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Archive for October, 2005

LICC – Word for the Week – God in History

Look at the nations, and see! Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told. For I am rousing the Chaldeans. Habakkuk 1:5

Habakkuk’s prayer that God should do something about Israel’s violence and injustice was answered. But not in the way he expected. The revelation that God was working out his purposes in history by rousing the Chaldeans, brutal and ruthless conquerors, astonished and shocked him. As far as Habakkuk was concerned, God was not supposed to work with the unrighteous. ‘Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, so why are you silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?’ (1:13)

We may believe very strongly that God is actively involved in our world, both in the larger histories of peoples and cultures, as well as in the little local difficulties of our individual lives. But however strong that belief, it is often difficult to see just where and how God is at work. Like Habakkuk, we have to acknowledge that God is indeed active, but not as we expect and not as we, in our heart of hearts, would always wish.

Is a calm sea for the evacuation of troops from the beaches an act of God? Then why not a more decisive intervention at an earlier point? An individual sees God in action when he misses the plane that crashed. But what about the others who were killed?

We need the humility to say that we cannot always see where God is at work. Looking back in faith, we may see his purposes accomplished in surprising ways, in our own lives as well as in the bigger movements of history. But we know that he is patient, not necessarily intervening to prevent the uncomfortable consequences of the fallen nature of our world, because those consequences may bring people to their knees in repentance.

When we cannot see where or how he is at work, we trust that he does indeed know what is best. In the midst of a very mixed bag of life experiences, we are required, in the words of another prophet, ‘to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God’. One day we will see the whole picture and understand his perfect dealings with humanity.

Margaret Killingray

LICC – Word for the Week – Surprised by joy

Monday, October 24, 2005 11:16 AM

The fruit of the Spirit is joy, Gal.5:22. You welcomed the message with the
joy given by the Holy Spirit, 1 Thes.1:6

How would we define the experience of becoming a Christian? “Surprised by
joy” is how C.S.Lewis described it. The Thessalonians, who welcomed the
message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit, experienced it as deliverance
from fear and bondage. They “turned to God from idols, to serve the living
and true God” (v.9). What an exchange – the dead and false for the living
and true! Along with conviction of the futility of their past life, the Holy
Spirit gave these new believers joy.

This joy was no ephemeral thing, no frothy emotionalism. It sustained the
Thessalonians through the persecution that followed their acknowledgment of
Christ. And it issued in an extraordinary change of behaviour. Their lives
were characterised by practical love. Writing to the Corinthians, Paul
commended the churches of Macedonia (of which the Thessalonian church was
one) that “out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and extreme
poverty welled up in rich generosity”, and they gave, far beyond their
means, to help the famine-stricken Christians in Jerusalem. I wonder whether
joy is a missing element in our churches, or in our individual lives, today.
Perhaps our culture is to blame. Comfortable agnostics may not find
conversion such a radical change as the exchange of the dead and false for
the living and true. Or maybe we have so many other support systems that
putting our faith in Christ is simply adding one more to our portfolio.

But Christian faith and life are still as radically different from that of
the surrounding culture. We have been transferred from darkness to light,
from the emptiness of seeking our fulfilment in material things and the
opinions of others to fullness of purpose, security and identity as children
of our heavenly Father. Some cause for joy! This joy, which is the fruit of
the Spirit, then enables us, as those who have found a priceless treasure,
to stand up and be counted, in our daily life and work, in spite of
opposition and ridicule. And it spills over in energy, love and an almost
reckless generosity.

Helen Parry

http://www.licc.org.uk

LICC – Connecting With Culture – Wishful Thinking

28 October 2005 10:37

My wife and I drove past a rather nasty local pub recently. “I wish they’d
bulldoze it,” she sighed. “It’s horrible.” Three hours later, it had burned
to the ground. No one was hurt – and, thankfully, my wife had an alibi.

This week, Alex McKie made the headlines (in the Independent, at least) by
inviting us all to make three wishes. She set up the ‘Three Wishes Project’
in memory of her late sister, and has been travelling the country to
discover what’s on our hearts. Her only instructions are: (1) Wish for
yourself (even if you also wish well for others), (2) follow your heart’s
desire (your head may mislead you) and (3) be specific and definite (you’re
more likely to notice when your wish has come true – or if, indeed, it
already has). Many people use their first wish to give them limitless
powers (we’ve all done it), but McKie is hoping to generate more realistic
dreams which, she believes, we’ll begin to fulfil once we verbalise them.

Many replies have been moving and revealing.’To find a man who makes me
laugh and start a family with him; to do my job the best I can always; to be
happy’ says a lady, 29, from the south-west. ‘A
house in Glastonbury; a gentle death; a clear, incremental decrease in
materialism’ suggests a man, 48, from the south-east. Another woman sums up
how many of us perhaps feel: ‘to be in a romantic, loving relationship; to
be fulfilled in my job; to identify the skills that I really have and
develop them to their full potential’.

There’s a fine line, surely, between wishing and praying. And not all our
wishes or prayers are necessarily well motivated. The Bible warns us
frequently to flee our ‘evil desires’ (2 Timothy 2.22; Colossians 3.5). Yet
Psalm 37 declares: ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the
desires of your heart.’ God is no genie, thankfully. But if we seek what he
wants first, we’ll have a better idea, surely, of what we should wish for
ourselves and for others. McKie’s question remains a good one, nevertheless.
If you did have three wishes, what would they be? You can’t do much about
them until you know…

In the meantime, however, a gentle word from my wife: be careful what you
wish for.

Brian Draper

Tell us your wishes here!!

NOOMA

Have seen a Home Group teaching DVD from NOOMA. Was pretty good, so pay
their site a visit and have a look around. Biblical teaching using 21st
century methods.

Click here for NOOMA

Blessings and peace

Your Call (Conceivably by JRW Stott)

Your call is clear, cold centuries across;
You bid me follow You, and take my cross,
and daily lose myself, myself deny,
and stern against myself shout `Crucify’

My stubborn nature rises to rebel
against You call. proud choruses of hell
unite to magnify my restless hate
of servitude, lest I capitulate

The world, to see my cross, would pause and jeer
I have no choice, but to persevere
to save myself – and follow You from far
more slow than Magi – for I have no star

And yet You call me still. Your cross
eclipses mine, transforms the bitter loss
I thought that I would suffer if I came
to You – into immeasurable gain

I kneel before You, Jesus, crucified
my cross is shouldered and my self denied
I’ll follow daily, closely, not refurse
for love of You and man myself to lose

Poem by Ephraem of Syria, 4th century

Child of Bethlehem
What contrasts You embrace
No one has ever been so humble
No one has ever wielded such power
We stand in awe of Your holiness
And yet we are bathed in Your love.

And where shall we look for You
You were in high heaven In the glory of the godhead
Yet those who search for You on earth
Found You in a tiny baby at Mary’s breast
We came in hushed reverance to find You as God
and You welcome us as man.

We come unthinkingly to find You as man
and are blinded by the light of Your Godhead
You are the heir to David’s throne
But You renounced all of his royal splendour.
Of all his luxurious bedrooms,
you chose a stable.

Of all his magnificent beds,
you chose a feeding trough.
Of all his golden chariots, you chose an ass.
Never was there a king like you!
Instead of royal isolation,
you made yourself available to everyone who needed you.

Instead of high security,
you made yourself vulnerable to those who hated you.
It is we who need you, above anything in the world.
You give yourself to us with such total generosity,
that it might almost seem that you need us.
There was never a king like this before!

LICC – Connecting with Culture – The science of aliens

Have you ever seen a skywhale? It’s a rather beautiful animal, over five metres long and weighing 600kg, which glides slowly on thermals above pagoda forests. How about a gulphog? That’s more frightening – a 500kg predatorthat lives in stinger-fan forests and can run at 60kph.

If the answer is no – and it will be – it’ll be because they (probably) don’t exist. That, however, has not stopped the Science Museum from exploring what they, and other alien life forms, might look like, in its exhibition the Science of Aliens, which opened in London last week. Alien life has long been an established feature of our fears and fictions. But the exhibition goes further by inventing two planets, Aurelia and Blue Moon, and imagining what life on them might look like. Alongside skywhales and gulphogs, we see six-legged mudpods, microscopic hysterias and thousand-metre pagoda trees. If some of these wonderfully strange aliens also seem strangely familiar, it’s for a reason. Wherever it might evolve, life will face similar problems and invariably converge on similar solutions. There are, after all, only so manyways of (for instance) seeing and flying.

Despite the breathtaking variety of life on Earth – and the exhibition reminds us that our planet is home to creatures at least as strange as those on Aurelia – there is order within the apparent chaos, a balance between freedom and necessity so exquisite that you can almost hear the morning stars singing together in celebration of it. The Science of Aliens is, of course, a work of imagination. Yet, as is so often the case, it is our imagination that inspires us and orients us towards our Creator. Perhaps it is that which underlies those inspiring, frustrating chapters at the end of the book of Job. When God speaks, we want an answer to Job’s questions. We want logic, reasoning, analysis. Instead, we get questions and we get wonder. Who do you think you are? Who do you think I am? Where were you whenI laid Aurelia’s foundations? Can you make a pet of the skywhale?

Nick Spencer

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