Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Christmas Books

December 28, 2010

I’ve been very busy with life and stuff, so the blog has rather suffered. I’ll start getting caught up next week, honest. In the meantime, as everyone else has been sharing their list of new Christmas books, here is a pic of my own festive additions. Santa was very generous indeed!


(Click to enlarge)

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All Dogs Go To Heaven

December 15, 2010

This was doing the rounds a couple of years ago, but is worth reposting.

In my view, I’m quite convinced that all dogs go to heaven. Cats, however, are clearly going back to hell from whence they came.

Zolita’s Photography

December 5, 2010

Zolita Mykytyn, a good friend of mind who is a gifted photographer, has started her own website to begin sharing some of her work. If you’ve an eye for the aesthetically pleasing, you’ll want to add her blog to your google reader. (Click to enlarge)

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)

Hanukkah Revamped

December 3, 2010

I’ll never be able to think of the Maccabees in the same way again! (H/T Robin Parry)

Quote of the Day

November 14, 2010

Remove free will, and there is nothing to be saved; remove grace, and there is left no means of saving. The work of salvation cannot be accomplished without the cooperation of the two.

Bernard of Clairvaux, De gratia et libero arbitrio

Welcoming the Stranger: Dundonald Elim

October 22, 2010

I know, I know, I’ve been a very naughty boy and not posted here for a couple of weeks. Life has been rather busy and the blog is rather low down on the priority list. Nonetheless, I know you’ve all missed me, but never fear, I’m back!

I’ve been rather consumed with church issues this past while as there are a few major decisions looming not too far ahead. So expect a fair amount of church-related musings on the horizon. Anyway, to follow up on an earlier, grumpy post (rant/moan), I thought I’d better balance it with something more positive. Without boring the pants off everyone by rehearsing my faith and church journey, I’ve been to a lot of different churches with lots of different theologies and lots of different styles of worship. Over those years of church-sampling, it’s been difficult not to rate/score their various facets: worship (hymns/songs); preaching; doctrine/theological precision (IMHO), and; welcoming the stranger. This post concerns the final element – and by far the most welcoming church that I’ve ever visited (about 10 years ago now), the Elim church in Dundonald.

Founded during the years of the First World War, Elim is a Pentecostal denomination with over 500 churches throughout the UK and Ireland, and which works in more than 40 other nations. Its name comes from the biblical Elim (Exod. 15:27) which was an oasis in the desert, visited by the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. Thus, the aim of the early Elimites was that their churches should, similarly, be places of rest and refreshment. Growing out of the Welsh revival, the Elim movement carries with it much of the ethos of the holiness movement, a “congregational” ecclesiology, and an emphasis on evangelism. In fact, its theology is distinctly reformed and within the broad scope of very, conservative Evangelicalism. However, its special contribution to the church universal is its perspective on the person, work and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, the Elim movement is Trinitarian but advocates the double procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son (filioque). Secondly, while the Spirit is active in the work of convicting of sin, repentance, regeneration and sanctification, according to the Elim movement, “the believer is also promised an enduement of power as the gift of Christ through the baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following. Through this enduement the believer is empowered for fuller participation in the ministry of the Church, its worship, evangelism and service.”

As someone who had recently left a variant-form of Pentecostalism, visiting the local Elim seemed an eminently sensible thing to do and I’m very glad I did, for it left an indelible mark on my views of what “church” ought to be. As a complete stranger, I was very warmly welcomed at the door by two greeters. After this good, initial impression, I’d barely managed to get bum on seat before someone sat down beside me and introduced himself – “William”. Yes, I still remember his name. He chatted with me and sat with me throughout the service; I was not left alone as a faceless, nameless stranger, anonymous and insignificant. In that simple act of reaching out to an “other”, William, and the church he represented, demonstrated with ringing clarity what it means to lavish Christian love and care. An outsider, I was nevertheless made to feel like one of the gathered saints, there to praise the God of love. I’ve never forgotten it.

Ultimately, I couldn’t assent to the Elim’s views on the person and work of the Spirit, which always walks a tightrope – those without the special “baptism” of the Spirit almost inevitably struggle with seeing themselves as second-class citizens of the kingdom (common critique of this type of pentecostal belief). However, in no church before or since have I ever seen the newcomer and stranger so welcomed. I don’t know whether this was solely the policy of that one church in Dundonald, or of the whole Elim movement, or simply one particular member acting alone, but if all Christian churches would instigate such a policy, what an incredible impact we could effect! Churches can be some of the coldest, most cliquey, unwelcome places known on God’s good earth – and it’s something we can and must change.

For more information see: Elim UK or Elim Ireland.

Today at Church…

October 3, 2010

I have a very convoluted church history; having moved from a variant-form of Pentecostalism to Anglicanism, and having visited/attended more churches along the way than I care to remember. One of the things I love about the Anglican tradition is its liturgical focus and emphasis on the Eucharist. I always look back to my forefathers in the faith over the centuries – truly the communion of saints. Nonetheless, an awful downside is the fairly atrocious choice of really dour hymns which are squeaked out each week – I mean, who really sings these passionately and with gusto? I don’t think it’s physiologically possible. Worshipping in the company of angels, it ain’t (at least, it doesn’t feel that way a lot of the time). Still, no church is perfect and I shouldn’t complain, but I’m feelin’ kinda grumpy today – and it’s my blog. Anyway, given that I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, I slept in this morning (ahem, again) and found myself at the local Methodist (which starts 45 mins later). The singing/hymns were just as bad. It’s funny, but it makes me nostalgic for my Pentecostal days; hands raised, dancing in the aisles, swinging from the chandeliers – well, ok, that’s exaggerating – slightly. But at least worship really meant giving God his proper worth. So why is it that when I do occasionally attend my old denomination, I end up feeling at my most liturgical? Maybe the contrarian in me will never be satisfied. Anyhow, the sermon was very good. Frankly, it was a model sermon, something to emulate and to which I paid very close attention. The minister was evidently very intelligent, yet he managed to address the entire congregation in a very clear manner without the hint of condescension or ‘dumming-down’. Twelve minutes proved more than sufficient to get his points and essential message across with impressive clarity. As someone contemplating ministry, both the content of the sermon, its delivery, and its presentation, gave me much food for thought. I’ll definitely have to go back and hear him again.

Anyway, as I’m having a moan, let me share a major gripe. For the love of God, why can’t any strangers be properly befriended when they walk through the doors of a church? No one, not even the people I was squashed in-between, spoke to me, not so much a smile or nod in my general direction to acknowledge my existence. This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this in my spiritual vagabondage, but it’s just so, so wrong! If I do end up in ministry, I’ll be drumming it into the congregation that proper greeting and welcoming is not an option, but a mandatory requirement. I can’t imagine how offputting this would be for a non-Christian who has managed to summon up the courage to step inside a church, and then gets left to their own devices – especially if that person is as strongly introverted as me. Seriously, how hard can it be for our churches to arrange for a few of the friendlier extroverts among the congregation to be on the lookout for newcomers? Nonetheless, the minister himself was very warm and made time to welcome me (even amidst the rushed exodus of congregants). He greeted me with a double-handed handshake, asked me my name, and where I normally worshipped etc. In other words, he made a genuine effort to reach out – but that’s something which needs to replicated by everyone in the church. OK, moan over.

Public Event: Michael Green – Why I Am A Christian

September 29, 2010

The Announcement

One of the greatest challenges many Christians experience is how to talk openly and honestly about our faith. We may find it difficult to articulate what we believe, and we may be afraid of facing ridicule from others. Perhaps, in our ‘consumer choice’ society, …we are no longer even sure of what sets Christianity apart from the many other spiritualities on offer. In the final of our ‘Why I Am…’ series, CIEF is delighted to welcome Revd Canon Dr Michael Green to help us tackle this challenge. Michael Green is a highly acclaimed evangelist and author. Currently a lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, he is also a former advisor on evangelism to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Michael Green is gifted in equipping Christians in their grasp of the gospel message, and to then have confidence to converse with others about faith matters. So whether you are a Christian who struggles to share your faith, a sceptic who is puzzled by the claims of Christianity, or a seeker who wants to know more about the Christian faith, this event is for you.

We look forward to welcoming you to what promises to be a fascinating and encouraging evening. http://www.cief.net

Friday 1st October: 20:00 – 22:00
@ Church of the Resurrection, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast

If anyone else in cyberspace is going as well, give me a shout either here or on facebook!

Book Give Away

September 28, 2010

Brian, Robert and JohnDave at Near Emmaus are giving away a copy of Fred Sanders’ book on the Trinity. Check it out!

“Not many people know that.”

September 26, 2010

 

Well, last night (Saturday), I was at home and extremely bored after circumstances conspired against me and my plans fell through. So, while doing some mindless surfing on t’internet, I came across someone else’s “Little Known Facts..” type of post. Given the acute state of my tedium and being willing to do almost anything to alleviate my suffering, I wrote up my own list (though forgot to post it).

Jonathan:

  1. Wishes he was a better Christian.
  2. Absolutely hated school. Couldn’t wait to leave and didn’t remotely try while there. Only began to try when he got to the university stage (where he discovered a brain and love of learning).
  3. Went through a skin-tight-black-jeans and leather-jacket-wearing, heavy-metal period in his teens in which he listened to lots of angry music about how miserable the world was. (He must have been a horror)
  4. Secretly still goes onto youtube and listens to metal once in a while.
  5. In his late teens/early 20’s and out-partying phase, had a barrage of the most awful chat-up lines known to man.
  6. Has two, very flat, left feet and couldn’t dance to save his life – though that hasn’t stopped him in the past.
  7. Used to do jujitsu and judo in his teens until a rather unpleasant knee injury (it still hurts) ended his hopes of becoming the next Bruce Lee.
  8. Loves music, pretty much everything from Mozart to Metallica (though reggae is surely a bridge too far).
  9. Was a child singer, and sang in front of thousands of people once.
  10. Sadly, his voice didn’t break – it shattered.
  11. Is always singing/humming around the house (mercifully, only to himself)
  12. Would love to be a classically-trained tenor (but see 10.)
  13. Was on local television because of his involvement in a local schools project on the Titanic.
  14. Is a complete bibliophile.
  15. Lost count of the number of books he owns once it reached 3000+.
  16. Doesn’t know what on earth to do with said books when he  moves house at some point in the future and won’t have space for them.
  17. Prefers dogs to cats.
  18. Has a long-standing passion for Curly Wurlys.
  19. Loves ice-cream.
  20. Can’t eat spicy food of any kind, and has a very plain palate, sadly.
  21. First car was a 1979 Ford Fiesta which was two-tone: brown and “oyster gold” (my friends affectionately called it “the Brown bomber”… ahem). It also had orange, furry seat-covers and flooded when it rained (a few holes were drilled into the floor which sorted that problem out). It had a dodgy starting-motor which meant that every now and then it would freeze – the only solution was to put the car into gear and get out and rock it (which happened while on a date outside a well-to-do girl’s home with her mother looking on – cringe).
  22. Read the Lord of the Rings trilogy over a fortnight.
  23. Has the box-set of series 1-3 of the Big Bang Theory coming in the post and may not surface for air until he’s watched the lot next week.
  24. Is often taken as being very serious, but is known to his family as ‘the giggler’.
  25. Is intensely private and will probably never give out this much personal information on the blog again!

Ulster Chess Union: Special General Meeting

September 17, 2010

Ooo, er… There may be trouble ahead…

Context

At the 2010 Annual General Meeting, a number of objections were put forward challenging several results in the Belfast & District League. The Board proposed that these objections would be investigated and ruled upon by the Board.

The members at the AGM subsequently insisted on voting on one of these objections thereby denying the Board the opportunity to consider all of the objections raised.

The Board considers these matters to be properly within the domain of the Board and not for a General Meeting.

Consequently, the individual members of the Board consider that in these circumstances, they must offer their resignation to the membership of the Union.

The Board therefore calls for a Special General Meeting to be held when their resignations can be presented and explained in detail.

Motion

Board members: David McAlister (Chairman), David Houston (League Controller), Damien Lavery (Hon. Treasurer), Drew Ferguson (Hon. Secretary) and Geoff Hindley (Asst. Secretary) individually offer their resignation as officers of the Ulster Chess Union and collectively as the Executive Board of the Union.

The Board will present a statement outlining their motivation explaining why they believe their position to be untenable. A open discussion will follow.

The membership will then be asked to either

accept the Board’s resignation

or

agree a working arrangement acceptable to the Board

Should the Board’s resignation be accepted, the officers will stand-down with immediate effect and the meeting may elect a new Board.
Original link

Ten Things I Believed When I Was 20

September 16, 2010

 

  1. Oneness Pentecostalism (Pagan Nicaea; Trinity = three gods etc.)
  2. Water baptism must be carried out by full immersion and “in the name of Jesus”
  3. British Israelism (The lost 10 tribes of the northern house of Israel found their way to the British Isles; the Queen is a descendant of King David)
  4. Christians should keep the OT food laws (including mushrooms “because they grow in the dark”)
  5. Soul Sleep (essentially predicated on “the dead know not anything” Eccles. 9:5)
  6. The KJV is the best English translation (modern bibles were translated by Roman Catholics)
  7. The Pope, or at least the papacy as an institution, is the anti-Christ (the 666 of the Book of Revelation)
  8. Roman Catholics are not Christians (Anglicans are dodgy)
  9. God created the universe in six 24-hour days around 10,000 years ago, and we have the science to prove it (see “The Genesis Flood” by Morris & Whitcomb for details)
  10. By my thirties, I’d be married with three kids

Oh boy, how could I be so wrong?!

Dear Lord,

I thank you that you led me to take Biblical Studies & Patristics at university, thereby showing me the error of my ways on 1-9. But really, aren’t you kinda dragging your feet a bit on no. 10?

Humbly, your very patient servant,
Jonathan