thought for the day

Proverbs 17:1

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet

than a house full of feasting and strife.

How easy is it to attend to the feasting, to the extras in life without paying attention to the central matters? Too often I find myself caught up in trying to keep the white washed exterior of our family life clean and pretty than attend to the character and hearts found within. Attending to the hearts and character can seem fruitless if I keep my eyes only in the moment and do not lift my eyes up to see the bigger picture, the longer term view and like the inside of a large impressive tree is eaten away at by small ants no pretty white washed exterior will make any difference when it all comes crumbling down.

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Hymn of the Week – O Worship the King

Clearly having posted a hymn based on Psalm 103 last week it has to be followed by 104 this week.  Anyone know a good hymn based on Psalm 105?  As I read through the hymn again my immediate thought was how remote verse 2 is from our modern experience and worldview – and yet then I thought of Hurricane Sandy and the north east of the US.

It is not that hurricane’s are some kind of judgement from God, more that the destructive power of such storms is as nothing compared to the fury of God’s wrath on sin.  Such weather is untamable, uncontrollable. We can only stand in awe and run to safety.  Before an angry God we can only take cover and run to safety.

Safety from an angry God is found only in the embrace of the same God.  Viewed from the safety of that embrace we come to know that the fierce, wild, passionate anger is the response of God’s love to his beloved spurning his love for another. We replace God with idols made in our hearts. And God loves us too much to be neutral, he loves us too much to leave us in the comfort of our sin.  He loves us too much to let us love anything less than his Son.  His wind – his Spirit – will stop at nothing to turn us back to the Son. Back to the one who has taken the brunt of the storm so that we can stand. So that one day we will stand before this God face to face.

Indeed his path is dark on the wings of the storm, but that anger is his “strange” work as Isaiah puts it.  The work he longs to do is to come in compassion and mercy to our souls, to bind up and heal.

Isaiah 30:15:
“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it. …
Isa 30:18
“Yet the LORD longs (waits – same word as the end of the verse) to be gracious to you;
therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Or as verse 5 of this hymn puts it we are both feeble and frail – and yet God’s mercy is firm to the end – our maker, defender, redeemer and friend.

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

O measureless might! Ineffable love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall all sing Thy praise.

Hymn of the Week – Praise my Soul

This is Henry Francis Lyte’s paraphrase of Psalm 103. Somehow v4 has slipped from most modern hymns, but it is a good thing to remember to keep a sense of perspective…  It was playing as I worked on Exodus 33-4 recently, which seemed appropriate given that Psalm 103 is reflecting on those lines in Exodus 34:6.  It is good to keep on remembering God’s persistent and faithful grace and favour to undeserving sinners like us.

Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet Thy tribute bring!
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing?
Praise Him! praise Him!
Praise the everlasting King!

Praise Him for His grace and favour,
To our fathers in distress!
Praise Him still the same for ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless!
Praise Him! praise Him!
Glorious in His faithfulness!

Father-like, He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes,
Praise Him! praise Him!
Widely as His mercy flows!

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish:
Blows the wind, and it is gone.
But while mortals rise and perish,
God endures unchanging on.
Praise Him, Praise Him,
Praise the high eternal One!

Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face:
Sun and moon, bow down before Him;
Dwellers all in time and space,
Praise Him! praise Him!
Praise with us the God of grace!

PhD Beginnings…

Each month we post family updates, but this post is specifically an update on the start of my PhD in Old Testament (OT) studies
here at Gloucestershire  University.  I’m going to try and post semi regularly about this – maybe once a term or so.  The pictures here are of the college where I am studying in Cheltenham (part of Gloucestershire University). The blue sky is somewhat exceptional – and had become rain by lunchtime!

Not only is the external site beautiful, I even get my own desk space inside – so I can pile up the stack of books and not worry about taking it home at the end of the day! My studies have officially started, and I have begun regular (fortnightly) meetings with my supervisor.  At the moment my efforts are concentrated on refining the exact question(s) to be addressed by my thesis.

I guess the two main questions to answer about doing 3 further years of study are:

Why do a PhD in OT at all?

and

What exactly in the OT are you studying?

To answer the first question first.  The purpose of doing the PhD is to prepare me for the next stage of ministry which, we think will be to do with teaching and training others to get to grips with God’s word – or rather to be gripped by, and become passionate about what God has said about God, and us, and how to live in response to that.  Whether we do that in the UK or elsewhere is an open question right now – but for most education systems the PhD is the standard route into teaching in that environment.  It should develop skills in analysis and research that will be important in teaching others to examine their faith and see what is good and true, and what has crept in from the world around unnoticed.

As to why OT  – it is vital that we have Christian leaders and followers who have got to grips with the Old Testament.

Without the OT we cannot understand properly what Jesus and the NT authors said and wrote. Without a proper knowledge of the OT we will not be able to handle many attacks on the Christian faith from outside which have to do with misunderstandings of the OT, and without the OT we will not be able to resist so many misunderstandings of what God is like within the church as well.

Perhaps there is a series of blog posts there for the future (at some mythical point when more than 6 hours sleep is happening in a night, and days are not starting at 5 am).

Next there is the question of what exactly – and that is a large part of the start of a research project. I’m currently focusing on Exodus, in particular Israel at Sinai and the aftermath of the golden calf incident, although drawing in from the wider Exodus narrative.

The verses that particularly got me interested in this area were Exodus 33:1-34:9, and in particular 33:17 and onwards.  The verses suggest that God’s glory, name and goodness are very closely tied together and supremely seen in God showing mercy and grace. At this moment of glorious revelation of God’s goodness, however, there is also a hiddenness.  Moses does not get to see everything. He cannot see God’s face and live. And yet he has been described earlier in the chapter as speaking to God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend”.

This was a formative moment in Israel’s history, and is alluded to in many places in the OT.  At the moment I’m doing a close study of Exodus 33:1-34:9 which will help to clarify the next stages, perhaps a particular focus on the relationship of God’s glory, God’s name and God’s presence works out in Israel’s history – especially in how those things help us to understand the mercy and judgement of God.

I love doing this kind of study, and I think the results will be useful for me, and for others, to help to lay the foundations for a biblically well founded view of God. The Bible is where we see what God has to say for himself, and if we don’t begin with the Bible to understand God we are going to go wrong very quickly. Often we are too quick to assume that we already know what God is like from what we have already been taught and do not allow the Bible to correct our understanding.

These chapters of Exodus contain much to ponder on the nature of God, especially in the way he relates to Moses in conversation. I think that both those who use these chapters as part of their framework that God does not know what the future holds until it happens, and those who say that there is at least part of God which is utterly concerned above all else with his own reputation are both wrong to greater or lesser degrees, and that there is a better way to talk about God than that.

I think the clue is that Moses request to see God’s glory is answered by a revelation of God’s goodness which he hears (rather than sees) as a proclamation of the name of Yahweh, and that the fundamental revelation at the heart of Yahweh’s name is that he is a God of grace and compassion.  God’s glory is shown above all else in his mercy displayed to rebels. Which isn’t really a surprise when you think about Jesus walking to the cross to be “lifted up”, and isn’t really a surprise when you see that Yahweh is a Trinity, full of self giving love which spills out to all creation.

I’ll stop the sermon at that point. My PhD will not answer all those questions and issues I’ve raised, but will help to make sure that when I think and teach about such things it will be done in a way that has paid real attention to what the Bible actually says, rather than what I might just guess that it says.  More updates to follow. I’d love to clarify anything that has been left unsaid or said confusingly. I’ve tried to be relatively jargon free, but that might have meant that I’ve oversimplified if you happen to be a speaker of the jargon…

September Family Update

Slightly belated update for last month and being written at a rather early hour of the day due to a 3 year old and his cough.

The month began with a lovely visit from my brother and his wife and two daughters. It was great to spend an extended time with them. Though the girls are older than our boys they get on so well that it meant we had lots of time for grown up conversations as well.

We also visited Mark’s side of the family for a weekend of celebrating. Firstly on the Saturday we had a prayer shower for Mark’s sister as she and her husband are due their first baby later this month. Then on the Sunday we celebrated Mark’s parents Ruby Anniversary. It was lovely to catch up with family for the weekend, but the return journey did seem strange as the journey home has normally required a 10 hour flight and a week of jet lag and this time it was just a 2 1/2 hour car journey and remaining within the same time zone, but it did make us all homesick for Vancouver. Image

Boys wise, Matthew has started preschool for 3 afternoons a week which is going relatively well. He prefers the rainbow room over the sunshine room as it is the library and his teacher’s comments are always about his attentiveness and focus when its story time. Starting preschool in a new country means its also its intensive cold season and we are on cold number 2. I seem to be able to avoid his generous sharing of germs but Mark and Jonathan have picked them up and as this cold includes a dry tickly cough our house has not very quiet, especially at night. Matthew is settling really well into Sunday School and loves to help with the telling of the stories. Its great as the format is the same as he was used to at Tenth and so he feels confident and comfortable in the group and happily goes off on his own. Matthew also got glasses this month, due to being long sighted in one eye and short sighted in the other. He is doing reasonably well with wearing them and we have only had to go back twice to have them repaired. We had a family dental appointment recently and were slightly taken back when he told us that Matthew already had 5 wobbly teeth, with the level of movement he would have expected of a 5 year old. We lost plenty of sleep over these teeth and I would like to think they were going to last a little bit longer than this.

Jonathan is growing and into everything with as much gusto and demonstrative love as he is able to muster in his 10 month old body. After a season of deciding to only nurse rather than eat food, particularly if I was present, we are now reaping the harvest of Mark’s intensive work having taken a few days off studies to get him back on track. Sleep is still not a full unbroken night but it is far better than it has been and we are feeling more human again than we did in the middle of September.  He loves all things that have buttons, cables, plugs and corners of the house that he gets into and we say no to. I also am coveting those kitchens with high ceilings that have clothes racks on pulleys so wet clothes can be hung up and put out of reach. There is nothing he loves more than to pull all the wet laundry down for me or emptying the laundry basket on top of Matthew in the bath, which of course Matthew encourages once we have said the word ‘no Jonathan.’ Toys are definitely not high on his radar of interest. If it is not something that Mummy and Daddy do not do or use it is of no interest. He still loves the sling and to be carried but that is becoming a major risk especially if he is on my back and I cannot fully gage his reach. More than once I have opened the fridge to get things out only to have him with great speed remove and drop all items sitting on the shelves of the fridge door.

Mark and I are doing well, trying hard to make time for ourselves as a couple and keep our dates nights though some nights that means fifteen minutes of kid free time. Studies are going well so far for Mark and he is enjoying getting back into a rhythm of study. I am adapting to a very different rhythm of being at home as we are no longer living in the same amazing community we have been used to but we are slowly making connections with other families through preschool and music class and church. We are still deciding between homeschooling and school for Matthew for next year and based on the first 2 out of 4 schools we are visiting homeschooling is favourable but the 3rd school would be ideal, but because of how school places are allocated it is highly unlikely we will get a place as it is in the next village over. We  apply in November and then will not hear until April so we will not know till then which route we are going down.

And so ordinary time moves on and the days grow shorter and evenings close in but God remains faithful in all the ups and downs of life. Image