Love Never Fails

Many people will be in despair and hopelessness. 

Asking:  Where is the hope in the midst of such unusual events worldwide?

 

The Apostle Paul said that ‘Love never fails’ (1 Cor 13:8).

He went on to say, “these three remain: faith, hope and love.  And the greatest of these is love” (v.13).

 

I’ll say something about this love in a minute.

But as for hope?  It is seen and acted out in and through the Church of Jesus Christ.

Just as Jesus was incarnated, 

God becoming a man;

So the Church is incarnational.  

It is the people.

The bodies are the Body of Jesus Christ in the world.  

That’s where hope lies.

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Storm Centres of History: Beirut and the West Bank

BBC Radio Devon – Pause for Thought:  Storm Centres

During the Pause for Thought recently, I’ve been talking about 7 places I have been to:  Storm-centres of history.

Today, we will go to Beirut and the West Bank.

One of my most important objects is a large iron key.

I bought it from a Palestinian Christian shop-owner in Old Jerusalem.

The Key is a very potent symbol for the Palestinians, Muslim and Christian.

It symbolises the right to return to their homes, lost since the refugee crisis of 1948 when 750,000 Palestinians were removed from their land and homes.

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Bloody Balfour Declaration Debacle

Bloody Balfour Declaration Debacle

One hundred years ago today, a mischievous political promise gave rise to a mischievous political creed:  The Balfour Declaration of 1917.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in other countries.”

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This short letter amounted to what historian Monroe called ‘one of the worst mistakes in [British] imperial history’, and what novelist Koestler succinctly described as ‘one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third nation.’  Moreover, the only Jew in the British Cabinet, Edwin Montagu correctly objected on the grounds that the Jews were a culture, not a nation.  He rightly refers to Zionism, with deft political understatement, as ‘a mischievous political creed’, even calling the declaration ‘anti-Semitic’, a deftness ignored by Michael Prior who also rightly calls Zionism ‘pernicious’ and a ‘canonical’ ideology on a par with sacred texts.

Nevertheless, the declaration became a major milestone in Zionist history.  Its minimalist content achieving maximum impact for the Allies as nation states determined where their loyalties would lie.  The partition plans for post-War Middle East would significantly favour British interest whilst affording them the authority to carry it out.  On the aspirations of a return to Zion, two views were distinguished and both were achieved at this juncture:

  1.  The hope of a return and
  2.  Constructing a program to achieve it.

The declaration alarmed the Arab world not only by its wording, but because the political apparatus was now in place to achieve it, and this despite the promise that Palestinian residents, who formed ninety percent of the people on the land, would have their civil and religious rights protected.  By 1918, Arab consensus believed the Zionists aimed to take over the country and place them in subjection.  They perceived that civil and religious rights may be protected, but political rights were blatantly omitted, since the territory formerly belonged to a defeated enemy, the Ottomans.  The Arabs were right to be alarmed, for as Sizer demonstrates, not only was the Declaration itself penned by the Zionist Organization on Balfour’s behalf, the author was the same man in the British government who also drafted its response, a Jew – Leopold Amery.  Additionally, as Assistant Secretary to the British War Cabinet, Amery was responsible for establishing the Jewish Legion, ‘the first organized Jewish army for 2,000 years and forerunner of the Israeli Defence Force.’  Sizer then quotes historian Rubinstein who comments that this was ‘possibly the most remarkable example of identity concealment in 20th Century British political history’ because he misled officials as to his sympathy for the Jews.

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Goldman points out the ignorance of almost everyone, by highlighting the view that many understood Palestine to be uninhabited, and it should therefore be inhabited by Jews, ‘the descendants of the lands’ ancient biblical inhabitants.’  This grave oversight, fostered by idealised notions of a Jewish return contradicted the reports of many visitors to Palestine, who witnessed first-hand the hundreds of thousands of Arab dwellers.  The phrase ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ was now used to claim that the Arabs of Palestine, despite their massive numbers, had no distinct “Palestinian identity”.  But this is a moot point.  Palestine was not empty, be it demographically or politically, as was attested by two unnamed Rabbi’s from Vienna, who visited Palestine in 1898, and reported, ‘The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.’  These two Rabbis knew only too well that Palestine was not only occupied by its indigenous people, but that this also meant that to deny them their national identity would be the first stage of dehumanization that would allow the Western powers and the Zionist movement to ignore their rights.  It would be colonisation and ethnic cleansing of the most nefarious kind.  And so it turned out to be just that!

 

 

We pray for holy peace and reconcilliation:

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Mission Impossible! a comment on the current escalation in Israel/Palestine violence

The following is a note by the President of Bethlehem Bible College, Jack Sara, on the current troubles engulfing the West Bank and Gaza.  It was published on the excellent ‘Come and See – a Christian web site from Nazareth‘.

This post is re-printed here with the personal permission of Jack, a faithful Christian, a fearless advocate of biblical truth and justice, a Palestinian, and a friend.  I will never forget our conversation over breakfast a couple of years ago!!

Mission Impossible! By Jack Sara

By: Bader Mansour

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Sleep as Trust

I offer the poem below that I have stumbled across recently, not as one who finds sleep easy but one who doesn’t.  That means, given the poem’s content, I struggled to wrestle with the starkness of some of the comments. 

I think the point is true to all poetry, that we do not get lost in specific detail but we catch the wave, the ebb and flow, feeling the rhythm and beat of the poetry.  That way we insomniacs will not lose any more unneccessary sleep.

 

“I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.

Sleep is the friend of man.

Sleep is the friend of God.

Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have created, and I myself rested on the seventh day.

He whose heart is pure, sleeps, and he who sleeps has a pure heart.

That is the great secret of being as indefatigable as a child, of having that strength in legs that a child has.

 

Those new legs, those new souls,

And to begin afresh every morning, ever new,

Like young hope, fresh hope.

But they tell me that there are men

Who work well and sleep badly.

Who don’t sleep.  What a lack of confidence in me.

I pity them.  I have it against them.  A little, they don’t trust me.

 

Like the child who innocently lies in her mothers arms, thus they do not lie

Innocently in the arms of my Providence.

They have the courage to work.  They haven’t enough virtue to be idle.

To stretch out.  To rest.  To sleep.

Poor people, they don’t know what is good.

They look after their business very well during the day.

But they haven’t enough confidence in me to let me look after it during the night.

As if I wasn’t capable of looking after it during one night.

He who doesn’t sleep is unfaithful to hope.

And it is the greatest infidelity.”

 

Charles Peguy in Basic Verities, p.209-11

boatA painting by Hannah Dunnet entitled ‘Trust in God’

Christ and the World

This is stunning…..

Subversive Preaching in a Postmodern World – A Targum based on Colossians 1:15-20 by Brian J Walsh

In an image-saturated world,

a world of ubiquitous corporate logos

permeating your consciousness,

a world of dehydrated and captive imaginations

in which we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted,

to be able to dream of life otherwise.

A world in which the empire of global economic affluence

has achieved the monopoloy of our imaginations;

in this world,

Christ is the image of the invisible God.

In this world,

driven by images with a vengeance,

Christ is the image par excellence;

the image above all other images,

the image that is not a facade,

the image that is not trying to sell you anything,

the image that refuses to co-opt you.

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Why Bother?

DSC_0786#1“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!”  Psalm 27:13

I consider the brokenness of the world and I think, “Why bother?”

I look at the corruption all around me and I cry, “Why bother?”

I wonder at my inability to live with my neighbour and I ask, “Why bother?”

I face my war with sin inside and outside, and I ponder, “Why bother?”

I look at the problems of the culture around me and I lament, “Why bother?”

I scan my world, broken by disease and misuse, and in sadness say, “Why bother?”

I consider the statistics of violence and abuse and I think, “Why bother?”

I am assaulted with the reality of endless wars between nations, and overwhelmed say, “Why bother?”

I am defeated by temptations power and cry, “Why bother?”

I ponder how good is called bad and bad good, and in frustration say, “Why bother?”

I search for hope like a parched man for water but end up thinking, “Why bother?”

Perhaps I should live for leisure and comfort and give into “Why bother?”

Maybe I should exist for the here and now, and forgetting forever say, “Why bother?”

I am tempted to live for power and control, and for greater things say, “Why bother?”

Perhaps personal pleasure in the here and now is what it’s all about; “Why bother?”

But in exhaustion I look up and not around and I say, “Why bother?”

Why bother?

Because You are and You are good.

Why bother?  Because [in You] is goodness and grace.

Why bother?  Because You bring life out of death.

Why bother?  Because You have a plan and it will be done.

Why bother?  Because I have been welcomed into your Kingdom of Life.

Why bother?  Because I am always with you.

It is true that my eyes don’t always see and my heart isn’t always confident.

It is true that darkness overwhelms me and fear leaves me weak.

But You come near.

You remind me once again that I can be confident because You were unwilling to say, “Why bother?”

 

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From ‘A Shelter in the Storm of Life – meditations on God and Trouble’ using Psalm 27 by Paul David Tripp p.139-141

The Drugged Baby

THE DRUGGED BABY – a poem by Gralefrit

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The Lord says to me, ‘Fight the fight’

Give up your right and step into the light.

Pick up your cross

Lose all that dross

Count it all loss

Again I say, ‘Pick up your cross.’

‘But Lord’ I stutter, ‘there is no way’

‘I must speak and have my say

What about my human right

To choose whether to pick up my cross and fight?’

The orphan and widow; the sick and poor

What will you say when they knock on your door?

‘Come in’ says I,  ‘I’ve a great speech to give!’

‘But only speak life’ they say, ‘we want to live!’

Human rights can be human wrongs

But the question is, for whom do you long?

‘You say you long for me,’ declares the Lord, ‘you even bend your knee’

But my Spirit knows when you don’t want to see.

A baby has been born this very day

Her mother’s on crack, she has no say

You had the call to provide a way

A way to make her life pay.

This new born baby, will you take her in?

Into your home, out of life’s bin

Will you take her, a gift from me?

To show her my love and help her to see?

‘Yes Lord, I will pick up your cross

and answer the door.

Let her invade our home our hearts

But only if you invade my heart and make it your home!’

I accept the call, this gift, this poor drugged up broken baby girl

To love ’til it hurts and then some more

To see her break free of drugs and pain

And pray all the while that in Christ, a new life she’ll gain.

Glory to Christ

I accept your gift.

Amen and amen.

(c) Gralefrit 2014

BMS Catalyst Live – Reading, UK

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Not Catalyst Olive, as one guest poet humourously suggested, but Catalyst Live!

Anyway, I’ve digressed already!  The event held in Manchester and Reading this week by the BMS team has been very well received.  There were many highlights, many of them great, some funny and some weird, but that’s a bit like me so I was happy with that.

There was a stupendous tumbleweed moment during the Q&A with Jurgen Moltmann and John Lennox.  Moltmann was asked a question about his universalism (I forget the details of the question even though it was stated twice – and quite differently both times),   and his reply caused a reaction in the gathering as if someone had let off a stun-grenade!  SILENCE….then murmering, then another question was asked.  The two men behind me were talking about it the whole while we spent trying to get our coffee.

Moltmann’s reply also seemed to cause the wonderful John Lennox to contort his face in some kind of disapproving horror (was he surprised by this reply?  Had he never read any of Moltmann’s writings? Have I over-interpretted his face and the crowd reaction?).  Maybe, but for now, I’ll assume not.

How does Moltmann’s theology of ‘hope’ interact with faith as a pre-requisite for securing one’s eternal security/destiny? “Do you believe all will be saved?”

“Yes.  Yes I do!”  Boom.  Silence.  Tumbleweed.  Murmerings.  Next question…

This was very exciting.  Had the Catalyst Live team forgotten that arguably the world’s greatest living theologian was well known for his universalism (Baptist supremo Nigel Wright has written on universalism in the theology of Jurgen Moltmann)?  Had they bargained for Moltmann’s brutal but refreshing directness, his honesty?  Well I say “bravo” to the BMS and Catalyst Live team for inviting a theologian who you must have known would not shrink back from his conviction.  In fact, why not invite speakers around this subject alone for next years Catalyst?  You’d have to find a bigger venue and expect a lot of nasty people, writing nasty letters on why they are upset that hell, in the end, will be empty – according to Moltmann (and many others I might add)!

It is a curious thing, that when we come to Scripture, the hell texts really do mean what traditional theology has taught; whilst when we come to universalist texts (of which there are many), traditional theology tends not to deal with them in the same way.  So what tends to happen is we latch on to certain texts, believe a certain theological eschatology around them and ‘fix’ ourselves like oak trees in the ground of certainty.  Or we don’t think too much about it and live with a kind of mushy eschatological agnosticism: we can’t really know and God will sort it out in the end.

But in reality, the hell texts and the universalist texts (not to mention John Stott’s position – the annihilation texts), sit there, in our Bibles, inter-mingling with each other.  All the while we fail to see that the universalist texts offer us hope that perhaps all will be saved; and the hell texts warn us not to take this for granted.  And so it is the Bible, not we, who are the controllers and masters of Scripture, for here is evidence of Scripture controlling and mastering us, as it should!

The Bible, by offering us both visions, will not allow us to settle down with a comfortable scheme of how the future will pan out (we are such control freaks)!  Instead it invites us to respond with hope yet without complacency.  This was Moltmann’s emphasis, he taught us about biblical hope – in Christ no less – a hope that given his personal standing, credentials and sheer theological genius, could never be accused of being complacent.

Nigel Wright himself in the above mentioned essay wrote, “Scripture is given not to bestow upon us all the answers but to create a narrative context in which we may live and which certain matters remain constructively if agonizingly open.”  The wisdom outlined by Wright can help to preserve us from complacency and self-satisfaction.  God truly does know the human heart.

Finally, the reason why I find this Scriptural and theological tension not only fascinating but challenging is because most Christians in the Western world do advocate that the vast majority of humanity will be punished for ever in a hell of fire.  What is tragic about this is the temperature of their blood, twice as hot as hell, as they defend their view against the one that God might actually accomplish the salvation of every person, as He declares in Scripture.  They seem to want people there and they would be disappointed if there wasn’t.  Of course, it goes without saying they know where they’re going!

Here is a quote I found on the Baptist Times web site in response to an article that suggested we need to talk about hell – If Jurgen Moltmann is world-class, likewise Anthony Thiselton who wrote, “…we should not characterise the Augustinian tradition of eternal torment as “the orthodox view.” At least three very different views competed in the early church, all of them seeking some support from Scripture” quoted in The Last Things, pg.148.

I end with something Moltmann actually said yesterday, in contrast to Dante’s words written over the entrance to Hell ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here,’ Moltmann said, “The abandonment of hope is to be in the entrance of hell.”  And it is precisely because he understands the hope offered in God, a God who does not abandon, a God known to us as ‘The God of Hope’ that he can say, with no shame, that this God, revealed in Christ Jesus, will rescue his people, his grace will trump our weak faith and petty lives and neat theology.  I love that he added sometime later in his talk, “We are expected by God.”

Indeed we are.

Thank you Catalyst Live 2013