Friday, January 28, 2005

Ever find it hard to ... Pray?

Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter once shared his own pastoral diary with a group of pastors who asked just this question. He began by telling how in 1928 he entered the ministry determined that he would be the “most Methodist-Baptist” of pastors, a real man of prayer. However, it was not long until his increasing pastoral responsibilities, administrative duties,and the subtle subterfuges of pastoral life began to crowd prayer out. He began to get used to it, making excuses for himself.

Then one morning a crisis came as he stood over his work-strewn desk and looked at his watch. The voice of the Spirit was calling him to pray. At the same time another velvety voice told him to be practical and get his letters answered - he ought to face up to the fact that he was not of the spiritual sort, that only a few people could be like that. That did it!

“That last remark,” said Baxter, “hurt like a dagger blade. I could not bear to think it was true.” He was horrified by his ability to rationalize away the very ground of his ministerial vitality and power. That morning Sidlow Baxter took a good look into his heart, and he found there was a part of him that did not want to pray and a part that did. The part that didn’t was his emotions, and the part that did was his intellect and will. This analysis paved the way to victory. In Dr. Baxter’s own inimitable words:

“As never before, my will and I stood face to face. I asked my will the straight question, “Will, are you ready for an hour of prayer?” Will answered, “Here I am, and I’m quite ready, if you are”. So Will and I linked arms, and turned to go for our time of prayer. At once all the emotions began pulling the other way and protesting, “We’re not coming”. I saw Will stagger just a bit, so I asked, “Can you stick it out, Will?” and Will replied, “Yes, if you can”. So Will went, and we got down to prayer, dragging those wriggling, obstreperous emotions with us. It was a struggle all the way through. At one point, when Will and I were in the middle of an earnest intercession, I suddenly found one of those traitorous emotions had snared my imagination and had run off to the golf course; and it was all I could do to drag the wicked rascal back. A bit later I found another of the emotions had sneaked away with some off-guard thoughts and was in the pulpit, two days ahead of schedule, preaching a sermon that I had not yet finished preparing!

At the end of that hour, if you had asked me, “Have you had a good time?” I would have had to reply, “No, it has been a wearying wrestle with contrary emotions and a truant imagination from beginning to end”. What is more, that battle with the emotions continued for between two and three weeks, and if you had asked me at the end of that period, “Have you had a ‘good time’ in your daily praying?” I would have had to confess, “No, at times it has seemed as though the heavens were brass, and God too distant to hear, and the Lord Jesus strangely aloof, and prayer accomplishing nothing.”

Yet something was happening. For one thing, Will and I really taught the emotions that we were completely independent of them. Also, one morning, about two weeks after the contest began, just when Will and I were going for another time of prayer, I overheard one of the emotions whisper to the other, “Come on, you guys, it’s no use wasting any more time resisting: they’ll go just the same.” That morning, for the first time, even though the emotions were still suddenly uncooperative, they were at least quiescent, which allowed Will and me to get on with prayer undistractedly.

Then, another couple of weeks later, what do you think happened? During one of our prayer times, when Will and I were no more thinking of the emotions than of the man in the moon, one of the most vigorous of the emotions unexpectedly sprang up and shouted, “Hallelujah!” at which all the other emotions exclaimed, “Amen!” And for the first time the whole of my being-intellect, will, and emotions-was united in one coordinated prayer-operation. All at once, God was real, Heaven was open, the Lord Jesus was luminously present, the Holy Spirit was indeed moving through my longings, and prayer was surprisingly vital. Moreover, in that instant there came a sudden realization that Heaven had been watching and listening all the way through those days of struggle against chilling moods and mutinous emotions; also that I had been undergoing necessary tutoring by my heavenly Teacher.”

(Taken from ‘Mark - Jesus, Servant and Saviour’, vol 2, p170, by R. Kent Hughes)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Sabbath Essay - Your God is Wise

We live in a society that does not generally appreciate wisdom. We praise knowledge. People are made to feel great if they know a lot. The more letters you can have after your name the better. But God's word says,

Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding… Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding"

What is wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to look at a situation and know the best possible way to bring about the best possible outcome. The best way to the best outcome. Wisdom is using knowledge for the highest and best results.

What do we learn from God's wisdom?

Your God is wise
It seems obvious to state it, but God is wise. He brings about the best ends, by the best means.

The Best Result
From his perspective the best result is that he is glorified. From our perspective the best result is that we can spend the longest possible time, in the greatest possible pleasure. God has a name for that - its called heaven. The greatest possible pleasure that will never end. Thankfully both these results come together, with God being glorified by the saints made perfect.

There is another aspect to this best of results. He makes us like the best and greatest human being ever to have lived - Jesus.

The Best Way
Now what is the best possible way? Is it just to take everyone there without exception?

No. Two great problems have to be overcome. Our sin. And God's wrath at our sin.

Can God display two contrary affections at the same time and in the one act? The greatest hatred of sin, and the greatest love to the sinner?

Here lies the wisdom of God that causes Paul to burst into a great chorus of praise in Romans 11. God has a solution where he will punish sinners, and he will allow sinners to delight in the glories of Heaven without ever knowing that punishment.

He, God, will provide a substitute, and in that substitute justice will find its satisfaction, wrath will be poured out. And mercy can be shown to the person who has been substituted.

But how could you have a substitute for each person going to Heaven? God's wisdom provides the answer: the one person will be a substitute for all those who enter Heaven. How does that work? How can one person pay the penalty for millions of believers? This is no ordinary person, it will have to be a person of infinite worth, so that justice will really be satisfied, a person who can bear in a short space of time, the sufferings of a multitude in eternity in Hell. This person will have to be more than man, he must be God.

But where could such a being be found? Here again we see the wisdom of God. God the Son takes on Human nature.

And that is one reason why Jesus is described as the wisdom of God. Because in Jesus Christ we see the wisdom of God. It is where the solution to the problem of God's mercy and his justice and our sin and his wrath all meet.

What supreme wisdom

In all this God punishes sin without ruining the sinner, and repairs the ruins of the sinner without indulging the sin.

Now that's wisdom. What a wise and glorious God, who gains for us the best end, by the best means.

And what is so good about the method that God has used?

Put yourself in God's place - if we can say such a thing. The great goal is to bring all sorts of people to Heaven. Children, adults of varying abilities, people who live in all parts and places in the world. What condition do you place on people that takes all this into account? Do you ask them to travel to a particular place, or to carry out a set of activities, or to live in a certain way?

What has God done? He has picked the best way. It is the simplest and easiest of demands - easy enough for a child. Easy enough for someone who hasn't much of an education. Believe.

How wise! All the work is done, we just have to trust.

But it is not enough to know that God is wise. It must make an impact on our lives:

"Unless you become familiar with the wisdom of God, you cannot make much real progress in the Christian life. True stability over an extended period of discipleship will often depend on trusting that God is wise in everything he does and in all his dealings with his children."

You can trust God's wisdom in all circumstances
God not only has the best and great goal in view for us, and not only is his means of getting us there the best means, but he takes the best route.

God's Wisdom means that nothing he does could be done better
Whatever circumstances you are going through, you can rest assured that this is the best path for you to get there.

He picks the best end and the best route. Whatever he is taking you through now, if you are seeking to follow him, it is the best way for you to be going. God is using it to do all sorts of things in your life. He always chooses what is best. You need to let that truth sink in, because there will be times when it doesn't seem like it.

Stephen Charnock writes: "We see the gardener pulling up some delightful flowers by the roots, digging up the earth, overwhelming it with dung; and ignorant person would imagine him wild, out of his wits, and charge him with spoiling his garden: but when the spring is arrived, the spectator will acknowledge his skill in his former operations."

Your God is wonderfully wise. And his wisdom is displayed in everything he does. God's wisdom is perfect. He needs no advice and He never makes a mistake. He knows what is best in every situation. And God always acts with perfect wisdom. He not only knows what is best: He always does what is best.

God's wisdom means you can be content with who you are and where God has placed you

Many people spend a lot of time wishing that they were someone else, somewhere else. Many Christians can fall into the same trap. Here is where we need to realise - God has made me who I am, for a good and wise reason, and that good and wise reason is for his glory and for my good, and therefore I need to get on with living and trusting God.

God has made you who you are because he has a role for you to play in his great plan for this world.

That doesn't mean that we aren't to try and grow as believers, but it does set us free from the tyranny of envy, and dissatisfaction. If fields longed to be mountains where would we get grain for bread? Where would cows feed to produce milk? But God in his wisdom has designed the surface of this planet for usefulness. So he has ordered his people in his kingdom for usefulness

God's wisdom means you won't understand everything

God's wisdom is sometimes, or most times, beyond our understanding. Often, because we do not know everything that God knows, we cannot understand His ways. Sometimes we watch situations develop and think that we could have come up with a better plan, but the God who is in control never gets it wrong.

His wisdom is infinite. His knowledge of the past, the present and the future is infinite. He knows all possible outcomes. He knows where every path he could take you down will go, and he has picked the best.

But our wisdom is tiny. Our knowledge is minute. There are decisions in life that are so complex and require so much wisdom to make that no matter how hard we try to explain them to our children we can't enable them to understand. And so we say to them, "just trust daddy - He knows what he is doing".

And there will be times when we will just have to say, "I can't see what you're doing God, but I'll trust you."

You can have wisdom from God
We need wisdom. We need wisdom to know how to bring up children. We need wisdom to pick a job that we will be able to do for the rest of our lives. We need wisdom to advise people whose lives have been wrecked by sin, and where there seems to be no way out of the mess that they are in. We need wisdom when we find ourselves having to make difficult decisions about family or the future.

And the great news is that if you are a Christian, Christ has bought for you the very thing you need most. God has promised to give his children wisdom to know what to do, what to say, what course of action to take that will be most God-glorifying.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

The great news for the believer is that you can have God's wisdom. Where do we get this wisdom?

When you ask God for wisdom, you will find that He has already spoken. He has recorded for you in the Bible all the wisdom you need and if you are looking for guidance that is where you should look.

That means it isn't enough to just read the Bible to get a verse or a thought that will help us through the day. We should study it carefully to become skilled in its use and store up its truth for future use. God's word needs to be studied, not just read. In the book of Proverbs, we are told to seek wisdom as silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures. We are to diligently search the Scriptures for help.

Wisdom comes through spending time with the wise God in his word, and being convinced that here is where wisdom is to be found, and then having enough confidence in His wisdom to follow it when the world around us thinks it foolish.

Whatever else you do - get wisdom. Wisdom will enable you to cope with difficulty, wisdom will enable you to live and walk with God. Get wisdom above all else.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Book Review - The Bond of Love

The Bond of Love
David McKay
Christian Focus Publications

"Could anything be more beautiful than the gracious covenant which the Lord makes with saved sinners?"

With that incentive, Prof. McKay invites us to join him on a journey from before time began, through history, and into eternity, tracing the outworkings of God's love for mankind as it is expressed in his gracious promise to save sinners.

This book is like a mini library on a vast array of topics. It starts with delving into the nature of God himself and moves through to a conclusion with the triumph of Christ's Kingdom and a look at the new heavens and earth. Throughout, the practical usefulness of covenant theology (or how we relate to God, and He to us) is brought to bear on a huge range of issues, from biblical issues like election, sanctification and the sacraments, to current issues such as feminism, New Age Movement and evolution. In doing so, Prof. McKay provides readers with the biblical tools to understand these many topics.

But this book is no cold academic exercise in some obscure area of Christian thinking. This is the very heart of our relationship with God. And it is a warm, living, beating, pulsating heart - the unfathomable mystery of God's love for unworthy sinners. Such a topic will inevitably stretch our finite minds. But if you are prepared to have your mind stretched, you will be greatly rewarded as you delve into this great subject.

Prof. McKay combines clarity, incisive thinking and warm practical application. As well as coming to a clearer understanding of many topics, I found myself with much material to deepen and enrich my own devotional times. He has a gift not only for anticipating and answering your questions or objections, but doing so in such a way as to fit it all into the whole framework of scripture.

This is a book to be read and studied carefully.

New Blog and an award to compete for

Adrian Warnock, over at, has announced a new award for blogs. The 'Warnie' is for newish blogs, and is Adrian's initiative to give us small-fry a toe-hold on the cliff-face of the blogosphere.

The first winner is here -

I think it's one of the best looking designs I've seen in a while.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

"Well pleased" at what?

Have you ever wondered that? It's Matthew 3:17. It's only the start of Jesus' ministry. The hard work of calling and teaching the disciples hasn't begun yet. His atoning death is 3 years away.

What was there to be pleased about?

It is all too easy to skim over the whole of 33 years of Jesus' life and to see his saving work focused on just a few hours on the cross. Often we tend to think of his life in this way: for 30 years we are told nothing, so we learn nothing; for 3 years we try to learn from his example and teaching; and from 6 hours we learn about his redemptive work.

This is to slice and dice an event that God intended to be a lifelong event into a little cube of meat that doesn't fill and satisfy the way God intended.

For God designed the whole of Christ's life to be a unit. It is redemptive from beginning to end. To slice and dice is to rob Jesus of the glory due to him for a much greater work, and it is to rob ourselves of much comfort and blessing.

So we need to ask the question: What was Jesus life about? If all he had to do was die for our sins, why was there a delay of 33 years?

What was Jesus doing that provoked the Father's exclamation of pleasure at the Jordan?

For 30 years Jesus has lived carrying out his father's business, following the commands, living a holy life, learning obedience - not because he needed to learn it, but learning to obey in a sin-filled world, where temptation was rife. For 30 years he has carried himself through this hostile world with perfect obedience. And the Father looks at the Son and says, "I am pleased with you."

Right from the start one theme dominates Jesus' thinking. One word can be used to describe all of Jesus' life and ministry. It is the word 'obedience'. Jesus was here, not just to go to the cross, but to obey his father, to do his father's will.

This obedience characterises his whole life:

John 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."

Christ's whole life was one of obedience, and that obedience wasn't just something incidental, it was a key part of his work as Saviour

Theologians often split Christ's obedience into two aspects: his active and his passive obedience.

These two are like strands in a rope. They go together and they cannot and should not be separated. But we have separated them. We usually focus on his passive obedience. It relates to his suffering throughout his life, and the culmination of that suffering on the cross. It refers to something he had to bear, that was laid on him from outside: his bearing our sins in his body to the tree, and his bearing our punishment. It is where he faces God's just wrath against our sins.

We could sum up Christ's passive obedience with the phrase: Christ's suffering pays our debt.

The term 'active' refers to his obedience to the law of God throughout his life. It is this active obedience that we often fail to consider.

Yet American theologian Gresham Machen's last words were, "So thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."

Why is it so important?

We could sum it up with the phrase:

Christ's Active Obedience merits our place in Heaven
Christ's passive obedience releases us from the debt of punishment that we had to pay. But suppose that Christ had done only that for us, where would we be?

The slate would have been wiped clean, but that would be all. However, holiness isn't just the absence of sin, it's the presence of positive righteousness too. So we would be left needing to live a life of perfect obedience to the law of God. And one slip, like Adam, and it would be lost all over again.

But Christ has not done that. He has done abundantly more. He has not merely paid the penalty, but also He has positively merited for us eternal life.

Jesus Christ was your representative, not only on Golgotha's cross, but also throughout his life; in the Nazareth workshop, in the family home, in the conversation with friends and colleagues. For 33 years he was living the life of perfect obedience that God demands, and that we fail to deliver. He was our representative both in penalty paying and in law keeping.

It is this that makes us fit for Heaven. Now you can see why Machen was so thrilled by Christ's active obedience as he lay on his deathbed.

He was looking forward to Heaven and he knew that the door had been opened for him by Christ's obedience.

This is what Paul is saying in Romans 5:19
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

We are so used to thinking of Christ's death on the cross in terms of substitution, but Paul is saying here that it was his whole life was the substitution. Adam's disobedience fouled it up for all mankind. Christ's life of obedience gains us the life that Adam lost, except better.

And because we are in Christ, it is his obedience and not ours that God sees when we stand before him.

What implications does this have for us?

Christ's Obedience Covers our Failures
It's so easy to lose sight of this and to focus on our own efforts. We know that salvation is all of Christ, but somehow we can think that some of it depends on us. And often we can think we are doing a pretty good job, and then we fall into sin and we become really disheartened.

Instead we need to look at ourselves more honestly, and realise that all we do is tainted by sin. And then we need to look to Christ who covers every single one of our sin-stained 'righteous' acts with his perfect obedience.

Here is how we should look at the unrecorded years, and the 3 years of his ministry. When you look at your life as a Christian and are discouraged by what you see, take up your New Testament and read.

Start with the words spoken at the baptism of Jesus. They sum up all he has done. For thirty years he has got up, and hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year, he has lived a perfectly holy life. He has been holy in his attitude to his parents. He has been holy in his work, in his conversation, in his free time, in his eating, in his laughing, in his friendships, in his use of money.

And when you hear the Father say, "This is my Son, with him I am well pleased," you can praise Jesus that his obedience in all these areas covers your failures. The days that you live which are covered by a multitude of blemishes from beginning to end, they are covered by Christ's perfect days.

Then take your New Testament and read of his holiness in the areas you fail in:

  • His resisting temptation
  • His dealing with people who tried his patience
  • His dealing with people who verbally abused him, and slandered his parents
  • His understanding when he had been let down by people
  • His patience when he was tired and exhausted and needing to go and put his head down, but people kept making demands.
  • His trust when God seems to have abandoned him, or when God's promises seem empty.
  • His love for the lost
  • His love for the outcast
  • His vigour against sin
  • His desire to seek God's glory
  • His gentleness with those who are all too aware of their sin
  • His lack of interest in being well thought of by 'important' people
  • His readiness to forgive
  • His wholehearted obedience

Each time Christ's obedience stands in the breach. It covers our failures completely. Watch him stand in our stead, and do what we could never do.

This is no excuse for sin, as Paul indicates after Romans 5:19

Romans 6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

Instead it is an opportunity for praise.

Christ's Obedience Brings us full assurance
If Christ has obeyed completely and consistently in every area, especially in those areas where I am conscious of my failure, then I have nothing to fear on the Day of Judgment. Even my most righteous acts are stained with the stench of sin. But it does not matter, for Christ has obeyed perfectly.

He has opened the door of Heaven and it will not be shut to me.

The words that were said to Jesus at his baptism, God will say to us because of Jesus' obedience, "This is my son (or daughter) whom I love; with him I am well pleased." And we don't have to wait to hear them; we can hear them now.

This frees me from fear and from lack of assurance. Where am I to look to for assurance? Not to my efforts, but to Christ. He has paid my debt to release me from Hell, and he has bought my entry to Heaven.

Christ's obedience frees us from the performance treadmill
Sometimes the Christian life can seem like a treadmill and we've got to do this and that and the other. And the implication is that if we don't, we'll fall off the treadmill. Somehow our activity has become the all-important factor.

We know that Jesus has saved us, but we somehow feel that the next bit is a 50-50 partnership. As if we've got to keep doing our bit.

We don't - Christ has done it all. It's his obedience that counts. And we are set free to live for and love Christ. We are set free to enjoy our relationship with Christ. We are set free to do these things, not because we must, but because we can. And because we want to, out of love for the one who has done everything.

He has done all that we should have done.

Here is the great truth of salvation - Jesus has paid for it all. There is nothing left for us to pay.

Now I hope you can see why Gresham Machen said, "So thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Here's the third part of the ACTS acrostic on Prayer. Giving thanks isn't so difficult. It's the remembering to do it that is hard.

"In everything give thanks..."

"Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits" - Ps. 103:2

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
  • God's eternal love
  • Christ's life and death
  • My conversion
  • Sins forgiven
  • Holy Spirit at work in my life
  • The glory that awaits us (Heb 12:28)

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
  • Parents/Grandparents
  • Brothers/Sisters
  • Husband/Wife
  • Children/Grandchildren

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
  • Teaching
  • Fellowship
  • Prayer support
  • Spread of the gospel
  • Evidence of growth in grace in members

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
  • Ability to work
  • Satisfaction
  • Success
  • Safety
  • Witness

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
  • That we have it
  • Read and understand it
  • Helped, encouraged & challenged by it
  • Unchanging & complete - all we need
  • Holy Spirit to help us understand it

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
Daily Life
  • Health & safety - travel, work, leisure
  • Food & home
  • Rest & enjoyment
  • Friends
  • Peace in our country
  • Difficulties spared from

  • Answered prayer
  • Review events of past day
Other Christians Special to us
  • In the congregation
  • Outside the congregation
  • Used by God in our lives
  • New Converts

"Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Confession - Searching the Heart

Following on from adoration, confession is another of prayer I find difficult. Not because I have nothing to confess, but because it is easy to focus on 'big' sins, the obvious ones, and to fail to search our hearts for hidden faults. These can lie undetected and cause all sorts of festering problems.

Here's a list I came across somewhere, called The A-Z of Hidden Sin. I've added to it, and you can do likewise. On my own copy I mark those that I am particularly prone to, and use it to help me search my heart.

An A-Z of Hidden Sin

Being negative
Being unwatchful for Satan
Bringing dishonour to God's name,
Critical nature
Failure to spur one another on
Failure to show Christian love
Immoral fantasies
Lack of affection
Lack of concentration in worship/prayer
Lack of faith
Lack of forgiveness
Lack of zeal
Neglecting to study God's Word
Quick temper
Selfish ambition
Stealing God's Glory
Time misspent
Yielding to Satan's temptations
Zeal misplaced

I have also used various verses that highlight different issues that we need to be vigilant for:

2 Timothy 3:1 There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Matthew 23:25 "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Merciful Lord,
Pardon all my sins of this day, week, year,
all the sins of my life,
sins of early, middle, and advanced years,
of omission and commission,
of thought, word and deed,
sins in private, in the family, in the neighbourhood,
in work and recreation,
in my relationship with you,
in my relationship and dealings with others.
Pardon all my sins, known and unknown,
felt and unfelt,
confessed and not confessed,
remembered and forgotten.
Good Lord, hear;
and hearing, forgive.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Adoration - Approaching the Throne

There are many aspects of prayer that I find hard, but to make time for Adoration, before moving on to the other aspects which are more personal, is for me is one of the hardest. Here's an outline that I've put together to help me. It's only a starting point, but it helps me focus on the different aspects of God that I should be praising:

Sabbath - God in His Sovereignty
  • King of highest Heaven, none like him, sovereign, in complete control, majestic in glory.
  • Praise him for his providence - his governing all events in the world, in our lives - with all power and wisdom.
  • Worship Him as our creator and sustainer.
Isaiah 46:9 "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me … My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please."

Monday - God the Father
  • Praise him for his inexhaustible goodness, kindness, and love.
  • He has adopted us as his children. As father He gives us love, access, blessing, guidance, wisdom, inheritance. He will glorify us at the resurrection.
  • Worship Him as "Our Father" and protector
Ephesians 1:4 "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will."

Tuesday - God in His Vastness
  • Infinite, eternal, unchangable. All wise. All knowing. All powerful. All present.
  • His work of creation - its beauty, vastness, variety, detail. The power seen in it.
  • This God is our almighty friend
Job 11:7 "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?"

Wednesday - God the Son
  • Head over all things for the church. The way, the truth and the life. God with us. Light of the world.
  • Freed us from sin. Took our punishment. Made us right with God. Building his church. Prays for us now.
  • Our Brother, our High Priest, our King, our Shepherd.
Hebrews 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin."

Thursday - God in His Holiness
  • Just, pure, holy, righteous. Anger at sin.
  • His work as judge, punishing wickedness and declaring us innocent because of the work of Christ.
  • He is our holiness - we have his righteousness
Habakkuk 1:13 "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong."

Friday - God the Holy Spirit
  • Indwells Christians. Points us to Christ. Teaches us .
  • His work in convicting us of sin; giving us new life. He guides us. He makes us more Christ-like. Enables us to pray. Applies His Word to our lives. Produces fruit in our lives.
  • He is our Teacher, our downpayment, a guarantee of our salvation.
Ephesians 1:13 "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance"

Saturday - God in His Salvation
  • Merciful, gracious, forgiving, patient, slow to anger, abounding in love.
  • Christ's work in His life, death and resurrection. The work of the Triune God in salvation - it is all of grace - we contribute only our sin.
  • He is our Saviour.
Exodus 34:6 "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Food for thought - Chocolate Heaven

This week's column really is 'food for thought'. My wife has started making the most tremendous brownies. Now for those of you out there who aren't quite sure what a 'brownie' is, or for those of you who haven't been fortunate enough to taste one of these magnificent creations, let me introduce you to this luxurious taste sensation.

According to the dictionary a brownie is 'a small rich chocolate bun'. But since when could a dictionary ever convey the full experience of such pleasure? I have tasted many of these brownies in cafes, in homes, in restaurants, but on Friday evening as I sipped my coffee and nibbled on the brown square bun offered to me by my wife, I knew I had stepped into another world, this truly was chocolate heaven.

How words fail me as I would attempt to convey to you the exquisite succulent nature of this rich moist chocolaty delight! Imagine if you will a small chocolate sponge cake made with the best of chocolate, and the pores of the sponge, instead of being wasted pockets of air, exude a rich smooth, almost liquid, chocolate. And amidst this glorious chocolate creation lie hidden the occasional hunk of white or dark chocolate chip awaiting delighted discovery.

Excuse me a moment; the kitchen beckons…

Is it fair of me to gloat in this manner? Is it right to flaunt something that you will never taste? I have no problem - this recipe is no closely guarded family secret, handed down through the generations from mother to daughter. No, in fact it was broadcast to the world on television not so long ago in one of Nigella Lawson's cookery programmes.

Nigella Lawson has made no secret about this chocolate heaven or how to get there, she did her best to tell people - books, television, the internet, teletext, enthusiastic followers(!) - the works. Those who fail to make the most of it only have themselves to blame! I'm sure many knew the programme was on, but didn't watch it. I'm sure many watched it, but didn't write the recipe down. Others were content with their own recipe. And I wonder how many wrote down the recipe and haven't got round to trying it for themselves yet?

The same goes for the other good news about the other Heaven. Many have heard about it and yet do not show any interest. Some go to church or chapel, but haven't taken much in. Some have got hold of the wrong recipe (they think kindness, goodness, patience, etc. is all it takes). Some may even have understood the right recipe (asking for God to freely forgive your sin because of what Jesus did on the cross), but haven't yet got round to doing anything with it for themselves.

The ball is in your court. The opportunity is there for you to make the most of it.

"Today you must listen to God's voice, do not harden your hearts" - Hebrews 3:7,8

"Make the most of every opportunity" - St. Paul, Colossians 4:5

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Jerry Springer Opera & The BBC

Ok folks, so they went ahead and broadcast the Jerry Springer Opera on BBC2.

Thank you to those of you who responded and wrote, emailed or rang the BBC.

The next stage is to contact OFCOM, the Office of Communications Ofcom is the independent regulator for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services.

Here's their web address.

They can only look into a situation once the programme has been broadcast, so write to them now and tell them if you contacted the BBC expressing your desire that Jerry Springer Opera would not be shown.

For those of you unfamiliar with the comings and goings. This is a musical parody of the Jerry Springer talk show. It is a blasphemous mockery which depicts Jesus as being 'a bit gay', takes place in Hell, and has God the Father and God the Son having a swearing match. When broadcast it will hold the record for most number of swear words broadcast in one programme. The BBC were contacted by numerous (at least 15,000; some say in the region of 45,000) emails, phone calls, letters and yet chose to ignore.

The BBC need to realise that they cannot broadcast this sort of blasphemy and get away with it.

Your favourites

I meant to add this line to the previous post, but I forgot.

It's time to share - What preachers do you especially like, and where can you find online sermons by them?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Favourite Preachers

Anyone and everyone seems to be putting sermons online these days, but how do you know who's good and who's not? Here are two of my favourites. There's enough material here to keep you listening for months:

Ted Donnelly, is Professor of New Testament Literature and Language at the Reformed Theological College in Belfast, and minister of Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church. He has been my minister throughout my life.

This site has a number of conference addresses on the following topics:
Union with Christ
as well as a few other individual sermons.

(Search for the sermons using the 'Search by Speaker" facillity)

You can also find sermons here.

The mark of great intelligence and great preaching is to take something profound and complex and make it clear and simple. Stuart Olyott is a master of this.

Here is an absolute mine of bible teaching from Stuart Olyott over 30 years.

You'll also find sermons by him here (you'll have to scroll down or use 'find')

Both men feature on this website

Listen and enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Musings on our daily time with God

This was prompted by an excellent article over here, along with the fact that at the start of a year I try to re-evaluate my own personal daily time with God.

It’s something that every Christian should be doing, its something that we know we should look forward to doing, but often it becomes a drag and something to be done quickly and got ‘out of the way’ so that we can get on with the ‘real work’ of the day.

Here are a few thoughts that I’ve gathered together over the last few years. They’re my thoughts, not rules, so feel free to adapt, ignore, adopt. As you’ll see some of them appear contradictory, but hold opposites in balance and you’ll be able to walk the tightrope:

  • Mornings are the best time – as someone said, “You don’t tune your instrument after the performance”

  • The best helps for Bible reading are a pen, a notebook, and a brain determined to seek out what your Saviour is saying.

  • Keep changing the format, so that you don’t get stuck in a rut. If you use reading notes, try a commentary. If you use a commentary, try using a blank notebook and a pen.

  • Don’t feel you have to persevere to get a particular book of the Bible finished, if your only reason for keeping going is just to get it finished. Stop and go elsewhere, and then come back to it.

  • Sometimes I read a section from a Puritan author to start with. Their godliness and love for Christ warms the heart and fans the embers into flames as you approach the throne.

  • Pray Paul’s prayers for different people you know. This is a great help when you find yourself stuck in a rut, and praying the same old things for the same old people. Use a different prayer for each person, and change them around the next week. It also focuses us on asking for things that are really important.

  • Don’t view your time with God as ‘quiet time’ or ‘Bible reading time’ or ‘personal devotions’. These focus on the act itself, rather than on God. It’s about relationship. He is your Father, who wishes to communicate with you. You are his child, who loves and is loved.

  • Realise that it’s not primarily about what we get out of it; it’s about being with God, and worshipping him and delighting in him. As Tim Challies pointed out, “When I spend time with my wife, I don't think about what I can get out of it – I just enjoy spending the time.”

  • At the same time, don’t use that as an excuse for not putting effort in to receive from God. He is generous and gives to all.

  • Pray through your Bible reading. Turn information into worship, challenge into request for help, conviction into confession, provision into thanksgiving.

  • Realise that you will get into a rut. Realise that you will go through dry seasons – I happens to all God’s saints. And God uses them to teach us. Be ready to be taught. And keep on persevering.

  • When you miss your daily time with God, through no fault of your own, don’t mentally torture yourself. God is gracious and he understands. Utilise as many moments throughout the day as you can to be with him.

  • Don’t use that as an excuse for not making an effort to spend time with him each day.

  • Beware of holidays. A break in the routine is hard to cope with. You think you will have more time, but you won’t, unless you schedule carefully.

  • Memorise scripture. It gives you something to chew on for the day.

  • Don’t be disappointed if you can’t remember what you read last week, or two days ago. I can’t remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but it did me good at the time.

  • Read big chunks of scripture. Don’t settle for one or two verses a day. Read chunks; meditate on smaller bites. Here’s a great Bible reading plan for the whole year – with slack built in.
I hope this miscellany of musings has been of some help. God Bless!