Creation

Creation. No matter what your viewpoint, whether you’re Big Bang or 7 days, creationist or evolutionist, happy accident or divine intervention…everyone must agree we came from somewhere?

We at EBC are exploring creation as part of our current “Case For” series, so I thought as a simple end to the week, I’d share the two clips we’re using. The first on is a classic Sheldon moment from Big Bang Theory (do you know how difficult it is to find this clip when you type “Big Bang Theory Creation” into You Tube?

The second clip is a lovely little sequence from the Russell Crowe “Noah” movie, which itself attracted plenty of criticism. But as a general illustration of creation, I think it’s a great piece of media:

Now it’s Friday evening and I’m not even going to attempt to pick apart the different arguments for and against…there are plenty of better informed people than I. My own take on it? I don’t believe we’re here by some accident, I do believe in an intelligent designer, I do accept the world being created in seven days (although I also have a view as to what “a day” may be in God’s timescale and I finally don’t see why evolution and creation would be incompatible.

What I’m generally more interested in is not how we got here, but what we actually do in the short time we have on this earth.

What I Want to Want

So this Sunday sees us deliver the past part of our Follow series at EBC, and it’s titled What I Want to Want. The basic premise is that it’s better to follow God’s will than to try and impose our own. If you want to catch up with any of our talks you can find them here, or the original series from Northpoint is here.

Now those who regularly read this blog will know how much of a Big Bang fan I am, and this clip illustrates the point perfectly. Sheldon is tolerating Penny coming over regularly, but there are a few rough edges which he wants to smooth in order to make life better for himself. So by using positive reinforcement (chocolate), he starts to train Penny to be a better house guest. There’s a second part here:

Now I’m all for change, change is good, and I personally love to experiment with new things, the latest gadgets, new music and movies. I wouldn’t say I’m a cutting edge hipster by any means, but I do keep up with what’s going on in the world. And I will freely admit I struggle sometimes when other friends and family don’t see it the same way…that the latest release by St Vincent or John Mayer which I think is wonderful is just muzak to others, or Level 42 are a hugely underrated band, and Prince is just a purple genius. It’s all true. In my world.

Walking on Sunshine

 

My eldest daughter was recently off ill, and so scanning through Netflix discovered Walking on Sunshine, the movie. I’ll let you check it out if you so wish, but if you imagine Mama Mia set in Italy with lots of tanned young people breaking into 80’s classics at a moments notice…you’ll get the picture. So being a child of the 80’s, I did the only decent thing and put together my version of the Walking on Sunshine soundtrack but with the original tunes. We listened to it on a road trip over half term. Out of the 13 tracks (which included Don’t you want me, White Wedding, The Power of Love (by Huey Lewis) and of course Walking on sunshine), the general consensus from both of my daughters were that the new versions were far superior (something they also think about Glee songs…) And try as I might, I could not argue them to think my (obviously educated and correct) way of thinking.

We so often do this in other areas of our lives…try to persuade others to think the way we do, or justify a purchase or expense based on other’s perceptions or the idea it will change us for the better. And sometimes we may go even further, trying to persuade those close to us to be someone they’re not so they can fit the mold which we want them to be modeled into.

Responsibility

As parents we try to educate, encourage and discipline our children so they can be the best that they can be. And our influence and passions will inevitably rub off on them…all of our kids are turning out to be musical and artistic, we share similar tastes in films, music and humour and they also share our complete lack of interest in anything sport related. But we never impose our will or our dreams on them…we support them and help them to be who they want to be, not who we think they should be. And much as my desire is to have a band of Kerslakes, for my children to share my love of Level 42 and Prince and for them to agree that Star Wars is the best movie trilogy ever…I have to accept they much prefer Glee, The Hunger Games and 5 seconds of summer.

And God is a lot like the above…if He’d wanted us to be perfect clones submitting to His will without question then free will would have been taken out of the equation long ago. But He loves us more than that…which is why we are free to make our own decisions as to who we are, how we act, and whether or not we choose to follow. So are we willing to want what God wants more than what we want?

Chocolate?

What Love Really Means

You probably can’t have failed to notice it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend (if you have, go ahead, there’s still time to get flowers/chocolates/card/iPad (if you follow the Apple ads) etc….) Have you ordered? Good. Let’s carry on…

Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love….as Ewan McGregor sang to Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge. Love makes the world go round. The Truth About Love. Love, Love me Do. Strange Love…I have over 500 songs about love in my iTunes library, Steven Curtis Chapman wrote an entire album for his wife called All About Love (it’s great), whether you’re an incurable romantic or have a heart of stone, you can’t escape it. And this song by J.J. Heller is just incredible in words, melody and sentiment.

I’m currently reading Andy Stanley’s new book, The New Rules for Love, Sex and Dating…and while I am only just on chapter three, it is (like all of his other books), an essential read. Chapter one is called “The Right Person Myth”, and it unsurprisingly looks at finding Mr or Mrs Right. Spoiler alert: there isn’t one. You should read the book, but I’ll give you this quote:

“Looking for the right person is a great idea as long as you don’t assume that finding the right person ensures everything will be all right”.

The right person doesn’t mean everything will be all right. Now I am a self confessed incurable romantic, Love Actually, A Lot Like Love and Notting Hill are firmly (and proudly) in my top ten movies of all time, and I have an idealistic image in my head of my wife and I, strolling into the sunset arm in arm, happily ever after. Now clearly my wife chose me because I am Mr Right, I am obviously a great catch and who wouldn’t want to be married to me but we work really hard at being married, which is why we are still happily married. Of course we’re very compatible, there was an attraction there initially which has only grown over time, and we genuinely enjoy being together…which helps. But it’s not like it every day…I know there are days Hannah would quite happily push me out of a window… probably deservedly.

The Bible is of course full of love: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; Love your enemies; Love your neighbour as yourself; Above all love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s story is a love story, He who loved his people, He who wants the best for us, He who is forgiving and loving. And we as Christians are called to love… and if we loved more instead of judging, comparing, condemning or generally not being interested in others…wouldn’t the world be a happier, better place? And I’m not resorting back to sugar coated happy ending movies again…if we did love our neighbours as ourselves…and they did the same…and so on…how different would everything be? That may be incredibly simplistic…but a little bit of love goes a long way.

So this Valentines as you exchange gifts with your beloved, or send cards to your secret crush, or maybe just sit at home quietly disapproving of the whole consumer driven cardfest and overpriced roses gone mad…try to remember what love really means.

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please…
Could you send someone here who will love me?”

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She’s the woman whose husband has run away
She’ll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would’ve stayed
And she says…

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
‘Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He’s waiting to die as he sits all alone
He’s a man in a cell who regrets what he’s done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
“Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home”

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
“I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I…”

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

Fingerprints of God

This week as a family we’ve been watching a great BBC series/documentary, Nature’s Weirdest Events. And here is a clip from it with a stack of cute bunnies…

…but it’s had such phenomenon as tarantula eating wasps, zombie starfish, clouds of gnats and weird alien flashes which occur at the same time as earthquakes. We also saw a girl anaconda having babies without the presence of a daddy anaconda, horseshoe crabs infesting the south coast (and having their blue blood harvested for medical purposes), flying fish and goats who climb trees. It really is incredible, I highly recommend watching it (most of them are on YouTube)

I love watching these sort of documentaries (especially with my kids…Joel got especially grossed out by the zombie starfish who undertake self amputation…and then grow another leg back). I really enjoy all sorts of science programmes too…I think I’ve always had a fascination with how things work, which resulted in me pulling things apart in my childhood (derailleur gears, lawnmower engines, radios, guitars). And I even managed to put some of them back together again afterwards as well.

Evolution or Creation?

Evolution and Creation have been lively debates for many years, and will continue to do so for many years to come. There are some who fundamentally believe that God created everything in a literal six days, and then there are those who adhere to the principle of evolutions, that we are the result of a chance accident in a sea of primordial gloop. I hover somewhere between the two…I fully believe we are the result of an intelligent designer, I don’t believe any of us are here just by chance, and I also follow that evolution is a scientific principle which exists.

(as a side note, my daughter Naomi was involved in a class discussion at school recently (she’s 10) and she asked the teacher “are we evolved from monkeys?” and the teacher said “yes”. So Naomi asked, “if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys….” And her teacher very honestly said…”I don’t know….”)

And as Nature’s Weirdest Events shows us, while much natural phenomena can be explained scientifically, we learn there are countless animals, organisms and living things which exhibit unexplained or plain weird habits. Which quite often generate more questions which we’re trying to explain and understand.

99.9% nothing…

Rob Bell’s most recent book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God looks at some of this in great detail…take for example, an atom. About one million atoms lined up would be the width of a human hair. Atoms are made up of even smaller particles; protons, neutrons and electrons. And these make up the centre of the atom, the nucleus. If you were to blow up an atom to the size of a football stadium, the nucleus would be the size of a grain of rice in the centre of the pitch. But get this: the grain of rice sized nucleus would weigh more than the stadium. Weird.

And all of these atoms are 99.9% empty space…think of the grain of rice in the middle of the stadium. Lot of air around it. All atoms are like that. And everything physical is made of atoms. So 99.9% of what we know, isn’t there. The sofa I’m currently sitting on, the laptop I’m typing this on…99.9% nothing. But I can sit on this non existent sofa quite happily.

We rely on what we know, and we often base our faith on what we know and understand…and yet as we delve deeper into science and nature, we realise there is so much we don’t understand, or can even comprehend. We doubt in miracles, we want concrete answers to the existence of God, and we demand evidence to support faith. I would argue the more we discover about the finely tuned balance which allows us to live here, and the daily discoveries of science, physics and nature, the stronger the evidence exists for a creator, an intelligent designer, whose fingerprints are over all the earth.

 

 

Waiting Here For You

So by now the decorations should all be packed away in the loft, there may be the odd mince pie left lurking in the cupboard (they never run out, and rarely go stale…), and the days go back to normal now Christmas is all done for another year.

This past December at EBC we looked at Waiting Here for You as our Christmas theme, using the song by Martin Smith and examining the topics: God works while we wait; While we are waiting on God we are waiting with God; and Who you become while you are waiting is as important as what you are waiting for.

We all waited with eager anticipation in the Kerslake household for Christmas, possibly our favourite time of the year. I love sharing food and gifts together, bringing friends and family under the same roof and having a joint celebration together. There were 13 of us for Christmas day, and 9 for Boxing Day, and the following days were spent catching up with more friends and family. And of course the three smaller Kerslakes were excited to see what was going to appear under the tree.

But now Christmas is over, I wanted us to start the year looking at the same song, and the lyrics behind it. Even though we are into January, the words are just as pertinent. Over Christmas we were waiting for Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day, an event which had been foretold throughout the Old Testament. And this Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, every day…we do the same. We eagerly await His arrival in our services, in our offerings, in our day to day, week to week. We know He is always with us, no matter where we are.

I challenge you, this 2015, to approach each day with the same anticipation which was there for Christmas. That we have an eagerness and expectation for our services, that we offer our songs of worship in open and honest praise, fully expecting Him to be there as we sing, pray, listen, stand there with our arms lifted high or are seated with our heads bowed. He is waiting here for us, He is always there, expectantly waiting for us. I pray we will be doing the same, as we sing, pray, and are silently there.

Waiting Here for You.

If faith can move the mountains

Let the mountains move

We come with expectation

Waiting here for You, waiting here for You

 

You’re the Lord of all creation

And still You know my heart

The Author of Salvation

You’ve loved us from the start

 

Waiting here for You

With our hands lifted high in praise

And it’s You we adore

Singing Alleluia

 

You are everything You’ve promised

Your faithfulness is true

And we’re desperate for Your presence

All we need is You

 

Singing Alleluia

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Written by Chris Tomlin, Martin Smith and Jesse Reeves 2011

Today is Beautiful

I’ve been home a couple of days with my middle daughter, Naomi. She’s been full of cold since the weekend, so we made a visit to the doctors today. Now I know it’s a cold, and she was getting a bit wheezy (hence the appointment), but we really weren’t quite prepared for “Congratulations Naomi, you’re the sickest patient I’ve seen this morning!” Turns out the cold is developing into a fever, and she also has a chest infection which has the beginnings of bronchitis. Lots of medicine on the way, and a few more days at home on the sofa with some good movies (currently watching Pirates of the Caribbean…I am trying to work…I am trying to work…).

This may be the strangest opening to a blog post ever (at least for me), but through all of the above (and the days which have preceded it), my Naomi has remained resilient, can’t wait to get back to school, and still has a big smile on her face. When I have a cold (and of course I’m talking proper Man Flu here), I just wallow in bed. (It is, thankfully, a rare occurrence in the Kerslake household).

This coming Sunday we continue with our Christmas series at EBC, Waiting Here for You. The tagline is “While we are waiting on God, we are waiting with God. God is there the whole time.” There are times in the waiting where you can start to think you’ve dropped off God’s radar. It’s easy to think you’ve fallen through the cracks, or even worse been completely forgotten by God. From your vantage point, there’s only silence. God has not forgotten you or His promise. If you feel like you can’t make it one more step, or if you’ve already stumbled and hit the floor, He is holding out His hand.

Today is Beautiful

This song by David Dunn sums it up. Today is Beautiful. Every day is beautiful. We all have good and bad days, moments we will remember forever and times which we will happily forget and try to lose in history. Interviews, exams, relationships and doctor’s appointments which don’t go the way we planned or expected. But wherever we’re at, and whatever we’re doing, we know we’re not doing it alone.

My Naomi has always had this positive streak running through her which is infectious, she sees the best in people and situations and smiles and jokes and plays through it. Even on a day like today when she’s struggling with an infection which would floor some people, the smile and enjoyment and happiness is still there. Every day is beautiful.

God is with us always.

Black and Gold

Do you ever have doubts? Thoughts about significance? Are you ever wondering what it’s all about, where you fit in. Just why me? I mean, the world is a big place. Just the other day I was in London for a meeting, off of Oxford Street. And if you ever want to get a sense of how big and busy the world is, and how small a cog you are in it all, Oxford Street is one of the best places to be! I had some time between meetings, and so took the opportunity to just sit back and people watch. (Do you ever do that? It’s not just me…is it?)There were hundreds and hundreds of people going about their business, all from different backgrounds, and many nationalities.

Sam Sparro burst into the charts with Black and Gold back in 2008, where it went to number 2 in the charts and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy (beaten by Daft Punk…). It is a brilliant electropop dance tune that appealed to me as soon as I heard it…I bought the album off of the back of the single (something I don’t usually do). But it is the lyrics that bear closer inspection; so often great tunes hide an otherwise slightly banal lyrical content…as Matt Redman has said before, pop songs often have limited content: I love you: I hate you: I miss you: Just Dance….etc. Black and Gold is something else.

‘Cause if you’re not really here
Then the stars don’t even matter
Now I’m filled to the top with fear
That it’s all just a bunch of matter
‘Cause if you’re not really here
Then I don’t want to be either
I wanna be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold

Personal Meanings

Now I know that lyrics can be intensely personal to those that hear them, and they are up for interpretation depending on who listens to them, and how they are internalised. The same song can mean many different things to different people. But Sparro was the son of a minister and has stated that the song was written about God…”I do like to have a faith about something that is bigger than me”. And if it needed further clarification, the second verse says:

I look up into the night sky
And see a thousand eyes staring back
And all around these golden beacons
I see nothing but black
I feel aware of something beyond them
I don’t see what i can feel
If vision is the only validation
Then most of my life isn’t real

This song speaks to me on so many levels…as a Christian that always wanted to be “zapped” by God, I’ve always struggled with the spiritual versus the tangible. Many years ago at a New Wine conference I prayed really hard during the celebration that I would get that experience, that I would have a defining touch or big kick from God so that I knew he was there! And it didn’t happen. But at the end of the celebration I received a gentle tap on my shoulder…and a man from a few rows back had a real sense that God had some verses for me, and he’d written them down.

Creation, Faith and Doubt

Creation, faith and doubt warrant much more than a short blog post…there are whole books devoted to the subjects and there are many of those. But as the last lines of the verse say, “If vision is the only validation, then most of my life isn’t real”. I believe there is more to life than the tangible world around me, it would take incredible faith to believe that we are here my some chemical accident leftover from the big bang, and evolution and creation, in my opinion, aren’t exclusive. And for as long as artists can create works like this song, it proves to me that artistry, especially music, is always more than a sequence of notes and an amalgam of rhythms. Musicians can always reach into something that is deeper than themselves, and no matter where they are on their journey of faith, the word spiritual is often used.

As an added bonus, here is Adele ably (and brilliantly) covering the song.

Just One More Thing

It’s been another busy weekend: my girls needed new glasses, Joel had a party, we had a great Sunday morning service celebrating and reviewing the time our teenagers spent at New Wine, and then the afternoon was taken up with clothes shopping (the girls have grown so much over the summer, nothing fits!) And yet another rehearsal squeezed into the evening!

I don’t know about you, but life is just busy these days…last week I had a leaders meeting, church meeting, staff meeting, worship team rehearsal, jazz band rehearsal. And on top of that there was my role as Dad’s Taxi, so we drove to and from beavers, piano and violin lessons, ballet and swimming with friends. And somewhere in between it all we worked, cooked, cleaned, showered, slept… All of this is important, most of this needs to be done, preferably not all in the same week (fortunately meetings are generally monthly so I do have time to shower at least three times a month….) But there is a stage when we just become busy without being productive, we run around so much and build up so much momentum, it is difficult to actually stop.

I read a great story about a professor who had a large jar which he filled with rocks, and then asked his class “is it full?” And some of them said yes, so he then poured in the gravel, which went in the gaps. And he asked the same question, “is it full?” So more of the class thought it was full….until he got out a bag of sand. Which filled the air gaps that were left, and by then the class were agreed that the jar was full, there was no more space. Then he poured in a glass of water… There is always space for more stuff, but at the expense of what?

Busyness

In our busyness of life, when there is so much going on, so much to do, pressure to be places and to achieve, it is often our praise and worship which are the first to go. I am old enough to remember when the shops were shut on a Sunday, church was the main event on a Sunday and the day was set aside as special…as in creation, the sabbath remained the sabbath. These days most shops are open on a Sunday, and are pushing for normal working hours. Church is no longer a Sunday requisite, and even regular church attenders and members often don’t come weekly…a trend which is replicated across the UK and the USA. Rather than Sunday Services being the thing that starts the week, they are becoming an also ran in competition with giant shopping centres, football matches and car boot sales….whatever becomes more attractive, or in a 24 hour seven day a week society, necessary when it is the only time to do these things.

This week we are continuing with our Story series at EBC, focusing on the book of Ezra. This book of the Old Testament looks at how the Israelites were restored from a long time in exile, as a tribe, as a community, and as God’s people. Chapter three, which is the section we are exploring on Sunday, tells of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem so the people were able to once again worship and celebrate, something they had neglected to do for a long time. They are so keen to worship, and put God back at the centre, they don’t even wait until the temple is finished.

Just One More Thing

This great song by Sara Groves looks at just that, as the chorus says:

Everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships
Are all you’re got

And love to me is when you put down
That one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
And love to me is when you walk out on
That one more thing and say
Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one more thing

Is church your just one more thing? Are your relationships just one more thing? Do you juggle your social calendar or work diary in order to squeeze in that just one more thing? Or is now the time to stop, take a step back, and start with the one thing which everything else revolves around?

I know I don’t do it often enough, how about you?