Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fernando - Radical Preaching

In my visits to the west, the most common response I hear to sermons is something to the effect: "I enjoyed that sermon." Sermons should disturb, convict, and motivate to radical and costly obedience. I have wondered whether people's desired result from sermons is to enjoy themselves rather than to be changed into radical disciples who will turn the world upside down. If this is so, the church has assimilated the postmodern mood that considers inner feelings more important than commitment to principles... Such a church may grow numerically, but it would not be able to produce the type of missionaries that the world needs - men and women who will pay the price of identification with the people they serve and endure the frustrations that involves.
Ajith Fernando, Jesus Driven Ministry, p.23

I think it's important to point out though, that our ultimate enjoyment is most found in the sort of radical discipleship Fernando talks about. The real distinction is between short-term pleasure in wordly comfort and delight in God, both long-term and short-term (as Piper). The distinction is one of faith.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pointless Scaremongering...

There's an interesting story here. It's true that the orbits of planets in the Solar System aren't quite stable - they're just pretty stable, but that's good enough for us. So I suppose that it is possible that Mars might collide with Earth in about 3 billion years.

But let's get a bit of perspective. According to evolutionary biologists, the most complex organisms alive 3 billion years ago were single-celled organisms too small to see with the naked eye. What people would be like in 3 billion years time is an interesting question, but it's pretty likely we wouldn't be much like we are today. The total of recorded human history is about 10,000 years or so, before which time (if we existed at all), we were living in caves and hitting things with sharp rocks. 1 billion years is 100,000 times as long as that. So the whole of human history, back to back and left to run for 300,000 times. That's how long 3 billion years is.

But that's not the point either. Because even if Jesus hasn't come back by then, our understanding of how stars work suggests that the Sun will by that stage be a fair bit warmer. So much warmer in fact, that many predict that by then the Earth will be too hot to have important things like liquid water on the surface and we'll all be dead anyway, unless we've invented some clever spaceships or something.

This page, for instance, suggests "the end of large surface life on Earth" in about 1.1 billion years due to how the Sun is expected to change with time.

So given that, I don't think that we need worry too much about being crashed into by Mars another 1.9 billion years after the Earth has become uninhabitable.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Church Noticeboard

This morning, I wandered past a rural church near here. When I looked at the noticeboard, I thought they'd just left it totally blank. After staring at it for a while, I realised there was a nicely done list of services for the term. It was well word-processed and clearly laid out. The service this morning was apparently an all-age service. But the nicely done term card was behind an elderly piece of plastic which was so old and dirty it was almost completely opaque.

What are the dirty pieces of plastic hindering our well put together witness?

Friday, June 05, 2009

Guilt Offerings

Random obscure OT details I found encouraging... And here it's some of the laws for cleansing from infectious skin diseases!

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing...

And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.

Lev 14:1-2, 12-14, ESV

Now what is really striking here is that leprosy seems to require a guilt offering for cleansing - it isn't just that people thought lepers were guilty, it was that God's law said that they needed a guilt offering to cleanse them. Now lets link that in with Jesus' attitude to lepers, and his ability to heal them...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Flat Pack Furniture

Sorry about the lack of posting for the last week or so. I've been spending a lot of my time buying and assembling flat-pack furniture. And I don't have enough to do a scientific survey, but during my brief stint in the social sciences, they tried to persuade me that a sample size of 1 was significant. So here is a "social scientific" survey of three different places to buy flat-pack. Please not this is not scientific and not based on exhaustive research. I didn't buy multiple copies of every single piece of flat pack furniture in the UK - that would have been silly... But I did buy pieces of comparable difficulty from John Lewis, Argos and IKEA.


Argos probably have the biggest range of the three. IKEA do a smaller range, but have far more options for each model. For example, Argos might sell 30 types of desk. IKEA will sell 8 or so, but a couple of them will come with 50 different options of size, height and so on, but all of roughly the same sort of quality. John Lewis have a dramatic range of quality, from desks that cost under £100 to ones that cost nearer £500 but they'll probably only do a dozen or so in total.

Ratings (out of 5): 3½ each


This quite surprised me. Yes, IKEA basically do chipboard with MDF coating and a veneer of wood. But it's pretty solid and takes weight, especially when I modify the instructions by judicious application of an adjustable wrench. If I didn't know what I was doing, IKEA stuff would have been wobbly though. Argos is often similar quality, but because the assembly methods tend to me more involved, they end up more stable. John Lewis will of course sell you furniture hand carved by a not-quite poor person living in some fashionable country (like India or Egypt) if you want, but their cheapest furniture is probably worse than you'd get for the same price at Argos.

Ratings (out of 5): IKEA 3, Argos 4, JL 4


IKEA is very good for price, but Argos is not far behind. John Lewis have a policy of being "never knowingly undersold", but that doesn't mean much when everything is sold as own brand, even when they're actually being produced by random small companies across Europe.

Ratings (out of 5): IKEA 5, Argos 4, JL 3

Instructions and Assembly

Once again, a surprise. IKEA instructions hardly had any words on - obviously aimed at an international and polyglot audience, but were actually very clear, and the product was easy to assemble. Admittedly, the table I made was then wobbly, but it was easy enough to modify so that it wasn't... Argos instructions were more complex, but pretty clear apart from the titles for each section, which seemed to have nothing to do with what was actually being done. John Lewis instructions seemed to have been translated from Danish by the person who came bottom of their class in English. Would you know which part of a chair the "flute" was? These were also the only instructions that I made a mistake in following...

Ratings (out of 5): IKEA 4, Argos 3½, JL 3


For some items, this doesn't matter (like bookcases). For others it does (like sofas). It's also Argos's biggest weakness. They've got a few shops where you can try out sofas and so on, but not many. IKEA have a few big shops where you can try pretty much everything. John Lewis have more shops where you can try a lot of things.

Ratings: IKEA 4, Argos 2, JL 4½

Access and Delivery

Argos let you pick most stuff up from almost any of their many shops, or will deliver any number of items for less than £6 in total within 2 days. John Lewis don't let you take so much home, but offer free delivery on a lot of their stuff, but in my case it was slow (about a week) and by Parcelforce. IKEA charge a minimum of £35 for delivery, though of course you can pick most of their stuff (but not sofas) up from stores if you can fit them in your car!

Ratings: IKEA 2, Argos 5, JL 3½


Just adding all the numbers up, which assumes those areas are all equal, which they aren't, you get these completely unscientific ratings out of 30...

IKEA 21½, Argos 22, JL 21½

So Argos is the winner by a whisker!