31 July 2008

A-Z of Science Fiction

A brief change now to our regularly scheduled blog for the month of August. From tomorrow I'll give you my own A-Z of popular science fiction - some small insight into this poor, misunderstood genre and quite probably into the mind of the blogger himself. I've probably got enough material to cover quite a few months, but I'll show you some mercy and restrict it to 26 entries. Remember; the truth is out there...

25 July 2008


Of course when it comes to being 'happy' (or 'blessed') in Christian life, we must return to The Beatitudes, included in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). This is the Message translation:

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3 "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10 "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11-12 "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

To summarise, we will be happy if:
  • we are meek (obedient, content)
  • we are peaceful (not arguing a lot)
  • we are pure (not dirtied by sin, put right with God)
  • we are merciful (forgiving and generous, caring for others)
  • we are interested in truth.

24 July 2008

The Pursuit Of Happiness

After reflecting for most of the day on how I felt both emotionally and physically (I didn't feel well but still went to work), I decided to focus tonight on Happiness. "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness " is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among the "inalienable rights" of man. So what is this happiness that we’re supposedly all pursuing…

Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865) – "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965) – "Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory."
Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892) – "The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions."
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948) – "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
Meher Baba (1894-1969) - "Don't worry, be happy" (later used by Bobby McFerrin in a song, 1988, a favourite of mine)

"Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is a song by The Beatles featured on The White Album. It’s a parody of "Happiness is a Warm Puppy," a Peanuts book written by Charles Schulz in 1962. I'm more familiar with the works of Schulz than that of the Fab Four, but that's just me. And finally, Happy is of course one of the dwarfs in the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

More later…

23 July 2008

I'll Not Turn Back

In response to an incident that took place in my family last night, I'll make this public statement to all and sundry. I hereby recommit my family back to Christ and state that "as for Me and My House we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24: 15

If crosses come, if it should cost me dearly,
To be the servant of my servant Lord,
If darkness falls around the path of duty,
And men despise the Saviour I’ve adored.

I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost,
I’m called to live, to love and save the lost,
I’ll not turn back, whatever it may cost,
I’m called to live, to love and save the lost.

If doors should close then other doors will open,
The word of God can never be contained.
His love cannot be finally frustrated,
By narrow minds or prison bars restrained.

It tears should fall, if I am called to suffer,
If all I love men should deface, defame,
I’ll not deny the One that I have followed,
Nor be ashamed to bear my Master’s name.

(John Gowans)

21 July 2008

Some Quotations On Grace

C.H. Spurgeon: "The higher a man is in grace. The lower he will be in his own esteem."
J.C. Ryle: "The man who has nothing more than a kind of Sunday religion -- whose Christianity is like his Sunday clothes put on once a week, and then laid aside -- such a man cannot, of course, be expected to care about growth in grace."
Anon - “Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”
Louis Cassels (1922-1974) - “If God wants you to do something, he'll make it possible for you to do it, but the grace he provides comes only with the task and cannot be stockpiled beforehand. We are dependent on him from hour to hour, and the greater our awareness of this fact, the less likely we are to faint or fail in a crisis.”

I end with the famous words of Annie Johnson Flint:

"He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labours increase;
to added afflictions He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
when we reach the end of our hoarded resources our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men;
for out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."

20 July 2008

Duty Calls ...

I've just spent a very full day in one of the best ways I know. Having spent the morning at the Army, participating in meetings where both my daughter and my son furthered their commitment to the Lord (becoming a Junior Solder and Junior Musician respectively), we all spent the afternoon in the park, working on the Churches Together stand, handing out leaflets about The Salvation Army as part of the local town show.

And, do you know what? Even in the middle of a crowd, and fulfilling what I feel is my duty to my Saviour, I had times this afternoon when I felt very lonely.

The words of SASB 462 spring to mind this evening as I write this down and try and review my thoughts from today. The chorus of that Song confirms that 'By The Pathway Of Duty Flows The River Of God's Grace'. Yes, the workers can be few, but there are indeed reinforcements coming along to help us... the way we tread can be very lonely, even for those who have been on it for a while, but God's grace is sufficient for us. In fact, the CO's sermon today was on the subject of Grace, which I think will be the topic I'll need to read up on this week.

16 July 2008

Rose-Coloured Glasses - the sequel

I've been reading up on this subject this week. I've rediscovered Voltaire's Candide (which I haven't studied since I left school); I've read some quite heavy theology from a Catholic website and I've taken stock of my own life in context of it all.

Some Quotations on Optimism:
Charlotte Bronte: "I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward."
Sydney Harris: "When I hear somebody sigh, "Life is hard," I am always tempted to ask, "Compared to what?"

Some Quotations on Pessimism:
Helen Keller: "No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."
Oscar Wilde: "A Pessimist is one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both."
Clare Boothe Luce: "No good deed goes unpunished." (one of my favourite quotations, although I don't think it pessimistic)

I think the best example I've found from the world at large is Abraham Lincoln. Despite some periods of depression, he was an optimist. He taught himself to read, had numerous failures but succeeded in becoming US President in 1860.

And of course we have an excellent example in Job. He lost it all - his children, his health, his finances, the encouragement of his wife. His friends even gave him bad advice (... familiar...) Finally we read in Job 13:15 - "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him."

13 July 2008

Rose-Coloured Glasses

A good friend sent me on a different train of thought today, on the subject of looking through life with Rose-Coloured Glasses. I have within my own circle of friends a determined pessimist, dead certain that everything will go wrong for him in all aspects of his life; and a dyed-in-the-wool optimist, looking through life with rose-coloured glasses at everything she sees. And here's me, in the middle, dearly in love with them both and trying to make some sense out of both of their lives to one extent or another.
I think I'll be reading up about optimism and pessimism this week. I've just done a quick search on the net and have just come up with a quotation from a fellow Christian Al Mohler who once said that "optimism is naive, but pessimism is atheistic."

12 July 2008

Drowning Out The Noise

I am often given advice by other people. Family, friends, work colleagues, fellow Salvationists, even people in the street. Most of this information is contradictory in one way or another. They tell me how I should live my life; how I should spend my money; how I should spend my free time; what I should wear; what I should eat. It's a wonder that I can do anything; sounds to me like I can't live my own life at all.

Let's give you one example from the last two weeks, mentioning no names. As I have blogged before, I recently had to consider buying a new car. Then the helpful advice started. Work colleagues assured me that I could not live without owning a vehicle; fellow Christians argued that I should consider whether I need one at all; friends said they were sympathetic but kept their distance - one admitted they felt guilty because of the way my old car was wrecked (were they involved?); family members were desperate to buy me a vehicle there and then, saying 'you can pay me back when the cheque comes through'.

With a few notable exceptions, all were keen to tell me what I should do but no-one seemed interested in my own point of view. Except God. He listens to me and then gently guides me through His word. It's hard, however, to hear His still, small voice above the cacophony of other 'helpful' voices. If I am ever quiet, it's usually because I'm straining to hear His whispered voice above the crowd.

9 July 2008

Trust In The Lord

Some of you may know that I've recently had to replace my car. Not by choice, I'm afraid... there was an incident outside my house about three weeks ago now and somebody drove into my Escort at three in the morning and wrote it off! As for me and mine, we were upstairs at home sleeping soundly at the time!
The wheels of the insurance industry went into operation, and I have now received most of the money for my old car, and am just waiting for the opportunity to reclaim the excess.
Throughout the whole experience I have been challenged as to whether I need a car at all, and after prayerful consideration I made the decision, taking custody of a green Vauxhall Astra last night, and dedicating it back to the Lord's service in prayer within the hour.
The verse that echoes back to me throughout this whole experience can be found in Psalm 20:7 - “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

7 July 2008

Could You Save The World?

I finally caught up with the final episode of the latest season of Doctor Who last night, thanks to the repeat on BBC Three. A roller-coaster of an episode, featuring many previous companions from earlier shows and series, no doubt to emphasise the loneliness of the Time Lord at the very end of the episode.
I've never previously been a fan of Catherine Tate's character throughout the latest season, however Donna has given me something to say today. In the show Donna has always been drawn to the adventure, to travelling with The Doctor, but throughout this there's been some small part that has refused to embrace her full potential, happy to be the secretary but clearly displaying talents that far exceed that humble ambition. Throughout the series, the character has been told that she is special, and this culminates in her final destiny - a sacrificial one that in fact saves the entire world.
How many others do we know who fail to see their own potential, and therefore miss out on what God has in store for them. Could you be called to save the world, to be a hero? Perhaps.

5 July 2008

Praise Him!

Wow! I've just arrived home from this year's Commissioning celebration, held this year at Westminster Central Hall. Such a lot happened! I could tell you about the message from Commissioner Elizabeth Matear which really hit home to me; I could talk about the conversation I had with a couple of newly-commissioned Lieutenants which showed me such a vision for my own future. I could even tell you how low I felt on the way home, coming down with a bit of a bump to an empty house (my missus and my two children are off away at camp this weekend).
But what really dragged me to the PC was the opening song. The ISB struck up with 'Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven' - which meant a few hundred folk sang along with me the very words I chose to include at the top of this blog when I started it on Wednesday.
God is good.

2 July 2008

In The Beginning...

Having been encouraged by friends to dip my toe in the water and to blog something, 'In The Beginning' seems a good place to start. Mainly because of a recent meeting with a bloke the other day (while I was out selling the War Cry in a local pub) who had such a peculiar spin on the Creation story...

You see, he said he had a problem with who and what I stood for because he couldn't get to grips with the Christian creation story. In particular, that part of the story where Adam ripped out his own rib, planted it in the ground, and waited until Eve grew up from the ground.

Having re-read Genesis chapter 2 on my return home that evening, I fail to understand how he could possibly interpret that from what was written. Guess he'd never actually read it at all.

Remember the white mice in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy? Having been unable to work out The Ultimate Question Of Life, The Universe And Everything - they decided just to make it up. And I guess there are plenty of folk who will just make up their own beliefs when the truth is too difficult/ scary for them to swallow.