David wrote Psalm 30 for the dedication of the Temple, praising God for helping and healing him when David called for help. He calls on the people to praise God, for his anger is only temporary.
v6-7 are so true – I won't summarise them you'll have to look them up.
And then David starts reasoning with God – look, he says, what's the point in letting me die? Why silence me? After all, what good is dust, it can't praise you or proclaim your faithfulness, so you might as well show mercy, lift me up, and save me.
And then the pattern of Jesus emerges, one of the passages when Jesus teaches how the Scriptures say the Messiah must suffer and die:
You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you for ever.
Psalm 30.11-12 (NIV)
Continue reading 'Psalm 30: I will praise you for ever'
This morning I read Hebrews 11, which is of course the famous 'By faith..' passage, listing various Old Testament examples of faithful followers of God, from Abel to Rahab before skipping over Gideon, David and Samuel in a single verse.
There are all kinds of important verses in this chapter, but I think for me the most important one is this little clause in the middle of verse 34:
whose weakness was turned to strength
Hebrews 11.34 (NIV)
Continue reading 'Weakness turned to Strength'
There possibly is no dirtier word in Britain at the moment than 'banker'. They have become villains of almost pantomime proportions, with people practically hissing whenever anyone mentions 'the bankers' on the BBC's Question Time. People get so very angry, 'The bankers caused this crisis,' they say, 'so they should pay for it – why should my taxes pay for their incompetence / greed / etc?'
The BBC recently published this article in their online magazine, explaining the maths behind the Black-Scholes equation which calculates the prices of futures and derivatives, and lies at the heart of many if not all investment computer systems. One of the mathematicians who invented and developed it was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1997, two years after the other died.
The question is: whose fault is the crisis? Is it the 'greedy bankers' who cheated and lied in their accounts, inventing clever ways of moving money around to make it look as though they were making a profit, selling debt as an asset, lining their pockets with wads of cash and driveways with sports cars? Or is it the mathematicians who inadvertently derived a formula which now pretty much runs the world of investment banking (apparently)?
Or, is it the society which created them, the society which decided that greed is the primary and best motivating force for generating money (which it is), and that generating money is the primary function of an economy (which it shouldn't be)? Is it the society which wants ever improving healthcare and free education, the society which wants a constantly-improving standard of living (which is mathematically impossible to sustain)?
Is it, in fact, greed – not just the greed of the bankers, but the greed of all of us, wanting what we haven't got and can't afford? In the U2 song Gone Bono sings a line: 'What you thought was freedom just was greed.' To me that line perfectly summarises the problem: unchecked capitalism does not create more and more freedom for society, but more and more greed. And for that, we are all complicit, and therefore all deserve to pay the price.
Thankfully God's economy of grace is a bit more forgiving than that..
In Job 37 Elihu (the youngest of Job's 'friends' in the conversation about his suffering) tells Job to 'stop and consider the wondrous works of God' (v14). From thunder and lightning to snow and rain, animals, whirlwinds and people, God made them all, is behind, above and beyond them all, upholds and sustains them all. His power is, quite simply, awesome. Elihu ends like this:
God is clothed with awesome majesty.
The Almighty—we cannot find him;
he is great in power;
justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate.
Therefore men fear him;
he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.
Continue reading 'Questioning God'
It's an ominous sign... Microsoft to win approval for Skype deal. Who knew James Cameron had a gift of prophecy?
This was in our church notice sheet last week..
The Pope was cruising along the beach in the Pope-mobile when there was a frantic commotion just off-shore. A helpless man, wearing an England rugby shirt, was struggling frantically to free himself from the jaws of a 25-foot long shark.
As the Pope watched in horror, a speedboat pulled up with three men wearing Australian rugby jerseys. One quickly fired a harpoon into the shark's side while the other two reached out and pulled the hapless English fan from the water. Then, using long clubs, the three beat the shark to death and hauled it into the boat.
Immediately the Pope shouted out and summoned them to him, "I give you my blessing for your brave actions. I heard that there was bitter hatred between Australian and English rugby fans, but now I have seen with my own eyes that this is not true."
As the Pope drove off, the harpooner asked his buddies: "Who was that?"
"It was the Pope," one replied. "He is in direct contact with God and has access to all of God's wisdom."
"Well," the harpooner said, "he may have access to God and his wisdom, but he doesn't know anything about shark fishing. Is the bait holding up ok, or do we need to get another one?"
I am a Christian. I believe that when we turn back to the Father and repent of our sins, we are truly forgiven through Jesus' blood shed on the cross, and given new life through his resurrection and in the power of the Holy Spirit. (And as you can probably tell from that sentence, I am also a theologian with a postgraduate degree!)
But what does that forgiveness mean? What are the consequences of that forgiveness, as opposed to the consequences of my sin? When we are forgiven by God, do we still have to face some consequences of our wrongdoing, or are we given a genuine second chance?
Continue reading 'Forgiveness and the Second Chance'