Thursday, 30 September 2010

Another quote

 If we habitually doubt the faithfulness of God, this is no poetic virtue; it’s called unbelief. 

From, "Accidental death and a Sovereign God" at The Rabbit Room

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Quote of the week

Heaven is not the destination of the saved. Rather, we will participate in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We will become part of the new creation. Jesus’ salvation is not just about me and my sins, but will envelop the whole of the cosmos. A new heaven and earth will be created, and our call is to live as his people there in relationships of love with the Trinity and with one another forever. No clouds and harps and halos; instead, real life and love, with no more crying and no more dying. I don’t know how he’s going to do it. But if Easter is any indication of what’s in store, then he’s off to a very impressive start.

From William Black in the land of milk and honey via Christians should know better

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Reaching out for the Alka Seltzer

Last week, at a dinner hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, someone from the Russian Orthodox Church gave the Church of England a serious rebuke. Now whoever chose to invite him must no doubt be nashing their teeth for their decision to invite someone who would cause quite a few guests (possibly including the Archbish) to reach out for the Alka Seltzer. Here is the full text of remarks and for a taster, here is a small portion of Hilarion's meaty talk

We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.
Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.
In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual ... as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.
Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”.  And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.
What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

To flee lust, look up

Is what John Piper says in this brilliant quote.

The sky is a great power against lust - pure, lovely, wholesome, beautiful, powerful.

Large-hearted things cannot abide the soul of a sexual fantasy at the same time.

To listen to this quote and more, go here

Thought for the day: Ain't it ugly?

Lask week on these shores, I referenced an excellent post which spoke of the objectivity of beauty (Music and the Objectivity of Beauty). One of the insights I gleaned from reading that post, was how beauty is intrinsic to who God's being. Consider for example the follow verses:

Exodus 28:2
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

Exodus 28:40
"For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty

Psalm 27:4
One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORDall the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple

Psalm 48:2
beautiful in elevation,is the joy of all the earth,Mount Zion, in the far north, the city of the great King.

Psalm 50:2
Out of Zion, the perfection of 
beauty, God shines forth.

Psalm 96:6
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and 
beauty are in his sanctuary

From these verses, we can clearly see that God likes beauty. He likes beautiful clothes, He likes beautiful surroundings and He Himself is in fact beautiful (Psalm 27:4). I'm sure that there is more that could be said but at the very least we'd want to say that beauty pertains to the very nature of God. Now this is all very nice and interesting, and I was minding my own business having put this "beauty" stuff to one side when I came across this quote from Darwin

Up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds . . . gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare. . . .
Formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great, delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music. . . .
I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. . . .
My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. . . .
The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

After reading this quote, I've been asking myself - what beautiful things has Atheism produced? Where is their music or art or poetry or architecture? Where are their charities and old people's homes? Where are their holidays and festivals? Could it be that besides hating the One who is the source of all life, atheism is also barren and ugly?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Hypocrisy sucks

Every so often a commentary, online article etc I'm reading will capture with great force a point from Scripture I'm trying to teach. These last few days, I've been working on Romans 2 in preparation for a sermon I'm preaching this Sunday. One of the things that's really struck me as I've prepared this sermon, is how much hypocrisy really really sucks. It quietly eats away at our conscience and more seriously, it is utterly distasteful to God. This alone should lead us to immediate repentance and godly fear but not always. Thus something I read today reminded me that one way God's hatred for hypocrisy is displayed, is by allowing our hypocritical life to be understood as such by those around us

No amount of rigorous apologetic for the faith—as important as that is—will supplant or squelch the consistent noise coming from the moral megaphone of our lives. 

How is your life? Are you simply talking the talk or are you also walking the walk? Ezekiel 18:27

Joke of the week

Quote of the week

Christians acting like Christians would be the most effective possible evidence for the truth of what they profess

From: Marilynne Robinson Takes on Bad Science Writers

Friday, 10 September 2010

To over-react or not? That is the question

John Owen, that Prince of Puritans and one of the leading Post-Reformation theologians, declared that one of the key ways by which we can grow in holiness is by walking regularly over the bellies of our lusts - what a great phrase - walking, stepping on, crushing the bellies of our lusts. Any according to a certain American pastor, one way in which this is accomplished (by us men) is by us being careful not to simply over-react when for example a scantily clad girl appears on screen. He says that instead of instinctively reacting like someone who has had boiling water poured on their lap we should be more measured whilst still treating it with the sense of seriousness it deserves which might mean pondering what kind of background/ parents/society would allow women to dress this badly, thinking aloud on what would heal our land of such folly and then walking away calmly. Please note that this is not saying we are to sit there indulging our lusts whilst justifying such ungodly behaviour with the misguided notion that we are "keeping calm in a tricky situation". What however this is saying is that we (especially us men) ought to be careful not simply to over-react when facing the mighty battleground of lust. Our response in the face of such sin should not merely be the quick shuffling from the computer/hands over my eyes/shouting at the screen expressing outrage whilst actually failing to name the sin as it is and then empowered by the Spirit speaking out how the Gospel answers this sin and then walking over its belly in triumph. The American pastor concludes like this
"Walk away because you want to, and you know that you really want to because you could stay if you wanted. You could not stay "if you wanted to" in order to give way to lust because God's Word speaks directly to that. But you could see it if you wanted, free of lust, and since it is lawful (but not necessary), you might as well leave. Leaving is the point, but you want it to be the right kind of leaving, because otherwise you are not really leaving." (Full post at Dealing with Nuisance Lust)

Men out there, what do you think of all this? If I am really honest, I am in the bolting it out of the room/quickly turning the computer off/hand over my eyes school when I face any sexual temptation - is this to over-react or not?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Quote of the week

The gospel is the message that Jesus Christ has saved the world from death. One way that we can show this is by letting the gospel confront whatever aspects of the death-principle are most prevalent in our age. Since our age manifests the death-principle in, among other things, excessive degrees of ugliness, it follows that the articulation of beauty – in word, deed, music, drama, worship, dance and all the arts – is not an optional extra for the church, but a central feature in our annunciation of Christ’s Lordship.

Robin Phillips at Robin's Readings and Reflections

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Thought for the day: How does your church fare?

For too long the church has evangelized with Gnostic aspirations, thinking we must appeal simply to a person’s spirit or the mind instead of seducing the whole person with the loveliness of Christ’s Kingdom, confirming Nietzsche’s complaint that modern Christianity is anemic, opposed to life rather than an affirmation of life. Believing that God is only interested in disembodied souls, we have retreated from a central aspect of the good news.

Via Music and the Objectivity of Beauty

So, how does your church fare?

Beautiful Jesu

One of the songs played at our wedding was J.S. Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. To our shame, we chose it simply because it was a "lovely" piece of music. Now I have nothing with lovely pieces of music but I wish I had done a bit more homework on the original words etc which would have given it more meaning and allowed us and our guests to appreciate and enjoy it even more. Anyway today following a very interesting post on the objectivity of beauty (see Music and the Objectivity of Beauty) I decided to check out what the words for Bach's Jesu are. For now, all I'm going to say is: Bach, what a genius. To listen to a modern rendition sung in English (words below) listen to it here

Josh Groban Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring from Jacy JoyPals on Vimeo.

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright

Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned
With the fire of life impassioned
Striving still to truth unknown
Soaring, dying round Thy throne

Through the way where hope is guiding
Hark, what peaceful music rings
Where the flock, in Thee confiding
Drink of joy from deathless springs
Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Schriener and Moo, Boooo

A few weeks back I had my first preach at the parish where I've just been ordained curate. The passage that was given to me for this my first preach was Romans 2:1-11. I mentioned this to one of my old pals back at theological college and their response was to scream and say "Kip, they've thrown you right in there haven't they?" which was code for what a tricky passage to be given first up and more importantly, how are you going to read/interpret/preach Romans 2, especially the all important verses 6-8:

God "will give to each person according to what he has done."[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

As some of you know, there has been quite a bit of debate on the meaning of this verses. The issue simply put is this can Paul really be teaching salvation by 'works' given what he says in Romans 3:20?

Many of the traditional heavyweights such as Schriener and Moo take this line but do you know what after much pondering and considering other NT teaching such as Matthew 16:27, 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 22:12 I'm not persuaded. What's more today I was reading the Westminster Confession of Faith wherein we read that

"...good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life.

In other words, doing good is an integral aspect of your salvation. Put another way, there is no such thing as an empty set reading to Romans 2 and so to Schriener and Moo et al, I say booo ya booo to you.