Friday, 29 October 2010

"My eye is more to God for comfort"

David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians, suffered immensely. For the whole of his ministry he suffered with the illness that would kill him. He faced times of depression and lonliness. He had very little of the comforts that we take for granted, often being without suitable food or accommodation. He was frequently exposed to cold and rain which did not help his poor health. Yet for all this he did not look to the food and shelter and other outward comforts for his comfort, his eyes were fixed elsewhere. Listen to what he says in his journal:
Such fatigues and hardship as these serve to wean me more from the earth; and, I trust, will make heaven the sweeter. Formerly, when I was thus exposed to cold, rain, etc., I was ready to please myself with the thoughts of enjoying a comfortable house, a warm fire, and other outward comforts; but now these have less place in my heart and my eye is more to God for comfort. In this world I expect tribulation; and it does not now, as formerly, appear strange to me; I don't in such seasons of difficulty flatter myself that it will be better hereafter; but rather think how much worse it might be; how much greater trials others of God's children have endured; and how much greater are yet perhaps reserved for me. Blessed be God that he makes the comfort to me, under my sharpest trials; and scarce ever lets these thoughts be attended with terror or melancholy; but they are attended frequently with great joy.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rest For The Weary

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus promises rest for all who come to Him. However, the experience of living as a Christian in this world seems so often to be anything but restful. If we have rest in Christ and are under His easy yoke and light burden (v. 30), then why is the Christian life so hard? This is a question that David Powlison grapples with in this video from CCEF. Have a watch:

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

"The noblest service in which any human being can spend or be spent."

After many years of the most devastating sufferings as a missionary to the cannibal-filled islands of the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), John G. Paton was more than willing to do the same all over again. Listen to waht he says as he closes the second part of him autobiography, and challenge yourself in light of his words as to how you might best use the rest of your life:
In these, as well as in my own direct labours as a Missionary, I probably have had my full share of "abuse" from the enemies of the Cross, and a not inconsiderable burden of trials and afflictions in the service of my Lord; yet here as I lay down my pen, let me record my immovable conviction that this is the noblest service in which any human being can spend or be spent; and that, if God gave me back my life to be lived over again, I would without one quiver of hesitation lay it on the altar to Christ, that He might use it as before in similar ministries of love, especially amongst those who have never yet heard the Name of Jesus. Nothing that has been endured, and nothing that can now befall me, makes me tremble - on the contrary, I deeply rejoice - when I breathe the prayer that it may please the blessed Lord to turn the hearts of all my children to the Mission Field; and that He may open up their way and make it their pride and joy to live and die in carrying Jesus and His Gospel into the heart of the Heathen world! God gave His best, His Son, to me; and I give back my best, my All, to Him.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 2

This the second of five sessions with Dr. Don Carson... today we are focusing on the Cross in the book of Revelation.

Monday, 25 October 2010

My Ground of Acceptance

Where do you look for assurance that you, a sinner, are accepted before God? The Scottish minister Andrew Bonar wrote these words in his diary the day after his birthday in 1855:
Yesterday was my birthday. This has led me to set apart some time to-day in the wood for prayer and meditation. O how I wonder now at the Lord's long-suffering, and the sovereign grace that drew me from many waters! If there is one thing for which I bless the Lord more than another, it is this, that He has so far opened my eyes to see that Christ pleases the Father to the full, and that this is my ground of acceptance. I look and look again at this sight. It was the Lord who kindled that burning bush, and it is the Lord who draws me out to look upon that great sight, and in that great sight I live.
So where do we look? The only ground of our acceptance before a holy God is the perfect righteousness of Christ. There is nothing in us that can grant us such acceptance. If we start to look to ourselves we easily start to distort the gospel. Our acceptance before God is grounded in Christ alone and nothing else. Therefore, let us daily be looking to him and nothing else.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Hymn: Before The Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great High Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of my guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I am,
The King of Glory and of Grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Renounce Your Shallow Frivolities!

John G. Paton gave his life to proclaiming Christ to the cannibal filled islands of the New Hebrides (known today as Vanuatu). On  Tanna, the first island he went to, he lost almost everything, his wife and only child to disease, and all of his posessions to the islanders. Yet he considered these sacrifices worth it, to see cannibal knees bowing to the Lord Jesus. Upon having the joy of seeing much fruit from his labours on the island of Aniwa years later he says these challenging words in his autobiography: 
My heart often says within itself - When, when will men's eyes at home be opened? When will the rich and the learned and the noble and even the princes of the Earth renounce their shallow frivolities, and go and live amongst the poor, the ignorant, the outcast, and the lost, and write their eternal fame on the souls by them blessed and brought to the Saviour? Those who have tasted this highest joy, "the joy of the Lord," will never again ask - Is Life worth living? Life, any life, would be well spent, under any conceivable conditions, in bringing one human soul to know and love and serve God and His Son, and thereby securing for yourself at least one temple where your name and memory would be held forever and for ever in affectionate praise, -a regenerated heart in Heaven. That fame will prove immortal, when all poems and monuments and pyramids of Earth have gone into dust.
May we listen well to these words. May we renounce the shallow frivolities of comfortable living and give ourselves to the sacrificial service of the gospel. May we not give our lives to work for the things that will eventually crumble into dust, however impressive they may seem. Instead, may all of our lives be given to serve a work that will have significance for all eternity, the work of the gospel, the work of seeing Christ magnified as He is proclaimed and knees bow to Him. A comfortable life is a wasted life, the unwasted life is one that is thrown away in sacraficial service for the sake of Christ being magnified.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Spurgeon on Suffering: Part 3

We've seen that Charles Spurgeon was a man who knew what it was to suffer terribly (See part 1). What sustained him through such heavy storms was the sovereign goodness of a loving Heavenly Father. He knew that his afflictions did not happen by chance, Spurgeon knew that the Bible knows nothing of chance. Rather, absolutely everything, down to the smallest detail, is governed by the sovereign hand of God. This meant that his sufferings, down to the "arrangement of their weight and quantity", were sent to him from God.
He also knew that they did not come upon him without purpose (see part 2). They came from the hand of a loving Heavenly Father, who is working all things for the good of His people. Spurgeon was able to testify to the "incalculable" measure of blessing that had come to him through the afflictions that God had ordained for him. Here is what he says:

"I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable ... Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister's library."

I am indebted to John Piper's biographical sketch of Suprgeon for much of this information and for pointing me to these quotes of Spurgeon. See: www.desiring

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Spurgeon on Suffering: Part 2

In Part One of this series we saw that what kept Spurgeon going in the midst of his many sufferings was the truth that the sovereign hand of God lay behind all that he went through. He recognised that nothing had come upon him that had not been permitted by his Heavenly Father, he says that they were "sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity".
Following on from this, Spurgeon also knew that such afflictions were not sent to him without purpose, God had ordained them for a reason. Whilst he did not enjoy suffering, and did seek to avoid it, he also knew that when it did come upon him it came as part of God's good purposes for him and for others. He says:

"I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness ... If some men, that I know of could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God's grace mellow them marvelously"

I am indebted to John Piper's biographical sketch of Suprgeon for much of this information and for pointing me to these quotes of Spurgeon. See: www.desiring

Tuesday Teaching: Dr. Don Part 1

For the next five weeks our Tuesday Teaching segment will be given over to Don Carson. These session follow the chapters of the book 'Scandalous' in which he unpacks the implications of the Cross and Resurrection. This first session is in the book of Romans... Enjoy!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Spurgeon on Suffering: Part 1

Those who are most qualified to teach us how to suffer as Christians are those who've suffered themselves. In this regard Charles Spurgeon is eminently qualified to counsel us in suffering. On top of a huge volume of public ridicule and slander, oposition, and calamities that he faced throughout his ministry he endured extreme physical suffering. He suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright's disease, alongside an ongoing struggle with depression. These were not short term issues but were storms that buffetted him repeatedly throughout his ministry. John Piper says; "...for over half his ministry Spurgeon dealt with ever increasingly recurrent pain [such as in] his joints that cut him down from the pulpit an from his labours again and again, until the diseases took his life at age 57..."
What then was it that kept him going in the midst of these various storms? One of the things that kept him persevering was that he recognised the utterly sovereign hand of a good and loving Heavenly Father behind all these things. They came from Him and were sent with a purpose for Christ's glory and Spurgeon's (and others') good. Hear what Spurgeon says:

It would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.

I am indebted to John Piper's biographical sketch of Suprgeon for much of this information and for pointing me to these quotes of Spurgeon. See: www.desiring

Friday, 15 October 2010

Listen Up!

Have you ever thought about what's involved in listening to a sermon? That may sound a bit like a stupid question. Surely all we need to do is to make sure that we're sitting there in front of the preacher and that we don't fall asleep?

The reality is that there is much more involved in listening properly to a sermon than simply sitting there. It is all too easy to hear the word of God preached yet not hear. Too many listen attentively to the Bible taught week by week yet at the same time are not listening. Jesus calls us to "Pay attention to what you hear" (Mark 4:24), yet often we necgect to take time to think about how we listen to a sermon.

Christopher Ash, director of the Cornhill Training Course in London, has written a very helpful little booklet on how to listen to a sermon. LISTEN UP!: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons is an excellent resource. In an extremely clear and readable manner, Christopher spells out seven ingredients of healthy sermon listening, then gives some advice on how to deal with bad sermons, before finally challenging us with how we as listeners can encourage the preacher in his ministry.

This is a rescource that every Christian should get their teeth into. Why not buy a few copies (it's not that expensive) and read it together with a couple of others, using the questions at the end of each point to let things sink in a little deeper. May we be those who do not neglect to consider carefully how we listen.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Battles Singles Face (Part 2): Loneliness

As a single person returning home to an empty house or flat can be a painful thing. Seeing close friends meet someone, marry and have a family can be a difficult experience. Whilst we do rejoice with them, there is also the sharp reminder of our single state and the feeling of being alone can sweep over us.

We come to the first of the battles that single men and women face: Loneliness.

In the first part of this series we saw that singleness, as with marriage, is a good gift from God.  It is not a problem that needs to be solved by getting married. Rather, it is a position in life that comes with battles, just as those who are married will face battles of a different kind. If we look to marriage as the answer to the problems that come with singleness we end up turning marriage into an idol. Instead we must see the gospel as the answer to the issues that being single throws at us.

So how does the gospel address this often overwhelming issue of loneliness? I want to suggest that there is two ways that the gospel gives us all we need as we grapple with loneliness. If we are those who belong to Christ, then there are two glorious truths that sustain us in this battle.

1) In Christ we have One who will never leave us or forsake us
This truth is precious beyond measure. Hebrews 13:5 calls for contentment (in this context it is referring to the area of money, but the principle can also be applied more generally) and the ground the author gives for such contentment is God's promise that "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (quoted from Joshua 1:5). If we are in Christ we have One who will never leave us or forsake us. We have a relationship that is more secure than the strongest marriage. Nothing, not even death can undo this relationship. As Paul puts it,
"Who shall seperate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)
In Christ we have a relationship closer and more secure than the best human relationship. Even if those closest to us forsake us, He will not (Psalm 27:10).

Therefore, don't wallow in your loneliness, or start chasing after someone to marry to try and alleviate the pain of feeling alone. Instead, flee to Christ. As you battle with loneliness, seek to grow to know and love Him more and more. Seek to enjoy deeper communion with Him through listening to His voice in Scripture and coming before Him in prayer. He alone can satisfy.

2) In Christ we have a family that is closer than any other
Of the great joys of belonging to Jesus is that we also belong to His people. As Christians, God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus' work on the cross. Part of the blessing of this peace that we now have with God is peace with all those who belong to Jesus. We have been brought into one new people of God (See Ephesians 2:11-22). We are part of one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).

This means that as a Christian we have a family whose bonds go deeper than the bonds we have with any blood-relatives. As Christians we are not alone. We are part of a family, the church. We have many brothers and sisters in Christ to support and encourage us, and to be a support and encouragement to. As Christians we need one another if we are to keep going in the Christian life. The local church is a vital part of living the Christian life.

Therefore, as singles, let us not neglect the family God has given us. Part of the way we battle against loneliness is to look to the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has given us. Instead of becoming discontent with our single state, thank God for the family that He has given us in Christ. We need not be lonely if we are stuck into a local church of genuine brothers and sisters in Christ. Get stuck into a local church, begin to serve and seek the good of your family in Christ, and in turn be served by them. As we do this we will find that loneliness will become less and less of an issue for us.

So, marriage is not the answer to loneliness. The gospel is. Therefore, when the pain of loneliness overwhelms us let us remind ourselves of the gospel. Let us remind oursleves that in Christ we have one who will never leave us or forsake us, therefore run to Him, seek to know Him more. Let us remember that in Christ we have a family that is closer than any human family, therefore seek to serve your brothers and sisters in Christ in the local church and in turn be served by them.

Previous Posts in This Series

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Come see new followers of Jesus!

Looking For God is a very encouraging website which was brought to my attention earlier today. The site primarily is an evangelistic course which people from different nations and languages can access. At the end of the presentation there is a prayer which gives people an opportunity to come to Jesus in repentance and faith.

If they have responded in faith the website then asks them to declare their decision and by the magic of Google Earth we are able to see where in the world people are coming to the Lord Jesus right now!
Check it out, be encouraged and give much praise to God because he is mighty to save!

The Gate To Paradise

A deep study of the word of God is vital. It is life-giving. Martin Luther understood this. It was his hours of tireless wrestling with Paul in the letter to the Romans that brought him to his great discovery of the life giving gospel, which brought about the Reformation. Listen to how he describes his discovery and let us be challenged to give ourselves to a tireless and prayerful sweating and labouring over the word of God that the gospel might continue to be clearly known and proclaimed:
I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was ... a single word in Chapter 1 [:17], 'In it the righteousness of God is revealed,' that had stood in my way. For I hated that word 'righteousness of God,' which according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteous wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and trouble conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." There I began to understand [that] the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which [the] merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall
live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. Here a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory ...

And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word 'righteousness of God.' Thus that place in Paul was for me truth the gate to paradise.

Quote: the Simple Preaching of the Gospel

This is what Charles Spurgeon had to say about the importance of preaching:
I do not look for any other means of converting men beyond the simple preaching of the gospel and the opening of men's ears to hear it. The moment the
Church of God shall despise the pulpit, God will despise her. It has been through the ministry [i.e. the public preaching of the gospel] that the Lord has always been pleased to revive and bless His Churches.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Ussher Article 24: Our Civil War

A friend once asked me how I was doing spiritually and when I said I was 'fine' he smiled and said that wasn't an answer, that all it stood for was; "Feelings Internal Never Expressed".
I didn't think much of it at the time but actually it highlights something really quite important, because below of the waterline of every Christian's life things are not 'fine', we are at war... with ourselves.

The Holy Spirit having brought new life to our dead bodies has provoked our flesh into declaring war on our new enlivened spirit. This means, that as the tectonic plates shift from honouring self to honouring God our flesh squirms to obscure motives, thwart godly action and wallow in sin.
This is the civil war which rages in the members of each Christian.

As Ussher so aptly put it:
Corruption of nature doth remain even in those that are regenerated, whereby the flesh always lusteth against the spirit, and cannot be made subject to the law of God. And howsoever, for Christ's sake there be no condemnation to such as are regenerate and do believe: yet doth the Apostle acknowledge that in itself this concupiscence hath the nature of sin.

Here Ussher confronts us with two things: Stunning Realism and Stunning Assurance.

Stunning Realism
Ussher's response to the question of Christian experience (this side of heaven) is not that everything is 'fine' or that sin becomes a distant memory. Rather he frankly admits the conflict we each find ourselves in so that we might be prepared and equipped to fight. For Ussher the question becomes not,"Will there be a conflict in your life" but "Will you fight? Fight for the glory of God in every area of your life?"
Thankfully we are aided in our flight by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who "teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). Paul earlier in this chapter of Titus also urges the church to look out for one another, pastoring, encouraging, training, and if we begin to grasp that we are all experiencing this civil war together it should arouse in us a broken hearted honesty with those close to us and a humility to help those around us.
How many Christians miss out on this opportunity to fight along side others, to share the pains and trails of these present wranglings because they fear what others will think?
The biblical image is of God's people striving together against sin until they reach that final day when we behold the Lord Jesus face to face.

In what area(s) of you life does the battle rage most?
Do you feel alone in your civil war?
Have you asked the Holy Spirit for the help to say "No" (Titus 2:12)?
Have you spoken to a godly friend or pastor?

Stunning Assurance
Earthly battles are unpredictable, a master tactician can change the fortunes of an army in moments to ensure victory... not so with our civil war.
Ussher reminds us that there is no condemnation to such as are regenerate and do believe (Rom 8:1). Justice has been served, we have been declared innocent in Christ and adopted as sons of the living God.This means that we fight daily with renewed vigour because the outcome is certain.
Our war is not against a weak enemy but it is against a defeated one and despite our constant failings and need for repentance one things stands fast... that we will no longer face God's righteous condemnation for our actions because Christ "bore our sins on his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24)

Tuesday Teaching: Colossians (Part 6)

We come to the final sermon video in this series from Colossians with Phillip Jensen, 'Gospel Partners'. Come back next week when we shall be starting a new series of Tuesday Teaching posts.

Phillip Jensen - Colossians #6 from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Key to Studying the Bible

What is the key to understanding the Scriptures? When we sit down to study the Bible, either in a quiet time, or in preparation to teach it, what is the key that will unlock all of the glorious treasures within?
Listen to what the great reformer Martin Luther has to say:
That the Holy Scriptures cannot be penetrated by study and talent is most certain. Therefore your first duty is to begin to pray, and to pray to this effect that if it please God to accomplish something for His glory—not for yours or any other person's—He very graciously grant you a true understanding of His words. For no master of the divine words exists except the Author of these words, as He says: 'They shall be all taught of God' [John 6:45]. You must, therefore, completely despair of your own industry and ability and rely solely on the inspiration of the Spirit.
Therefore, let us be those who come before the word of God on our knees, begging for mercy, begging that He might grant us opened eyes, unstopped ears and soft hearts by His Spirit. For if He does not, the Bible will remain a closed book to us, no matter how great our learning or intellect.

The Work of The Spirit in the Life of George Whitefield

Every year the Proclamation Trust holds the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London, a conference aimed at those in Christian ministry, especially preachers. At the last two EMA's Vaughan Roberts has given excellent biograpical addresses which focus on the life and ministry of saints of old. At the most recent EMA he gave a very helpful address on the life of George Whitefield, one of the key figures, under God, in the revival of the 18th Century in England. Vaughan's focus in this address was on the work of the Holy Spirit in Whitefield's life. It is well worth setting aside the fourty minutes it takes to watch this video.

EMA 2010: The work of the Spirit in the life of George Whitefield from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Desiring God National Conference

Below is John Piper's plinary session from this years Desiring God conference held earlier this week. It is not a short talk but it is a Christ exhalting one, so make a cup of tea and settle down for the next hour!

Hymn: Praise For The Fountain Opened

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

By William Cowper

Friday, 8 October 2010

When Disaster Strikes

What is your first response when you turn on the news to see yet another catastrophe? How do you react when you hear of another devastating earthquake, gruesome terrorist attack or tragic railway accident? Do you make the most of these opportunities for the eternal good of yourself and others?

That may sound suprising, but it is exactly what Jesus calls people to do in Luke 13:1-5. He says that these things are like warning signs calling us to repentance before it is too late. Listen to what J. C. Ryle has to say as he comments on this passage:
A murder, -a sudden death, -a shipwreck, or a railway accident, will completely occupy the minds of a neighbourhood, and be in the mouth of every one you meet. And yet these very persons dislike talking of their own deaths, and their own prospects in the world beyond the grave. Such is human nature in every age. In religion, men are ready to talk of any body's business rather than their own...
...It is eminently true that real Christianity will always begin at home. The converted man will always think first of his own heart, his own life, his own deserts, and his own sins. Does he hear of a sudden death? He will say to himself, "Should I have been found ready, if this had happenned to me?" -Does he hear of some awful crime, or deed of wickedness? He will say to himself, "Are my sins forgiven? and have I really repented of my own transgressions?" -Does he hear of worldly men running into every excess of sin? He will say to himself, "Who has made me to differ? What has kept me from walking in the same road except the free grace of God?" May we ever seek to be men of this frame of mind! Let us take a kind interest in all around us. Let us feel tender pity and compassion for all who suffer violence, or are removed by sudden death. But let us never forget to look at home, and to learn wisdom for ourselves from all that happens to others.

Taken from "Expository Thoughts on Luke" Published by Banner of Truth. 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Video: How Can God Allow Suffering and Evil in the World?

One of the most frequently asked questions that comes up in evangelistic conversations is: "How can a good and loving God allow so much suffering and evil?" Here is a short video from Don Carson addressing this question. It's a great help to us as we think through this question and how we might respond next time a non-Christian friend grills us on this issue.

How can God allow suffering and evil in the world? from A Passion for Life on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Battles Singles Face (Part 1): Introduction

If you walk into the average Christian bookshop you will have no problem finding a book on marriage, parenting, family or relationships. However, you'll find it a lot harder to find a book about singleness (and if you do find one, the chances are that it will be focussed on helping the reader move from being single to being married).

It is indeed right that there should be many volumes dealing with the Bible's teaching on marriage, and helping people to have God-glorifying marriages. Marriage is a good gift of God, and it is intended to be a visual aid of Christ's relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-33), therefore displaying the glory of the gospel. Marriage is a wonderful thing, instituted by God, and it is right that we should want to guard both the instituition of marriage and individual marriages. The glory of God is at stake in this.

However, when we come to the issue of singleness (i.e. those who are not married), not everyone has such a positive view. For many singleness is a problem that is solved by getting married. It might be ok to be single for the first twenty or thirty years of  one's life, but after that it becomes a problem which needs to be solved by marriage. However, this is not the Bible's view.

Scripture sees singleness as a gift from God, just as marriage is a gift from God. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul addresses both singleness and marriage. He says: "...each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another." (1 Cor 7:7). That is, some have the gift of marriage (i.e. they are married), and others have the gift of singleness (i.e. they are single). When he talks about singleness as a gift he is not talking about a special feeling that means someone has no desire for marriage. He is talking about a persons position in life. Verses 17-24 show this. Right in the middle of his section on singleness and marriage he has a section where he calls people to "...remain in the condition in which he was called." (7:20).

This means that if we are not married we have the gift of singleness. This may change, God may one day give us the gift of marriage. But until then we have the gift of singleness, and are called to be content with our position in life, to praise God for His gift of singleness and seek to glorify Him in our singleness.

When we understand this it shapes how we think about singleness. It is not a problem. Rather, it is a position in life that may have problems (because we live in a fallen world), just as those who are married may face certain problems. Married couples face unique battles as they seek to live out the married life in a fallen world; so also single people face battles as they seek to do the same.

If you are single (or ministering to a single person) it is important that we realise that the answer to the battles that we face is not marriage (as great a gift as marriage is). Marriage will not solve the problems that come with singleness, it will just give you a whole set of new ones! If we are looking to marriage to solve our problems as singles, then we are making an idol out of marriage and we need to repent of this. The gospel is the answer to the issues that come with singleness, just as it is the solution to the battles that married folk grapple with. We must be looking to Christ as we wrestle with the issues that singleness throws at us.

Over the next while, in a series of posts,  I want to take a number of the most common battles that single men and women face and apply the gospel to them, showing how the gospel is where we must look to as we seek to address these issues. First up, in the next post, we shall look at the issue of lonliness.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Quote: He is No Fool

On October 28th 1949, the missionary Jim Elliot wrote these words in his journal:
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Tuesday Teaching: Colossians (Part 5)

We come to the second last in this series of sermons from Colossians by Phillip Jensen. Here is the fifth video in the series - 'Transformed Relationships'.

Phillip Jensen - Colossians #5 from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Monday, 4 October 2010

"The End Itself"

On Friday 21st of July 1843 the Scottish minister Andrew Bonar wrote these words in his diary:
I see plainly that fellowship with God is not means to an end, but is to be the end itself. I am not to use it as a preparation for study or for Sabbath labour; but as my chiefest end, the likest thing to heaven.
Knowing God through the Lord Jesus is not a means to a greater end, it is the greatest end. We are not to see knowing God as a means to the joy of being part of the new heavens and new earth. No, the fulless of joy that we shall have in the new creation shall be the joy of knowing God, of seeinng Him as He is (1 John 3:2). There is no higher end. Knowing Christ Jesus is of "surpassing worth" (Philippians 3:8).

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Video: If God is Sovereign in Choosing, Why Should I preach the Gospel?

In light of the post on Thursday on Predestination, here is a short video grappling with the issue that many raise over this doctrine: If God is sovereign and has chosen people before the foundation of the world, why do I need to preach the gospel? Listen to what Phillip Jensen has to say in answer to this question:

Ask Phillip - God is sovereign so why preach the Gospel? from Audio Advice on Vimeo.

Friday, 1 October 2010

A Remedy Against the Fear of Man

What is one of the greatest obstacles in the Christian life? What is one of the biggest hindrances to godliness and gospel proclamation? Is it not the fear of man?

All of us, no matter what our personality, struggle with some element of people-fearing. Do we not all find ourselves frequently asking: "What will people think of me?", "What will people say of me?" and "What will people think of me?" These questions reveal what's going on in our hearts. These questions expose our fear of man.

The fear of man can be devastating to the Christian life. It hinders our growth in godliness, as we are constantly more concerned with what people think than with living out a gospel-shaped life. It waters down evangelism as we shy away from proclaiming Christ to those are in rebellion against Him, and don't want to hear about Him. It can devastate the ministries of many gospel workers, as they care more about what people want to hear than what God has said in Scripture.

So what shall we do? How can we remedy this deadly disease? Jesus shows us how to deal with the fear of man in Luke 12:4-7. He says: " not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (Luke 12:4-5).

What is the remedy? The best remedy for the paralysing fear of people is the liberating fear of God. If we put things in perspective then our worries over what other people may do to us melt into insignificance. The worst that people can do to us is kill us, and no more. If we belong to Christ this should not worry us because we have life in Christ which cannot be taken from us. However, God has infinitely greater power. He has the power, not only to kill us, but also to cast into hell. He has all power over life eternally. He can cast into hell and he can deliver from hell, no one else has such authority. If we belong to Christ then this power is working for us so that we need not fear anything (v 6-7).

J. C. Ryle, commenting on this passage, puts things much better than I could. I shall let him have the last word:
But what is the best remedy against the fear of man? How are we to overcome this powerful feeling and break the chains which it throws around us? There is no remedy like that which our Lord reccomends. We must supplant the fear of man by a higher and more powerful principle, -the fear of God. We must look away from those who can only hurt the body to Him who has dominion over the soul. We must turn our eyes from those who can only injure us in the life that now is, to Him who can condemn us to eternal misery in the life to come. Armed with this mighty principle, we shall not play the coward. Seeing Him that is invisible, we shall find the lesser fear melting away before the greater, and the weaker before the stronger. "Ifear God," said Colonel Gardiner, "and therefore there is no one else that I need fear." -It was a noble saying of martyred Bishop Hooper, when a Roman Catholic urged him to save his life by recanting at the stake, -"Life is sweet and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death is more bitter."
Taken from "Expository Thoughts on Luke" by J. C. Ryle, published by Banner of Truth.