Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Look at all the busy people this way, that way, everywhere

 Review: The Busy Christians guide to busyness by Tim Chester

The first thing you notice about this book is the cover, it’s awful, but if we let that slide it’s a good book. The first thing I thought when I read the title of the book was something like, with great sarcasm, “great, a book that is going to tell me how if I was more organized or even more holy I be able to do all the things that have to get done.” 
My hopes weren’t high, but actually the book turned out to be less about how not to be too busy or deal with being busy than the attitudes that being busy creates and even the attitudes that lead to us becoming so busy in the first place. The first few chapters admittedly are a bit of a social comment on how life has got more and more hectic and how the idea of a work/life balance has also changed with time and then there’s a chapter looking at what I dreaded – How to be time efficient, full of techniques and tips to manage your time and workload, but then the book takes a different tack.
Rather than just assume people who are busy, should be less busy because that easier and more fun the next few chapters explore what it is that makes Christians busy and whether or not that’s a good thing. Chester looks at the things we do and what their purpose is before settling on the helpful definition for life that, whatever we are doing, we should be looking to glorify God all the time. In one chapter he concludes that both Jesus and Paul could say at the end of their lives that they had completed the job. Not because they had done everything that could be done, but because they had worked faithfully in the time they had. They had put the kingdom of God first in their lives, in whatever they were doing.
The second section of the book then looks at 6 “lies” as Chester terms them. The reasons people give for why they are busy. Things such as “I’m busy because I need to prove myself” and “I’m busy because otherwise things get out of control”. As you read the chapters it’s easy to see the different elements we all combine to explain why we do things.
The problem with that for the reader, is that it’s equally easy to see how those reasons translate to our attitude to God, or more often, the attitude we impose on Him and his expectations of us.Chester’s one sentence summary, if he had one, is that the heart of busyness, and the answer to all our reasons and excuses, is that God doesn’t expect us to do more than we can do.
I’d really recommend this book to anyone, whatever stage of life you’re at, whether you are busy or not, because we all face different issues with regards to time and work and busyness, but they all come from wrong thinking about God. I was really challenged when I read this book, that even though I didn’t think I was too busy – It was all too easy to end up doing the things we do, for the wrong reasons. That however much time we spend doing things, whether its too much or even too little, it’s the attitude behind that that is important.
In the conclusion of the book Tim Chester gives what could be an answer to the title of the book when he says “In the end, neither doing more or doing less is ever going to be the answer – the only answer is faith in God”.

Monday, February 21, 2011

There ain't time to read it?

Scandalous: The cross and Resurrection of Jesus (D. A. Carson)

“Nothing is more central to the bible than Jesus’ death and resurrection, over one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago.”

It is from this opening statement that Don Carson examines various passages of the bible seeking not only to show the reader that they are historical fact but also that they have hugely important meaning, one that is important for us to understand.

Moving through passages from Matthew (27), Romans (3), Revelation (12) and John (11 & 20) Carson deals with the necessity, effect and triumph of the Cross and how it should affect our lives as well as the Ironies of the cross and reasons for doubting the resurrection, the latter of these especially helpful to see what exactly doubt is and what causes it. With useful digressions into Millennialism, Propitiation, Evangelism and Forgiveness it is hard to imagine anyone not gaining from the insight Carson offers.   

Taking what was originally a series of expositions at a conference Carson explains the meaning of the death and resurrection in a straightforward and accessible way to aid both the non-Christian and the Christian to see beyond the surface level of the most pivotal event in human history.

PS - I have returned to Kinks song lyrics as titles, but I hope you will find the time to read it!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Wish I could fly like Superman

Aside from a waste of a couple of hours the most recent (loosely recent, it was 5 years ago) installment of the superman franchise offers this quote from Superman's (Kal-El's) father, Jor-El

"Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son."

At first glance it's a rather cliche voiceover to introduce the concept of a comic book/sci-fi film, but if you look closer you may see something that seems familiar: "I have sent them you... my only son". Could it be that this film is an allegory for Christianity?

To put it bluntly....No!

What it does appear to be though (IMHO) is a rather apt allegory for how people view themselves, and may think this is how they would be described by some far off alien being.

"They can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way" Mankind can be great, we can live up to our potential, and be good. All we lack is someone to go before us and show us how it's done. Give us a role model, someone that will show us how we should act, behave and live and we'll be that great people. We have the capacity to do good, we just sort of need a few hints to get us started and we'll be away.

Sadly, this just doesn't match up with our experience in the real world. We have all followed the example of the first man, Adam, and have the capacity for failure, sin and evil. We are fundamentally bad and no amount of effort, wanting to be good or guiding lights can change the state of our hearts. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no-one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:12).

What we need is a quote of "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly"... "For this reason above all, I have sent them you... my only son".

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Time goes by so slowly....

What is the importance of time in the world today? When did it begin? When will it end? Is it just a human construct or was it always there?

Yesterday I went to a philosophy debate in a local pub to discuss questions just such as these, but if I'm honest thinking, I'm not sure that this is the most important thing to discuss and not really expecting anything interesting, much less miraculous, to come from the conversations.

Now, I know what you're thinking. It's the classic I didn't expect this to happen, but then it did opening. Well, yes and no. For the vast majority of the time it was a scientific debate that I felt went way over my head as everything from quantum mechanics and the meta-verse (apparently universe is now an outdated term and way of thinking in the science world nowadays) was discussed. But, during the briefest of pauses, the question was raised "Does time, ultimately linked to life and the passing of it, have any connection with the idea of God?" After a few more comments on this subject another question was posed "Does anyone hear hold the view that there is a God?".

At this point I ventured further into the conversation, mindful of two things. 1. I didn't want to be accused of hijacking the debate and making it all about God and 2. I was still a little unsure what I would say.

But, with much assistance (from both those who questioned me and Him who gave me the answers) a debate about time covered in quick pace.
Is God in time or outside of it? 
So did God create time?
So what about the big bang creating time?
Was there a literal Adam and Eve?
So when (how long ago) did this happen?
What about neanderthal man?

True, at one level, the debate skewed off into a questioning of me about my beliefs in God (not that I'm complaining).

So, what are my conclusions about time and it's relevance to life, the universe and everything? I still am not all that sure. 

So what's the point of this post? To encourage everyone that regardless of the situation, God will present you with opportunities to talk about Him and the Gospel; and that He will help you to answer the questions of whoever is talking to you. 

I don't know everything (despite what I thought in my teenage years), In fact I know relatively little, but the great news is that I don't need to know everything in order to defend God and His gospel, Time itself has proven that He is quite capable of doing that Himself.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The New Old Blog

I don't know why, but I have decided to return to blogging. The following posts may not be particularly interesting but they well appear in due course.

Please note, I cannot find a way to remove the several year old blogs below and o would advise not reading them! I will also not be naming all my posts after Ray Davies lyrics anymore, mainly because it's too much effort.