Friday, 30 December 2011

Reading the Bible in 2012

January 1st is a coming, and it is about this time of year that people start making plans to read through the Bible in a year. There are many fantastic resources out there to help us do this. In this post I want to point you to some of these great resources, and encourage you, if you've not thought about it or ever tried it, to consider making 2012 a year in which you commit to reading throught the whole Bible.

Personally, I'm greatly indebted to Robert Murray M'Cheyne for his Bible reading plan, which takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice in a year. You can view the plan with M'Cheyne's instructions here or get hold of a PDF copy of the plan here. I posted an edited and easier to read version of M'Cheynes introduction on the blessings and dangers of reading the Bible in a year this time last year. You can read it here. Don Carson has written two volumes of daily comments and reflections on each days reading from M'Cheyne's plan you can buy them in here and here, or view it online for free here.

However, there are lots more great plans out there if you find that M'Cheyne's doesn't work for you. Both Justin Taylor over at the Gospel Coalition and Jean Williams at the Briefing have written posts with links to a wealth of great resources for reading the Bible in a year. There are many differing plans that will suit different people and their differing situations. If is well worth looking through their suggestions as you make plans for your 2012 Bible reading. You can view them by clicking the links below:
I pray that these resources will be of great help, and serve you in digging deep into the riches of God's word in 2012.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Have a Christ-Centred Christmas

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)

I'm going to be taking a break from the blog over Christmas. So, no posts until late next week. Let me take this opportunity to wish all our readers a Christ-centred Christmas. Have a great time rejoicing in our magnificent Saviour.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tuesday Teaching| The Child to be Born Will be Called Holy

In view of the fact that today is the last Tuesday before Christmas, we're taking a break from our series in Hosea to listen to something focussed on what we celebrate at Christmas, the coming into the world as a man of the king who shall reign forever. This week our Tuesday Teaching video is a sermon in Luke 1:26-38 from John Piper.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Which Gospel Will Shape Your Christmas?

You know it's December when the TV shedules are once again brimming with Christmas movies. Recently I watched the film Elf. The climax of the movie sees some of the main characters 'spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear' outside Central Park in New York. The song they choose let rip with their vocal chords on is Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It is at this point that the uplifting music begins to swell and the audience is left with that warm joyful Christmas feeling.

Yet, as I think about it, I can't help but be reminded that the message of Santa Claus is Coming to Town does not leave us with Christmas cheer. In fact if we take the message of the song seriously we are only left with despair.

Now before I'm berated for being a scrooge, let me explain. The gospel according to Santa Claus is not good news. The message of Santa Claus is essentially this: if you are good you shall be rewarded, if you are not you won't, you will be punished. Therefore, what you need to do is to work hard at being good to recieve your reward, it is all up to you.The gifts that he gives need to be earned. The problem is that we are incapable of being "good for goodness sake!", which means that all we're left with is the prospect of punishment. This is not a message that spreads Christmas cheer.

However, there is a huge contrast with the gospel of Jesus. The biblical gospel gives great hope to those who know that they can never be good enough. The God of the Bible is one who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). That is, He declares sinful men and women, who have fallen short of His glory and deserve His punishment, to be in right standing before Him. In the words of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, He declares those who are naughty to be nice. He no longer counts their sins against them (Romans 4:7-8), and thus they can look forward to a future, not of punishment, but of enjoying the glorious blessing of being in His prescence for all eternity in a completely renewed world. This is good news!

The question is: Which gospel will shape our Christmas this year? The two are very different, and will produce very different people.

Now, this post may sound quite familiar. That's probably because it's a summary of one I posted this time last year entitled The Santichrist. You can read the fuller version by clicking here.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

Christopher Hitchens, the well-known and outspoken atheist, died on Thursday night at the aged 62,  having battled for 18 months with esophageal cancer. In his final months he publicly said that he would not have a 'death-bed conversion' and if anyone should hear such a report they ought not to believe it. Hitchens suspected that rumors would circulate of a deathbed conversion, and even feared that he might actually call out to God. Therefore, he said that if anyone heard of such a thing, it would not be the real Christopher Hitchens. As far as we know, Hitchens died without turning to Christ.

A couple of Christians have written thoughtful obituaries of Hitchens. You can read them by clicking the links below:
Particularly striking is this paragraph from Wilson's obituary:

Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

His Infinite Condescension

As the bustle of Christmas rings ever more loudly, can I suggest that we make sure that we battle to keep some important truths before our minds.

We ought never to cease to marvel at the infinite grace and humility and grace of the Lord Jesus in becoming man for our salvation. Though He was rich, He became poor for our sake so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing (Philippians 2:6-7). He humbled Himself, being born as a man, and willingly going to the most shameful and undeserved death on the cross, as He took upon Himself the anger of God that we deserved for our sin. God became man for our salvation. We ought never to stop marvelling in this.

Jonathan Edwards had this to say about the birth of Christ:

His infinite condescension marvelously appeared in the manner of his birth. He was brought forth in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. The inn was taken up by others, that were looked upon as persons of greater account.

The Blessed Virgin, being poor and despised, was turned or shut out. Though she was in such necessitous circumstances, yet those that counted themselves her betters would not give place to her; and therefore, in the time of her travail, she was forced to betake herself to a stable; and when the child was born, it was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. There Christ lay a little infant, and there he eminently appeared as a lamb.

But yet this feeble infant, born thus in a stable, and laid in a manger, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion. He came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness, and make a show of them openly, and so to restore peace on earth, and to manifest God's good-will towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest, according as the end of his birth was declared by the joyful songs of the glorious hosts of angels appearing to the shepherds at the same time that the infant lay in the manger; whereby his divine dignity was manifested.

Monday, 12 December 2011


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.” (Hebrews 13:5):

Stick to that word "never." It is worth its weight in gold. Cling to it as a drowning man clings to a rope. Grasp it firmly, as a soldier attacked on all sides grasps his sword. God has said, and will stand to it, "I will never leave you!"

"Never!" Though your heart often faints, and you are sick of self, and your many failures and infirmities; even then the promise will not fail.

"Never!" Though the devil whispers, 'I shall have you at last! In little while, your faith will fail, and you will be mine!' Even then, God will keep his Word.

"Never!" Though waves of trouble go over your head, and all hope seems taken away. Even then the Word of God will stand.

"Never!" When the cold chill of death is creeping over you, and friends can do no more, and you are starting on that journey from which there is no return. Even then—Christ will not forsake you.

"Never!" When the Day of Judgment comes, and the books are opened, and the dead are rising from their graves, and eternity is beginning. Even then the promise will bear all your weight. Christ will not leave his hold on your soul.
- J. C. Ryle

Friday, 9 December 2011

"I was going to kill you"

Never forget the power of the gospel to transform people. The following storyabout Archibald Brown, a former minister of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, is a reminder of this power (thanks to Adrian Reynolds at The Proclaimer for this):

A local man was indignant that his wife had been converted. He didn't really understand what it meant, but he was almost certain it was not good and he determined to make an end of Pastor Brown. So one Sunday, he loaded his revolver and found a seat at the front of the side gallery (see picture). He waited until the sermon for his moment to shoot Brown dead. But just before he preached, Archibald Brown read from Isaiah 52-53, his text for the day. As he often did, he commented briefly on the text as he read it. He wasn't shot, and in fact he was visited in the vestry after the service by a repentant man who handed him his loaded gun. "I was going to kill you" he said. But now the gospel had taken hold of him.

Monday, 5 December 2011

'There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold...'

Charles Simeon was the minister of Holy Trinity church, Cambridge for 54 years, and continued a faithful ministry there in the face of much opposition. What was it that kept him going and kept him godly and faithful? He said that there were two things that he always sought to cultivate: a recognition of his "own vileness" and an enjoyment of "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ". He sought to grow both downward in humility before God, and upward in the enjoyment of Christ and His finished work. Here is what Simeon said:

With this sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time laboured incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God. I have never thought that the circumstance of God's having forgiven me was any reason why I should forgive myself; on the contrary, I have always judged it better to loathe myself the more, in proportion as I was assured that God was pacified towards me (Ezekiel 16:63). . . . There are but two objects that I have ever desired for these forty years to behold; the one is my own vileness; and the other is, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: and I have always thought that they should be viewed together; just as Aaron confessed all the sins of all Israel whilst he put them on the head of the scapegoat. The disease did not keep him from applying to the remedy, nor did the remedy keep him from feeling the disease. By this I seek to be, not only humbled and thankful, but humbled in thankfulness, before my God and Saviour continually.

Friday, 2 December 2011

How Should Singleness Be Different For Christians?

"I say secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." (1 Corinthians 7:35). This is what Paul wants unmarried men and women to be doing with their gift of singleness. He wants them to be undividedly devoted to the Lord. This is what a genuine Christian singleness looks like, it is a life undividedly devoted to loving and serving our Lord Jesus.

Yet there is a world of difference between this, and the growing emphasis on singleness in our culture. Singleness for a Christian is to be radically different to the breed of singleness that is rife in our culture. A few years back, John Piper was asked a couple of questions on how singleness ought to be different for Christians and what questions the single Christian needs to be asking themselves. Here is what he said:

How should singleness be different for Christians?

I don't think that a lot of the singleness that we see happening today is designed to increase devotedness to the Lord. That's what Paul said it should be. He said that the problem with marriage in crisis situations that he found himself in was that it would distract a person from full devotion to the Lord.

Well, when I look around at the kind of secular singleness we see today, that's the last thing on many singles' minds. "I'm keeping myself free from the entanglements of marriage in order that there might be a more radical focus on and devotion to Jesus Christ"—that kind of thinking is not what is dictating the change of statistics in our culture.

No, it's probably almost the reverse. Many people are afraid of commitments and relationships, and many people are eager to stretch their wings and do their own thing. And then maybe later, when they've traveled the world and done lots of things that satisfied them, then maybe they will lock in to somebody...maybe.

So there's a lot of the independence and a lot of desire to satisfy their own immediate desires, which has nothing to do with what Paul was talking about, namely, increased devotion to the Lord.

How would you challenge a Christian who has these selfish desires?
I would say that singleness is a gift for as long as you have it. Some people God means to have it for a lifetime, and some people God means to have it for a season. But while you have it, consult the Scriptures to see how you can maximize the freedoms of singleness for the glory of Christ, because there are advantages to being married, and there are advantages to singleness when it comes to serving Jesus.

And I would just encourage Christian single people to ask, "For this chapter in my life, while I am single, what is it about my singleness that could make me especially fruitful for Christ?" And then I would encourage them to give themselves to that.