Monday, 22 August 2011

A Short Break

I'm taking a short break from the blog over the next couple of weeks. Back soon.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Not the Weapons

One of the most frequent excuses I've heard for not doing evangelism is, 'I don't know enough' or 'I'm not clever enough to answer all the questions my non-Christian friends ask'.

As Christians we are to be those who are growing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10), and are to "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). However, very often these excuses come from an understanding of evangelism that sees my understanding, my intellect and my well reasoned arguments as the thing which will bring people to bow the knee to Jesus. Such understanding denies the power of the gospel, which is God's power for salvation (Romans 1:16). The gospel, as revealed in Scripture, is what will work the miracle of bringing people from death to life. It is God's word that does the work, not our amazing arguments, as helpful and convincing as they may be. J. C. Ryle draws out the implications of this better than I ever could:
It is a certain fact that deep reasoning and elaborate arguments are not the weapons by which God is generally pleased to convert souls. Simple plain statements, boldly and solemnly made, and made in such a manner that they are evidently felt and believed by him who makes them, seem to have the most effect on hearts and consciences. Parents and teachers of the young, ministers and missionaries, Scripture-readers and district visitors, would all do well to remember this. We need not be so anxious as we often are about defending, proving, demonstrating and reasoning out the doctrines of the Gospel. Not one soul in a hundred was ever brought to Christ in this fashion. We need more simple, plain, solemn, earnest, affectionate statements of simple Gospel truths. We may safely leave such statements to work and take care of themselves. They are arrows from God’s own quiver, and will often pierce hearts which have not been touched by the most eloquent sermon.
This means that we need to rely on God's word to do His work. Our task in evangelism is to proclaim the gospel, as revealed in Scripture, as clearly as we can. It is the clear and faithful speaking of gospel truth from the Bible that will bring people to repentance and faith in Christ.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Meet Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford was a well known lawyer in Chicago, who suffered a chain of devastating losses. However, his pains have greatly served the church. It was out of his many griefs that he wrote the well known hymn It is Well With My Soul. The following is a short video outlining his life and showing how, in the midst of his troubles, he was able to write such Christ-centred words. I don't think I'll ever be able to sing It is Well... in quite the same way after watching this:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 2:12-30

We continue The Rebel's Guide to Joy, as we work through the book of Philippians with Mark Driscoll. This week we're in 2:12-30, where we see 'Joy in Temptation'. Enjoy.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Learning From the Silkworm

Recently I came across these challenging words from Charles Spurgeon. May they shape the way we read and study for the Bible, both for ourselves, and as we prepare to teach others:

Oh, that you and I might get into the very heart of the Word of God, and get that Word into ourselves! As I have seen the silkworm eat into the leaf, and consume it, so ought we to do with the Word of the Lord—not crawl over its surface, but eat right into it till we have taken it into our inmost parts. It is idle merely to let the eye glance over the words, or to recollect the poetical expressions, or the historic facts; but it is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your very style is fashioned upon Scripture models, and, what is better still, your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord.

I would quote John Bunyan as an instance of what I mean. Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like the reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Looters: them or us?

Many have watched the unfolding events in London, and across the UK, over the past week with astonishment. News stations and media coverage have been utterly astounded by the violent rioting and looting taking place across the UK in the last few days. How ought we to think about these events as Christians?

 Mike Ovey, the principal of Oak Hill College, London has written a perceptive and thought provoking comment on the recent riots and looting in London.

He makes four observations about the responses to the looters, that are quite revealing:
  • There is a sense that the looters are profoundly "other".
  • the vehemence of the responses and the strength of the blame game often seem to speak of real anger.
  • The responses are not just anger, but also bewilderment and incredulity.
  • Christians are not being looked to for answers.
He then goes on to show four themes that a Christian response needs to address:
  • Wealth
  • Envy
  • Civil Disobedience
  • Sin Doesn't Work
 The article is a very helpful response to all that has been happening in London over the past week and is well worth reading. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Adrian Warnock, who is a member of a church in Enfield (one of the areas in London hit by riots and looting), has also written some thoughts on what's been happening in London. Read this here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 2:1-11

As we continue with The Rebel's Guide to Joy, this week we're in Philippians 2:1-11 - 'Joy in Humility'.

Monday, 8 August 2011


Over at the Gospel Coalition Steve DeWitt has written a very helpful article on loneliness. Anyone who struggles with loneliness will tell you that it can be a very powerful emotion. Steve shows us how we can use our loneliness so that it does not become "an enemy or a scourge but a friend and a kind of helpful companion." Our loneliness reminds us of a powerful theological truth and can lead to deep assurance. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Imponderable, Inexpressible

So often we can treat being a Christian a light thing. We need to come back again and again and remind ourselves of what it means to be in Christ. Belonging to Jesus is not something that we can take lightly, it is the highest privelege in the universe. If we are those whom God has brought to repentance and faith in Jesus, then we are more priveleged than we can begin to imagine.
Martin Luther, in a sermon on John 1:12, reminded his hearers of this as he spoke of the incomparable privelege of being sons of God:
No man, no matter who he may be, can ponder the magnificence sufficiently or express it adequately in words. We poor mortals, who are condemned and miserable sinners through our first birth from Adam, are singled out for such great honor and nobility that the eternal and almighty God is our Father and we are His children. Christ is our Brother, and we are His fellow heirs (Rom 8:17). And the dear angels, such as Michael and Gabriel, are not to be our masters but our brothers and servants. . . .
This is a grand and overpowering thought! Whoever really reflects on it–the children of the world will not, but Christians will, although not all of them either–will be so startled and frightened by the thought that he will be prompted to ask: ‘My dear, can this really be possible and true?’
. . . [T]he world rates it a much higher honor and privilege to be the son and heir of a prince, a king, or a count than to be the possessor of God’s spiritual goods, although by comparison all these are nothing but poor bags of worms and their glory sheer stench. Just compare all this with the ineffable dignity and nobility of which the evangelist speaks. . . . If we really believed with all our heart, firmly and unflinchingly, that the eternal God, Creator and Ruler of the world, is our Father, with whom we have an everlasting abode as children and heirs, not of this transitory wicked world but of all God’s imperishable, heavenly, and inexpressible treasures, then we would, indeed, concern ourselves but little with all that the world prizes so highly; much less would we covet it and strive after it.

Indeed, we would regard the world’s riches, treasures, glories, splendor, and might–compared with the dignity and honor due us as the children and heirs, not of a mortal emperor but of the eternal and almighty God–as trifling, paltry, vile, leprous, yes, as stinking filth and poison.
Surely we cannot go away from this truth, and not marvel afresh at the glorious grace of our loving heavenly Father, who has adopted us to be His sons through His Son.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Prayer is Your Life

The following is another snippet from Adrian Reynolds' interview of Tim Keller at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London in June. Here Keller speaks about his prayer life, the vital importance of cultivating time for prayer and how he has done that. I have found his comments deeply challenging, as I seek to do the same.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tuesday Teaching| Philippians 1:19-30

We continue The Rebel's Guide to Joy with Mark Driscoll in Philippians. This week we're in Philippians 1:19-30, where we see 'Joy in Death'.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Being a Loser Without Being a Loser

Following Jesus involves being a loser. It may mean being counted as a loser by others, and therefore losing our reputation. It may mean losing family or friends as they disown you. It may mean losing a job, as has happened recently to Christians in the medical profession all in the name of 'religious tolerance'. It many parts of the world it may mean losing your life.

Yet, however much of a loser we appear to be as a Christian, the reality is that in Christ we are not losers. In fact, we are the opposite, we are gainers. Listen to these words by J. C. Ryle on Matthew 19:29:
We may rest assured that no person shall ever be a real loser by following Christ. The believer may seem to suffer loss for a time, when they first begin the life of a decided Christian. They may be cast down by the afflictions that are brought upon them on account of their religion. But let them be rest assured that they will never find themselves a loser in the long run. Christ can raise up friends for us who shall more than compensate for those we lose. Christ can open hearts and homes to us, far more warm and hospitable than those that are closed against us. Above all, Christ can give us peace of conscience, inward joy, bright hopes, and happy feelings, which shall far outweigh every pleasant earthly thing that we have cast away for His sake. He has pledged His royal word that it shall be so. None ever found that word fail. Let us trust it, and not be afraid.