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Who reads this stuff …and why it matters April 16, 2018

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Less than a third of you reading my blog do so from the same country and you may or may not be in one countries that I have lived in.

WhoReadsThisIn the last 12 months I’ve had readers in 79 countries and territories – 33% of readers from the US, 21% from UK, 8.5 from Canada, after that the next highest are from India, Germany, Australia and the Philippines.

Like many other bloggers I do enjoy seeing that I’ve had a visit from somewhere and someone new.

But do I stop to think enough about who is reading?

I’ve not got a large enough following that millions or even hundreds of people are reading each post. I hope that if I was, I’d think a bit more about where my audience came from, and that my audience would think about where I came from.

I sometimes wish some people with larger global followings would be a little more aware, not just in order to fill in the gaps when someone doesn’t come from the same culture but to recognize their own gaps.

In a recent conversation with a friend from another country I realized that I knew nothing about his country. It had become an independent nation in my lifetime and  it’s people and his family had a history that I still know little about.

Like most people I see things from the perspective of my own culture and of my own life experience. Sometimes that means I see things that others don’t and some times it means I miss seeing things from other peoples view point and I misinterpret and misunderstand both their words and intentions.

Like most people who read the Bible, I sometimes misread  – I read it from my perspective and miss what the original authors were trying to say to their original audience.

I wasn’t born in Israel, and I wasn’t born at the time of Jesus, or of any of the characters or authors of the Old Testament.

Words originaly written in a different time, culture and language still have tremendous relevance for us. It just means we sometimes need to think about who wrote them and what we might know about their situation and worldview, and that we might also need to think about who is reading now and what perspectives we bring.

Such insight can also help us recognise why different people focus in on different truths in scripture and emphasize different characteristics of God. He is a God of love and mercy but also of justice. Christ came as both servant and king, and is friend, brother, and master. To some the good news is that he can calm storms, cast out demons, and heal the sick, some are accutely aware of their own sins and seek forgiveness, some are marginalised and have been told they are nothing, then Jesus calls them friend.

My last thought on perspectives is simply this. God sees you far more clearly than you see him. He knows your current faults, understands you current pain, but sees your true beauty and invites you daily into his presence that you can become the person he sees.



Thus saith the Lord! (as far as I can tell) March 25, 2018

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Or if you prefer it in Latin:

Isaiah-probablyHæc dicit Dominus
ad me usque poterit indicare

(providing Google translate got it right).

There are people in this world who like to be very certain about many things, and others of us who are a little more cautious. This may be related to culture and personality as well as confidence and experience.

Perhaps the use of “may be” hints that I’m often a hedger. I may have some fixed ideas and opinions but I also know that there are other perspectives and ways of looking at things and that on many issues the clear cut answers aren’t always clear.

This can be annoying to other people who like to see everything as black and white. To them stuff is either right or wrong.

So for example when Paul said he didn’t permit a woman to preach they assume not only that he meant it at face value but also that was a prohibition for all time and when Peter said that sometimes Paul was a bit hard to understand (2Peter 3:16) he meant it too.

Understanding the Bible or any text isn’t always easy. That’s why we often call it “interpreting ” and why theologians or preachers can sometimes say things that are in stark contrast to each other. As Peter says in that verse about Paul sometime “ignorant and unstable people” distort the scriptures but so do fairly educated and stable people (It’s just that we do it unknowingly) . Often I’m willing to believe that people I disagree with are doing their best to prayerfully unpack what the Bible teaches in the light of what they already know. I like to hope they believe the same of me.

That isn’t to say that anything goes. The Bible is not a pick and mix collection of wise sayings that we can use to back up our own opinions.

…at least that’s not how I read it.


Toffee for Lent #1 March 7, 2018

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toffee4lentA little while ago (first Sunday of Lent) I had a bright idea. Instead of giving stuff up (eg Facebook or chocolate) why not do something for Lent (eg buy a bag of toffees).

The idea wasn’t just about eating sweets but about providing myself a deliberate small window in the day for a little extra reflection

As part of the sermon that Sunday the preacher shared these few words

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and trust in God.

Googling later I discovered that they came from Pope Francis in a Lent message in 2017.

I didn’t jot them down at the time but even before I bought my bag of toffees I googled and found the rest.

  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.


There’s some good stuff there. You could simply reflect on each for a few days or perhaps write a few more of your own.


Fast from froth and seek depth

Fast from platitudes and speak truth

Fast from overhearing and start listening

Fast from chocolate and eat toffee

Fast from dwelling on stuff and meditate on truth


Today’s toffee is finished. I won’t blog each day (I haven’t so far). But I might do a couple more before Easter.

2018 the international year of …? January 16, 2018

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year of languages and the potato

2008 was the International Year of Languages (and the international year of the Potato)

Back in January 2008 I discovered that it was both the International Year of Languages and the International Year of the Potato. (a few of my facebook friends joined the now defunct experimental facebook group celebrating both)

More recently the UN had declared 2016 to be the ‘International Year of Pulses ‘, yet for many it was marked more by being the year of mindfulness colouring books went mainstream and distracted people from paying proper attention to and interesting US election campaigns.

2017 was International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 

2019 will be the International year of Indigenous Languages thanks to a UN resolution (and also the international year of moderation thanks to anther one). The UN hasn’t actually declared 2018 as the year of anything.

Like most years some of the real defining features won’t be clear until the end of the year.

I’m sure 2018 will continue to be a year of suffering, hardship, and persecution for many people, including Christians persecuted for their faith, but like every year it will also be a year of hope and a year of celebration!

Throughout 2018 and 2019 there will be a lot of people who will celebrate the publication of a Bible, New Testament, or portion of scripture in their language for the first time ever. Other will celebrate the launch of reprints, revisions or the launch of new scripture in a new format such as a video, audio recording or Bible app.

There will also be people who simply haven’t known or haven’t cared that the Bible is available in their language, or haven’t known how to access it.

Readers of other posts on this blog will know those are things I focus on quite a bit, but I’ll also be looking out for what other things God will be doing in 2018.

It’s still early enough in the year to make some plans and set some goals. What do you hope to remember 2018 by?




Are you better than average? January 11, 2018

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better than average behaviour

Despite the challenges and shortcomings I’m still proud of Britain’s National Health Service. I don’t know how you think it ranks in the world these days but I still regard it as one of the positives of living in Britain.

The chart above (minus my editorial text) comes from a tool on the BBC website that says Check NHS cancer, A&E and operations targets in your area . It shows where my local health trust compares to others in Britain and to national targets in respect to waiting times in the Accident and Emergency department (what some other countries call the E.R.). Sadly while we’re above national average we’re still below the target (to see 95% of people within 4 hours of arrival)  and the target is still below the ideal (no waiting).

Targets and comparisons have value in healthcare as in any other service or industry. The challenges are are not making what is measured become the focus at the expense of other things that might not be being measured, and in knowing what to do when targets are not met.

While I’m interested in the NHS and health targets in my own country, as a missionary, and firstly as a Christian I’m also interested in the rest of the world too, not in whether or not Britain can better but whether the world can better and how the church (not just in my country) can be part of God’s plan for the whole world.

Targets and measures also exist in the ministry of Bible translation and should to some extent exist in other areas of the church. There are apps to help you measure and improve you spiritual health or to monitor you success as a church. If we know what we’re trying to achieve or who we are trying to become scorecards and checklist can be among the tools that help us to know if we are on track, as long as we are careful to measure the right things, and not neglect some of the other good things that we are not measuring.

There are definitely a few things in scripture about not judging and about not thinking ourselves better than others, but there is also a lot said about living holy lives and holding one another to account.

The aim is not to belittle others or to encourage ourselves that we’re doing okay and aren’t any worse than anyone else but to build one another up.

The temptation for those who err on the side of not judging is that we can slide into thinking, like some of the churches Paul wrote to, that anything goes now that we are free in Christ.

The temptation for those who do seek to promote standards of behaviour or solid doctrine is that we often judge ourselves on our intentions and everyone else on their actions. We also fail to see the logs in our own eyes and in pointing out the specks in others we end up grinding down some of the people we are meant to be lifting up.

If you are looking for answers to know where the balance lies then perhaps this is a below average blog.

Feel free to mark this out of 10 and add a comment that edifies and encourages us all.

Puppies & Kittens in the Bible #3: Cat and Dog Theology January 3, 2018

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Despite the last two posts you really won’t find much on puppies or kittens in the Bible.CatandDogTheology

The verses on dogs aren’t very cute and it’s lions rather than the domestic cat that gets the most attention in scripture.
But after looking at the Playful Puppies Bible and the LolCat translation it’s time for the third instalment in this New Year series.

Cat and Dog theology is something of a modern idea that has it’s origins in a joke but like all those funny stories Jesus told has a deeper message to those that listen.

The idea is simple:

“A dog may look at you and think, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me — You must be god!”  On the other hand a cat can look at you and say, ‘You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me — I must be god!”

And from those two perspectives writers Bob Sjogren and Gerald Robinson encourage you to think about how you and your church view your relationship with God. Do you exist to serve God? or do you think God exists to serve you?

You can find out more about the idea at www.catndogtheology.com where there are some videos and samplers of how this idea is expanded in a seminar setting. You can also find a sample of the book on Google Books

Puppies and Kittens in the Bible #2 January 2, 2018

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Yesterday I posted about the Playful Puppies Bible today it’s the turn of the LOL Cat version. I thought it better to separate the Cats and Dogs into separate posts. I didn’t want them to fight and was also curious as to which would get read most.

Lolcat“Cat Theology” is not just something you find in the LOL Cat Bible. Again, this is a real thing (in as much as it is something that has actually been published), but unlike “The Playful Puppies Bible” it is not a real Bible. It’s meant to be a joke (I hope). It uses the idea of a bunch of self centred cats rewriting the Bible in their own language and recasting God in their own image. As it says on the cover, “In the begiin Ceiling Cat maded teh Skiez an da Erfs n stuffs.”

I doubt many of the Bible translators I know would be too happy with the quality of translation but some may be intrigued at the way in which the work involves online collaboration from a wide selection of the community. Currently the home page of www.lolcatbible.com has been accessed over 3 million times.

I’ve not read much of the translation but I do wonder how many contributors and readers have found themselves opening a more established translation for inspiration and found themselves reading and wondering for real?

There are other translations that people don’t take quite seriously but which have been written with more serious intent and greater attention to the text. I’ve just acquired a copy of The Gospels in Black Country Dialect  which opens with the words:

“The time wus gerrin’ near fer the Sairvyer ter cum on airth”

(The Black Country is a region of the UK that acquired it’s name at the height of the industrial revolution due either to a heavy coating of soot or with reference from coal mining)

I’ll write more on translations in British dialects at some point, but for now will leave you wondering how much they are written to celebrate the local dialect and how much they are written to glorify God.

Stay tuned for the third post in this short series which will look at the modern, and helpful distinction, of Cat and Dog Theology.

Puppies and kittens in the Bible #1 January 1, 2018

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It’s still holiday time so I’ll start 2018 with a playful intro to the Playful Puppies Bible , the Lolcat Bible, Cat and Dog Theology… and why such things matter.

Amazingly the Playful Puppies Bible is a real thing. It was published by Zondervan in 2012 and is no longer in stock. You can still find it on their website where it states, “If you love dogs and puppies, you’ll love the Playful Puppies Bible!”.


Although the cute pictures are there to draw the reader in the Playful Puppies Bible probably doesn’t draw attention to all the verses about dogs in the Bible as despite some cultures having a fondness for them today, they didn’t always get such good press. No verses specifically refer to puppies but take a moment to read Bible verses that mention dogs if you have any doubts.

Some people will see the use of puppies as a cynical marketing ploy, trying to sell more bibles to people who already have enough on their shelves.

Others will see it as a clever tactic to encourage engagement with the scriptures. There are many children who would love this Bible and the cute pictures it contains. Not only might it encourage some children to read their Bible it might also be something they would gladly show their friends.


I’m interested in the topic of scripture engagement, so while it makes me cringe a little a willing to give the publishers the benefit of the doubt, but I would have to say they using Cat theology to sell the Playful Puppies Bible, by cat theology I’m not referring to the LOL Cat Bible, but I’ll give it a mention.

More of that soon in part 2.

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