This week: reviving London, shampooing hair, teaching kids, avoiding burnout, burning matches


The weather in Edinburgh wasn't always this clear.

Don’t let anyone tell you Christianity is finished in the UK: Erasmus reports on what’s happening in London.

Shampooed hair can be made into great photos by Lo Cheuk Lun.

If you want to teach children the story of Christianity and not merely its morality, Ed Stetzer has some advice for you.

Adrian Wooldridge laments the influence of PPE degree courses in British politics.

How do you avoid burnout if you’re serving in a church, particularly as a leader? Paul Tripp gives eleven principles to keep you in the grace of God.

They’re sort of making a star in France: Alok Jha reports on the hope of future energy.

Talking of burnout and reactions, here’s my mate Dave Hill’s pyramid of matches...

A letter to our students with mid-term blues


I went to the Tollcross end of The Meadows knowing what I was going to see. Just as they do every year, crocuses have arrived and are bringing their colours to the drab greens, browns and greys of Edinburgh. It always happens, it always makes me hopeful: better weather is on its way.

There’s still a lot of winter still around though, isn’t there? The afternoons are less dark but your flats are still cold. This can be a tricky time. The excitement of Christmas has passed and the path to the warm delights of summer are taking you through the steep mountains of exams and assignments. You may also be experiencing tensions with the people you’re currently living with, or in your search for people to live with (and where you’ll live) next year. There are probably other things going on too that make this time of year feel like a dull, hard slog. It’s OK to feel this way, totally natural. I did. But don’t let this be the definitive word for you this term.

I’ve got great, if familiar, news for you: your strength is not enough, and it needn’t be the only strength you have. The Bible is full of people struggling and finding that God is willing and able to provide for their needs. Psalm 121 and Isaiah 40 are two places that tell us this; I’d encourage you to read them in full for yourself but here’s a summary of what they say:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
God knows that you are weak, fragile, fatigued – He’s not surprised or disappointed by that, even if you are. He knew this would happen and He has what you need at this time. The quote above describes the solution as: “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” How does this happen? God provides ways by which He supplies us with His strength. They are characterised here by the word “waiting” because they involve us relying on Him and not ourselves. I want to mention a few of them to you.

Spending time alone with God may be a struggle for some of you but I promise that this is a major way in which God does us good. Describing someone who studies God’s word diligently, Psalm 1 says: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” The Bible gives strength to us like water does to a tree. It might not be very spectacular but it does happen. Alongside reading the Bible, praying gives God the chance to shape your thoughts, and allows you to take your worries and frustrations to Him. Repenting of the things you’ve done wrong releases the cleansing power of God’s forgiveness. In all this, God’s Holy Spirit is able to move in you and on you, bringing you His presence, peace, and power.

God also does us good through other people – and He wants to use you to do others good as well. Your church family is where encouragement and love and wisdom are shared, as well as lots of food! Our Sunday meetings and small groups are where we help each other receive God’s strength. Worship and teaching do this. Sharing communion reminds us of what Jesus has done for us, and the real hope we have. Chatting with people can bless us, and meeting with a friend or two from church to confess weakness and pray for strength will also do you good.

If you aren’t making time for these things, don’t be surprised if you’re feeling vulnerable – you are missing out on what God has designed to be life-giving for you. Allowing other stuff (accidentally or otherwise) to get in the way of receiving what God has provided for strengthening you is like someone who is starving failing to attend a feast that they’ve been invited to.

These things – Bible reading, prayer, repentance, community, worship, teaching, the Spirit’s power – are the supernatural provision of God for His children’s strength to be renewed. The results may be amazing (“mount up with wings like eagles”) or just enough to get you through another day (“walk and not faint”). However God does it, He will do it.

There is also natural wisdom which you shouldn’t ignore. Good sleep, healthy food, and a bit of exercise will do your body good, and this will impact how you feel. God designed us to need a day’s Sabbath rest every week so don’t think that you’re an exception to this. Some people get energised by being around others, others need quality time by themselves: work out which of these types you are and make time to recharge in the way you need. I think there’s a difference between amusement and refreshment – the internet has a lot of the first but we need more of the second. Find things that refresh you and do them.

With all this to help, you’re now able to get God’s perspective on some of the things you’re going through. Here are some very brief summaries...

It helps to remember that you’re not working for yourself, your tutors, your parents, or anyone’s expectations:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Learning how to get on with others is an important life skill, and flat-sharing is one of the ways we learn it:
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18)
You will not stay faithful to God and to others unless you learn discipline. Nothing develops this like slogging through a hard time:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
This isn’t just about you. You have friends whose only hope currently is the coming summer – you have something much better than that. Ask God to use you to show them this:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
I hope that all of this will be helpful for you. I’m praying for you, confident that our loving Father will supply what you need. I know it feels hard right now but be encouraged: as the crocuses coming through the ground remind us, God is an expert at making life from mud.

Don't watch that, watch these



“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
(Ephesians 4:28-29)
Christians have a reputation for being against things. This is fair enough – the world is presently full of evil – but not far enough. As Paul told the Ephesians, ceasing from doing something wrong is only the beginning of the Christian journey. The thief not only stops robbing, he starts earning fairly – and this is so that he can give what he earns away, a complete transformation. Similarly, corrupting talk is not replaced with silence but with encouraging words.

As I read articles bemoaning Fifty Shades of Grey last week and pondered whether to write anything about it myself, one of things that stopped me was a nagging concern that my comments could only be negative. So let me instead suggest some good things to put before your eyes, rather than just advocating avoidance of the bad…

It’s already being marginalised in the cinemas but Selma is a good film telling a great story. Christians are likely to be astonished by how generously God is portrayed in it. Those who flocked to see “biblical” films such as Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings should pack out the theatres where Selma is being shown for it portrays the God of the Bible more accurately than either of those films. There has been much comment on the Academy’s decision not to nominate David Oyelowo for its Best Actor Oscar, but I suspect his subject would prefer to be in the Best Supporting Actor category. Although Martin Luther King’s character has greater depth than anyone else in the film, it is God who is repeatedly credited with leading the civil rights movement. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a film depict Christian faith so normally. There is no cynicism or mockery, and the faith of racists is not used as a counterpoint to undermine the significance of Christianity to the story, as it might easily have been. It is God’s Word which comforts King as he languishes in jail, it is God’s leading after prayer that causes him to make an unpopular decision which is ultimately vindicated, it is Christian ministers who fight fairly for justice (weak and sinful though they are), and it is God who is explicitly given the glory as the story concludes.

Faith is one of several volcanic undercurrents in Wolf Hall, the BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels about Henry VIII’s advisor Thomas Cromwell. I’ve been watching each episode twice: first for the story, second to appreciate the themes and details, both times for enjoyment. I haven’t loved a TV show this much since The West Wing. Life for Cromwell and almost everyone else here is lived on the edge of an axe blade, fraught and ever at risk from the hurricane of a king’s will. For a story so familiar and far away, Wolf Hall feels remarkably real. Scenes are set like Renaissance paintings (literally when we see Holbein making Cromwell’s portrait), and lit only by sunlight and candles, as they would have been. Mantel told the director to remember that no-one in it knows that they’re in history: they are people wearing clothes, not characters wearing costumes. Close-ups abound – we are with them. As in the novels, explanations are not always given and the action can feel disorienting. It takes its time. In other words, it’s like real life. All of this is excellent, but is eclipsed by Mark Rylance as Cromwell. He and Mantel have made their man a Machiavelli we might cheer for, jousting without a lance, on the rise but always at risk of being destroyed in a society that isn't yet our meritocracy but is slowly, grudgingly, moving that way. The best at living on that axe’s edge, he is a lawyer, a fighter, a Renaissance man, a believer, a pragmatist, an avenger, a servant, a master, an awkward father, a scarred son, a lover, a widow, a hunter, the prey, an ally, an enemy - often several of these at once. Rylance can show you which by the angle of an eyebrow, or an intake of breath. It’s an astonishing performance.

No doubt there are many other good things around to be received and appreciated but these are two that I am particularly grateful for.

This week: sunsets, ISIS, thinking slowly, more words for "tree", whose Premier League, dolls transformed



Edinburgh has been having some good sunsets recently.

Should Christians pray for the defeat of ISIS, or their salvation? Russell Moore says yes.

Social media makes many of us think that we need to have an instant opinion on everything. Alissa Wilkinson challenges us to take more time before we speak.

Lucy Purdy suggests that learning more words for "tree" could help us appreciate nature more.

The English Premier League isn't really England's any more, says Jonathan Freedland.

Finally, what if Bratz dolls got a make-under? The difference is remarkable...

This week: criticising, Crusades, creation, counter-culture

We flew into London City Airport, which was as spectacular as always.

Christians often talk about being "counter-cultural" and Matthew Lee Anderson isn't sure how helpful this is.

Justin Taylor uses the Bible itself to explain why the "days" in the Genesis account of creation might not be days.

The real story of the Crusades is told by Thomas F. Madden.

If you're going to criticise, do it well. Maria Popova shares Daniel Dennett's four tips for doing this.

English is full of idioms but it doesn't have a monopoly on them: Helene Batt and Kate Torgovnick May list some of the best from around the world

Finally, is true love just for a lucky few?

 

To wonder


We took off – which is a wonder itself, of course. However solid the physics may be, aviation should surely feel barely-credible. But it’s when you get up there that the magic really happens; or rather, can be perceived. It’s regular magic, as regular as the rising of the sun, which was occurring on my left hand side. Seated on the right of the plane, I stared out of the window like a child. I think this is the best way to fly. Fellow-passengers watched films on their phones or typed reports on their laptops; I saw the moon shine on the sea as the earliest rays of the sun brought colour to snow-covered hills. The grainy photo above does not do it justice. It was a scene that should astonish, and I let myself be astonished.

I love wonder: wide-eyed joy at the state of things. I have had many teachers. My parents are great celebrators, delighting in delighting. John Piper – following C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, George Müller, and the Westminster Confession – showed me in Desiring God that delighting in God was the greatest good: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I didn't have to finish the book to get the point, and have lived happily with it for a decade or so. Before I go to sleep I usually write down the things that I'm thankful to God for from that day.

Wide-eyed joy doesn’t make us blind to suffering, unsympathetic or insensible to the shocking horrors and routine tragedies of our present infected age. But it does refuse to let them have the final word. For one thing, the thrill of discovery and improvement can be motivated by wonder. For another, I don’t believe that sadness is the conclusion we are headed for, or that disappointment is the definitive nature of things. The universe belongs to God: He sets its tone, and He is full of joy (Psalm 16:11, Luke 10:21, Galatians 5:22, et. al.). Broken though it currently is, He is in the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5), This is truth which should be received with wonder, and encourages its cultivation.

We seem very good at spotting what’s wrong. Almost everything that happens on the internet can be fitted in to a common timeline: discovery – celebration – fault-find – discard. Undoubtedly there are abundant faults and foolishness, but the relish with which these perfectly obvious problems are found out – human being acts selfishly shocker, etc. – seems out of all proportion to the significance of the discovery. It’s as if politicians in election season are our model. There is certainly a place for criticism when the emperor really has no clothes on, but I’m not sure that’s fitting as our default outlook. Look for the good and say “Wow”, a word whose very mechanics of pronunciation feel appropriate as we almost inhale the goodness.

I’m writing this as the sun glints off the plane’s wing, just before we plunge into a cloud, whereupon the sights of London will greet us. London: proud, unjust, bloated, but worth a “Wow” as well, I think. As are the clouds above it and the people in it. "Wow" and then, "Thank You."

“Earth's crammed with heaven,And every common bush afire with God,But only he who sees takes off his shoes;The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

 

This week: Stephen Fry, manure, money, PC gone mad


I danced and took photos (not simultaneously) at the King's Church ceilidh.

Of the many, many things that have been written about Stephen Fry's rant at God, I've chosen just three for you. Krish Kandiah and Pete Greig follow Proverbs' advice that "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (15:1). Tim Stanley is rather more caustic. My main thought on the whole thing (apart from wondering why I didn't join in all the writing) is pleasure that British Christians have responded eloquently and confidently, which would not not always have been the case.

When Revelation 21:1 says that there will be no more sea, is that really what it means? Dennis Johnson explains why there's hope for surfers in the goodness to come.

With some very strong language at the end, Nick Cohen argues that politically correct censorship defeats itself.

The magic in manure is explored by Richard Fortey.

Steve Tibbert gives a church leader's perspective on how to handle money.

Finally, what does it mean to be human? Maybe you can help answer that...

A quest for a tunnel, and beyond

One of my favourite cycling routes in Edinburgh involves a lap of Holyrood Park / Arthur's Seat. The long upwards incline is a struggle (I was once overtaken by a jogger) rewarded with breathtaking views (though I usually have little breath left at that point) and a sweeping slope back down again.

Considering this route for yesterday's ride I looked over the Spokes cyclists' map of Edinburgh and realised that on my many journeys to Holyrood I had unknowingly ridden over a tunnel that was part of the cycle network: the Innocent Railway Tunnel. Not entirely sure how I had managed this (although Edinburgh's ups and downs conceal a multitude of secrets), I decided to try to find it. After a couple of false turns in the intimate roads and residents' parking zones of East Parkside, there it was.

Stopping suddenly to take this photo I nearly invited a collision with a rider close behind me. My speed was soon similar to his as the smooth tarmac and my road tyres gripped each other and sent me racing along. The only thing that slowed me down was a desire to take more photos and get my bearings, worked out by considering the angle of the shoulders of Arthur's Seat from where I now was. A display board told me that the Innocent Railway was so called because it initially didn't use "dangerous" steam locomotives but was pulled by horses. A pheasant watched me as I read.

One small adventure completed, I carried on for more. Trusting that National Cycle Route 1 could not see me far wrong, I continued for several miles. Edinburgh has many photogenic locations but I was not in one now. The presence of water to the right of the path meant several small parks had been made to accommodate this block on building, whilst rudimentary geometric housing to accommodate the rest of us loomed on my left.

Further human intervention filled the water way too. Whilst noting another subaquatic shopping trolley, I saw a flash of white feathers. A bird I didn't recognise was perched in the stream, brown of hood and wing but with a bold white bib. Of course it resisted my advances to photograph it close up and skipped along the water, pausing only to give me false encouragement that I would be able to get nearer next time. Later research revealed that this was a Dipper.

On the path went, over and through the inappropriately-named Jewel and other places whose names I only vaguely recognised. On reaching a road crossing with a sign welcoming me to Edinburgh I decided I'd gone far enough and dutifully turned up a hill that promised to take me to the city centre. A glimpse to my right changed my mind. Boldly blue and enticingly close: the sea. Down a couple of side roads and I was in Edinburgh's beach district, Joppa and Portobello. Gangs of white gulls and smaller collections of oystercatchers with their orange blazes contrasted with the deep bright blue. I loved Edinburgh some more and thanked God for letting me live here.

The way home was now obvious and direct, uphill and into the wind. A price well worth paying for an unknown tunnel, an unseen bird, and the familiar joys of an extinct volcano and the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A brief and selective history of Christians loving their neighbours.

This is from some research I was doing as part of my preparation for a preach on God's care for the poorGod works in His people so that He can work through them. This is true in many different ways, including caring for those in need. The Bible shows us that from the Old Testament into the New, generosity and compassion were defining characteristics of God’s people. This has continued ever since…

Aristides of Athens, 125AD: “They do not despise the widow or grieve the orphan. He that has distributes liberally to him that has not… And if there is among them any man who is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast for two or three days so that they may supply the needy with the food they need.”

John Ortburg, Who Is This Man?: “The Council of Nyssa [Fourth Century] decreed that wherever a cathedral existed, there must be a hospice, a place of caring for the sick and poor.” This continued throughout the spread of Christianity across Europe, and often included centres of education as well.

Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor who tried to reverse the gains Christianity had made, 361AD: “It is disgraceful that while the impious Galileans support both their own poor and ours as well, everyone sees that our people lack aid from us.”

The practice of infanticide by exposure, which was common in the Roman Empire, was challenged and eventually outlawed by Christian influence, beginning with Christians rescuing the abandoned babies (often girls).

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536: “The Lord commands us to do ‘good to all men,’ universally, a great part of whom, estimated according to their own merits, are very undeserving; but here the Scripture assists us with an excellent rule, when it inculcates, that we must not regard the intrinsic merit or men, but must consider the image of God in them, to which we owe all possible honour and love… Whoever, therefore, is presented to you that needs your kind offices, you have no reason to refuse him your assistance.”

Jonathan Edwards, 18th Century: “It is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away one that is.”

Western colonialism of the 16th to 19th Centuries perpetrated many evils, and too many Christians collaborated with this, but research is emerging which shows that “Areas where [independent] Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, great literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental organisations.” (Christianity Today, January 2014)

William Wilberforce and the “Clapham sect” of evangelicals spearheaded the fight to abolish the transatlantic slave trade.

In the 19th Century, “ragged schools” were founded by Christians to give free basic education to poor street children.

Thomas Barnado taught at these schools, as well as preaching the gospel beneath Edinburgh Castle and elsewhere, and founding hostels for homeless children. By his death there were 96 of them caring for 8,000 children.

Around the same time, the Salvation Army was campaigning for better wages for workers, helped women out of prostitution, and opened a match factory in 1891 to help match-sellers who had previously only been able to use toxic materials, paying them double.

At the level of national policy, Lord Shaftesbury pushed bills through parliament to improve workers’ conditions.

The Victorian Prime Minister William Gladstone and his wife were known to search the streets of London for prostitutes in order to take them to safe houses.

Compassion’s child sponsorship program is producing provable results: “sponsorship makes children 27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education… when the child grows up, he is 14 to 18 percent more likely to obtain a salaried job, and 35 percent more likely to obtain a white-collar job.” (Christianity Today, June 2013)

Begun in 1983, Bethany Christian Trust now supports 6,000 homeless and vulnerable people in Scotland, from urgent assistance to long-term care and development.

Justice and Care has rescued hundreds of people from people trafficking and sex slavery in Asia, as well as bringing criminal prosecutions and training police officers and community leaders.

This week: MLK, Magna Carta, climbing, hope, teaching kids, space

If you read nothing else here, read Martin Luther King's letter from a Birmingham jail and marvel at how well he makes his righteous case.

The Government's event to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta has made Peter Oborne very, very angry. Though the barons who forced King John to agree it would probably have sided the people Oborne attacks, his point is still valid.

Andrew Bisharat reports on the successful attempt to climb a very big and difficult rock face. The two previous links should serve to temper the article headline's use of the word "historic" (as should common sense).

There's a lot wrong with the world and, as Philip Yancey reminds us, a lot that's being made right.

If you're trying to teach your kids theology, Aaron Earls has five brief suggestions.

The BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall started this week. It's a slow but faithful-to-the-book start, and the chemistry between Mark Rylance (Thomas Cromwell) and Damien Lewis (Henry VIII) at the end is worth the wait.

I preached on Galatians 1:13-24, "Free from a destructive lifestyle."

Finally, here's a video of the largest photo ever taken, NASA's 1.5 billion-pixel image of the Andromeda Galaxy. NB. "He also made the stars." (Genesis 1:16)

 

This week: hope in France, evangelicals in Russia, you in the election, rain in Edinburgh


The weather in Edinburgh is pretty brutal right now, the wind keeps shoving me around.

What has been happening in France recently is horrible and I'm not sure what can be helpfully written about it. So in contrast, here's an account by Maggie Fergusson of how one man's faith has brought hope to many people there.

With the UK's general election lumbering towards us, Gillan Scott issues a challenge for Christians to get involved and the Evangelical Alliance have a whole website's worth of resources to help with that.

The Christian response to politics in Russia is reported by Mark R. Elliott.

A typical night in Accident and Emergency as reported by a senior doctor sounds pretty dreadful.

The many shows that The Simpsons has been are described by Lightning Louie (possibly a pseudonym). They might have made more of the baleful influence of Family Guy but they do a good job is explaining why it isn't (or can no longer be) the wonder it once was.

Finally, what if being ordinary is more important to Jesus than trying to change the world?



This week: successful marriages, thinking clearly, Facebook nonsense, a leap second


We went to a wedding whose ceilidh was briefly kind-of heart-shaped.

If "thinking more clearly" is on your list of aims for 2015, turning down the digital noise in your life will probably help. Matt Simmonds gives some good suggestions for making this happen.

If "reading the Bible" is also on the list (good choice), David Mathis has some great advice on how to do this. A load of other practical tips are also available from me, and John Piper's Look At The Book could help you too.

And if "have a long and happy marriage" is on that list too, Emily Esfahani Smith reports on research which shows that "kindness" is what you need the most. As the person who pointed this out to me noted, kindness is one of the "fruits of the Spirit" listed in the Bible (Galatians 5:22), the kind of thing that God grows in you as you co-operate with Him.

There's still time to invite your MP to get involved in ending religious persecution.

Talking of time, James Vincent explains why we're getting an extra second this year, and how that could confuse a lot of machines.

You know when people put that thing on Facebook about having copyright over their photos and stuff? Gareth Rubin says it's nonsense.

Finally, Psalms sung in Gaelic, a cappella? Incredible...

Camera for sale


UPDATE: It's been sold!

Exciting news for me: I’m getting a new camera. Exciting news for you: you could be too!

After five years of faithful service, I’m replacing my Nikon D3000 camera (full specifications, brochure). It's a Digital SLR camera, which means that even though it’s an entry-level device, it will be a big step up for you if you’ve only used your phone or a pocket camera before. You’ll be able to control a lot more of the processes that go into taking a photo, and the camera mechanics will be bigger than what you’ve had before, which should result in better quality photos. My iPhone 5S takes good photos and is very convenient, but the D3000 is what I take when I want to bring great images back with me.

As well as the camera body, I’m including the 18-55mm lens which came with it, which gives you a good amount of zoom, and does that nice blurry background thing that makes portraits and arty close-ups look so good. It's great for both people and places. There’s a timer system so you can set up the shot and then run into it. The camera has a built-in Guide mode in the settings to walk you through all its features. (There are online guides to DSLR photography for beginners too.) The 4GB SD memory card which I'm also including will plug into almost any computer, and there are many free image-editing software packages available online if you want to make extra tweaks. I'll even give you a good-quality, hardly-used padded camera bag for it. There are a a few negatives: it doesn’t take video, you can’t use the screen on the back to compose your photos, and it struggles in dark settings when you don’t want to use the flash.

It was given a rating of 72% on its launch by Digital Photography Review, 86% by What Digital Camera, and 9/10 by Trusted Reviews. Of course it’s five years old so there’s a lot more up-to-date technology out there but if you’re not sure how much you want to get into photography I think this is a good place to start. Because it’s part of Nikon’s huge range, you can get other equipment for it which you can then transfer to another camera. I’m doing that with the couple of lenses, remote control, lens filters, tripod, and extra flash gun that I've bought in the last five years and can keep using with my new D5300.

Pretty much everything here is in a good condition and the rechargeable batteries will last for years (there are two of them, so you’ll never be caught short). There is a slight scuff and a small scratch on the back screen but apart from that it’s clean.

The D3000 with 18-55mm lens is available on Ebay for between £100 and £200. I’m looking for about £95 for the camera, lens, memory card, bag and everything else. If you’re interested, please get in touch.

Full list of stuff:

  • Nikon D3000 camera
  • Nikkor 18-55mm VR lens
  • SanDisk 4GB SD memory card
  • LowePro Rezo TLZ 20 camera bag
  • 2 original Nikon batteries, and mains charger
  • Original Nikon camera strap
  • Manual

Here are some of the photos I’ve taken with it, so you can see what it’s capable of...

 
 
 
 

 

MPs and religious persecution


"So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Galatians 6:10
That verse alone is enough to convince Christians that the suffering of their fellow-believers is their concern. Praying for them is essential, and so should be giving any other available support. With national newspapers and significant political figures bringing more attention to the suffering of Christians around the world, now is a great time to involve our local MPs.

Open Doors, the charity founded by "God's Smuggler" Brother Andrew, works with the persecuted church around the world, and advocates for freedom from persecution. On 20th January they will be presenting their latest report, Freedom of Religion and the Persecution of Christians, to MPs at the House of Commons. They promise that "this report will highlight the dynamics of persecution and is the perfect opportunity to equip MPs with the information they need to meaningfully engage with the issue of religious freedom". You can invite your MP to attend here.

Christmas Light



The video above is a poem by Jennifer Rawson, set to music by Stu Kennedy, filmed and edited by George Gibson. It was made for our church's carol service, after which I gave a talk about Christmas...

There are loads of things that make us feel like Christmas has started: advent calendars, John Lewis trying to make you cry, Christmas songs on the radio and in the shops, watching Elf, The Snowman, It’s A Wonderful Life, or whatever seasonal viewing is your favourite, wearing a festive jumper and/or a cracker crown… The list is seemingly endless of annual moments that make us think, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

The irony of Christmas being associated with so many repetitive things, which make us think about it in terms of ‘here it comes again,’ is that the event itself wasn’t at all like that. Rather than being regular and familiar, it was a dramatic intervention:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shone... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end...” (Isaiah 9:2,6-7)
Whenever in the year Jesus of Nazareth was actually born, it makes plenty of sense to celebrate His birth in the depths of winter, when we feel like we’re dwelling in a land of deep darkness. But we could be in South Africa or Australia in 30-degree heat and the description of our world as “dark” would still ring true. Any summary of the year’s news that you see will be full of darkness, and if this is true for us as a species, it’s also true for us as individuals. Christmas is also often the time of year when many of us audit how we’re doing – and unless you had a very low standard to start with, or you have very high self-esteem, the likelihood is that your assessment will be along the lines of “could do better.”

Now it might seem that by dwelling on this, I have strayed far from the Spirit of Christmas. Surely it’s a time for being as cheerful as possible, for forgetting all the mess. But actually the true spirit of Christmas is to recognise the mess, acknowledge the wrongdoing, see the darkness, and cry out for light.

This is why Christians celebrate: Not because they need cheering up but because healing came to our brokenness, hope came to despair, light came to darkness: Jesus came to us. “Light of the World” is one of His many titles. The four descriptions we just read tell us something about what this means:
  • Wonderful Counsellor. He is with us, guiding us when we don’t know the way, giving us wisdom when we’re desperate and don’t know what to do.
  • Mighty God. He is strong when we are weak, and as both God and man, He bridges the divide that our wrongdoing has caused between us and Him.
  • Everlasting Father. He is faithful and loving unlike any other relationship we’ve known.
  • Prince of Peace. He is secure, even when everything seems chaotic, and He shares His assurance with us, and will one day bring an end to all conflict.
In these and many other ways, Jesus brings light into darkness. Please notice, it’s God who does this. Christmas is His intervention, not our invention: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light... on them light has shone.” This is the Christian message, that God has come to get involved with us. Jesus is God’s help to us: bringing light to our darkness.

That is has been my daily experience this year, and for many other people I know. He has forgiven us, reconciled us to Himself and each other. He guides us with His counsel, strengthens us with His power, loves us faithfully, brings peace to our chaos. And that’s why we love to celebrate Christmas again and again: because it reminds us that God has come into our lives and stayed with us. This is the wonderful offer He makes to everyone.