Thursday, 19 November 2009

What is this scripture doing?

In the last few months of Relay, I've been struck repeatedly by the subtle misconceptions I have often brought to Bible study. The word 'study' is partly the problem. I associate it with intellectual study (but very little action) and my degree. But again and again, I've been reminded that Bible study is simply not meant to be an intellectual exercise. A few days ago I chatted to one pastor whose analogy is very helpful. If I told you that the building we were in was burning down and you nodded and continued with what you were doing, you would not have understood because you did nothing about it. Similarly, when we approach the Bible, intellectual assent is not enough, because really understanding the passage will lead to something happening, a response taking place.

For that reason, we need to always be asking, 'what is this scripture doing?' Of course, this only comes with having grappled seriously with its meaning first, but mere comprehension would miss the point. I'm thinking about that at the moment as I study Colossians 1v15-20. This fantastic paragraph about Christ's attributes could easily turn into a listing exercise. The challenge is to draw out our worship, praise and encouragement as we gaze on Him.

Noah, the flood and chocolate courgette cake

So after his father’s prediction that Noah will bring relief, it is Noah alone who finds favour in God’s sight. The LORD is sorry that he has made man, but Noah is righteous and walks with God. He alone gets to enter the creation after the flood. Noah is the one to receive a renewed commission to be fruitful and multiply. But this time God is fully aware of the heart of man, which is ‘evil from his youth’.

Even so, fallen humanity still bears the image of God, and so when one kills another, there must be payment in blood (9v4). God makes a covenant with Noah to never cover the earth again with a flood. What a faithful God! In spite of what a mess humanity has already made, and the LORD’s own admission of man’s sinfulness, he is still going to be intimately involved with his creation.

The results of the presence of sin are seen almost immediately, as Noah gets drunk on wine and then curses Ham for seeing him naked. A man sinning with fruit, once again.

The LORD’s involvement with his creation is the focus of the tower of Babel (ch11). This bid for independence and glory in the skies is so different to Abram’s faith in following God’s call on him in the chapter 12. Whilst the builders in Babel say “come,…let us make a name for ourselves”, God says to Abram, “I will bless you and make your name great”, and with that comes a promise of being made a great nation…

This week's recipe - Chocolate Courgette Cake

I made this for Dave Bish my supervisor and Brian our staff-worker when I first came to Exeter. I think they were mildy dismayed to be told what it contained...

Don't be put off - it DOESN'T taste of courgette. Like carrot cake, the courgettes add moisture.

Serves 6-8
115 g butter
2 eggs
125 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
300 g sugar
4 tbsp cocoa
350 g flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
125 ml soured milk (just add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk!)
200 g semisweet baking chocolate, chopped roughly
2 small courgettes, grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and grease a large baking pan.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Once they are creamy, gradually add the eggs, vanilla and oil.
Blend or sift the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and gradually add to the butter mixture.
Then slowly blend in the soured milk. Add the chocolate pieces and grated courgette.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Enjoy hot from the oven or let cool and devour later.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Genesis 1-5 and Chocolate biscuit cake

As part of doing Relay we get the exciting choice of an elective study component. I decided to do a read-through of the Old Testament. Partly because I feel I'm pretty sketchy when it comes to a lot of it, and partly because the idea of 'reading' the Bible more like a novel, chunks at a time, appealed to me.

(see for more details on reading the Bible).

I’m writing this as if sharing my thoughts with a student. It’s a mixture of ‘ah ha’ moments when I see echoes of the Gospel, key themes that emerge, and Jim Walford’s favourite: “shockers and blockers”.

My first point is simply that we see Adam and Eve choose self-determining knowledge, rather than life, in chapter 3 of Genesis. Chapter two tells us that the tree of life was ‘in the midst of the garden’ – surely they would have noticed it? Maybe they did, but the serpent points them towards the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead. In any case, it’s with this tree of life in mind that God removes them from Eden. The tree that once could have been theirs to feast on, is now the reason they are removed.

Along come Cain and Abel, and with them murder in the family. It’s only as Adam and Eve produce another son, Seth, that people begin to ‘call upon the name of the LORD’. So as the line of the seed begins again, people are turning back to God.

The only two in the next section who ‘walk with God’ are Enoch and Noah. The first is taken by God at the relatively young age of 365. Lamech, Noah’s father, predicts that he’ll bring “relief...from the painful toil of our hands”. Sounds remarkable like the opposite of the curse in chapter 3, where Adam is cursed to toil painfully. So already when Noah is born, we have a preview that his birth means something special.

This week’s recipe - chocolate biscuit cake

With the added addition of fresh ginger this recipe hits the spot, yum. For any budding bakers out there who are afraid of making ‘real’ cakes, this is one that is very easy but sure to impress.

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

150g plain chocolate chopped
150g butter
2tbsp golden syrup
225g semisweet biscuits – e.g. digestives, crushed
thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced very small (like garlic)

1. melt the chocolate with butter and golden syrup in a large bowl over a saucepan of water. Add the ginger and stir well.
2. When all is melted, removed from the heat and stir in crushed biscuits. Add any dried fruit (cherries, raisins, apricots) now if you so desire.
3. Spread into 23cm tin, lined with paper, flattening with the back of a wooden spoon.
4. Refrigerate for a couple of hours till set or freezer for 45 minutes. Cuts into 16 pieces

Sunday, 8 November 2009

ECU weekend

I've just arrived back from the ECU weekend away...cracking time of hearing God's word opened, fellowship and banter with around 130 students from the Exeter Evangelical Christian Union. We had the pleasure of Paul Weber speaking on the book of Jonah, which was a reminder of the glorious Gospel that ECU is sharing on campus.

The book of Jonah is testament to God's ability to save people in spite of the behaviour of those who preach his message! Jonah is busy running from God's presence (Duh?) but nevertheless the pagan sailors turn to the LORD and the city of Nineveh repents in sackcloth and ashes. God's prophet, on the other hand, has been disobedient to his calling, and is then consumed by self-pity when his providentially-placed plant dies. But God graciously reasons him over his right to save Nineveh, demonstrating that the reluctant prophet has no right to be angry - God is a 'gracious God' as Jonah says, who will call and save people not because of their behaviour but because of his mercy.

This week we get to be living and speaking the Gospel on Exeter's campus in many ways. Tomorrow is the first night of the Christianity Explored course at the Impy pub. Tuesday we're praying on campus and Friday is a co-hosted DebateSoc/ECU event. Many opportunities to pray for and speak about God's Gospel, that it would be proclaimed and that he will be working to open blind eyes to his glorious Grace to us in Christ.

Since this blog is going to be host to many of my loves, me thought I should start as I mean to go on, so...

This week's recipe - Rich's Canadian Oatmeal Cake

It's a bit of a long recipe, but well worth it. A staple on the SW team-days :)


1½ cups/ 335ml boiling water

1 cup/ 85g oatmeal (or more)

½/ cup/ 113g marg

1 cup/ 220g brown sugar

1 cup/ 200g white sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1½ cup/ 195g flour

pinch salt

1/2 cup raisins

350˚F/ 170˚C 35 mins


1. Pour boiling water over oats, let soften

2. In a separate bowl, whisk fat and sugar together till fluffy. Add in eggs one by one mixing each time. Sift in flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix together.

3. Add bowl of oatmeal into the rest of the ingredients, mix and pour into a square cake tin (greased and lined). Cook for about 40 minutes but keep an eye on it. Should be taken out of oven when a skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean. If the cake is still liquidy in the middle but going brown on top, place some foil over it and continue baking.

4. When cooked, let it cool in tin for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack.


5. Heat 1 cup milk on the stove. Mix 5 tbsp flour with a dash of milk in a cup (to avoid lumps). Add this thick mix into the milk when hot on stove. Whisk until boiled and beginning to thicken. Take off the heat and let cool completely.

6. When the flour/milk is totally cool, beat together one cup of margerine and one cup of fine white sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla essence.

7. Add this mix to the milk/flour mix. Whip together and spread over cake. Makes a substantial, not too sweet white icing. Yummy!!