on the context of the Law

“You must not murder.
“You must not commit adultery.
“You must not steal.
“You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” — Exodus 20:13-17, NLT

I want you all to remember this idea: context. Context changes everything. Continue reading “on the context of the Law”

on an unsavoury truth

Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the LORD told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”
So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the LORD with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.
On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites. Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”
So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces and working inward. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.
Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. —2 Samuel 5:1-12

There’s a trend in Christianity today that likes to focus on one part of the Bible, and forget about the other bits. Christians sometimes justify this by saying, Well, it’s 2016, some things in the Bible aren’t relevant anymore, or We don’t want to say things that are complicated or frightening, because we don’t want to scare people away. So Christians often don’t talk about sin, or hell, or eternal punishment. The songs we sing in church increasingly follow what I call the Jesus-my-boyfriend pattern, which focuses on mushy feelings and spiritual experiences instead of solid truths from the Bible. Continue reading “on an unsavoury truth”

on the stories we tell

Hong Kong, my home, was rocked by major protests in 2014. Localist riots and student-led scuffles break out much more regularly now than in my parents’ day.

In June 2016, the UK voted by referendum to leave the EU. There was a spike in reported racial crimes across the country in the weeks afterward.

In July 2016 a French North African and an Afghan refugee launched attacks in Nice, France, and Wurzburg, Germany. There is little evidence for any coordination between both attacks, though Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both.

In the same month, a girl in the Indian state of Haryana was assaulted and gang-raped, allegedly by the same men who had been convicted of gang-raping her in 2013.

And as the 2016 US Presidential Election draws ever closer, both Republican and Democrat supporters are stepping up their rhetoric. International opinion mostly sides against Trump.

Every one of these stories stars a clear villain (though tellingly no clear heroes emerge). Who is to blame? Continue reading “on the stories we tell”

on Philippians, gold foil and grenades

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” — Phil 2:1-11

This passage is one of my favourite in the entire Bible. Back in London my sifus called it the Jesus Song, because it was originally probably a hymn, which would make it one of the oldest hymns we know, plus it’s pretty epic, pretty Jesus. Continue reading “on Philippians, gold foil and grenades”

on wizardry

I might just become a wizard.

If you don’t know what this means I might be speaking to the wrong crowd (and yes I appreciate it’s a pretty raunchy term, but you get my meaning). But it has puzzled me for a while because I’d always thought I was enough of a romantic that this wouldn’t happen. I’m gushy and emotional enough, I’m sensitive enough, I’m not afraid of commitment… what gives? Continue reading “on wizardry”

for Mrs Stevens

A poem for an old English teacher of mine, Mrs Stevens. As I understand it she passed away in the first week of May 2016.

When I heard you’d gone, the sky was blue.
Just that morning it was a rainstorm,
Mayhem, parents calling,
Observatory be damned –
Kids sulking, tempers strained
We want to go home!
Focus! Sit down!
Why are they only telling us now?
Then I heard you’d gone.
How many times did you have to do this?
How many years since you’d heard us sulk?
I wrote a quick eulogy for you,
To my kids –
A pang of guilt – why should I gain from your death?
But the kids are home now, the staff room’s quiet
I’m tired, I think about you
I go to the window and look out
And I remember
The sky was blue when I heard you’d gone.

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