launcher (sling) with lethal precision. Goliath’s size makes him less manoeuvrable and the resulting brain injury is instantly fatal. The Philistine champion is slain by the tactical superiority of a shepherd boy!

Paul did the same by preaching with supernatural power and by example: ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds); casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).

To end the insulting derision of our faith by godless theorists, can we really do any less?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A house of prayer?

The word ‘church’ is derived from the Greek word, kuriakon, meaning of the Lord. It’s a contraction of kuriakon (dōma): ‘house of the Lord’.

In the last blog post, I placed Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple into a present-day tabloid news context. Jesus was incensed by the contemptuous abuse of the ‘house of prayer’: usurped by secular interests, it had become a ‘den of thieves’!

I worked in Cambridge today and passed St. Paul’s Anglican Church. I was shocked to see the following poster advertising Pole Dancing classes on church premises.IMG_0008

At this church, it was clear that explicit references to the saving work of Jesus were secondary to a wide range of secular promotions. A church named after St. Paul, but lacking in his missionary zeal is a pathetic irony.


Those who defend church sponsorship for these activities will, no doubt, cite the need for Christians to operate at the ‘heart of the community’ and stay ‘relevant to modern society’. The health and self-esteem benefits of this form of ‘exercise’ will also be touted to counter any criticism. But should we be so desperate for community acceptance as to allow secular pursuits to relegate the ministry of promoting the gospel?

I also wonder whether this blatant abuse of a modern day ‘house of prayer’ would garner a similar response to Jesus from 21st Century Christians.

I would hope that all professing Christians would be as hot with indignation as Jesus would be over this. But Jesus did say, ’because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold(Matt. 24:12)!

How would Jesus want you to challenge this act of flagrant contempt today?