Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great post on receiving criticism as part of what it means to be a Christian

Alfred Poirier writes an excellent article, The Cross and Criticism.

Particularly helpful are his two lessons on dealing with Criticism that flow straight from the cross.

First, in Christ's Cross I Agree With God's Judgment of Me

Second, In Christ's Cross I Agree With God's Justification of Me

HT: Mike McKinley.

Great post on the urgency of the gospel

What will you do before the window closes?

Blogging my way through Total Church

Over at the 9marks blog, I've just begun blogging my way through Steve Timmis and Tim Chester's "Total Church".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Religious affections: on being like little children

Another Great quote from Edwards...

The tenderness of the heart of a true Christian, is elegantly signified by our Savior, in his comparing such a one to a little child. The flesh of a little child is very tender; so is the heart of one that is new born. This is represented in what we are told of Naaman's cure of his leprosy, by his washing in Jordan; which was undoubtedly a type of the renewing of the soul, by washing in the laver of regeneration. We are told, 2 Kings 5:14, "That he went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child." Not only is the flesh of a little child tender, but his mind is tender. A little child has his heart easily moved, wrought upon and bowed: so is a Christian in spiritual things. A little child is apt to be affected with sympathy, to weep with them that weep, and cannot well bear to see others in distress: so it is with a Christian, John 11:25, Rom. 12:15, 1 Cor. 12:26. A little child is easily won by kindness: so is a Christian. A little child is easily affected with grief at temporal evils, and has his heart melted, and falls a weeping: thus tender is the heart of a Christian, with regard to the evil of sin. A little child is easily affrighted at the appearance of outward evils, or anything that threatens its hurt: so is a Christian apt to be alarmed at the appearance of moral evil, and anything that threatens the hurt of the soul. A little child, when it meets enemies, or fierce beasts, is not apt to trust its own strength, but flies to its parents for refuge: so a saint is not self-confident in engaging spiritual enemies, but flies to Christ. A little child is apt to be suspicious of evil in places of danger, afraid in the dark, afraid when left alone, or far from home: so is a saint apt to be sensible of his spiritual dangers, jealous of himself, full of fear when he cannot see his way plain before him, afraid to be left alone, and to be at a distance from God: Prov. 28:14, "Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." A little child is apt to be afraid of superiors, and to dread their anger, and tremble at their frowns and threatenings: so is a true saint with respect to God: Psal. 119:120, "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments." Isa. 66:2, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and trembleth at my word." ver. 5, "Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word." Ezra. 9:4, "Then were assembled unto me everyone that trembled at the words of the God of Israel." Chap. 10:3; "According to the counsel of my Lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God." A little child approaches superiors with awe: so do the saints approach God with holy awe and reverence: Job 13:2, "Shall not his excellency make you afraid? And his dread fall upon you?" Holy fear is so much the nature of true godliness, that it is called in Scripture by no other name more frequently, than the fear of God.

Hence gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, forward, noisy, and boisterous; but rather to speak trembling: Hos. 13:1, "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died;" and to clothe with a kind of holy fear in all their behavior towards God and man; agreeably to Psal. 2:11, 1 Pet. 3:15, 2 Cor. 7:15, Eph. 6:5, 1 Pet. 3:2, Rom. 11:20.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The audacity of hope and Colossians 1:15-23

Preparing to preach through Colossians 1:15-23 has been an extraordinary privilege in a week where the world seems to be gripped with a new hope through the inauguration of Barak Hussein Obama.

I don’t know what Obama will achieve in the next 4-8 years; how many of his dreams will become reality? How much will his nation, and a world it seeks to influence change? How much of the change will be for the better?

But, one thing is sure; if the world endures, in 8 years at most Obama will hand on power to someone else.

Despite the fact that Tuesday's ceremonies had the sense of a coronation, he is no king. He will not hand onto an heir, but a replacement, just as Bush has this week been replaced. Even those things that Obama achieves may not be what the next president wants; just as Obama is dismantling much of what Bush worked for, much of Obama’s legacy will not endure. One leader will pull things in one direction; another will come along and pull them back.

The universe is not in the hands of different rulers and powers pulling in different directions each trying exert influence in a way that will eventually cancel one another out.

It has one ruler. "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities"It has one purpose: "all things were created through him and for him. " It has one power, "In him all things hold together". He will not look back at the end of time with unfulfilled dreams. At every moment he is holding all things together that his plans will all be fulfilled.

We don't have to hope against all hope. Our hope doesn't need to have the audacity of believing in things unseen for no visible reason. Instead we believe in the one who is the image of the invisible God and who has been seen alive three days after he died as the firstborn from among the dead.

And he is the one who has reconciled us to God.

This week, is indeed a week for great hope.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great posts on prayer... again

So, I highlighted these posts on prayer a while ago... but re-read them today in preparation for preaching on Colossians 1:9-14 tomorrow. They are still extremely helpful.
I particularly appreciated the post on 6 excuses for not praying. I found them both helpful and convicting.

Friday, January 16, 2009

nooma 22: rotten tomato

The latest nooma vid, "tomato" had me on the edge of my seat for the first few minutes. If "shells" looked promising with its beginnings noticing how Jesus sets his face towards Jerusalem, tomato looks like he is pitching himself a slow ball to sock the gospel out of the stadium.

After talking about his wife's excellent salsa made from vegetables bought in the local farmers' market, he points out that the only way we receive life is through the death of a living thing.

"This dead food gives us life. The more recently this food has been living the more life it gives us... our life is dependent upon the death of another living thing."

Surely this was going to be where the 22 noomata had been heading... for a clear explanation of the death of Christ for our sins so that we might have life.

Bell steps right up to the ball, swings the bat at it... but it is an airshot. He even talks about the death of Jesus and how it brings life, but then fails to explain it at all, and then implicitly denies its uniqueness. The death of Christ becomes merely the model of how Jesus is teaching us to die to ourselves.

"When the bible tells the story of God bringing new life to the world, how does the story go? It’s about Jesus who dies and rises again. It’s about death bringing about new life. His death on the cross, his resurrection. In some ways it is how the world has always worked. And Jesus doesn’t just enter into this process with his own flesh in blood, he invites people to take up their cross. He says at one point “Unless you lose you life for my sake, you’ll never find it....

"Jesus teaches us to die so that we can know how to live…. Jesus invites that part of us to die, the part that always has to be right...

The essence of Jesus message is that we aren't saved accepted loved and value because of how spiritual moral true of right we are, but his message is that we are saved in our death. we are invited to trust him. What we can never do on our own is what he has already done for us. Some people put it like this, 'Jesus saves'.... death is the engine of life: Jesus invites us to die, so that we may really live."

Though there is nothing untrue in anything that Bell says in tomato (except perhaps his claim that his wife makes the world's best salsa) it falls rather short of a presentation of the gospel. And I don't think he realises it. It is all about how Jesus gives life through his death. But since there is no explanation of how he does so, and no explanation even that when we die to ourselves we are to live to Christ, though tomato isn't a message that can itself bring the very life that it is talking about. It is a rotten tomato that has the appearance of being able to give life; it takes the wonderful live-giving message of the gospel and allows it to rot enough that nothing that is actually saving remains, and instead it will cause only spiritual sickness to those who hear it and understand it to be the gospel.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

nooma: empty shells.

There is no doubt that Rob Bell is an engaging, stimulating, inspiring and uplifting public speaker. This is especially evident in the nooma videos. Each are about 13 minutes long. One word titles. Great music in the background. An incredibly satisfying noise that rolls in with the opening credits at the beginning of each video. Very cool. He also has much cooler glasses than me.

However, for all that could be said to be good about them, the most striking thing I have found, having watched a few of them is the entire absence of the gospel.

Greg Gilbert has done a great 3 part review of them over on the 9marks website. Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

In the third part there is an excellent summary of videos 1-19.

He'd written the reviews before "shells" came out.

It is entitled shells because of the story he tells at the end. He's walking on the beach with friends. They are collecting shells. Suddenly in the shallows they spot the most beautiful starfish. One of his friends tries to catch it but every time he snatches at it it evades his grasp. Why? Because his hands are full of shells.

"Is this you?" he asks, "So busy doing so much that your hands are full of shells. Good shells. Pursue the few things that God has for you. May you be like Jesus, able to say 'no' because you already said 'Yes'"

That is the most shocking thing, because this is the climax. Was this the exposition of a verse from Proverbs? No, Bell had started by talking about how Jesus had singlemindedly set his face towards Jerusalem. And the main point he takes from that is not that we needed Jesus to go to Jerusalem for there he would lay down his life as a ransom for many, but that we need to be like Jesus in having singleminded priorities.

Perhaps Bell here is clasping at the shells of moralism when the beautiful starfish of the gospel has completely evaded him. Perhaps he has held onto the collection of 22 moral gems, and yet has failed to hold out to anyone the pearl of great price.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Church History Rap

Duncan Forbes, local pastor of New Life Church, Roehampton, about 2 miles from Twynholm is studying at Oak Hill half time while pastoring full time. He's much cooler than me, and this is how he did his Church History Revision...