Friday, October 29, 2004

Christ's Intercession

"Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." - Romans 8:34

What practically does this mean? I came across this quote not so long ago. Praise God for one who always lives to make intercession for us. What an encouragement to prayer!

Christ's prayer takes away the sins of our prayers. As a child that is willing to present his father with a posy, goes into the garden, and there gathers some flowers and some weeds together, but coming to his mother, she picks out the weeds and binds the flowers, and so it is presented to the father: thus when we have put up our prayers, Christ comes, and picks away the weeds, the sin of our prayer, and presents nothing but flowers to His Father, which are a sweet smelling savour. - Thomas Watson: All things for good, p23

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Food for thought - God's whispers

It was my wife's birthday the other evening and we went out for a meal. We don't eat out that often, so when we do, we like to find somewhere good. We struck gold.

First of all there was the pleasant, but difficult task of choosing what to have. The menu with its descriptions of flavours and the aroma coming from the kitchen made it difficult to concentrate on actually picking the required courses. It was easy to get lost in a daze of anticipated flavours.

Eventually we managed to make up our minds. Then the food started to arrive. Succulent tender meat, seasoned to perfection with the richest of flavours. Vegetables, carefully selected and cooked to compliment. Each mouthful having a slightly different savour from the last, each forkful caressing the tastebuds with new and luscious flavours.

Amidst this paradise of culinary delight I found myself thinking about the peculiarity of eating and the pleasure that it brings. Why are there so many flavours that delight us? Why do we get nourishment in such a pleasurable way? Could we not just as easily stick our finger into the ground and drink up nutrients that way? Or better still why were we made to need to eat at all?

Evolution doesn't really explain the whole thing does it? After all what role does the development of taste buds play in the survival of the fittest?

Surely it speaks to us of God - a God who takes great delight in creating pleasure, who derives enjoyment from seeing people find satisfaction and contentment. Think for a moment of all the vast range of tastes you enjoy - from a rich chocolate cake, to a spicy curry, to the unbeatable fresh Donegal catch wrapped in crispy batter, to the refreshing glass of chilled milk on a hot day, to the simplicity of fresh spuds and a knob of butter melting down through it.

Why all the variety? Why all the pleasure? Simply because God is a God who loves pleasure. We were made to enjoy all his pleasures, and although sin has made a mess of the world, we are still able to enjoy some of them. They are God's gifts. In pleasure God whispers to us that he is there.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Book Review: Not Even a Hint - Joshua Harris

Lust - a small word, a big problem. Have you ever thought, "Am I the only one struggling with these thoughts? Am I the only one who can't seem to control myself? Everyone else seems so untroubled, surely they can't know what it's like to be plagued with the constant barrage of filth that assaults my mind?"

Lust - maybe you think you're ok, you think you can handle your thoughts and feelings. Don't kid yourself - our enemy, the Devil, is extremely subtle. Perhaps you genuinely don't feel you have a problem with lust, but could it be that you are causing problems for others?

Lust - it ruins our relationships, with God and with each other, it robs us of our spiritual vitality, and it leaves a foul emptiness behind.

And this is something that affects the girls as well as the blokes.

How can we slay this demon that haunts us so persistently? What hope is there for those ensnared in its nets who have lost the hope of freedom? Joshua Harris deals with the problems that lust brings both to men and women, to young men and young women. He writes openly and honestly from his own personal experience, combining a biblical realism with practical wisdom as he sets out God's help for the battle.

This is a powerful book on dealing with sexual temptation. Harris doesn't miss and hit the wall; this is a straight talking book that deals openly and honestly with sexual purity. He does not go soft on sin. Yet it is a book that aims to "instil a love for holiness and a hatred for lust without dragging the reader's imagination through the gutter."

This is a practical book - there is a great chapter on the things that trigger lust, there is advice about dress sense and the impact that films, TV, books and music have on us. It is also a biblical book - He outlines God's high standard - "Not even a hint" - and then demonstrates how God
provides the resources we need to make it a reality. There is an even greater chapter than the one mentioned earlier on how to fight lust's lies with the promises of scripture.

This is a book full of practical help, but above all it is a book that keeps bringing the reader back to the power of God not only to forgive, but to set us free.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

God Transcendent

"Whatever God is, he is infinitely so: he is infinite Wisdom, infinite Goodness, infinite Knowledge, infinite Power, infinite Spirit; infinitely distant from the weakness of creatures, infinitely mounted above the excellencies of creatures: as easy to be known that he is, as impossible to
be comprehended what he is. Conceive of him as excellent, without any imperfection; a Spirit without parts; great without quantity; perfect without quality; everywhere without place: powerful without members; understanding without ignorance; wise without reasoning; light without darkness; infinitely more excelling the beauty of all creatures, than the light in the sun, pure and unviolated, exceeds the splendor of the sun dispersed and divided through a cloudy and misty air: and when you have risen to the highest, conceive him yet infinitely above all you can conceive of spirit, and acknowledge the infirmity of your own minds. And whatsoever conception comes into your minds, say, 'This is not God; God is more than this.'" - Stephen Charnock

I was pondering this last phrase of Charnock's and found myself amazed:

When you think of his kindness and you are swept aside, and your heart flooded with a realisation of how kind he is, and you feel that you have to say "Stop Lord, I can't take anymore." Stop and say "This isn't God, he is much kinder even than this."

When you move to a deeper understanding of his love, say, "This isn't God, I am only dipping my toes in at the edge of a vast ocean of his love and grace and mercy. He is much more than this."

When you begin to wonder at the depths of his holiness, and to tremble at the awful offence that sin is, and how utterly terrible Hell will be - say to yourself, "This isn't God - How much more Holy God really is than my understanding of him."

When you find yourself seeing something of the wonderful extends of his sovereignty, how he controls every detail and orchestrates the timing of the lives of 4 billion people so that they intersect at the appropriate moments, and you are amazed - say to yourself, "This isn't God, he is much greater than this."

Monday, October 25, 2004

Food for thought - Forever

(This is from my column in a local newspaper - The Tirconaill Tribune)

The poster for the film 'Gladiator' had the subtitle: 'What we do in life echoes in eternity.'

It's hard to get our minds around the concept of eternity. Here's another quote from longer ago that may help. It's from Thomas Watson, a preacher from London in the 1660's:

"Oh eternity! If all the body of the earth and sea were turned to sand, and all the air up to the starry heaven were nothing but sand, and a little bird should come every thousand years, and fetch away in her bill but the tenth part of a grain of all that heap of sand, what numberless years would be spent before that vast heap of sand would be fetched away! Yet, if at the end of all that time, the sinner might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but that word 'Ever' breaks the heart. 'The smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever'(Revelation 14:11)."

Both Watson and Maximus (the character from Gladiator) speak the truth. God has made us as eternal beings. Before us we have an endless expanse of time which will either be filled with more delights and pleasures than we could ever imagine, or we will face an eternity of suffering, worse than anything we could ever dream of.

While we are on this earth we have time to choose our destiny. A man once said to me - "Its too late for me, with all I've done I haven't a hope of getting into Heaven. I'm going to Hell and it's too late." He's wrong. Thankfully he's wrong. He has a hope, and you have a hope. It's not about what we do, or how good we have been. It's about what Jesus did on the cross. There he took the punishment of sins - that's Hell - so that you wouldn't have to.

But does that cover everyone automatically? No, you have to go to him and apologise for your sins, ask him to take your punishment, and seek his help to follow him.

Then you will enjoy a different eternity.

It's not too late, but one day it will be.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

God unchanging

4 words should linger at the back of our minds every time we read our Bibles. Four words that should both comfort and challenge us – “It’s the same God”

Have you problems in your life that you think cannot be overcome? Then go to your Bible, see people with the same or similar problems and see God help them overcome them – It’s the same God.

  • When we read Daniel and are amazed by the wonders God worked - “It’s the same God”
  • When we are discouraged by sinfulness and wonder if there is any hope for the church – read Acts - “It’s the same God”
  • When we read of Joshua and Jericho - “It’s the same God”
  • When we read of God miraculously providing for his people manna in the desert - “It’s the same God”
  • When we read of David standing against all odds for the honour and glory of God and winning by God’s help - “It’s the same God”
  • When you wonder what impact you can have, read of Jesus taking the lunch that the little boy had and using it mightily to affect 1000s - “It’s the same God”
  • When we read of God working through the witness of Naaman’s slave girl - “It’s the same God”
  • When we read of Elisha’s servant panicking because of the sight of those enemies around him and Elisha prayed that he might see the hosts of the armies of Heaven that were on their side - “It’s the same God”
  • When you struggle with a particular sin – read of the transformation in Corinth “This is what some of you were” - “It’s the same God”
  • When you are sick and you wonder how you will cope – turn to Paul – Hear God say to him, “My grace is sufficient for you” - “It’s the same God”
  • When you feel that someone you love has their heart set against the gospel, consider Paul - “It’s the same God”
  • When you feel discouraged and you can see no way out – Consider David in the cave, hunted, consider Jonah in the belly of he fish - “It’s the same God”
  • When you look at the vast sprawling mass of your town, and are overcome by the lostness of all their souls, think of Nineveh - “It’s the same God”

    Our problem isn’t that God has changed, its that we have much lower expectations of God.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Why the name?

Simply – Zephaniah 3:17 is one of my favourite verses. I say one of my favourites because many fall into that category! But this one keeps causing me to stop and wonder.

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

(PS you can find more here in a sermon on the verse)