Saturday, 18 December 2010

New Blog: Girls Adorn

Check out this new blog from my friend Natalie. 'Girls Adorn' is about exploring what it means to be a female Christian in the 21st Century.

Natalie's got a PhD in Theology but more importantly wants to honour Jesus through 'adorning the doctrine of God' (Titus 2:10) with her lifestyle. Natalie and her husband are excellent friends and Christian examples.

Natalie writes about Girls Adorn:

'Many of us are trying to understand what being a woman of God looks like, after Christ, after feminism, after leaving home – in the wild WILD world of the 21st Century.

‘Girls Adorn’ is dedicated to honest, gritty articles on biblical womanhood, image, identity, relationships, sex, lust, purity, holiness, church life, theology, spirituality and female accountability.'

Read more about Girls Adorn here.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

All Grace, No Boasting

This is an amazing post from John Piper. It's titled 'My Happy Confession of Having No Merit'. I echo everything he writes.

This is my confession:

I was born into a believing family through no merit of my own at all.

I was given a mind to think and a heart to feel through no merit of my own at all.

I was brought into the hearing of the gospel through no merit of my own at all.

My rebellion was subdued, my hardness removed, my blindness overcome, and my deadness awakened through no merit of my own at all.

Thus I became a believer in Christ through no merit of my own at all.

And so I am an heir of God with Christ through no merit of my own at all.

Now when I put forward effort to please the Lord who bought me, this is to me no merit at all, because is not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

...God is working in me that which is pleasing in his sight. (Hebrews 13:21)

...he fulfills every resolve for good by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

And therefore there is no ground for boasting in myself, but only in God’s mighty grace.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)

(RT: Desiring God)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

All Things

Romans 8:30-32:

Whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

'Paul is telling us that there is no ultimate loss or irreparable impoverishment to be feared; if God denies us something, it is only in order to make room for one or other of the things he has in mind...

Paul's 'all things' is not a plethora of material possessions, and the passion for possessions has to be cast out of us in order to let the 'all things' in. For this phrase has to do with knowing and enjoying God, and not with anything else. The meaning of 'he will give us all things' can be put thus: one day we shall see nothing- literally nothing- which could have increased our eternal happiness has been denied us, and that nothing- literally nothing- that could have reduced that happiness has been left with us. What higher assurance do we want than that?'

- J. I. Packer, Knowing God, pg 307-308

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What is the only real comfort in life and death?

This answer from the Heidelburg Catechism is excellent:

That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.'

Knowing that Jesus loves you enough to die for your sins should give real comfort everyday of life, and beyond.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Grace, Sin and Righteousness

Reading through Paul Tripp's twitter feed has been a massive blessing. Here are a few of what I think are his best tweets...

  • If the righteousness of Christ is my hope, then I am freed from any need to polish and display my own.
  • Christ fulfilled the law's requirement, not so you would be a law breaker, but one who celebrates the grace that enables you to keep it.
  • The greatest threat to the church isn't atheism or materialism, but moralism that celebrates a righteousness that doesn't come from Christ.
  • Admitting you are a sinner means running from your tendency to defend, excuse, or shift the blame for what God clearly says is wrong.
  • Why is legalism dangerous? It makes you think you're more righteous than you are and that you don't need grace as much as you do.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Bonhoffer on acting as the Church

Found a good quote on Tim Chester's blog about giving and receiving rebukes. Individualism can make the church become passive at this. The family of God need to be loving by taking responsibility for each other. This can include helping and supporting people as well as correcting and rebuking.

'The basis on which Christians can speak to one another is that each knows the other as a sinner who, even given all one’s human renown, is forlorn and lost if not given hep. This does not mean that the others are being disparaged or dishonoured. Rather, we are paying them the only real honour a human being has, namely, that as sinners they share in God’s grace and glory, that they are children of God. This realization gives our mutual speech the freedom and openness it needs. We talk to one another about the help we both need. We admonish one another to go the way Christ bids us to go. We warn one another against the disobedience that is our undoing. We are gentle and we are firm with one another, for we know both God’s kindness and God’s firmness. Why should we be afraid of one another since both of us have only God to fear?’

‘Nothing can be more cruel than that leniency which abandons other to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than that severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.’

More Bonheffer quotes here.

Real Christianity

There are loads of different ideas about what authentic Christianity is in our culture, and there always has been. Jesus made it one of His missions to correct the 'Bible-guys' of His day. The Pharisee's presumed they had arrived theologically and spiritually. Jesus said to them: 'You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.' (John 5:39-40)

Many people have misconceptions of real Christianity. Even though I was brought up in a Christian home I presumed that Christianity was a way to dodge God's anger, a bit like a 'get out of hell free' card. Recently I've been reading a book by Henry Scougal called 'The Life of God in the Soul of Man'. You can read it online here. In it Scougal defines real Christianity:

'...true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle's phrase, it is 'Christ formed within us'... I know not how the nature of religion can be more fully expressed, than by calling it a divine life.' (Page 16, IVP)

Real Christianity is knowing Christ. It's the enjoyment of God's essence. It's knowing and loving God because He first loved us! Jesus said to His Father while on earth: 'this is eternal life that they may know you the only one true living God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent' (John 17:3)

Sunday, 28 March 2010

When Not to Preach

I admire John Piper becuase he preaches well and knows when not to preach.

Praise God for giving Piper the discernement to identify his own pride, and the courage to do all he can to crucify it.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Repent Again Now

Piper exhorts Christians not to sin against grace:

Thursday, 18 February 2010

At the Cross...

We see God’s sovereignty—reigning with absolute control over humanity’s greatest sin.

We see God’s purpose—making known the mystery of His will prepared before time.

We see God’s plan—to unite all things, on heaven and on earth, in Him.

We see God’s judgment—requiring recompense for guilt.

We see God’s holiness—demanding the perfect sacrifice.

We see God’s power—crushing the Son of God according to the purpose of His will.

We see God’s wrath—punishing the wretchedness of sin.

We see God’s sorrow—wailing as only a forsaken son can.

We see God’s mystery—the Son, as God, separated from the Father, committing His Spirit to God.

We see God’s compassion—pleading to the Father to forgive the ignorant.

We see God’s gift—His one and only Son, bruised and broken on our behalf.

We see God’s mercy—making unrighteous sinners righteous.

We see God’s love—Christ dying for sinners.

We see God’s rescue operation—delivering us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His Son.

We see God’s proposal—pledging Himself to His bride forever.

We see God’s revelation—the Word of God speaking His last so He might speak on behalf of many.

We see God’s victory—disarming His enemies, putting them to shame, and triumphing over them.

We see God’s glory—the name of the Father being magnified for the sake of all peoples.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Pursuing God as the Greatest Delight

Reading through Augustine's Confessions is a great way to see how to relate to God. The whole book is written like a prayer in the third person- it's a demonstration of how to pour out your heart to the Lord.

Below is a quote where Augustine explains that sin is neglecting the higher good (God), while giving preference to inferior delights. (Maybe C. S. Lewis was thinking of this part of the Confessions when writing The Weight of Glory).

'The life that we live here has its own peculiar attractiveness, and allure all its own, especially in its harmony with the rest of the creation. The bond of human friendship has a sweetness of its own, binding many souls together as one. Yet because of these things we value, sin is committed. We have an inordinate preference for these things of a lower order while neglecting the better and the higher good. We neglect You, Lord God- Your truth, and Your law.

While these inferior things we value have their delights, none are equal to You. For in You, O God, the righteous delight and You are the sweetness of the upright in heart.'

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The shortest and most helpful review of 'The Shack' that I've read


'At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form... I have heard many reports of semi-believers and non-believers claiming that this book gave them an answer to their biggest objections to faith in God. However, sprinkled throughout the book, Young’s story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines.

... The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.'- Tim Keller

Monday, 11 January 2010

A Great Mystery

'Indeed, this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world—namely, that a righteousness that resides with a person in heaven should justify me, a sinner on earth.'

-John Bunyan

Friday, 8 January 2010

Jesus and Relationships

'The gods of moralistic religions favour the successful and the overachievers. They are the ones who climb the moral ladder up to heaven. But the God of the Bible is the one who comes down into the world to accomplish a salvation and give us a grace we could never attain ourselves. He loves the unwanted, the weak and unloved. He is not just a king and we are the subjects; he is not just a shepherd and we are the sheep. He is a husband and we are his spouse. He is ravished with us- even those of us whom no one else notices...

When God came to earth in Jesus Christ... He became the man nobody wanted. He was born in a manger. He had no beauty that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:2). He came to his own and his won recieved him not (John 1:11). And at the end everybody abondoned him. Jesus cried even to his Father: 'Why have you forsaken me?'

... Why did he become the man nobody wanted? For you and me. He took upon himself our sins and died in our place. If we are deeply moved by the sight of his love for us, it detaches our hearts from other would-be saviors. We stop trying to redeem ourselves through our pursuits and relationships, because we are already redeemed. We stop trying to make others into saviors because we have a Savior.'

-Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
From the chapter Love Is Not All You Need, pg 44-45

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

5 Hard Truths for Church Planters and How to Kill Stress

The series written by Dustin Neely from the resurgence is very helpflul and practical. The five hard truths are:

1) Be Resilient
2) Be Yourself
3) Think Hybrid
4) Kill Your Stress
5) Lead Your Family Well

Kill Your Stress is my favourite post. Here are four steps to killing stress featured in that post.

4 Steps to Kill Your Stress
Kill your stress before it kills you. Here are four ways:

1. Live your Bible.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:33-34).

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Psalm 115:3).

We believe these Scriptures. We teach these Scriptures. But do we live these Scriptures? The reality is that most of us don't.

In seasons of stress, meditate specifically on passages that remind you of the truth and not your perceived reality. Look for the sins behind the sin for why you can't relax—sins like control, unbelief, or your worth rooted in your identity as a church planter. As you see the discrepancy between what you believe and how you live, confess, repent and pray for God's help.
Make it your goal to live the goodness of the gospel and not just believe it.

2. Listen to your body.
You know that burning in your chest at the top of your stomach? That's not supposed to be there! That, and other symptoms, are the “God-installed” ways your body has of telling you to slow down and trust him. Listen to your body’s signs, and let them be a reminder to trust him with your life, family, and church. You don't want somebody else raising your kids. If your body is telling you to slow down, do it.

3. Listen to your wife and kids.
If you are married, your spouse is likely your best ally in your ongoing battle with stress. Chances are, she and the kids (if you have them), are going to be who God uses to make you laugh, go to bed, and take a day off. Don't ignore them! If she thinks you are stressed, you probably are, even if you don't. If your kids make comments about why daddy is so tired or mad, listen to them and make changes.

4. Learn your limits.
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro has a great principle called "The Plate." Every leader has a certain-sized plate based on their skills, gifts, life season, health, etc. Not all our plates are the same size, and that is the way God designed it. Trust that God made you who you are to do what you can do and leave it at that. Realize that a lot of your stress comes from the fact that you have a salad plate stacked with a buffet plate's amount of food. Repent. Resize. Repeat.

Monday, 4 January 2010

New Year, Same Resolution

Happy New Year to everyone who reads/glances/scrolls through these posts! It's that time of the year when people make an extra effort to make a fresh start and turn over a new leaf. We call it making a New Years Resolution, but often these resolutions don't work. This is all because we look to the resolution for power to keep it. This is one of the big mistakes that lots of people make (including me) with the Christian life. We look at the law and think to ourselves 'God wants me to do this or that. So I need to try really hard to do what he wants'. We treat God's standards like a resolution, we look for power to keep the law in the law, we look for strength to be a good Christian from the commands. Again and again we find we aren't living in a Christian way because we look to the wrong source for our and strength power. The Christian life is a life of faith (Hab 2:4). The way to live according to God's ways is by faith. What does that mean? 'Faith' doesn't really mean anything until we describe what we have faith in. This is how Paul sums up the Christian life:

'The life which I know live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved my an gave Himself for me'

Galatians 2:20

Paul wants us to know that the only way to for God is by faith. And that faith needs to be faith in the gospel. It's faith in the fact that the God-man was slaughtered in my place and for my sin. But not only that. Paul also wants us to know that His bloody death is the greatest indicator of God's love. Jesus death means God's love. But not only in a general sense. We need to have an impression of His love on our hearts. We need to see and be amazed that He gave Himself for us and you individually. We need to see that God's love is wonderfully personally and beautifully individual, whilst being at the same time collective.

So according to Paul the Christian life is empowered by a realisation of God's love shown in Jesus. If I'm to do anything Christian in my life- if I'm to love my neighbour, help the poor, serve my city, kill sin- I need to believe the gospel to greater degree everyday. The extent to which I believe the gospel is the extent of the empowering I receive to live God's way.

My resolution for 2010 and (continuing resolution for every year to come) is reflected in Ephesians 3:17-19

'that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.'