Thursday, April 12, 2012

Moving to pastures new...

For various reasons I've decided to kick start blogging again, but these reflections will now be over at Wordpress, and will be able to be found here.

As ever, I value your thoughts & feedback.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Keep on keeping on...

Hey all,
Just a few comments to give you a chance to think through what we looked at last night at Growth Groups. As you'll know we were in Hebrews 10:19-12:4. It may be that you spend a few mornings this week looking at different parts of the passage, praying it through. As I'm sure you'll remember from NWA, it's a massive passage showing us what it looks like to live the Christian life, as we take on board these huge promises we've seen over the last few weeks.

10:19-39 - Take on board Jesus' finished work and keep on taking hold of it with both hands!

As you read through these verses, feel the tone in which it's written. Hear the loving heart of the guy who's writing as he begs these Christians to appreciate all that Jesus has done for us (v19-24), and to keep on going, to keep on holding fast to the hope to which God has promised us we'll get (v23).
The writer clearly sees there's a danger (v26) - the danger of forgetting what Jesus has done, of effectively trampling over Jesus and all he has done to save us (v29). And the way you do that is by giving up on Jesus, of throwing away our confidence in Jesus, of not enduring (v36), and instead 'shrinking back' (v38-39); basically giving up.

11:1-40 - Faith is not some fluffy, blind, abstract thing; it's taking God at his word, trusting in his promises even when we can't see what's been promised yet - that's what faith is!

Verse 1 gives us a really helpful definition of faith. Faith is trusting God's promise, even when what we hope for can't yet be seen. (Please, note that hope = our certain future 'hope', the new creation, rather than a vague 'I hope tomorrow will be sunny'). We then a massive list of men and women from the Old Testament who themselves exercised this kind of faith. The writer's saying, 'Look, this kind of faith has always been what God's wanted!' And it's pretty amazing, crazy stuff. Take Abraham for example, v8! He was told to leave his land and go to a new place where God would bless him; he'd never been there before, yet he trusted God's promise and left - he acted on the promise. It looks crazy (see Noah, v7... "building a booooat!! - how barmy would that have looked!
Why not spend some time looking at different people listed, thinking over how they demonstrate true faith, taking God at his word.
And yet have a read of v13, 16 and v39-40 - these guys we're looking forward to something even better that had been promised by God - the new creation! 

12:1-4 - So let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the one's guaranteed us our future, and shows us true endurance; get ready for a marathon!

So if trusting God's promises with our eyes on the future is what the Christian life's all about, then we should make sure absolutely nothing stops us from doing that. He tells us in these verses to get rid of any sin or distraction that's gonna hinder us, and fix our eyes on Jesus. Not only is he the author of our faith, the one who guarantees our future. He's also shows us what it looks like to endure and keep going.

We chatted about what kind of things would stop us from keeping going in the Christian life - some things we came up with were general weariness, going through suffering which makes us think God's no longer real or with us, the attractions of this world - maybe a relationship, career, etc. What do you think?

The writer also stresses the real need we have to help each other keep going - have a look at 10v24-25 - keeping going as a Christian is a community project!

Hope that provides some fuel for your prayers and encourages you!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Twin sisters, twin faiths?

Fascinating programme on Radio 4 this morning, here; Anna Scott Brown bringing us the tale of identical twin sisters, one who has become a Christian, the other a Muslim, and how they are dealing with the terminal illness and imminent death of their (initially atheist) mother.

Its striking first because it cuts through the mushed-together presentation of religion that we so often get in the media; two sisters clear on the 'fundamental differences' between what they believe, so much so that they have each chosen in their will that the other will not look after their child in the case of each of their deaths.

Second, the huge difference that therefore follows in the assurance each of them holds. The near death of their mother is clearly focusing the issues. The Muslim sister is clear that 'Muslims will never say anyone is saved, it's between God and our hearts... and on the day of judgment God will judge and he is just.' Whereas the Christian sister is humbly confident, 'I believe I will go to heaven, and I want that for my Mum, but I don't know if she will, and that's really hard.' She goes on, essentially trusting that 'God has already made it better between you and God.'

And then thirdly, striking in the emotional trauma of a family going through suffering together. Close to her death the mother has a 'religious experience', believing she has met God, and bringing about a visible turnaround in her beliefs about life. Interestingly the Muslim sister is clear that this experience essentially hasn't been about Jesus and so shouldn't be classed as a 'Christian experience'. Credit to Radio 4 for bringing us real life stories that do highlight the differences between Christianity and Islam and for not portraying either as religious wackos.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let's talk about Porn...

Tim Chester on his latest book, 'Captured by a better vision', with free download of the passionate introduction and second chapter, tackling the issue of porn head-on.

What difference does the gospel make?

Calvin's musings:

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

HT: Challies