Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Quote of the day: The unknown God

The christological question, as to whether the statement 'Jesus is God' is true, and if so in what sense, is often asked as though 'God' were the known and 'Jesus' the unknown; this, I suggest, is manifestly mistaken. If anything, the matter stands the other way around.
- N T Wright, Preface, The New Testament and the People of God.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Calvin addressed the Pope in June!

I missed it at the time, but it seems that Calvin addressed Ratzinger in June! With a little help. Read the Christianity Today article: Christ Alone.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Quote of the day: bursting with thanksgiving!

“To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.”

R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Quote of the day: What are you wearing?!

It matters what you wear. Whatever you do, don't go making your own clothes. You'll only be constantly wondering if it's enough. Or proud enough to imagine that it is, when everyone around you can see right through it.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. [Isaiah 61.10]
I've enjoyed listening to Mike Reeves' talks on Union with Christ on my way to & from the office lately! [Oh, and if you're looking for the quotation, it's from God's word this time. Lush.]

PS Just read Stephen Dancer's paper on Calvin on Union with Christ - a helpful addition to Mike Reeves' talks.

Quote of the day: God wants his picture back!

The sacrificial system addressed the negative aspect of the problem, the penalty of sin; the prophetic system speaks of the positive, atoning element. Let us look at how these two work together. Suppose a painting is stolen from a private collection. The police track down the thief who is sent for trial, found guilty, and put in prison. The penalty is exacted for his crime. But this does not put matters right. The art collector says, ‘I want my picture back’. And only when it is returned can the matter rest. For full atonement two things are involved: the punishment of the crime and the repair of the injury.

Christ paid the penalty for our sin, but God, as it were, wants his picture back - the image of himself in human beings, before that image became marred by sin. In Christ’s life of grace and beauty, God had the picture returned. Full atonement.
- James Philip, The Glory of the Cross

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Quote of the day: blasphemy & treason!

But why a trial at all? Was it only a pretext to get rid of Jesus? Why not hire a hit man, or arrange a secret poisoning? Surely this would have achieved the same result? But God decreed otherwise. As Christ stood on trial in our place, these particular charges had to be brought. In Revelation 20:11-15 we see the great white throne at the final judgment; here the books are opened. This is the trial which awaits all who have not put their trust in Jesus Christ, as their substitute and sin-bearer, all whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
The two charges against Christ, blasphemy and treason, are the very charges against the whole human race. In every sense, he stood in for us, and bore what was ours, and gave us what was his.
- The Glory of the Cross, by James Philip

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Flipping homes

The MPs have been flipping their homes, and we can be like that too: flipping our home between earth and heaven, not sure if our hearts' desires are here or there.
- Chris Thomas, on the unstable person of James 1.2-12. [Sermon available here until 25/10/09.]
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

So our comforts, or lack of them, are a test case again: where's your treasure stored? If you want it to be in heaven, then when things get rocky, you'll ask God to give you his perspective through which to see those trials, so that you can persevere. But take care that you're not really double-minded, wanting to flip your main place of residence back to earth when it suits you.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Not faith, but Christ

"Why should I let you into my heaven?"

Clue: the answer does not begin, "Because I..."

I’ll bow and be silent. Then I’ll hear a voice,
“Father, he’s mine.”

Do you see? It’s not your faith that saves. It’s Christ.

Read the rest of Glen Scrivener's helpful post.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The ugliness of idols

Searching through a 'Christian' publisher / distributor's website, for work, I came across this:

A comprehensive guide to safeguard your livelihood, income, and standard of living through the ups and downs of any economy. Middle Class Lifeboat is a guide to living a more stress-free lifestyle.

And I was horrified. That is supposed to be Christian? Since when did Christ die to procure for his followers a safe, comfortable lifestyle, free from stress? What an idol! I felt slightly ill.

And then it hit me: on that book, it might be writ large for all to see its ugliness, but that's what my heart so often wants. A nice, middle-class lifestyle. I know the Christian life is the way of the cross; I know it's service of others; I know love is costly. But somehow my heart, left to itself without constant doctoring by brothers & sisters wielding the Word, will veer towards this idol. The advantage of such a book is to show how ugly and un-true this aspiration is.

I have better things at which to aim:
For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

That I may know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death [Phil. 3]

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Quote of the day: Christian community isn't an ideal

Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.
- Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Grace for today

O God, the Author of all good,
I come to thee for the grace another day will require for its duties and events.
I step out into a wicked world,
I carry about with me an evil heart,
I know that without thee I can do nothing,
that everthing with which I shall be concerned,
however harmless in itself,
may prove an occasion of sin or folly,
unless I am kept by thy power.
Hold thou me up and I shall be safe.

Preserve my understanding from subtilty of error,
my affections from love of idols,
my character from stain of vice,
my profession from every form of evil.
May I engage in nothing in which I cannot implore thy blessing,
and in which I cannot invite thy inspection.

Prosper me in all lawful undertakings,
or prepare me for disappointments;
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with food convenient for me,
lest I be full and deny thee
and say, Who is the Lord?
or be poor, and steal, and take thy name in vain.

May every creature be made good to me by thy prayer and thy will;
Teach me how to use the world, and not abuse it,
to improve my talents,
to redeem my time,
to walk in wisdom toward those without,
and in kindness to those within,
to do good to all men,
and especially to my fellow Christians.
And to thee be the glory.

From The Valley of Vision, puritan prayers [BoT]

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Global Conversation

This month, a Global Conversation kicks off from What would be worth a year-long Global Conversation involving a series of articles in dozens of publications worldwide? What would we need to discuss across the world, that we couldn't just talk about in our cozy conferences locally?

The whole gospel of God, given to the whole church to speak and live in the whole world.

The Global Conversation - Intro October 2009 from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

Read the first article, in which Chris Wright raises the question of whether evangelicals really use the whole Bible in the mission God has given us - Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World. The conversation has started - have a read, and do join in in the comments and in your churches, constructively engaging with these topics to build up Christ's Church.

I would appeal to you personally to note that as this is a global conversation, writers and commentators come from a great variety of backgrounds, so please give special consideration to understanding and communicating well, rather than assuming the worst or using local humour.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Moral Therapeutic Deism

Of late I've become quite distressed at how often I come across moral therapeutic deism masquerading as Christianity. "I believe in God generic, maker of heaven & earth. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting." It seems to infect evangelicalism to an astonishing degree. Those who know me well might have heard my concern! I couldn't remember who'd first named the disease - but Christianity Today have an article addressing it, from which I quote:
Many other studies say the same thing, but the most important is Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton's Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

Published in 2005, it is already a classic.

Smith and Denton conducted extensive interviews with 267 American teenagers, and concluded that a new religion had emerged in America whose chief tenets are as follows:

  • A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

Smith and Denton noticed that this "de facto creed" was particularly prominent among mainline Protestant and Catholic teenagers, "but is also visible among black and conservative Protestants."

Since the authors found that this faith is learned from parents, they conclude, "We have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten step-cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

But it isn't enough to name the beast. The rest of the article is worth a read.

On another note, on a site of creeds and confessions, the side menu included an advertisement which was less subtle than moral therapeutic deism. I can only presume it to be an advertisement from the devil, who has left the second tree and sidled into cyberspace: "CHRISTIAN WOMAN, TAKE DOMINION." No. I rejoice that my head is Christ, whose is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever, amen.