Wednesday, 30 December 2009
But wait-Christians who love their Bible do not have to ridicule evolution. 'Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a world-view'Thus states Tim Keller pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church of New York City in his very helpful article, Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople. It is an extremely helpful read.
For many years I have been helped by Derek Kidner in his commentary on Genesis and some of his suggestions about Adam and Eve and how we are to understand their relationship to primitive 'humans'. Tim Keller quotes Kidner favourably and draws on some of Kidner's suggestions on how we might understand Adam and Eve and their relationship to other humans alive at the same time.
Keller is especially helpful on how we should read and interpret different part (genres) of the Bible and how there need not be conflict between science and the Bible and so still upholding a very high view of the Bible's authority. It's compelling stuff.
If you are a die hard evolutionist with lttle sympahty for Christians and their Bible, or a Christian who can scarcely bring yourself to utter the word evolution-or just plain old confused. Treat yourself to the article. You might just be surprised.
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Thus wrote Christina Rossetti in 1885.
Yesterday my dear mother took our wider family out for a lovely meal at an old Georgian coaching inn (The George Hotel just a few miles north of Bedford. It was a wonderful act of generosity and we had a fabulous meal and a great time.
Mum is not wealthy but she is generous. I thank God for her.
In His coming Christ gave up all his 'wealth' in the world's greatest act of generosity.
'for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in that though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor so that we through his poverty might be made rich'
Thursday, 24 December 2009
At Christmas we are reminded that all of us are incurably worshipping creatures. Whatever we give ultimate worth and value to-it is that which we worship. It's subtle and some of us don't like to admit it but whether its family, status, comfort, independence-you name it we find things to 'take God's place'.
Join me in falling on your knees before the King of Kings, as Beccy Pippert reminds 'he is the only Lord in the universe who can control us without destroying us'. Listen to this great version and worship Christ the new born King.
Monday, 14 December 2009
So I was pleased to pick up this article from the US (where much of the 'preventativ' hype stems from!!). It's worth a read. And yes, discuss with the doctor the value of screening. Because some types are undoubtedly valuable, for others the jury is still out, and some are downright misleading.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Matt Chandler is a gutsy, self confident preacher who at the age of 35 years seems to have the 'world' at his feet-a lovely young family, a thriving church and increasing invites to preach all over the place. Thus far I've struggled somewhat to value his ministry. But now (as Lloyd Jones would say..) he has a frontal lobe brain tumour. Here's his video message to his church just before the surgery. It's humbling and powerful.
Watch it and pray.
Friday, 20 November 2009
'I sometimes compare my words to the treble of an instrument, which my thoughts accompany with a kind of bass, or rather anti-bass, in which every rule of harmony is broken, every possible combination of discord and confusion in introduced, utterly inconsistent with, and contrdictory to the intended melody....By men theupper part only is heard; and small cause there is for self-congratulation, if they should happen to comment, when conscience tells me they would be struck with astonioshment and abhorence could they hear the whole'
At the end that particular letter, 'But though my disease is greivous, it is not desparate; I have a gracious and infallable Physician'.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
According to Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian from New York City, it's the secret faults, or 'hidden' sins which most screw us up. Recurring patterns of thought and behviour that may be all to evident to others but from which we are non-blissfully unaware. He came came up with the expression the sin under the sin, as a a very helpful way of identifying what really lies beneath our conduct and why we do, say and think what we do. Our 'secret' sins in other words reveal our hearts.
So how do we get at them and identify them and ultimately get free of them? From this Psalm I think we begin by acknowledging that they exist and pray that God would begin the work of cleansing to free us from them. It's a lifetime's affair and painful in the process-but not something we tackle on our own. We need the community of fellow believers to help us and the help of the God our rock and our redeemer (Psalm 19.14), and we need a willingness to engage in the process, a great place to start is Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
So verses 7-11 tells us that to really know God (and indeed to know ourselves) we need the 'law of the Lord'-in other words we need the words of scripture, the Bible. It's a beautiful little passage and I just want to mention one aspect of scripture now-the ability it has to 'warn' us ("by them is your servant warned" V11). The Bible gives us a certain ability to foresee the future or rather the consequences of words and actions now for the future.
I was reminded of this whilst watching an extraordinary film made by a school in Wales to emphasize the dangers of texting whilst driving-it's up on the BBC website now-watch it and weep.
Monday, 26 October 2009
So God does speak to us through the natural word. And yet it is a kind of sign language, in fact, even less distinct than sign language. Because ultimately sign language is expressing words.
The natural world expresses the grandeur of God in the sense that it intimates a magnificence beyond our normal lives. Perhaps one effect of industrialisation is that increasingly individuals are shielded from the natural world, surrounded by concrete and spending much of their time indoors. Indeed according to a BBC programme called Countryfile I heard an expression for the first time today-'Nature deficiency syndrome'-it seems our children are growing up with very limited knowledge of the natural world.
A few brief thoughts.
1. It's worth making the effort to gaze up at the sky-day or (especially a clear) night. Just remind yourself how big the universe is and how awesome the creator God is. As far as we can tell the vastness of the universe is an extravagance and such extravagance reminds us of a very prodigal God-unbelievably generous and 'overflowing with mercy'.
2. Like all non verbal communication it can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. Thus many people do not think of the grandeur of God when looking out over the ocean or looking up at a mountain.
3. This Psalm does not end with 'the heavens', but goes to to speak of the 'perfect word of God' (V7). We need more than the natural world to truly know God. It gives a lie to the claim often made that 'I find God in the garden or in the fields and I don't need the Bible or church or any of that stuff'. Its not so much impossible to do that but it's incomplete. Wordless words can only take you so far.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
And yet this grandeur does not convince David Attenborough. He has a profound and amazing love for the natural world but he respectfully and yet firmly rejects a creator God. Indeed in his beautifully filmed new series on BBC he tells us that the essence of life is a struggle for survival and all it's beauty comes about as result of that struggle.
I'd like to reflect on this over the next few days and I'd like to suggest that Psalm 19 leads us to answer the big questions of life. Is life merely a fight for survival or is there a profounder reason for it all? Indeed do we live in a 'world without windows' or is there a beautiful mind inviting us to enjoy both Creator and creation.
Let's mull over Psalm 19 together.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
The Baxter Model by Bishop Wallace Benn set me thinking a few years ago about being more systematic in elder visitation and on re-reading it last week I'm more convinced than ever that it is vital and worthwhile. He takes the view that it is the opportunity for a 'spiritual health check up'. So often our conversations remain rather surface deep and a formal arrangement to discuss spiritual matters gives the pastor permission to ask things that might otherwise be difficult (just like as a family Doctor I am in a position to ask 'awkward' questions), and also allows when meeting with members to raise issues that might otherwise be difficult.
It obviously needs wisdom and humility on the part of the elder but John Murray had some helpful things to say when speaking at a ministerial ordination back in 1960..
I charge you to remember that you are the servant of Christ in this pastoral care which you will exercise. Oh, be friendly to your people, and be humble. Be clothed with humility for 'God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.' Be clothed with humility in the pastoral visitations and the pastoral duties that you discharge because, if you are not humble, you will not only be offensive to God, but you will soon become offensive to all discerning people. Be friendly, be humble, realize your own limitations and be always ready to receive from those who are taught in the Word as they communicate unto you who teach. But remember that you are the servant of Christ and do not seek to please men, for if you should seek to please men, you are not the servant of Christ. And again, I repeat in that very same connection: Don't be afraid to reprove, don't be afraid to rebuke, just as you may not be afraid to exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.
'You do not get your sermons from your people, but you get your sermons with your people. You get your sermons from the Word of God, but you must remember that the sermons which you deliver from the Word of God must be relevant. They must be practical in the particular situation in which you are. It is when you move among your people and become acquainted with their needs, become acquainted with the situation in which they are, become acquainted· with their thoughts, become acquainted with their philosophy, become acquainted with their temptations, that the Word of God which you bring forth from this inexhaustible treasure of wisdom and truth will be relevant and will not be abstract and unrelated.'
There's some 'good ol stuff' out there!
Saturday, 22 August 2009
I haven't seen that headline yet but I guess it will happen. And it's set me thinking. In our church we have begun to think about how we share communion- that is how we practice the Lord's supper or Holy Communion or breaking of bread or whatever other phrase you care to use-and all because of pandemic flu. It seems that there is lots of advice to the effect that we should not use a common cup, nor share one loaf. I think that's shame. And for a couple of reasons at least.
There is just something especially meaningful about all drinking from the same cup-it sort of emphasises the democracy of the gospel. All one in Christ Jesus (as the Keswick motto has it) no matter what social status, experience of being a believer or role within the church. We are in it together, we are the family of God.
But secondly I cannot deny that it all seems a bit weak and cowardly. Of course tragically some people have died of the pandemic flu (although it has thus far been much less potent than predicted and the British Government has been criticised for it's over reaction and enthusiasm for prescribing Tamiflu by the World Health Organisation as reported in this weeks BMJ). But it just seems as if we Christians in the West are soft. Whilst fellow believers in Muslim countries face harassment and worse, we join them in 'sharing in the sufferings of Christ' by worrying over whether we might catch swine flu from our brother in Christ. It's not exactly the persecution Paul had in mind when he wrote to Timothy that, everyone who wants to be live a godly life in Christ Cesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3.12).
Maybe we just love life too much. it just seems ironic that we who have faith in Christ and have such a hope for a new heaven and new earth are so minutely anxious about death. OK common sense is needed-stay away from the service if you have a fever, or if you are in a precarious medical state-but for the rest of us? 'Gird up you loins', I say,
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Andrew Simms uses much of the first chapter to make a plea to other psychiatrists and mental health workers for the acknowledgment of spiritual and religious factors whilst assessing patients in their mental distress. He criticises those psychiatrists whose approach towards patients with religious conviction is to assume psychosis-indeed he opens with a quote from a consultant psychiatrist reported in 2000 as saying, 'all religious people are psychotic'!
But before he gets to that he begins with a brief account of his own journey into psychiatry-it's really very moving as he quotes from Proverbs 31.8-9, 'speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy'. To my surprise I had never really made the connection as a follower of Christ to view mental health patients as particularly 'worthy' of support and care. In a sentence he tells us both of his calling into psychiatry and also makes a subtle point about the inappropriateness of using the word delusion in matters of faith,'my conviction (which was never a perception nor, since it was always amenable to reason, a delusion) felt to me then like a vocation , a 'call from God'. Remember this is the academic who has written the standard text to UK trainee psychiatrists on descriptive psychopathology-so he should know precisely what words such as delusion mean.
He stresses the integration of the person and the unhelpful distinction which has been made between physical and mental illness, 'doctors should get away from seeing the flow-chart in their minds that sends 'physical' and 'mental' in different directions'.
In discussing the importance of spiritual concerns with regard to the patient he reports a psychiatrist who told him once that, 'none of her patients had ever alluded to spiritual issues and it was therefore an irrelevance'. Simms goes on to say, such doctors should be cautious; not reporting psychological, or emotional or spiritual distress may reflect the quality of communiction between doctor and patient rather than the absence of such causes of conflict'.
The rest of the chapter is a plea for taking the spiritual dimensions of life seriously. He gives various definitions of spirituality coming down on the side of Rowan Williams, the cultivation of a senstitive and rewarding relationship with eternal truth and love'.
I can't pretend it's racy read, but his plea for the essential unity of the person and the vital importance of spirituality is well made. As he concludes the chapter he tells us, 'what I greatly respect in a spiritual person is this sense of yearning-for a better world and a better self'. Yea me too. If we are just biological genetic cocktails why is this need for meaning so pervasive?
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
'sin is so pervasive and so comprehensive that it influences everything we do and everything we say...it causes us to place ourselves at the centre of our universe. Sin causes us to set up our own little kingdom of one, where our desire is the functional law of the land. And as little kings we want to co-opt the people around us into the service of our kingdom purposes.'
It's not a pretty picture but alas it's eminently verifiable in experience (or as the medical scientists say these days, it's evidence based!). Tripp goes on to say, 'every situation, location and relationship you're in every day is made livable and tolerable by his grace. Every day God keeps us from being as wicked as we have the potential to be.'
This is taken from his excellent book of 52 short chapters from Psalm 27.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
There is much to be worried about by our media's stance on assisted dying and the pressure growing to change the law to make all forms of euthanasia permissible in law. This article illustrates just one of the concerns that doctors like me have about the issue; for human beings are inclined to twist the truth and fundamentallly are not to be trusted. Alas that's the whole basis of laws-for if trust were endemic lawyers would be largely redundant. In the matter of euthanasia I fear we just cannot trust each other enough for it to be permissible. It's too open to abuse, even with legal restraints.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
- I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity :
- I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
- I will practise my profession with conscience and dignity;
- The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration;
- I will respect the secrets which are confided in me; even after the patient has died
- I will maintain by all means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
- My colleagues will be my brothers and my sisters
- I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient;
- I will maintain the utmost respect for human life, from the time of its beginning, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
- I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour.
Saturday, 27 June 2009
I recall at medical school the caution from using 'always and never' so would not want to raise a concern about all patients bearing lists, but there are some days when Osler's words ring true.
Just yesterday I saw three patients with long lists all of whom are somewhat introspective and 'incurable' in the sense of bearing symptoms which are predominantly medically unexplained. I'm not sure that using the word neurotic is all that helpful since it carries such perjorative baggage (Indeed the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has eliminated the category of Neurosis, reflecting the dawning recognition of psychoanalysis' status as art rather than science, and a decision by the editors to provide descriptions of behavior as opposed to hidden psychological mechanisms as diagnostic criteria).
Nonetheless what can we say about lists? I have to confess that I encourage my patients to take lists with them when they are facing a consultation with a speclialist, especially for the first time. So I wouldn't want to type cast. But still 'un morceau de papier' remains just one of many cues which experienced doctors use to form an assessment of a patient-just so long as it doesn't so prejudice and obsure the multpile other cues presented to them during any consultaion.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Monday, 22 June 2009
AC Grayling writes in the Times...But real hope is the sustainer of all that is possible and good, and it is creative. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry demonstrates this in his advice about getting people to build a ship: “Do not cajole them to cut down trees, saw them into planks and nail them together,” he said, but rather “teach them to long for the immensity of the sea.” Every teacher should have this remark pinned up somewhere.
Being a Christian isn't just believing certain basic facts- 'Jesus died for my sins' but loving and living for a great God who gave up his immensity to win us back to his rightful rule.
Isaiah 40 v23 onwards is great
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
we joyously come together to worship,
realizing we need not summon you into our midst,
for you are here.
We need not call you into the secret places of our hearts,
for you are there.
We need our eyes of faith to be opened,
that we may see you;
our ears to be unstopped,
that we may hear you;
our minds to be sensitive,
that we may know you;
our hearts to be tender,
that we may receive you.
Grant each one a blessing, O Lord,
as each has need,
in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Friday, 29 May 2009
Come, my soul, thy suit prepare,
Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
Therefore will not say thee nay.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and pow'r are such
None can ever ask too much.
I tried to use these ideas in a sermon at my church recently www.graceinthecommunity.com, take a listen...http://www.graceinthecommunity.com/Media/AllMedia.aspx
It's called "Bold prayer".
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
'Be punctual in waiting upon God in secret. This is the
life of every thing, the only way, and the sure way,
of maintaining and renewing your strength.'
This copied from pdf of Cardiphonia available for free from http://www.archive.org/details/cardiphoniaorutt00newtuoft
Monday, 25 May 2009
No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.
As a doctor I've long be interested in what it is like to be on the other side of the desk. In other words, what is it like to be a pati...
No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.
So my wee book, The Art of General Practice on soft skills for GPs is finally published today. The publishers bumpf on the back is mostly ...