Monthly Archives: May 2011

God created children


After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the

first thing he said was

‘ DON’T !’


‘Don ‘t what ? ‘ Adam replied.


‘Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.’God said.


‘Forbidden fruit ? We have forbidden fruit ?  Hey Eve..we have

forbidden fruit ! ‘




‘  No Way ! ‘ ‘Yes way ! ‘ ‘Do NOT eat the fruit ! ‘ said God.





‘Why ? ‘


‘Because I am your Father and I said so ! ‘ God replied, wondering why

He hadn’t stopped creation after making the elephants


A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He

was ticked ! ‘Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit ? ‘ God asked.






‘Uh huh,’ Adam replied.


‘Then why did you ? ‘ said the Father.


‘I don’t know,’ said Eve.

‘She started it! ‘Adam said.


‘Did not ! ‘

‘Did too ! ‘

‘DID NOT ! ‘


Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and

Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it

has never changed.


If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and

they haven’t taken it,

don’t be hard on yourself.


If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would be a

piece of cake for you ?




1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk

and talk. Then you spend

the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.


2. Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your own children.


3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.


4. Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for

word what you shouldn’t have said


5. The main purpose of holding children’s parties is to remind yourself

that there are children more awful than your own


6. We childproofed our homes, but they are still getting in.






Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home one day











To be “with” is at the heart of our own being

But further, to be “with” is at the heart of the universe.


Maybe one of the first times we learned to articulate this great profound truth was in first and second year at school, when we approached the other half of ourselves, perhaps the in playground, perhaps just after getting off the bus, perhaps to the soundtrack of Showaddywaddy at the school disco


You used to talk about it when you were asking someone out “Would you go with me?”


And how did this blessed paramour respond to this incantation of the one of the rites of the universe, by choosing to dance with our mate instead.

But we laugh now, but this thing was massive then, huge, because we had stumbled on something big.


It is about who inhabits the space around us being very important.

Who are you with…

You want people to be with.. you


Processes of being un-withed – of divorce, or bereavement, or of moving city, or of job

Of loneliness, or being in a crowd and unknown, misunderstood

Are amongst the painful that we can go through.

One of the worst things that you can ever do to someone is to put them in solitary confinement



We express with through everything that we can lay our hands on to express the connection

Being, holding, touching, eating together, kissing, hugging,

Speaking, phoning, writing, texting, emailing, facebook commenting.


It is pull at this thing that God does, of being “with”, being around, together.


We are called to be with God

More than “under God” of “for God”

The name that God chooses when he comes to earth, is “Immanuel” which means “God with us”

When we are told about the end of time, we are told “God will be with his people.”


We are told of a few people in the Bible, that God was particularly “with them”


And if you have an image, think of that Gorilla surrounding them, with all God’s strength,

All God’s love

All God’s desire simply to be


I want to share an image of being “with” this morning.

This if of a conservationist Damien Aspinall, who had kept a gorilla called Kwibu in his zoo in England, before releasing Kwibu into the wild

He has not see Kwibu for five years, and now returns to go and see him

Others are worried that this might not be such a good idea, because Kwibu has been seen recently and has been behaving aggressively.


The image I want to have this morning is of Kwibu holding the man, this great strength of whom others are afraid, but for Aspinall is with, he even dares to use the word “love” here,

A picture of the “with-“ness of God.


Story Of Joseph

This story of Joseph, highlights three aspects of with-ness,


  1. With is bigger than Down
  2. With is not the opposite of Work

And these two truths mingle with each other through the first part of the story we hear today


And then towards the end of the passage, a third truth emerges

  1. “WITH” is in competition with “with”


Let us look at the first verse here, this is the verse in a literal translation of the Bible.

1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and(A) Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian,(B) had bought him from the(C) Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.

Now I want us to notice the word Down, for the ancient Israelites

The highest point that you could get on earth was Zion, other mountains were jealous of Zion, because they were not so high, literally they might be high, but somehow they were not near God;


And then there was Israel,

And there were other places that were down, because they were far from God

There was the sea, that you go down into

There was hell, or Sheol, where you were far from God

And then there was Egypt

They were down,


Down is the place that is uncelebrated, far from God, it is the pit

It is the dark place,

The place where God is far


If up is health, then down is disablement

If up is promotion, then down is redundancy

If up is prosperity, then down is bankruptcy

If up is freedom, then down is prison

If up is company, then down is loneliness

If up is home, then down is alienation


And it is the place where God is not, where God is far.


And Egypt is down, but we notice something here;

Look at the next verse…

2(D) The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.


One of the messages of this passage is in every down place, there is a way of being with God.



So Joseph is down, but he is also with.


He is put over the whole of Potiphar’s house, because his master recognizes that God is with him.


Notice here, that Joseph is a worker

He is someone who is not out in a monastery being with God

He is with God, in a busy administrative role,

Doing that role well

And people see that God is with him


A greatly admired Quaker writer, Thomas Kelly, in a book “Testament of Devotion” said this

From Thomas Kelly, great Quaker writer, “Testament of Devotion”

“There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once, on one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs but deep within behind the scenes at a more profound level we might also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and with a receptiveness to the gentle divine breathings.  The secular world today values only the first level believing that this is where the real business of humanity is done, but we know that the deep level of prayer is the most important thing in the world.  It is at this deep level that the real business of life is determined.”


God is with us, in that which is done well

Be that prayers or labour


There was a famous monk of the 1600’s, Brother Lawrence who felt that that his life had been a failure,

He entered a monastery but he did not pray all day,

His job was to be in the monastery kitchen – so much of the goodness of a Church can happen with what occurs in its kitchen.


Lawrence struggled at first with his lowly position, a position from which he was never promoted.

But he came to terms with it, terming himself the Lord of the pots and pans

He would imagine himself worshipping with God


I have reflected that different people in this Church have reflected God in the way that they have organized children’s parties,

The way that they have played musical instruments

The way that they have dried dishes

Delivered Christian Aid envelopes

If you do dishes, or fold laundry with God, then it becomes a holy part of ministry, because nothing done with God is not sacred.


Another story of Billy Graham, appearing on network television, and the television people asking if Billy Graham wanted a prayer room before interview.  His assistant replied that “Mr. Graham prayed before breakfast, during breakfast, prayed on the way here, will be praying before the interview, and probably during the interview”


It is to have that “with-ness of God”

The Benedictine monks have a practice called Stattio where they pause between activities, thanking God for what has just passed, and praying for what is about to be.


Today, I am with God,

I may be down but I am also with.


So how does it fare for the man who is with God, who is successful, who is beautiful of form

He goes further down.

Joseph Blessed With Obedience

Now Joseph was(I) handsome in form and appearance. 7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and(J) he has put everything that he has in my charge.9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and(K) sin against God?” 10And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he(L) would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.


Notice what Joseph manages to do here, he manages to obey in a pressurized situation.


I wonder when I read this how tempted Joseph was by Potiphar’s wife.

The Wrong With

I guess the answer is irrelevant, because Joseph does not let that enter his thinking.


Notice the double use of the word “with” here – Joseph is with God

Lie with me


Joseph is being tempted to get his with’s mixed up.


The with of Lying is a different with in Hebrew, it implies something weaker

But the temptation for us is to imagine that with can compete


That our other with’s “with her”, “with the team” with the chocolate

With the curry,

Can ever compete with the with of God


It was once said that a man knocking on the door of a brothel is actually looking for God

He got his “withs” mixed up


You go after the wrong with,

This is what Joseph is tempted with here.



Look at her reply to her, when she wants to lie with him.


He says:

Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and(J) he has put everything that he has in my charge.9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and(K) sin against God?

There are four reasons for Joseph why he cannot do this thing

  1. It dishonours his own own relationships
  2. It causes others to dishonour their relationships
  3. It breaks the moral order – great wickedness
  4. And it mars his relationship with God.

What is remarkable about Joseph is that he manages to think about these things


Perhaps he isn’t interested in Potiphar’s wife at all, in which case these are the things he says not to hurt her feelings


Or perhaps he is attracted to her, but he allows this not to be the only thing about Potiphar’s wife that he knows about.


The old puritans were obsessed by sin, and how to avoid sin, the word they used was mortification, the putting to death of sin.  They used to spend a lot of time meditating on the avoidance of sin, how sin works and how God’s people could lead lives that were more like Jesus.


One of them Thomas Brooks, wrote this book here, he said that Satan when he tempts us is to present the bait and not the hook.


Brooks’ first device of Satan is to present the bait and not the hook.  Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure the profit. Oh, but he hides the hook – the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow!

1. Keep the greatest distance from sin and from playing with the golden bait that Satan holds forth to catch you.
Many are miserable by loving hurtful things, but they are more miserable by having them.

Anselm wrote that “The if he should see the shame of sin on the one hand and the pains of hell on the other and must of necessity choose one, he would rather be thrust into hell without sin, than to go into heaven with sin.”
He that may be so bold as to attempt to dance upon the brink of the pit, may find by woeful experience that it is


So Joseph sees the bait, this beautiful woman,

But he is also given by God, because God is with him, the ability to see the hook, the damage that will be done by swallowing the bait.


In our moments of temptation, may God be with us, to show us not only the bait

But also the hook, the damage that the temptation does to us.


Joseph Goes Down

So Joseph has God with him and he is successful – yet still he goes down


Joseph has God with him so he is obedient, yet still he goes down.


11But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12(M) she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

How do you think Joseph felt at that moment, as he fled with the garment left behind, he has to wait and wait until Potiphar gets home.


13And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me.18But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”


Look at the way that Joseph gets pestered.


Some of you have been in emotionally abusive relationships,

Where you are surrounded and twisted by someone who surrounds you with a lie


Look at how she twists things when the men of the house appear

“See, he “ – a dig at her husband “has brought a Hebrew to laugh at us”

And then with her master

“The Hebrew servant whom you have brought among us, came into laugh at me”


See how the lie gathers strength,


So Joseph has God with him

And he goes down to Egypt

And he has God with him

He is tempted to sin

But he has God with him

He has to wait for Potiphar to get home

But he has God with him

So he has lies told about him

And he has God with him

So he goes to prison, a foreign prison


But is God still with him?


And even in prison he shows that you can be with God.

Narrative Disempowers Those Without A Script


For Malcolm – who brings to language the bright, penetrating attention of the English professor or the analyst, alert to telling turns of phrase and suggestive details – the style is always the thing. The “formidable” Leventhal opens his case as if it were a bedtime story, ornamenting his facts with the kind of rhetorical flourishes (vivid adjectives, incantatory repetition) familiar from fiction, and thus imbuing them with a self-sustaining logic, of the kind the phrase “once upon a time” confers on fairy tales. There is the suggestion that every event, no matter how implausible, is held together by some invisible explanation, which the storyteller will ultimately reveal.”

Like fiction, legal cases aim for verisimilitude, which is not quite the same as the truth. “If any profession (apart from the novelist’s) is in the business of making things up,” writes Malcolm, “it is the profession of the trial lawyer.”

Ambiguity is the enemy, and anyone who does not present herself as a like- able or coherent character is doomed.”

“real people seem relatively uninteresting . . . because they are so much more complex, ambiguous, unpredictable and particular”. Psychoanalysis “attempts to restore to the neurotic patient the freedom to be uninteresting . . . It proposes to undermine the novelistic structure on which he has constructed his existence.”

By dismantling self-delusion, she liberates the self. She allows people such as Borukhova their essential human mystery, observing always the sanctity of our heart’s hidden chambers, which are locked even to ourselves.”

God’s Boxers

The second bout brought a crowd favourite to the ring. ‘the Terminator’ – Craig Leighton, a 36-year-old brick layer from London’s East End – bounded in, just weeks after his wife discovered he had become involved in the dangerous sport.

While the Terminator made light work of an opponent from Yorkshire, the man behind the event was warming up one of his boxers in a back room. Alan Mortlock is the undisputed heavyweight promoter of unlicensed boxing in Britain. As well as staging the bouts, he trains his own stable of fighters.

‘Keep it relaxed, just keep it relaxed,’ he said. With sleeves rolled up, revealing powerful forearms covered in tattoos, Mortlock was going through final preparations with one of his young boxers, Paul ‘the White Destroyer’ Kavanagh.

After a last pounding of the punchbag, Mortlock closed his eyes, hands clasped together in front. ‘Father, I pray that you give him the strength and the speed, and that in the ring you look after him. I also pray, Lord, that you protect the other man. But I do pray for Paul to be the victor, Father, in Jesus’s name. Amen.’ And with that, the destroyer headed off to the ring.

Mortlock prays for all his boxers – most of whom are thoroughly irreligious despite being known as the ‘Godfellas’- before their fights. ‘I pray that neither man be hurt bad but I do ask for my fighters to win.’ The man dubbed the ‘Pirate Promoter’ by the boxing authorities is Christian. Very Christian. ‘Jesus is the most important thing in my life,’ said Mortlock.

To push his muscular form of Christianity, Mortlock has assembled the Godfellas, a group of born-again former East End hardmen. These ex-bouncers and debt collectors take boxing rings into churches, where they give testimonies about their violent days, interspersed with fighting displays.

The gospel according to this crew is that it’s possible to be hard and holy. To prove the point, the Godfellas recently took over the Sunday evening service at a Pentecostal church in Leytonstone, east London.

Rather than preaching from the pulpit, the group erected a boxing ring at the front of the church. The ceremony started with a kick-boxing exhibition match between two born-again fighters, after which a procession of fierce-looking former rogues clambered into the ring to testify how Jesus had led them away from lives of violence.

This blend of gangster chic and godliness seemed to resonate with a congregation that did not represent the church’s regular worshippers. After the final brutal testimony, some 50 people raised their hands to commit to becoming born-again.

Eleven years ago, Mortlock was a heavy drinker – ‘about 100 pints of strong lager a week’ – and prone to getting into fights. With his marriage on the verge of collapse, he said he was woken one night by a religious presence in his room.

‘Two hands got hold of my head and a voice said, “You’re going to be all right, son.” From that day on, the Lord took away the addictions to drugs and alcohol. My wife says I went to bed bad and woke up good.’

The lager and fighting made way for a moral code. ‘There’s things I used to do before that I wouldn’t do now, such as putting a bent MOT on the car. And I used to have a terrible foul mouth, but the Lord took that away.’

Stocky, muscular and with a shaved head, Mortlock said the boxers seemed to accept his faith. As he spoke, two fighters respectfully dropped to their knees during another pre-fight prayer session.

Mortlock gave his reasons for being involved in unlicensed boxing, which is condemned by experts and the British Board of Boxing Control as dangerous. ‘The way I book it is this: it’s called unlicensed because it’s not licensed by the boxing board. And I take all the medical precautions, so I let my Christianity steer me in the way I do the business in boxing.’

Born out of the bare-knuckle tradition, practised by the likes of Lenny McLean and Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw, today’s unlicensed boxing veers on the right side of the law. But the boxers get away with more than they would in a sanctioned fight. And some of last week’s fighters were way too old to get a licence.

Mortlock denied promoting violence. ‘Violence to me is a street fight or a tear-up in the car park. This is our sport, this is what we do, we enjoy boxing.’

Being born-again does not fit easily with the image. ‘Christians as a whole are seen as weak, wearing a duffle-coat, funny sandals, with a bag under their arm. You have to be stronger, I believe.’

In the dressing room at the back of the Essex night club, boxers were warming up. Ernie ‘the Boy’ Rutherford bobbed around the room, itching to fight. ‘I’m a bricklayer but I love fighting. I love the buzz, the crowd. When you’ve done it once it gets in your blood and you want to come back.’

Mortlock was dabbing Vaseline on to the eyebrows of one of his boxers. ‘If my fighters don’t train they lose. As a Christian I need to train. And the way I train is by reading the Bible and praying. If you don’t do that, you lose.’

References Samson (Judges 13:1-16:31)

Nothing Like Youth

Thinking and beauty

Key Words Thought Think Dreams Art Beauty Doing Activity Meditation
Source Oscar Wilde
Author 92
Page Ellmann, Richard
Quote Society often forgives the criminal. It never forgives the dreamer. The beautiful sterile emotions that art excites in us are hateful in its eyes and so completely are people dominated by the tyranny of this dreadful social ideal that they are always coming shamelessly up to one at Private View and other places that are open to the general public and saying in a loud stentorian voice “What are you doing?” whereas “What are you thinking?” is the only question that any single civilised being should ever be allowed to whisper to another


Contradiction and doctrine

Key Words Contradiction Dialectic Argument Discussion Dogma
Source Oscar Wilde
Author Ellmann, Richard
Page 95
Quote As a result, Wilde writes his works out of a debate between doctrines rather than out of doctrine.

Certainty and Doubt

Glen Hoddle –
At this moment in time I did not say them things

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr –
Certitude is not the test of certainty. We have been cocksure of many things that were not so

W Somerset Maugham
Like all weak men he laid an exagerrated stress on not changing one’s mind

Lord Melbourne
I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything

Queen Victoria
I would earnestly warn you against trying to find out the reason for and explanation of everything – To try and find out the reason for everything is very dangerous and leads to nothing but disappointment and dissatisfaction, unsettling your mind and in the end making you miserable


The Critic

Critics and artists

Key Words Critic Gossip Criticism
Source Piers Morgan
Author Roosevelt, Teddy
Page 255
Quote It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and the sweat and the blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
References Parable of the talents (Matthew 25)

Craving The Story

Trophies our own image

Key Words Self Hypocrisy Text Bible Preaching
Source Preaching and literary forms of the Bible
Author Long, T G
Page 28
Quote All of us – fundamentalists, charismatics, social activists, feminists, evangelicals, traditionalists, liberationists – all of us in fact got the texts of the Bible and return with trophies that are replicas of our own theological image


The great history

Key Words History Story Narrative
Source Preaching and literary forms of the Bible
Page 28
Quote The novelist Reynolds Price once remarked that most of the world’s chatter – novels, jokes, plays, songs – represent craving for the one truly sufficient story – “We’re satisfied”, he says “only by the one short tale we feel to be true” History is the will of the just God who knows us

History is more than “one damned thing after another”

Grip On Grace

Grace and sin

Key Words Grace Sin Gospel
Source Ralph Davies, Dale
Author Commentary on 1 Samuel
Quote As long as we wallow (however subtly) in some idea of human worthiness we will never understand the bible, never tremble before this God, never delight in this God. We must get a grip on grace!

“Every Christian then has no choice – you must be a good theologian who both speaks and lives a theology of grace. You will find it humbling, but it is the only thing that will keep you from worshipping yourself.”

Pray Until Your Knuckles Bleed

Persistence and Jesus and presence

Key Words Presence Prayer
Source Real live Preacher
Author Atkinson, Gordon
Quote An old African-American preacher once said,  Only after you have knocked at the door until your knuckles bleed and have still received no answer do you begin to understand what prayer is about.
References Healing of paralysed man (Mark 2:1-12)
Those who wait on the Lord (Isaiah 40:31)