Thursday, 31 March 2011

Rob Bell - the definitive take on Love Wins by someone who hasn't read it

I've been tracking some of the debate and furore that has surrounded the launch of Rob Bell's latest book Love Wins.

Now I have to say I haven't read the book but in the vein of many of the articles I have read that somehow doesn't seem to matter! However for upfront disclosure I have to say I am a fan of his work, especially his preaching. I would say he is the best communicator I have ever listened to, only C.J. Mahaney comes close in my opinion.

But back to the issue at hand "Love Wins" - or does everyone get to heaven anyway? The best reviews of the book and the central issue I have seen are Derek Tidball from EA which is a brief summary of the book, Steven Harmon who covers the issue of universalism and Derek Ouellette who brings an interesting question - is it the sub-title that has caused all the problems?

Having watched the video (see below) that introduces the book, my view is that I think the questions raised in the book are ones that real people, especially non-christians, struggle with. There is a tension even a bit of a paradox in the general love of God to want all men to be saved and yet we have  the option to choose God.

LOVE WINS. - Available March 15th from Rob Bell on Vimeo.

The best summary of the issue of who gets into Heaven I have seen and I fully agree with is from Steven Harmon who writes, "a settled doctrine of the ultimate salvation of all persons seems difficult to reconcile with the clear teaching of many passages of Scripture. Theologically, a necessarily universal salvation seems to contravene both the freedom of God and the freedom of humanity. I will not be surprised if I discover in heaven that the God revealed in Jesus Christ has indeed in the end reconciled all people to God, but I cannot presume that."

Ultimately God's love will win and I hope as we consider these important questions we remember 1 Cor 13:13 "three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love". Let's pursue love with God, one another and the lost above all else - especially above telling people they are wrong and we are am right.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Thoughts on idolatry

A little while back Tony Thompson spoke at our church and asked the questions "What is your ultimate? Have you made what is good your greatest desire? What are your idols?"

I've been thinking about this and if I am honest and I look at how I spend my time I know God is not my ultimate. In terms of time God often isn't in the top three and I work for the church! Most of the other stuff is really good but the best (God) is often no. 3, 4, 5 or 10 on the list.

Does that make me a bad? No it just means I am often asleep, unaware of the grace of God on\in my life and oblivious to the many ways God wants to be involved in my life and wants me to be aware of my life in Him!

So I say to myself "Wake up O sleeper" so I can "taste and see that the Lord is good".

I don't need so much to change my life, maybe a few bits - less late night TV for one! It is more of a case of being aware and using...
  • my eyes - to look for the hand of God
  • my ears - to listen for the still small voice
  • my mouth - to say less, so I can hear more

So in essence I need to go to be earlier but stay awake more - I love a good paradox!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

What motivates us?

Below is an excellent video based on a lecture given by Dan Pink to the Royal Society of Arts in London.  It is wonderfully animated and it adds real depth to his words.

Watching it makes you think "What motivates us/you?" Is it just money, or is it autonomy, mastery & purpose as Dan Pink suggests? Most of the world is driven by the belief of a simplistic motivation drive of more money = better performance in work, in sports and even in schools (better qualifications = better job = more money!).

But how many people give their own time freely to contribute to things they enjoy and bless others? These are the things that we really enjoy and would (and are) doing for free, at our own cost.

If businesses, schools, churches, unions and governments can grasp these principles outlined by Pink then how much better and happier we would all be - that would be a big society where people are looking for greater (bigger) good!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Celebrating a life - what a joy!

Over the last few days I have been blessed, I have seen reflections of glory in the ripples of time. What have I been up to? I have been playing a small part in organising the funeral of Alec Tee.

In conversations with his family, looking through photos, seeing the tributes, hearing the stories and seeing the joy that comes of a life lived and ended (in our world) with God - I have seen the unmistakeable reflections of the glory of God. As I sit here I feel a warmth like you get when you've been out in the sun for too long - it's like I have picked up a residual glow.

There is also a little sadness, a small ache as I remember the greyness that surrounded my mum's funeral, especially within my family. So again I will entrust my mum to God and tomorrow at the funeral of Alec Tee I look forward to bask again in the remembrances of his life and the reflection of God's glory.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Investing in People

A few weeks ago I posted about my Dad's 80th birthday party. Another of the outstanding memories of that evening was seeing all the friends and relatives who came to his party and discovering how much time my Dad has invested in these people consistently over the years.

My Dad kept up a myriad of connections with his many sisters and brothers (4 sisters and 2 brothers lived into their 60's and beyond), cousins, nieces & nephews and work and army friends.  Often these relationships have been maintained over the years solely by my Dad taking the initiative of regular contact whether that be visiting, phoning, writing or exchanging calendars!

Hearing this first hand from Dad's friends and relatives, telling me of the love that they have for him was and continues to be inspiring and very challenging to me.  Which people have I invested in like this? Not many I fear.

Society is much more fractured in our time and our culture is one of immediate gratification and looking out for what we need and not what we can give others. And yet this contact and connection is what we all desire - to know and to be known.

Being a Christian in a church community there is also the added difficulty, indeed a paradox if you will. We are called to reach out to others, to make disciples, and in our church we are looking to see it grow in size and influence.  However, we must not do this by sacrificing others along the way, discarding old friendships for the 'fun and excitement' of the new ones.  Somehow we need to do both - care for our existing family whilst welcoming the new additions.

For me I know since leaving home many years ago I have lived quite independently of my family and always looked forward to building friends with work and church colleagues. But now I feel I need to make sure that the important people in my life - family and friends I have known for years - are invested in with time and effort.  I will welcome opportunities to develop new friendships in the future but I want to make those count too.

I guess as I get older, I might just be getting a bit wiser and I can look at my Dad see the way he invests his time (love) into his friends and family (and is loved by them) and truly say I want to be like him.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The joy of the United Kingdom

This is a fantastic video which will teach you more about the UK than you ever learnt in school - enjoy!

The United Kingdom Explained from C. G. P. Grey on Vimeo.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

No more happy clappy? (New Music #3)

At the beginning of the year I had a sort out of my CDs, getting rid of some old ones and sorting them into order.  I decided to put all the worship and Christian music together.  Having done this over the last couple of months we have been listening to some old Stoneleigh worship CDs (1995, 96 & 98) and an old vineyard CD (Hungry, 1999).

First off, having listened again to Hungry I think it is the most complete worship CD I have ever heard – it has uplifting joyous praise, great declarations of worship, powerful intimate personal songs to God, it is 9.9 out of 10!

Secondly, I would sum up the Stoneleigh CDs as full of uplifting joyous praise and I have to say I think that is missing from Christian worship these days.  I am not saying new songs (and by new I mean anything in the last five years) aren’t good and hey I only listen to new stuff occasionally on the radio and at church, so there are hundreds of new songs I haven’t heard.  But my question is this really – when (or why) did we become so sombre & serious about our worship? I love singing the great truths about God but do they all need to be so earnest and why do I have to remind myself again and again that I am such a worthless rag? It makes you wonder why God bothered to rescue me if I am so filthy? How about some exuberant praise about the fact that ‘everything that has breath can praise the lord’, ‘there can be joy in the Holy Ghost’, ‘there’s no one like our God’ and ‘the river of God sets our feet a dancing’ to quote some memorable lines from worship songs of the past.

I love that there is a constant stream of new songs and artists and I think a lot of them are great (Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman & Charlie Hall I particularly like) , but I think for the time being I am going to listen to old (over 10 years old!!) praise songs and live in the joy these bring.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Founding Father

It was sad to hear the news that an old friend from church, Alec Tee, died today.

I still remember that Alec and his wife Audrey were the first people to invite my wife & I back to their house for lunch when we first joined the church.

Alec was one of the founding members of our church, stepping out to do a new work for God. He has seen his family grow and go on to do great things in life and for God.

My abiding memory of Alec is of a man who was solid, not easily shaken, unconcerned about the changes around him and above all certain and secure in his knowledge that God is for him, is for us and for the world.

Thank you God for Alec. God be with Audrey and her family at this time.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Praying for Japan

I'm not very good at praying - I'm erratic, I forget and often I just don't do it!

But I have been gripped by the disaster that has happened in Japan and I have a desire to help, to serve, to do something. But I can't do anything to help - I can't go out and help, I can't support any mourning relatives because I don't know anybody from Japan, I can't even give money because there is no fund to give to. What can I do?

I can pray.

So I am making a commitment to pray for Japan this week starting today (Monday 14th March) through to Sunday for 30 minutes each day. That is a big commitment for me - to some 30 minutes will be the norm, to me this will be a lot more than I do most (every?) day.

So if you feel the same way as me why not pray for Japan this week - I know God loves Japan.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

"New" Music #2

Continuing my expansion of my music collection and hopefully an increase in my musical knowledge, appreciation and maturity - see previous post.

So the latest selection I have purchased and been listening are listed below, as ever let me know what you think.

Beautiful South - Quench and Blue is the Colour (1998 and 2001) - 50p each - 2 stars
Wonderfully crafted lyrics and with interesting melodies and rhythms BUT I just didn't get into these songs. I just didn't get caught up on any of the hooks.

Lily Allen - Alright, Still (2007) - 50p - 2 stars
Lily's voice is catchy and the tunes are very rhythmic but the topic of the songs seem to be all the same and worst of all I think Kate Nash does the same type of songs but twic as good.

The Proclaimers - The Best Of... (87-02) - 50p - 3 stars
All their great hits - Letter to America, 500 Miles, Sunshine on Leith - but also quite a few other excellent tunes and covers. OK a few duff tunes but with 20 tracks you definitely get 12 tracks that are really good.

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me (2002) - 99p - 3 stars
Norah's wonderful voice and the relaxing mix of guitar, soft drums and piano is lovely.  Music to sit and listen to, walk along on with it on a summers day or just in the background as you potter around the house.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


Last night as I went to bed feeling overwhelmed by life - water leaks, broken boiler, pressure of work, personal challenges and issues - as I lay in bed I just felt like running away, life was just too much.

I woke up the next morning to find out thousands of people had actually been overwhelmed by a massive earthquake and an enormous tsunami in Japan. Later that day seeing the news coming in from Japan gave me a large dose of perspective.

I'm not saying that my troubles are not difficult, in the context of my life they can be significant but with a bit of perspective from life, family and friends they are shown for what they are - the normal stuff of life.

So like all of us I get overwhelmed, most of the time its because I procrastinate and things just build up or stuff just happens which I don't expect. But most of the problem is inside me - worrying, not talking things through, not remembering what I said, not being honest and open about my fears and feelings - not so much my circumstances then than my inner world.

So I pray for those in Japan, knowing that the reality they face is truly overwhelming and my issues are just part of life and my journey.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Inspiring preaching

Over the last six months I have been listening to and incredibly blessed by the teaching of Mars Hill and their main teachers Rob Bell and Shane Hipps. You may have heard of Rob Bell from his Nooma films.

These two preachers take you on a journey, they tell you the story, the setting and share insight and observations. They build a cathedral of words which they invite you to come in and stand and enjoy the wonder of the the word and the world of God.

The last two series that I listened to were on the Jesus' parables and currently Ecclesiastes.

Jesus' parables are often 'simple' stories but digging deeper we see the profound riches within. Take the story of the man who finds treasure in a field, buys the field with all he has and puts the treasure back in the field. This treasure is not so much hidden as in plain sight to those who have their eyes opened to discover it and what is the field that the treasure is in and then re-buried into if not our lives?

The latest series on Ecclesiastes is so encouraging! Meaningless? A better word to read instead would be temporary (the Hebrew word is Havel) - "everything is temporary". So the teacher exhorts us to live a life of joy and peace with God, others and ourselves because everything is temporary.

So if you want to try something a bit different go check them out at itunes or you watch an excellent video clip of Rob Bell talking about resurrection (below). You could even see him for real this year at Greenbelt.

Resurrection: Rob Bell from Rob Bell on Vimeo.