Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pirates of the Carribbean: At the Worlds End

Went to see the final Pirates of the Caribbean film on Saturday. After a slightly disappointing second film I was hoping this one would be an improvement. Well it was and it wasn't. There is an ambiguous statement if ever there was one. In some respects it is better than the middle film. The plot strands are tied up for the most part although not in a particularly happy way. Johnny Depp is brilliant as usual with the film coming alive when he enters it in a very surreal way. However due to the plot heaviness this film lacks pace and action and even the final climactic battle isn't that grandiose.

As you would expect from a film based on pirates each character has their own agenda and double crosses everyone else to achieve those aims. Will wants to save his father, Barbossa wants the Pearl, Captain Jack is motivated by Captain Jack. Several characters die in this film but I won't divulge who they are. The resolution of the Will Turner/Elizabeth Swan love saga is not your usual disney happy ending. Finding out who Tia Dalma is has potential and is then wasted in a damp squib of a resolution, or should I say crab! The cameo by Keith Richards as Jacks dad is funny but brief. The dialogue between Jack and Barbossa is very witty and amusing. With the ending being left very much open to more films but coming also full circle leaving Jack in the same position at the end as he was at the beginning of the first film, in a small boat. However I hope they leave it, at least for a while as you can have too much of a good thing.

As a warning to parents I would not take any child under about 7-8 to this film. The opening sequence is gruesome and morbid and the themes in the film are not suitable for younger children at all.

Any spiritual themes are a soon lost. The main one being if you die in a non conventional way at sea you can be brought back from the dead. Captain Jack is stuck in a living hell on board the Black Pearl with a crew of copies of himself, these scenes being some of the most amusing and surreal in the film. There is also a sort of purgatory on board the Flying Dutchman for those that fear death and you can be bonded in servitude for 100 years. All a bit weak really and never that explained. In reality Death stalks us all and we have a choice now in this life of facing death with a hope of eternity in heaven through Christ or certain judgment and eternity away from anything good in hell. Sorry to be blunt but that is reality!

Anyway, film could have been better but not that bad a way to kill a couple of hours.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Trusting God's Goodness in the face of the evidence!

“Is – is he a man? Asked Lucy
“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe, But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’, Chapter 8, C.S Lewis, © C. S. Lewis PTE Ltd 1950

Well I am finally getting round to writing on the subject of the goodness of God. The title of this post is the main point I want to make. The Fact that God is a good God and is good to His people even when the evidence in front of us screams out to the contrary.

The Evidence Against!

I have been challenged about my belief in this fact several times in my Christian walk. When everything that is going on in life around me seems to point to a vindictive, cruel and heartless God. Doubtless Richard Dawkins would agree with that point as he seems to make it readily when talking about how God acts in the Old Testament, but that is an aside.

I don't make that point about God lightly but it sometimes seems to be where the evidence points to, on the face of it. I am sure every one of us on this planet could point to a time where everything is going so wrong and life seems so totally unfair and unjust that to believe in a God who is 100% good, just and loving and has our best interests at heart seems not only impossible but laughable and stupid.

There is a lady who I know who's family just seems to be stalked by death. Her daughters boyfriend was killed in a car crash when they had a very tiny baby. Both her daughter and her son have lost teenage friends repeatedly over a short space of time. What do you say in situations like that. It seems cruel to suggest God is good in the face of evidence like that.

Yet the Bible suggest that if 'God is for us, who can be against us' (Romans 8:31). Also see these passages for other examples declaring the Goodness of God including:

34Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

These passages declare that God is good, yet in times of deep distress and trouble do we really believe it?

What do you say to relatives when their father/husband is healthy one day and struck down with meningitis the next and reduced to a barely living shell with no medical hope of ever recovering?

The world is a cruel and nasty place. People can be evil, vindictive, violent and abusive. It can be so difficult to believe in anything good if you take even a brief perusal of the news headlines. Wars, shootings, bombings, rapes, murders, homelessness, starvation, disease, poverty, the list goes on.

Yet, Jesus declares:

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

and Psalm 106 sais:

1 Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever.

So enough of the stating of the miserably blindingly obvious to anyone who lives on this planet. So apart from the obvious evidence I have stated above what makes us distrust that God is good and how can we learn to believe those promises and statements in the Bible and build our lives upon them in surrender and trust to God? It all started in a garden!

Did God really say?

That title comes from Genesis 3:1 where the serpent asks a very clever question and has used the same strategy ever since. The passage from verse 1-4 is as follows:

1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden'?"2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, 'You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.' "4 "No! You will not die," the serpent said to the woman.

Look what the devil does! God had told Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 about the 'tree of knowledge' and that he must not eat from it or he would on that day die. Eve at this point appears to also assume she cannot touch it either, though that is not what God said to Adam. The Devil asks Eve a general question about what God has said in regard to eating from the trees in the garden. However the underlying deceit is very clever.

That first phrase immediately starts a thought process that would never, ever have occurred to Eve before that. The assumption that what God has said is up for our judgment? Before that was absolute trust in His goodness and therefore absolute obedience. Satan's first hook is in. This questioning then points Eve to start to focus, in verse 2-3, on what God has restricted from her, some unknown pleasure possibly, not on every other wonderful fruit tree in existence that she could eat from.

Satan then goes on to answer Eve with a lie and a half truth in verse 4-5.

4 "No! You will not die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate [it]; she also gave [some] to her husband, [who was] with her, and he ate [it]. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Verse 4 is the lie "No! You will not die," and verse 5 is a half truth. Both designed to point to God being a liar who is somehow holding out on them because He doesn't want them to be like Him, even further casting doubt over His character. That says He's is not to be trusted because He doesn't really have her best interest at heart, He’s not really good!

Satan indicates that he is just the good guy pointing out that God is deceitful and is holding the best back from them, he is the one to trust not God. Also that restriction and boundaries are somehow bad and that his advice is to ignore God and listen to him.

So that is Satan's strategy. Get us to question God's judgment, to undermine our confidence in Gods goodness, get us to take the place of God in our lives and believe that what God has restricted is much more exciting.

So she picks the fruit and eats and gives some to Adam and Sin enters the world through their disobedience. They disobeyed God's one simple command.They gained knowledge of good and evil but not at all in the way the Devil indicated. That knowledge was for the creator not the created and we can't handle it.

The Legacy of Eden!

So what legacy does that leave us with? I believe at the core of our sinful nature is a distrust of God's goodness. We have inherited that lie, that 'God is holding out on us'. The devil uses that more than any other method to tempt us to sin. One of my favorite passages in scripture highlights our state. Jeremiah 2:11-13

11 Has a nation ever changed its gods?(Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.

12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror, declares the LORD.

13 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

New International Version - UK (NIVUK) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

This passage clearly shows our sinful nature in action. We have forsaken God and decided to do our own thing to satisfy the thirst only God can meet. If we don't believe God can fully satisfy our needs, ie: that He is holding out on us, then we will go absolutely everywhere else to try and have them met. I have said before in my article on Knowing Gods Love, that this is at the root of every non pathological problem. Our core sin of displacing God and putting ourselves firmly on the throne drives all our problems and neurosis in life since we were never created to be there.
The moral breakdown we see all around in society is because '25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.' Romans 1:25When we worship anything other than The Lord God then it all goes horribly wrong, as that whole discourse in Romans 1 shows. It is what Adam and Eve did and is what we continue to do every day.

'Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature' (Sytematic Theology, (c)1994 Wayne Grudem, Inter-Varsity Press)

Our sinful nature delights to go against God's moral law. It is our legacy from Adam. We hate absolute boundaries, we hate life being out of our own control, we hate the idea that we are not in charge. Even as Christians we are still caught in this battle. We are no longer bound by sin and are set free but since we are being Sanctified, we are not there yet, therefore we still choose badly.

Why do we not believe it?

Because it is in our inherited nature to distrust that God is good! At the same time we are trying to regain what was lost in Eden, we are thirsty for a fully restored relationship with the Living God. The dissonance is obvious.

We can all declare that God is Good in our praise and worship times in church and in our prayers in groups but I believe in a good majority of cases if you looked deep in you heart it would be a different story. There is often that nagging doubt at the back of our minds that prevents us fully believing it, in case it isn’t true. Especially if you have been hurt by those you once trusted. The risk is too great to let go of that element of control, what if God lets me down, what if He isn’t to be trusted, what if He isn’t 100% good? However:

The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9

Since our core nature is to distrust God’s goodness then we look and become dependant on absolutely everything else except the one thing that can restore us and satisfy our thirst. Forever caught in the need for God’s pure living water and our natural inclination to ignore the offer of a drink. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are doing it. We so often don’t see this misplaced dependency and it can take a personal storm from God to reveal it sometimes.

We can think we are doing alright yet take a look under the surface and all sorts of things can be taking Gods place. Any addiction like alcohol, drugs, smoking, internet, sex etc... A relationship or relationships, work, church and so much more can all be the thing we are looking to in order to satisfy our thirst. We have an element of control in choosing those things even if it isn't felt choice. Where is life to be found is the question to ask yourself.

So what is God's Goodness?

So life can be pretty bad and not point to a good God. We inherently don't believe God is 100% good and for us and we look in the wrong places for the thing only god can provide. So what is this goodness that we don't trust in?

Goodness or to be Good is described in the dictionary as:

2 having the required qualities; of a high standard. 3 that which is morally right; virtuous.

The following are other aspects of the characteristic of God we call His goodness:

Love, Grace, Mercy and Long Suffering, Justice, Holiness, Righteousness

God's goodness is not something He chooses to be or do, He simply is good in His very nature. There is not an ounce of 'non-good' or bad in Him. Everything God does is morally perfect, right and unquestionably good. The difference is that we sometimes cannot see why God does things that seem to us contrary to His very nature. But we are making a judgment that we are not capable of making. We do not know the mind of God and can never do so since we are created not creator. The Bible states the characteristics of God and we simply must trust that they are so. If you don't view scripture as being the inerrant word of God then it will be all the harder to trust God.

Verses like James 1:17:

Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.

Psalm 86:15

But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abundant in faithful love and truth.

The reason I put that passage from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in was because it captures in a few words the message I would want to convey. That God is not to be messed with, He is the creator of everything and His power is beyond anything we can possibly grasp, He is not a tame God, not a God we can safely box into some category or idea. But He is undeniably good in all that He does. The facts are in scripture, that is the source of truth. Nothing that happens to us changes the facts. Yes the world can be an awful place to live sometimes. However we have a God who is so much bigger than any circumstance or hurt. He doesn't always deliver us out of painful situations but the whole character of God is for us (Romans 8:31) so we can stand confident in this fallen world with a God who 'IS' perfectly good.

All Bible quotes unless otherwise stated are from:

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.

Half my life knowing God!

It suddenly dawned on me today that I have been a Christian for half of my life. Being 36 and having become a Christian at 18 doing the math means yes I have been a believer for 18 years. I found that quite shocking. Mainly because I still feel like a spiritual baby sometimes. Fine I have many opinions on things but I always feel immature compared against many other folks. Now I know comparing yourself against others is not a good thing to do and I do not do it that often. I am comfortable with who I am most of the time and generally where I am at.

However I still have this deep seated feeling of being young. I guess a lot of the time I still feel like a kid. I have childish impulses to do things that grown ups don't do. I remember when I was doing my counseling course at CWR, I was only 25 and felt very young. I felt why should any adult listen to me because of my age. However I still feel like that sometimes 11 years later when I am staring down 40 in the not too distant future. It is silly I know and I should get over it. One neurosis that I still have very strongly is the utter frustration and anger that I feel when I perceive someone isn't listening too me and taking my point seriously or worse still patronises me. Especially when I am not close to the Lord and looking to Him for my security and significance.

I am so glad that Christianity is not about being perfect or how good you are etc... God accepts us just as we are but loves us too much to leave us that way. I can't think of an apt bible verse at this point but I am sure there is one.

Anyway here's to another 18 years, God willing, discovering more about God through scripture and experience. Letting God mold me and shape me into the man He wants me to be.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Blog Is One Year Old!

Happy 1st Birthday to my Blog!!!

One year ago I started this ere blog thing on Blogger. Doesn't time fly?

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Weird State of Mind

I am still working on the long post on God's Goodness or something like that as each time I get to it the direction changes and that leads me to this post. The reason I haven't been able to finish that post is that lately my mind is all over the place. I cannot seem to focus on any one thing for long and my inspiration for deep spiritual insight has eluded me. I have lost my Mojo as Austin Powers would say though in reference to something very different.

I am emotionally all over the shop as well, very up and down. It is like I am not really me. At work I am bolshy and intolerant. At home tired and not as helpful as I should be and not doing the jobs I need to do. I just feel time is going by and I am not achieving anything that I want to. I am also feeling very paranoid as well which is never a good sign of my mental state. What do people think of me? Have I upset that person? Why did they blank me? and so on.... This is a sure sign that I have lost my spiritual direction and taken my eyes of the source of my security, being my Father in heaven.

I am busy at work, busy at home though not getting anything done. I think it may be not enough time to myself without constant distraction. But compared to my wife doing her PGCE I cannot complain really. She has been run into the ground by the course and compared to that I have got it easy.

Prayer and single mindedness to seek God are what is required here and some time to do so alone. When work calms down a bit I think a day off may be needed.

Gee, what a depressing post this is, sorry folks!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

God's sense of Humour

The title is not meant to be irreverent in any way as I definitely feel God has a sense of humour. The reason I say God has a sense of humour is because of what happened to me last weekend.

The churches in Horsham are running a week of community projects and events called 'Let's Go 2007'. Last weekend we held a fun weekend on a local housing estate. Now I had volunteered for this and had said to God I will be prepared to do whatever is required and serve without complaining. I got the details last Friday of the activities I had been asked to do and there was just the one. The five aside football tournament.

Now for anyone who knows me this is quite possibly the worst thing and most amusing thing I could be asked to do. I am the bloke who went shopping and cut the grass during the world cup matches. Anything other than watch them! I hate football!

So I dutifully turned up ready to serve doing whatever I was asked to do with the football tournament on Saturday. However when I got there it turned out they needed people to line judge etc... who understood football rules and specifically the off side rule. Not a clue, me! So I was able to go and help out with other rides and games which I enjoyed a great deal. Especially controlling a rodeo ride, wuhahaha, the power!

Anyway I found it funny and I am sure God chuckled about it. He was gracious enough to let me do something different even when I was prepared to do it. I think it was a heart test!

I gave in - My Internet Survey Results


Name: Andrew
Birthday: Yes I have one
Birthplace: Sutton, Surrey, UK
Current Location: Horsham, UK
Eye Color: Green
Hair Color: Blonde-ish
Height: 5'11''
Right Handed or Left Handed: Lefty
Your Heritage: English all the way!
The Shoes You Wore Today: brown trainers
Your Weakness: My cat's little miaow
Your Fears: Pain and dying before achieving my goals
Your Perfect Pizza: Chicken and spicy Beef
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: Get to the end of it having learnt more!
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger: doh
Thoughts First Waking Up: already!
Your Best Physical Feature: Eyes and Bum apparently according to wifey!
Your Bedtime: Thats for me to know!
Your Most Missed Memory: Cornwall
Pepsi or Coke: Coke
MacDonalds or Burger King: Macs
Single or Group Dates: Single
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Huh?
Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla
Cappuccino or Coffee: Coffee
Do you Smoke: Nope
Do you Swear: Try not to!
Do you Sing: Sometimes
Do you Shower Daily: Yup
Have you Been in Love: Certainly
Do you want to go to College: Done that!
Do you want to get Married: Already Am
Do you belive in yourself: Yup through Christ in me!
Do you get Motion Sickness: Yes
&..39;Do you think you are Attractive: Sometimes
Are you a Health Freak: No
Do you get along with your Parents: Usually
Do you like Thunderstorms: Most definitely
Do you play an Instrument: Drums
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: No
In the past month have you Smoked: No
In the past month have you been on Drugs: No
In the past month have you gone on a Date: With my wife!
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: Yes
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos: Whatever they are, No!
In the past month have you eaten Sushi: Absolutely Never ever!
In the past month have you been on Stage: Yes
In the past month have you been Dumped: No
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping: No
In the past month have you Stolen Anything: No
Ever been Drunk: Yes before I became T-Total aged 17
Ever been called a Tease: No
Ever been Beaten up: Yes
Ever Shoplifted: only when a small child!
How do you want to Die: Quickly
What do you want to be when you Grow Up: I already Am! Its a bit late!
What country would you most like to Visit: Canada

In a Boy/Girl..

Favourite Eye Color: Brown
Favourite Hair Color: Brown
Short or Long Hair: Long
Height: 5'7''
Best Clothing Style: Casual
Number of Drugs I have taken: None
Number of CDs I own: Lots
Number of Piercings: None
Number of Tattoos: None
Number of things in my Past I Regret: Very Few!


Friday, May 11, 2007

Rush - "Snakes and Arrows"

This is just a quick review of the latest Rush album 'Snakes and Arrows'. I have been a Rush fan for nearly 20 year but I am not averse to criticising their work. The last Album 'Vapour Trails' was completely awful and I cannot listen to it without wincing, previous to that 'Test for Echo' isn't much better. So it was with some nervousness I ordered this release hoping they could recapture what they once had.

I have been pleasantly surprised which I am very happy about. Not only is this album easy to listen to but there are actually some strong melodic tunes in there which Vapour Trails seriously lacked. I think Alex Lifeson had too much say in the last album and has been reigned in here somewhat. There are elements of early 90's Rush and then even earlier stuff, not so much in sound but lyrical content and style.

Now I don't agree with a lot of Neil Peart lyrics on several songs. Though those particular ones were inspired while driving around the US and seeing the influence of fundamental Christianity. So I probably can't blame him and I am a fundamental Christian. It is annoying that the two songs I really disagree with are some of the best on the album. Oh well!

Anyway, for any Rush fan or for people looking for something fresh and interesting to listen to then I recommend this album. The boys are back and have found their musical roots again, hooray! Now to wait to see them in October!

Persecution in one of the Oldest Churches in Turkey!

Please read this link as it highlights more persecution of the Christian Church by Islamic Fundamentals in Turkey. I doubt I could be so forgiving faced with such savagery. What a witness and example these brothers and sisters in Christ are.

This church in Smyrna is mentioned in the book of Revelation and is one of the oldest churches in existence. What I find amazing is the reported fact that Evangelical Christianity is labeled as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish Security Directorate.

Another reason Turkey should not be allowed membership of the EU until it cleans up its human rights record.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Personality type we bring to our reading of scripture!

I am still working on the big post I mentioned previously but in the mean time.

This week something interesting and probably quite obvious struck me about how different people read scripture and what they get from it. The worship team I am part of is reading Psalms and every few weeks a different person shares something about how a particular Psalm has spoken to them etc...

In that context, this week the person sharing was quite honest and said they have found reading the psalms quite difficult as they can't really relate to a lot of them as they are full of 'woe is me', 'I'm in a hole', 'My enemies gather around me' etc... I found that interesting because that is the very reason I love the psalms. I love their honesty of the human condition, the painful heart felt cries of an anguished soul. David was a man really in touch with his emotions who was not afraid to pour them out before God.

The only Psalms this person did relate to were the straight praise Psalms. Now that I find a bit harder, though as I myself am currently learning about what it means to praise God and the power in it I am learning to relate to those as well.

This person said that on the whole they are a jolly and positive person. Now I can see, if that is the case then the 'woe' stuff could be seen as just very negative. However we have all been through tough times and been hurt to some extent so unless you are not fully in touch with your emotions and in some sort of denial then for me I find that point of view very hard to get my head around.

So taking that further if we read the Psalms that way then I guess we do that for the rest of scripture, take our baggage to it. I think that could be a little dangerous to some degree and we should always approach scripture with a heart open to what God wants to say to us and try and lay down our own pre-conceived ideas as much as is possible.

Anyway I thought that was interesting to observe.