Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Thursday, December 20

Praying to Saints and Angels


It was my turn to lead the workplace fellowship Bible study. I forgot until it was time to go. So I had a minimum number of minutes to get ready - couldn't even remember where we were up to in the gospel. So I jumped ahead to the story of the Gadarene demoniac, and did some standard questions on that, and in the end the Bible study went reasonably well.

I noticed that the only woman in the group had not said anything, so, by way of drawing her into the topic for inclusiveness I asked her what the perspective is on demons, exorcism etc in her church, which happens to be Roman Catholic. She was glad that I had brought her into the discussion, but was rather caught on the hop, not sure what to say, so she said that they normally pray to the Archangel Michael.

You can imagine that in our predominantly non-conformist evangelical fellowship this was met with a rather stunned pause. I was able to state that other views exist on the topic of praying to angels, and then later on disagreed with the Pentecostal guy so that RC lady wouldn't feel too 'got at'.

But then the next week, she brought along a printed copy of the prayer to Michael, so when while praying for the carol service I prayed against the forces of Darkness, she got out this pre-printed prayer and read it out.

Now in our fellowship prayers are normally net with a whole hearted 'AMEN', so when she had finished it was very obvious that only one person managed a half hearted amen that might have been a cough.

Now personally, I can't say amen to a prayer addressed to anyone other than a member of the trinity. To me the Bible makes it plain that we have access direct to God in prayer, without need for intermediaries. But I did feel sorry for her, trying to contribute, and trying to follow up on my query the previous week, so afterwards I thanked her for bringing the prayer in, and explained why it was not our normal practice. This lead on to a good conversation about the RC view of prayers to angels, the single communion of believers dead and alive, and that we ask each other to pray so why not ask those who have gone before, etc. She also emphasised that they do not worship saints and angels. So we parted as friends.

But on a theological note, I remain convinced that simply saying you don't worship something means little when you bow before its statue, kiss its statue, attribute miracles to the something, or answers to prayer to the something, or assume that anyone in the world can pray simultaneously to the something ie omnipresence/omniscience...then even if you say you don't worship it then you have in practice made a god out of it, and I still think it breaches the first few commandments, and that throughout the Bible any attempt at communication between the dead and the living is forbidden eg the Saul/Samuel incident at Endor, and Lazarus and Dives. And fundamentally, prayer to anyone other than God makes them take the place that should be occupied by God alone. Which is a polite way of saying that despite her assurances to the contrary, it is idolatry.

Office Carol Service 2007

This year’s office Carol Service has again been a success.

5 Carols interspersed with three readings from Luke, a solo, and a talk by a professor form a local university.

The talk was well presented and contained good stuff, but unfortunately he went on too long and people started walking out. However, he did several times plug the Alpha course we will be presenting in the new year, so hopefully something will come of that.

I was surprised to find myself sitting next to someone from my own department (though in a different team), who turns out to be a Christian. So it looks as though he will start coming to our prayer group now that he has discovered us. And hopefully there will be others too.

I was helping to run the minibus service for people from the other building to come along. For this I took along my own minibus that I have for the family, having spent £50 getting it valetted for the occasion to save my blushes. But of course, in this cold frosty weather a car gets filthy as soon as you take it off the drive, so money seemed wasted. But it did get off the monkey footprints form our last safari park visit. And of course with the weather it didn’t want to start, so I had to get the jump leads form my other car to get it going. And then I went to the petrol station to fill up, but couldn’t get the key in the petrol cap. Went home for the spare key thinking I must have the wrong one, but it was just the lock frozen up!

I also had to miss an hour of work, make a donation to the fund etc, so all in all the carol service cost me personally something approaching £100, so I hope someone comes to know Christ as a result.

Oh, and the mince pies were nice!

Tuesday, December 18

True Freedom Trust - I'm in!

I spent yesterday evening with Martin Hallett, director of the True Freedom Trust.

I found Martin to be easy to get on with, without a bad word for anyone on any side of the debate, keen to find good in his fellow man. We never got round to discussing the extent to which it is congenital (where we probably diverge), but we did have a long conversation about the nature of Christian sexuality as an expression of the profound mystery of God, and about how Evangelicals have probably thrown out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to some Roman Catholic theology of sacramentalism in the context of sex and the body.

We spent about 1 hour on this general theology, then about half an hour on my background including my strengths and shameful weaknesses, and then about half an hour on what my involvement with TFT may be.

It looks as though my role could fall into three areas:
· Acting as an ‘Accountability Partner’
· Occasional speaking for TFT
· Influence in my Local Church (that’s the hard and fruitless one!)

I will probably have to ease off posting on the topic of my involvement with TFT, for the sake of my confidentiality and that of TFT’s ‘clients’.

Suffice it to say that I do feel that God has brought me to this place, and I feel satisfied. Praise Him!

Illegal abortions in Spain

The following article (in Spanish) describes the arrest of doctors and psychiatrists in Spain for involvement in illegal abortions - usually outside the time limits. One of the psychiatrists is alleged to have signed off psychiatric reports for patients he had never seen.

This kind of thing happens in the UK too, as admitted by those who want more permissive rules on the grounds that the current rules are flouted so often as to become risible. (For example I've heard of doctors who sign a whole stack of blank forms in advance). In fact, out of the 200,oo abortions in the UK each year, my personal suspicion is that a huge percentage are technically illegal for this kind of reason. I can't help thinking that this reflects the morality (or lack of it) of many people within the pro-choice moevement (I accept that there are also many sincere ones).

Perhaps the difference between Spain and Britain is that in Spain they do seem to make some effort to enforce the law, whereas here you can basically do the what you want with impunity becasue nobody here will dare to stand up to the rabid feminists.

Monday, December 17

The God Delusion

Imagine an art student who studies a painting in great detail. He examines the brush strokes and analyzes the different types of brush that must have been used. He forensically deduces the order in which the brush strokes were applied. He describes in great detail the different layers of paint and how long each layer must have been left to dry before the next layer was applied. He examines the chemistry of the paint and works out what raw materials were used to make them. The student recognises that the way in which all of these factors interact and come together gives rise to a painting that has great artistic merit. But because in his study he did not meet the artist himself, the student concludes that there was, in fact, no artist. There was no artist in the raw materials, or in the chemistry, or in the layers of paint, or in the brushes, or in he indentations left by the brushes in the paint. And so he writes a book to mock those who believe there is an artist and claim to know him, and he calls his book “The Artist Delusion”.

Of course, those that do know the artist know that in his mind he saw the image in an instant, but took years of hard work at the easel to bring the painting into being.

Prayer requests

I have been looking at my site meter and some of the seacrh words people use. It's quite poignant - people trying for pregnancy for example.

Since people are searching for answers, well, i can't pretend to have them. But I can pray, and so i have set up a prayer requests blog here. Realistically, I can't help feeling that the reponse will be a big zero, but that shouldn't stop me trying.

Come and Bleed

Our speaker on Sunday continued our current series on the Beatitudes.

I quote him (quoting someone else) – “The church should be a place where people can come and bleed”.

Clearly the intention is that they should come to the church to be healed of emotional wounds inflicted in the world. Yet so often it seems that we consider it our moral Christian duty to actually inflict the wounds and sed them away bleeding!

Wednesday, December 5


What a big difference there is between

busy’ as in ‘I have lots of things I should be doing


busy’ as in ‘I am actually doing it

Monday, December 3

Trials of a recently qualified Reader, or

"Isn't it annoying when the Vicar is right?"

It was my turn to preach this Sunday evening.

I have been struggling to make the sermon interesting – it had loads of good stuff in it but rather dry and academic. (Me? Never!) The Vicar likes the Sunday evening service to be creative – my sermon wasn’t. What’s more the Vicar likes to grill the preacher before the service to make sure the sermon will meet his idea of creative. So, whatever I have planned, he will tell me to do something different. I am sure that this is really not the way to treat an inexperienced preacher – he has always done it to me and to be honest I am more anxious about my time with him than I am about standing up in front of the whole congregation. It can be quite crushing to have your carefully crafted sermon hacked and slashed before you’ve even started.

So this week, since I was already feeling demoralised that my sermon was not going to be my best, he kept me for half an hour…yes, half and hour….telling me to change it.

In the end I had to break it into two parts, one near the beginning of the service and one near the end. He also told me to stay away from my notes. So it was guaranteed to be mostly Um and Er with only a bit of jumbled sermon in between.

The clock trundled inexorably towards the time of the service start, and then 5 minutes beyond because timekeeping at our church is really quite shameful…

And then I stood up for my first section. This part was mostly introduction, and then the sermon part was fairly straightforward, mostly scene setting for deeper stuff to come later. So I actually managed to stay away form my notes and do a reasonably good job only missing one or two important but not critical points.

Then I had to wait for my second slot…the anxiety of waiting for my turn twice in one evening!

Again, I did a fairly good job of staying away form my notes. But it did all start to unravel in the way that I expected. I had to go back to the lectern for a prompt, then had to shuffle my notes to find the place, then knocked the remainder of the notes on the floor. Normally I have them in a ring binder, but this time I was trying to be un-encumbered and just had the loose sheets, so they scattered to the four winds. The rest of the sermon was mostly from memory! Plus, there was a section where I referred to a whole series of 14 different verses, which I had listed for the projector team to display on the screen behind me as I came to each one, but the list was somehow wrong and none of the verses displayed corresponded to what I wanted to say. My fault, not theirs.

So all in all, it seemed like a disaster, and I have only had one harder time in the pulpit (the first time I preached at this church, when he had made me re-write the entire sermon from scratch late on Sunday afternoon)


A lot of people spoke appreciatively to me afterwards, and not just the sympathy vote. It seems that I am much easier to listen to when I ad-lib more.

So unfortunately, I have to admit, the Vicar is right, and I should spend less time carefully crafting an intricate theological sermon and more time memorising something simpler. But this is hard, as it is not my natural gifting.