Sunday, 23 January 2011

Attempting to make an internal-external distinction

We are all up for the inner - inside out transforming work of the Spirit

yet none of us would probably be up for anyone not coming to church, not taking communion, not service etc...

there is an external dimension to the gospel

The external dimension can i argue is the church - the corporate nature of the gospel
that means it is not the personal rituals
but the things i do corporately

I need to be transformed internally by the gospel through the Spirit
but how I receive the gospel through the Spirit is external (or alien) through the hands/words/actions of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ

the new man that we put on is as corporate as the old man (even more so)

that means as much as I am looking for internal transformation - i should get more involved in the external corporate activities of a gospel church - like corporate worship service, helping one another, teaching sunday school etc.. despite the fact that my internal heart may not WANT to do it

because it is through the prescribed acts of the corporate body - that I will see my sinfulness, and be more open to receiving the gospel - and all these are acts of the Spirit who only works in the BODY of Christ

this is also true biologically

what i need to do is to change my DNA
how I do that is by contact with other extra-cellular influences - coming from other cells
that is how DNA is altered in fact in biological growth and development

of course other things can also influence my DNA - like retroviruses
i.e. repetitive external actions of sin that ultimately re-wire my heart towards hardness

it is so interesting that we can actually 'turn on' enzymes that can fix this.. but only when meeting with certain types of healthy cells


thus it not by the repetitive act of going to church or performing virtues i transform myself
but rather by meeting with other Christians administering grace to me in various ways that I am able to see myself clearly as they mirror Christ to me... and that causes perforations within my hard heart allowing the gospel (delivered by them) to penetrate

pls comment!?

The Great Self-Control of the Father

The Father loves the Son and has always blessed Him in and with the Spirit

So the Father loves us, and longs to bless us, but as disobedient children He has to hold back so many blessings so that we may learn to love, at the same time hold back His wrath that we don't love but hate His Son

It is as though normal Christ-time  has slowed down (decayed) in the fleshly incarnation - so much like a day is like thousand years, as the Father longs for the same wondrous eternal renewed life with all His He always had...

In the church the decaying time is almost an ignored shell, as our outer flesh wastes away... but the Spirit life we live is renewed day by day - bringing it back to what it was in eternity

We live more and more in eternity to eternity as we live out the life of Christ in the church...

It also works in parenting =)

Saturday, 22 January 2011


Here's a fun question:

In this current age,

Does God the Father love God the Son more than the Church?

Does God the Father love the Church more than the lost?

Monday, 17 January 2011


Should every gospel pastor be an affectionate romantic at heart?
(or at least have become one!?)

Dave Bish has responded here:

The evangelist must also be one whose affections are enlarged, and therefore one who searches after Christ with empty hands, sick with love. Saying with Sibbes:"Though I hear the same things again, yet I may hear them in a fresh manner, and so I may have it sealed deeper than before." And though some may say there is too much preaching of the gospel the evangelist lives by it.

Eavesdropping on the Trinity

Have you ever thought of the Bible as an archive of divine conversations? For in Scripture, we have ‘on the record’ all sorts of things that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit say to each other and about each other – otherwise private conversations made fully available to the public!

One of the earliest records we have of such a conversation reveals a discussion between the Persons of the Trinity regarding the creation of humanity: “Let us make man in our image…” (Genesis. 1:26).

Fast forward quite a number of years and we see that during Jesus’ baptism, the Father says to His Son from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). And if you want to know what else the Father said to His Son, why not start with Hebrews 1, which is kind of like a quick reference guide to some other Father-to-Son verses in the Old Testament? You could use it as an index that points to the full content of the conversation.

And during Jesus’ life on earth, we’re told that “He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7) to His Father. In Jesus’ prayers, we see God the Son pouring out His heart to God the Father—God pouring out His heart to God. Let’s just spend a few moments listening to the end of the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the New Testament:

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:20-26)

It was the night before Jesus was crucified and moments before His arrest. And yet, despite His own fears and terror at having to face God’s full fury against sin on our behalf, we see that it is concern for us that overflows out His heart to His Father in prayer.

No less amazing is the content of His prayer. It reveals the full extent of our salvation. Salvation is not about being kept at a distance, merely pitied and forgiven by the great Lawgiver. Our salvation means that we are brought fully into the very same relationship that Jesus has with His Father. We are children of God as much as Jesus is the Son of God. We’re given the very same glory that the Father gives to Jesus. We’re loved by the Father with the very same love that the Father has for the Son from eternity to eternity! The Father has sent the Son to share with us all that is His. This is the best news of the world. This is the heart of the gospel. This is what it means to be Christ-like!

Well, we’ve only listened in on a few conversations between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and explored the end of one very briefly. There’s so much more that each member of the Trinity says to each other! As with all Scripture, these have been revealed to help us understand, participate, and flourish in our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who delight to include us in the family conversations! So why not dive into the ‘archives’ and enjoy?

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Arise & Build

cf. Neh 2:11-end

The New Governor of Jerusalem comes to see the remnant..
there is nothing left but a burning stump...

He takes a few men and covers the grounds.. riding in on a donkey..
this time without the whole dramatic cast of actors putting on a show

after the third day....

no this is the reality... ash and dirt...

he goes across the valley.. to the place of the serpent/dragon/jackal
to the dung gate..

how he remembered the cause and effect... how He mourned..
how easily those temporary walls were broken into

then onto the fountain with the King's pool - but no - there is only rubble

now then .. returning through the valley

He speaks to the Church

"Arise and Build"

Sinful Identification Required for Empowered Service

Now there's a title..

When Nehemiah prays - he needs to :

1st - know exactly who God is - i.e. faithful, loving according to covenant, that the 70 years are up, etc...

2nd - identify completely with the church - he is utterly sinful in breaking covenant even though he himself as an individual has not done anything (or probably not even born before the exile)

3rd - then only can he be the solution to the problem

too frequently the people who think they can solve the church's problems think so because they are better than the rest - and as a result whatever they do at best does not last..

only when we know we are the problem (even though we are not), and acknowledge that before God, will God empower us to be the solution..

and of course Jesus is the fulfiller of all that ... and so we now imbibe a portion in our lives...

very interesting when you think about how God's call works...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Psalm 19

Now, I’m fairly confident that not many of us here this morning would describe looking up into the sky as a spiritually enriching experience. Yeah, we might look up to the sky for practical reasons – you know, before we go out, we might take a quick look out of a window to see if we needed to bring our sunglasses or an umbrella! Or we might appreciate the sky on a bright sunny day, or even wake up early in the morning to watch the sunrise, because it’s beautiful. At other times, well, the sky is the sky, the sun is the sun – they’re just there and we don’t take much notice of them.

But did you know that apart from just having practical value and aesthetic beauty, the skies are also jam-packed and overflowing with theological significance. So much so that David cannot look up to sky without meditating on the Lord and worshipping Him.

Look at v1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Through King David, the singing prophet of Israel, the Holy Spirit tells us some deep and profound truths about creation, in particular the heavens, or the skies and all that is in them. He tells us that they are preaching a sermon!

It’s a 24-hour sermon – v2 “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” And it’s a universal sermon – “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”

In other words, whether people are asleep or awake, in Plymouth or anywhere in the four corners of the earth, a sermon is being preached to all by the heavens. It’s a sermon that we cannot escape from yet… most of us probably never realised this. Until someone pointed out this Psalm to me, I never knew. This is because we've been blinded, deafened, even deadened, to this sermon by sin.

But the aim of this Psalm is not to make us feel guilty or to condemn us for being ignorant. Not at all! Instead, its aim is to tell us that creation IS preaching a sermon to us and like the rest of Scripture – look at vv7-8 – Psalm 19 aims to revive our souls, make us wise, enlighten our eyes to see what creation is telling us – to enable us to hear this heavenly sermon so that our hearts may be filled with joy.

So what exactly do the heavens have to say about the glory of God? David points us to the sun! vv4-6 – In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun… which is like a bridegroom coming forth from its pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run its course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.”

So as the sun rises from the east and makes its daily journey westward we are to think about a champion bridegroom! We know who this is, don’t we? The fact that we’re talking about the sun and a champion bridegroom is a massive giveaway! And we’ve just sung – “Sun, moon and stars in heaven cry, ‘Jesus is Lord!’”

We’ll just stick to the sun this morning. In our reading from Luke Chapter 1, Zechariah, that’s John the Baptist’s dad, he’s full of the Spirit and describes Jesus as the rising sun from heaven. And do you remember the last verse of that Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels sing? “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace, Hail… the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in his wings.” Here’s a bit of plagiarism by Charles Wesley! He nicked it right out of Malachi chapter 4v2! And in Revelation 1v16 – John sees a vision of Jesus and wrote, “His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.”

And just in case we’re not quite sure that Psalm 19 has Jesus in mind, let’s just turn to another Psalm where there’s a fuller description of this champion bridegroom. Please turn to Psalm 45 with me.

Do you see the title? It’s a wedding song. Let’s see who the bridegroom is – v1, he’s a king who is blessed by God – v2, he’s the most excellent of men – vv3-4, he’s victorious… A champion bridegroom! Aha! But there’s more… vv6-7 [Read]. Do you notice? This champion bridegroom is God AND he is also blessed and anointed BY God! God blessed and anointed by God. It’s Jesus the Divine Bridegroom of the Church – blessed and anointed by His Father! And if you’re in any doubt about this, check out Hebrews 1:8-9 – These words in Psalm 45 are spoken by the Father about the Son.

So back to Psalm 19 each day as the sun rises from east to west, it’s preaching Christ to us! When we look up to the skies and see the sun making it’s journey, we’re to think of Jesus, or more specifically, to think of Him as our divine champion bridegroom.

Each day the sun rises to drive away the cold darkness of night, and gives life and warmth to all creation. In the same way Jesus is the victorious king who rises to fight, defeat and cast away all the darkness of this passing world. He has fought and defeated the enemies that were too strong and mighty for us – enemies who have conquered and completely enslaved each of us – sin, the world and the devil! But Jesus has freed us from them.

Yeah the darkness did their best to snuff Him out – by nailing Him to a Cross! And for a while it did seem as if darkness had won as all creation went dark for three hours! Yet just as we witness every morning – the darkness gave it their best shot but has failed to overcome the Light of the World. For the first time in the whole history of humanity, darkness had failed to conquer and devour one of us.

And when you consider the Cross – it’s amazing that Psalm 19:5 says that Jesus rejoices to run his course! What was it that possibly compelled Jesus to go on this journey that took him to a God-forsaken death? I mean a death that drank the full fury of God’s wrath and still Jesus rejoices to run his course? Why? For what? For us – His bride – you and I! We are the joy that was set before Him that enabled Him to endure the cross, and scorn its shame, because He delights in us and rejoices in us.

You know, Jesus didn't gain victory over darkness and say to us – look how great I am! Aren't I awesome? Well He is awesome! He’s the most excellent of men! But more so because He is so gracious and generous to us! He’s not won the victory for Himself. No the Divine Bridegroom has won this epic battle for us and He proposes to us and makes a vow that has been sealed with His blood! Like in all weddings He says to us “All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you.”

But what have we got to give to Him other than our sin? What does He want from us in return?

Nothing! He’s done it all and made the offer before we even asked! Think about the sun. What does the earth do to benefit from the sun’s victory over the darkness every morning? Absolutely nothing! [It can do nothing to make the sun bring it's light to it!] The sun rises and the earth simply receives and enjoys its light and warmth. The sun never demands anything back! In the same way Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness demands nothing from us. He gives us all that belongs to Him, He gives us all of Himself freely. We only need to receive Him.

And in case you think you’re too evil, too wicked, too far gone, too messed up, for God to even consider loving you or saving you… again look at the sun. If you hate yourself, gaze up at the sun each day! Psalm 19v6 – It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from it’s heat. Or as Jesus Himself says in Matthew 5:45, His Father causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good.

Just as the sun shines its light and gives warmth to everyone and everything indiscriminately, so Jesus and salvation in him is for everyone. The Lord never ever refuses to save anyone – but just as people can retreat from the sun into the darkness, so they can retreat from Jesus and hide in darkness. But anyone, absolutely anyone, can always come out and bask in the love of Jesus.

And this is what it means to be a Christian. This is what it means to be a human being. To know and enjoy Jesus as our Bridegroom. As a friend of mine wrote on his blog recently – “The meaning of our lives is not to cower before our creator but to be wooed by our heavenly Lover.”

We’re all probably quite familiar with Jesus as King. And of course Jesus is King. I’m not denying that at all! But if we only focus on Jesus as King, and forget that He is also our bridegroom, then our understanding of Jesus would be skewed. We would find Him mighty, strong, powerful, great… but we might not find Him beautiful or lovely. We would be thankful for the things that He gives to us so freely… but we might not actually delight in Him. Or we would read the Bible looking for all the things that He wants us to do… but we won’t actually read the Bible because we want to spend time with Jesus.

Jesus is King. He is King but we are also His Queen, His Bride. He actually delights in me, in you. He enjoys us just as a husband enjoys His wife. Yes, of course there will be things to do in the family – but imagine if Steph and I only ever focused on the tasks we have to do – whenever we speak to each other, it’s only about doing the shopping, or cleaning the kitchen, or changing Ellie’s nappy, who to invite for dinner – It wouldn’t work, would it? Soon, resentment will creep in, or at best, there won’t be any real joy in the relationship. But that’s not how a marriage is supposed to work. Husbands and wives are also meant to love each other, enjoy each other, delight in each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other, cuddle up with one another, be intimate with each other!

Of course our earthly marriages don’t always work out perfectly – but our divine husband actually longs to and enjoys spending time with us. Jesus is not primarily concerned about giving us a list of things to do everyday. No… more than that, He longs to give Himself to us each day, to tell us that He loves us and to ravish us! And as Jesus tells us in John 5 – Moses and the other writers wrote about Jesus so that we may come to Him. And that’s why David finds that reading the Scriptures revived his soul and gave him joy, that’s why he tells us in v10 that they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb, because Scriptures led him to His heavenly lover.

Have you ever read the Song of Songs? It’s one of the naughtiest bits of the Bible! It’s so naughty that a when I was in school, a Muslim friend actually argued that the Bible cannot be from God because it’s got such x-rated language in it! Surely that should arouse your curiosity!

But seriously… go back and read it! It’s an amazing allegory about Jesus and His relationship to the Church! Let’s just take a sneak peek at it. Song of Songs chapter 1. You see the headings in italics – the beloved is the Church, the one who is loved. And the lover is Christ, the one who loves. So it opens with the Church longing for Christ – v2 – “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine!” And zoom on ahead to Chapter 4vv9-11 – listen to what Jesus says to His bride, feel what He feels for you – “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride; you have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume than any spice! Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon!” Go away and read the whole thing!

Well, it’s so easy to forget that Jesus loves us! But Psalm 19 has given us some extra ammunition! The sun reminds us of the true Sun who gives light and life to all! So… each morning, as you watch the sun rising – or if you like your lie-ins – as you pull open your curtains to let the sunlight into your room, remember Jesus who comes forth from His pavilion for you! Let Him draw you to Himself – run into His arms, open the Scriptures and find Him offered to you, enjoy His presence and let Him enjoy yours! And then, just as the sun warms the birds and they begin to sing – so will you find praise and song rising in your heart as it burns with Jesus’ love for you!

Jesus, the divine bridegroom who loves us! This is not despite the glory of Jesus, this is not because He hides His glory or sets it aside! No! This is the glory of God that the Sun proclaims to the whole earth each and every day, till He rises once final time, never to set again!

Jesus brought great comfort, joy and laughter to me this morning!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Rudimentary Thoughts on Ezra-Nehemiah

So then..

this is in exile.

The One who brings joy to the king with the new wine comes to build his people

He places the wall... (Zech implies - He is the wall)
and the gates

there is identity for the people - they are one (cf Eph)
and security

Notice He is the governor, but yet not really there..
as He prepares homes for the people in the city of God

Ezra is then sent in to the centre of it all - to rebuild the temple, to write the laws on the people's hearts
the scribe pens these things out

So we have the exterior set by Nehemiah
and the interior being worked on by Ezra

during the time - Sabbath is being established
all the bad stuff is being thrown out - (cf Zech - no Canaanites will remain)

yet Haggai makes sure we know we are not building the kingdom on earth once the new wall (cf Eph 2 and Zech - the old wall is broken and the new wall established) - but the kingdom that is to come - and this is merely firstfruits  - where there is a spreading holiness instead of spreading uncleanness

implications - identity - Neh 5 - we now no longer treat each other as slaves - we have purpose and community - there are those who would threaten it - who do not want (Neh 2) to seek the welfare of God's people
security - the security of the wall is actually the security in God's love, justification, and corporate sealing and bonding  - nothing can take us away - and in this love wickedness (Zech 4/5) is purged by the priest/king - who spreads Himself (Branch - Big Tree Jesus parable)

anything else? more? different?