News and views from Maranatha Christian Bookshop in Uxbridge

scriptureand authorityI’ve been reading over the last few days Tom Wright’s book Scripture and the Authority of God. The revised edition was recently published. I am constantly amazed at the incredible amount of books that Tom produces either as Tom Wright or N.T.Wright (more academic). Tom is tackling the issue of whether we can rely on the Scriptures as a reliable source for teaching and guidance in our Christian lives. He says that the authority of Scripture is essentially ‘God’s authority exercised through Scripture’. Ultimately this authority is then delegated to Jesus Christ Himself.
If we are to look at the authority of Scripture then we must look at the Bible as a whole, rather than chop it up into pieces and use certain proof texts completely out of context. Tom says about authority “It is the sovereign rule of God sweeping through creation to judge and to heal. It is the powerful love of God in Jesus Christ, putting sin to death and launching new creation. It is the fresh, bracing and energising wind of the Spirit” (pg 31).
Tom then proceeds to look at the authority of God, how Israel became God’s kingdom people, Scripture and Jesus, the early church and then on through the ages.
I am really finding it a helpful book.

outoftheashesI read this book in one sitting, not because it was a short book but because it is a facinating testimony. A true story of how God can turn around and even transform the most tragic of lives. From his birth, Peter’s life started to go downhill fast. He suffered horrific burns as a baby after being left in front of an open fire and permanently lost some fingers and toes as well as other horrible injuries. Growing up in a chaotic house he managed to overcome his disability. However, with his new found freedom he turned himself into a mini crimewave. Things went from bad to worse. In graphic detail he describes his slide toward rock bottom, where in a truly miraculous way God reached down and pulled him out of the mire and set his feet on solid ground.
The transformation is amazing and really heart warming. It’s a great read.

whatwetalkI’m reading Rob Bell’s new book at the moment. It’s called ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About God’ (which is a bit of a mouthful) and it flows in Rob’s unique writing style. The problem that he is tackling is that everyone who talks about God seems to have their own pre-conceived ideas and so it is easy for confusion to result. For some, God has failed to move into the 21st century and seems stuck in a pre-scientific mind-set . Therefore to believe in God is to step backwards. For others God doesn’t exist. For still others God is described in multitudes of ways depending on your religious belief and experience. So Bells asks if there are other ways that we can use to talk about God that will bring clarity and he comes at this with two aspects in mind. The first is that Rob says he is a Christian and so Jesus is how he understands God. The second is that people everywhere want to talk about God.

The next section of the book delves into science and an explanation of the universe and the strange way that it works. This is where it gets a bit deep with descriptions of particles, atoms, quantum theory, energy and the peculiar ability for sub-atomic particles to disappear in one place and appear in another without travelling the distance in-between. So once you get round to understanding that then miracles don’t seem so difficult to believe for a scientist. It’s all fascinating stuff.

Then having set some groundwork Rob goes on to talk about Holism. Rob says that if we dismantle our bodies atom by atom, particle by particle, sub particle by sub-particle then we won’t be able to isolate the real you in any one of them. He says ”Holism is the reality that emerges only when all the parts are put together but can’t be individually located, labelled or identifies at a smaller, component, parts level” That is – we are more than the sum parts.
And that’s where I am up to so far. It is an interesting read and I want to continue on to find out his conclusions.

“Go to the ant”

I watched a facinating programme on TV that I had recorded a few days ago. It was all about a Leaf-Cutter ant colony that had been established inside a Scottish research lab. A whole series of chambers connected with tubes was set up all linked to feeding areas above ground. Once an ant colony was introduced they set about monitoring the progress as the ants began to colonise and organise themselves into a production system. It was an amazing programme and behaviours were seen that had never been recorded before. They even radio tracked the soldier ants and watched them methodically patrol the various chambers that they were guarding. They watched as the standardised eggs produced by the queen were fed in different ways to produce different sizes and functions of ants. They watched as once a year the female eggs became male ants bred to mate with the new queens. They watched them dispose of their dead and waste and they watched them communicate the sources of food and danger and quickly mobilise forces to deal with both.

It was all an amazing evolutionary event – according to the programme makers. To me it just shouted out about the amazining creative hand of God.

Faith in a Time of Change

We often think that we live in a time of change where the pace of life means that new things are forever happening. When it comes to the Church the pace of change seems to be a bit slower. The Government rarely interferes (although recently it seems to be imposing unwanted changes on the church) and some churches still seem to be unchanged as years go by. So imagine what it must have been like going to church during the Reformation in England. Once Henry the 8th began his separation from Rome his government issued guideline after guideline to all the local parish churches across the land.

I have been enjoying reading a facinating book by Eric Ives called The Reformation Experience. The book is about the impact on local people of the vast number of changes that happened during the 16th Century. We all tend to know about Henry the 8th and his many wives and sometimes assume that it was all just an excuse for Henry to get into bed with Anne Boleyn. But there was a huge political and religious change taking place and a tide of Reformation was sweeping in from Europe helped by people like Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop Cranmer. The book describes the various changes that took place and their impact on the lives of workers in the Parish. The physical architecture of the church changed (out went the statues, the carved screens, the stained glass windows and in came the whitewash, the wooden tables instead of stone altars etc), the language of the church changed (from Latin to English), the Bible changed (it became law for churches to purchase a Great Bible and to encourage people to hear it read), the prayers changed – in fact over the space of just a couple of years everything changed. Then when Henry died even more changes took place under Edward, and then when he died it all changed in the opposite direction under Mary (and finally back again under Elizabeth)

So spare a thought for the poor man and woman in the pew. It must have been a roller coaster ride.

This is a book that I can thoroughly recommend reading. It’s an eye-opener.

In his book “Empty Promises”, Pete Ward begins with a challenge on the subject of Idolatry. He says that an idol will always leave us exhausted and drained and wanting more because, unlike God, an idol can never breathe new life into us.
That’s quite a perceptive concept because in some way or other we are all guilty of having idols in our life. In fact, Peter Ward says, that our heart is an idol factory, capable of drawing us and leading us away from God. He says that the real question is “which idol is God’s biggest rival in your life”.
We might take the intellectual high ground when we read the Bible and wonder how people in both the Old and New Testaments could worship a god carved in stone, but fail to recognise that we are just as susceptible to such things in a different form. So he says “The bottom line is that every single human being has an unbelievable capacity for self deception. It’s no wonder that we fall for empty promises over and over again” (pg 19)
King David in the Old Testament was no stranger to idolatry and so in Psalm 139 he reminds us that God knows us intimately. He knows our thoughts even before we think them and so in an act of recognition and helplessness he asks God to search and to know his anxious thoughts. It’s an invitation for God to help him (and us if we make the psalm our own).
So Pete Ward asks 4 questions (pg 21)
– What occupies my mind? (what do I spend time day dreaming about?)
– Who or what do I tend to be jealous of?
– What do I spend most of my time doing?
– Where does the majority of my money go?

So the challenge is:
– What you are doing
– What you are saying
– What are you thinking
– How are your actions
– Where are you coming from
– and what motivates you.

It’s challenging stuff.

Perfect Storm

I’ve learnt another word. First it was ‘noetic’ in the book Thinking. Loving. Doing. But now I’ve come across the word ‘ululating’. In Tom Wright’s book Simply Jesus he says “The first thing most people knew about Jesus was when he arrived in the village there was a party. A celebration – whoops of delight, people dancing, women ululating. The prophet’s in town, and its good news all around” (pg 59) (I think it means wailing, although presumably in the context it must mean happy wailing!)

Tom’s book is a very interesting approach to Jesus – Simply Jesus. He begins by looking at the analogy of a pure storm, When Jesus began preaching, three major factors came together: The Roman Storm, The Jewish Storm and The Wind of God.

It was a clash of systems that all collided together with the arrival of Jesus on the scene. Was Jesus going to conform to the Roman way of things? No. Was Jesus going to conform to the Jewish way of thinking? Surprisingly no, because by Jesus’s day they had interpreted events based on their own thinking rather than based on God’s revealed plans. And then there was the wind of change, blowing from God, sweeping a path for the true Messiah. It’s obvious which of these 3 was going to prevail.

But it wasn’t obvious at the time – hence the perfect storm.

It’s a very interesting book and well worth reading.