Thursday, 31 May 2012
The Olympic torch relay which began its journey around the UK this week hasn’t been without its controversy. But what has captured my attention, and then my imagination, is the sense of story. Among the torch bearers are celebrities and sporting heroes, but the majority are ordinary people who have been noticed because of something out-of-the-ordinary. There was 16-year old Ben Fox from Swindon, who only has one leg and wants to win an Olympic gold in wheelchair basketball in 2016. Then there was Hayley Mowbray, 26, from Cheltenham, who teaches at a school for young people with severe behavioural problems. She has been recognised as having an exceptional ability to inspire others and provide hope when all seems hopeless. Twenty-eight-year old Mark Ormrod lost an arm and both his legs when he stood on a landmine in Afghanistan. He was told he would never walk again, yet two years ago he completed a 3,500 mile charity run across the US. And Louis Gill, at the age of 15, cycled 300 miles on an old bike to raise money for an orphanage in Uganda. His nomination story says that ”he represents everything that is good in our teenagers and young people”. All these stories capture something inspiring about the people who live in this land. Together, they remind us that, in the words of John Donne: “No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” We succeed or fail as our individual stories connect to the whole. The Olympic torch relay has reminded me of this. It celebrates diversity, it reminds us that we’re connected and it celebrates how the story of one person, can improve the story of another. However, it’s bigger than this. The Olympics, as athletes from all over the world gather to compete, connects us to the global story. Again, diversity is celebrated, and we are reminded that we are all connected. The torch relay also connects us to a historic story. The Olympic flame traces its way back to the stories of the Greek gods, the ancient games were designed to conjure images of the divine, and the relationship between humans and the gods. The Torch Relay, itself, a modern invention, is steeped in a historical story, not least because it first took place in the run-up the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, that were organised by the Nazis. So there are many stories, within a story, within a story, within a story. My story, and your story, are being woven into the story of the UK, within the story of the world now, within the story of humanity past, present and future. It reminds us that there is a meta-narrative running through human history, it’s the story that our stories are being woven into, and that’s God’s story. A story that meanders with purpose from creation to new creation. A story about destruction and restoration, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, sin and salvation. A story with the reoccurring refrain of: “They will be my people, and I will be their God.” When Paul was in Greece, the source of the Olympic flame, he walked around the Areopagus in Athens looking at the Greeks’ objects of worship. He said: “I…found an alter with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”He was taking one of their stories to point people to the one true God. Today, as people are desperate to make sure their story is connected and it is significant, we need to be pointing them to God and His story, so they can connect to it and find significance in Him. Phil Green, Programme Manager for the Evangelical Alliance
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
of another eyes
A sweeter taste
has entered my mouth.
Richness flow from
speech poured forth,
my listening mind.
Like the butterfly
My body bodies
like a dance.
Sleep to dream
Wake to live
another sunrise stream.
Saturday, 19 May 2012
Good Nature, I’m sorry for your loss
Give ear unto my words
And if you find it melancholy short
Good Moths of every sort
Good birds of every kind
Hear the name of her who killed
Kinta, your dear beloved moth.
Before her name revealed to hate
Her heart I’m sure was an icy cake.
No remorse, none I saw
Not even a rueful awe.
Poor Kinta flew into a plaster-grey church
To pray and pry the saint’s good deed
To carry back the incense for thee
To fill your houses with smiling May.
This Errand was poor Kinta’s Last
Jancis* unseen suddenly clapped her hands
Kinta flew coldly down
Jancis could not even lend a frown.
“Alas! A creature of the worst Kind
Jancis must know our grievous loss.
Wrapped forever in his quiet grave
“Poor Kinta is gone, oh, what difference it is to us.”
*Jancis is a very lovley kind girl - this was all for the sake of the poem.
Linda Woodhead has commented in theGuardian that “the churches’ hold over birth, marriage and death has weakened dramatically”. Funerals are difficult for everyone, but young people can find them particularly disconcerting. I was standing at the graveside as the coffin of a 21-year-old whose life had been cut short by a particularly vigorous cancer, was lowered. Very quietly, almost under her breath, one of her friends whispered “Is this it? Is this all there is?”
There is nothing like death for focusing the mind on the purpose of life. This is when Christian hope needs to be strongly articulated, not weakened. It is a hope in which we think of time and eternity as largely continuous and, more importantly, as being related to one another as dimensions of reality, both given by God for our existence.
This is not all there is, this material world we see around us. Indeed, it has a past, a present and a future. But that past, present and future do not stand alone, disconnected. They stand in close relationship with another life, with eternity, and with death and resurrection. At the centre of all life is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event both in history and transcending history, of such a character as to open up to us the eternal view on the world. And it is from that point of view —namely from eternity — that we want to see everything that happens here on earth. Jesus is the integration point of what has been, what is and what is to come and he is the Way to be followed, not a goal to be achieved.
His death and resurrection become, for Christians, the beginning, centre and end of all our attention. Here begins, in a way unknown even in earlier Judaism, a story of life being restored, of this life not being the sum total of all there is, of life beyond death. The eschaton - literally the last in the series - almost seems to reach back into time and into human history and in Jesus’ resurrection, shows itself for what it is, namely another dimension to things that goes beyond the material and the physical, which actually gives the material new meaning: a richer, deeper texture than it had before. And it was as world changing for the apostles as it is to today.
Tom Torrance put it powerfully in his book Space, Time and Resurrection.
He writes: “That God Himself had become man was an offence to the Jew and folly to the Greek; that Jesus Christ rose from the dead was deemed to be utterly incredible. Yet the incarnation and resurrection forced themselves upon the mind of the Church against the grain of people’s convictions, as ultimate events bearing their own intrinsic but shattering claims of the self-evidencing reality and transcendent rationality of God Himself and they took root within the Church only through a seismic restructuring of religious and intellectual belief.”
Strangely, then, the death of Jesus is not the end of all that is, but proves to be the door that opens on to a new realm, a new world, a new dimension, which changes everything that has gone before, and that is and is to come.
Around Easter, we usually remind ourselves that following Jesus means following him on the way to glory and that means via the way of the cross. The redemptive work of the cross requires for us a renewed sense of vocation here and now.
We live the whole of life purposefully and in hope now because of what has been and is to come. “We are but shadows of our future selves,” comments Tom Wright. What answer to “Is this it?” might my young mourner observe if she were to examine the realties of life and death in the shadow in your shoes tonight? How will you take part in the conversations about dying in such a way that not only are we preparing young people for life but also for death?
Ann Holt, Director of External Relations, Bible Society - Evangelical Alliance
Friday, 18 May 2012
Thursday, 17 May 2012
Is it nothing to you all, all you who pass by? Look and see if there was any sorrow like his sorrow. Look at him. They call him the man of Sorrows, what a name for the Son of God who came eating and drinking. Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? That this man of sorrows bearing shame and scoffing rude is standing in your place. Look! It is all for your pardon. Will your souls not look back to see the burden he bears for thee as he hangs on that cursed tree? Will you not believe and rejoice, will you not mourn that it was your sins which caused the heavenly Father to inflict his wrath on his precious Son on the day of his fierce anger? Is it nothing to you all, all you who pass by that Jesus Christ, lifted up to die should not have your gaze? Oh ruined sinners it was all for you to reclaim- If you pass by this road and never look to gaze on his sacrifice, it shall never suffice for you. Stand like a penitent and confess your sins. Pause and linger, linger long enough until his blood trickles to your soul and you begin to sing of his bleeding love. On this day Jehovah lifted his rod and how mightily it fell on Christ, O see how bruised he is by justice, he is innocent but you are guilty. He covered you with his back and took the lashes upon himself. There is not one stroke for you, none at all. O Loved sinner, come, come quickly and see what Christ has done for you; leave your business at once, forsake the television, flee the parties, depart from your friends, kiss your family goodbye. Run beloved sinner, come and climb up the hill of Calvary, climb with endurance, climb with all of your might, and see him whose face is marred with sorrows. Look how he pities you, look how he cries, ‘Father, forgive them.’ Look how they crucified him without mercy, and yet, he offers you mercy. Look how he looks to the heavens and said: ‘it is finished’. Have you this day said thank you Lord for giving your life for me?
Sunday, 13 May 2012
If you want to walk with God, why of course you must walk. If you want to live like Jesus, why, of course, you must live. Jesus was baptized, be baptized. This was a command he gave his disciples to do for new followers. Jesus submitted to his father, submit to him too. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, you must eat with them too. Jesus prayed often you must pray too. Jesus preached the gospel you must preach it too. Jesus carried his cross you must carry yours too. Jesus never sinned you must do your best to flee temptation. Jesus ate with the hypocrites you must eat with them too. Jesus restored the outcasts to the community (the lame, beggar, prostitute, addicts, etc) you must restore them too. I am not saying you have to do everything Jesus did after-all he is the unique Son of God and the only man able to accomplish redemption; but in his life he has shown us the most excellent way, he has given us an example to follow which the Holy Spirit makes possible, and as a church we accomplish it as a whole. *
* I did not mention miracles because not all have the gift of miracles, but we can all pray for it to happen and can desire it. (Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way). 1 Cor 12:29-31 - In fact there are other things I haven’t mentioned; this is not exhaustive. God is transforming us, some of it is instantaneous and some, well, like a slow cooker, it takes time.
As I walked, I actually focused on Jesus’ invitation. I took it apart word by word, chewing on it, meditating on it. I walked on, looking out over God’s good ocean, and that old verse from Mathew 11 became real in a new way. I saw a glimpse of Jesus; I heard his invitation to come. I could almost see his arms open wide. I felt his grace. This wasn’t about me being “good enough” to come; it was all about his love. A kaleidoscope of color and meaning swirled from his words. I smelled a whiff of sea breeze hope. Tears rolled down my face.
This devotional is Ellen’s sweet experience of what she discovered in her experience of resting in Christ and chewing over word by word what Jesus intended in Matthew 11:28 and what great benefits and blessing we can possess when we simply believe that promise.
Come, Sit, Stay has refreshed my mind and brought me to come to Jesus without fear, to sit at his feet without worry and to stay with him without ever being forsaken. Whether you feel your soul to be amidst a terrible storm or you feel your soul to be fast asleep sailing on the clear blue ocean, this Spirit filled devotional will warm your heart to the continual surpassing joy and rest there is with Jesus. Come, Sit, Stay is an invitation to deeper life in Christ.
Ellen Vaughn does a better job in introducing her own book. Watch the video below
I wrote my own little devotional with the same title inspired by Ellen's book. You can read it here: http://countedrighteousinchrist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/miscellanies-33-come-sit-and-stay.html
Saturday, 12 May 2012
In her column, entrepreneur and CEO Margaret Heffernan wrote, ”… it is the responsibility of the powerful to ensure that they surround themselves with independent thinkers and critical allies who have the freedom and moral courage to tell them the truth. When leaders choose not to do so, they embrace blindness and the moral darkness that goes with it”.
In her book Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril she describes how small acts of avoidance build up towards big disasters such as the recent Gulf oil spill and multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes. So, not merely at the top, but at every level people can contribute to a culture of organisational silence.
A biblical account of willful blindness is found in 1 Kings 22 where the king has surrounded himself with 400 prophets who promise him victory in battle. ‘Groupthink’ of biblical proportions. It’s easily confused with ‘unity’. Groupthink is the mode of thinking that happens when the desire for harmony overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Though the king is merely interested in a similar, favorable report, he still consults the prophet Micaiah who predicts his defeat. Sadly, he proves to be the only true prophet. Having chosen to ignore the minority voice, the king dies in battle.
A dramatic disturbance of the groupthink occurs in Revelations, where the King himself spoils the party of the Laodecian church leaders who are blindingly unaware of their pitiful, poor, and naked condition. While accessing the wise counsel, the refined riches, and the healing balm will be costly, such overcoming carries invaluable promises.
It takes courage to invite people to crash your party, to include unlikely people in your orbit, to listen to unharmonious sounds and to go to unlikely places. It’s hard to see the ‘unity’ being disturbed. It’s much easier to sanitise yourself from critical voices. It’s humbling to learn from the ‘out crowd’. Much easier to discredit and patronise them.
And all the while, the simplest of questions starts a new trajectory; the modest of voices brings a truthful clarity; the unlikeliest of people raise the imagination; and even the young have visions and dreams. Such is the disturbingly egalitarian nature of the outpouring of God’s Spirit.
Creating cultures of learning involves us all. It means asking the unlikely question and taking time to cultivate a curious mind. It may be costly to voice the blindingly obvious, particularly when the huge white elephant in the room threatens to crush you. Standing on a hill in Galilee, Jesus declares that the excluded, those who suffer for something righteous, or are spoken against, are blessed. For their reward lies somewhere else.
Furthermore, they are in good company - the best, in fact. While you may find yourself among the ‘superfluous’, the saving companionship with Christ will prove to be most precious.
So, whether we are in the ‘in’ or ‘out’ crowd, may the eyes of our heart be enlightened so that we may know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:18).
Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change - Evangelical Alliance
Thursday, 10 May 2012
There is absolute power, an unmitigated irrepressible power in the name of Jesus that breaks every chain, heals every disease, comforts every repenting sinner and brings all the elect of God safely home. No circumstances or earthly, spiritual power, can stand against this un-quenching power. Even that beloved friend, that pampered baby, freewill, has no power over the irrepressible power of Christ. In the end his love will crush your will, which will bring each saint at last to say, thank you Lord Jesus for finding me when I never knew I was lost. Thank you my altogether lovely saviour, the chief among ten thousands for unleashing your chariot of grace to stop the red sea from consuming me.
I am willing my lovely Saviour to expose myself to difficulties and dangers, my life to hazard and to lay it down if the edification of the church so require and for the glory of your name. My heart, never faint, never sigh in the midst of danger and despair, his power, yea, that dangerous power of Love he has for me, will and has conquered every foe. There is after-all an omnipotent wave of eternal sweetness laid for me; death shall be my servant, my un-willing enemy that will accomplish my Master’s desire to have me safe in his heavenly arms.
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Monday, 7 May 2012
Humour has been lost on most protestant writers but not on Carl Trueman. Fools Rush In is a collection of writings by Trueman, not united by any internal theme beyond being reflections. Trueman’s reflections are insightful and satirical.
Rodney Trotter who wrote the preface for this book sums up the audience likely to enjoy this book:
A custard in the face is the funniest thing one man has ever seen; to another, it is a degrading act of physical assault. This book is, I suspect, designed to be enjoyed by the former, and to offend the latter.
I enjoyed, laughed out loud and pondered Trueman’s points. I felt at home, comfortable, entertained, as well as reflect on the seriousness of the irony of modern day evangelical and reformed church culture.
Here are some quotes from Fools Rush In. (I am aware of the dangers of reading quotes out of context)
When prayers become the equivalent “Yo, how you doing?!” then something has gone awry… how many of us sit in judgment of the sermon, grading it for quality, length, clarity, interest, as the minister brings us the word of God? If we have any grasp of God’s holiness, and any inkling of the importance of the prophetic task of preaching, we wont be giving the minister a grade; rather, we will be sitting and listening to what he has to say, acutely conscious of our own unworthiness to hear God as he speaks to us…. then, when the song we sing can be summarised, ‘Jesus is my best boyfriend’ we can be sure that something is seriously out of joint. -something is missing - a sense of the deep holiness of God. p65
So why did the markets not stop the problem? After all, according to some conservative pundits, the markets are like the force of gravity-neutral, impersonal, scientific, perpetually moving toward an economic equilibrium that promote freedom, prosperity, and all-round good health -social, cultural, and above all financial. The answer, of course, is that market forces are ultimately functions of human behaviour, albeit on a macro-level; and human beings as depraved and as blinded as they are, generate market forces that reflect that depravity. P88
It is not a financial bailout that is needed; it is individual repentance by countless thousands of people.
I am not much of a web wanderer but on the odd occasion I do a bit of web surfing, I am struck by how many Christians, pastors, professors, and laity have blogs, face book and twitters going. How many million Christian hours are wasted writing this stuff, engaging in mindless blog treads, and telling the world about personal trivia? And what does it tell us about the expansive visions and ambitions out there? Apparently the world is now everyone’s birthright. P91
When I see Christians blogging so much, I wonder how many sermons are being prepared on the fly because of lack of time, how many parishioners go unvisited, how many prayers remain unsprayed, how many words of love and affections to spouses and children are never said, how many books - let alone the bible-are left unread, and how many fellowship atrophy through lack of any real, meaningful social and spiritual intercourse. Indeed, to summarize: how many online communities (sic) prosper to the detriment of the real, physical communities into which the Lord has placed each and every single one of us? How many complain of the insufficient time to do the boring routines of the Christian life- worship services, Sunday school, visiting the sick and the aged, fellowship, bible reading, prayer - and yet always somehow manage to fit in a quick twitter or blog or pod cast or change their face book status? P92
The world also teaches that everyone is special, has a unique contribution to make, and must have a prize of some kind. All people need to tell the world about their greatness, their uniqueness…. This belief that we are each special, by and large is complete tosh. Most of us are mediocre, make unique contributions only in the peculiar ways we screw things up, and could easily be replaced as a husband, father, or employee by somebody better suited to the task. P116
…far to many Christians have senses of destiny that verge on the messianic. The confidence that the Lord has a special plan and purpose just for them shapes the way they act and move. Now, just for the record, I am a good Calvinist, and I certainly believe that each individual has a destiny: what concerns me is the tendency to always think of ourselves as special and unique (which we all are in some ways- DNA, etc.) bleeds over into a sense of special identity whereby the future, or at least the future of myself, comes to be the priority and to trump all else.... Church is the meaning of human history not just an individual. It is the church that is the big player in God’s wider plan not me. P116
I highly recommend the purchase of this book especially if you enjoy humour. I promise you will eventually LOL.
Purchase book here: http://www.prpbooks.com/Fools-Rush-In-Where-Monkeys-Fear-to-Tread-2191.html&session=9a62ae8d65b23b6fb6b38525d5c4ed91
Over the past decade or so, some within evangelicalism have begun to question the uniqueness of the Bible. Those who question the uniqueness and inerrancy of the bible have suggested that we ought to treat the bible as a book (special) but not as the unique book that perfectly illumines all things. God’s overall authority is brought into question; his glory is diminished as Scripture is not all God-breathed. The essays featured in this book explore that glory by unfolding the richness and perfections of the triune God. Contributions to this book includes well-known figures such as R.C Sproul, J.I Packer and Mark Dever. A thorough convicting defence is presented for the church to return to its central, long-standing, and vital conviction that the bible is the Word of God, and so without error in its original autographs, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
Mark Dever writing about the importance of the Word in the Church especially the centrality of preaching states “I know that some today are suggesting that we need a less rational, more artistic, less authoritarian and elitist, more communal and participatory way of communicating Gods truth than this ancient way of one person standing there giving a monologue, while others sit and listen in silence. Such a critique of preaching is being made by many today, including evangelical authors. I think the ‘ancient method’ may be especially appropriate today, however given our isolating subjectivist, anti-authority, confused and confusing culture. Given this, there is just something downright appropriate about Gods people gathering and all closing their mouths, opening their ears, and listening to one person preach. Not just tell stories about his relationship with his kids and his dog, but actually preach God’s word to God’s people”.
Preachers should be driven by God’s word and not tend themselves to the itching ears of the audience.
If preachers don’t preach expositionally, they will never preach more than they already know, and constant topical subject may also lead the congregation to be conformed to the preacher’s mind rather than to God’s mind. Preachers ought to preach the word for in the history of revivals, preaching has been the principal means for revival.
The church need to stand on the authority of the Bible and maintain its uniqueness. Scripture is the Churches only infallible rule of faith and practice, without it, there is no ultimate authority. Everything becomes arbitrary.
Some may argue that Scripture itself is ambiguous to which Martin Luther would reply, “If scripture is obscure and ambiguous, what point is there in God given it to us? Are we not obscure and ambiguous enough without having our own obscurity, ambiguity, and darkness augmented for us from heaven”. God will always make good of his words and “there is nothing in scripture so plain that some men have not doubted it”.
Do you believe Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith and practice? If yes this book will help solidify your convictions, and if negative or unsure, this book will help you see the reasons why you ought to believe in the inerrancy of scripture.
Purchase book here: http://www.prpbooks.com/Solid-Ground-The-Inerrant-Word-of-God-in-an-Errant-World-2187.html
Sunday, 6 May 2012
*This post has not dealt with the awful effect that sexual sin can have in the heart of a believer, or how it can destroy fellowship and how it can lead to utter forsakeness and inability of one's faith.
Saturday, 5 May 2012
O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known.
In wrath remember mercy.
God came to earth from heaven. You became nothing. You lived as a man
You ate as a man, you suffered as a man and you died as a man.
You came for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your elect.
You crushed the head of the wicked and dismantled the rulers and authorities of this world.
You trampled sin, you buried death and unloosed life.
Your death brought me life - but my Lord I fear.
I have not lived according to my new life, my flesh fails me.
I am haunted by my past, tomorrow I know I will fail.
Revive me in the midst of my fears O LORD
In the midst of my fears make your power known.
That I may praise you with joy once again
That I may sing your praise in the assembly of the righteous.
on second thoughts don't, you don't wanna get mugged”.
I kill time there used to be a member,
what will I do now until September?”
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Her beauty shines, A monolith among the rest. I wish to forgo But when holiness fills my soul, I am drawn to her, The forbidden pasture...