Friday, 24 April 2009

The truth will set you free

Often universities and places of education misquote Jesus: "The truth will set you free." Jesus actually said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered him, "We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." The universities show the inadequacy of their view of freedom when students actually do want to follow Jesus, as IFES reports:
Firstly in March, students in Eurasia who were threatened with expulsion from their college if they did not give up meeting together to pray and study God's Word.

Now in April, 'the difficult situation in the university continues. Three students have been dealing with lots of psychological pressure. Dorm officials are watching them closely and their teachers have become much stricter when grading them. They have also been forced to see school psychologists and members of the school administration who think they have been brainwashed. The city mayor, officials and TV reporters are coming to talk to all students about the danger of strange religious groups. After a public meeting, the three students had private meetings with the police. The mother of one student is quite upset and has threatened to ask the college to separate her child from another student who she thinks might be influencing her child's decisions on faith. The students are exhausted and scared.

'In another incident, a student who is very active in our Christian group has been told by the dean of the department that it will be hard to get a grant to pursue her Master's Degree because of her new-found faith. This student had a dream of joining the faculty and letting God change the faculty and campus through her influence there.'

Please keep praying for these students, giving thanks to God for their faith. They are all encouraged to know that believers worldwide are lifting them up to the throne of grace.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Quote of the Day: the token for weak faith

"...the Sacrament... was ordained not for angels, but for men; and not for perfect men, but for weak men; and not for Christ, who is truth itself, to bind him, but because we are ready, by reason of our guilty and unbelieving hearts, to call truth itself into question.

"Therefore it was not enough for his goodness to leave us many precious promises, but he gives us confirming tokens to strengthen us."

- Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed

The White Horse Inn was discussing the Lord's supper here. I'm not sure what I think of some of it - I need to study it more, and it frustrates me sometimes in the WHI that often when they agree they don't back up what they're agreeing on from Scripture. But I agree with their emphasis on gathering together: about our common practice of the Lord's Supper, one said, "We make everything into a Quiet Time."

We gather with joy, examining ourselves to look to Christ's righteousness with trusting thankfulness, not to make ourselves sad.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Christ in all the Scriptures

For months now I've recurringly had Handel's I know that my Redeemer liveth in my head (the lyrics are Job's and Paul's, but Handel did a good job with the setting). In my opinion the genius of Handel's Messiah is not principally in his gift for setting lyrics to music (listen to how the melody follows the words of 'every valley...'!) but was the skill of Charles Jennens, who compiled the libretto, taking texts from throughout Scripture to form the story (or Biblical Theology) of the Messiah.

Mike Reeves points out in this excellent talk on Psalm 1 [HT: Glen], that the Psalmists and inspired compiler(s) of the book of Psalms got there well before Jennens, however - what a marvellous musical story of the Messiah is the book of Psalms! I've been trying to get my students to see this for years, and delightfully they're getting it as the psalms proclaim to them Christ that they might trust and delight in Him, and proclaim Him to others.

I grew up with the psalms, singing at least 4 each week in church services, and experiencing how they point to Christ by unresolved tension, unfulfilled perfection, and the experience of the Annointed King, I didn't start appreciating how the book works until as a student I read Grogan's Prayer, praise & prophecy: a theology of the Psalms. I don't recall whether I'd now agree with all of it, but highly recommended to get you started.

It reminds me of the children's talk I gave this morning, in which (Luke 24) Jesus finds some disciples scratching their heads for what Jesus' death and reported resurrection mean, and lovingly says something to the effect of, "You ejits, I spent 2000 years telling you in advance what I'd be doing these past 3 days, and had it written in Law, in Psalms, and Prophecy - have you not read it or did you think I was having youse on??" Thankfully in grace he explained it, opened their hearts to understand it, and then (are you wishing you could've been there?) what do you think the NT letters are based on, but those first seminars in Biblical Christology?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sharing delight

We share what we delight in.
And what we rejoice in defines us (the facebook 'like' function has hit on something!)
But ultimately, it is rejoicing in God which sustains us - "the joy of the Lord is your strength."
We are defined in Him, by Him and through Him -
it is in His image we are made, and in Christ, we become like Him.

I found a perfect tree-seat in the park yesterday. The sun warmed my arms, I'd a back-rest, a view out across the park and playground, far enough away from the football to not be bothered by it, with birdsong to listen to, this morning's sermon on which to reflect and a heavenly Father to whom to pray, by His Spirit, through the intercession of the One who will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. My beech's new leaves glowed above, delightful yellow-green against the sun; occasionally a delightful little breeze sent them all vibrating without stirring the branches.

Perfect for solitude, but joy must be shared.

We have this of our Father, in Christ, who as Wisdom said,
"The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man."
We share our delight with the Father, in Christ caught up into the joy of the Godhead, even as His creation.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Christ is all

O Lover to the uttermost,

May I read the meltings of thy heart to me
in the manger of thy birth,
in the garden of thy agony,
in the cross of thy suffering,
in the tomb of thy resurrection,
in the heaven of thy intercession.

Bold in this thought I defy my adversary,
tread down his temptations,
resist his schemings,
renounce the world,
am valiant for truth.

Deepen in me a sense of my holy relationship to thee,
as spiritual Bridegroom,
as Jehovah's Fellow,
as sinners' Friend.

I think of thy glory and my vileness,
thy majesty and my meanness,
thy beauty and my deformity,
thy purity and my filth,
thy righteousness and my iniquity,

Thou hast loved me everlastingly, unchangeably,
may I love thee as I am loved;

Thou hast given thyself for me,
may I give myself to thee;
Thou hast died for me,
may I live to thee,
in every moment of my time,
in every movement of my mind,
in every pulse of my heart.

May I never dally with the world and its allurements,
but walk by thy side,
listen to thy voice,
be clothed with thy graces,
and adorned with thy righteousness.

- From the Valley of Vision (BOT)

Friday, 17 April 2009

Orbitting Narnia

BBC documentary here looking into an idea that C.S.Lewis used ideas from mediaeval cosmology in each of his Narnia Chronicles. Given that Lewis was a professor of ancient and mediaeval literature, and had a fascination with mythology and the planets, this would seem to me to fit. It comes out clearest in his cosmic trilogy, not only in Ransom's visits to other planets, but in the characteristics of those planets (our 'Mars' and 'Venus'), and in the last of the trilogy, in the gods descending to earth like Plato's ideals taking shape.

The theory explains why Lewis breaks the laws of a fantasy world by inserting Father Christmas into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for example. Knowing the Chronicles practically by heart (I've a wonderful mother who read them to us on Sunday afternoons, and later I recall reading Price Caspian 6-8 times in one year), I find it a compelling theory.

What I don't like is the hype of calling this a code, to unlock Narnia. It isn't a code, showing a deeper meaning. It merely helps us see Lewis' thought behind some of the ideas he put in the stories, to appreciate his thought rather than dismissing it as random. As such, it's wonderful to appreciate Lewis' brilliance more.

Why not delve into Lewis' essays on literature, or other works? I do esteem his last novel, 'Til We Have Faces, as the best fiction he wrote. It masterfully weaves together his love for classics, for myth, for apologetics, and his incredible writing skill - simply marvellous! And beautiful. Lewis himself said it was one of his favourite works.

Quote of the day: weak in prayer

From Richard Sibbes' The Bruised Reed:

A Christian complains he cannot pray. 'Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!' But has he put into your heart a desire to pray? Then he will hear the desires of his own Spirit in you. 'We know not what we should pray for as we ought' (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with 'groanings which cannot be uttered' (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. 'My groaning is not hid from thee' (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in his ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries, 'O Father', not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea. These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

'Oh, but is it possible', thinks the misgiving heart, 'that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?' Yes, he will accept that which is his own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish's belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him. Let not, therefore, infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, 'If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.' 'But,' says he, 'Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.' He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not. But look at the promises: 'Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee' (Psa. 50:15). 'Ask, and it shall be given you' (Matt. 7:7) and others like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are his own children, and they come from his own Spirit; because they are according to his own will; and because they are offered in Christ's mediation, and he takes them, and mingles them with his own incense (Rev. 8:3).


'Lord, I believe' (Mark 9:24), with a weak faith, yet with faith; love thee with a faint love, yet with love; endeavour in a feeble manner, yet endeavour. A little fire is fire, though it smokes. Since thou hast taken me into thy covenant to be thine from being an enemy, wilt thou cast me off for these infirmities, which as they displease thee, so are they the grief of my own heart?

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Finally Alive!

John Piper's recent title Finally Alive [Christian Focus Publications in UK] is excellent on what it means to be born again - that strange term oft misunderstood, and abused as a socio-political referent! I was partway through reading it when someone said to me in an unrelated conversation, "After all, Jesus gave grounds for belief in reincarnation - he said you must be born again." Piper goes through John 3 and also most of 1 John, and other passages, to show what Jesus meant by being born again, and how vitally necessary it is. It won't do to not be one of those "born again" types. Otherwise, we're dead, unable to do anything for ourselves before God because we refuse to see Christ in His beauty and authority, and seek after other things which kill, steal and destroy. He has come that we may have life! I wouldn't say it's an easy read - not a tract to hand a friend, but someone who is prepared to apply themselves to understanding it. But he does a great job of showing the importance of being born again, what it is, what God does and what we must do.

God's heart and ours

The latest Theologynetwork table talk is out and well worth a listen: Mike Reeves in conversation with Ron Frost about Richard Sibbes, God as Father and our hearts. Not to be restricted to the table - this is to be taken outside and enjoyed, in a family walk (below)! Sibbes' The Bruised Reed is my current train / flight reading, interspersed with Owen on the Mortification of Sin: highly recommended!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

To destroy the devil's work!

Mark Driscoll is excellent in this televised discussion / debate on 'Does Satan exist?' [HT Steve Camp, via Bish.] It's long, but very much worth hearing how Driscoll hones in on various key issues, has clearly taking time to understand the philosophy of those he's debating, and identify what's key to address. He's remarkably clear too, not using language his audience may not understand, and always clarifying truth where it could be confused by / with error. He also consistently points to Jesus, from his Word.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

In a bottle

A ship in a bottle is a curio, a fun thing
On a mantlepiece high and dry.
Put some sea in a bottle
And I would live there
No cork would stop me,
No land to lock
Flying grey salt crashes wet
On rocks
Wind whistles around gorse, whips up
White dance unorchestrated
While bass lines roll firm through feet from peaks gazing over the bay.
Trap me in a bottle where sea mists up valleys to cloud-etched tor,
as much as in a glass I may bear,
where tears merge with sea air.
But do not lock me free by flat land,
for from my
walled heart's well would burst a note to shatter glass and
send the sea crashing out to flood, to bury what I keen.

Parables on the motorway

Just arrived back from New Word Alive in North Wales, where in the evening celebrations we were treated to some of Jesus' parables. I was caused to ponder one as I travelled home this afternoon:

What if... after the Priest and the Levite had passed the Jew stranded by the side of the road, someone came by who really wanted to stop and help especially as he was a friend, but his pony was on a headlong rush with a a herd of elephants intimidatingly thundering on his tail, and by the time he spotted the friend in need of help, he couldn't possibly rein his charging beast over out of the way of the stampeding elephants, to stop? What if, furthermore, with the herd of elephants filling the ravine all rushing in one direction, there was nowhere to turn round and go back? I bet he'd have felt awful about it all the way home.

Substitute appropriate 21st Century setting and you get
my thoughts on the way back from North Wales, specifically after spotting some friends at the side of the M54, just too late to do anything about it with a juggernaut bearing down behind. Even merits a rare emoticon :( But better, see here for the real thing, here soon for a download of Don Carson on the parable at NWA, of which Adrian gives a taster.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Where do I draw the line?

The weather's lovely: come on over to North Wales! New Word Alive is rockin', with the word truly alive, and we enjoyed a little vid prelude to Krish Kandiah's talk last night, produced by those stars in the UCCF office: