Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Cosmetic Changes (2)

This article's been written by the Times columnist..
the world's gone so mad even the atheists are starting to make sense

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good…

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Golden Calf (2)

more great Christian cartoon messages here

Friday, 26 December 2008

Consider the birds of the air...

How's this for meditating on Christ in all of creation..

a couple of quotes from John Flavel - 1650s England


When I saw how hardly the poor bird was put to it to save herself from her enemy, who hovered just over the bush in which she was fluttering and squeaking, i could not but hasten to relieve her, pity and succour being a debt due to the distressed, which., when I had done, the bird would not depart from the bush, though her enemy was gone. This act of kindness was abundantly repaid by this meditation, with which I returned to my walk. My soul, like this bird, was once distressed, pursued, yea, seized by Satan, who had certainly made a prey of it, had not Jesus Christ been a sanctuary to it in'that hour of danger. How ready did I find him to receive my poor soul into his protection ! Then did he make good that sweet promise to my experience, :' Those that come unto me, I will in no wise cast out." It called to mind that pretty and pertinent story of the philosopher, who walking in the fields, a bird, pursued by a hawk, flew into his bosom ; he took her out and said, " Poor bird, I will neither wrong thee, nor expose thee to thine enemy, since thou eamest to me for refuge." So tender, and more than so, is the Lord Jesus to distressed souls that come unto him. Blessed Jesus ! how should I love and praise thee, glorify and admire thee, for that great salvation thou hast wrought for me ? If this bird had fallen into the claws of her enemy, she had been torn to pieces, indeed, and devoured, but then a few minutes had dispatched her, and ended all her pain and misery ; but had my soul f;illen into the hand of Satan, there had been no end to my misery.

Would not this scared bird be flushed out of the bush that secured her, though I had chased away her enemy ? And wilt thou, O my soul, ever be enticed or scared from Christ thy refuge ? O let this for ever engage thee to keep close to Christ, and make me say, with Ezra, "And now, O Lord, since thou hast given me such a deliverance as this, should I again break thy commandments!"


Methinks these birds do fitly resemble the gaudy courtiers, and the plain peasants ; how spruce and richly adorned with shining and various colored feathers (like scarlet richly laid with gold and silver lace) are those ? How plainly clad in a homespun country ruffet are these I Fine feathers, saith our proverb, make proud birds; and yet the feathers of the sparrow are as useful and beneficial, both for warmth and flight, though not so gay and ornamental, as the others : and if both were stript out of their feathers, the sparrow would prove the better bird of the two ; by which I see that the greatest worth doth not always lie under the finest clothes ; and besides, God can make mean and homely garments as useful and beneficial to poor and despised Christians, as the ruffling and shining garments of wanton gallants are to them; and when God shall strip men out of ill external excellencies, these will be found to excel their glittering neighbors in true worth and excellency.
Little would a man think such rich treasures of grace, wisdom, humility, &c. lay under some russet coats.

Sæpe sub attrita latitat sapientia veste. Under poor garments more true worth may be than under silks that whistle—who but he.

'Whilst, on the side, the heart of the wicked, as Solomon hath observed, is little worth, how much soever his clothes be worth. Alas ! it falls out too frequently among us, as it doth with men in the Indies, who walk over the rich veins of gold and silver ore, which lie hid under a ragged and barren surface and know it not. For my own part, I desire not to value any man by what is extrinsical and wordly, but by that true internal excellency of grace, which makes the face to shine in the eyes of God and good men : I would contemn a vile person, though never so glorious in the eye of the world, but honor such as fear the Lord, how sordid and despicable soever to appearance.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

It's Christmas

Glen's done a few good posts on the Reason for the season:

Incarnation & Trinity

Incarnation & Creation

Incarnation & Salvation

And hopefully if Leon doesn't mind - I'll take a quote from his essay on Irenaeus's view of the incarnation:

“Original creation was not ‘perfect’ for Irenaeus. It is good, and even very good, but not perfect, though it can be perfected. For Irenaeus, salvation (and the incarnation) is not a consequence of the Fall of creation, but that creation is a consequence of “God’s project of salvation.” For Irenaeus, a created thing is intrinsically changeable, corruptible and subject to decay. Focusing on man, from the start he was “childish and immature and not yet fully trained for an adult way of life… so God could have offered perfection to man at the beginning, but man, being yet an infant, could not have taken it”, hence the Fall. In Irenaeus theology, the Fall seemed to have been unavoidable, because man is created and is not in himself filled by the Spirit to be enabled to fight decay and corruption. Man matures only as the Image (Spirit-filled Son) takes on the flesh of Adam so as to take Adam’s flesh into the Image, and thus fill Adam’s flesh with the Likeness of God(Spirit). In Irenaeus own words, “Now this is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in the last times was made a man among men, that He might join the end to the beginning, that is, man to God.” This, for Irenaeus, is “recapitulation”. It is not a return to Eden, for man to once again be immature and fall, but to perfection along with all creation where what is “mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and corruptible by incorruptibility.””

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Generous Giving

here's a really interesting website on giving to God:


whole bunch of questions dealt with
I was quite interested with the questions on whether we should give to non-Christian charities, giving outside the church itself (to independent Christian ministries), and giving directly to the needy... (21-23)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Cosmetic changes...

Recycling, cruelty to animals, free-range, organic...

Interesting how Christians seem to think these are the issues of the modern church to champion... especially the liberal churches

So what are the options?

1. Lead the way
2. Do the opposite
3. Ignore everything

Personally I sometimes want to do number 2.. just out of spite...
but of course not really the Godly option
neither in some way is number 3 - since God does not want to ignore people - as opposed to worldly concerns

Also biblically there are a number of interesting verses:
For example:

Deut 20:19 - When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you?

Jonah 4:11 And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?

and many others on plant/animal welfare etc...
now I'm sure they have a deeper gospel meaning...
but let's use them for the sake of argument

So then what is the Christian perspective on these issues?
Join in with the world's insane crusades to create earthly Utopia & ignore the new creation?
Say everything will burn anyway and be made new - so let's give it a helping hand?
Ignore everybody and everything?

How about this:
The problem with dealing with all these issues, whether preaching for them or against them is that they are all merely external problems
It's basically cosmetic surgery...
That person is really evil - let's give him a facelift
Now that may make everything look better - but actually solves nothing

We know that the problem is ultimately the human heart - it is sin

Hosea 4:
Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns,and all who dwell in it languish,and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

So if we then try to attempt to change the way we live by changing what is external - it usually leads to a whole host of other problems and issues, and ultimately is utterly useless..

That is why, eventhough God who is concerned for animals and creation, etc... never requests us to do such futile works, because He knows that that actually solves nothing!

What then is to be done?
The gospel - Jesus Christ - solves everything
Follow Him, have a heart transplant - proper surgery - then you get rid of the core issues, rebellion, consumerism, gluttony, oppression, greed, etc, etc....

Now a society living like Jesus would never have all the cosmetic problems either
and ultimately that is the Kingdom of heaven - filled with Jesus Christ's body - living lives that will never cause any of these situations

Let's take a real life example from history:

Crime in the UK
What does a Christian do?
The 'hardcore' crew: - Build more prisons, hire more police, Christians becoming community support officers??
The 'soft' crew: - Teach better in schools, have more youth centres, hug children when they're young??
All these campaigns may have sense from a worldly point of view - and in some sense you have to pity the world - because that's all they can really do anyway! But they all don't really work and have huge problems of their own

Now how about this - go preach the gospel, invite people to ACTUALLY live like Jesus
What happened in Wales in the early 1900s?
100,000 new Christians in 6 months
Alcoholism halved
Crime drops radically
Gambling dens are closed
Judges have to resign because there are no cases
People are genuinely helping and loving one another
(read more here)

Doesn't this solve a whole myriad of social problems and at a level WAY above anything those 'campaigns' could achieve?

Let's stop thinking we have only the world's rather pathetic solutions to these deep heart problems
We have the gospel - we have the Spirit of God
Don't act as though we are defeated - Christ is victorious!
The gospel can overcome so much more than we ever imagine
to start Christian-led worldly campaigns is a losing battle
It is quite ridiculous, it is fatalistic, it is definitely not keeping our eyes on the things to come, on heavenly things

What is the issue you are worried about?
Follow Christ... really... do what He says
Invite others to do the same
That solves all the problems
That is the life of the new creation
That Life will be reality very soon

Monday, 8 December 2008

The Tangible Spirit

How does the Holy Spirit do stuff?

Frequently we end up with inevitabilities or terms like 'mystic' or 'mysterious'

But I think it's a bit more tangible than that

for instance - in Glen's post here: Barcode or Magnum?
The gospel itself is the power of salvation - we carry the very words of the Spirit
but then it is not really mere words is it?
Because to a 'spiritual man' - the gospel comes with the Spirit Himself! and produces conviction (cf. 1 Thess 1:5)

Was talking with Tom & Leon about the mystic union we share with Christ
how that too is quite tangible - it is very real, very physical
thus that if one shares one's body with a prostitute - one unites Christ with darkness
similarly if one member of the body suffers - all suffer
or if you sin in the flesh - you grieve the Spirit

I have this view that the Spirit works like a counsellor
He tells us what to do - and then to walk in the Spirit - is to do it
Counsellor isn't it?

But as we do the things the Spirit desires of us, and not do the things that grieve Him or cause Him to withdraw (in a relationship sense) - the tangibility of the Spirit becomes more and more apparent

these connections to Christ and His body are more real - as Paul can say with a great deal of power that he will be there in Spirit
The Spirit influences all decisions and even puts creation and it's functioning into our very being as we are brought up closer into Christ - cf. Acts 27 when Paul knows what is going to happen with the ship -it's as though he has become linked to the whole body of Christ - creation and the church itself!

Food no longer is the satisfaction - Christ - the Word - becomes more of a real filling up and fulfilment

Our feeble attempts at healing one another become real - closing even mortal wounds - our attempts at communication become clearer - crossing language barriers becomes no problem with 'tongues'

The only reason most of the church considers these things mysterious or terminated is the lack of closeness with Him who indwells the body of Christ - follow Him and He will consolidate, even solidify these things - they will become reality.. until the day even our very flesh is transformed into the very physical nature of the Spirit Himself!

Faith & Works

The age old debate of faith vs works:

The Reformers basically knee-jerked everything back to faith on Christ alone
and rightfully so.. and their definitions were quite carefully made

Today however it has become quite common to hear preaching that faith involves doing nothing... and the minute words like 'discipline' and 'duty' come up - that is legalism

Now faith always leads to obedience.. because faith while in itself is not a 'thing' - it is a trusting, a knowledge-based, Word-based conviction that results in the newly-enabled 'Yes' to the divine invitation of following Christ

So then faith is doing EXACTLY what the object of faith proclaims - that is doing whatever Jesus tells us to do - the more we do it, the more faith we have - similarly the less we do, the less faith we have. Now this is not a discussion about being born again.

Faith is to rest in Who our Father in heaven is and to trust that by doing everything He says, everything will be alright, everything will be taken care of, everything will inevitably be good - what He does not say is that everything will be easy or pleasant - but He does say everything will be good

Now to do the 'works of the law' or 'dead works' is to oppose faith - it is to resent Christ - it is to say I want to go my own way - I want to leave Eden and create my own life for myself - inevitably resulting in death

Next - what is so bad about works?
Of course first and foremost it denies Christ and all He does - it undermines who God is
But what about this - the people so often accused of doing works are the Pharisees and Israelites like them - they act without knowledge - not because they do not know but rather they suppress the truth by being disobedient

Why does Jesus hate this?
To do one's own works to gain salvation is actually playing the part of the prostitute - the adulteress
We act like sin acts - we attempt to seduce - to dress ourselves up in a hypocritical show of the things we think God will like in order to arm twist Him to do the things we want to do ourselves
This is really powerplay - we desire to consume God - like sin does with us - we become sin itself - we desire to be God ourselves

In all this God's appropriate response is the same as He tells Cain - dominate and destroy - He has no time for the adulterer - she must be cast away and burned - she has no love for Him - she hates Him and only uses Him to achieve her own selfish desires

This is all forms of idolatry and moralism - it is not the poor child desperately seeking His Father's love in all the wrong places - it is the harlot seeking wealth and possessions from anyone and anything she can get it from - whatever the abuse that comes with it. Demons love this stuff - they get a real rush out of it - seeing us flaunt our nakedness before them and flattering them by doing the things they love to see - then abusing us for it - teasing us with the things we were asking for as well as degrading us further - before finally disposing us like the street trash we are...

Forget all this - let us come to the Living God for Who He is and what He has done - let us trust Him and do what He says - this is faith... let us seek Him with all our heart and seek His will for He is good and worthy to be followed - He has proven it