Monday, 30 April 2012

Monday fun: Should you eat bacon flowchart

John Owen's goodbye world

The day before he died, John Owen dictated a final letter to a friend. Part of what he wrote was:
I am going to Him whom my soul hath loved, or rather who hath loved me with an everlasting love; which is the whole ground of all my consolation. The passage is very irksome and wearysome through strong pains of various sorts which are all issued in an intermitting fever . . . I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm, but whilst the great Pilot is in it the loss of a poor under-rower will be inconsiderable.
--quoted in Sinclair Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth, 1987), 18

Friday, 27 April 2012

Suffering is not optional

The Bible talks a lot about broken homes and we should, too. Rejoice when your family enjoys God’s blessing. Be sympathetic when you become aware of brokenness in other families. There will be times when you will face brokenness in your own family. 

Read the rest of this beautiful piece here

Thursday, 26 April 2012

6 alternatives to 6 cheesy phrases

1) Instead of "follow your heart" IT WOULD BE BETTER TO THINK your heart gets a vote but your head gets a veto

2) Rather than "Tell her exactly what you feel" BETTER TO first find out how she feels

3) Instead of a "Don't take rubbish from anyone" mentality WHY NOT GO FOR THE choose carefully which battles to fight approach

4) Instead of the quasi-triumphalistic "face your fears and do it anyway" WHY NOT seek to deal with what's holding you back

5) Rather than saying "I don't care what other people think" CONSIDER INSTEAD the source and situation of the criticism

6) In place of "Don't ever take "No" for an answer" WHY NOT ensure that their "No" is final

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Must read for every missionary

Just read Kipling's poem - Norman and Saxon. The final stanza offers sage advice on contextualization:

"Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
Say 'we', 'us' and 'ours' when you're talking, instead of 'you fellows' and 'I.'
Dont' ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell 'em a lie!"

Read the full thing here

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The church's biggest failure

Another insightful gem from Colson:

“The church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence.”

The gospel is not simply about giving tracts

From the recently recently deceased founder of Prison fellowship, Chuck Colson:

“God cares not only about redeeming souls but also about restoring his creation. He calls us to be agents not only of his saving grace but also of his common grace. Our job is not only to build up the church but also to build a society to the glory of God.”

Monday, 23 April 2012

Fallen sinner to prison minister

American apologist, ethicist, promoter of the Biblical worldview and cultural commentator, Chuck Colson has died. Although not known that well known in the UK, the Prison fellowship ministry which Colson founded, has been influential here (and worldwide) offering prisoners help and sharing the good news of eternal life found only in Jesus Christ. Before founding the now worth $50 million prison charity, Colson worked for President Nixon and once described himself as a "flag-waving, kick-em-in-the nuts, anti-press, anti-Liberal, Nixon fanatic." Colson was also reputed to have said that he would walk over his own grandmother to get Nixon re-elected. Post-prison however he turned his resplendent energies to the salvation of sinners and transformation of the nation (US). In many ways, Colson's turnaround and subsequent pursuits are a wonderful picture of the way Almighty God loves to take messy situations and use them for great good. One wonders for example whether apart from the suffering and humiliation of jail, Colson would have established his exemplary ministry? 

Apart from his concern for prisoners, Colson also laboured hard to remind the Church of the comprehensive nature of the Christian faith. His concern to highlight the importance of Truth and his repeated affirmation of the Christian worldview for every facet of life, echoed Abraham Kuyper's famous maxim: 'there is not a square inch of planet earth where Jesus does not say: "mine"'. Such a concern to honour Scripture as well the repeated pursuit of extolling Jesus' absolute Lordship, mirrors much of what the New Testament says of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thus despite his rather sudden and untimely demise, we thank the Lord for Chuck Colson's faithful (and influential) life - well done good and faithful servant.

Friday, 20 April 2012

What a difference 7 years makes

When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
Mark Twain

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Hell too late

Hell is a truth known too late!

J C Ryle (first Anglican Bishop of Liverpool)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Even the Church dislikes sin

From a conversation in PD James' Devices and Desires:

'That seems to me so evil that it's beyond my understanding. Alice, what you did was a dreadful sin'. 
Alice laughed...   'Meg, you continue to astonish me. You use words which are no longer in the general vocabulary, not even in the Church's, so I'm told. The implications of that simple little word are beyond my comprehension.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Dawkins - a sad propagandist for the Atheist cause

Dawkins recentlydebated the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney on public television. I don't think there was any knock-out blow by either contestant (even though both men have PhD's from Oxford) but what surprised me was the tetchiness and vulnerability of the Dawk. At various points he retorted "what is that funny?" when the audience giggled at his incredulous views. The other surprise was that although he believes “passionately” that natural selection explains the origin of life, he was utterly opposed to its application to everyday life. A Darwinian society would be according to Dawkins "very unpleasant” "Thatcher-ite" even! Why he was happy for Darwinian philosophy to explain our origins but not govern our everyday existence, he could not explain. Neither could he say what the ultimate basis for an Atheist morality should be. One last thing: Dawkins literally is a killjoy. At about the 12 min mark of the debate, he responded to the Archbishop's question “why do we exist?” by declaring:
Why? is a silly question. You can ask what are the factors that led to something coming into existence. That's a sensible question but what is the purpose of the universe is a silly question - it has no meaning
Golly! I wonder what he'd say to those parishoners I know who are going through immense suffering - the young lady who has just lost her husband, the man who is in the throes of acute depression, the mother caring for her severely disabled child and so on. Would Dawkins respond to their heartfelt why’s? with a ‘you’re asking a silly question dear? What a picture of untrammelled bleakness he offers contra the Biblical story of a God who is full of love and good purpose and who will one day put the world to rights. As the Archbishop put it with some insight:

If I get a chance to say to ask a question when I die I think I will ask the good God why is there so much suffering. That’s a problem for us… [But] I think it’s a much greater problem for the atheist to explain why there is goodness and truth and beauty. Our problem is to cope with suffering. One of the unique… features of Christian teaching is the value of redemptive suffering and that is the significance of Christ suffering with us and dying on the cross. That helps people.

All in all Christianity rather than atheism is the philosophy most fit to bring us through the challenges of the 21st century and if Professor Dawkins really is the ‘high pope of Darwinism’ then the their future is very grim indeed.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dawkins admits "scientists are struggling"!

During a recent debate, the Archpriest of Atheism conceded:
We are struggling - we are all struggling, scientists are struggling - to explain how we get the fantastic order and complexity of the universe out of very simple and therefore easy to understand, easy to explain, beginnings.
That's some mighty admission!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Margaret Thatcher and Christendom

“Not for 2,000 years has it been possible for society to exclude or eliminate Christ from its social or political life without a terrible social or political consequence.”

Further explanation here

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Fifth word on the cross

The fifth phrase uttered on the cross is the shortest of the seven things that Jesus said as he was dying... In English, it is three sometimes two words (in some translations it is simply I thirst) but in fact in the original language, it is only one word – dipso – spoken by Jesus to declare:

“I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)

There is no doubt that Jesus experienced extreme thirst on the cross. He’d been hanging on it for over three hours and by that point, he would have lost a lot of bodily fluid (blood from all the wounds and sweat from all the heat). Thus at one level, Jesus’ statement that he is thirsty was an obvious thing to say. But, notice how John introduces Jesus’ words:

“Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said...” (John 19:28)

The Apostle John (who wrote the Gospel) wants his readers to know that Jesus’ thirst wasn’t simply about the mere obvious. Yes, Jesus is thirsty given all that’s happened but, there is more to it than that: his thirst comes about in order to fulfil the Scriptures.

And here we are reminded that Jesus’ death was no mere accident. Sometimes people ask: why did such a young man with such a promising and exciting life come to so tragic an end? Why if Jesus is the Son of God did his life end the way it did? Why this horrible death?

Well here in John’s Gospel, we’re given part of the answer. Jesus death was no mere accident – it was planned by God for our good and for His glory. Jesus’ death wasn’t some tragic mistake; it was a purposeful mission to accomplish the greatest rescue plan, the greatest sacrifice, the greatest victory this world will ever know – this death is the best news ever.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Fourth word on the cross

The fourth phrase that Jesus utters on the cross is:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

Or we could say

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

These famous words are originally found in the Psalms. They are the opening words of Psalm 22 which describes someone facing great distress and who in the midst out of their distress cries “My God, my God...”        

It’s deep a cry from the heart when life feels so messed up and God seems so far away.

Now here is the question – why did Jesus feel so abandoned? Why this sense of being alone with no one to help? Why does the Father turn his back on the Son’s intense agony? The answer is given to us in another famous verse:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Very simply, Jesus faced the anguish and horror of separation from God for your and my sin. That is why he came. That is why he died – so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

The truth of the matter is that sin is a horrible thing (if you don’t believe me, just read through today’s papers). It leads to death and not just physical death which we’ll have to face one day but to eternal death – the utter separation from God and the horrible agony of everlasting fire in hell. However (and this is important) rather than send people to hell, God offers a way out: Jesus’ death on the cross.

Jesus died a death he didn’t deserve to give us a life we could not earn. He was abandoned by the Father so that come judgement day, we who trust in Him would not be abandoned.

It’s interesting that only here with this fourth word, Jesus address God as God rather than calling Him “Father” (which is what he normally calls Him; Heavenly Father, Abba Father, My Father, etc). In his sacrificial death for our sin, Jesus seems to forget that he is a Son. The intimacy that he had always enjoyed with His Father seems at this dark moment to be no more...                and he endured that for us...       us who didn’t deserve paradise but who can now say: “we are children of God!” 

What an extraordinary sacrifice, Jesus’ death was that first Good Friday. This perfect Man died a death he didn’t deserve to give us a life we could not earn – today is Good Friday indeed...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Third word on the cross

I didn’t manage to post the third word yesterday so I’ll try and post the third and fourth today. Jesus’ third phrase on the cross is specifically addressed to his mother:

“Dear woman, here is your son.” (John 19:26)

It’s a phrase which shows us that Jesus’ compassion extends not just to his tormentors and to those who are dying with him but it also focussed on his family, specifically, to his mother.

We are not really told in the Gospels what had happened to her husband, Joseph who seems prominent early on in Jesus’ life, but seems to disappear as Jesus grows up. It is likely that he is dead by this point although no one is quite certain. Whatever has happened though, Jesus seeks to ensure that in his absence, Mary will be protected and cared for. He thus turns to the only male disciple who hasn’t run away from the place of the crucifixion – the Apostle John – and asks him to care for his mother.

Mary’s presence at the cross, therefore adds a profound sense of humanity and horror to this crucifixion scene...
Humanity in that by her presence, we are reminded that Jesus was a real human being, a man who had once been a boy, a man who had once been carried in Mary’s womb. I’m sure that like every littl’un, there must have been scraped knees, colic, many sleepless nights and even Mary waiting eagerly some evenings for Jesus to return home! Mary’s presence at the cross reminds us of Jesus’ humanity.

But in addition to his humanity, her presence at the cross also reminds us of the horror and anguish of Jesus’ death. Bringing up a child has its trials and pains and every parent knows that (as we’ve discovered with our first baby). But despite the many trials associated with parenthood, no one ever hopes to witness the death of their child. Mary’s presence at the cross pictures for us one of the most painful, one of the most difficult of all human experiences for anyone to ever have to go through... Just thinking of it makes the heart shudder!

Now in what way do these two things (the humanity and horror of Jesus’ death) help us view Good Friday as being good? Well these two things help us never to forget that Jesus was a real human. Jesus was a real man, true flesh and blood, a son of a mother, an actual person who endured unbearable agony as he faced a gruesome death, with his own mother watching close by.   All of which shows us that our God isn’t some high and mighty being out there who doesn’t care or doesn’t understand our world. Our God isn’t like the rich and powerful of our day who haven’t a clue what the common man goes through (think our current breed of MP’s) – they don’t really know the pains, the struggles and the hurts that most people go through but not so with our God.

Our God is a God whose hands and feet have encountered the mess and rough of this life. The God of Scripture is a God who understands pain, a God who knows what it’s like to feel the incredible pain that comes as you say a teary goodbye to a close relative on the verge of death...  Our God can draw near to us because He understands pain and has himself experienced great suffering. Later on in the Bible we read this about Jesus:

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

That is our God – he has suffered and experienced pain so he understands and can help us when we are suffering and in pain – what a Saviour – he understands, he knows, he cares.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Second word on the cross

Yesterday we looked at the firstword spoken by Jesus on the cross. Today we turn to the second word which is something Jesus said to a dying criminal, on a nearby cross:

I tell you the truth, today, you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)

“Today...                    you will be with me in paradise.”

If you’ve ever read through the Gospels one of the things that constantly surprises, is the great confidence that Jesus displays. He heals people simply by speaking a word. He tells people to stop what they are doing and to follow Him and they do. He commands the wind and the waves to calm down and just like that they oblige. Nothing in the worlds seems to faze Jesus – he has power over everything. And at one level this is to be expected. If he is the Son of God then obviously he’s got the ability to do some exceptional things. But here is the question how will he fair when the chips are down? What is Jesus like when things are really grim for him? How will he handle life when he is struggling and in pain and things aren’t going his way – will he still be Mr confident then?

Consider then what’s going on as Jesus utters these words to the criminal next to him on a cross. Like the thief, Jesus too is on a cross – he is in pain, bleeding, exposed to the elements, facing ridicule from the crowd and sure of a horrible death to come. Surely, if ever there was a time of being under serious pressure, this is it. And yet, Jesus still seems full of confidence and doesn’t seem panicked by the situation.

We would have been understanding, if Jesus had responded to the thief’s request with a “sorry matey, now is not a good time to help you”. But no, that’s not what Jesus says. Instead he confidently assures the criminal:

Today, you will be with me in paradise.

What confidence even in the face of death.

I wonder if you’ve ever had to fill in a job application form, and that dreaded personality question comes up: are you good under pressure and can you give some examples. I hate it because all I can think of are pathetic, lame examples (like being able baby-sit our toddler for a whole day!)

Well for Jesus that coping under pressure would be no problem. 
Jesus, are you good under pressure? “Well yeah, I was able to guarantee a criminal a place in paradise while as I was dying.” Jesus clearly is in a league of his own.

And it’s important to keep in mind who it is that Jesus guarantees a place in God’s heaven. Verse 39 of Luke 23, tells us that this man was a criminal. So the person being promised a place in glory isn’t someone who has been a keen follower of Jesus all his life! In fact this criminal admits that he is rightly being punished and deserves to be hanging on his cross. That however doesn’t stop Jesus welcoming him into God’s paradise. All he needed to do was ask and amazingly Jesus promises him eternal life.

Good Friday then is wonderful news because Jesus welcomes the unlovely – those who are criminals, those who are weak, those who are dying, those who have nowhere to go – Jesus welcomes such as these and assures them of a place in paradise. If therefore you’re reading this piece and you’re not yet Christian, if you know that were you to meet your Maker today, you would cower rather than smile then consider this criminal who died beside Jesus that fateful Friday. Look how little he said, how little he deserved paradise. However recognising his weakness, he learned a simple but profound truth that paradise is not achievable; it is only receivable. Ask and it shall be given unto you. It really doesn’t get any simpler than this – ask Jesus to welcome you as His friend and if you do, you will make it to paradise – it’s that simple.

Getting into paradise is not a matter coming from the right family or giving money to the church or saying your prayers every night NOPE it’s much simpler than that – follow this criminal’s example and call out today to Jesus “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Monday, 2 April 2012

First word on the cross

As we count down to Sunday (one of the greatest days in the Christian year) I’ll use the next few days, to consider the seven words spoken by Christ on the cross as he died.

The first word spoken by Christ that fateful Friday was this:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”

These words of Jesus are only found in Luke’s Gospel, and they come soon after the crucifixion of Christ by the Roman soldiers. The timing of this phrase suggests that Jesus asks his Father primarily to forgive his enemies – the soldiers, who have scourged, mocked and tortured him, and who have just nailed him to the cross.

It’s a remarkable scene – not only has Jesus endured the horrible pain of the nails through his limbs, there has been the stream of verbal abuse from some of those who were standing nearby with words such as:

“Save yourself”                 

“if you are who you say, well free yourself”         

And yet, in the midst of such mockery and undeserved abuse, Jesus asks the Father to forgive his tormentors.

Christianity has often described as a religion of grace; grace being defined as an act of great favour and immense kindness towards those who don’t deserve it. Well surely here, with these wonderful words of Jesus, we’re presented with what a gracious king he is. Here he is, in so much pain, being laughed at by his enemies and what does he do? He asks for their forgiveness. They didn’t ask for it, they didn’t deserve it, but Jesus prays for it nonetheless.

This reminds us of one of Jesus’ famous adages about how we are to treat our enemies:

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."            

Those are Jesus’ challenging words about how we are to treat our enemies viz. that we are to love them enemies and pray for them. A far cry compared to a prayer that Voltaire once prayed:

O Lord, make my enemies look ridiculous.

How different to Christ’s charitable approach. He calls us to love and pray for those who seek our harm! What an incredibly high standard.

Once during a conversation with a parishioner I was visiting, I mentioned these words to which the response was:
“Wow! I don’t even love all my friends and family”

And that’s the challenge isn’t it? We sometimes struggle to love even those close to us and yet Jesus commands us to love our enemies.        

And the thing with Jesus is that he didn’t just say it – he lived it out as well:

“Father forgive them for they know what they do”

What a great King Jesus Christ is. He doesn’t just talk the talk he walks the walk as well.      He doesn’t just say to us “do such and such” and not do it himself. Jesus is not like the parent who says to their child “don’t ever say rude words OR use bad language” but who themselves actually speak disrespectfully and endlessly swear! In Jesus Christ, we have the perfect Saviour who even in death lived the perfect life, forgiving those who didn’t deserve it.

And so as we remember him, this gracious King, this one who is utterly unique, this One who is like no other religious leader, who is like no other friend, no spouse or parent or for that matter anyone else, as we consider this Jesus and his exemplary life, we who are Christians should rejoice. We have such a great saviour – a saviour who prays for the unlovely and forgives those like you and I who did not deserve it – what a Saviour!


Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity of honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful until it became risky
C. S.  Lewis, The Screwtape Letters