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

Continue reading “Mission Impossible! a comment on the current escalation in Israel/Palestine violence”

Lord, behold a wretched sinner

Below is a wonderful hymn by Kim Fabricius.  
I can't sing very well, so if you'll join me in praying it I'll be delighted!

Lord, behold a wretched sinner

(Tune: Quem pastores laudavere)

 

Lord, behold a wretched sinner,

from the outer to the inner;

at repentance, rank beginner:

day and night my conscience cries.

 

Where begin?  My faults keep mounting;

when I start I can’t stop counting;

huge the sum, but Christ’s accounting

crosses out and nullifies.

 

Good I would but can’t achieve it,

bad I hate but can’t relieve it.

God for us?  I can’t believe it:

me the apple of his eye!

 

God forgives before petition;

grace alone shows our condition;

truth demands our self-suspicion:

like a snake the heart is sly.

 

While accusing scribes are hissing,

Christ portrays the Father kissing

cheek of child that he’s been missing:

Love forgives and sanctifies!

 

by Kim Fabricius found here.

Sideways CrossI took this photo outside All Saints Church in Torquay.

A Prayer

Merciful and loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we open our hearts before you now.
We repent of our sins.
Our praise and worship make no sense unless we are repentant.
We confess to you faithful God, our sins in thought, word, deed and nature.
We confess freely and boldly.
We are a redeemed and sanctified people.
Not by our own righteousness. As if.
But by your righteousness, and the righteousness you give to us.
We are so blessed to be called your people.

For you do not treat us as our sins deserve.
Neither do you leave us wallowing in them
You lift us up. You crown us with love and compassion.
You declare us sons and daughters; heirs and co-heirs.
We acknowledge we have been bought at great cost.
We are not our own; but belong to you, in relationship with each other.

You have sent your Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus to live in us.
Not to be religious but righteous.
Not to live in piety but in power.
Not to be aloof but to be a saint.
Not to be sanctimonious but to be a servant.

Father God,

May your heart for us ever shape and heal our own hearts.
May we see you not as an insurance policy but as you are: Holy, Holy, Holy.
May we share your love in real, genuine ways.
May our evangelism be empowered and Spirit led, courageous and fearless, yet wise.
May our witness be authentic, natural, loving, sacrificial.
May our service to others be beautified.
May our giving cost us more than the cost of giving!

Meet with us Father God. Meet with us in a vast and complex world of fear and pain.
Meet us in our own pain and sickness. We pray for healing in the name of Jesus.
We also pray not just for healing, but encounter. An encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
And Father, if we fear that our prayers have not been answered, as is the repeated testimony of the Psalms and of your people through the ages;
Assure us that if in our praying, our prayers have not been answered, we have.
So we do not lose hope; we do not despair. You are the Rock on which we stand. You alone.
You – Jesus, are faithful and true. All sufficient in life and eternity. Bread for body and soul.
May we ever feed on you, Lamb of God. May we ever seek you, Pearl of great price.
Lord Jesus Christ, you do have mercy on us. Build your church through us we pray.

Amen

IMG_6748Steps in Torquay on my daily dog-walk.

Cry With US – One Palestinian’s Prayer

Yohanna Katanacho Catalyst Live Reading 2013 BMSPalestinian scholar Yohanna Katanacho, who spoke at the excellent BMS Catalyst Live event in Reading, UK in 2013, offered a way forward in this conflict that was saturated in forgiveness whilst living a reality of pain and persecution.
I met Yohanna and his family whilst visiting Nazareth in 2013, and found in him a humility of steel that comes with being called by God to speak Gospel truth into any given context.
He penned a poem called ‘Cry With Us’ that reads like a prayer of sanity, humanity and faith:
***
“This is a season of weeping and mourning, but it is not void of hope.
Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity;
our tears are the salty gates for seeing a different reality;
our tears are facing soulless nations and a parched mentality;
our tears are the dam preventing rivers of animosity.
For the sake of the mourning men, cry with us to reflect your amity.
For the sake of the poor children, cry with us demanding sanity.
For the sake of lamenting mothers, refuse violence and stupidity.
Love your enemies and cry with them is the advice of divinity.
Bless those who curse is the path to genuine spirituality.
Pour tears of mercy; compassion is true piety.
Pray with tears, for the sake of spreading equity.
Followers of Jesus: crying is now our responsibility.
But don’t cry for your friends only;
but also for your Enemy.”
***
And all God’s people said “Amen!”

Doormat Theology

Some random aphorist thoughts – the product of walking my dogs!

 

Grace as ‘Great Riches At Christ’s Expense’ is nearer to pietistic wish-wash rather than ‘God’s holy love hating sin and redeeming it in Christ’s cross, and creating in the penitent sinner new life and moral amendment.’ Though as an acronym the latter is rubbish.

20150414_081300

Atonement is not only a film starring Kierra Knightly but the great power of God working salvation for the entire cosmic order.

 

Love is not merely anthropic love for another person (who we’ve already decided we like and therefore ‘will love’).

 

Salvation is not a meagre ‘tipping in’ to ‘heaven’. The older son had an ‘I’m in’ theology, and look at the state of his heart!

 

Pastoral Care is not the flip or flop of a liver lilied do-gooder or crowd pleaser (who actually never really does ‘do good’ nor ‘please crowds’).

 

Sin is not ‘other people or countires’ nor is it a meaningless philosophical abstraction, even if you really do believe the comfy suburban mantra: I’m not that bad thank you very much.

20150321_155339

Prophecy is not sloganeering, be it political or religious. Oh, and prophets actually know their Bibles, especially Obadiah chapter 2.

Continue reading “Doormat Theology”

Send Your Word, O Lord

Send your Word, O Lord, like the rain, falling down upon the earth.
We seek your endless grace, with souls that hunger and thirst, sorrow and agonise.
We would all be lost in dark without your guiding light.

Send your Word, O Lord, like the wind, blowing down upon the earth.
We seek your wondrous power, pureness that rejects all sins,  though they persist and cling.
Bring us to complete victory; set us all free indeed.

Send your Word, O Lord, like the dew, coming gently upon the hills.
We seek your endless love.
For life that suffers in strife with adversities and hurts, oh send your healing power of love;
We long for your new world.”

By Yasushige Imakoma, The United Methodist Publishing House
(based on the text of a Japanese hymn)

dew

Stop Faking Grace

T. S . Eliot once wrote, ‘humankind/Cannot bear very much reality.’  Not that people hate or despise reality, or that people constantly pursue reality, but that, in the end, too much reality, about ourselves, the world, God, is all just a bit too much.

It is especially the Ultimate that is a problem for people:  God.  Prayer.  Mercy.  Judgement.  Christ.

Hence much of church life, in typical human fashion, tends towards a moralism cloaked in religious language, with a ready arsenal of verses and well worn phrases designed to justify ourselves at the expense of others.

The Ultimate Reality though, God, is what almost every person who has ever lived is hiding from.  We are in a precarious state of existence living daily between the ever present deservedness of judgment and the ever present gift of grace.  Or to put it another way, we live suspended on the possibility of utter annihilation and the infinitude of divine care.

That’s why Martin Luther wrote in his commentary on Psalm 130: ‘Whoever, therefore, does not consider the judgment of God, does not fear; and whoever does not fear, does not cry out, and whoever does not cry out, finds no grace.’

Part of our ability to avoid the Ultimate is by pretending we no longer need to cry out, so we pretend therefore, we fear when we don’t which means we also fake how we have even considered the judgement of God.  We simply can’t bear too much reality, so we fake it, and this of course means, we fake grace.  A gross mistake.  Why don’t we just paint a great big clown smile on God’s face?

Scripture must be our guide here.  Not pithy devotional aids, but Scripture, the Psalms, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Letters and everything in between.  It is the Bible that offers us a way out of our religious banality; it offers us a much more dramatic and interesting narrative, whereby prayer, worship and the presence of God leads us ever onwards into an awareness of our sins and the gift of repentance.

Brian Brock writes, ‘Without God’s constant forgiveness, we do not see our own sin; and without the exposure of our sins and our repenting of them, we remain in the deadening byways down which other gods have enticed us.’

So without grace we become Christianised Pharisees: blind to the mercies of God, paraders of our own righteousness and thus trapped in a pathetic world of our own making, pathetic yes; mediocre certainly.  Grey, flat, one dimensional, airless, lifeless, godless.

Yet as Jesus repeatedly taught, it is the repentant sinner that goes away justified:  ‘God have mercy on me a sinner!’   The true mark of Christian spiritual vitality is not the absence of struggle, a settled smugness about our superiority, but the exact opposite:  the present reality and immediacy of prayer where we confess that if it were not for the mercies of God we would be dust and ashes.

A poem by William Countryman says just as much with much fewer words:

“Your choice of friends is broad

And (may we say?) unpredictable.

What did you see in Jacob?

Esau was bluff, hearty,

a man’s man – overconfident,

to be sure – even a minute

or two of seniority can grant

a certain status.  Jacob’s

only accomplishments were to cheat

his brother (with Esau’s rash

cooperation yes) and deceive

his father.  Piety suggests

you should have judged the scamp

and left him to stew in his guilt

till he repented.  Instead,

you showed him by night the ladder

to your throne.”

 

I love God’s grace!

“Lord, I just wanna….”

just-do-itSo I came home at the end of just another extraordinary day, and locked the front door, shouting “Hi” to anyone in the house.

My wife shouted back “Just a minute,” and something about bathing the baby, so I just put the kettle on and went and found my teenage lad.  “Hi son*, I just wanna ask you how your day was and what you’re up to now!”

“Just fine,” he said, “and I’m just doing some homework right now.  I’ve just need another few minutes then I’m done.  Can I just have an hour on the X-Box when I’ve finished?”

“That’s just fine son, just make sure you only have an hour and no more.  I just don’t want mum breathing down my neck on this one right?  We boys have just gotta stick together.”

Then my wife calls from upstairs.  “I’ll just be down in a minute!”  “Don’t worry babes” (my totally original name for her) I shout back, “I’ll just come up and help out after I’ve just made a cup of tea.  Do you want a cuppa?”

“Yes please, just a small cup, I’ve had quite a lot today!”

So I make the tea, we have dinner, the baby goes to bed . . . . eventually, my teenage lad has sixty one minutes on the computer (just to show me who’s boss), and I just take the dogs out for a thirty minute stroll!  Then I spend thirty minutes checking emails for earth shattering news and scanning the latest cliches on Facebook, and then I just begin to pray:

“Lord, I just wanna thank you for just who You are.  I’m just so grateful for my family, what a gift they are to me.  And Lord, I just pray your richest blessings in Christ that one day, we will just know our Bibles so well and have a proper biblically informed vocabulary, that we just no longer need to use the word ‘just’ every time we speak to each other, or even when we just pray to You.  Lord, the word ‘just’ is only a minute degree better than the word ‘nice’.  Please deliver us.  In Jesus’ Just Name.  Amen”

* not his real name.

JUST

 

 

JOY!

DSC_0769Here’s a bit of a Puritan prayer on joy!  I don’t know who wrote it nor where it comes from, but I love it!

 

 

 

 

 

“You O Lord God are preparing joy for me and me for joy.
I pray for joy, wait for joy, long for joy.
Give me more than I can hold, desire or think of.
There is no joy like the joy of heaven, for in that state are no sad divisions, unchristian quarrels, contentions, evil designs, weariness, hunger, cold, sadness, sin, sufferings, persecutions, toils of duty.
O joyful place where none are sick.
O happy Lord where all are kings and queens.
O holy assembly where all are priests.
How free a state where none are servants except to You.
Bring me, bring us, speedily into the land of JOY.”
Amen

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