Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Motivations for good theology...

God has filled my mind with zeal to spread his Kingdom and to further the public good.... I have had no other purpose than to benefit the church by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness... Moreover, it has been my purpose in this labor to prepare and instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word, in order that they may be able both to have easy access to it and to advance in it without stumbling.

John Calvin, To the Reader (Institutes)

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Safe Stronghold Our God is Still...

And though they take our life,
Goods, honour, children, wife
Yet is their profit small;
These things shall vanish all
The city of God remaineth.

Martin Luther

Spending time in Hebrews 11 & 12 this morning, with the call to endurance, of eyes fixed on the one whom completes our faith, who makes faith possible, who we have faith in as the completer of the promises. The significance of being promise-aware people is unmistakable - the great roll-call of faith 'heroes' in ch11 are those who had faith in the promises despite their present situations. Yet the truth of 12.1-13 is that our Father is disciplining us as we endure, that the situations we go through are forming us, 'that we may share his holiness', yielding the 'peaceful fruit of righteousness'.

The command to lay aside every weight, every constraining factor and unhelpful distraction, and to throw off every sin that clings so closely. Reading Justin Taylor & Kelly Kapic's foreword to their edited version of John Owen's 'Overcoming Sin & Temptation', with Owen's tagline ringing in my ears: 'Be killing sin, or it'll be killing you'. Know your enemy, examine yourself, outside and within, so that you are aware of your weakness, of the areas where the creepers are growing up. But they are fleeting pleasures... the blame of Christ will always be of greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. Father, help me to believe it!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Are we lying to God when we sing...

Bob Kauflin, a staff member of Sovereign Grace ministries, helpfully writes here in response to the question often raised about the fact that many of the songs we sing in our churches are bold declaratory statements of commitment to God. Given the reality of our battle to be faithful, and the struggles with the flesh, is it wrong to sing 'I will worship you alone'? Have we misunderstood the extent of our sinfulness? I have a tendency to be weary of those big statements knowing that tomorrow I'll be about to make an idol of something else - is this the right attitude? Or am I giving too little time to God's grace at work in my life teaching me to worship him alone?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not Peace, but a Sword...

At church last night we finished our mini-series on relating rightly to parents by looking at how the gospel calls us to prioritise Jesus as king, above and beyond everything else. Jesus' words in Matt 10 (e.g. v.34-42) are straight to the point, they're blunt, they're sharp, and they pierce right at the heart of what matters to us.

It was a wake-up call again to the real blessing it is to grow up in a Christian home, with parents who know and love the Lord Jesus. It is often the case that kids from Christian homes come to resent their upbringing, but actually that is completely the wrong attitude. To be able to go home and be encouraged, to be able to read the Bible, to meet with friends around the word in the family home, to recieve no condemnation when you go to church... what a joy it is!

God calls us to honour parents - it's the first commandment with a promise attached (Ex 20.12) - and I know I'm very guilty of not practicing that command. Wonderful to hear God's teaching on an issue that too often is side-lined for more 'hip' talks on sex, money, and all the rest of it. God sovereignly chose them to bring us into the world.

Thank you Mum & Dad!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let us...

Loving reading Hebrews at the moment... the most beastly section on how Jesus is...
> the superior High Priest, by the power of an indestructible life (7.16) continuing forever so able to save at all times those who draw near to him, holy and blameless, who offered a sacrifice once for all (7.27).
> so he has a more excellent ministry than the old covenant as he mediates a new covenant which deals with the last one's fault: the fact that we sin!
> But Jesus entered once for all, his own blood securing an eternal redemption, once for all (!), in a body prepared for him, choosing to do his Father's will (10.9).
> And he's the only high priest who SITS DOWN! Job done! It is Finished!

And so, the writer finishes the section with some application... and isn't it great!

Therefore, brothers,
since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hanging out with the pre-exilic prophets...

At Digging Deeper today we looked at the books of Jonah and Nahum - it is amazing that we can hear God speak to us through his Word. Jonah has a lot to say about the Lord God's vast love for his enemies, and is a big lesson in humility for us who are Christian. Remember grace! Nahum, on the other hand, was a big fat reminder that God is just and his judgement is real. We have a jealous God and an avenging God who will save his people and give them refuge as he deals with his enemies with great anger.

We're studying these books in our CU groups this term, so it'll be a pleasure to get to know them better and to hear God, and see his Spirit change lives. I'm excited!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back in the 'ham...

Another term begins in Durham... my penultimate one in fact. A new year and a new term mean things like resolutions and whatnot are buzzing around the top of my brain. It feels like a new start, another go, a chance to do things differently... of course, it is and it isn't.

Particularly grateful to an article on friendship by the Bish. Looking back at the last term, friendships are amongst the things I count highest. True friendship is built around the cross of Christ.

We chatted about this over breakfast & Psalm 119 with the boys over the hols - we need to be real people, people who are friends in view of the cross, and in light of the Lord Jesus' return. I hope that I may be that kind of friend this year.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back to the future, back to reality...

Today was a bonanza day for gospel fellowship. Coffee and croissants with the boys as we listened to Chris Ash expounding Psalm 119 (on mp3 may I add... available from here); sharing news, passion, and Jesus with the Drewmeister, and being blessed by the word explained again in the evening with a handful of young people from church. This time it was Rico Tice on 2 Cor 4.1-6 (again, on mp3... available from here).

It is the word of God that brings a foretaste of the glorious future into present Christian experience. So often I am won over as I search for 'little rescues', whereas the word of God pulls my longings for the future. A joy to read the promises of 119.150-151, with the nearness of suffering and persecution, yet the closer reality of our covenant God.
It doesn't matter how many 'i-words' we use: inerrant, infallible... unless
we delight in the Word of God, we are practical liberals.
Christopher Ash

Great to get real with the boys and talk about how we relate to each other as Christians longing for the new creation: genuine concern for the battle, leaving room for reality, killing superficial 'care', encouraging heaven-mindedness.

Humbled again by the closing words of the Psalmist:

I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not
forgotten your commands.

Psalm 119.176

We are nothing but lost sheep, we fall so short. As Rico said, 'If our friends knew what God knew about us, they'd never entrust us with anything like what God does'. Life dependent on grace; ministry dependent on grace. It must be a year dependent on grace.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year!

"Without the Word, there is nothing left for us but darkness."
from John Calvin's commentary on 2 Peter 1.19
Over the last week or so it's been a joy to discover the life of Hudson Taylor in his biography, A Man in Christ, by Roger Steer. I'm barely a third of the way through, but the faith a man so young shows is a real wake-up call.

He seems to have such great dependence on God to provide, on his sovereign hand, on the power of his gospel to bring the Chinese to faith. I do hope 2007 is year marked by living by faith.

Taylor's willingness to drop everything to put the needs of the Chinese first are a real stark prod at my, and I'm sure many Western Christians, comfort with 'the way things are'. I was reading an article on Calvin for my dissertation, and he showed a similar readiness to abandon his own priorities once the call of God was clear. Calling is a mysterious word - we can use to defend ourselves as comfy Christians - and yet the call to 'Go and make disciples' is there - we've been called by grace into the kingdom of light. The only viable response, to share that same kingdom call, is what we're all called to. I hope that this year would be one where I do 'Abandon it all, for the sake of the call'.