Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The prayer of atheists.


1) the lyrics of "The script" song "breakeven"
2) the fact that google returns over 6 million results for the exact sentence "pray to a god I don't believe in". seems people can't help it. Perhaps people believe there is a God after all.
3) Why, when I believe there is a God do I not more often turn to him in prayer? Are we too often practical atheists?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great title for a conference...

Great title for a day conference... maybe someone could give a blog that title!?
HT: Dave Bish

Conversation about sermon introductions

Over at the 9Marks Blog a few of us have been having a conversation about sermon introductions.

Deepak asked the question. I gave the "textbook" answer. Mike McKinley replied, questioning the usefulness of many introductions. I nuanced and Aaron Menikoff chipped in. Mike retorted. I'm planning to reply and link to this post in case anyone wants to read a brief (and not particularly clever) introduction.

So, here's the text of the introduction from Sunday's sermon on Jephthah... (Judges 10-12) I think I actually said something a little different to this, but this was the manuscript I took into the pulpit.

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.

Salvador DalĂ­ quotes (Spanish painter, 1904-1989)

The point he’s making is clear: whatever natural abilities we have, we will not make the most of them unless we have ambition: a desire to use that which has been given us to serve some end.

What is your ambition? What are you intent on achieving with you life?

Fame? I wonder how many people around the country are already rehearsing their skills in order to attempt to have half a chance of fame in next year’s Britain’s got talent.

Wealth? Oscar Wilde once said, “Every man of ambition has to fight his century with its own weapons. What this century worships is wealth. The God of this century is wealth. To succeed one must have wealth. At all costs one must have wealth.”

Other ambitions seem far more down to earth than seeking untold wealth or fame, and yet can be just as much of a driving force in our lives. Perhaps you feel your ambitions are much more reasonable, and less, well... ambitious.

· A stable family

· A successful career

· A peaceful life

· Living to meet one’s great grandchildren

· Having a child

· Holding down a job

· Getting out of debt.

· Kicking a bad habit.

· Owning you own home

Perhaps you ahve to admit that you’ve given up on ambition. Your hopes have passed you by, and now you are content to live one day at a time, but occasionally you wonder if your life had become directionless: you feel as if you are not longer living, but only existing.

Ambition becomes a driving force that motivates one to sacrifice a great deal in order to serve your ambition.

What are you ambitious for?

What sacrifices are you willing to make in order to realise that ambition?

It is an important question because our ambitions set the direction of our lives, as much as we are able.

And in setting our life’s direction, it reveals what we think the purpose of life is.

What do your ambitions say about your understanding of the purpose of life?

Judges 10-12 introduces a new character who is nothing if not ambitious...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

cartoon as a medium for apologetics

Perhaps you may be wondering why I've branched into cartoons for my last couple of posts.
Is it because I've discovered a great artistic ability that had long laid dormant? (no, I discovered a website that will provide the drawings for me!)
But, more importantly I've come to the conclusion that strip cartoons are an excellent medium for presuppositional apologetics.
1) The best cartoons make people think, until they have worked out the irony of the situation. One of the hardest obstacles to the apologist is the fact that in an apologetic conversation people are coming up with their replies to the point being made before they have time to think about the point itself. The cartoon forces them to take that time.
2) The medium gets people off the defensive.
3) Cartoons are an excellent medium for demonstrating the untenability and laughability of a particular position in a way that is disarming.

There are some positives. What do you think the dangers are?

Ecclesiastes 12:14

Learned how to embed with this one...

Ecclesiastes 12:14

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gideon, Fleeces and paralysis

Having preached a couple of weeks ago on Gideon, it obviously raised questions about guidance: is "laying out a fleece" a good way forward when attempting to discern God's will?

Clearly in the Gideon narrative, he lays out fleeces not to try to discern God's will (he knows that God has already revealed it to him) but because he doubts God's word. Judges 6:36-37 make that very clear.

Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said."

Twice he asks God to prove that he will keep his promises. This is not a model of seeking God's will, but an example of how we too often equivocate in response to God's clear will.

What then should we expect in searching for God's will for our lives?

This is a section from the sermon I preached a couple of weeks ago:

What do we do then if the Lord hasn’t spoken clearly on an issue: like our choice of career, church, or marriage partner?

I remember someone preaching this passage when I was a child and talking about how he had ‘laid out a fleece’ when he was uncertain as to whether to propose to his wife: he had said to the Lord that if three people talked about rings that day, then he’d propose to his wife that evening. Three people mentioned rings that day, and, by God's grace they were still happily married decades later.

Are these less than clear decisions the time to lay out a fleece? No! we are nowhere told that in Scripture; it just isn't a biblical model of how we are to make decision. Clearly God can direct our steps in very personal and clear ways; we are never told to wait for him to do that before we make decisions though: we are to pray for wisdom, search for wisdom in his word, and seek the wisdom of other disciples, and then make a decision that we trust will be wise. Indecisiveness is not a sign of humility; it is not a sign of maturity; waiting for God to reveal the future to us before we take any decisions is a sign of a lack of trust in the Sovereign Lord who plans everything to our good. It is sign that we think it is safer to do nothing…

Dave Bish reviews a book here that has the opposite advice for a life well spent: JUST DO SOMETHING!