Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Renewed Attitudes

Reading Isaiah again last night and I found myself challenged by the words that he spoke about a change that would happen with Gods people.

Isaiah 29:23-24 ESV
     23     For when he sees his children,
the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
          they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
     24     And those who go astray in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who murmur will accept instruction.”

Two things that particularly struck me;
1. The change from people who reject God and go their own way to people who honour Him is remarkable and it fits in so well with what we were looking at on Sunday morning, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name". The change here for these people is that they gain a profound sense of God's holiness, they hallow his name, they stand in awe of Him. A remarkable turn around from how they were behaving earlier in the chapter. What an encouragement to know that God is still at work even with people who are as messed up today as they were back then.

2. The change from murmuring complaint to humble understanding and teachablity seems to follow a change of perspective on God. Perhaps tackling complainers in churches head-on isn't always the wisest way to deal with it, perhaps what is needed is a radical shift in perspective and renewed attitudes towards God himself first.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I guess that Jude is one of those short letters in the New Testament that gets overlooked all the time. After all what could 25 verses have to say about our situation and our life, particularly when so much of it seems to be to do with obscure Jewish history?

Yesterday John Piper's weekly email dropped into my inbox and I was really challenged by what I read. It was talking about Jude and I though you might find it interesting.

The Value of Learning History: A Lesson from Jude
John Piper
The little letter of Jude teaches us something about the value of learning history. This is not the main point of the letter. But it is striking. In this next-to-last book of the Bible, Jude writes to encourage the saints to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (verse 3).
The letter is a call to vigilance in view of "certain persons [who] have crept in unnoticed... ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (verse 4). Jude describes these folks in vivid terms. They "revile the things which they do not understand" (verse 10). They "are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" (verse 16). They "cause divisions, [and are] worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit" (verse 19).
This is a devastating assessment of people who are not outside the church but have "crept in unnoticed." Jude wants them be spotted for who they really are, so that the church is not deceived and ruined by their false teaching and immoral behavior.
One of his strategies is to compare them to other persons and events in history. For example, he says that "Sodom and Gomorrah . . . since they, in the same way as these, indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (verse 7). So Jude compares these people to Sodom and Gomorrah. His point in doing this is to say that Sodom and Gomorrah are "an example" of what will happen when people live like these intruders are living. So, in Jude's mind, knowing the history of Sodom and Gomorrah is very useful in helping detect such error and deflect it from the saints.
Similarly in verse 11, Jude piles up three other references to historical events as comparisons with what is happening in his day among Christians. He says "Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah." This is remarkable. Why refer to three different historical incidents like this that happened thousands of years earlier - Genesis 19 (Sodom), Genesis 3 (Cain), Numbers 22-24 (Balaam), Numbers 16 (Korah)? What's the point?
Here are three points: 1) Jude assumes that the readers know these stories! Is that not amazing! This was the first century! No books in anyone's homes. No Bibles available. No story tapes. Just oral instruction. And he assumed that they would know: What is "the way of Cain" and "the error of Balaam" and "the rebellion of Korah"? Do you know? Isn't this astonishing! He expects them to know. It makes me think that our standards of Bible knowledge in the church today are too low.
2) Jude assumes that knowing this history will illumine the present situation. The Christians will handle the error better today, if they know similar situations from yesterday. In other words, history is valuable for Christian living. To know that Cain was jealous and hated his brother and resented his true spiritual communion with God will alert you to watch for such things even among brothers.

To know that Balaam finally caved in and made the Word of God a means of worldly gain makes you better able to spot that sort of thing. To know that Korah despised legitimate authority and resented Moses' leadership will protect you from factious folk who dislike anyone being seen as their leader.
3) Is it not clear, then, that God ordains that events happen and that they get recorded as history so that we will learn them and become wiser and more insightful about the present for the sake of Christ and his church. Never stop learning history. Gain some knowledge every day. And let us give our children one of the best protections against the folly of the future, namely, a knowledge of the past.
Learning with you, for Christ and his kingdom,
Pastor John

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lloyd-Jones on Seriousness in the Pulpit

The preacher must be a serious man; he must never give the impression that preaching is something light or superficial or trivial….What is happing [in the act of preaching] is that he is speaking to them from God, he is speaking to them about God, he is speaking about their condition, the state of their souls. He is telling them that they are, by nature, under the wrath of God–”the children of wrath even as others”–that the character of the life they’re living is offensive to God and under the judgment of God, and warning them of the dread eternal possibility that lies ahead of them...

Lloyd-Jones on Seriousness in the Pulpit
Reposted from the TGC Blog

Friday, September 25, 2009


Last night we were reading through Isaiah 13 in our read through the Bible in a year plan and I have to say it was a sobering experience. The section is all about God's judgement on Babylon but as with so much of Isaiah it looks forward to a greater fulfilment in our time. What God did to Babylon was awful but what lies ahead for us, if we keep on stubbornly going our own way and doing our own thing, is even worse.

Isaiah 13:6-11

      Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived—
the time for the Almighty to destroy.
      Every arm is paralyzed with fear.
Every heart melts,
      and people are terrified.
Pangs of anguish grip them,
like those of a woman in labor.
They look helplessly at one another,
their faces aflame with fear.
      For see, the day of the Lord is coming—
the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger.
The land will be made desolate,
and all the sinners destroyed with it.
      The heavens will be black above them;
the stars will give no light.
The sun will be dark when it rises,
and the moon will provide no light.
      “I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil
and the wicked for their sin.
I will crush the arrogance of the proud
and humble the pride of the mighty.

Doesn't this make the cross even more amazing? Jesus takes our punishment and bears it all so that we can be free. I still can't understand how anyone could think that's a bad deal. I am messed up and deserve punishment and he endures that punishment for me, the gift he offers is forgiveness and freedom from a crushing sense of fear as I look forward - how good is that! 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning to Pray

I have for a long time now found the book "Valley of Vision" a real help in my praying. Its a collection of some of the puritan prayers from 400 years ago. One of the things I love about the prayers is that they are real and honest; the puritans weren't afraid to own up to their sin nor were they too prim to express their profound love of God. I find their prayers challenging and helpful:

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. 
Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.
Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. 
Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. 
Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.
Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly [farmer], that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. 
I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. 
I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. 
Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Having spoken on prayer on Sunday I find myself in the middle of the week already struggling to get down to praying properly...again. And as usual it's Satan's well worn trick of telling me that God doesn't love me because I'm too bad. What an encouragement to read Charles Spurgeon this morning talking about Ephesians 1v6. There the Apostle Paul tells us that we are accepted in Jesus, or accepted in the beloved as he puts it. Spurgeon then takes us on a tour of our own stupidity thinking that how we feel makes us more or less accepted by God.

"When their spirit is lively, and their hopes bright, they think God accepts them, for they feel so high, so heavenly-minded, so drawn above the earth! But when their souls cleave to the dust, they are the victims of the fear that they are no longer accepted. If they could but see that all their high joys do not exalt them, and all their low despondencies do not really depress them in their Father's sight, but that they stand accepted in One who never alters, in One who is always the beloved of God, always perfect, always without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, how much happier they would be, and how much more they would honour the Saviour! Rejoice then, believer, in this: thou art accepted "in the beloved." Thou lookest within, and thou sayest, "There is nothing acceptable here!" But look at Christ, and see if there is not everything acceptable there. Thy sins trouble thee; but God has cast thy sins behind His back, and thou art accepted in the Righteous One. Thou hast to fight with corruption, and to wrestle with temptation, but thou art already accepted in Him who has overcome the powers of evil. The devil tempts thee; be of good cheer, he cannot destroy thee, for thou art accepted in Him who has broken Satan's head."

If you have time and want to listen to the sermon then the link is below:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Luther on Music

"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." Martin Luther

It's great to sing isn't it? I love it when we sing at church and we really sing from the heart. For me it doesn't matter particularly if it's an old hymn or a new song, the issue is not so much the style but rather the ideas in the song that lift my mind and soul to God. This last Sunday night the singing was wonderful, I don't know why particularly but somehow the songs worked and it felt like we were really singing. Somehow we can sing things and sing them passionately even when the ideas or words are difficult to express in normal speaking.Perhaps Luther is right, perhaps the music when done well helps to lift the words to a new level because music itself is a great gift from God. I just wonder what the music in heaven is going to be like... I bet it will be great!

There is a higher throne
Than all this world has known,
Where faithful ones from ev'ry tongue
Will one day come.
Before the Son we'll stand,
Made faultless through the Lamb;
Believing hearts find promised grace—
Salvation comes.

Hear heaven's voices sing;
Their thund'rous anthem rings
Through em'rald courts and sapphire skies.
Their praises rise.
All glory, wisdom, pow'r,
Strength, thanks, and honor are
To God our King, who reigns on high

And there we'll find our home,
Our life before the throne;
We'll honor Him in perfect song
Where we belong.
He'll wipe each tear-stained eye
As thirst and hunger die.
The Lamb becomes our Shepherd King;
We'll reign with Him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good news for messed up people

I just had to share this video. I friend had posted it on their facebook account and I was so moved by what the guy had to say I wanted others to have a look too.

The basic premise is that we are messed up and Jesus comes to rescue us when we are messed up not when we are all nice and perfect and think we are ready for him. For most of us that idea of a saviour who rescues us when we are at our lowest is one of the most attractive things about the gospel.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Great to see so many students back for the new Teesocs sessions. How could we have imagined three years ago that God would have been so good to us. Forty three have graduated from the 2007/09 sessions and we now have a whole new set of students sat listening to Philip Tait teaching on Biblical Studies. Mike Plant is currently lecturing the graduate students on John Calvin and I'll be up soon enough to do the Preaching and Teaching lectures. What a great opportunity to teach and encourage and also be encouraged.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I came across this letter on one of the creation websites this morning, it comes from a man who was an atheist and found the logical conclusions of atheism more than he could cope with. I was interested in it because it challenges the view that rejecting God leads to happiness.

Dear CMI,
I cannot express my gratitude in words. 
I became a Christian three years ago after struggling with thoughts of suicide due to my atheistic beliefs.
Your ministry truly saved my life. I was raised in a secular home, and surrounded by atheistic propaganda from an early age, whether it be from school or the media. Unsurprisingly, I became an atheist at the age of 12. 
As the years passed and I truly tried to understand the world around me, I discovered a horrifying truth that had been hidden from me, hidden from everyone. This is the reason I am writing this letter, as even in your excellent articles on atheism, you do not truly reveal the extent to which the atheists deceive everyone, even themselves. As the years passed and I truly tried to understand the world around me, I discovered a horrifying truth that had been hidden from me, hidden from everyone. Atheists often say that they can truly live a happy, fulfilling life. Yet this is a lie, a deception which damns millions of souls to darkness. 

While you revealed much in your articles, you have not destroyed the root. Simply put, atheism destroys the possibility of personal identity, choice, and objective and subjective meaning. Atheism inescapably leads to naturalism, and from naturalism follows atheism’s great skeleton which its followers try to keep hidden; determinism. Determinism is inescapable if one is a naturalist, as all that exists is material and has come about by purely natural processes. This means then, that the mind of man, our greatest treasure, is reducible to material bound by physical laws; namely, our thoughts, feelings, and actions are reducible to reactions of chemicals in the brain. Few people realize, then, that this destroys all that makes us human. Namely; if our thoughts, feelings, and actions are simply chemical reactions in the brain, those reactions are simply the by-products of prior reactions forming an unbreakable chain which leads to the very beginning of the universe. This means then, that whatever we do, we do because we have to. We cannot do anything other than what we do, it simply isn’t possible. All actions are the result of prior actions in an unbreakable chain. We are no different than a cog in a watch or a falling domino. … atheism is utterly horrific! 

Sadly, most atheists are unaware of these things! I believe if they truly understood the consequences of what they believed, they would reconsider their position. There is no difference between the embrace of a loving husband and the violence of a vicious rapist, the actions of a doctor trying to save a life and the mass murderer who kills at whim, the actions of our greatest leaders and the inaction of a lazy sluggard. Both are totally the same in atheism. Objective meaning is non-existent, and subjective meaning is incoherent! Would we say the action of a robot picking up a glass bottle has any meaning, value, or significance? Of course not! It’s simply doing what it has to! It can do nothing else! In what sense can an atheist say that he as a person truly exists? The material which composes our body is recycled every seven years, and our consciousness seems to cease every time we go to bed. So in what sense is the mass of matter that wakes up in the morning the same person as the one who went to bed the night before? 

As you can see, atheism is utterly horrific! Sadly, most atheists are unaware of these things! I believe if they truly understood the consequences of what they believed, they would reconsider their position, 

I know I did, 
God bless. 
Justin S

Now I realise some of you wont like that and will feel offended by it but it is worth asking the question where do my beliefs take me? What do I really believe and why don't I live like that?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spirit Filled

"The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that's who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him." John 14v21

I was struck last night by how much emphasis Jesus puts on doing what he says. John 14 is the passage about him sending the Spirit to his followers after he leaves them to go to the cross and then to heaven. It's a great passage of encouragement and comfort but also extremely challenging. I think those of us who go to church can be so obsessed with getting it right theologically that we forget that the Lord Jesus expects those who follow him to put into practice what he says. Or sometimes we are so convinced that the Spirit filled life is all about signs or exuberant worship that we forget this strong connection that Jesus makes between Spirit filling and obedience. Of course it's not an either or; we need the Spirit's work to make us obedience and we want to be passionate in our worship and witness but all of that will ring hollow if we don't actually do what he says, and probably worst of all we run the risk of not being one of his people at all, after all it is those who obey him that the Father loves, which is the reverse way round to how we often think about it in the reformed community.
Saved by grace yes, saved to do good works yes, able to live as we like and ignore Jesus' words ... no.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dont be too good...

Claire and I are reading through Ecclesiaties at the moment and last night we came across a verse that made us both laugh out loud.

"Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise--why destroy yourself?" Ecc 7:16 NIV

It seems a bit out of place doesn't it? Is the Bible really saying we shouldn't be serious about being good?
Is this really an argument for moderation in all things even holiness?
Reading up about it this morning there seems to be a variety of opinions from experts about what it means with some suggesting it is someone answering Solomon's complaint that good people seem to suffer and bad people get on fine; so the answer is don't be too good because it gets you nowhere. But perhaps more likely is the idea that Solomon is criticising a sort of religious super-spirituallity that is more holy than God himself. We think we can be so good that God will look us and think "wow - she's good, I must bless her" but that in the end will just lead to disappointment and bitterness. We will think God "owes us one" and so when he doesn't bless because we are being all good and all "spiritual" we will get angry with him.

Living by grace is hard because we are so inclined to think that we can both be saved by our own efforts and also keep in God's good books by our own efforts and yet invitation to his family is a matter of amazing grace and the fact he keeps loving us is still down to his grace.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Do not fear...

Occasionally when I am reading through something it seems as if God shouts out loud at me and speaks a word that is so appropriate and so relevant that I am bowled over by it. Over the last few weeks of working up at the church I've been revisiting Spurgeon's Morning and Evening book as a means helping to get my head in gear as I start the day. Today what he had to say was one of the times of extraordinary appropriateness.
Maybe it will be of help to someone else...

"He shall not be afraid of evil tidings."—Psalm 112:7.
HRISTIAN, you ought not to dread the arrival of evil tidings; because if you are distressed by them, what do you more than other men? Other men have not your God to fly to; they have never proved His faithfulness as you have done, and it is no wonder if they are bowed down with alarm and cowed with fear: but you profess to be of another spirit; you have been begotten again unto a lively hope, and your heart lives in heaven and not on earthly things; now, if you are seen to be distracted as other men, what is the value of that grace which you profess to have received? Where is the dignity of that new nature which you claim to possess?
Again, if you should be filled with alarm, as others are, you would, doubtless, be led into the sins so common to others under trying circumstances. The ungodly, when they are overtaken by evil tidings, rebel against God; they murmur, and think that God deals hardly with them. Will you fall into that same sin? Will you provoke the Lord as they do?
Moreover, unconverted men often run to wrong means in order to escape from difficulties, and you will be sure to do the same if your mind yields to the present pressure. Trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. Your wisest course is to do as Moses did at the Red Sea, "Stand still and see the salvation of God." For if you give way to fear when you hear of evil tidings, you will be unable to meet the trouble with that calm composure which nerves for duty, and sustains under adversity. How can you glorify God if you play the coward? Saints have often sung God's high praises in the fires, but will your doubting and desponding, as if you had none to help you, magnify the Most High? Then take courage, and relying in sure confidence upon the faithfulness of your covenant God, "let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Augustine Longing...

"I longed for honours, gains, marriage; and You mocked me. In these desires I underwent the most bitter hardships, You being the more gracious the less You allowed anything which was not You to grow sweet to me. Behold my heart, O Lord, you who want me to recall all this, and confess it to You. Now let my soul cleave to You..." Confessions 6:9

We want so many things and still God is teaching us that having him is the most satisfying thing we can know. Why are we so slow and why is God so amazingly patient with us?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Hymn...

As some of you will know I have become a great fan of Red Mountain Music in the last year or so. They have done the excellent thing of setting some of the old hymns to new music and I have to say I just love it.

One hymn that I wasn't familiar with before goes like this:

We travel through a barren land,
With dangers thick on every hand;
But Jesus guides us through the vale;
O, The Christian’s hope can never fail.

Huge sorrows meet us as we go,
And devils aim to overthrow;
But vile infernals can’t prevail;
O, The Christian’s hope shall never fail.

Sometimes we’re tempted to despair,
But Jesus makes us then His care;
Though numerous foes our souls assail;
O, The Christian’s hope can never fail.

We trust upon the sacred word,
The oath and promise of the Lord;
And safely through each tempest sail;
O, the Christian's hope can never fail.

There is so much in those words that encourages me. I sometimes feel surrounded by spiritual enemies (how good is the phrase "vile infernals"!) just wanting me to trip and and fall and yet what an encouragement that Jesus promises to stand with us through all the trials and difficulties and temptations we face.

What good advice from Martin Luther to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus because too much time spent looking inward only leads to depression. And what an encouragement to know "sometimes we're tempted to despair, but Jesus makes us then his care"

I am bowled over by the fact I have a friend in heaven who does love me and will look out for me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

loving the sound of our own voice...

"Bear with me a little, and I will show you, for I have yet something to say on God’s behalf." Job 36v2

When Elihu arrives on the scene at the end of Job it feels to me like such a mixed up thing. He says some things that are right and good and true and yet his tone and his conclusions seem to be arrogant and somewhat off the mark. It got me thinking about the many people I have met over the years who are full of passion and full of "vision" and who want to sort the church out and set everything right. The trouble is that some of what is said is absolutely right and really challenging, but with it come some conclusions that are just weird. "God give me wisdom to work out what is right, to follow what you say and be strong enough to say no to things that are a distraction." I need to keep reminding myself that the Word brings the increase.