Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A UK #1 for Delirious??

I just got an email telling me that the Delirious? song 'History Maker' is now at number six in the UK music charts. This is largely down to the huge Facebook campaign 'Christian music topping the UK charts', which now has well over 50,000 fans (many of whom have changed their Facebook profile picture to an advert for the campaign). Every day for the last week or so I've had multiple invitations to join this group, whose aim is to get the single to #1 for Easter.

I keep getting invited because I keep rejecting the invitations. There are a few reasons why I haven't joined the campaign, but before I outline them I'm going to say what's really good about it...

The email I got said that "Delirious fans started talking about how great it would be if this Easter there could be a song up there in the charts that raised the flag for faith in Jesus." (I note that even these official people dropped the question mark from the band name). I'm not sure what the flag metaphor really means, but I think it's good that people who are anticipating the demise of Christianity in the near future might just hear a Jesus-song on the radio.

I was also informed that "Delirious? will be donating their profits from the UK single downloads to Compassionart projects that bring relief from poverty where it is needed most." (The question mark is back. This is an ongoing dilemma). So if several thousand people download the track then that's lots of money given to a charitable cause - great!

But I haven't bought it yet. Firstly, History Maker is probably the song that Delirious? play most, which means it's on three of the seven CDs of theirs I own, so I don't really want another version.

However, I do have a more philosophical reason why I haven't yet signed up to the campaign. While I do think it has honourable motives, and will be pleased if it succeeds, I'm not sure it's the best way to reach out to people who don't love Jesus. Does it seem slightly aggressive to you, that we're hi-jacking a system in order to promote our brand of music? The music chart is secular system that usually exalts Godless rubbish, so can we use it to exalt Jesus Christ? I don't relish the idea of trying to compete with the world, when Christianity is not of the world.

Someone will probably tell me to stop being a grumpy curmudgeon and celebrate the fact that lots of people are going to hear this on Radio 1:

Is it true today that when people pray
We'll see dead men rise
And the blind set free?
Yes it's true and I believe it

But what would make me really happy is if God mercifully brought revival to the UK, and every week Christian music topped the chart, not because of a Facebook campaign, but because everyone wanted to worship the King. That would be awesome, but I don't think it's going to happen unless we get on our knees and pray for it.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Pac-man moon!

Here's a thermal picture of one of Saturn's moons: Mimas

How awesome is that? And also the fact that it normally looks like the Death Star anyway.

Do you think this is evidence of God's sense of humour?

Read the full artcile here.

[Also, only one day left to vote about porridge! Check the poll.]

Monday, 29 March 2010

Musings on Football

Football (soccer) is overwhelmingly popular amongst British men. Personally, I think it's one of the most enjoyable team sports, even though I was one of the kids at school that got picked last quite often. It depended on whether Alf the blind boy was playing or not (Joke).

I never really followed football though. I didn't find league tables interesting, and listening to the results being read out on the TV seemed the dullest thing ever. I was also dismayed to learn that the team I had chosen to support (as a seven-year-old) were, allegedly, evil evil scumbags. When they went on to win three major accolades in 1999, that meant that I was a "glory hunter", despite the fact I had supported them for four years previously and never really cared if they won trophies or not. I just liked Andy Cole. He had a good name.

So then I decided to follow in the footsteps of my father, and become a fan of the mighty Crewe Alexandra!

I went to see them lose against Notts County last week, and this is why I've been thinking about football since. Maybe if I actually followed football I would have more to talk about with blokey blokes down the pub? Plus, I found that I can see video highlights of all Crewe's games online!

But I really should be supporting Shrewsbury Town; the place I've lived in (and written songs about) for all my life...

Am I allowed to support three teams? Shrewsbury, Crewe, and Man Utd? That sounds like the best solution to me, except that in 11 days Crewe and Shrewsbury will play each other, and I would have my loyalties truly tested.

Or I could just not bother.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Last Night

We went to a Mexican party.

I was dressed as a Mexican.

Lis was dressed as a cactus.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Outreach: Two perspectives

In the blue corner...
ASBO Jesus cartoon #864

In the red corner...
Pyromaniacs: Busted Jalopy

I am of course being tremendously churlish by setting these two articles up as adversaries. Slap on the wrist for me. The sentiments behind both are compatible, they just emphasise different points.

ASBO asks us whether we really care about the needs of the people we serve, or are we more interested in pewed posteriors?

Pyro asks us if we know what their biggest need is, and how we should go about meeting it.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Bottled Water - who needs it?

New upload from the Open University. Worth watching if you don't mind feeling like you're back in a geography lesson.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Challenges from the church in Asia

I just finished reading The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun, rapidly. It's hard to describe the intense pull of a book like this without using some terrible cliché like, um; I couldn't put it down! Which is ridiculous, because how would I be able to play the guitar? Suffice it to say - this is a very good book. If I had to sum it up it one word it would be 'inspirational', although 'challenging' comes pretty close.

It's exciting to read about people who are consumed by zeal, full of faith and devoted to the kingdom of God. But it paints a picture that is in stark contrast to the church in the West today. I found myself asking the question "would I rather live where the church was growing under persecution, or be part of a stagnant unpersecuted church?" I'm not saying my church is stagnant, far from it, but it's a challenge to assess what my values are - comfort first or kingdom first?

In practical terms I've been stirred to pray more, and read the Bible more. Brother Yun fasted, prayed and wept for a Bible, and when he got one he devoured it.

There's a challenge for the church too, and that's something I'm exploring further in Asian Tigers for Christ by Michael Green. He discusses the growth of the Anglican church in South-East Asia, and points out some key strategies and ideologies that he thinks we need to adopt in the West if we want to see growth. Among them are fervent prayer and Biblical conservatism.

It is quite an Anglican book though, I mean, what is an 'archiepiscopal mantle'? Talking about Bishops, Synods and Dioceses in Singapore seems odd to me, but then I'm not Anglican, so it would. Green strongly emphasises the need for churches to work together across a wide network if they want to reach the whole region, and for a balance between social action and preaching the gospel.

Sounds good.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Lemsip and poverty

If you had the flu this winter, you might have imbibed some Lemsip. It might have helped; you probably felt a bit better.

Did it cure your flu?

No. Lemsip cannot cure the flu, all it does is relieve some of the symptoms. In order to be utterly rid of the virus you need to find the cause, and destroy it. The root of the problem needs to die before the affliction is truly gone.

Last week I saw a poster outside a local church that made me think. The poster said this:

"Poverty is not the problem, greed is. Make greed history."

This is what my Lemsip example is all about. We see the symptoms of poverty all around us, but are our alleviating strategies targetting the root of the problem? Is it possible for the affliction of poverty to disappear while so many people still emulate Mr. Greedy? If we want to make poverty history, we need to make greed history too.

But hang on.

Greed is the cause of poverty, but what is the cause of greed?

Greed is not simply the root of poverty, it is itself a symptom of something much more deadly; our sinful nature. Prolific greed in our world points to our fallen fleshly desires - the longing of our hearts to have more and be better than our fellow humans. To be rid of this horrible virus we need to kill the root. Our sinful nature needs to die. Only then can we be free from greed, and in turn, free from poverty. God, in His mercy, offers us the cure:

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." - Galatians 5:24

If we want to make poverty history, we need Jesus. Other options soothe the symptoms, but nothing else will kill the cause.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Why bother with grammar?

I have a strange anatomical disorder in that my tongue sometimes gets stuck in my cheek and I find it very hard to dislodge. Bear that in mind.

I wasn't expecting Adrian to reply to my recent post about his use of capitalisation, but he has, maybe out of sheer shock that someone else was interested in those sorts of things. Well, I am. Very much so. And according to Dr. Johnson - lexicographer extraordinaire - so is God.

This is straight out of my English Language course book:

These arguments [in favour of 'correct' English], a further aspect of the eighteenth-century discourse of standardisation, were sometimes given a divine justification. In an earlier section we discussed the idea that everything in nature was an expression of God’s order. If the way a society is organised – its ‘constitution’, to use Johnson’s word – can be claimed as part of nature, then it, too, reflects God’s will. The ‘genius’ of English – to quote Johnson again (2006 [1755], paragraph 61) – reflected the English way of life, and part of this genius was its grammar. To deviate from correct grammar, then, was to displease God. The grammarian Robert Lowth, who was to become a bishop, and for whom the English translation of the Bible was the ‘best standard of our language’, thought that correct grammar was next to godliness.

(Emphasis mine)

As much as I would love to agree, I can't actually find the biblical basis for the grammar being pleasing to God. Perhaps Psalm 45? My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

(Emphasis mine... my own... my preciousss...)

Now there is some debate about whether correct grammar is in fact a spiritual gift, which I am currently researching. It appears that there is some ambiguity over the translation of 1 Corinthians 12, as the phrase "utterance of knowledge" in Greek is very similar to "knowing where to correctly place apostrophes". There have been documented cases of Christians being ex-communicated for selling "CD's and DVD's" at car boot sales. Most of these stories emerge from the low-profile reformed group known as Sola Punctura, who claim that when Jesus cleared the tradesmen from the temple it was because their display boards were advertising two "goat's" for the price of one.

Also, what was Jesus writing in the sand in John 8? One theory suggests that he wrote several grammatical rules, upon seeing which the Pharisees became ashamed of their failures and sloped off.

I'm trying not to be a grammar pharisee - enforcing the little laws and forgetting that the heart of language is relationship.

That's why I'm going to use a preposition to finish this post with.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Adrian Warnock copies my blog title style

It seems that Adrian was in a bit of a quandary about how to type his titles. There are many options (apparently) regarding which words are afforded the honour of a capital letter at the start. How you decide to present your posts obviously has a large impact on the enjoyment and satisfaction of the reader, so you've got to get it right!

So what did Adrian have to say?

"I decided that it would be best to emulate one of my favourite bloggers; Andy Lowe, who inspires me in almost everything I write. It is fair to say that without his influence I would be lost in a sea of grammarless despair and writer's block (or should that be writers' block? I'm sure Andy would know). Since he uses 'sentence case' for titles, that is what I shall do."

Or you can read what he actually said, but I think my version is better.

Either way, sentence case is clearly the way forward!

Oh, yeah, and the BBC have copied me as well.

Monday, 8 March 2010

So I watched Avatar on Saturday...

I was a bit late in getting round to it. So late, in fact, that my local cinema had stopped showing the 3D version, but I found that it was pretty impressive in 2D anyway.

Avatar is the film that Mark Driscoll calls "new age, satanic, demonic paganism".

I can see where he's coming from, but don't think I would make the same judgments about a film that is primarily fictional entertainment. I would say that the ideology presented in the film has it's roots in new age philosophy, and is therefore a satanic philosophy. But it's fiction, so is that ok?

Well, even in fiction the audience is invited to cast judgments on the moral actions of others. We are encouraged to label 'good guys' and 'bad guys' by their behaviour, and the whole thing is usually set up so that we feel morally and emotionally satisfied at the end. So, when we the audience are encouraged to support the actions of people who's motivation is based on real-world anti-gospel ideas should we (Christians) feel comfortable? Probably not.

That means that we also shouldn't feel comfortable watching James Bond, Ocean's 11, Harry Potter etc. I'm not saying we can't enjoy them - films usually boil down to good vs evil so we can enjoy the basic truth that good triumphs in the end. But we also need to ask, "what ideology is the director asking me to sympathise with? Can I, as a Christian, legitimately lend my support to it?"

I didn't enjoy King Kong because I could not sympathise with a giant murderous ape.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Celebrities in love

Saw this on the front of OK! magazine this morning while I was queueing in Netto:

Quote from John Terry & girlfriend: "We're as much in love as the day we met"

Oh dear.

It's a bit like saying, "I'm as good at guitar now as I was when I first started!"