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From Cranmer, his commenters and some disturbing web research:

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Woman marries fairground ride

woman marries ride

 

“I love him as much as women love their husbands and know we’ll be together forever.”

 

In other news:

Woman Marries Dolphin

dolphin marriage

Dressed in a white dress, a veil and pink flowers in her hair, Sharon Tendler got down on one knee on the dock and gave Cindy a kiss. And a piece of herring.  "It's not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He's the love of my life," she said

 

Woman marries Berlin Wall

mrs berlin wall

"The Great Wall of China's attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier."

While the rest of mankind rejoiced when the Wall, erected by the Soviets in 1961 to halt an exodus from East to West Berlin, was largely torn down in 1989, its "wife" was horrified.

She's never been back and now keeps models depicting "his" former glory.

She said: “What they did was awful. They mutilated my husband."

She is said to have shifted her affections to a nearby garden fence.

 

Woman Marries Eiffel Tower

eiffel-tower-marry

 

Erika La Tour Eiffel, 37, a former soldier who lives in San Francisco, has been in love with objects before. Her first infatuation was with Lance, a bow that helped her to become a world-class archer, she is fond of the Berlin Wall and she claims to have a physical relationship with a piece of fence she keeps in her bedroom.  But it is the Eiffel Tower she has pledged to love, honour and obey in an intimate ceremony attended by a handful of friends.

 

Man marries dog

India Man Weds Dog

The wedding took place at a Hindu temple in Tamil Nadu state. The "bride" wore an orange sari with a flower garland and was fed a bun to celebrate. Superstitious people in rural India sometimes organise weddings to animals in the hope of warding off curses.

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The point here is not to make fun of those who clearly struggle with deep issues.  We all would want to help these people.  But our first thoughts as to how to help them would not, I suggest, be to 'normalize' these unions as healthy and legitimate marriages.

The point here is our definition of marriage.  Are these 'marriages'?  If not - then let London Mayor, Boris Johnson's logic compel you:.

"If gay marriage was OK - and I was uncertain on the issue - then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog."

 

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41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on."  (Mark 12:41-44)

The way we usually carry on you'd imagine that Jesus watches the collection plate like a hawk, biting His nails to the quick, hoping against hope that we'll give enough to finance His kingdom aspirations.  That's basically how we think anyway.

But Jesus is not like that.  Actually He's watching us.  He's not bothered about what we throw in so much as what we hold back.  For Him it's not the amount but the sacrifice that counts.  Because - honestly - He's not on edge waiting to see whether His gospel agenda is financially viable.  He's interested in the givers not the gift.

I was once staying with some millionaires in the States.  They had a massive house, massive swimming pool, even a man-made lake stocked with fish.  They called it a pond.  It wasn't.  It was a lake.  My friend was also staying there and one night I wondered aloud to him how much the kingdom would benefit if they gave their wealth away.  My friend was wiser.  He said 'Maybe.  But if they gave away more of their money, the real benefit would be for them.'

Jesus is not watching the missions giving fund.  He's watching the givers.  That's where His real concern lies.

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17

bubblebath

Sermon Audio Click Here

How do you think of 1 Corinthians 13?  Is it a warm, relaxing bubble bath?  Does it make you forget your cares and give you the warm fuzzies?

antiseptic

I'm here to tell you, this chapter is not a bubble bath.  It’s a scalding hot bath full of antiseptic!

And we are covered in cuts and bruises and deep wounds.  And 1 Corinthians 13 hurts.  It hurts!

That’s the kind of wake-up call Paul wanted the Cornithians to have.  No Corinthian read this chapter and thought, ‘How sweet!.  They thought ‘Yikes!  I am in deep, deep trouble here.’

There are three paragraphs in this chapter.  Paragraph 1 will put the fear of God into us, paragraph 2 will make us despair of ourselves, but only then will paragraph 3 give us some hope.

There’s hope in the end, but Paul wants us to soak long and hard in some painful truths.

Listen here.  Or keep reading...

...continue reading "1 Corinthians 13 sermon"

What's wrong with solo sex?

Here CCEF has an 11 minute podcast on masturbation.  While there are some good points (like husbands prefering solo-sex to talking to their wives about the bedroom), it takes that age-old evangelical line: the problem's all in the mind.

Have you ever heard the line, "If you can do it thinking about a brick, go for your life"?  I hear people giving this advice all the time.  As though the problem was simply one of fantasies.  And as though the body doesn't really matter.

Of course in the event of an affair I've yet to hear of a spouse placated by the line 'It's alright honey I was thinking of you all along.'  So why this uncritical assumption that the body's not really important, it's the thoughts that count?

Let me state my position - you can discuss it:

The physical acting out of solo-sex is as damaging as any mental fantasy that may or may not accompany it. 

Masturbation is the very incarnation of homo incurvatus in se (man (or woman) curved in on himself (or herself)) - which simply is the essence of sin.  It is to enact an anti-gospel / anti-Christ proclamation.  It is the blasphemous dramatization of Christ remaining in heaven to please Himself or the church closed to her Lord but indulging her own desires.  It is taking an inherently mutual and other-centred activity and perverting it into self-adoration and self-service.  

In all this, I haven't begun to consider the fantasies that may or may not attend masturbation.  This is simply a consideration of the physical act of solo-sex.  In and of itself it is an anti-gospel proclamation.  In an of itself it is an indulgence of and encouragement to selfishness, closing us off from Christ and others.  This alone makes masturbation wrong. 

I just don't understand a position that says - "Do it with your body but beware your thought life." 

To think that the body does not matter is to adopt a position completely opposite to Scripture.  The body is not an amoral zone.  The body is the very battleground between the old realm of Adam and the in-breaking realm of the Spirit.  Yes our minds need renewing (Rom 12:1) and this is the well-spring of our transformation.  But the flesh is not therefore neutral.  Quite the opposite.  Our Adamic bodies are precisely the root of our problems until resurrection and precisely the context of our discipleship.  Bringing our bodies into subjection to Christ is a massive biblical theme (cf Rom 5-8!).  

So why do we miss it in so much evangelical spirituality?  You know... the same evangelical spirituality that rarely or barely touches on the wallet or the wardrobe or diet.  The same spirituality that's neurotically suspicious of the sacraments.  That same spirituality that never teaches on fasting, let along practices it? 

What lies have we swallowed to believe that discipleship is only in the mind?

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Continued from here.

Where do we draw the line though?  Is Paul infinitely flexible? Just a chameleon with no integrity?  No, look at those brackets in v21:

21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.

Paul is not just all spin and no substance. Even when Paul enters deeply into another culture there is still something ruling Paul.  He says he’s not free from God’s law but he uses a wonderful phrase to describe his relationship to Christ.  He is in-lawed by Christ.  Not that Christ is like the in-laws – that would not be good!  But it’s the idea of Paul kind of sunk down into Christ who is Paul’s law.  Christ Himself is the ruling authority in Paul’s life – Christ has en-law-ed Paul.  So Paul has not just cast off every rule and authority “Hey – all things to all men – whatever man!”  Instead he is ruled, he has a centre, he has integrity.  It’s Jesus.  It’s the Jesus who hung out with prostitutes and publicans and sinners.  But it’s the Jesus who never sinned in those circumstances.

Which means Paul could never say ‘I became a drug dealer in order to win drug dealers.’   ‘I became a drug user to win drug users.’  Or ‘I became sex worker to win sex workers.’  But it will mean some people saying ‘I hang out with drug dealers and drug users to win drug dealers and drug users.’  ‘I hang out with sex workers to win sex workers.’

There’s flexibility, but there’s also faithfulness.

But why Paul?  Why go through all of this??  It’s so much easier to stick with people like us.

We’re not even aware of how strongly we just gravitate towards people like us.  When we’ve walked into a room we’ve assessed the people there in a nanosecond and we gravitate immediately to people like us.  Without even thinking about it, we strike up a conversation with people our age, our race, our tax bracket, our sense of humour, our fashion sense.  We’ve made those calculations at the speed of thought, and we slot into cliques with ‘people like us’.  Because – we crave acceptance, we deeply want to belong and it’s exhausting crossing social and cultural boundaries.

So how does Paul do it?

23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

I read another translation of this verse which I think is a bit better.  “That I may be a CO-sharer in the gospel.” Paul shares in the blessings of the gospel.  He has the right to be God’s child.  But he doesn’t want to enjoy this blessing on his own.  He wants other CO-sharers.  He wants other children around him.

And that’s the prize he speaks about in v24.  In v25 he calls it ‘the crown’ – we might call it the gold medal.  The prize Paul is interested in is having MANY other people share in the gospel blessings with him.  In Philippians (4:1) Paul calls his fellow believers his joy and crown.  And in 1 Thessalonians (2:19) he says this:

[SLIDE]

19For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? 20Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

Paul’s vision of the future is not just sitting down at the great feast with Jesus and no-one else.  His vision is sitting down at the feast in the new creation enjoying the presence of Jesus WITH the Philippians and the Thessalonians and the Corinthians and with as many other people as possible.  That’s a crown worth working for.  That’s a prize that can get you excited.  And so Paul tells us how this prize motivates him.

 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Do you know how much training it takes to run a marathon?  Frankly I don’t want to know.  Cos it aint happening?  I’m out of breath just brushing my teeth.  But I looked up a few training regimes this week.  And they seem to vary between 14 and 23 weeks.  And at some point you’re running 75 miles in a week.  Even if I did nothing else, there are not enough days in a week for me to run 75 miles.  Where do they find the time?  I read one 14 week regime it said: Week one, day one: Run 6 miles.  I need a 14 week regime just to get me to that!  By day 7 of week one it said: Run 13-15 miles.  You’re running a half-marathon by the end of your first week.  I thought ‘That’s a bit extreme’ and then I realised that this was the training regime for someone who wants to run the marathon in under 3 hours. 

But actually this is the kind of regime that Paul’s talking about because, v24, we run in such a way as to get the prize.  In v24, Paul’s not saying ‘There’s only one spot in heaven, I’ll race you!’  He’s saying the way we seek to win others for Christ is not like a fun run.  It’s not a saunter in the park.  It’s a competitive sub-3 hour marathon regime.  And when you’re on this regime you watch your diet like a hawk, you eliminate virtually everything else from your diary and your life is taken over by running. 

But you know what?  If you are obsessed enough about running a sub-3 hour marathon, your whole life will be brought into line.  If the crown is in mind, if the medal is in mind, if the finishing line is in mind, you’ll find that you have the most amazing self-discipline.  Unnecessary stuff gets squeezed out and you’ll do it with zeal because you’re looking to the prize.

Read verses 22-23 again:

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Paul wants to sit down with Christ in the new creation.  And next to him is that Philippian jailor he converted.  And the Jewish business woman Lydia.  And that demon possessed slave girl he met.  When Paul was in Philippi he was flexible enough to reach all of them – you can read about it in Acts 16.  But there they’ll be the Jail warden, the well-to-do Jewish business woman and the demon possessed slave girl.  (Ex-demon possessed).  They’ll all be feasting together.  What a prize!  And opposite Paul will be the very religious Jews he met at the synagogue and across from them the very clever Greek philosophers he converted in Athens, and next to them will be some Corinthians who chapter 6 told us were once sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexual offenders, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers.  They’ll all be there because the Gospel is big enough to meet and change all of them – and Paul was Christ-like enough to be flexible.

Who do you want to sit down with on that day?  Jesus’ blood has paid for every tribe, language, people and tongue.  Who’s going to reach them?  Who’s going to reach Eastbourne?  Well – we are.  That is, if we abandon our entitlement spirit.  If we stop insisting on hoarding time and money and comfort?  If we stop sauntering along like a fun run, or like a shadow boxer.  There is a race to run and a prize to win.  Thank Jesus that we can partake in this great work.  And ask Him now for help to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed so we can run well.

PRAY

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The history of redemption according to Galatians 3:

NOT...

OT law 1

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INSTEAD...

OT law 2

Dave reminded me of this talk on OT law.  These diagrams may help explain it a bit.

And here's the tabernacle:

Tabernacle

And remember:

When there is a change in the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.  (Heb 7:12)

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Those two things aren't the same you know.  But often we forget that.  Especially as we try to live in community.  I mean, think about it - what helps our Christian communities function? 

Surely we get along because we all play nice, right?  Empowered by the gospel of course.  We have to add that caveat.  But now that it's added we settle down to the real glue for any community: being nice.  When people are nice, communities flourish.  When people are not nice communities fall apart.  This is obvious.

Just look at Colossians 3:12

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Yep.  See?  Be nice.  Be nice and everyone will get along.  Cover over all that nastiness with sweetness.  Or polite reserve.  Or effusive flattery.  Whatever you do, don't be nasty.  The minute someone's nasty, it's over.

Really?

Well that would be the case if we were a part of any natural community.  What did Jesus say?  Pagans love those who love them.  (Matt 5:46-47).  You don't need the Holy Spirit to do that.  You don't need the supernatural grace of God.  You don't need a new heart of flesh to be nice. 

So what's going to mark supernatural communities?

Look at how Colossians 3 continues...

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Col 3:13)

Natural communities don't have this.  At the first hint of nastiness, natural community fractures.  But for Christians nastiness is an opportunity.  Here's where we truly show ourselves to be the people of Jesus.  We forgive.

Many people think nastiness ends Christian community.  The gospel says nastiness is where Christian community begins.

What about blogging?  A million blogs can be nice.  It doesn't make them Christian.  Now may Jesus deliver us from nasty Christian blogs.  Please Lord!  But niceness is not the cure.  Many may think they have a Christian blog because everyone is nice.  That doesn't make it Christian.  It's Christian if it answers nastiness with cruciform love.

We must bear with each other.  Forgive.  Show mercy towards opponents.  Die to self.  Crucify our own need to prove ourselves.  Answer harsh words with gentleness (Prov 15:1).  That's where Christian community begins

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And lo, having spoken thus, He didst ascend from the mount before their eyes.  And He spake unto them saying, "Remember this that I have taught you."

And lo, angels didst appear saying, "Why doth ye lookest into the sky?  He hath given to thee thy programme of reform..."

Instead there's an unclean wretch who runs to the LORD of Israel even in His uncleanness.  And He is cleansed, healed, restored.

Oh, and then there's that whole death and resurrection thing too.

Might be important.

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I'm hearing this saying doing the rounds in sermons etc:

"Soft words make hard people, hard words make soft people."

The implication being - therefore speak hard words.

Well.  Maybe.  And maybe Proverbs 15:1

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Let's not forget how this dynamic usually plays out:  Hard words produce hard speakers.  And hard speakers produce hard people.

I mean, if the saying just meant 'call a spade a spade' and 'straight talking reaches the heart' then that'd be grand.  I'm just not so keen on justifying 'hard words' per se.  To use them for their softening ability seems like the myth of violence applied to speech.

Allow this to be a gentle word on the matter.  I wonder what kind of commenters it will produce...

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7

Turning the other cheek is the very nature of Jesus' posture towards us.  It defines His way.  This is true in the OT as much as the New.

It is a response to being wronged.  (Note that being sued and forced labour are the parallel cases in Matt 5:40,41 - it's not just about non-violence, it's about our posture towards any and every kind of assault).

When you are wronged the natural response is either retaliation or retreat.  You either strike back or shrink away.  Jesus commands an entirely different response - standing firm in meekness.  Offering the other cheek effectively says:

It hasn't worked has it?  You want me to diminish myself - either to run or to descend to your level.  But here I am in an apparent weakness that hides unnatural strength.  You have not won.  I have taken the blow and remain unaffected.  I have arrested the cycle of violence and now I stand here confronting you with your own wickedness.   I'm outmaneuvering you.  I have entirely changed the terms on which we are relating.   You may change them back again, but each time I will disempower you by refusing to perpetuate your aggression.  I may look like I'm losing.  But in reality you lost the minute you struck me.  And I refuse to join you.  My way - the way of voluntary weakness - is really the only way to win.

Now we know how this tactic has worked en masse.  Think of Gandhi's non-violent protest.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3tjIiWIkAQ]

But here I want to think about it's transformational power in personal relationships.

Imagine three families where one of the members acts as a kind of scapegoat.  The scapegoat is the member of the pack who becomes the perpetual butt of every gag.  The family only properly functions when the scapegoat is to blame.

In family A the scapegoat eventually hardens into a sharp-tongued, spikey wise-guy. 

In family B  the scapegoat shrinks into a self-blaming, shy, clutz. 

But what about a third way?  Imagine if the scapegoat finds Christ.  And in Him finds a power to receive the very worst blow and neither to lash out nor to shrink down.

And so this time the barbed comment comes their way....

Father:  You just crashed the car, you stupid clutz!  You're always doing that.  What's the matter with you, how can you be such an idiot?!

Now scapegoat A would fight back.  Scapegoat B would crumble into tears.  But in family C the scapegoat says...

Oh Dad, I'm much worse than a clutz.  My life is chaotic, I'm always running late, I never look where I'm going.  There are some deep seated problems that I'm praying through right now, and 'stupid' doesn't even touch the depths of my problems.  But Dad, let's forget about the car for a second and let's talk about why your first response to my car accident was to abuse me?  Seems like there's something pretty wrong in our relationship if that's the case...

Wouldn't that be a powerful?  Wouldn't that be turning the other cheek?

Or a marriage (could be any marriage!) where the husband comes home late after some ministry activity:

[Fuming] You said you'd be home half an hour ago!

Response A:

Honey, it was for the gospel!  And if you were for the gospel you'd understand!

Response B:

I give in.  I can't win.  I'm off to blog...

Response C:

You're right.  There were some unavoidable delays, but at heart you're right - and it's worse than you think.  I have this horrible need for people to think I'm a funny, personable guy so I stick around to crack jokes.  I put my image ahead of my word to you and that's awful, I'm going to pray about it.  But first can we talk about a better way of communicating in these situations?

You refuse to retaliate, you take the blow in all its fullness and then you turn to address the relationship (not the fight).

Now you have a go.  Is there a situation where you need to turn the other cheek?  How will you do it?

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PS - for a brilliant example of Bob Kauflin turning the other cheek to a guy stealing his car battery, listen to the first 5 minutes of this

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