The Lord of Glory

You cannot separate the glory of the Lord from the Lord of Glory. When God comes to make his manifest presence known amongst his people he does not come as an entertainer or a warm-up act, he comes as the king; he comes to rule. When the presence of God comes into a meeting, there is no item two on the agenda; there is no more important thing we need to do, nor any more important place we need to be. He comes to fit us into his plan, not to be slotted neatly into ours! If we are really hungry for the presence of the Lord, we will not be hasty to move on when the Lord grants us what we have been calling out for.

And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. (1Ki 8:10-11)

Often the tragedy is not that the presence of God prevents us from ministering the way we had planned... but that it does not... and so we do... and the glory moves on by.


World Watch

I had the great privilege of attending the recent World Watch Conference. Speakers from the UK, Cuba, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Philippines spoke about how the kingdom of God is advancing in this world. Despite the crises; despite persecutions; despite natural disasters - God's church is growing and his people are a voice to their nations.

There is so much that inspired and stirred; it would be impossible to summarise it all. I hope at some point the video from the DRC will be made available online, as that was one of the highlights - as soon as it is, I'll post a link to it. It was a great example of the church not just growing but transforming the nation. Not only have 200 new churches been planted, but thousands of children who would otherwise have had no education are being schooled by the church. People from the church have also gone on to obtain high positions in local and national government. It truly is a church that is bringing the kingdom to that nation. What makes it all the more remarkable is that all of this work has been led by a man who started his walk with God as a boy in an English class taught by a man from our churches in the UK. Dave Emmett sowed his time into this boy - teaching him English, then leading him to the Lord, and discipling him in his ways - and as a result a whole nation is being reached.

It was also a conference of great teaching. Here are a few sound-bites [these are taken from my notes so word-for-word accuracy is not guaranteed!]:

Keri Jones
* One thing that will damage the people of God is smallness of vision.
* You need to go to the watchtower, not to see the world, but to see what the God of this world will say.
* Men of God are not echoes of the past, but voices for the present.
* All idols have clay feet; make God not preachers central.
* We live in covenant. When someone falls we are not to be like sharks circling to take a bite, but brothers there to pick them up.
* Our prayers must be based on what we know the will of God is.
* The cry from the cross, "Why have you forsaken me," was so that no child of God would ever have to say that again!
* You don't have to understand a miracle!
* Nations are shaking because a kingdom is emerging.
* Don't get ready - be ready. It's not coming - I'm living in it.

Tony Ling
* Most of a nations problems come down to a wrong relationship with God.
* Be very careful upon whom you lean.
* There is a rise of militant atheism.
* There is hope, because there is a prophet in the city!
* What good is a prophet in a cave?
* Hold the door against everything that does not bear the truth of Jesus.
* What we need are words, not just about the future, but about tomorrow. Now words.

Dr. Lemon
* If there is revelation there will be things said that you have not heard before.
* We need anointed brothers not just good brothers
* We have kept God locked up in the church!
* The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of excellence.
* Never rob anyone of their ministry [re. tendency of leaders to do too much]
* When the Spirit moves - participate don't spectate.

Miguel [from Cuba]
* If you think you are defeated - you are!
* Key to destruction: try to be fine with everyone.
* "Here comes the dreamer" - what God has put inside you comes out.
* You do not have to run after the blessings of God - they will follow you.
* In the darkest moment, is when the light shines the brightest [re. the church in Cuba distributing food and clothing immediately the hurricane ceased]

[Bullet points don't do the passion and vision of the speakers any justice, but may jog a few memories for those of us who were there.]

A true champion

I watched the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, and like many Brits, I'm very pleased at how well Lewis Hamilton is doing in the championship. However, it wasn't Lewis who impressed me the most...

Many will have seen the images of Felipe Massa driving away from the pit lane trailing his fuel line, which was not detached before he was given the green light to drive off. It was a mistake by one man that dropped him from pole position in the race and an almost certain victory to last place and going home empty handed. Not only this but from being only one point shy of championship rival Hamilton, he is now 7 points behind; with only three races left, this mistake has probably cost him not just the race, but the championship.

What not so many may be aware of is how Massa reacted to this man after the race. Read this article, and especially Massa's quote and the last paragraph. He went to comfort this man, then public spoke of how every member of the team, this individual included, was valued and needed.

Some measure greatness purely by what someone is seen to have achieved. And so to them, no doubt, Massa's greatness will have slumped along with his standing in the championship. But true greatness is not just defined by what you achieve, but who you are: your integrity and character as an individual.

No-one who has watched this season of Formula 1 can doubt that Massa is a great driver. But by offering comfort and forgiveness in the face of such disappointment, this incident has revealed is that he also has true greatness.

Photograph by Mark McArdle licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0


The truth about the LHC

The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) is a giant particle accelerator, the largest in the world; a 17 mile long circular tube buried about 100m underneath the French/Swiss border designed to fire subatomic particles at each other very fast and detect what comes out of the wreckage.

Bottom line is that it is a big physics experiment, pure and simple. A very important one, for sure, but that is all it is. However there has been much misinformation and nonsense circulating the internet about the LHC and some unhelpful misrepresentation in the media which as probably fuelled it. Here are a list of some of the claims circulating about the LHC and why they are not true.

1 - The LHC is the "Big Bang Experiment"
This is a misrepresentation in the media, particularly it has to be said, the BBC! The implications, whether intended or otherwise, are that the LHC proves or will prove the Big Bang Theory - this is not true. What they actually mean is that the conditions generated in the LHC collisions may be a close approximation to the theoretical conditions very soon after the Big Bang as predicted by that theory.

However even this is a misrepresentation, because the LHC is all about experimental particle physics, whereas the Big Bang theory is a speculative theory of cosmology. The link is very tenuous, and is about the amount of energy created. The logic is as follows - In the Big Bang (if it happened!) all the energy in the universe was in a very small place at one time - the LHC will create a very large amount of enery in a very small space at one time - therefore the LHC is like the Big Bang! It is silly and unhelpful journalism. It would be like me running a bath and hailing it as the "Atlantis Experiment" because it will recreate the conditions immediately below the surface of the waters above the lost city of Atlantis!

2 - The LHC is looking for God
This is not true. The LHC is not trying to prove or disprove God. It's a science experiment. It's main purpose is to try and establish one of the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics. This model predicts a hitherto undiscovered particle that is needed to give other elementary particles mass: the Higgs Boson.

Although this particle is sometimes referred to as the "God particle" proof of its existence or non existence says nothing about the existence of God himself. In fact the name has nothing to do with theology or divinity, but is a contraction and a euphemism of the "Godd*mn particle" - because it has proven so hard to track down.

3 - The LHC is wasting money to find something that can be discovered by reading Genesis 1
I do wish Christians wouldn't say things like this. Science is science - faith is faith. They tell us different things about different subjects in different ways. I believe Genesis chapter one, but I don't read anything in there about the Higgs Boson. The LHC is an important and valuable science experiment, and since points 1 and 2 above are not true there is absolutely no reason for Christians to give this kind of knee-jerk reaction to it.

4 - The LHC could create a black hole that will destroy the world
This is scaremongering at its worst. Scientists know that collisions of similar energy to the LHC happen all the time in the Earth's upper atmosphere as cosmic rays collide with the particles there. (Incidentally this also rubbishes the BBC's claim that the LHC will recreate conditions not in existence since the Big Bang)

Even if a black hole did form, it would not be the all consuming monster we know from astronomy. These would be subatomic in size, and so governed primarily by quantum theory. This predicts (in a theory put forward by Steven Hawkins) that the particle-antiparticle fluctuations around the event horizon of the black hole would lead to a net flow of anti-matter into the black hole and a net flow of matter away from it. The result being it would "evaporate" - very fast. If you don't understand any of that, don't worry, just rest assured that the LHC is not going to cause the world to end!


The "Conan Doyle" Principle

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
~ The Sign of Four, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The creator of the greatest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, came up with this great observation on deductive reasoning: examine all the explanations, then eliminate those which could not have happened until only one remains.

There is nothing wrong with the logic in this statement. Detectives still talk about eliminating people from their enquiries, and my son even has a game "Guess Who?" which works on the same principle.

However there is more to this statement, and it is very telling. It shows people will be prepared to believe something that is totally improbable and full of inconsistencies if they consider it to be the only option on the table. It also shows that what people end up believing goes hand in hand with what they are not prepared to believe. Although some explanations will be eliminated through observation and reasoning - some are never even considered because they are deemed impossible from the outset.

Your assumptions on what is possible determines your worldview, and your worldview determines your belief. It doesn't matter how much evidence to the contrary you are presented with, if you filter that evidence though you presuppositions you will never be presented with anything that challenges your belief.

Take the darwinian theory of evolution. It doesn't matter how improbable it is, or how many unexplained stages it involves, to those who have written of anything supernatural as impossible, the fact that we are here is the only proof they need to claim that it must be true.

It is said "seeing is believing" but the "Conan Doyle" principle shows that this is often not the case. You might think that all that is required to convince someone who disbelieves in the miraculous is for them to witness a miracle, but in practice it doesn't work like that. If someone holds firm to their belief that the supernatural is impossible they will reinterpret the evidence to an alternative explanation no matter how improbable that might be. In the Gospel accounts, when Jesus presented a man born blind who could now see, there were many who preferred to believe that Jesus had found another healthy man who looked identical to the blind man, than accept that a miracle had occurred.

You see in cases like these seeing is not believing. Compelling evidence alone is not enough to persuade. What is required is a change of worldview that allows people to reach a correct conclusion from the evidence. Without this they will go away just as sceptical as when they arrived.

The ancient Greeks had a word for this change of worldview: metaknoia. It means literally to change your mind. Not to change you mind about something, but as if you had exchanged your mind - radically changing the way you think about something.

Interestingly, this is the word that gets translated as "repent" in the Bible, and was the first word used by both Jesus and John the Baptist in their message about the coming kingdom of God. "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand." Change your assumptions about what is possible, because if you don't you will not be able to receive anything that follows.


Science and the supernatural

Let's examine the claim: Any valid explanation of the universe must be scientific.

This is an increasingly common argument, and is at the root of the evolution vs. creation debate. The proponents of darwinian evolution seem to think that all they need to do is point out that any account of creation is not scientific and thus can be dismissed out of hand. (There are those who try to dress up the creation account with science - but that's another matter). The root of the issue is, is it valid to say that there are not, nor have their ever been any miracluous/supernatural events and so everything in the universe can be explained by science alone?

It could obviously be pointed out that such a statement is intrinsicly atheistic, and so is at odds with the beliefs of many of the greatest scientists of all time: Newton, Maxwell, Einstein... but let's examine this statement with logic alone...

Let's assume for the moment that they are right. And that there is nothing supernatural - not now - not ever. This means that, as they claim, everything that happens must happen for a well defined scientific reason. It may be a reason that scientists do not yet understand, it may be for reasons that are so complicated that they cannot in practice be unravelled, but they are all natural, and within the remit of scientific investigation. Every physical effect has a physical cause and nothing outside of the universe itself is needed by way of an explanation. It sounds like athiestm... because it is - and it has become a very prevalent world view in modern science. But is it consistent?

If every physical effect has a physical cause, then those causes themselves must be effects of prior physical causes - as we are not permitted to entertain any other source of influence. We can think of all the events in the universe like chains of dominoes streching back in time. Each domino falls over because another domino topples into it - cause, effect, cause, effect. Although in practice dominoes may fall over without another domino, this would be caused by gravity and possibly floor vibrations and thus in our analogy would represent another well defined domino/cause. What we are not allowed now, nor at any point in the past, is a domino that falls over without a prior domino - as this would represent an effect without a cause - an event that is not explainable by science - a supernatural event.

Such a world view makes sense, if like Einstein, you believe that the Universe is eternally pre-existent. But no-one believes that any more - even Einstein was convinced by the evidence that the Universe had a beginning.

If the Universe had a beginning, then we run into problems with our domino chains - we can extrapolate them back further and further into the past and so defer the problem, but sooner or later we have to face the inevitable. There must have been a first domino! This is exactly what we have said cannot happen: a cause that does not depend on anything prior for its existence. Something that is outwith the remit of science!

So if believing that "everything can be explained by science" leads you inescapably to acknowledge that there is at least one event that cannot be explained by science then it proves that the original assumption is untenable. There are some things about the universe that cannot be explained by science. The Universe itself is proof of the supernatural.

Those who try to dismiss men of faith as irrational are themselves holding to an irrational worldview!


On monkeys, typewriters and the second law of thermodynamics

The darwinian theory of evolution suggests that if you give enough monkeys enough typewriters for enough time they will eventually come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. In other words: order can come from disorder given a large enough random data sample and a sufficient passage of time.

However this breaks one of the golden rules of physics: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. Given the same set of initial conditions the second law predicts that all you will get is a whole load of broken typewriters, ripped paper and monkey poo... and the longer you wait the worse it will get.


A new kind of intolerant fundamentalism

These are strange days we live in! It seems it is OK for scientists such as Professor Hawkings to doubt the existence of the Higgs Boson - and so call into question one of the predictions of the standard model of Quantum Field Theory - one of the best proven scientific theories of all time. And yet when another scientist even suggests that alternatives to the Darwinist theory of evolution, a theory with many holes and unresolved problems, is something which could, when appropriate, be discussed in the classroom - he is forced to resign!



It shows that there is a rise of a new form of intolerant fundamentalism in this country. One that rejects and seeks to oppress all alternative views, refuses to debate, and puts forward it's belief as unquestionable dogma. I'm not talking about the creationists - it's fundamentalist atheism.

If Darwin's theory on the origin of the species cannot be questioned in the same way as every other scientific theory then it no longer has the right to call itself science. It has become the very thing it despises and seeks to destroy: fundamentalist dogma.