Photo credits

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

Monday, March 31

Theologically Conservative, Liberal at Heart 4

Regular readers will know that I am due to present the ‘liberal’ case on homosexuality to my church, while a colleague presents the ‘conservative’ case. Not that he is conservative and I’m liberal, just that those are the cases we have been asked to represent.

Well, the ‘conservative’ guy has dropped out, claiming to be busy.

So: it will probably be down to me to present both sides.

In some ways this is a pain because it means more work for me. But overall, I am pleased because to present just one side of the debate would not be true to myself. Doing both means that I will be able to fully express my conservative head and my liberal heart, applying compassion to the conservatism and presenting a more academic and theologically balanced background to the liberalism.

A date for the event has also been set – 3rd June. But how can you really do justice to this topic in one evening? Please pray for this event, that I may be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit, that he might bring the right mix of people into the congregation, and that the church may find the way forwards on this difficult issue.

Wednesday, March 19

I have no idea what this is about.

On my way home last night, a car started following me. Immediately he was deliberately tailgating in an aggresive way, and then when the car in front started to pull over to park he shot past me to block my way. He jumped out, fists clenched, and ran angrily towards me.

Like in the movies, I slammed it into reverse and shot back up the road, and he stopped. But then a car came round the blind bend making me stop, and so he started running towards me again. Cornered! I went forwards aagin, hoping to slalom around him and hopefully find some way past the jam ahead, but he got in my way and so I swerved into a convenient side road as he lashed out, kicking the car a I passed. Finding myeslf in a dead end, I parked up, lights off but engine running for a quick getaway. After some time I gingerly went forwards, and finding the road empty sneaked home by the back roads.

I have no idea what all this was about.
I had not overtaken him or anything. If I had, I would have waved apologetically!

I do not know him.

I have never seen him before.

I have never seen his car before.

I can only think he has read my blog and disagrees!

Interesting BBC news items

It's official. it's not just pie in the sky. Christians are happier then athiests NOW.

The least biased BBC article on homosexuality ever.

Remarriage after Divorce reconsidered

A colleague – one of our Alpha Course success stories from last year - is being chucked out by his wife. They are currently negotiating about custody and dividing the house. There has been no formal application for divorce, but it looks like this will be the outcome. Obviously I only get one side of the story, but he clearly feels that he has been used by a woman who now wants to just cast him off like old clothes. My colleague is certainly not the initiator of the split.

So he asked my views on remarriage……should someone turn up in the distant future.

It’s easy to be conservative when arguing theology on a blog, but it’s much harder when face to face with a man who has lost his marriage against his will in this way.

I gave him the range of theological opinion on the topic starting with a liberal interpretation of the verse he quote to me, and said that I was drifting towards being more conservative and don’t believe in serial monogamy. So I think I have been fair and truthful without breaking the cardinal rule of counselling – ‘don’t give advice’.

But it made me question again if my present position is right. And if I am wrong on this what else am I wrong about?

And was I an encouragement to him? Or did he leave with a heavier heart? He is certainly reconsidering how quickly and willingly he should travel along the ‘divorce’ conveyor belt.

Tuesday, March 18

Theologically Conservative, Liberal at Heart 3

Well, it looks more definite. The Vicar mentioned at PCC that we need to have a debate on the topic of homosexuality. This is a massive shift for him!

He has now arranged in principle for a weekday evening near the end of May. I have been asked to present the liberal case, while a friend – not the university professor I mentioned before but a retired teacher who is also a Licensed Reader – will present the conservative view.

But now that I am starting to think about what I will say, I find myself drifting towards conservatism again making it hard to speak from the liberal perspective. I keep losing sleep about this whole business. I think it is so vital not only that we present clear guidance but also that the guidance should point in the correct direction. [1 Cor 14 “7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”] And who really knows whatis the right direction?

we who teach will be judged more strictly” [Jas 3.1]

If I teach the conservative view but it turns out the liberals are right, I will be judged for giving gays a hard time and placing obstacles to their faith.

But if I teach a liberal view and it turns out the conservatives are right, I will be judged for condoning and even encouraging sin [1 Cor 5:1-3 “1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.”, Ezekiel 33.6 “6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.”]

So, please pray for me

  • to have the right words for my presentation
  • to compassionately lead people into righteousness.

Dr says.....

Just ‘coz I’ve seen sleep apnoea on telly doesn’t mean I have it.

I just need more exercise. This will make me sleep better at night, stay awake by day, and concentrate better at work.

Thursday, March 13

20 week scan

Looks like a healthy girl.

(short post - but contains huge joy and massive sense of faith vindicated)

A model for Free Will and Divine Sovereignty

Christians often fall into two camps. (that is a statement in itself!)

On one hand we have those who take a high view of the power, omniscience etc of God. He controls everything, selects who will become a Christian, etc. I call these people ‘Calvinists’. Their opponents state that this makes God responsible for sin and evil.

On the other hand we have those who emphasise mankind’s free will. It is mankind’s choice to rebel or serve God. Anything else would be just slavery. This view makes man responsible for his own sin. I call these people Arminians. Their opponents argue that it leaves God as a helpless observer, wringing his hands in despair at the sidelines.

Of course neither of these are fair caricatures.

But I propose the following model.

Imagine that a person is a ball – free to roll around [the free will bit]. But God has provided a channel for it to roll along. [the God’s sovereignty bit]. The ball can wobble a bit within the channel, but is constrained by the sides and the slope.

This model has its limits. It still leaves God responsible for sin. So: extend the channel, and make it branch in different directions like a tree. Some of those branches will end in places of blessing; others will end in places of sin. The whole channel system, the whole tree, is made by God. He is in full knowledge and control of the whole thing. And he rolls human balls down the channel system. When the balls come to a branch, they have a choice – left or right? Easy option or hard option? Sin or not sin? Many of the branches have signposts: “do not go down to the harlot” – “love your neighbour”, etc. So the balls rattle down the channel system, eventually ending at the destiny that God has warned or promised that he has made that branch they have chosen lead to.

In this model, God has absolute sovereignty – he made the channel system and you are never out of his will – and yet we have choices, hour by hour and minute by minute, that will affect our passage through life and our final destiny.

The next stage of development of the model would be to talk about a forest of these decision channel trees, and we could talk about how where the branches of one person’s tree touch the branches of someone else’s, the passage of the ball in one tree can open or close branch channels in the other. So my sin can hinder other people, or lead them into sin, while my righteous deeds can unlock the path of blessing in someone else’s life (even if they never use that branch to experience the potential blessing so unlocked)

Well, I like this model.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 12

Urim, Thummim, and BIC

The scene – PCC meeting discussing a contentious topic

The cast –me

I am undecided about which way to vote.

I pray “Lord, I don’t know how you want me to vote. I will drop my pen discretely, and if it lands pointing west I will vote yes and if it lands pointing east I will vote no”

The pen drops.

It bounces violently to the east, but ends up pointing slightly west of south.


Clearly we need to debate the topic more!

Monday, March 10

Theologically Conservative, Liberal at Heart 2

Regular readers will know that I feel the Lord has called me to some form of ministry with homosexual people, and that I want this work to bring together my conservative theology and my liberal heart.

Our Sunday evening service was lead by a team from another Anglican church, and ended in a time where people wanting prayer for one reason or another could go forwards. Now, normally, they ask you to go to the font. This time, since the team had spent the afternoon running a seminar on healing for our church, the team members paired up in the aisles, and we were supposed to go to them. And then, since the theme was ‘bringing people to Jesus’, they would bring the victim/candidate down to the front. This was also supposed to be less intimidating, but in fact it was worse.

Now as I have said, it was largely about bringing people to Jesus. During the week I had discussed with my wife my urge to work among Homosexuals, and had floated to her my idea of some kind of bridge-building event. She helped me to understand my naivety – that while there would be many gays willing to co-operate sensibly with a bridge-building barrier-breaking event, there could also be a small number with a much more militant, or even malicious agenda, and that I could get me, the church and the family into serious difficulty getting into this kind of thing with strangers.

So I was a bit lost. Nothing has come of my involvement with TFT –maybe I’m rushing? – and nothing was now likely to come of my new idea. I needed a fresh direction. So in church, surrounded by anonymous visitors from another church, quite late in the proceedings when one of them came free, I went forward and asked for prayer regarding my sense of calling in this field. That’s when I got stitched up, because it turned out he was just co-ordinating and he led me to one of the pairs and so I had to reveal my thoughts to a member of my church, whom I have known for a long time but not really someone to whom I would share this kind of thing. You can know people too well!

Anyway, the prayer was good – my church member prayed that any plans would be right for the whole family, and the visitor quoted the verse ‘he will direct your paths’.
Assured of confidentiality, I went back to my seat and opened the Bible. It was a psalm of empowering and commissioning – possibly relevant but not definitely so.

Afterwards, the co-ordinator guy, reputed to have a prophetic ministry and therefore under pressure to come up with clever words, came to me at the coffee area and said the Lord had given him the word ‘compassion’. Yeah well, maybe it was the Lord, but maybe it was also his own human wisdom, trying to stop me rushing in with dogmatic and judgmental biblical pronouncements. Or both. I explained to him about my ‘conservative theology/liberal heart’ dilemma. And I explained that I think this truly represents God, except He is able to square the circle where I cannot.

Then later still, I found myself standing next to the Vicar, who is very rarely free enough for a simple chat. And he was still and quiet for once. And so I took the plunge, given the thrust of the evening, and asked to have a session with him. No session was booked, but we did discuss my sense of calling, and this has developed into a plan to have an extra ‘teaching’ meeting for the church. Two views will be presented, a conservative view and a liberal view. The plan is that the conservative view will be presented by a member who happens to be a university professor, while the liberal view will be presented by me. Not to say that he is conservative and I am liberal, just that we will each present that case respectively.

I think his is really great. It’s right up my street, and gives me the chance to teach some very liberal stuff without being labelled as a liberal, and also to enable me to be conservative without people thinking I am heartless and dogmatic. So God is indeed good.

I hope that I will reap a harvest of righteousness, in the form of conservatives being less judgemental and liberals recognising the authority of scripture.

Monday, March 3

I've been exposed

I have been sussed out at work. They have seen through me. I was taken into an office on Friday and asked;
Why my projects take so long?
Why I make so many simple errors?
Why I don’t self check/
Why I don’t do what I have been asked repeatedly to do?
Why when they come to my desk it is never work displayed on the screen?


Truth is – I am guilty in all ways as charged.

Concentration is hard. I wander off to the drinks machine or to read/write blogs
I am always tired
I have a busy domestic life.
I often don’t sleep well.
I am lazy
I would prefer to do anything except work.
As a freelancer, I always have administration to do and worries about next year’s tax regime and how to set up my business to meet those challenges.
Because I can’t do it at home, I do it at work.
This is seriously damaging my witness in the office.

Last night I asked the Vicar for prayer, and he was very good. But here I am, doing it again.

I have dealt with other addictions in my life. It looks like this is the next issue. War is declared, but will I be victor or casualty? Please pray.

My son's baptism, and stuff.

On this weekend:

  • My youngest son (age 8) was baptised as a believer by immersion in an Anglican church. In accordance with our prayers, he was not the centre of attention, since he was baptised on the same occasion as a notable adult – see below. Even so, many people commented to us afterwards that the ‘Joy of the Lord’ was evident in him during the service. We always worry that as parents we push rather than lead, but I am now satisfied we got the balance right.
  • A Zulu, shy and with poor English, married a Czech woman, shy and with poor English. [How did they meet?]
  • The new ‘Mrs Zulu’ – a new convert - was baptised, alongside my son.
  • The new ‘Mr and Mrs Zulu’ dedicated their 3 month old son. (Now Q1 – they are both shy with communication difficulties – how do they come to have a baby? Q2, Mrs Zulu is a fresh convert but Mr Zulu has been in the church a long time and should know better so how come Q2a he formed a relationship with someone who at the time was not a Christian and Q2b how come he slept with her and Q2c what has the church said to them about this matter? A2a and 2b - Clearly where we make mistakes and repent we can and are forgiven. Clearly not everyone’s business should be publicised in the church. A2c I personally felt a definite sense of the presence of God at their wedding. And If God endorsed it, then so do I.
  • I also celebrated another son’s 16th birthday with a meal at Chiquitos and a family bowling session (which I won of course, but strangely my arthritic wife who could barely lift the ball came second)
  • Mothers Day – lots of chocolate, cards and flowers.
  • People are still commenting on my sermon last week. One does not do it for self aggrandisement but it’s good to et the feedback that you are hitting the spot.
  • My wife came to the evening service for the first time in months.