Man of Sorrows

Man of SorrowsMan of Sorrows
Have I the time to stop and see the terrors He endured for me?
Will the images of cold, hateful eyes that bored into the author of joy
Bring me tears as though I could feel the pain
Of slicing the vein of sacrifice and love’s mercy to destroy
The gift that he was to a world he sought to gain?

And as He strained under the unjust load
And as he chose to walk the road
Marked with sorrows and griefs he showed that this was all for me
To call me loved and set me free
Trading calm joys and fame for a cross of shame that my healing owed

Now does my life declare that in my heart I see me there?
Or do I play at faith, and worship, and prayer?
Seeking to impress my friends instead of bending my heart and ending the game
That we play to avoid the shame of being found alone on that day?
Lord break my life, and allow the strife of your sorrows to fill me
With tears of pure love and joy as we seek you in your way.

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Pruning hurts

How does it feel to be pruned

I am no gardener. I guess I should be an OK gardener because I used to help mum in the garden when I was young and I do have a garden, and I really should spend more time in it. But life is busy and so I keep the grass down and cut the honeysuckle regularly, mistaking it for a weed and upsetting Sally each time!

Today I pruned some of the new branches that were growing out of the side of the apple tree in the front garden.  At my most basic level of understanding this is to ensure that the branches that are left have good fruit on them next year.

Jesus used a similar illustration “every branch that bears fruit [my Father] prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”.  As I clipped off the new healthy little branches I thought that if I were the tree I would be saying “Ouch, that hurts” every time the blades sliced through my flesh. Then I thought how I often say “Ouch” to God when he prunes an unneeded new growth on me.  For a start, I would say that it may be unneeded to you Lord, but I’m quite happy with it. It doesn’t bother me and I actually quite like just letting my life grow all over the place and in all sorts of directions.  But he clearly says no, and it hurts when those shears take away what has become a part of my life.  Oh, to have the patience and understanding to accept he knows better than me.  These days it appears handing over our lives to anyone but ourselves is considered anathema!

And then there were little teeny, tiny shoots that I snicked off as well. And I thought of me saying, “O come on, surely that teeny, tiny thing I do or enjoy can’t be such a big deal?” It is not a new thing that expects trees to bow to their gardener’s will, and it is no new thing that expects creatures to trust that their creator knows precisely what he is up to.

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The story is still being told

If you thought that Christianity was a museum piece then you could do with reading this paper by Tom Wright. He takes the question of the authority of the Bible and reveals that the story God has been telling through history continues today if we are only brave enough to allow ourselves to be part of it.

He challenges the human tendency to box God up and worship a monochrome image of him created by our minds and our lists and using images of drama and music he reveals the multicoloured, passionate, dangerous God that we should be worshipping.  Question: is it the Bible that is authoritative  or God who wrote it? the answer is not as simple as you think! For an apparently standard theological study paper it delivers a frisson of spiritual excitement in the hearts of anyone who has the nerve to go with him to the last conclusion. Could that be you?

How Can The Bible Be Authoritative?

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Christian Philharmonic

Royal Liverpool PhilharmonicFor years I have meant to do this! I love my church and I love orchestral music and many times I have imagined how one reflects the other. I always meant to jot these down so at last here are some. I may add to them because some I think I may have forgotten.

Musical appreciation
Not everyone likes music. And those that do often differ between what they like and what they don’t. Why is this?  It seems there is something indefinable that allows some to genuinely love a particular style of music. So with Christians. What is it that allows some to see the truth of the Risen Jesus and others to be blind to it?  It’s easy enough to say the Spirit opens eyes and hearts but I’m not sure that this is a sufficient answer.  But genuineness is difficult to feign in love of music and I think it is similar with our love of God.

Harmony
The concept of harmony is quite sublime. Why do some notes fit together and others do not, and why is it that those that fit together produce such a sweet impression on the ear? When a church is in harmony it is a sweet experience for those inside and those outside the church.  Also the idea of harmony is radically different from unison. An orchestra playing in unison would be quite dull but as each different note is played along with its neighbour the result is beautiful and often sublime. As Christians we are not asked to play exactly the same tune but when our own tune is played with others it brings glory to God.

Theory and practice
I read many books on the theory of music and harmony.  One explains how harmonic progressions should be made.  But there is only one way to prove these – play them. I met a man that claimed to be able to play French Horn but I never heard him play.  At best he would be someone we imagined was a musician. So with the church; do you say you are a Christian? Has anyone seen you practising?

Sections of the orchestra
I am fascinated by the different sections of the orchestra. Strings, brass, woodwind and percussion developed over centuries to combine in a pleasant and complementary way. Not just the instruments, musicians know that brass players are a different breed to string players Strauss reportedly said “Never look at the trombones, it only encourages them”. Each section has its strengths and styles but only together does the symphony shine. As Christians we are different we reflect the ‘multicoloured wisdom of God’ – we should have our own strengths and styles but together we should make the church shine in such a way that people see Jesus in the light.

An audience
Does an orchestra need an audience? Well its debatable but I suggest that’s why we have orchestras, it’s certainly why they began.  An orchestra locked away is hardly much use? So with a church, we were made to ‘perform’ to an audience by which I mean we were commanded to preach the good news and let our light shine before mankind.

The Composer’s Score
What does the orchestra play? It plays music that comes from a composer (OK some orchestras can improvise, but that really doesn’t need a composer does it?)  The notes are there in black and white but when the audience listens they don’t hear the black dots and white spaces, they hear the music that was conceived in the mind of the composer. So with us, when people hear us using the bible let it be that they don’t hear the words but see the spirit of the author shining through!

Conductor
It is possible to play without a conductor but most orchestras, given the opportunity, would  always prefer a good conductor. He or she is not just waving a stick at them but does most of the work before the concert. Giving ideas, suggestions, encouragement, sometimes correction and guidance.  Challenging the musicians to put their heart and soul into the coming performance.  A good conductor really can set an orchestra alight and a poor one can cause a rebellion (I have seen many!) Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – do I really need to spell this one out!

I also think it is more than just an analogy. Bach said “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul” so I think there is more in common than we may first think?

More quotes about music:

How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?” – Desmond Tutu

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado

You can’t play a symphony alone, it takes an orchestra to play it.” – Navjot Singh Sidhu

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O Come let us adore Him

O come let us adore him

At Christmas we realise how much we are drawn powerfully to Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives. My father wrote a short article about our attitude to the Lord Jesus. Please bear in mind he was part of a community that is very reluctant to pray or even sing to Jesus!  Thanks for this dad, you got there before me!

The Lord Jesus: Our Attitude

At Christmas time we sing the carol
O come all ye faithful …
O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Just what does our adoration of the Lord mean? Do we give him his rightful place in our worship?

There is no doubt about the way the Scriptures speak of Him. He was loved of God before the foundation of the world. He was not an ‘afterthought’ or a ‘make do and mend’. He had a glory with the Father before the world began. We can see the greatness of the Lord Jesus in prophecy, from His birth to His crucifixion and from His resurrection to infinity.

The Lord Jesus in prophecy

“All the prophets spoke about him” (Acts 10:43)
He is woven into the fabric of God’s purpose right from the very beginning and all God’s people, from Adam to John the Baptist, would have been comforted to know that God was at work. There was a living hope to combat the evil of this life, in all its forms, and there was to be salvation, joy, gladness and true freedom from oppression through this Great One spoken of by God, from the promises that the seed of Adam and Eve would slay the serpent, to the Sun of Righteousness, with healing in his wings.

The Psalms speak so eloquently of this Great One. God said to Him “You are My Son, today I have become your Father. Ask and I will give you all the nations; the whole earth will be yours”. (Psalm 2:7-8) He was not only to be a king and a ruler but also a Saviour. “Open to me the gates of the Temple; I will go in and give thanks to the LORD! This is the gate of the LORD; only the righteous can come in”. (Psalm 118:19-20) There is little doubt as to whom the Psalmist is referring; that is why we call these Psalms ‘Messianic’. The New Testament also refers to them as speaking of the Lord; the gospels speak of what the Lord said and did while the ‘fifth gospel’ (the Psalms) tells us what He thought!  What of the other prophets? The picture given by Isaiah of the coming Mighty One is vivid, impressive, distinct and well-defined: For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. (Is 9:6)

He was formed from the womb to be God’s servant, to bring Jacob again to Him.
Though he failed in that task, (Isaiah 49:4-5; Matthew 23:37-38) it was not through an inadequate effort but because of their refusal. Yet He triumphed in bringing to God a great multitude which no man could number out of every nation and tribe and tongue.

Daniel speaks of Him as “what looked like a human being. He was approaching me, surrounded by clouds, and he went to the one who had been living forever and was presented to him. He was given authority, honour  and royal power, so that the people of all nations, races, and languages would serve him. His authority would last forever, and his kingdom would never end.” (Daniel 7:13-14) Could anyone hope or yearn for a Greater than He?

The life of the Lord Jesus

Again the Scripture emphasises His Greatness. The angel assured Mary that the Son she was to bear was to be Great and was to be called the Son of the Most High and of His kingdom there shall be no end. This confirmed what had already been spoken by Daniel. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, was amazed that the mother of her Lord should come to her. Was she remembering the words of the Psalm “the Lord said unto my Lord“. The angel soothed the fears of the shepherds “Do not be afraid for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy (literally, I announce to you a great joy) which shall be to all people, for the one to be born would be a Saviour, “even Christ the Lord”. So momentous was the announcement, that the angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those with whom He is pleased”. Here was God’s salvation to all that humanity was crying out for. Simeon was also satisfied that at last he had seen God’s salvation, a divine provision.

In the same spirit, the Lord Jesus performed His first miracle in the abundant provision for the feeding of five thousand and seven thousand with baskets full of what was left over. Could there have been greater evidence that here was one who could provide all that was needed – and more? The disciples and the people were often amazed at the wonderful things which the Lord did. Was it possible for mere man to still the raging sea and howling wind? Surely this was possible only to God. (Psalm 107:30) Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him? He is Immanuel – God with us! He manifested His glory in so many ways. He too could send His word and heal (Psalm 107:20) as in the case of the centurion’ s servant, the nobleman’s son and the daughter of the Syrophenician woman.

Nicodemus confessed that “No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him”. This strengthened his belief that the Lord Jesus was indeed a teacher come from God. There was no ill of man that He could not cure. It was the evidence sent back to John the Baptist that He was the One to come – The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. Many recognized the greatness of the Lord and humbly worshipped Him. The Magi, through what they had heard, could, when they saw Him, fall down and worship Him, for was He not born a King?

Referring to the incident of the Lord giving sight to the man ‘born blind’ (as we all are) Brother Roberts (A founder of Christadelphians) wrote:

Some people do at once see and surrender to the claims of the Truth. Most people have reservations and endless dimness. They say, ‘I cannot see that’ and it is true. This man was of the lucid order of mind which sees with the clearness and accepts with the docility of childhood ‘Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him.’ Worshipped Him ! Yes, why not? It is written Let all the angels of God worship Him and John beheld them in vision comply. He heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, saying with a loud voice Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. Shall we, with the puny frost-bitten Unitarian ideas of this present century of darkness, refuse to bend the knee where angels spend themselves in celestial raptures? Nay, verily to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God, the Father.

The Lord Jesus never restrained those who worshipped Him; it was and is His right to receive such homage. Truly did John the Baptist declare that the one who comes from the realm above is set over all things. John the Apostle could write “we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace (undeserved favour) and truth”. While we were yet sinners He could die for us who surrendered his life for our sakes to free us from our sins.

The Glory of Jesus after His Resurrection

When the disciples went into Galilee to meet Him, as appointed, they worshipped Him but ‘some doubted’. He then told them that all authority (power, right) has been given to me in heaven and on earth. This was before His ascension. As the Apostle Peter wrote: Jesus Christ, who having entered heaven is now at the right hand (hand of power) of God (Psalm 110:1) all the angelic authorities and powers having declared their submission to Him. The superlative way in which the Epistles especially speak of Him now can hardly be grasped; such words should leave us in no doubt of the status the Lord Jesus now enjoys. However, He stressed the fact that He was not equal to the Father.

During His ministry, the Lord Jesus emphasised the position he held in the estimation of the Father. “What the Father does, the Son also does … just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, in the same way the Son gives life to those He wants to. Nor does the Father Himself judge anyone. He has given His Son the full right to judge, so that all will honour the Son in the same way as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son (in the same way?) does not honour the Father who sent Him. (John 5:19-23)

This should make us very conscious of being sure we honour the Lord Jesus as He should be honoured. The Apostle Paul, when speaking of Israel, says “to them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all blessed for ever. (Romans 9:5 ESV) Commenting on this verse, Bro John Carter said: ‘The text of both the Authorized and Revised versions make the word ‘God’ refer to Christ; the alternatives in the margin of the RV are evidently an endorsement to escape from that application and to make the word refer to the Father.’ (Epistle to the Romans p. 90-92) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Indeed, it is the God who said Let light shine out of darkness who has shined into our hearts for the spreading abroad of the light, sent forth by the revelation of God’s glory. This glory is seen on the face of Christ for he who has seen me has seen the Father.

Thomas surely knew what he was saying when he said “My Lord and My God“. The Apostle Paul said he was looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13) The Apostle Peter also said to them that have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:1 RV). Moulton (Prologue p. 84) shows from papyri writings of the early Christian era, that among Greek-speaking Christians this was ‘a current formula’ as applied to Christ.

In view of such passages as Philippians 2:9-11, Colossians 1, 1 Peter 2:17, James 2:1, Hebrews 1:1-14, Ephesians 1:10, I Corinthians 4:6 and John 14:9, why have we dumbed down the Glory of the Lord Jesus? As a community we have tended to give the wrong impression of our belief in the divinity of the Lord Jesus, probably through fear of being labelled as Trinitarians. So, as is characteristic of human nature, we have swung to the opposite extreme. How often do you hear a brother pray to the Lord Jesus? As one brother said at a Fraternal ‘to preach the divinity of the Lord Jesus has an un-Christadelphian ring about it’. Do we really know what the Gospel of John is all about? Once we used to sing ‘then take, O God, thy power and reign‘; it is now changed to ‘take, 0 Lord, thy power, and reign‘. We also used to ‘sing to Jesus‘; now we ‘sing of Jesus‘!

Then I saw a Lamb standing in the centre of the Throne, surrounded by the four living creatures and the elders … the Lamb went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who sits on the Throne. As He did so, the four living creatures and the twenty-four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. They sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed and by Your sacrificial death You bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a Kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth. Again, I looked and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them. They stood round the throne, the four living creatures and the elders and sang in a loud voice:
The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom and strength, honour, glory and praise. And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, in the world below and in the sea – all living beings in the universe – they were singing:
To Him who sits on the Throne AND TO THE LAMB be praise and honour, glory and might, for ever and ever. The four living creatures answered AMEN. And the elders fell down and worshipped.

O Come, let us adore Him,
O Come, let us adore Him,
O Come, let us adore Him, CHRIST THE LORD

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Marriage is perfect

Studying this subject of what Christian Marriage is I came to a powerful conclusion

Many folk have many different views on marriage, for example “Marriage is made in heaven….so is thunder and lightning!

It is sometimes said that marriage is ‘someone agreeing to sleep in a room that is too warm with someone sleeping in a room that is too cold’. Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, however is clear that “the Christian view of marriage is something that is essentially different from all other views

LOOKING THE OTHER WAY
Paul’s teaching to the church at Ephesus is set in a culture not too distant from today’s. He was there for 3 years and his letter reflects this. In a city teeming with self-centred gratification and idolatry he reminds the Christians there that they have been “blessed us in the heavenly realms”, they are “God’s possession – to the praise of his glory” and “a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit”. As a result they “have been made new  in the attitude of (their) minds” and have “put on the new self” We have to choose which ‘way to face’ and the pressures of our own culture can be both powerful and subtle in turn!

WHOSE IDEA IS MARRIAGE?

  • I think same sex couples should be able to get married” Barak Obama May 2012
  • Nick Herbert MP, who is in a civil partnership said “I consider myself to be a Christian and I’ve never in my life felt more distant from the church than I do at the moment!

I ask “Who has moved, who has changed?” Paul says marriage is a “profound mystery”. The Christian Church has always heard Jesus “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning “created them male and female”? and He said, “For this reason a man shall leave father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So that they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The teaching has never changed. One man, one woman for life.  Paul teaches that marriage is a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

To Timothy Paul says “For bodily exercise is profitable to a little, but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the present life now, and of that coming.” Christian lifestyle is of benefit not just for the future but for now also. I appreciate that I will be attacked for saying stuff like this. Sorry, this is my belief and can I in all conscience say anything I don’t believe?

Paul says “Wives, submit…!” Gilbert Bilezikiam claims “Death and male dominance are satanic in their origin”. Nancy Sehested said “I’ve been beaten up by St Paul for the past 20 years” It is easy to dismiss this instruction as out of date. Perhaps if Paul had started with the husbands it would be more palatable!  But as Christians wives ought to submit as the church does to Christ. This is not for those without faith, and so Christian marriage is essentially different to all other views. Wives submission is a choice, it is motivated by Christ and it is unconditional!

Husbands are asked to love their wives as Christ loved the church – wow, how is this possible! Love as Christ loves the church, again it is a choice, it is motivated by Christ and it is unconditional!

Do not mistake a corruption or abuse of this teaching as the real thing! This is no license to abuse our spouses it is a teaching of radical love.

WHAT NOT TO  DO!

1. Despair
Why do we assume success in marriage is automatic?  In no other walk of life would we expect this.  In some strict Christian communities those who fail in marriage are made to wearing failure as a garment, like sackcloth for all to see!
It is time to stop judging and start sharing.
Do not despair, do not surrender, the ideal is still there because it is not man made – it has Christ at the centre!

2. Treat as a law
“You have to love me”, “well you have to submit to me”, “well I would if you submitted”, “well I would if you loved me” etc.  God’s blessings are not brought through law but through grace. We must see the selfless, powerful, radical grace of Christ at the centre of marriage.

3. Live someone else’s marriage
“Love your own husbands”, is what Paul says. “Love your wives” not someone elses and don’t compare your marriage to someone else’s!
“leave your parents” So don’t compare, don’t judge, don’t run someone’s marriage for them.

LIVE AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT!
This is all good in theory, Christ expects our lives to reflect him – how can my marriage be a witness to Christ, it seems such a tall order even when we are in love, there is still selfishness in my heart!

Well the lesson I learned (see heading!) is that even if the reflection of Christ and the Church is less than perfect, nevertheless marriage is perfect and cannot be pulled down to our level of success of failure. Christ has such generosity and selflessness that it inspires us to be like him even when we fall short. Christ is mentioned 49 times in Ephesians – He makes all the difference! Taken seriously, marriage can be a witness to the world!

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I’m a music geek

In the past I wouldn’t have bothered writing a blog about music especially such a geeky topic as music compression, but here it is. If you read it then you are as geeky about music as me!

Don’t listen to music from websites or streaming radio if you have a recorded alternative and what is better by far – listen to live music.

A couple of months back Sally and I went to see a symphony by Shostakovich (7th).  One section has the most enormous crescendo, starting very quetly with a drum it ends with the whole band blaring at top volume.  It was very impressive. You can trust a live concert, from their instruments to your ears – perfect.

But use a recording and you are starting to ask for trouble.  The recording will almost certainly make the music sound like it simply cannot sound in the hall.  Multi-microphone mixing results in a sound you couldn’t hear even if you were standing in the orchestra.  But the worst evil by far is compressing – ah what sad sacrilege is meted out to recordings by use of this cruel and perverted technique.  The music is flattened.  It is like watching a football match where everyone jogs everywhere, not walking, not running – just jogging.

See the picture below.  The shape from Chicago is from left to right the correct shape showing contrast between soft and loud. Now see Barcelona from YouTube – NEUTERED! It is a painful thing to hear.  Barcelona aren’t quite the lions of Chicago but believe me they got very loud indeed in the hall. And in case you doubt the horribleness – just listen for yourself:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/85438473/chicago.wma
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/85438473/barcelona.wma

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