Monday, 31 March 2008

I cannot pray...

I cannot say “our” if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment.

I cannot say “Father” if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child.

I cannot say “who art in heaven” if I am laying up no treasure there.

I cannot say “hallowed be Thy name” if I am not striving for holiness.

I cannot say “Thy kingdom come” if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day.

I cannot say “Thy will be done” if I am disobedient to His Word.

I cannot say “on earth as it is in heaven” if I will not serve Him here and now.

I cannot say “give us... our daily bread” if I am dishonest or an “under-the-counter” shopper.

I cannot say “forgive us our debts” if I harbor a grudge against anyone.

I cannot say “lead us not into temptation” if I deliberately place myself in its path.

I cannot say “deliver us from evil” if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

I cannot say “Thine is the kingdom” if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject.

I cannot attribute to Him “the power” if I fear what men may do.

I cannot ascribe to Him “the glory” if I am seeking honor only for myself.

I cannot say “forever” if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.

An unknown author.. quoted by John MacArthur in Drawing Near

Friday, 28 March 2008

Fearing the Lord

What does it mean to fear the Lord? 

This question came up as we studied Psalm 25 yesterday. In v. 12, the psalmist asks, "Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose." What does it mean to fear the Lord? And who is that man who fears the Lord? Should we fear the Lord? Some of the ideas we gathered yesterday are:


1. The fear of his wrath, because He is just and mighty. knowing that we are sinful makes us tremble. it is the idea of the consequences of our sin (i.e. death) that makes us fear. ("I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me." Deut 9:19)

Thus, the definition of "fear of the Lord" could be a kind of reverence that comes from knowing His character, He is just and our sin offends Him. While that seems viable, it starkly contradicts 1 John 4:18," "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." It seems, as we are perfectly hidden in Christ, that it is not punishment we should fear... 

After that, we explored some of these verses,

2. Phil 2:12-13, Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

3. Exodus 14:31, Moses records,"And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant."

Both 2 and 3 point to the fact that fear of the Lord and salvation come hand-in-hand. For the people not yet saved, they have no fear of the Lord and his wrath because they are blinded by their sin. "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes." Psalm 36:1.

Fear and grace are a package deal as in that verse in Amazing Grace, "tis grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." (Not saying that this song has authority but it helps illustrate this...)

We know that in Psalm 25:12, the man who fears the Lord is the Messiah because "his offspring shall inherit the land." (v.13) Would it then be logical to say that the answer to "Who is the man who fears the Lord?" is Jesus? Jesus feared His Father. Whoa...

If the Father and the Son were united in love, why would Jesus fear his Father? Maybe it is as in Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from the words of my groaning?" The thought of the Father forsaking him leaves him to cry out by day and find no rest by night (v.2). While it is fair to say that this statement explains the way our sins are atoned for by Jesus as even His Father turns His face away, his grief and sense of pleading is undeniable, his fear comes from knowing the weight of the sin on his shoulders and the consequent wrath of God poured onto him.

If all of that stands, if Jesus feared, then we must fear in the same way. For when we are joined to Jesus, nailed to the cross, died and raised back to life with him, then at the experience of our conversion, we also feel the same fear of the wrath of God before dying to our old selves and being born again. And as in Phil 2:12-13, although we are covered by Jesus and have the certainty of salvation, we still work out (live out, manifest) our salvation in fear and trembling. This continual process points to a daily remembrance of the fear we felt at the cross with Jesus, and the consequent death to our old selves, knowing that we are in Him.

The application, then, might be that it is not that we should fear the Father's punishment, but far from it. It is knowing that we are in Jesus that we can see clearly the fear that we should have felt at the wrath of God, which pushes us towards thankfulness and daily surrender to His will.

What do you think?

Thursday, 27 March 2008


BBC article from a week ago

So basically God makes you happy to live your own life...

Sigh.... we are utterly failing at evangelism
even the head of the secular society (!!) knows that...

A belief in God could lead to a more contented life, research suggests.

Religious people are better able to cope with shocks such as losing a job or divorce, claims the study presented to a Royal Economic Society conference.

Data from thousands of Europeans revealed higher levels of "life satisfaction" in believers.

However, researcher Professor Andrew Clark said other aspects of a religious upbringing unrelated to belief may influence future happiness.

This is not the first study to draw links between religion and happiness, with a belief among many psychologists that some factor in either belief, or its observance, offering benefits.

Professor Clark, from the Paris School of Economics, and co-author Dr Orsolya Lelkes from the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, used information from household surveys to analyse the attitudes of Christians - both Catholic and Protestant - not only to their own happiness, but also to issues such as unemployment.

Their findings, they said, suggested that religion could offer a "buffer" which protected from life's disappointments.

Professor Clark said: "We originally started the research to work out why some European countries had more generous unemployment benefits than others, but our analysis suggested that religious people suffered less psychological harm from unemployment than the non-religious.

"They had higher levels of life satisfaction".

Purpose of life

Even though churchgoers were unsurprisingly more likely to oppose divorce, they were both less psychologically affected by marital separation when it did happen, he said.

"What we found was that religious people were experiencing current day rewards, rather than storing them up for the future."

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, which represents the interests of atheists and agnostics, said that studies purporting to show a link between happiness and religion were "all meaningless".

"Non-believers can't just turn on a faith in order to be happy. If you find religious claims incredible, then you won't believe them, whatever the supposed rewards in terms of personal fulfilment.

"Happiness is an elusive concept, anyway - I find listening to classical music blissful and watching football repulsive.

"Other people feel exactly the opposite. In the end, it comes down to the individual and, to an extent, their genetic predispositions."

But Justin Thacker, head of Theology for the Evangelical Alliance, said that there should now be no doubt about the connection between religious belief and happiness.

"There is more than one reason for this - part of it will be the sense of community and the relationships fostered, but that doesn't account for all of it.

"A large part of it is due to the meaning, purpose and value which believing in God gives you, whereas not believing in God can leave you without those things."

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The Merrie Theologian...

If you don't know already...

The Merrie Theologian is the blog on UCCF's website..

It gets updated one a month with glorious stories of old... such as the one below!


Those Priceless Purtians!

The old Puritans aren’t generally known for their rollicking laughs; yet when it came to naming their children, they seemed to have the most roguish sense of humour. Not satisfied with biblical names, some sought to give their children whole bible verses or edifying slogans for Christian names:

‘Job-Raked-Out-Of-The-Ashes,’ ‘Search-The-Scriptures,’ or ‘Fly-Fornication’ for example. Surely no child could be so-named with a straight face.

Perhaps the best-known example was ‘Praise-God’ Barebone, a member of the Nominated Assembly in Cromwell’s day.

Praise-God Barebone

‘Praise-God’ got off lightly, though – his brother was called ‘Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save’ Barebone. Nevertheless, he decided to exact his revenge on his son, naming him ‘Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned’ Barebone. Unsurprisingly, people found it easier to refer to the son simply as ‘Damned’ Barebone. Yet, for some reason, ‘Damned’ preferred to be known as Nicholas, and it is under that name that he founded London’s first fire insurance company and fire brigade

If you’d like some more Puritan advice in naming your child, maybe one of the following can inspire you:


Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter Ponderings...

Just been pondering over Easter about the Cross. Having experienced and celebrated my 4th Easter, I started to wonder if Jesus died on the cross solely for the purpose of saving us from sin. And naturally, the next question popped up: if Adam and Eve did not sin, would Jesus still have to die on the cross?

I asked some of our brothers and they agreed that there was never a plan B. As in God knew from the beginning that creation would sin, that Jesus will die on the cross even before Eve considered eating any fruit. So I wondered why would God want to make a sinful creation? And how is it that God would call such a sinful creation good?

Leon's essay on Hebrews seemed to answer my question spot on. This is an excerpt:
"You see, whilst the Letter to the Hebrews has much to say about the awesome, sure and secure salvation that God has wrought for us in Christ, a careful reading of this letter shows that it is a blinding exposition on the perfecting of the Only Begotten Son of God through the Cross. Everything else – creation, Adam and Eve, Israel, the law and yes, even sin and salvation - everything is simply the backdrop set up for the Cross of Christ to take centre stage, the Cross on which the Only Begotten Son of the Father is to be made perfect in love through this cursed and completely undeserved death in perfect obedience to the Father.”

Perhaps it is true that all the world is a stage. Just as how a world class swimmer cannot show how good and fast he is when he competes at school but can do so when he triumphs in the ultimate competition at the Olympics; similarly God has so much love and power to show that he needs a stage to properly exhibit it.

This stage is thus creation. Creation created by Christ for Christ to show the love of Christ. Even before sin entered creation, God separated light from darkness. For one cannot see darkness unless there is no light; when Jesus entered creation, he has to be absent in some places or we will not be able to see darkness or see how bad sin is. God created darkness by withdrawing light but he did not create sin, for sin was not created but a product of being lesser, of being good but not perfect.

I like my damsel in distress analogy. All good proper movies need a hero who dies for the damsel, but if the damsel does not get into trouble, how is the hero going to die for her? How can he sweep her off her feet and bring her to paradise?

Thus creation was created good, but not perfect, it sinned and got into trouble. But Jesus, the hero is able to save the damsel from hell by sacrificing himself and being a ransom, thus having the stage and means to display his awesome love and awesome power over death. That Jesus is able to make creation one with her, perfect and spotless and sweep her off her feet to eternal paradise.

Another problem popped up as I wondered why God would be angry with sin if God created us not perfect knowing that we will sin. Then again, this can be understandable when a couple considers having babies, we all know how babies can morph into immensely painful and exasperating teenagers yet we still want to have babies. But when they do mess up and do drugs and call Jesus pooh, we will be very angry and sad and will be even angrier and even more disappointed when they do not listen to us and repent. How much more is it with God our eternal Father in heaven.

There is one problem with the damsel in distress analogy though. Whilst the hero often takes the bullet as payment for the enemy, or pays the ransom so that the damsel can be freed from captives, the ransom paid at the cross is to God and by God. Not a ransom paid to Satan to set us free. We are doomed to hell not because of Satan but because we have broken God’s holy requirements which condemns us to eternal separation

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Christ is Risen!

(From the sermons of Charles Spurgeon - an exposition on Romans 6:4)

His victory is final. Like Samson, the fierce lion of death roared upon him in the vineyard. The monster had hitherto overcome everyone whom he assailed; but this time he met his match. Our greater Samson rent him as though he were a kid (goat); and though our deliverer fell in the act of victory, he rose from the death struggle with fullness of life. Behold, he comes to us to-day, bearing handfuls of honey, on which he bids us feed. He has taken it from the carcase of the lion which he slew. Now is death a store of sweets, rather than a cup of gall. To the child of God, death furnishes a couch of rest, and is no longer a dark and noisome prison cell. Death is the refining pot for this poor flesh and blood: the body is sown in corruption, but it is raised in incorruption and immortality. We shall with these eyes behold our Lord when he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth. O glorious resurrection, which has turned our poison into medicine! O miracle of love, which has made death to be the gate of life! When you were singing the Easter hymn just now, it seemed to me as if we filled the whole earth with silver bells; and when you came to the last verse, you were so fully getting into the music of the truth, that I had half a mind to cry, "Let us begin again." In the rising of Jesus death itself is shut up in prison, and ten thousand Hallelujahs come flying down from heaven to teach us how to sing—

Vain the watch, the stone, the seal
Christ has burst the gates of hell;
Death in vain forbids him rise,
Christ hath open'd paradise."

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Orderly Relationships

"Order can only be maintained – by love (submission), law (obedience) & life (blessing) – the command was a test for Adam’s love for God... covenant denotes relationship that the Lord establishes and maintains – law denotes the order required for that relationship to be meaningful" - Willem A. Van Gemeren

I shudder to think how this guy's marriage looks like.... does he list out a whole set of rules for his wife so that they can have a meaningful relationship? Come to think of it, sounds like a lot of failing relationships today....

Friday, 21 March 2008

Good Friday

Some quotes from John Owen in "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ"
(which honestly should be titled "Who is saved by the Death of Christ")

"The means in this work can be distinguished into 2 parts... His oblation and His intercession...

By His oblation we do not design only the particular offering of Himself upon the cross an offering to His Father, as the Lamb of God without spot or blemish, when He bare our sins or carried them up with Him in His own body on the tree, which was the sum and complement of His oblation and that wherein it did chiefly consist; but also His whole humiliation, or state of emptying Himself, whether by yielding voluntary obedience unto the law, as being made under it, that He might be the end thereof to them that believe, (Rom 10:4) or by His subjection to the curse of the law, in the antecedent misery and suffering of life, as well as by submitting to death, the death of the cross : for no action of His as Mediator is to be excluded from a concurrence to make up the whole means in this work. Neither by His intercession do I understand only that heavenly appearance of His in the most holy place for the applying unto us all good things purchased and procured by His oblation : but also every act of His exaltation conducing thereto, from His resurrection to His sitting down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, angels and principalities, and powers, being made subject to Him."

"Christ then, by His death, did merit and purchase, for all those for whom He died, all those things which in the Scripture are assigned to be the fruits and effects of His death. First, such that are privative -
1. Deliverance from the hand of our enemies (Luke 1:74) & from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10)
2. The destruction and abolition of death in His power (Heb 2:14)
3. Of the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)
4. Deliverance from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13)
5. From our vain conversation (1 Pet 1:18)
6. From the present evil world (Gal 1:4)
7. From the earth and from among men (Rev 16:3)
8. Purging of our sins (Heb 1:3)

Secondly, positive -
1. Reconciliation with God (Rom 5:10, Eph 2:16, Col 1:20)
2. Appeasing or atoning of God by propitation (Rom 3:25, 1 John 2:2)
3. Peacemaking (Eph 2:14)
4. Salvation (Matt 1:21)"

"The first thing that we shall lay down is concerning the dignity, worth, preciousness, and infinite value of the blood and death of Jesus Christ. The maintaining and declaring of this is doubtless especially to be considered; and every opinion that doth but seemingly clash against it is exceedingly prejudiced, at least deservedly suspected, yea, presently to be rejected by Christians, if upon search it be found to do so really and indeed, as that which is injurious and derogatory to the merit and honour of Jesus Christ. The Scripture, also, to this purpose is exceeding full and frequent in setting forth the excellency and dignity of his death and sacrifice, calling his blood, by reason of the unity of his person, “God’s own blood,” (Acts 10:28); exalting it infinitely above all other sacrifices, as having for its principle “the eternal Spirit,” and being itself “without spot,” (Heb 9:14) transcendently more precious than silver, or gold, or corruptible things,(1 Pet 1:8); able to give justification from all things, from which by the law men could not be justified (Acts 13:28).
Now, such as was the sacrifice and offering of Christ in itself, such was it intended by his Father it should be. It was, then, the purpose and intention of God that his Son should offer a sacrifice of infinite worth, value, and dignity, sufficient in itself for the redeeming of all and every man, if it had pleased the Lord to employ it to that purpose; yea, and of other worlds also, if the Lord should freely make them, and would redeem them. Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins of all and every man in the world. This sufficiency of his sacrifice hath a twofold rise:— First, The dignity of the person that did offer and was offered. Secondly, The greatness of the pain he endured, by which he was able to bear, and did undergo, the whole curse of the law and wrath of God due to sin. And this sets out the innate, real, true worth and value of the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ."

The Revelation of the Cross

If you enjoyed the John 1:1-18 talk below

then you really need to read these 2 awesome talks by Leon

Hebrews 10:1-18

Matthew 27

The Word of God is no "Common Word" - Part 3

(also from Scrivener's blog)

In talking about Allah as an idol the question comes ‘If Allah is a false god, does that make him nothing? something? a demon?’ I think Paul might say yes to all three questions:

“So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” (1 Cor 8:4-6)

Idols are nothing says Paul. But then he goes on to say they are not just called ‘gods’ but are gods. And then in chapter 10 he says pagan sacrifices are offered to ‘demons’. (1 Cor 10:20).

So are idols nothing? something? or demons? It seems like Paul is saying ‘all three.’ How can that be? Well it’s important that we take seriously the language of ‘gods’ (little ‘g’) and ‘demons’. (Ex 15:11, 1 Kings 8:25, Deut 10:17, Ps 82:1; Deut 32:16-21 - thanks Otepoti for these).

I think false gods are demonic. Their ‘nothingness’ is not a non-existence but rather an ontological lack. They are like a gaping hole - a nothing where there should be a something. A hole is not non-existent but it does have its existence in being a deficiency, a denigration. They are not unreal or non-existent. They are just ‘nothing.’ Their whole power and being is in being a negation.

Think of how John describes light and darkness. Light is something. Darkness is not something - certainly not like Light is something. Darkness is not unreal or non-existent but it still depends on being not light. On one hand it is a terrible power (a fearful something). But in another sense it is nothing - its whole existence is an existence in negation. I think idols are like this.

But again this is not to say the forces behind these dumb idols are impotent. Far from it - they have a fearsome dark power. Think of Deut 32

“16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God–gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The LORD saw this and rejected them because he was angered by his sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful. 21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.”

Here these gods ‘recently appear’. They are ‘no god’ and ‘worthless idols’ but nonetheless they are ‘gods’ - ‘demons’ even. Can we say then that objects of worship that are not God are nothing in themselves but become spiritual realities when worshipped. Demonic forces (which, again, are ‘dark’ forces - having their being in negating what is True) inhabit dumb idols when we invest them with power. When we seek life in what is dead it is not a neutral spiritual issue - the powers of darkness are involved.

So yes, idols are nothing. And something. And demons.

What say you?


  1. yemsee - an ontological lack! =)

    yea darkness which is a creation of the Lord - Is 45:7
    is a darkness that can be felt.. yet it is simply there to be cast out, to be destroyed?

    perhaps not a nothingness but an inevitability of destruction?
    or a uselessness, like a black hole kind of thing, that seeks only the destruction of others?

    since the term gods - i’m assuming derived from Elohiym - which denotes not just strong and mighty, but strong and mighty in the shepherd sense, i.e. to save
    so they are gods that are not gods?

    Christ even calls men (to whom the word of God came) gods - John 10/Ps 82 anyway, who will die like men - and Scripture cannot be broken

  2. Dan - Agreed.

    I read a very interesting book by Mike Taylor on ’spiritual warfare’. He made a case that in some cases gods that appear to be living and active are like ‘PO Boxes’ for demons who are decieving people.

    He argued the same for stuff like ‘hauntings’ and ‘ghosts’

    I think this fits with your ‘ontological lack’.

  3. yemsee -

    speaking of ontological lacks..

    like the church is ‘everything in everyway’ (or all in all)

    as in everything outside of Christ is destined for destruction and in some sense is nothing?

  4. Glen - Dan, I like the PO box illustration. Very helpful. So does Mike Taylor speak about Allah at all? I wonder what order of demon picks up Allah’s mail.

    Where was I reading recently that Luther thought Allah (or at least Islam) was the beast out of the earth of Rev 13. Was it you?

    Also, having used ‘ontological lack’ I don’t think I like it any more. But yes, it’s trying to convey the parasitic nature of evil. Darkness is real but it’s real as an absence of something - light. In that context all outside the light that the Triune God *is* is darkness. Cf 1 John 1:5-7

    “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

    Or John 1:4-5:

    4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood/overcome/taken in it.

    We should be struck by just how weird it is that there *is* such a thing as darkness given who Christ is. But nonetheless there is this thing called darkness that somehow exists as the negation of Christ in His world. I dunno. I keep just making the same simple point but I can’t quite see beyond to how to co-ordinate these truths or see where they lead.

    Happy Good Friday by the way.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Word of God is no "Common Word" - Part 2

(copied from Glen Scrivener's blog)

Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?

My answer? Of course not. Here are some points in no particular order:

1) Let’s let Allah define himself:

“He does not beget nor is he begotten.” (Sura 112)

The Quran defines the god of Islam explicitly as not the God of the Bible. Let’s respect Muslims enough to let them define who their god is. He is not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We honour their faith by speaking of Allah as another god - that is how Allah defines himself. From our perspective we cannot speak of Allah as anything other than an idol - anything else fails to take Muslim faith on its own terms.

2) Can anyone really imagine the prophets addressing the Edomites, Philistines etc saying ‘Yahweh is very much like Baal/Molech/Asherah’??! Never!

The question for the nations is not ‘Do you believe in God?’ But ‘What god do you believe in?’ Whether you’re evangelizing in north Africa or north America “God” cannot be assumed. In fact “God” is the least obvious word in our evangelistic encounters. How on earth do we get to a position where people make it the point of commonality!


At this point a commenter replied that the ‘Baal’ analogies do not work because Allah is thought to be ‘the transcendent Creator’ and not simply a power within the world. He claimed that a Muslim convert would have to repent of many beliefs but not his belief in ‘God as infinite transcendent Creator.’

To this I replied…

3) We don’t say “Baal is called ‘Lord’ and receives worship therefore no convert from Baalism needs to repent of their notions of Lorship or worship.” Of course they will have to repent of all of this. So then why would anyone claim that a belief in the ‘infinite transcendent Creator’ is of a different order? Fundamentally I see this as committing two errors. It is to say…

A) ‘Transcendent Creator’ is more foundational to God’s being than His triunity.

B) The Muslim means roughly the same as the Christian when speaking of the ‘Transcendent Creator’

I strongly disagree with both.

A) i) If God is transcendent Creator you’ve made Him dependent on creation.

A) ii) It is a position that leads to Arianism. Athanasius complained that Arius’ error was to conceive of God as Unoriginate and then to consider trinity. On this trajectory he could never affirm the homo-ousios of One whose being was ‘ek tes ousia tw patri‘ (out of the being of the Father). Similarly if your conversation with a Muslim begins with some ‘bedrock’ notion of transcendence before introducing them to Jesus it will necessarily mean introducing them to one who is less than the transcendent one. You’ll have shot yourself in the foot from the very beginning. Let’s not define Jesus out of full deity before we’ve even begun. We therefore must not begin on the Arian trajectory of affirming transcendent Creator first - Jesus will not come out very well from such a starting point!

B) Only the God who exists as Himself in relations of otherness can actually have a relationship with creation in which we can know Him as transcendent. ‘Transcendent Creator’ is dependent on trinity (not the other way around). The Muslim account of transcendence is completely confused (as is every unitarian account). Allah is a prisoner of his ‘transcendence’ - by definition cut off from any relationship with it (whether transcendent or immanent).

‘Transcendent Creator’ is neither the foundational nor a shared understanding of the living God. And it’s not desirable that it should be.


At this point my interlocutor (rightly) suspected I was denying the possiblity of true philosophical reflection on divinity apart from Christian revelation. He claimed I was being overly Barthian ;-) I replied with these points…

4) In terms of theological method, “Christ alone” is not a Barthian novelty! It’s difficult to think of a more crucial verse in the history of the church for theological method than Matthew 11:27: “No-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

To this let’s add John 1:18; 14:6 and Colossians 1:15. To this let’s add the continual Scriptural witness that we are blind, dead, enemies of God unable to know Him apart from His Word to us. (e.g. Ps 14:2; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:21). These plain and central truths cannot be evaded by crying ‘Barthian’!

5) Nicea’s “The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” was a deliberate and crucial choice of order. Triunity precedes creation. Of course it does - unless we want to define God as dependent upon creation.

6) Even Jews who have the Scriptures do not know the Father if they reject the Son. (cf ALL OF JOHN’S GOSPEL!)

7) To go over a previous point - there are tremendous Arian dangers of considering ‘Creator’ more foundational than trinity. Once you have assured your Muslim friend that she really does know God and that the God she knows is definitionally the infinite, transcendent Creator, do you really think you’ve helped her towards faith in Jesus of Nazareth?? Have you not just given her every reason to reject divine honours (thus defined) being attributed to Christ. Won’t she simply thank you for confirming her own doctrine of God which by definition precludes Jesus from being anything more than a prophet??

Athanasius rightly said ‘the only system of thought into which Jesus Christ will fit is the one in which He is the starting point.’

The Rock upon which we build is nothing and no-one else but Christ. Let’s be clearer on this whether we’re evangelizing Muslims or our friends in the pub. They do not know God and besides - why would we want to confirm for them a sterile, non-relational doctrine of God in the first place?? Let’s tell them, ‘The god you had thought existed was not God - let me tell you about the living God who is unlike anything you’ve imagined. His name is Jesus and He blows your god out of the water!’

Monday, 17 March 2008

In the Light...

An email recently received from a friend:

This past week, I was asked by a young man in Zion to be his accountability partner. He was struggling with the lust of the flesh, and knowing that pornography on the internet was just a click away, he chose to subject himself to this online software known as Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes required the user to have accountability partners, and what happens is that the programme would send these partners the list of all websites that the user has been visiting (questionable or otherwise). The partners would also be kept updated should the user choose to opt out of the covenant and remove the programme.
I was both impressed and challenged - for Lord knows that I also struggle with these things and have stumbled many times before.

Such willingness to hold oneself accountable to another brethren in Christ is hard to come by. How rare it is in church, and yet how precious it is in the sight of the Lord!

You know how scripture says so much about Christians being in the light - the Lord has saved us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God (see John 3:19-21). We have tended to understand the phrase "being in the light" in various abstract ways - we talk of light as enlightenment, as glory, as refreshment, as bringing growth.
But I suggest that it also carries the very simple meaning of "being known", of being open, having nothing to fear.
Taken further, to be in the light is to be unafraid and unashamed to confess one's own sins, vulnerabilities, anxieties, weaknesses, and the years of chasing up the wrong tree and abiding by a false vine ... to be in the light ALSO means confessing one's strengths, joys, testimonies, giftings and thanksgivings. To God, as well as to fellow believers.

Some other Christians would use the term "being vulnerable" or "being real" to describe this. And it takes great humility... the kind of humility that means thinking BOTH less and lowly about oneself. It leads to the kind of sharing that opens such a wide window into the soul that it is no wonder that such accountability and confession should generally exist between brothers, or between sisters, but not in between. It is intimate. And it opens the door to great healing (James 5:16). Wasn't it so that none of us got saved except that we first got honest with God? Should we not be honest also with the body of Christ? Can the body of Christ be trusted?

We Asians would pride ourselves on modesty, but often we are guilty of a false modesty that spills over into all kinds of falsehood. And Christians are most susceptible to the subtlest and most wicked of them all - spiritual pride.

In Zion's case, I doubt if it is all a matter of pride. But I think we do have a lot of fear - Of condemnation and of accusation (usually in the form of gossip), of victimization, and of further hurt. We also have a lot of inexperience and immaturity - it's hard to be vulnerable and to be open when you've not witnessed it or seen its fruits in the community; or when we've hardly bothered to build real friendships with people; or when we've been hurt. I write as a product of this culture ... and I too need to be set free.

Who amongst us wants to walk in the light? Who would confess his hurt, and need for God? Who would be trustworthy to listen to the deep thoughts and feelings of a friend or stranger? Who would be courageous to love?

Who would take that step to help make Zion a place for rest, refreshing, and restoration?

Who wants to be set free from the past?

Start with prayer.. being honest to God once again.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:21)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Precursor of Pentecost

Studying the Hebrew Bible thoroughly one is struck by how all the events of the NT, all the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels are foretold in the OT - how the Law, the Prophets and the Scriptures really were and are the blueprint for how things were going to be. One exciting thing to check out is Elisa’s movements around Israel and how it corresponds in strikingly much to how Jesus walked around.

On another note, as I was working my way through 1 Kings 18 in Hebrew I was struck by verse 24: "Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire-- he is God. Then all the people said, 'What you say is good.'" (NIV) האלהים אשר יענה באש הוא האלהים As we will know – the true God answers Elijah with fire from Heaven. And as if to emphasize that there was no ‘natural’ explanation (like lightning) for this miracle, it is made clear that there was not a single cloud in the sky and Elijah had drenched the alter and the wood with water.

Now, what is the ultimate 'proof' of the LORD being God? Just as in the time of Elijah, the one true God proves Himself the only One by fire from heaven. On the day of Pentecost: "They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2:3 (NIV) And He put this 'fire', this Holy "...Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 1 Cor. 1.22 (NIV) and later Paul writes again that He "...has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 1 Cor. 5.5 (NIV)

Feeling the presence of God in our lives is no mere sensation of feelings – it is this ‘fire from Heaven’ with which we have been baptised to life. And as Paul writes, it is a comforting token of what is to come – it gives us certainty of what we believe in! The world is so full of false ‘gods’, inspired by the devil to divert attention from the true God. But the test today just as in the days of Elijah is simple: will there come fire from heaven? Only from the only true God. Only from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in whom is our salvation through Jesus.

St. Patrick

I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many. My father was Calpornius, a deacon, son of Potitus, a priest, of the village Bannavem Taburniæ; he had a country seat nearby, and there I was taken captive.

I was then about sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity to Ireland with many thousands of people and deservedly so, because we turned away from God, and did not keep His commandments, and did not obey our priests, who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought over us the wrath of his anger and scattered us among many nations, even unto the utmost part of the earth, where now my littleness is placed among strangers.

And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my abjection, and mercy on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son.

Hence I cannot be silent, nor, indeed, is it expedient - about the great benefits and the great grace which the lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity; for this we can give to God in return after having been chastened by Him, to exalt and praise His wonders before every nation that is anywhere under the heaven.

Because there is no other God, nor ever was, nor will be, than God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, the Lord of the universe, as we have been taught; and His son Jesus Christ, whom we declare to have always been with the Father, spiritually and ineffably begotten by the Father before the beginning of the world, before all beginning; and by Him are made all things visible and invisible. He was made man, and, having defeated death, was received into heaven by the Father; and He hath given Him all power over all names in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess to Him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe, and whose advent we expect soon to be, judge of the living and of the dead, who will render to every man according to his deeds; and He has poured forth upon us abundantly the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes those who believe and obey sons of God and joint heirs with Christ; and Him do we confess and adore, one God in the Trinity of the Holy Name...

(continues here...)

Friday, 14 March 2008

Seven times seven...

In the 6th century the Roman Catholic church listed 7 deadly sins & their punishments in purgatory: (Wikipedia article here)

Pride - Broken on the wheel
Envy - Put in freezing water
Gluttony - Forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes
Lust - Smothered in fire and brimstone
Anger - Dismembered alive
Greed - Put in cauldrons of boiling oil
Sloth - Thrown in snake pits

(I find the last one quite funny... since the punishment/solution to sloth is to make you run around like crazy)

Recently one of the leadership has suggested another 7 more updated 'deadly social sins':

Environmental pollution
Genetic manipulation
Accumulating excessive wealth
Inflicting poverty
Drug trafficking and consumption
Morally debatable experiments
Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Though not official, these are my suggestions their equivalent punishments in purgatory:

Having a plastic beer ring around your neck
Constantly progressing through the 'evolutionary cycle'
Pouring molten gold down your throat
Being eaten by pigs and dogs
Being constantly chucked off a tall building
Turned into a guinea pig and made to run on a giant hamster-wheel
Constantly having to watch Barney & Teletubbies while eating British food

Love & Marriage - Luther Style - Part 2

(cut from

From Volume 45 of his Works…

Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason (which the pagans followed in trying to be most clever), takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores, and on top of that care for my wife, provide for her, labour at my trade, take care of this and take care of that, do this and do that, endure this and endure that, and whatever else of bitterness and drudgery married life involves? What, should I make such a prisoner of myself? O you poor, wretched fellow, have you taken a wife? Fie, fie upon such wretchedness and bitterness! It is better to remain free and lead a peaceful. carefree life; I will become a priest or a nun and compel my children to do likewise.”

What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers. or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labour, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight.”

A wife too should regard her duties in the same light, as she suckles the child, rocks and bathes it, and cares for it in other ways; and as she busies herself with other duties and renders help and obedience to her husband. These are truly golden and noble works. . . .

Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool, though that father is acting in the spirit just described and in Christian faith, my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling, not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith. Those who sneer at him and see only the task but not the faith are ridiculing God with all his creatures, as the biggest fool on earth. Indeed, they are only ridiculing themselves; with all their cleverness they are nothing but devil’s fools.



If a man can have his wife in bed, he ought not complain about her incessant nagging, for ‘he who wants a fire must endure the smoke.’”

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Book by Book - Leviticus

Book-by-book Leviticus by Paul Blackham & Joseph Steinberg (head of Jews for Jesus) is out now!

Also has £6-£7 discounts on all DVD products till end of April 2008

Christian Hedonism

What Is Christian Hedonism?

My shortest summary of Christian Hedonism is: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.

By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God.

The Difference Between Worldly and Christian Hedonism

Some people are inclined to believe that Christians are supposed to seek God’s will as opposed to pursuing their own pleasure. But what makes Biblical morality different than worldly hedonism is not that Biblical morality is disinterested and duty-driven, but that it is interested in vastly greater and purer things. Christian Hedonism is Biblical morality because it recognizes that obeying God is the only route to final and lasting happiness. Here are some examples of this from the Bible:

Luke 6:35 says, "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great." It is clear when Jesus says “expect nothing in return” that we should not be motivated by worldly aggrandizement, but we are given strength to suffer loss by the promise of a future reward.

Again, in Luke 14:12-14: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor . . . and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." That is, don't do good deeds for worldly advantage; rather, do them for spiritual, heavenly benefits.

Should Duty Be Our Main Motivation?

But some will say, "No, no. These texts only describe what reward will result if you act disinterestedly. They do not teach us to actually seek the reward."

Two answers to this objection:

1) It would be foolish to say, "If you take this pill, I’ll give you a nickel," if you expect the desire for the nickel to ruin the pill. But Jesus was not foolish. He would not offer blessing to those who obey him and then hold it against us if these blessings motivated our obedience.

2) Even more importantly, there are texts that not only commend that we do good in the hope of future blessing, but command it.

Luke 12:33 says, "Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail." The connection here between alms and having eternal treasure in heaven is not a chance result—it is the explicit purpose: "Make it your aim to have treasure in heaven, and the way to do this is to sell your possessions and give alms."

And again, Luke 16:9 says, "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal habitations." Luke does not say that the result of using possessions properly is to receive eternal habitations. He says, "Make it your aim to secure an eternal habitation by the way you use your possessions."

Therefore, a resounding NO to the belief that morality should be inspired more by duty than delight.

Don’t Be Too Easily Satisfied

Hebrews 11:6 teaches, "Without faith it is impossible to please [God]. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” You cannot please God if you do not come to him looking for reward. Therefore, faith that pleases God is the hedonistic pursuit of God.

As Christian Hedonists we know that everyone longs for happiness. And we will never tell them to deny or repress that desire. It is never a problem to want to be satisfied. The problem is being satisfied too easily. We believe that everyone who longs for satisfaction should no longer seek it from money or power or lust, but should come glut their soul-hunger on the grace of God. We will bend all our effort, by the Holy Spirit, to persuade people

  • that they can be happier in giving than receiving (Acts 20:35);
  • that they should count everything as loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus their Lord (Philippians 3:8);
  • that the aim of all of Jesus' commandments is that their joy be full (John 15:11);
  • that if they delight themselves in the Lord he will give them the desire of their heart (Psalm 37:4);
  • that there is great gain in godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6);
  • and that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

We will not try to motivate anyone with appeals to mere duty. We will tell them that in God’s presence is full and lasting joy (Psalm 16:11).and our only duty is to come to him, seeking this pleasure.

(Adapted from John Piper’s article, Christian Hedonism: Forgive the Label, but Don't Miss the Truth.)

(Audio version)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Be constant in prayer....

John Bradford

(summarised from an article on

On the morning of July 15th 1555 at 9am, two men were led to their execution at London’s Smithfield in the reign of "bloody Queen Mary". They were condemned to be burnt alive as heretics. One was a young man of 19 called John Leaf, the other was about 45 years old and his name was John Bradford.

Among Bradford’s final words at the stake were these "O England, England, repent!" Turning to the young man who was to suffer with him he said, "Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a happy supper with the Lord tonight". Then, embracing the wood of his execution, he repeated our Saviour’s words, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads to life and few there be that find it". "Thus", says Foxe in his Book of Martyrs, "like two lambs, they both ended their mortal lives ... being void of all fear".

John Bradford has been described as one of the holiest men since the apostles, a wonder of his own age and among the most spiritual of the Reformers. When we consider how godly the Reformers were, this must make him a veritable giant among giants. And in an age of spiritual pigmies such as our own, we have much that we can learn from this colossal contender for The Faith.

John Bradford was born at Manchester about the year 1510. Precisely when Bradford was converted to Christ we do not know. But we do know that when God touched his heart, his former love of rings, chains and jewellery gave place to a fervent devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His cause on earth. The transformation was so great that he gave up his study of law at the Temple and went to the University of Cambridge in 1548, to give himself entirely to the study of the Scriptures.

Bradford took Scripture earnestly to heart, as may be seen from his response to a sermon preached in London before young king Edward by the well-known Reformer, Hugh Latimer. When Bradford heard that God required the restitution of dishonest gain, he was profoundly troubled about a fraud respecting money owed to the king by Sir John Harrington whom he had served. Bradford hadn’t benefited from the fraud, but he had concealed it. Bradford’s spiritual convictions were such that he felt compelled to reveal the matter, and so forced Sir John to make restitution to the king!

Bradford is described as a ruddy, tall and slender man with an auburn beard. He slept four hours in the night, ate sparingly, and never felt an hour well spent unless he had done some good by writing, study, or instructing others. Indeed, he would reprove sin in such a sweet way, that those reproved knew he only did it for their good in order to draw them to God.

His personal walk with Christ was of a deep devotional nature. He was in the habit of writing down his faults, because he wanted to feel a "chest-beating" regret for sin, and to groan with true brokenness of heart when he came to private prayer. At the same time he would seek a fresh assurance of salvation in Christ through faith. Bradford also made a note of the virtues he saw in others that he might lament the lack of them in himself. In short, his life was one of daily repentance and heart-felt prayer - something very different to the "saying of prayers" which was so common in those days, and seems, somehow, never to have gone out of fashion.

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations tells us that it was Bradford who originated the saying "There but for the grace of God go I." Seeing a group of criminals led out to their execution he declared, "But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford."

Samson, his friend from law-student days, adds: "They which were familiar with him might see, how he, being in their company, used to fall often into sudden and deep meditation in which he would sit with fixed countenance and the spirit moved, yet speaking nothing a good space. And sometimes in this silent sitting, plenty of tears would trickle down his cheeks. Sometimes he would sit in it and come out of it with a smiling countenance. Oftentimes have I sat at dinner and supper with him when, either by occasion of talk or of some view of God’s benefits present, or some inward thought of his own he has fallen into these deep cogitations, and he would tell me in the end such discourses of them, that I did perceive that sometimes a tear trickled out of his eyes, as well for joy as for sorrow".

Ridley lists Bradford, among others, as one who preached in the strongest possible terms to the nobility of Edward’s court. He rebuked them for their "insatiable covetousness", "filthy carnality", "intolerable ambition and pride", as well as their unwillingness to attend to "poor men’s causes and to hear God’s Word". Needless to say Bradford was hated by many. When the young king died, Queen Mary came to the throne and Bradford was immediately arrested and tried for heresy, along with Latimer, Ridley and Archbishop Cranmer. In fact, for a brief time, they shared the same cell together in the Tower. After many months in various prisons, in which he did much good by his letters and writings, Bradford was condemned to death on January 3lst 1555. But it wasn’t until the afternoon of June 30th, of that year, that he knew just when his execution would take place, although he seems to have had a premonition of it in his dreams.

Foxe records how abruptly the news was brought to "… suddenly the keeper’s wife came up, as one half amazed, and seeming much troubled being almost breathless, said, ‘Oh Master Bradford, I come to bring you heavy news.’ ‘What is that’ said he. ‘Marry’, said she, ‘tomorrow you must be burned, and your chain is now a buying, and soon you must go to Newgate.’ With that Master Bradford put off his cap and lifting up his eyes to heaven, said ‘I thank God for it. I have looked for the same a long time, and therefore it comes not to me suddenly, but as a thing waited for every day and hour. The Lord make me worthy thereof.’ And so thanking her for her gentleness, he departed up into his chamber, and called his friend with him, and when he came hither, went secretly himself alone a long time and prayed."

When Bradford and his fellow martyr, John Leaf, arrived at the stake they prostrated themselves in prayer. Annoyed by the press of the crowd the Sheriff ordered Bradford to conclude his prayer. Standing at the stake, Bradford looked towards heaven and said "O England, England, repent thee of thy sins, repent thee of thy sins. Beware of idolatry, beware of false antichrists." With these, and other words Bradford preached to the crowd, and comforted the goodly young man who suffered with him. In the mercy of God, both were given strength to endure the torments of the flame, through which they passed to live, as they now do, with Christ.

Bradford and the other Reformers never "played at church"; they were serious about their faith. Adhering to biblical Christianity cost them dear, just as it did the Early Church. Academic brilliance didn’t go to their heads as it does with some today, for their feet were kept firmly on the ground by the threat of death. It seems so different with us. Our tolerant society ensures that we can be Reformed Christians at no personal cost. But if we are proud of our intellectual grasp of doctrine, and allow ourselves the luxury of personal conceit, we are not walking in the tradition of these godly and devout men; we are not like John Bradford, we are not truly Reformed.


John Bradford was well known for a series of prayers that he often said throughout the day:

Full list is here.

To quote a few:

So soon as you behold the Daylight, Pray:

O Lord, thou greatest and most true Light, whence this light of the day and of the sun does spring! O Light, which does lighten every man that comes into this world! O Light, which knows no night nor evening, but are always a midday, most clear and fair, without whom all is most dark darkness by whom all are most resplendent! O thou Wisdom of the eternal Father of mercies! enlighten my mind, that I may only see those things that please thee and may be blinded to all other things. Grant that I may walk in thy ways, and that nothing else may be light and pleasant unto me. Lighten mine eyes, O Lord! that I sleep not in death, lest mine enemies say, "I have prevailed against him."

Occasions to meditate

Muse a little how much the light and eye of the mind and soul are better than those of the body; also that we care more for the soul's seeing well, than for the body. Think that beasts have bodily eyes, and therewith see, but men have eyes of the mind, and therewith should see.

When you Dress yourself, Pray:

O Christ, clothe me with thine own self, that I may be so far from making provision for my flesh to fulfil the lusts of it, that I may quite put off all my carnal desires, and crucify the kingdom of the flesh in me. Be thou unto me a garment to warm me from catching the cold of this world if thou be away from me, dear Lord, all things will forthwith be unto me cold, weak, dead, &c. But if thou art with me, all things will be warm, lively, fireside &c. Grant therefore, that as I compass this my body with this coat, so thou would clothe me wholly, but especially my soul, with thine own self. Put upon me as the elect of God, mercy, meekness, love, peace, &c.

Occasions to meditate

Call to mind a little how we are incorporated into Christ; again, how he clothes us, and nourishes us under his wings, protection, and providence, preserves us, &c.

When you feel Sleep to be Coming, Pray:

O Lord Jesus Christ, my Watchman and Keeper, take me to thy care; grant that while my body is sleeping my mind may watch in thee, and be made joyful by some sight of that celestial and heavenly life wherein thou art the King and Prince, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Thy angels and holy souls are most happy citizens. Oh! purify my soul, keep clean my body, that in both I may please thee, sleeping and waking, for ever. Amen.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Forgiveness is expensive

(copied from Glen Scrivener's blog)

why God doesn’t simply forgive us…

Forgiveness is always costly. Whenever people say ‘Why doesn’t God simply forgive?’ I often wonder what they mean by the word ‘simply’. Anyone who says forgiveness is simple has clearly never tried it. Forgiveness is always painful, costly, messy, heart-wrenching. Forgiveness always involves sacrifice.

Look at this verse from Proverbs:

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Have you ever been in an argument where you’re exchanging harsh words with another. And, as this verse describes it, anger is being stirred up and stirred up and stirred up. In that situation what is it like to answer a person with genuine gentleness? They speak harsh words to you - what’s it like to answer with gentleness. It is painful, it is hard, it is a sacrifice. It is not just water off a duck’s back. It’s not a simple matter of forgiving and forgetting - it involves sacrifice.

And this proverb describes it is as a sacrifice. You see the phrase ‘turns away wrath’ is a special phrase in the bible that’s almost always associated with sacrifices. It’s sacrifices that turn away wrath - anger is turned away from you because it’s turned on the sacrifice. And this verse says: if you’re in an argument and you answer someone gently it’s like being a human sacrifice. If we’ve ever tried it, we know that’s how it feels. Forgiveness is always sacrificial.

And nowhere is this more true than at the cross. In the bible, the cross is described as the place where Jesus turns away God’s wrath. At the cross the wrath of God is turned away from us and turned onto Jesus. So think of the cross as the place where all our harsh words against heaven are met by the gentle answer of Jesus. His grace heals and restores us but it’s costly to Him. The cross is the costly, sacrificial forgiveness of God. But there really is no forgiveness that’s not sacrificial.

Think of it from another angle. When Jesus tells us to pray ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’ the prayer literally is ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ Our sins are like debts. Now if you cancel someone’s debt - that’s great for them. But the debt doesn’t just vanish. There’s still a cost - it just means that now you bear the cost, rather than them. It still hurts, it’s still costly, it’s still sacrificial to forgive.

So again, think of the cross as the place where all our debts to God are cancelled - it’s wonderful for us. It’s massively costly to God - He absorbs the debt, He makes Himself liable, He pays off our arrears. That’s the cross. It is free and full forgiveness for us, but it is a costly, sacrificial forgiveness, for God. Because all forgiveness is sacrificial.


Matthew 18:23-35
23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Friday, 7 March 2008

Love & Marriage - Luther Style

The Word of God is No "Common word"

Ever read this?

A Common Word

Basically a letter written from Muslims to Christians emphasizing how we have a common ground to love people together....

What's really surprising is the number and names of Christians who agree with the document (for whatever reason) (all signatories can be found at the website)

A response from the Barnabas Fund
(supporting persecuted Christians - many in Muslim countries)

Even better.... John Piper on YouTube

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

John Calvin... one of the greats

The caricature of Calvin has him sitting alone, writing dry academic theology. The reality is far different, as anyone who’s actually read Calvin’s Institutes knows very well!

But there’s more. An article here (at describes Calvin’s love of mission and supporting missionaries / church planters around the world.

Reeves on the life & theology of Calvin:
3 1-hour+ talks

The self-authenticity of Scripture - by David Gibson
(a summary of Calvin & Barth's theology on the subject)
You never thought you'd see those two names together! - they are scarily similar sometimes

Barth commenting on Calvin:
In the summer of 1922, the young Karl Barth taught a course on the theology of Calvin. As he struggled to prepare the lectures, he immersed himself passionately in Calvin – and he even cancelled his other announced course (on the Epistle to the Hebrews) so that he could concentrate solely on Calvin. He was overwhelmed by the strangeness and power of what he found in Calvin’s theology. In a letter to his closest friend, Eduard Thurneysen, Barth expressed his astonishment:

“Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic (i.e. superhuman) power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately... What I receive from Calvin is a thin little stream, and what I can then give out again, is yet only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.”

—Karl Barth to Eduard Thurneysen, 8 June 1922; in Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925 (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964), p. 101.

Money... money... money....

Cut & Pasted from Dan Hames blog (works for Mike Reeves)

Two brief videos to watch.

Brian Houston of Hillsong promoting his book 'Money'. Compare with...

John Piper against the prosperity gospel.

Well worth watching.