Thursday, 24 October 2013

Advent coming

Advent is my favourite time of the year. I love the Advent carols, the services and even the name 'Advent'. Here is a website which makes us think about what lies at the end of it, Christmas. It is from America but is nonetheless relevant to Christians everywhere.

The website can be found by clicking here.

God is at work in the Anglican Church. But...?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit

I came across this beautiful prayer the other day by St. Augustine of Hippo:

Breathe into me, Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.

Move in me, Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.

Attract my heart, Holy Spirit,
that I may love only what is holy.

Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may defend all that is holy.

Protect me, Holy Spirit,
that I may always be holy.
Prayer of St. Augustine 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Sacred Pauses

As someone who is always in a rush I am learning to slow down as in my hurry I am continually missing out on what God is saying and doing. The following video is a promo for a book which speaks to the manic nature of life today and says "slow down".

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Post Eucharist Celebration?

I had to post this, a celebration after a Eucharist in USA. Not sure if it will catch on here or that any of us has the energy to anyway!

BASIC

The following is a trailer for a series on Christian Basics by Francis Chan. It's for home study and you can download notes - and the videos - for home groups. Francis Chan is an amazing speaker and communicator who speaks from the heart.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Ravi Zacharias Interview

One of my favourite speakers, Ravi Zacharias being interviewed:

Afterlife exists says top brain surgeon.

A prominent scientist who had previously dismissed the possibility of the afterlife says he has reconsidered his belief after experiencing an out of body experience which has convinced him that heaven exists.

While in a coma the neurosurgeon says he was met by a beautiful woman in a 'place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones'  Comments Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, fell into a coma for seven days in 2008 after contracting meningitis.

During his illness Dr Alexander says that the part of his brain which controls human thought and emotion "shut down" and that he then experienced "something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death." In an essay for American magazine Newsweek, which he wrote to promote his book Proof of Heaven, Dr Alexander says he was met by a beautiful blue-eyed woman in a "place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones" and "shimmering beings".

He continues: "Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms." The doctor adds that a "huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. the sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn't get you wet."

Dr Alexander says he had heard stories from patients who spoke of outer body experiences but had disregarded them as "wishful thinking" but has reconsidered his opinion following his own experience.

He added: "I know full well how extraordinary, how frankly unbelievable, all this sounds. Had someone even a doctor told me a story like this in the old days, I would have been quite certain that they were under the spell of some delusion.

"But what happened to me was, far from being delusional, as real or more real than any event in my life. That includes my wedding day and the birth of my two sons." He added: "I've spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigous medical institutions in our country. I know that many of my peers hold as I myself did to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us.
"But that belief, that theory, now lies broken at our feet. What happened to me destroyed it."
 The original article is in Newsweek. Click here.

Lee Mack on the Bible

Bible Sunday is coming up soon and so the following quote from the comedian Lee Mack on desert Island discs after being presented with the Bible is a good one to get people thinking. he said:

"I'm glad you get the Bible, because I would read the Bible. I think it's quite odd that people like myself, in their forties, quite happy to dismiss the Bible, but I've never read it. I always think that if an alien came down and you were the only person they met, and they said, 'What's life about? What's earth about? Tell us everything,' and you said, 'Well, there's a book here that purports to tell you everything. Some people believe it to be true; some people [do] not believe it [to be] true.' 'Wow, what's it like?' and you go, 'I don't know, I've never read it.' It would be an odd thing wouldn't it? So, at the very least, read it."

The "unreported catastrophe of our time"

On October 5th the Spectator ran an article about something the Church has long been praying about, and doing its best to draw attention to, the persecution of Christians. Now figures have been released that tell us on what scale this is on.

According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular observatory based in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.

According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.

In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs. The carnage is occurring on such a vast scale that it represents not only the most dramatic Christian story of our time, but arguably the premier human rights challenge of this era as well.

The article makes disturbing, but necessary reading. You can access it here.

We need to make praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ one of our priorities and support such organisations as the Barnabas Fund or Christians Against Torture (the Welsh site is here).

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Pray for your school

We are all concerned for our schools and whether our children are getting the right education or not. but another concern has crept in especially in the light of a recent government report about standards of RE teaching especially in relation to Christianity. Here is what was written:

"A report by Ofsted, the school inspectorate, has found that a third of primary school children had an ‘inadequate’ understanding of Christianity. Inspectors, who visited 185 secondary schools and more than 30 primary schools, said teachers were both fearful of ‘saying the wrong thing’ in classes.

Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted schools director, said: ‘Inspectors found that very few children were being taught in school to get to grips with religion. They had little understanding of why religion is important or of how different religions could help them make sense of their own lives.’

He added: ‘Lots of children we saw understand Jesus is a key figure in religion. They understand he is really important. But what they could not say was why.

They knew about the resurrection at Easter, but they did not understand that it represents the power of hope over despair, the transcendental nature of the crucifixion in Christian belief.’

The report also found that standards were weakest in classes for 11 to 14 year olds and showed that 250 schools and academies not a single pupil was entered for an accredited qualification in RE in 2011.

‘Ofsted's report tells us what many teachers and schools already know,’ said Mary Bousted. The General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers added: ‘RE has become a forgotten “poor relation” in the curriculum. Yet good religious education is vital for our young people so that they understand the role of religion and belief in society’."
From the Bible Society website

In the light of this and other concerns we, as Christians, need to do something. The first thing is to pray. Can  recommend you visiting the website www.prayforschools.org  This gives clear guidelines about how to go about praying for and supporting your local schools.

Dallas Willard - a great teacher

The following is a video featuring Dallas Willard talking with John Ortberg about his book The Divine Conspiracy:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Saint Lucy - 283–304

I find the lives of saints and holy people utterly fascinating and although some of the sceptics love to pour cold water on some of the more miraculous aspects of their lives I believe that Jesus' promise that his disciples and followers will do "greater works than these" (John 14:12) i.e. the ones Jesus did, is true. Of course there may well have been some exaggeration in the retelling, but there must have been something to exaggerate in the first place.

Anyhow, here is a short talk I gave as the Church remembered Lucy and her faithful witness:

"Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. All we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.

Maybe because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, various legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, according to the legend, the rejected bridegroom was unhappy at losing his dowry and his wife and betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her difficult to carry away as she became very stiff and heavy. Finally she was killed – one legend has it that her eyes were put out (she is the patron saint of blind people).

As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Although the exact facts are unknown Lucy – along with many other Christians – faced the ultimate test of faith.

A few comments:
1. Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.

2. Lucy was keen to share her faith with others and set out to convince her mother of the reality of Christ. Her belief in the power of God saw her prayer of faith answered and, as we see in the life of Jesus, the Gospel message was confirmed by “signs and wonders”.

3. Lastly, Lucy’s ‘light’ - that is her faith - shone in dark and difficult times helping keep the light of Christ burning. As the most recent census tells us, the numbers of those who are willing to call themselves Christian have dropped from 71% to 59% over just a decade. We need to follow the example of Lucy and keep shining for Jesus.

The H+ Course

Over the past decades, anecdotal and statistical evidence has pointed to a decline in biblical literacy amongst churchgoers. An increasing number of Christians (both church leaders and those in the pews) are expressing a lack of confidence in the Church’s core text, and difficulties with understanding how the Scriptures bear any relationship to their Christian discipleship.

As a response to this problem, Bible Society has developed the h+ Making Good Sense of the Bible course to help Christians grapple with some of the key questions that arise when we come to the Bible.
The programme is not about providing answers, but demonstrating the range of approaches that are taken, so that participants can grow in their awareness and confidence of what is known as ‘Biblical Hermeneutics’, and how our Bible reading is directly related to our growth as Christian disciples.

The h+ course is designed to help you:
grow in understanding and experience of how people interpret the Bible
understand the different ways that the biblical text can be approached
harness these approaches and thereby grow in Bible confidence
Over ten sessions, you and your h+ group will unpack the most challenging questions that emerge when we read the Bible. Together you will explore different ways of responding to the questions the Bible provokes. There is expert advice from a range of theologians and practitioners; there are guided discussions and practical exercises, and there is input from a trained facilitator.

For more information go here.

Prayer Shawl Ministry

In my visits around the Deanery as the Area Dean of Swansea I came across something called the Prayer Shawl Ministry. Here is the history and story of it's genesis:

"In 1998, Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo, two graduates of the 1997 Women's Leadership Institute at The Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut gave birth to a ministry as a result of their experience in this program of applied Feminist Spirituality under the direction of Professor Miriam Therese Winter, MMS. Compassion and the love of knitting/crocheting have been combined into a prayerful ministry and spiritual practice which reaches out to those in need of comfort and solace, as well as in celebration and joy. Many blessings are prayed into every stitch.

Whether they are called Prayer Shawls, Comfort Shawls, Peace Shawls, or Mantles, etc.., the shawl maker begins with prayers and blessings for the recipient. The intentions are continued throughout the creation of the shawl. Upon completion, a final blessing is offered before the shawl is sent on its way. Some recipients have continued the kindness by making a shawl and passing it onto someone in need. Thus, the blessing ripples from person-to-person, with both the giver and receiver feeling the unconditional embrace of a sheltering, mothering God!"
From the website

The lady behind the ministry in St. Thomas, Bronwen, told how much those who have received one have appreciated receiving one and speak about the comfort and assurance of God's love they have felt after putting it around them. They have spoke of a sense of God's love for them, or a renewed sense of his abiding presence. Some of these people have been desperately ill and one has since died, but not before the shawl has brought a real sense of peace in time of need.

For more information visit the website here.

"Shawls ... made for centuries universal and embracing,
symbolic of an inclusive, unconditionally loving, God.
They wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace,
mother, hug, shelter and beautify.
Those who have received these shawls have been
uplifted and affirmed, as if given wings to
fly above their troubles..."

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Fr. Mychal Judge

On September 11, 2001 Fr. Mychal Judge, Chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, was going about his daily routine when he heard that a plane had struck one of the buildings of the World Trade Center. He grabbed his gear and went right to the scene.

The Chaplain usually stands at the Command Post to be available to the scene commander and also to be available if he is needed by one of the guys working the fire ground.  Fr. Mychal was in the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center giving last rites to many of the dead.

At 9:59 am when the Tower collapsed, debris went flying through the air and Fr. Mychal was hit in the back of the head and killed instantly.  His body was found by a NYPD Lieutenant and 2 fire fighters, and they carried his body to nearby St. Peter’s Church and placed there before the altar.

Fr. Mychal died doing what he loved, “Serving Those Who Serve”. There is a short prayer that is attributed to Fr. Mychal:

“Lord take me where you want me to go:
Let me meet who you want me to meet:
Tell me what you want me to say:
And keep me out of your way.”

Anglicans again

I read this morning the following alarming statistics: "Only six per cent of British adults read or listen to the Bible, while 55 per...