Greggs the bakers – advent of a silly sausage.

Back in 1222, St. Francis got permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio. He then invited the villagers to come gaze upon the scene while he preached about “the babe of Bethlehem.” Since that time Christians have regularly represented the scene of Jesus's birth. Jesus Christ's birth in a stable is an important part of Christian belief.

This week, Greggs the bakers issued a calendar which shows a nativity scene with three wise men gathered around a pastry, a sausage roll,  instead of Christ.  Christian Twitter users said the advert was disrespectful to their religion.

Greggs has apologised for the image, saying it hadn't planned to upset anyone.
"We're really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention," the firm said in a statement.
Christians will forgive and forget this offensive picture.  It is a pity that the developers of the Greggs calendar images could not see why it would cause offence. In fact the Nativity is so important the should never have considered replacing Jesus with anything.
It shows that you matter so much to God that he underwent a rescue mission to come get you. He came to Earth as a little baby so that one day he could die on a wooden cross for your sin. The Christmas story reveals your value. God loved you enough to send his very best — Jesus.

Remembrance day: remember the past, prepare for the future.



Today we remember. This video is a call to remember and a call to action. Remembrance day is both a day to remember the fallen in war and to give thanks to them and to God, thanks for their service and sacrifice.
But what do we do with the peace? King George VI Broadcast on 8th May 1945 a speech which hints at an answer and is a call to action: this is how he ended the speech:
"There is great comfort in the thought that the years of darkness and danger in which the children of our country have grown up are over and, please God, forever. We shall have failed and the blood of our dearest will have flowed in vain if the victory which they died to win does not lead to a lasting peace, founded on justice and good will.

To that, then, let us turn our thoughts to this day of just triumph and proud sorrow, and then take up our work again, resolved as a people to do nothing unworthy of those who died for us, and to make the world such a world as they would have desired for their children and for ours.

This is the task to which now honour binds us. In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause into the hand of God and he has been our strength and shield. Let us thank him for his mercies and in this hour of victory commit ourselves and our new task to the guidance that same strong hand."

How to be happy

Studies have shown that yes, having enough money to meet your needs and those of your family does bring happiness. People living in poverty are generally less happy than those whose needs are met. Being able to pay for your bills and having enough to get by financially will help you succeed in feeling happy.  Having more money than you need, however, will not bring you extra happiness. Money and happiness are not proportional. Someone with enough money to buy a large house and several cars will not necessarily have more happiness than another individual with exactly what they need. There is stress that goes along with having money. Whether you have a little or a lot, you likely know about this stress. There is the stress of knowing you need to spend what you have wisely, as well as the fact that people with ulterior motives are drawn to those who are financially wealthy.
Everyone has a life purpose. There is something about you that makes you a unique gift to the world. If you have not discovered this about yourself yet, your self-esteem will suffer, as will your happiness. There are many questionnaires and books dedicated to discovering your life purpose. Consider investing your time to learn more and find what makes you feel most fulfilled in life. Being happy is not a frivolous desire. It is important to know how you are wired and what it takes to be happy with yourself and your life. You will find this by finding your life's purpose.

But if you are a unique gift, question arises: who gives the gift?  The Bible says Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.  (James 1:17) Knowing this provides the rationale for this route to happiness, it  comes from God.  It is a happiness that lasts.   In fact, it can even grow stronger in adversity.  Happiness through Jesus is a contentment that fills the soul, even if the eyes are filled with tears.  True happiness is not based on success or failure, wealth or poverty, fame or obscurity.  As we journey with Jesus we will learn that living out our purpose in life brings happiness as a welcome effect.





Cars


Playing with cars is a major activity for my two sons. Daniel in particular, at 5 years old, enjoys creating an imaginary world with them. Inspired by Ryan's Toy Review videos he asked if he could make his own. The result is the video in this link.  

Start children off on the way they should go,
 and even when they are old they will not turn from it.  (Proverbs 22:6)
This is as true of physical development as it is of the spiritual. Children come across vehicles frequently in their daily lives, so they like to incorporate these in small world play, too. Imaginative play allows children to exercise their creativity and helps them make sense of the world around them. Toy cars foster cognitive and physical development by forcing children to exercise gross and fine motor skills. In the simplest sense, kids learn to move things around. They see how quickly or slowly the toys roll and learn about what they can do depending on how much pressure they apply according to according to play expert Dr. J. Alison Bryant. It’s an early lesson in knowing one’s own strength
Once they move on to opening and closing doors, racing the cars around pretend  roads , or moving bits of track around, children pick up fine motor skills.  “That’s how kids learn,” Bryant says. “Their minds work while they do things with their hands. It’s all integrated. That’s why toy cars are the whole package.

The toy car below is the latest on owned by my young son, other brands are of course available!  Playing with cars, whether they are brand new or the cool cars pre-owned by an older brother, is an important part of education. Play on.


Here's that video review by Daniel:



How is your life measuring up?

How can we measure how we are doing in life? Well, at the end of your life what will God think?  Here are some questions that God wont ask:

1. God won’t ask what kind of car you drove, but will ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

2. God won’t ask the square footage of your house, but will ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

3. God won’t ask about the fancy clothes you had in your closet, but will ask how many of those clothes helped the needy.

4. God won’t ask about your social status, but will ask what kind of class you displayed.

5. God won’t ask how many material possessions you had, but will ask if they dictated your life.

Here’s how to look at it from God’s perspective:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and for the gospel will save it. What does it profit a man to gain the wholeworld, yet forfeit his soul?
(Mark 8:35-16)

Being a Christian is not about just fitting Jesus Christ into our lives. It’s about re-ordering and configuring your life to fit the Jesus shaped capstone.  Look how this pyramid takes the shape of this triangular capstone.

But how is this possible? How can we plan our lives and measure our development in line with how Jesus, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace, would have us live.

As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20)

The base of the pyramid of your life then is the teaching found in the Bible from the apostles and prophets.  With Christ as our leader, leading the way by being with us by his Spirit,  and the teachings of the Bible as our basis we can forge a life as good and as impressive spiritually as this pyramid.

Get involved in a regular Bible study! 

Time to reject Darwin?

Charles Darwin is an influential figure through his Theory of Evolution which contradicts the plain reading of the Biblical account of creation. Kevin Swanson notes that Darwin referred to God being the creator in public but admitted in private letters that this was merely a marketing ploy intended to curry public favour. Darwin wrote, ‘I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion, and used the Pentateuchal term of creation, by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process’”.

The foundational communists,  Marx and Engels took up Darwin's theory as the "basis in natural science for the historical class struggle," and it was worked into the official Soviet doctrine of dialectical materialism. In a recent work called Darwin Day in America John West argues that Darwin's scientific materialism has infiltrated both political theory and sexual mores. US President Woodrow Wilson stated that the U.S. Founders' view of the Constitution was too static or "Newtonian", and since government was now "account­able to Darwin, not to Newton," the Constitution should henceforth be interpreted "according to the Darwinian principle." Further to this West argues that Darwin's account of "human mating practices" as part of "mammalian biology" in led to sex-education programs that deviated from traditional moral beliefs about sex.

Darwin’s biological ideas began to influence not just political theorists, but politicians as well. His theory — which described the process of variation and selection, the struggle for existence, and the need for adaptation and improvement — were applied to human society, primarily to reinforce and rationalise aspects of competition and struggle. Darwinism is often misunderstood to imply an evolutionary trajectory such can be also equated with social progress.  H. G. Wells in his book The Outline of History wrote that it was following the acceptance of  evolutionary theory that “a real de-moralization ensued.” He explained this observation by saying tht some held that man is simply a higher form of animal life. Wells himself accepted the Darwinian evolution and wrote in 1920: “Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog . . . , so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.”

The bullies win and morally anything goes - the philosophy of life that is winning out here in the western world.  Where do we go from here? Is it time to reject Darwin?


Eclipse 2017: is it the end of the world?




That great nation of the United States of America is about to experience a sign in the heavens. The first total Solar Eclipse to be seen from coast ot coast in the US since 1918. It will occur on August 21st 2017. This kind of event is sometimes seen as a harbinger of the End Times, the time leading up to the return of Jesus physically and to judgment day.
The eclipse will begin at mid morning on the west coast. The moon's shadow will then race across 14 states in about an hour and a half, ending at mid afternoon.

There has been a ramping up of the rhetoric between President Trump of the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Talking in such stark terms that nuclear conflict seems on the cards. In fact it is likely that the North Koreans will posture then back down due to the overwhelming firepower of the US. But still, these are worrying times.

An all encompassing final war is envisaged in some interpretations of what the Bible prophesies for the end of the world. Is God now sending war as part of a final judgment and warning us about it with a lunar eclipse? Is this a sign in the heavens presaging the tribulation and judgment day?

First, yes.  Yes, the talk about signs in the heavens, sun being darkened, the moon not giving its light and the stars falling from the sky is reference to the a change in political power. Change in political power, kings, president or rulers is methaphorically referred to in Scripture by using the sun, moon and other celestial bodies. A change a in regime or the bringing down of a powerful nation is an possible interpretation of the sun being darkened.  It is in line the normal use of such imagery throughout the Old Testament.  

So, is it the case that the upcoming eclipse of the Sun by the moon is a prophesy of the end of all things?  Is the eclipse of the moon a sign that the end is nigh? The passage in Mark's gospel known as the "mini-apocalypse" has Jesus prophesying about the moon: 

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,  and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. (Mark 13:24-24)

No, it cannot be.  This passage is a prophecy speaking about what would happen during the life time of those listening.  

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Mark 13:1-2 

Jesus describes the answer the question of when the temple would be destroyed the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light. The destruction of the temple meant the end of the old way of relating to God especially through sacrifices in the temple. This old way was about to be replaced by being able to have access to God simply through faith in Jesus Christ.  The answer to the question about the moon not giving its light and the stars crashing from the heavens was saying that there would be a change in who is in charge.  Authorities and powers that seem as secure and permanent as celestial bodies would be brought down low. Dont believe me that this is the meaning ? It was how this language was used in the old testament. Here is Isaiah speaking 

For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. This prophecy was fulfillled by  the terrible desolation of Babylon by the Medes and Persians.  The actual physical moon and stars continued to shine. 

 The coming eclipse will be a fascinating astronomical event. That is all.  It's not the end of the world.




Climbing Frames are Healthy


 Climbing is an amazing physical exercise as it strengthens virtually every muscle in your body which in turn improves the fine motor skills required for activities such as; writing and drawing. The problem solving nature involved in maneuvering around a climbing frame gives children the opportunity to work things out for themselves. The sense of achievement when they reach the top of the structure and the exhilaration they get when they slide down produces feel good chemicals in the bloodstream and increases happiness and self esteem. Children become responsible for their own safety and begin to learn their own limits physically and also what scares them a little bit so they become more spatially aware and less likely to hurt themselves in everyday life.  We bought a climbing frame linked above last summer  The frame, made from sturdy, durable timber was pretty easy to put together but took time. Allow a whole day to get it put together.  I made a youtube video about it - you will notice that I couldn't resist climbing on it too. Is there any downside at all to owning a climbing frame?

Views from the Pews to Amuse




 Take a pew, sit down and prepare yourself for a chuckle and a surprise with these comical comments, poetical perspectives and inspirational insights. "Views from the Pews to Amuse" is a side-splitting collection of insightful and comical poems. Each poem has a Bible verse with it that has been selected to connect with the poem in a thoughtful, or comical, or contradictory manner. Topics covered include religion, business, entertainment and the meaning of life. You will never have found these topics treated in quite such a rib-tickling, mind melting manner.

This compilation of poems and bible extracts is prepared for you by Mark, a successful businessman and Pete who is a vicar in the north of England. Their unimaginably popular podcast and radio show, called "Mark and Pete" tackles almost any issue. Each week on they feature an original poem. Some of the poems featured in this, the first of a series of compilations, are taken from the show whilst others are original to this book.

Whether or not you are a church-goer you will find this treatment of social issues, political foibles, and moral conundrums insightful and disturbing in equal measure: guaranteed.


For a Bible analysis try this other view from the pew:

Value Human Life - it matters what you believe

These days we hear of people who claim that God has told them to commit acts of violence, including killing people with explosives.  This is patently untrue, there is only one true God from all eternity and he is a God of love.

As Jesus taught:
“Now this is eter­nal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We are called to be obedient to God and in Jesus Christ we find the perfect model of obedience. As his disciples, we follow Christ's example as well as his commands. Our motivation for obedience is love: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  One of the commandment of God is not to kill (Exodus 20:19) but to value human life:

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

So we are to love and value life, but there is more. What you believe matters, and who you believe God is matters. Whatever people currently believe in  - a God who commands violence, a distant deity, or no God at all - there really is on one true God.  And God insists that people need to change their way of thinking.

“now he commands everyone everywhere to turn to him and change the way they think and act.” (Acts 17:30)

People, whatever their current religion, need to recognise that God demands love and valuing of life. Those who do not believe this, especially if it is what their religion teaches, need to change what they believe.

Whether people accept him, whatever they believe, God is real. And we are to tell people about him:  both about the fact that he demands the highest standards of love and integrity and that he offers forgiveness and a new start to any and every person.

Ancient wisdom for today: be respectful and you will be wise.


Time to study the book of Proverbs.

An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.
"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."
The dean looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money."

Knowledge is exploding at such a rate – more than 2000 pages a minute – that even Einstein couldn't keep up.  In fact, if you read 24 hourse a day, from age 21 to age 70 and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished.  This could argue is not really knowledge, just information and data.  To really know something you need to know how to put it into practice.  We don't need more information and data, we need wisdom.

The book of proverbs in the bible is ancient wisdom on how to live, something we very much need today. The opening paragraph of the Book of Proverbs summarizes
the message of the whole book: ‘‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction’’ (Proverbs 1:7)
Respect God, treat him as your Lord by following his ways and you are sure to be wise.  As part of my my commitment to following this advice I will be reading through the book of proverbs and sharing my thoughts here.  Come with me.

Who Jesus Is

When Jesus was alone praying his disciples came to him and he asked them, “What do people say about me?  Who do they think I am?”

They answered, “Some say that you are John the Baptist or Elijah the prophet from long ago has come back to life."

A still from the "Jesus Film"
They knew that there was something special about Jesus. They knew that he was a prophet; someone who heard from God and told others.  They knew he was powerful, like Elijah who had made fire come down from heaven.  But the people didn’t really know who he was.  Then Jesus decided to ask his disciples what they thought about him.  They were the people who had been with him every day of the week, who had worked with him and eaten with him and and seen the things that he had done.

So Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

The interesting thing is this: only one of the disciples really knew the answer.  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah sent from God.”

The disciples had been with him for such a long time, but they didn’t truly know who he was straight away, but it became apparent through his death and resurrection. His humility of being obedient to even to the point of dying on the cross. And the acceptance of  this sacrifice by God vindicating his life and ministry.  All this showed them that Jesus is the one sent out  from God.  In fact, to know who Jesus is is to know he comes from God.

Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:5-8

To know Jesus is to know God.

Adolf Hitler: a Tragedy

Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th 1889 in Braunau am Inn in Austria. As he grew up Adolf proved to be a sensitive you man with an interest in fine art.  His father, Alois Hitler, was a harsh man who strongly disapproved of Adolf's artistic bent.  At an early age Adolf rejected the authority of Austria-Hungry and instead became increasingly interested in German nationalism.

The 50th birthday of Adolf Hitler on April 30th 1939 was celebrated as a national holiday in Germany. The celebration of his birthday included a massive military parade and was really an extravagant celebration of the Fuhrer Cult: Adolf Hitler was in effect an object of worship.  In September 1939 Hitler's German troops invaded Poland initiating World War II

On midnight of April 29th 1945 we see Adolf, an older and more bitter man.  Germany, he now realised, was going to lose the war.  Under Adolf Hitler's leadership the Nazi's and their collaborators, in addition to military action, were responsible for the deaths of millions of civilians including two thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.  And now as the enemy troops closed in, Hitler at midnight married his long time girlfriend Eva Braum in his bunker in Berlin. Hitler then heard of the execution of the Italian dictator Bernito Mussolini. Hitler and his new wife committed suicide the day after their wedding on April 30th 1945.
Adolf Hitler was born, was married and died in the month of April.  His childhood, wedding and death were all marked with tragedy. And yet the greatest tragedy is the immense harm he caused in between these events, his absolute harshness leading to so much death and suffering: far overshadowing the emotional harshness of his father.

As I write this it is the birthday of Adolf Hitler, a day to be marked with a profound sense of sadness.



The video version of this blogpost on Youtube