Tuesday, 27 April 2010

New Word Alive 2010 - building courage to speak for Jesus

Here's some more thoughts from sessions at New Word Alive. If you were there, how did it affect you?

4) An evening with David Robertson – author of “The Dawkins Letters” and who has developed a great outreach to atheists (and curious people of all kinds in the UK). He inspired me that although our message is a hard pill to swallow for many brought up to believe they are in charge of their lives or those confused (or hurt) by the impressions of Christianity they have received – despite all this: Now is the time to speak out, when the debate about belief in God is still on the agenda, and issues of faith are becoming more controversial and more talked about. We must come with integrity, a robust clear answer to the questions people have. Let's tackle the questions head on: Why do we believe? Why don’t we believe what the atheists argue?

We need to have huge honesty and care deeply for people, and show we are real people of emotion. We have the full technicolour truth, which so many people haven’t even begun to taste yet to see what it’s like (as one former dogged atheist put it, who recently became a Christian through reading some of the arguments for and against atheism and through talking online with David.)

5) Becky Manly-Pippert (wasn't able to get an interview with her, but UCCF did) – through a helpful evening of discussion we saw the importance of prayerful dependence on God, asking Him for help to be his light in the world, and help to speak to our friends and those around us about God. And we must be ourselves with people, aware of the ways in which we are understandably afraid to freak people out by blurting out our message! We must be real with people and see them as people God loves, eternal beings with eternal destinies.

Great to hear these encouragements to be the people God called us to be.

Monday, 26 April 2010

New Word Alive 2010 - solid teaching as God worked on our hearts

At New Word Alive, as well as taking video interviews, worshiping God in meetings with around 4000 other people, and enjoying the amazing scenery, there was significant time for some great teaching from gifted teachers. Over the next couple of days I will post on some of the sessions and what lines of thought particularly affected me.

1) Hugh Palmer stirred us to action by preaching through 1 Thessalonians. Let’s follow the authentic model of being a worker in God's kingdom that we see in Paul and the Thessalonians. Are we a people of repentance who turn from idols to the living God? Is it plain to others that we have done that? DO we love Him and have great joy in Him? God’s kind of ministry means having great patience with others. It means there is a need to tell the truth, and to not be afraid of that. It is a burden of care, as we don’t want people to drift away from God in the church. It can be scary, making us vulnerable, as we share our lives.

Also the fact that Jesus is returning should change how we view death, and also life – we live in light of that future day which will show up how we have used our time, that future day of light, when the future will belong to God and to us who believe in him – we ought to remind each other of this day as believers!

2) Jerry Bridges spoke on holiness and I got to the last 2 sessions: Saw how we need the gospel every day to survive as a Christian, and that being made like Christ in our lives is plainly an amazing thing.

Working at texts like Ephesians 4:17-32 he raised our view of what it means to become godly. There’s no wrong in God at all, and there is fruitfulness, peace, joy, and selflessness and much more – and we are called to be like Him in everything. We saw something of what it means to cut out the evil in our malicious thoughts, our tendency to assume people are doing bad stuff – and we saw how our harsh or misplaced words can grieve God – yes, he cares about the details of what we say as well. May I make this a major area to pray over!

3) Here's my friend Dave Anthony on what he was learning during a seminar track I didn't attend:

Friday, 23 April 2010

NWA 2010 - Caring for people in debt or with burdens

It's been a busy week since New Word Alive finished and we all trekked back from Pwhelli, North Wales, to our homes. But it's essential to learn from what God was teaching us during the week, and I hope to post on some of the things I learned in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, here's a second interview to get you thinking. This time, it's Jonny Joslin, who works for Christians Against Poverty. How can we show others the kind of hard practical love Christ showed by coming to earth as a man to meet with us, and to die to save us? How can we give ourselves to others?

Monday, 19 April 2010

Wayne Grudem @ New Word Alive 2010

This year I wanted to use my new tiny HD camera to record some interviews with people at New Word Alive... and I will be posting the results here, so you get a taste of what was going on, and what was being taught or thought about over the week.

Here's the first: the highly-respected Bible scholar, Wayne Grudem. Sorry for the shaky camera!

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Bourne Identity - and how words can create the feeling of being out of control

It's a while since I posted on any books, though I have just started A Short History Of Nearly Everything, which is bascially the most important discoveries/theories in science wonderfully explained and told in lots of brilliantly amusing asides about eccentric or exceptional human beings.

On a different note I have been meaning to post about 1980 novel The Bourne Identity. Here are some quick points about the kind of fiction the thriller delves into, and ways I noticed the brilliant use of language:
  • Plot: To me, the idea of this thriller is instantly fascinating - a black ops-trained soldier with amnesia having to investigate himself while protecting himself from unknown killers.
  • Mystery & character: The opening chapters are curious, as the unnamed “patient” recovers from his wounds, and begins to suspect his involvement in something violent. Who was he? And where has he got his skills in deception, combat and his (vital) self-protective instinct, which helps him see (sometimes desperate) ways out of the various situations he gets into? Wouldn’t it be better for others if he didn’t keep impacting their lives and causing them danger? What about the money he finds in a Swiss bank account belonging to him? These sort of questions give “Bourne” a huge guilt complex, and a strand which runs throughout is the danger of him flipping and ending it all in one more suicidal mission.
  • Differences to the films: Writer Robert Ludlum connects “Bourne” with an objective that at times becomes his obsession: he is “Cain” an incredibly last-ditch effort by various CIA groups to bring to an end one man’s stranglehold on Europe. We learn why Bourne has been living a dangerous life mixed with assassination – his part in a larger game-plan… wildly different to his purpose in the films, and giving a new meaning to the “mark of Cain”.
  • Creating emotional and physical chaos in language: Ludlum throughout seems to be at his best in those rare moments when he draws us into the mind of the man known as Bourne, who often tries to keep people shut out and is described simply doing things. But in the midst of chaos or personal confusion we hear his internal voice: "For God's sake. I don't know you! I don't know me! Help me! Please, help me!" (p.50) Or his view is melded with the action, as he is gunned for, cornered, seeing no way out. 
Take this section, showing both Bourne’s heightened ‘war-zone’ senses and his madness, as the situation becomes merged with a conflict from the past, in the Vietnam province of “unremembered Tam Quan” (p.554).
“Bourne rose to his feet, his back pressing against the wall, with flare in his left hand, the exploding weapon in his right. He plunged down into the carpeted underbrush, kicking the door in front of him open, shattering silver frames and trophies that flew off tables and shelves into the air. Into the trees. He stopped; there was no-one in that quiet, sound-proof elegant room. No-one in the jungle path.

He spun around and lurched back into the hall, puncturing the walls with a prolonged burst of gun-fire. No-one.

The door at the end of the narrow, dark corridor. Beyond was the room where Cain was born. Where Cain would die, but not alone.” (p.556)
Surroundings become scenery as on a set, tools which can be “punctured” with bullets, unimportant. Bourne is on a mission. Fierce intention drives him. He will die, but so will his enemy – Cain will not die alone. And this will bring everything to an end. This mahogany jungle will witness a resolution to the war began by men in suits in the ‘elegance’ of organised and secure offices. This chaos is erupting into the world where it was unleashed. Moments like this mix hyper-reality (the gun in the left hand, the doors opening, the detail of the rooms) with the surreal of Bourne’s imagination – and they are the payoff from the long build-up. Will Cain ever escape this world of tension, and constant danger? Who else will bear his mark, his mark of death, and no guarantee of safety wherever he goes?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Two intelligent sci-fis - highly recommended

Just a quick post to point out 2 impressive films using science-fiction to explore aspects of 21st century life:

Moon (2009)- which has been widely acclaimed - uses the isolated setting of a moon base to examine the effects of technology and big business on the individual. Sam Rockwell is brilliant in a physically demanding role, and the direction is very assured for Duncan Jones' debut film. But I'd be interested in hearing what you think about the movie, which I found to be very sad at times, humorous in others - and is definitely not traditional Hollywood. It deals with aspects of what is needed to actually care for a human being in space, or anywhere. Let's not underestimate the value of human beings and interaction with a community, or things might end up like they do here. Won't say any more, or I'll spoil it!

Sunshine (2007), on the other hand, is a more traditional popcorn movie, with astronauts in the near future on a quest to reignite the dying Sun. Cue angst and electric tension as the crew face various setbacks along the way, and a few fatalies - but before the story veers totally into "horror" territory, I was hooked by the fascinating (and morbid) reinterpretation of the Sun, as the one who gives us life and (it is suggested) has the right to take it away. Themes of sun-worship recur many times, as our Sun is suggested to be a marvel, a killer, a hope for humanity, or even a way to a euphoric experience of death. It's this way of looking things, and a strong cast, that intrigues throughout, and I genuinely wasn't quite sure what would happen when they finally got to the Sun. Can they blow up the heart of this star, this huge powerful machine which powers so much on earth, and which has been the whole purpose and focus of their lives for the past three years?
Also you have to love the last scene, which is quite a subtle way to end the movie.