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Christian Competence

Time is pressing on in sermon preparation, so on this Saturday afternoon I thought I’d share my morning thoughts.

Introduction

Perhaps your feeling tired or jaded in the work. Maybe you feel the burden of the responsibility to preach. “Who” you may wonder “is sufficient for these things?”

Context

In 2 Corinthians 1-2 Paul has been wrestling with this question. He clearly had detractors who were running down his credentials. After laying out his defense, in 1.12-2.11, he asserts that his change of plans was neither whimsical or selfish. Instead he delayed his visit to spare pain to God’s flock.

In 2.14-17 he deals with Christian conquest, for Christ has called them, as ministers, to diffuse fragrance around the globe in Christ’s Gospel victory march.

Next in 3.1-3 he shows that in exercising his powerful, successful mission, through God’s means of grace, he needs no other, human, Christian commendation, for results speak for themselves: Corinthian conversion and church planting is proof enough of divine power at work in Paul’s apostolic efforts. The fruit of New Covenant ministry is seen in the regeneration of the ‘living letters’ that Christ, through Gospel ministry, has written on living ‘fleshy’ human hearts

Then, in 3.4-6, he insists that such apostolic boasting […]

The language of tears

I came across a set of photographs of tears taken using a microscope. They are fascinating to look at; vastly different in their detail and patterns, like looking down at changing landscapes from an aeroplane.

The photographer, Rose-Lynn Fisher, has pictures of tears from all sorts of circumstances: tears of happiness, grief, pain, reminiscing, tears caused by irritation or for lubrication, and many other sorts—each like a unique work of art. Some are jagged and angular, some are densely detailed, like an aerial view of the Amazon rainforest. Others pictures are sparse in their detail, yet others square and block-like like a city plan. I love how she describes them as “aerial views of emotion terrain.”

Our tears are mostly salt water but contain a variety of substances—including enzymes, oils, antibodies, hormones, and even natural painkillers the body releases under stress. Each of these seems to impact the detail. (Although another photographer seems to think these additives are less of a factor.)

All this came to mind because I was preaching last Sunday on Psalm 6. The songwriter is at the end of his tether, he says his “I flood my bed with weeping… my eyes grow weak with sorrow”. Perhaps you know that […]

Addendum on Resisting Redefinition

I’ve been thinking a little more on the need to guard against the casual adoption of the language of the PC establishment.

What I have found really helpful in thinking about this question is some recent reading about Martin Luther’s ‘Theology of the Word’. The German Reformer, pointing to biblical texts like Genesis 1.3, Romans 10.17 or 2 Corinthians 4.6, believed that the Word of God, as Carl Truman summarizes, “not only describes reality but also determines reality: all reality,” in ‘Luther and the Christian Life’ (p.80).

From the point of view of the Gospel, it is good to ask the question, why is it necessary and important to resist redefinition? Can I suggest that it would be good to bear in mind some or all of the following reasons?

First, because the chief instrument Satan uses to promote unbelief and undermine the truth, is the lies he tells. One example might be the lie of ‘same-sex marriage.’ In reality there is no such thing. Marriage is between one man and one woman. This linguistic redefinition is a false construction of the PC establishment which bears no relation to reality before God.

Second, because this blinding power of words is only removed by the […]

Resisting Redefinition

I wonder have you noticed a whole new vocabulary has been adopted and spread within our culture by the media and political elite. ‘Same-sex marriage’ is an oxymoron if ever there was one. ‘LGBT community’ presents a cohesive, friendly face. I won’t bore you with a full glossary of terms. Some others may be pertinent, but I’m sure you could cite more.

Changing vocabulary is an age-old tool to brainwash. It was the favorite method  of the Babylonian ruling class to safely assimilate immigrants and erase the memory of their own culture, both political and religious. If you struggle to remember what Shadrach’s Hebrew name was, it helps to prove my point and shows the technique had success!

Belteshazzar, as he was known, refused redefinition like the rest. Those who published the Bible were quite right to call his prophecy ‘Daniel’ and not ‘The Book of Babylonian Belteshazzar’. How easy it is to spot assimilation in ancient times. I fear redefinition is more accepted in our own days. If this blog seems a quibble about words, the PC lobby has rightly recognized, words are more powerful than we think.

Take bXXXXXy or sXXXXy as almost unmentionable examples (I never feel comfortable to mouth […]

What Matters Most – Seeking God’s Glory

Over the last week or two, I’ve been taking some time out to study John’s Gospel in more depth. My particular concern and focus has been to get a better handle on the relationship that exists between Jesus and the Father.

This morning I was looking at John Chapter 7.10-24. This section narrates the doctrinal head-to-head between Jesus and the Jews, both the masses and their masters. The debate took place in the precincts of the Temple. Christ had come in cognito, resisting the pressure of his relatives. Now, constrained by the duties of His office, He stands in God’s House to declare divine doctrine in order to decimate human tradition.

What is apparent, throughout this account, is the commitment of the Son to the glory of His Father. This, in fact, is the thing, above all, that distinguishes Jesus Christ clearly from His Judean teachers and hearers. The central section of the passage is found in the statement recounted by John in Chapter 7 Verse 18:

“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (NKJV).

This portion of the 4th Gospel raises […]

Some Encouragments To Frequent Prayer

Out walking our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog this evening on a lovely summer’s evening.

Here are some thoughts from a conversation that I had with my wife, on the stroll, as to reasons we should delight to pray often.

First God’s Open Access Policy. Round the clock, day and night, the Father’s door is open to hear His children’s prayers.

Second Our Great High Priest. Christ is engaged in continual everlasting intercession for His people in order that their persons and prayers may find acceptance with the Father – Hebrew 4.14-16.

Third Believers Sin Frequently. More than we know, we are in constant need of ongoing confession, cleansing of conscience, and assurance of pardon, so keeping our list short and confession up to date is best – 1 John 1.5-10.

Fourth Saints Need Much Grace. To keep our vows, fulfill our duties, know God’s will, meditate on truth, enjoy Christian fellowship, cherish our relationships, obey the commandments with joy, thanksgiving, devotion, sacrifice and kindness requires more faith than we have and more grace than we seek.

Fifth Prayer Lists Are Long. Luther did not always pray 3 hours a day. Sometimes, he said, that his dog was keener on eating dinner than his master was eager […]

Comfort for Cross-Bearing. Calvin on the Intercession of the Spirit – A Few Notes On Romans 8.26-27

1. Activity – the Spirit Himself does not actually intercede for us: this rather is Paul’s way of expressing that God, by His Spirit, moves us to prayer.
2. Reason – this work takes place in us because our minds are so disturbed by our trials, that we do not know how to frame our thoughts properly; anyway, all prayer, is Spirit-generated prayer, without whose help, we could not pray properly from the heart. “Our thoughts nevertheless continue oppressed with darkness, until the Spirit guides them by His light.”
3. Manner – God, “…by the secret impulse of His Spirit, knocks at our door, and thus opens for himself our hearts,” in order that we might formulate each and every syllable of the proper language of prayer. “He also affects our heart in such a way, that these desires by their fervency penetrate into heaven itself.”
4. Comfort – the fact that we even have this prayer stirred up by God, is a sign of celestial favor already shining forth, if, even though, for a time, our prayers go unanswered.
5. Effect – we are taught by the Spirit how to pray and what to ask for in our prayers.
6. Grace – we thus […]

A Call To Closeness

O Soul Are You Weary And Troubled

Perhaps like me, at this time in the year, you’re getting rather jaded. Rest and relaxation is usually ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even more important you need to recharge your batteries and get spiritually refreshed. So, as I blog tonight, I want to encourage you not just to take a time out, but to spend more time with God, to draw closer in your walk.

A Prompt to Closeness

As providence would have it, I’ve just been asked this week to write a short series of four articles on prayer. This is one occasion when I can honestly ask ‘Why me?’. It is true that a closer walk with God has been on my heart for years. Yes it’s been my deep desire for months to devote myself to prayer. I suspect many of us feel mere novices in prayer. I trust that this series will not go directly from head to pen but, en route, will traverse the deep wells of my soul!

Finally Unpacking Book Boxes

About the middle of the week I finally got around to putting up more shelves and unpacking long-boxed books. We moved in the Fall and I’m down to the final thousand […]

Prayer that Cheers

Introduction
Do you feel down in the dumps? Do you struggle with yourself? Does life ever overwhelm you? Has your faith become a drudgery? Are the storms of life upsetting? Is your service for Christ costly? If you take advice from James you’ll certainly get help.

Context
The theme that runs through James is ‘You need a faith that works!’ He’s given some spiritual litmus to see how faith is firing: like how you handle treasures, endure trials and control tongues. His closing comments focus on the need for fervent prayer. To have a faith that works you’ll be often on your knees.

Text
Chapter 5.13 is where I want to take your heart. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Don’t think prayer a chore! God gives it for your cheer. Prayer brings some cheer in your tears. Prayer adds more cheer by your songs.

Subjects of Cheering Prayer
James gives no exemptions. Anyone is all-inclusive. All believers are beneficiaries in the bending of their knees. Husbands, wives, elders, deacons, men, women, parents, children, young, old, princes, citizens may receive this cheering help. Did my list exclude you? Cheer up Christ includes you!

Examples of Cheering Prayer
The apostle stops […]

In it for the long haul?

Just back from an unexpected house visit at the end of a 3rd hot sunny day in Nantes (I can sense you feel my pain!).

We were just finishing our evening meal with our host missionary couple, when the phone went – a separated, middle-aged, French lady was on the other end of the line: she needed a male hand lifting a washing-machine out of her apartment and putting into her car boot (trunk).

This lady turned out to be a long-term, 25 year, contact – she hadn’t been seen or heard of for quite some time. However, even though we were a little skeptical as to the value of accepting the challenge, off the three of us went, to help her bear the weight.

Once the fuse had been replaced (she hadn’t mentioned that in the call, and none of us are electrically minded), the power turned on, and the washing-machine transferred as required, suddenly, and surprisingly, we began to get into a conversation about the Jeremiah, Israel, Christ and the Bible. For almost thirty minutes we talked in-depth about spiritual matters.

What was the verdict of the missionary? Well he was genuinely, pleasantly, delighted: “The best conversation we’ve had with her in […]