Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Quote of the week

“When God acts contrary to our will, disappointment is understandable. But when our desires go unfulfilled and disappointment begins to define us, something else is afoot. It’s called discontentment.” 

Via: Frustrated at work?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Marriage tis hard/The Sermon and the Lunch

With a heading like that, some might be thinking, what's gone wrong... I've been married for only 6 sorry 5 months! The truth is family life is a real joy and it is right for us reformed folk to big up marriage, especially the delights of having a wife (Proverbs 18:22) and the joy of having children (Psalm 128). Nevertheless I'd be a bad pastor if I failed to mention to those in my charge that family life is a labour. There are times, when marriage contains a certain drudgery e.g. doing the chores I'd rather not do (such as getting up early to de-ice the car, talking the rubbish out when it's freezing cold, etc, etc) and failing to warn others of such trials is to set them up for disappointment BIG time. It is right to give the impression that marriage is something to be greatly enjoyed. Nevertheless to give just this impression is to fail to prepare people for marriage. 

I'd like to say that these are all original thoughts but I found out today that CS Lewis got there before me and I recommend his excellent essay, The Sermon and the Lunch which I reckon should be required reading for those doing any sort of marriage prep

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Joke of the week

One time G.K. Chesterton, the rolypologist, was patted on the stomach by his adversary, George Bernard Shaw, a beanpole of an infidel, and was asked what they were going to name the baby. Chesterton replied immediately that if it was a boy, John, if a girl, then Mary. But if it turned out to only be gas, they were going to name it George Bernard Shaw.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Video of the week: Quantitative Easing explained

This is a must watch!

No mama = no papa

Is what Calvin says in a roundabout kind'a way. He says it in the Institutes, whilst addressing the issue of the Visible Church whereupon he writes:
there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Mt. 22:30). For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for (Institutes Book IV, ch i, para 4)
In simple words, people are always born and people have mothers. There is always blood and there is always water

Similarly, if people are to be re-born, they must have a new mother, and there must be blood and water. 

Without a mother and without blood and water, there is no rebirth and no way we could 
call God, Father. 

Or as Paul puts it in Galatians 4, no mama = no papa.

HT: Toby S and Steve J

Quote of the week

The Calvinist movement in which Puritanism was rooted dignified activities that were previously considered mundane, through vigorously affirming the sacredness of earthly life, the glory of the physical, the splendour of the ordinary and the intimate unison between spirit and matter. The Puritan allowed one to serve God by serving one's wife, to be faithful to the Lord through being faithful in one's vocation. To read more about that, click here

Monday, 22 November 2010

Thought of the day: Saints or Sinners?

This weekend begins the Advent season in the Western Calender and for the church I'm based, our preaching now takes a break from Romans and turns now to focus onto passages which speak clearly of Christ's second coming, our resurrection hope and the way sinners like us can be welcomed to the transformed and renewed creation which will be revealed on that Great Day.

DV, when we return to Romans in the New Year, we will pick up at Chapter 6 and I'm hoping that I get asked to do some preaching from this mind-blowing chapter. One reason for this, is that studying Romans 6 will help me to explore whether the widespread tendency amongst Christians to describe each other as "Sinners" with a capital "S" is actually right. How could this be so given passages like Romans 6:4:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Or Romans 6:11-12:

 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 

Or Romans 6:14:

 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Similar sentiments are expressed by Paul in Philippians 4 as well as by the Apostle John in 1 John 2 + 5

So a question to you are we Sinners or Saints?

Fancy calling her "M'Lord"

A few weeks ago now The Saturday Times dissuaded married couples from giving each other pet names. It was one of their perplexing suggestions of how to keep the marriage flame burning. Apparently, giving each other pet names mysteriously moved the relationship from intimate romance to a good-natured friendship. All I could think of at the time is what's so bad about having a good-natured friendship? And why this apparent division between intimate romance and an amiable friendship? We surely want our marriages to be punctuated by romantic tête-à-têtes as well has having ordinary everyday conversation ("Shall we go down and have some breakfast?"; "I don't like it when you do that"; "Is that the time we need to go to bed now" and so on). Well as you can see, I didn't think much of the Times article and this weekend, whilst reading something on Luther, I discover that he was married to Katherine von Bora (a former nun) for 21 years and had six children. The best bit though was the pet name he gave her:"My Lord Katie". Perhaps he did so because she managed their home (which was frequently full of students), she had a large garden and livestock, she fished and farmed, and also ran a brewery! She also managed their money and took care of their extended household. What a women eh? I'm praying that my dear and lovely wife takes a few leaves off her book (though I shan't share which particular ones) and to help her in that process I'll be adding a new pet name to our repertoire "My Lord Rachel"

Friday, 19 November 2010

We are the champions... my friend

That is exactly right. We (Christians) are the champions and our story is one of victory OR, to quote the Prophet Isaiah

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

The Bible says that the Lord God has appointed His Son has heir and slowly but surely things are being brought in line with His purposes. Nothing or no one can stop it. We win. Now why all this exuberance on a Friday afternoon? Well earlier today, I was perusing some stats on China here. Most of the stuff there is truly interesting (e.g. China executes three times as many people as the rest of the world!). What really got my juices really going though was the comment that there are already more Christians in China than Italy, and it is on track to become the largest centre of Christianity in the world. Now can you believe that? Here is a country that tried to exterminate Christianity in the mid 20th Century and it is now headed towards being a major foci of the Christian faith? I now see what King David meant when he wrote "The One enthroned in heaven laughs" Laughing indeed!


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Wanna know what love is?

Why do people consider the Puritans, as those 17th Century Christians, who were against the enjoyment of life and promoted a repressive morality? I ask because whenever I read the Puritans, I am often struck by their love of life and concern to delight in the everyday. Consider for example the pointers below from the renowned Richard Baxter on how to keep that lovey feeling going OR to use Baxter's 17th Century speak, "The sub-directions for maintaing conjugal love are:

1. Choose one at first that is truly amiable, especially in the virtues of the mind.
2. Marry not till you are sure that you can love entirely. Be not drawn for sordid ends, to join with one that you have but ordinary affections for.
3. Be not too hasty, but know beforehand, all the imperfections, which may tempt you after wards to loathing. But if these duties have been sinfully neglected, yet
4. Remember that justice commandeth you to love one that hath, as it were, forsaken all the world for you, and is contented to be the companion of your labours and sufferings, and be an equal sharer in all conditions with you, and that must be your companion until death. It is worse than barbarous inhumanity to entice such a one into a bond of love, and society with you, and then to say, you cannot love her. This was by perfidiousness to draw her into a snare to her undoing. What comfort can she have in her converse with you, and care, and labour, and necessary sufferings, if you deny her conjugal love ? Especially, if she deny not love to you, the inhumanity is the greater.
5. Remember that women are ordinarily affectionate, passionate creatures, and as they love much themselves, so they expect much love from you. And when you joined yourself to such a nature, you obliged yourself to answerable duty: and if love cause not love, it is ungrateful and unjust contempt.

6. Remember that you are under God's command ; and to deny conjugal love to your wives, is to deny a duty which God hath urgently imposed on you. Obedience therefore should command your love.
7. Remember that you are relatively, as it were, one flesh; you have drawn her to forsake father and mother, to cleave to you; you are conjoined for procreation of such children as must bear the image and nature of you both; your possessions and interests are in a manner the same. And therefore such nearness should command affection; they that are as yourselves, should be most easily loved as yourselves.
8. Take more notice of the good, that is in your wives, than of the evil. Let not the observation of their faults make you forget or overlook their virtues. Love is kindled by the sight of love or goodness.
9. Make not infirmities to seem odious faults, but excuse them as far as lawfully you may, by considering the frailty of the sex, and of their tempers, and considering also your own infirmities, and how much your wives must bear with you.
10. Stir up that most in them into exercise which is best, and stir not up that which is evil; and then the good will most appear, and the evil will be as buried, and you will more easily maintain your love. There is some uncleanness in the best on earth ; and if you will be daily stirring in the filth, no wonder if you have the annoyance ; and for that you may thank yourselves : draw out the fragrancy of that which is good and delectable in them, and do not by your own imprudence or peevishness stir up the worst, and then you shall find that even your faulty wives will appear more amiable to you.
11. Overcome them with love; and then whatever they are in themselves, they will be loving to you, and consequently lovely. Love will cause love, as fire kindleth fire. A good husband is the best means to make a good and loving wife. Make them not froward by your froward carriage, and then say, we cannot love them.
12. Give them examples of amiableness in yourselves; set them the pattern of a prudent, lowly, loving, meek, self-denying, patient, harmless, holy, heavenly life. Try this a while, and see whether it will not shame them from their faults, and make them walk more amiably themselves.

All married folk out there - are you listening?

Quote of the week

Repentance is a dish best served fast.

Don’t think Gordon Ramsay, six courses, haute cuisine. Think McDonald’s drive-thru.


Conservative Evangelicals 0, Reformers 1

Whilst at theological college my Church history tutor, oft commented that contemporary Evangelicalism differs greatly both in practice and theology from the people it claims are it's forebears/heroes namely the Reformers. This morning reading a quote from Luther about our everyday work I couldn't help but agree. Luther says:

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.

Now compare that with the ideas we often hear from our Conservative Evangelical heroes ministers that so called "gospel ministry" far outweighs social care/mercy ministry or cultural endeavours.

And yet, a cursory reading of Scripture reveals how important our everyday work is. Paul speaks of this when he calls on us to do everything to glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and even more fundamentally, the resurrection of Christ ensures that our labour is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

And so to the conclusion: Reformers 1, Conservative Evangelicals 0

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Song of the week:"American P.I.E"

Simply brilliant...

A long, long time ago
I can still remember
how the ol’ time gospel made me smile.

And with revival’s message tell
how regeneration made me well;
unmediated grace saved me from hell.

But Vantil’s postmils made me think
and from the ancients I did drink.
“Good news” I could see
was about much more than me.

The Anglo-puritan banner had
lost its luster, now I’m glad,
and I knew that I’d been gifted
the day my paradigm shifted.

So bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had my doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time you came nigh.
It’s about time you came nigh.

Did you make profession yet,
and is salvation immediate,
if Charles Spurgeon tells you so?

Is immaterial bliss the goal,
can gnosticism save your soul,
and should your child regenerate when old?

Well, I know you’re egalitarian
‘cause you think hierarchy is a sin.
Complete churches made us wince.
Man, we downplayed those sacraments.

I was a feisty five point, logic gifted
with a perfect ordo, the Church I sifted.
But modernity’s fog was lifted
the day my paradigm shifted.

I started singin’,
bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had my doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time you came nigh.
It’s about time you came nigh.

Now for some years I’ve been moving to
the Nicene catholic point of view,
but that’s not how it used to be.

When the preacher taught for the congregation
the systematics of justification
with a voice that shuddered you and me.

Oh, but while the preacher panned sacraments,
Calvin reformed my “common sense.”
My viewpoint was adjourned;
the ancient truth returned.

And while I found a federal vision,
the purists practiced endless schism,
and I sang dirges to pietism
the day my paradigm shifted.

I was singing,
bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had my doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time you came nigh.
It’s about time you came nigh.

Drums were beating in a pastor’s meeting.
The H-word flew, civility fleeting.
Controversy’s strong and spreading fast.

Some cried foul for the rancor vast.
The pastors tried to invoke the past.
The Baptists in attendance were aghast.

Now the aftermath was fear endowed
with the Southern Pres. tradition loud.
We all tried to explain,
Oh, but the tempest strength it gained!

‘Cause the pastors jumped from the frying pan,
and Machen’s heirs the flames to fan.
Do you recall how it began
The day my paradigm shifted?

I started singing,
bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had my doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time you came nigh.
It’s about time you came nigh.

Oh, and there we were at the chapel door,
a generation needing more,
with no hope for revivalism’s mend.

So come on: with objective grace endowed,
united sing Te Deum loud
‘cause bitter schism is the devil’s friend.

Oh, and as our covenant is renewed,
individualism is hewed.
Pietism’s concerns,
they are addressed in turn.

And with the ancient faith in sight
we joined in sacramental rite.
I saw angels smile with delight
the day my paradigm shifted.

They were singing,
bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had his doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time he came nigh.
It’s about time he came nigh.

I met a girl with American views
and defined for her the full “good news,”
But that fullness nearly made her reel.

I saw the old church one more time
where I’d learned my former paradigm,
but the teaching there lost much of its appeal.

And the children needed maturity
before they could come near and feed.
Despite the true words spoken,
modernity was broken.

And the pastors of the years to come
had seen enough to make them numb.
We caught the train to Christendom
the day our paradigm shifted.

And we were singing,
bye-bye, Miss American P.I.E.
Had our doctrine in a system but the system was dry.
And the Reformers were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
singin’, it’s about time you came nigh.

Via: American P.I.E. I

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Isaiah 2:4 in action

One of the greatest prophecies in Scripture is found in Isaiah 2 which prophesies a time in the last days (i.e. the period we're in) when

He (God) will judge between the nations 
   and will settle disputes for many peoples. 
They will beat their swords into plowshares 
   and their spears into pruning hooks. 
Nation will not take up sword against nation, 
   nor will they train for war anymore.

And today I came across the British artist Al Jarrow who uses military items to construct religious buildings in miniature (like the image above). Could Isaiah's vision be already being fulfilled so soon?

Quote of the week

The canonical text of the Lord's teaching is a translation, and not what originally came from the Lord's mouth. This means that God approves of translations. We ought not to accept therefore the idea that "something is always lost in translation." Sometimes, sure. But there are also many times when something is gained in translation.

Via: Ancient Roman Toddlers

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Full-bodied Anglicanism

Last night here in rural Staffordshire, we had our own impressive display of fireworks... actually the fireworks display was away in town, down in the valley below and clearly visible from our heightened patch. Folk came from all over, parked their people carriers on the side of the road and watched the dazzling display for free. I'm sure the same will happen today and tomorrow as people flock to this part of the county turning the side of the road into a car park-cum-viewing platform. The 5th of November is a well-championed date in the UK's national psyche and one that gets the crowds out and about celebrating. One of the key ways in which the 5th of November was celebrated in the past, was by a service commissioned and promoted by the Church of England. The service was entitled the “Form of Prayer with Thanksgiving, to be used yearly upon the Fifth Day of November for the happy Deliverance of the King, and the Three Estates of the Realm, from the most Traiterous and Bloudy intended Massacre by Gun-Powder”. Sadly this service has been dropped from the Book of Common Prayer in recent centuries. 
Now admittedly, one reason why this service was abandoned was because of its politically incorrect overtones and somewhat forthright language. However, consider the prayer below which introduced the service and wasted no time in exalting the True God and rebuking false religion
ALMIGHTY God, who hast in all ages shewed thy power and mercy in the miraculous and gracious deliverance of thy Church, and in the protection of righteous and religious Kings and States, professing thy holy and eternal truth, from the wicked conspiracies and malicious practices of all the enemies thereof;
We yield thee our unfeigned thanks and praise for the wonderful and mighty deliverance of our late gracious Sovereign King James, the Queen, the Prince, and all the Royal Branches, with the Nobility, Clergy, and Commons of England, then assembled in Parliament, by Popish treachery appointed as sheep to the slaughter, in a most barbarous, and savage manner, beyond the examples of former ages.
From this unnatural conspiracy, not our merit, but thy mercy; not our foresight, but thy providence, delivered us: And therefore, not unto us, O Lord, not unto us; but unto thy Name be ascribed all honour and glory in all Churches of the saints, from generation to generation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Now I'm almost certain that most of our Anglican clergy would suffer a tiny bit of indigestion at saying such a prayer (not least the Archbishop of Canterbury who hosted the Bishop of Rome recently!) but isn't it refreshing to see the utter confidence in God's sovereignty that our forebears displayed? The prayer highlights Guido "guy" Fawkes' capture was not down to our merit, but rather by God's mercy and thus we are led to declare that it is to Him and Him alone, that all glory and honour is due, both now and ever more, AMEN.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Quote of the week

The intellectual life of our age is characterized by a squishy goulash of subtleties all the way to the bottom of the pot, a farrago of pomothot, and the purveyors of this pomothot are often quite clever -- they don't hate labels because they can't follow arguments. They hate labels because they can follow them, and those arguments get in the way of their lusts. Remember that the devil is a dialectician.

Via Lusts and Labels