Friday, 29 July 2011

Keller and Cancer

Tim Keller spoke recently at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London. During one of the sessions he was interviewed by Adrian Reynolds. Here is a snippet from that interview, where Keller speaks about his experience of having cancer and how God has used it to bless him.

EMA Keller Helpful Crises from The Proclamation Trust on Vimeo.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Cool Calvinism Unpacked

In 2009, Time magazine called 'The New Calvinism' the 3rd most influential idea changing the world right now!

Two years on, the movement has gathered momentum and spread from the USA to the UK and Ireland, South Africa and Australia; and has draw in people from different organisations and denominations who identify with the 4 key characteristics of the moment:
1) Reformed Theology
2) Complementarian Relationships
3) Spirit-filled lives
4) Missional Churches

In the following video from the Resurgence, Mark Diriscoll assesses the movement and unpacks these four distinctives.

John Stott (1921-2011)

Yesterday at 3.15pm John Stott, aged 90, went home to be with his Lord, whom he loved and faithfully served for so many years. He was surrounded by a number of close friends. They were reading the Scriptures and listening to Handel's Messiah when he peacefully went to be with his Lord and Saviour.

Whist we grieve the loss of this great and faithful servant of Jesus. We also rejoice that he has "entered into the joy of his master" (Matthew 25:23), having heard the words, "Well done good and faithful servant".

The church owes a huge debt under God to the ministry of this man who served faithfully for the whole of his ministry in All Souls church Langham place. His clear and faithful exposition of the Bible, both in the pulpit and in his books have greatly served the church, along with the many initiatives started by him. Personally, I have been hugely blessed by Stott's speaking and writing ministry. Listening to a cassette of a sermon of his on 2 Timothy 3:16, was a decisive moment for me in coming to the convictions I now hold on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible -convictions that have propelled me into gospel ministry- and I have been fed and nourished throughout my Christian life by his commentaries and books.

Stott described was converted in  1938 under the ministry of Eric Nash, who after a sermon from Pilates words "What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called the Christ?", pointed Stott to Revelation 3:20 and asked him, “Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in?” Stott recalls:

Here, then, is the crucial question which we have been leading up to. Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in? This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm’s length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realise that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life.

There is a growing number of articles and posts thanking God for the life of John Stott and outlining the impact of his life and ministry, here are just a few:
Update: There is now a new memorial website website dedicated to Stott's life and work.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Norway's Tragedy and Christian Fundamentalism

In the past week Norway has faced perhaps its most tragic hour. On Friday afternoon Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb outside government offices in Oslo. He then made his way to Utoya Island, where a youth camp was being run by a political party. Dressed in a police uniform, he opened fire on those present. He killed at least 76 people. What sort of person could be capable of such horriffic actions?

As news channels, websites and newspapers announced this breaking news, many proclaimed that this was the work of a Christian fundamentalist. This media coverage has once again fed the belief of many that Christianity (along with 'religion' in general) only causes violence and hatred in the world. But is this the case? Is a Christian capable of such atrocity? Is this terror consistent with genuine Christianity? Many seem to be saying that it is.

A couple of helpful posts have been written on this issue:
  • Tim Challies has written an article entitled Pondering Norway's Darkest Hour on his blog.
  • Michael Horton has also written a piece on this issue over at the White Horse Inn blog. You can view it here.
These are worth reading, and the question of the relationship of Christianity to such terrors is worth grappling with, because these are issues that will no doubt be raised by many non-Christian friends.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Play the Man: Thoughts on Biblical Manhood

Kevin DeYoung has written a very helpful post on biblical manhood. This is an area that Christian men need to grapple seriously with, because so often our picture of what it means to be a real man is shaped more by the culture around us than being shaped by Scripture. The manhood of Holywood is not the manhood of the Bible. DeYoungs article is a great place to start thinking about these issues. You can read it by clicking here.

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 1:12-18

We continue to work through Philippians with Mark Driscoll. This week we're in Philippians 1:12-18, where we see Joy in Suffering.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Falling in Private, Falling in Public

J. C. Ryle has these challenging words to say:
Great illnesses seldom attack the body, without a previous train of premonitory symptoms. Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. People fall in private, long before they fall in public. The tree falls with a great crash, but the secret decay which accounts for it, is often not discovered until it is down on the ground.
Therefore, let us be those who watch closely our lives and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16), not only before others, but also on our own before God. Let us address the secret rot before the tree falls.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Declaring a ceasefire on the Worship Wars!

While seems like the Worship Wars have gone cold I would like to go a step further and propose a ‘conservative’ troop withdrawal. You see while the shots may have gone quiet, ‘checkpoint Charlie’ still exists in our minds but its time for the wall to come down. 

However, before I go any further... a confession. I have not always been a conscientious objector when it has come to the conflict. I have been known to enjoy a good grumble at those who abuse words like ‘worship’ with reckless abandon.
But when it comes to the worship wars I think the battle has moved on and those of us on the more conservative end of the spectrum need to lay down on arms, take a deep breath and count to ten. For the following reasons:

First 'Worship' is a better word than 'praise'.
Perhaps it's just me but 'time of praise' to me feels a little bit insipid, a watered down version of the passion and abandon which may be observed in other corners of the church family. Moreover, worship is a right response to God and it is what we are doing when we sing... so why not call it that? If worship is simply ascribing worth to someone or something then surely that is what the heavenly host are doing in Revelation 4 and 5 as they sing "Worthy!". Therefore, our singing here on earth joins with that eternal song and is to be rightly called worship!

Second I am convicted that there is something special about corporate worship which is not present when we are the scattered people of God. We meet in our churches as a foretaste of that heavenly gathering when we will perfectly worship our God eternally. Additionally our coming together has only been made possible by the new life given to us in Christ, therefore it is right to celebrate with our new family, to lift our hands in worship and adoration.

Third At this point the conservatives begin to twitch and say, "but worship is all of life!”
This is true and perhaps our more charismatic brothers and sisters have, by implication, defined 'worship' in unhelpfully narrow terms. But not all those in the charismatic camp believe exactly the same thing. For sure there are those who make sung worship the be all and end all. Yet at the same time there seems to be those who are perfectly aware that our whole life is to be a "spiritual act of worship" (Rom. 12:2).

So perhaps we conservatives should be quick to adopt an attitude of generosity, being prepared to give the benefit of the doubt that when they sing "Come, now is the time to worship" they don't mean that 47 seconds before, it wasn't!

Moreover, to jump off the deep end when we are not clear how an individual or a church contextualizes the word ‘worship’ theologically means that we are in danger alienating brothers and sisters who would otherwise be co-workers for the sake of the gospel. Appearing more interested in semantics than souls (I'm not saying that's the case, but perhaps perception can reflect reality).

Please, let us strive to be doctrinally orthodox, praise God for the theological bloodhounds who can smell a heretic a mile away... but let's just make sure we don't end up mauling friends just because they talk about the 'worship' and not a ‘hymn sandwich’.

Preach the Word!

An excellent rap here from Shai Linne on the first mark of a healthy church: expository preaching. He very helpfully brings out the importance of faithful expository preaching for the church. Well worth listening to, whether you're a fan of rap or not, and whether you're a preacher or not.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Why God's People Are Like a Pair of Underpants

Please do not ever say that the Bible is boring! If you're tempted to say that, can I recommend that you stop reading this post, switch off your computer and read the Bible. The majority of people who moan that the Bible is boring, usually have not read it or given it any serious attention.

I have been struck afresh by the un-boringness of the Bible by beginning to read again through Jeremiah recently. Not only is Scripture overflowing with un-boringness as it sets before us that magnificence of the glory of God, it is also unboring in the way that it communicaties the unboring truths it reveals. Bible authors frequently use humour and vivid illustrations to make their point. Jeremiah 13 is no exception.

In Jeremiah 13 God calls Jeremiah to go and buy a linen loincloth (Jeremiah's equivalent to a pair of underpants), and to put it on (verses 1-2). God then tells Jeremiah to take his new underwear and hide it in a cleft of the rock (verses 3-5). A long time later God commands him to go and dig out his hidden loincloth (verse 6), and when he does so it is ruined and good for nothing (verse 7).

But what is the point of Jeremiah's underpants incident? Why does God call him to buy some underwear, wear it for a while, then hide it away, fully knowing that when he comes back to it days later it will be good for nothing? This is quite an unusual thing for God to command His prophet to do. He goes on to explain in verses 8-11. Jeremiah's underpants incident is in fact a devastating condemnation on God's people. They have refused to listen to God's words, following instead their own heart (which Jeremiah later describes as "decietful above all things" -17:9) which has led them to run after other gods, serving and worshipping them instead of the true and living God (verse 10). Because of this God shall make this rebellious people like Jeremiah's loincloth. Just as his loincloth was spoiled and good for nothing after being left hidden in a cleft for days, so also God shall "spoil the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem" (verse 9) and make them good for nothing (verse 10). This inusual incident is in the Bible as a condemnation on an idolatrous people. Jeremiah's underpants incident serves to make this truth all the more memorable, his hearers are less likely to forget it.

However, Jeremiah's loincloth has even more to teach us. Not only is it a devastating pronouncement of judgement, the underpants incident also tells us what God's people ought to look like. In verse 11 God says that in a sense God's people are to be like a pair of tight underpants. Just as a loincloth clings to a mans waist, so God made His people cling to Him (verse 11). He made them to be this "that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory" (verse 11). He redeemed them and made them His people in order that they might bring glory, honour and praise to Him by clinging tightly to Him.

What does it mean for them to cling tightly to God? Verse 10 gives us a clue. They failed to cling tightly to God by refusing to hear His words, and instead stubbornly following their own hearts. Therefore, if they are to cling to Him, they must cling to His words and not following the decietful desires of their own hearts (17:9). They way God's people keep close to their God is by keeping close to His word.

But there is a problem here. The heart of this problem is the problem of the heart. The heart is naturally decietful (17:9), and refuses to listen and submit to the word of God. Instead it runs after its own decietful desires. God's people will not naturally be like a pair of tight underpants and cling closely to God. Something needs to be done with the heart if God's people are to cling to Him by submitting to His word.

This is exactly what God promises to do later in Jeremiah. He promises a new covenant in which: "...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD." (31:33-34). He promises new hearts which will listen to God's word and thus cling to Him. Hebrews tells us that it is in Jesus that this is fulfilled (Hebrews 8:8-13; 10:1-18). In Christ we have new hearts that listen in faith to the word of God, and cling tightly to Him by clinging to Christ. In Him we who were dead are made alive (Ephesians 2:1-7).

It is only in Christ that we can be like a pair of tight underpants, clinging closely to God. The way that we continue to cling to Him as we live the Christian life is exactly the way that we begin in the Christian life. We cling to Him by "...hearing with faith" (Galatians 3:2). We began the Christian life by hearing the word of God (at which Christ stands at the centre) with faith, having been given new hearts by God. We continue to cling to God like Jeremiah's loincloth by hearing with faith, by hearing the gospel as revealed in Scripture by faith.

So, may I encourage you to be like a pair of underpants, clinging closely to Jesus, by continuing to listen with faith to the God-breathed Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). It is in Scripture that is completely sufficient to equip us for clinging to Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17), because it is the very word of God (that's what Paul is getting at when he describes it as 'God-breathed). It is here that we hear the voice of the living God. Don't ever say the Bible is boring. It is what will keep us for a lifetime of clinging to God.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 1:1-11

We come to part two of our series in Philippians with Mark Driscoll. This week were in Philippians 1:1-11, where we see Joy in Loneliness. Enjoy.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Are You Talking to Yourself?

A while ago I wrote a post on preaching to ourselves, where we looked at the need to exhort ourselves with Bible truth and remind ourselves of the gospel. At the end of that post I promised I'd post more on the idea of preaching to ourselves. So here are some words from Martyn Lloyd-Jones, taken from his book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, which is essentially an exposition of Psalm 42. Here is what he says:

The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’-what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’-instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet priase Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Friendship to the Glory of God

Over at the Gospel Copalition Kevin DeYoung has written a very helpful series of posts on friendship, and what it means to be a godly friend. There are many excellent resources written about family relationships (and rightly so): marriage relationships and parent-child relationships; but there is comparatively little written about friendship. Yet friendship plays a huge part in our lives. Therefore, it is worth spending time thinking through what it means to have our friendships shaped by Scripture.

Kevin's series comes in four parts, you can read them by clicking on the links below:

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lovely Fella, Tim Keller!

On a slightly lighter note: A few weeks ago I had the privelege of being at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London, where Tim Keller, David Wells, Liam Golligher and Vaughan Roberts were speaking. Here is a short poem/rap given by Rob Prendergast, a Cornhill student and one of the stewards at EMA, which gives a quick summary of this years conference. Great stuff!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Desperately seeking Superman

On Monday I met a stranger for coffee. He had been in touch because he knew it was my birthday, so we agreed to meet. Neither of us knew what to expect, after all, we didn't know one another.

I arrived at our agreed coffee shop, (If I was going to have an alien encounter I was going to do it round one of my favourite things, a kind of caffeine infused safety net). As I scanned the people an ageing man rose from is chair and called me over. I looked at the strange man, he looked familiar, like looking into a leathery mirror; "Hi dad", I said. He went to shake my hand but pulled me close, 'one hug in ten years wasn't gonna hurt' I thought...

We chatted about my life in London, what I was learning and about my hopes for the future, he seemed genuinely interested if not a little shell shocked that the spotty sixteen year old had moved on so much! I asked him about his life, not too much to tell, quite lonely I thought... But that's the path he chose a long time ago. After about 90 mins I began to wind things up, there was going to be no recriminations, no anger... not this time. I can't go on hating him I thought, those 90 mins were about an unspoken forgiveness (maybe one day I'll say it).

A very dear friend calls his dad 'superman'... I used to resent that, but now I love it! My dad isn't 'superman', he's not even 'sufficiently adequate man' and sometimes that's hard to come to terms with, but I'm slowly learning two very important lessons!

First, that God is the ultimate standard of Fatherhood. He loves his children with a passionate, unending, Calvary-saturated love. He is the father to the fatherless and the one who will in the end rejoice and sing over all his children (what a sound that will be)!

Secondly, I find that this experience kindles a desire in me that while I never had 'Superman' maybe one day, by God's grace, a child of my own will see the 'S' on my chest and I will have the privilege of pointing them to the one after whom all Fatherhood derives it's name!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 1:1

This week we start a new Tuesday Teaching series. Over the next ten weeks we shall be working through the book of Philippians with Mark Driscoll, in a series he has entitled The Rebel's Guide to Joy. We begin this week at the beginning! We're in Philippians 1:1 this week.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Do Christians Have to Join a Church?

Here's a very helpful short video from Mike McKinley, answering the question "Do Christians have to join a church?" Mike shows the importance of the church, and why it is that as Christians it is vital for us to be part of a local church.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Desiring Worthlessness, Becoming Worthless

"Thus says the LORD:
'What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?'" (Jeremiah 2:5)

In Jeremiah 2 we read the words that God called Jeremiah to proclaim to Jerusalem (verse 2), revealing the foolishness of their turning from God to idols. It is striking what He says in verse 5 about the effects of their idolatory. He says that they "...went after worthlessness, and became worthless". They set their affections on nothingness, and thus became nothing. They ran after worthless idols,and became worthless themselves.

This is a reminder that we become like what we worship. We are conformed to that which all our affections and desires are centred on. The Psalmist recognised this in Psalm 115. In verses 4-7 he recounts how the idols of the nations are mute, blind, deaf and unfeeling. He then says, "Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them." Those who set their affections on these idols become hardened to the true and living God, they become mute, blind, deaf and unfeeling themselves.

Whatever it is that holds our affections, whatever we desire above all, whatever we constantly have at the centre of our thoughts, this will end up shaping us and defining us. Henry Scougal, in his classic little book The Life of God in the Soul of Man, said these words:
Love is that powerful and prevalent passion, by which all the faculties and inclinations of the soul are determined, and on which both its perfection and happiness depend. The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of its love. He who loveth mean and sordid things, doth thereby become base and vile; but a noble and well-placed affection, doth advance and improve the spirit into a conformity with the perfections which it loves.

What then is the object of our love? If we recognise the truth of Jeremiah 2:5, surely we cannot stop short of having the eternal God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the one who holds all of our affections, desires and thoughts. He alone is the source of all that is good, therefore if we settle with anything else as the ultimate object of our love we are selling ourselves short. If we do not recognise the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8), and treasure Him above all things we are short changing ourselves.

We cannot do this ourselves, it must be done for us. Let us pray for transformed hearts that love Jesus undividedly, that hold Him at the centre of our affections. It is only a miracle that can transform our hearts from running after worthlessness, to running after the true and living God.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Words: Getting to the Heart

This week we have a one-off video from Paul Tripp, looking at our words and our heart. Next week we shall begin a new series of Tuesday Teaching posts.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Covetousness and the Promises of God

In Colossians 3:5 Paul describes covetousness as idolatory. It is idolatory because covetousness looks somewhere other than God for the contentment that only He can give.

This means that our covetousness stems from unbelief. The reason we covet is because we fail to believe the promises of God. When we desire deeply that new car, clothes or the latest gadget it is because we are looking to them for contentment instead of trusting in the promises of God, which alone brings contentment. We are refusing to believe that Jesus alone (in whom all of God's promises find their 'yes' - 2 Corinthians 1:20) can meet every need and satisfy every longing.

If covetousness flows from a refusal to believe the promises of God, this means that we cannot battle this sin by simply telling ourselves to "stop coveting". We cannot battle the compulsion to keep ordering books, CD's or DVD's through the internet by simply saying "that's the last one". We cannot put to death the enslaving desire to constantly be buying the latest clothes, even though our wardrobe is full, by saying "that's enough". If this is our strategy we will fail. We will either fall back into the same sin, or find ourselves exchanging it for a new sin. This is because our hearts long for contentment, and they will always be seeking somewhere for it.

Therefore, if we are to put the idol of coveoutness to death, we must do so by believing the promises of God. We must remind ourselves of the promises of God and preach them to ourselves. We must seek our contentment in the promises of God, which find their fulfillment in Jesus.

Here are two promises in particular that have reference to covetousness:
  • 1 Timothy 6:6 - "...there is great gain in godliness with contentment." God promises us that great gain is not found in a bulging bank account, a racy sports car, a bursting wardrobe or stacked shelves. No, great gain is found in godliness with contentment. If we truly believe this then we would be investing more time in growing in godliness and being content in Jesus alone, than browsing amazon or playing the stock markets.
  • Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us; and if we have Him, we have everything. He is the source of all things and the one who sustains all things (Hebrews 1:2-3). Therefore, if we have Him, how foolish is it to run after other things. If we truly believed this we would spend more time delighting in Him and praising Him for all that we have in Him (Ephesians 1:3), instead of spending all our time thinking about our bank accounts or trying to justify buying that new DVD box set.
Covetousness is idolatory. It looks somewhere other than God for the contentment that only God can give. Therefore, we start to run after all the things we don't have, claiming that we 'need' them. The only way we will smash this idol is by looking in the right place for contentment. It is only when we believe the promises of God that we will find ourselves moving from covetousness to true contentment.