Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Bitesize Jonah (28)

Cattle were involved in Nineveh's repentance (3v7-8) and God's saving of the city (4v11).

As I am still unclear exactly as to the significance of this I asked the good folk of Pelsall Evangelical Church for their help. The result of that are these two main ideas:

a) the cattle were part of the wickedness of the city (ritually involved in idolatry?) and thus the public act of repentance included them.

b) this is all part of the big picture of salvation as God saves the cosmos (cf. Romans 8v19-21) and not just isolated individuals. {Animals enjoy blessings of salvation in Scripture (e.g. Noah's Ark!, Isaiah 65v25) and suffer the curses of judgement too (plagues in Egypt)}

Pete Jackson makes a few more helpful points here and here:

God wants to save people. Wonderfully, mind-blowingly, graciously true. But he also wants to save the cultures and civilisations that people build. Even the moo-cows.

Calvin says about 3v8-9:

But it seems strange, and even ridiculous, that the king should bid animals, as well as men, to make a confession of repentance; for penitence is a change in man, when he returns to God after having been alienated from him: this cannot comport with the character of brute animals. Then the king of Nineveh acted foolishly and contrary to all reason in connecting animals with men when he spoke of repentance.

But, in answer to this, we must bear in mind what I have before said — that destruction had been denounced, not only on men, but also on the whole city, even on the buildings: for as God created the whole world for the sake of men, so also his wrath, when excited against men, includes the beasts, and trees, and every thing in heaven and on earth.

But the question is not yet solved; for though God may punish animals on account of men’s sins, yet neither oxen nor sheep can pacify the wrath of God. To this I answer — that this was done for the sake of men: for it would have been ridiculous in the king to prohibit food and drink to animals, except he had a regard to men themselves. But his object was to set before the Ninevites, as in a mirror or picture, what they deserved. The same was done under the law; for, whenever they slew victims, they were reminded of their own sins; for it ought to have come to their minds, that the sheep or any other animal sacrificed was innocent, and that it stood at the altar in his stead who had sinned. They therefore saw in the ox, or the lamb, or the goat, a striking emblem of their own condemnation. So also the Ninevites, when they constrained the oxen, the asses and other animals, to fast, were reminded of what grievous and severe punishment they were worthy: inasmuch as innocent animals suffered punishment together with them. We hence see that no expiation was sought for by the king, when he enjoined a fast on brute animals, but that, on the contrary, men were roused by such means seriously to acknowledge the wrath of God, and to entertain greater fear, that they might be more truly humbled before him, and be displeased with themselves, and be thus more disposed and better prepared and moulded to seek pardon.

and about 4v11:

God then shows here to Jonah that he had been carried away by his own merciless zeal. Though his zeal, as it has been said, arose from a good principle, yet Jonah was influenced by a feeling far too vehement. This God proved, by sparing so many infants hitherto innocent. And to infants he adds the brute animals. Oxen were certainly superior to shrubs. If Jonah justly grieved for one withering shrub, it was far more deplorable and cruel for so many innocent animals to perish. We hence see how apposite are all the parts of this similitude, to make Jonah to loathe his folly, and to be ashamed of it; for he had attempted to frustrate the secret purpose of God, and in a manner to overrule it by his own will, so that the Ninevites might not be spared, who yet labored by true repentance to anticipate the divine judgment.


Stick to God, as well in adversity as prosperity; the one being as necessary as the other. If you want necessaries, humble yourself for them: if you have them, be humble with them; and use them well, lest you forfeit them.
Seek reconciliation with your neighbour, freely forgiving those that have offended you, and earnestly desiring to be forgiven of all that have been offended by you.
Study to approve both your heart to God, and you life to God’s children in your particular calling, and especially as such, as to whom God has joined you: if a servant in obeying, if a master, in ruling, if a husband, in loving, if a wife, in reverence; for a good conscience, a good name, and good manners must go together.

Monday, 30 March 2009

A great day!

Losing touch with something

St Alban's Cathedral is campaigning for the revival of the Alban bun, which since 1361 has been given out to the local poor on Good Friday.

A denser, more cakey product than the supermarket hot cross bun, it claims to be the precursor to the modern version.It has two major differences: the cross is cut into the top of the bun, rather than piped on top, and its ingredients include "grains of paradise", an ancient term for cardamon.

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said:

"Recently we've lost touch with the significance of the bun, and its link to Holy Week and the Cross. These days it's possible to buy Hot Cross Buns throughout the year. Whilst any reminder of the importance of Easter is welcomed, we've come to the conclusion that the Alban Bun might be a way of reaffirming the significance of the bun as a symbol of Christ's death and resurrection."
He said he'd like bakers to stop selling buns with a cross on top throughout the year. "I'm not sure why this is necessary," he said, adding they should only be sold during the run up to and during Holy Week.

The Cathedral has persuaded the local Sainsbury's to produce the Alban bun, using the original Medieval recipe, with wholemeal flour, milk, cardamon and yeast, on a commercial scale in the run up to Easter. Locals will be able buy the bun from the St Alban's store on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, with all proceeds going to Open Door, a local homeless charity.

Dr John said:
"We're hopeful that the original bun will catch on, become an established part of Easter and potentially be sold through other stores."
from an article by Harry Wallop in the Telegraph today


Across the world, in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan, millions of Christians are being persecuted at the hands of militant Islam, with forced conversions, the burning of churches and widespread violence. Yet in the face of this global onslaught, the Church of England makes scarcely a peep of protest.

Worse still, when Dr Nazir-Ali warned last year that Islamic extremists had created 'no-go areas' across Britain where non-Muslims faced intimidation, he was disowned by his fellow churchmen who all but declared that he was a liar - even though he was telling the truth.

so says Melanie Phillips today.

Here is a group doing the kind of work that many churches are not doing (or more positivley, it is a group coordinating the efforts of many churches and Christians), in loving action for brothers and sisters who are suffering and in loving action for atheists and Muslims who too are commanded by the King of Kings, to repent and believe the gospel: http://barnabasfund.org/

There is usually more than one thing on the menu!

"Unbelief squashes; faith teaches. Faith takes a boy aside and tells him that this part of what he did was good, while the other part of what he did got in the way. 'And this is how to do it better next time' (p10)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Dark Blue Water

Westminster Larger Catechism (Q51-60)

Q51: What was the estate of Christ's exaltation?
A: The estate of Christ's exaltation comprehends his resurrection, ascension, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and his coming again to judge the world.

Q52: How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?
A: Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held), and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul, he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God, to have satisfied divine justice, to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it, and to be Lord of quick and dead: all which he did as a public person, the head of his church, for their justification, quickening in grace, support against enemies, and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day.

Q53: How was Christ exalted in his ascension?
A: Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections thither, and to prepare a place for us, where himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world.

Q54: How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?
A: Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favor with God the Father, with all fulness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and does gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnishes his ministers and people with gifts and graces, and makes intercession for them.

Q55: How does Christ make intercession?
A: Christ makes intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers;Answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services.

Q56: How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?
A: Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come again at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father's, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness.

Q57: What benefits has Christ procured by his mediation?
A: Christ, by his mediation, has procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.

Q58: How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured?
A: We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ has procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.

Q59: Who are made partakers of redemption through Christ?
A: Redemption is certainly applied, and effectually communicated, to all those for whom Christ has purchased it; who are in time by the Holy Ghost enabled to believe in Christ according to the gospel.

Q60: Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
A: They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Bitesize Jonah (27)

This is the second stab at this song (sung to 'While Shepherds Watched'). The first can be found here. The credit for this reworking goes to Jane! I love what she has done getting the 2nd and 4th lines to (mostly!!) rhyme. We will trial it at Pech tomorrow!

While Jonah slept and snored away
as if on solid ground
the captain on the stormy sea
awoke him with a frown

‘We fear’, he said. ‘that all on board
are doomed to die today.
Get up, you are our final hope;
Please to your God now pray’

‘Our gods have all ignored our cries
and left us to the seas;
Perhaps you may have better luck
and yours will hear our pleas.’

They threw the cargo overboard -
The luggage, pans and pots -
To find the man they all could blame
the sailors threw the lots

It fell to Jonah, who then spoke,
‘It’s true I cannot lie,
I fear the LORD of heaven and earth
Of land and sea and sky’

The sailors trembled, for they saw:
the God from whom he fled,
was their Creator and His wrath
could leave them all for dead!

Preach at Pech

I have been invited to preach at Pelsall Evangelical Church this Sunday. http://www.pech.co.uk/index.html
We are really looking forward to our trip across the M6!!

God's Wisdom and Ours - Part 5

For what is this wisdom that he gives? As we have seen, it is not a sharing in all his knowledge, but a disposition to confess that he is wise, and to cleave to him and live for him in the light of his word through thick and thin.

Thus the effect of his gift of wisdom is to make us more humble, more joyful, more godly, more quick-sighted as to his will, more resolute in the doing of it and less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in this fallen workd is full. The NT tells us that the fruit of wisdom is Christlikeness - peace, and humility, and love (James 3:17) - and root of it is faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Timothy 3:15) as the manifested wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30).

Thus the kind of wisdom that God waits to give to those who ask him, is a wisdom that will bind us to himself, a wisdom that will find expression in a spirit of faith and a life of faithfulness. (p121)

Friday, 27 March 2009

Calvin would fit right in

Spot the difference: Calvin & the G20 London Summit

Wisdom while you work ... hum a merry tune ....

So what is wisdom?

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13
Trust and obey God, revere him, worship him, be humble before him, never say more than you mean and will do when you pray to him:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. 2 Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. 3 As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfil your vow. 5 It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfil it. 6 Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7 Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Ecclesiastes 5:1-7
Do good:

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. Ecclesiastes 3:12
Remember that God will take account of you one day:
Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9
So flee evil:

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14
Live in the present enjoying it thoroughly, because present pleasures are God’s gifts:
When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. Ecclesiastes 7:14

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favours what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun-- all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labour under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. 10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigour are meaningless. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10
Flippancy is not good:
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure. 5 It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke than to listen to the song of fools. 6 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 7:4-6

But neither is a joyless, humourless, dreary ‘super spirituality’.

Seek grace to work hard at whatever you are called to do:
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10

And enjoy it:

A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, Ecclesiastes 2:24

I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3:12

Then I realised that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given him-- for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15
Leave to God it’s issues and fruitfulness, its ultimate worth; your part is to use all he has given you in exploiting the opportunities that lie open to you:

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. 2 Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land. 3 If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie. 4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. 5 As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. 6 Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:1-6
This is the way of wisdom. Clearly it is just one facet of the life of faith. For what underlies it and sustains it? Why, the conviction that the inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption. We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world-order and who worked the great redemption from Egypt and later the even greater redemption from sin and Satan, knows what he is doing, even if for the moment he hides his hand. We can trust him and rejoice in him, even when we cannot discern his path. (p120)

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Not by sight

For the truth is that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives. (p119)

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Bubbles to be burst

Many of us feel that, for the honour of God (and also, though we do not say this, for the sake of our own reputation as spiritual Christians), it is necessary for us to claim that we are…here and now enjoying inside information as to the why and wherefore of God’s doings. This comforting pretence becomes part of us; we feel sure that God has enabled us to understand all his ways with us and our circle thus far, and we take it for granted that we shall be able to see at once the reason for anything that may happen to us in the future.

And then something very painful and quite inexplicable comes along, and our cheerful illusion of being in God’s secret councils is shattered. Our pride is wounded; we feel that God has slighted us; and unless at this point we repent, and humble ourselves very thoroughly for our former presumption, our whole subsequent spiritual life may be blighted. (p119)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Why work, make, build, seek, develop, create ....?

So, if there is no rhyme or reason in things, what is the point in doing anything?
What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:3

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun? Ecclesiastes 2:22

What does the worker gain from his toil? Ecclesiastes 3:9

This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? Ecclesiastes 5:16
Nothing seems to do any obvious good:
Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too is meaningless." 16 For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die! 17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:15-17

22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labours under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 2:22-23

As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? Ecclesiastes 5:11
It will only make you an object of envy:
And I saw that all labour and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4
You can’t take anything with you:

18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. Ecclesiastes 2:18

There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless--a miserable business! Ecclesiastes 4:8

Naked a man comes from his mother's womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labour that he can carry in his hand. 16 This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? 17 All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger. Ecclesiastes 5:15-17

What you do leave behind will probably be mismanaged after you have gone:

19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labour under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. Ecclesiastes 2:18-21
So must not all work be judged as ‘meaningless, a chasing after the wind’ Ecclesiastes 1:14 ?
It is to this pessimistic conclusion says the preacher that optimistic expectations of finding the divine purpose of everything will ultimately lead you:

Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. 18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief. Ecclesiastes 1:17-18

Monday, 23 March 2009

And Torres didn't score


Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

You have brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see You in the heights,
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Your glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Your stars shine;
Let me find Your light in my darkness,
Your life in my death,
Your joy in my sorrow,
Your grace in my sin,
Your riches in my poverty,
Your glory in my valley.

(adapted from p xxiv)

All the books under the sun won't help

Ecclesiastes is a sermon with a text:

"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 1:2
Is this the confession of an embittered cynic now seeking to share with us his sense of the cheapness and nastiness of life? Or is he speaking as an evangelist trying to bring home to the unbeliever the impossibility of finding happiness ‘under the sun’ apart from God?

Packer says it is neither.

The author speaks as a mature teacher giving a young disciples the fruits of his own long experience and reflection:

Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment. Ecclesiastes 11:9

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"-- Ecclesiastes 12:1

Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Ecclesiastes 12:12

Apparently the young man though that wisdom was the same as a wide knowledge, and that disciplined book work would yield the desired results – the reasons for God’s various doings in the ordinary course of providence.

What the preacher wants to show him is that the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

No rhyme nor reason (that we can see)

The message of the sermon goes like this:

Look at the world around you (take off those rose tinted spectacles) – what do you see?

The background is aimless recurring cycles in nature:

Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains for ever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. Ecclesiastes 1:4-10

The ‘shape’ of life is times and circumstances that you can’t control:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. 12 Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

You see death coming to everyone sooner or later, but haphazardly:

In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: a righteous man perishing in his righteousness, and a wicked man living long in his wickedness. Ecclesiastes 7:15

No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no-one has power over the day of his death. As no-one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practise it. Ecclesiastes 8:8

Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?" Ecclesiastes 3:19-21

The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realise that the same fate overtakes them both. Ecclesiastes 2:14

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17

All share a common destiny--the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, he clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. Ecclesiastes 9:2
You see evil running rampant:
And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment--wickedness was there, in the place of justice-- wickedness was there. Ecclesiastes 3:16

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed--and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors--and they have no comforter. Ecclesiastes 4:1

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. Ecclesiastes 5:8

When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Ecclesiastes 8:11

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they join the dead. Ecclesiastes 9:3
You see the wicked prospering and the good failing:

There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 8:14
Seeing all this you realise that you cannot fathom what God is up to, much as you might want to:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. Ecclesiastes 7:13

then I saw all that God has done. No-one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it. Ecclesiastes 8:17

The harder you try to understand the divine purpose in the ordinary providential course of events, the more obsessed and oppressed you grow with the apparent aimlessness of everything, and the more you are tempted to conclude that life really is as pointless as it looks.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The great dating deception

Dating is not the best way to get to know another person, but it is the best way to get involved with another person.

If a girl wants to be impressed with a young man, she needs to see how he speaks to his own mother at home, and not how nice he can be across the dinner table from a cute girl at a restaurant.

They may both deceive themselves into thinking that if they date in this way they are getting to know the other person. In a sense this is true; they are getting to know the other person, but they are getting attached to them first. Before they get to know one another, while they are still putting up appearances, they are growing attached. This means that when they learn how the other person really is (and they certainly will eventually), they will then be in a difficult position of not being able to leave without hurt. (p88-89)

Friday, 20 March 2009

'No' and 'Not yet' are such important words

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,
2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

7 Now then, my sons,listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst
of the whole assembly."

15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer--may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?

21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. 22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. 23 He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. (Proverbs 5:1-23)

A son should be taught that the sexual hunger he has is a gift from God - and that he doesn't get to eat for several more years. This requires the inculcation of self-control, but parents do not have to wait until their son is in the grip of sexual temptation before they may instruct him on how to respond to it.
There are many other areas requiring self-control where this virtue can be acquired and made habitual from the time their son is a small boy....
Many parents try to teach their sons about sexual self-control after sexual temptation becomes an issue. But sexual self-control is just one species of the genus 'self-control.' Sexual self-control is simply a subset of self-control. Parents should be inculcating self-control first, throughout the son's life.When a boy starts whining, and tries to demand something, and the parents say: 'No' they are teaching self-control. This becomes a habit established in his character long before adolescence arrives. When sexual temptation first arrives, the necessary response of self-denial must not be an entirely new concept. If parents indulge a little boy's emotions, his whims, his tantrums, then what is going to happen to that young man when he becomes consumed with sexual desire? (p39-40)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Coming Soon

Grr ........ (girls rel rev!)

Girls night

Tessa and Chris are both thirteen. They like each other and enjoy doing things together like going to the cinema and spending time with their friends. They know that they won’t even think about marriage for ages but people put pressure on them to “go out with each other”.Why is this not helpful to them and what should they do?

Help from the bible:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh Genesis 2:24
Jessica is a Christian girl who is 14. Her best friend has already had lots of boyfriends and she is concerned that she should catch up. After all how will she get ready for marriage if she hasn’t gone out with lots of people. But her friend doesn’t seem to get much out of the relationships, in fact each one is shorter than the last. How would you advise Jessica?

Help from the bible:
Put to death, thererfore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed Colossians 3: 5
Rachel goes to Excel and although she is friends with the boys there she can’t imagine going out with any of them ever!! There are lots of non-Christian boys who she can imagine going out with though and she doesn’t know how she will be able to follow God when he says that she should only marry a Christian. What help and advice can you give Rachel? What is one reason that God tells us to marry Christians?

Help from the bible:
Has not the Lord made them on? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. Malachi 2:15

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6 : 14
Mary sees sex on TV and everyone seems to be doing it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal and it really just seems to be a normal part of teenage life. Surely it can’t be that serious? She is a Christian and wants to do what pleases God. How would you advise her?

Help from the bible:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh Genesis 2:24

Know what you are getting yourself into!

A son should know what constitutes the formation of a marriage, the obligations of a marriage, the boundaries of a marriage, and what conditions apply to a lawful dissolution of a marriage. (p36)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A matter of perspective?

Black Country is So heavenly

Express and Star last Wednesday
Neil Robbie 'West Bromwich's newest reverend' says he is here to stay: 'I just love it here. In all the places I have lived I have found that it is the Black Country and Glasgow that I love. The people are so friendly and they have time to chat and listen.'

Baby Wise


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

James 3:7 in action!

Songs of Ascent

About 2 years ago Jane and I came across this album by Jamie Soles. The blurb says:

Three times a year all the men of Israel were required by God to go up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the feast day celebrations. This was the ascent, and Psalms 120-134 were written for those times. Ascending offers renditions of these Psalms.

Jerusalem was in the southern part of the country, as far as most of Israel was concerned; the highway to the south was along the Jordan river valley, ending at Jericho. As the feast day approached, the gathering of Israelites at Jericho became a great throng. When they began to make their way up out of the valley toward Jerusalem on the mountain above, they would sing together, and these Psalms of Ascent were their songs. Israel ascended the mountain toward God’s throne, her songs rising up to heaven as the smoke of her offerings would do when she arrived.
Her songs follow the same ascending progression. She begins with a lament for the company she keeps, and a longing to go up to Jerusalem. We follow her in song from the valley outside Jerusalem all the way into the throne room of God, and we do not come alone; God’s people surround us the whole way.
So it is with us.
Join with the people of God, bring your sacrifices of praise into His courts, and be thankful. We do not come only to a city on a hill, but to Jesus the Messiah, God’s ultimate sacrifice, who is the ruler of the kings of the earth. He hears the worship of His church, and goes out into the world conquering. Would you like to see the world bow the knee to Jesus? Gather, then, and worship, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

We have found that we do like most of tunes - some of them we really like. I think Ps 124 is my favourite. And whilst we are a way off being able to recite Psalm 120-134 off by heart, we getting there and have been hugely blessed by this CD. We love to sing these to ourselves at all kinds of odd moments as we learn to 'talk' to ourselves (rather than just listen!).

Monday, 16 March 2009

Let the Flag Fly High!

At church yesterday PM I had a conversation with a few people about the recent Islamic insults to our troops in Luton and Anjem Choudry's desire to see an Islamic flag 'flying over Downing Street'.
I also heard an excellent sermon on Psalm 1 & 2.
It seems to me like that was a neat and not accidental convergence!
Psalm 2 v1 We are told in the NT why the nations rage in Acts 4:24-28:
When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "`Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.
v1-2 prophecy the crucifixion - God sovereignly using the wickedness of men to save the world.

v7 is a prophecy of the resurrection according to the NT:

he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "`You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' (Acts 13:33)
Hebrews 1:5 shows us that this passage also shows the supremacy of Christ over angels:
For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have
become your Father"
? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?
In Hebrews 5:5 it describes Christ entering His office as high priest:
So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father."
Put together, we see that in the resurrection, Christ is raise from the dead, enters into His high priestly work, and is made higher than the angels.

v9 is about Christ's rule over the nations through his Word and by his saints (again, according to that great commentary on the OT, the NT!):

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron sceptre." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelations 19:15-16)

She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron sceptre. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. (Revelation 12:5)

To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 27 `He will rule them with an iron sceptre; he will dash them to pieces like pottery'-- just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:26-28)

So we know that 1-2 are about the crucifixion, that v. 7 is about the resurrection, and that v. 9 addresses the reign of Christ through His Word in the Church. What then does the rest of the psalm mean?

The language of v. 3 refers to the nations’ resentment over the fact that they had to plow underneath the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.

v4-5. Who would have thought of this—divine laughter!—when the sun was dark, the disciples scattered, our Lord in anguish, the Sanhedrin gloating, Satan triumphant, Peter wretched, Judas in despair, and Mary in tears?

Despite their little schemes, the Lord will establish His King in Zion (v. 6), however little they like it (v. 5). Now, after the crucifixion, and just after the resurrection, God Almighty extends an invitation to His Son, Jesus Christ—He invites Him to just ask (v. 8).

What belongs to Jesus Christ now?
What nation is not His? Can you find one? Is there one He didn’t want?
Did He refuse to ask for one?

The rod of iron certainly extends over all of them (v. 9).

What therefore is the responsibility of our rulers?
They must seek wisdom and receive instruction. They must serve God in their public civic capacity, with fear, joy, and trembling (v. 11). And they must be beware of His wrath (v.12).

This means that the UK and Iran and China have the explicit duty, not to be secular or Hindu or Sikh or Islamic nations, but to be Christian nations.

That is the flag that should fly over No. 10, Buckingham Palace, Parliament and every local council.

relationships revolution

This is an outline of what we taught at eXcel on Sunday:

Item 1: RR Quiz (opening activity)
Who did Jade Goody recently marry? Jack Tweed
What is the value of Madonna’s divorce settlement (to the nearest £m) £50-60m
How many people got divorced in 2006? 133,000
How many people got divorced in 1950? 33,000
How many marriages were there in 2007? 231,450
What proportion of under 16s were living with one parent? 1/3
Which Atomic Kitten is to divorce her husband? Kerry Catona
Who is getting married next week and who is being the bridesmaid? Susan Piggot and Jane
What is the average cost of a wedding? £20,000
What is the average number of sexual partners for a man and a woman in the UK? 6 and 4

{ this turned out to be too difficult a quiz! Even encouraging having a guess and giving a leeway for answers it was still hard! The girls did better than the boys}

Item 2: 'Brainstorm'
Qu 1/ What is dating?
Luv, taking someone special out, relationship, meeting, when u fancy someone and u take them out, good times, having fun, enjoying each others company, when you love someone and take them place

Qu 2 / Good reasons to date
love, kissing and hugging, someone to love, someone to take care of you, someone close to talk to, u might get married at the end, you love them, making a family, being with your favourite person

Qu 3 / Bad reasons to date
Answers: because they are rich, popular, you dow love em, you are desperate, for kissin and other things, popularity, other people's approval, for a dare, for a laugh, because you are jealous of people going out and want to too, money,

Item 3: Genesis 2:24 cut into a jigsaw and hid round church. Two teams find their pieces in a relay and then write up on the board.

Item 4: Talk (interactive and with a PP)

We all face the first choice of who is going to run our lives:
- King Jesus
- King me
- King other people (peer pressure)

If we want to follow Jesus then we want to know what he wants about all kinds of things:
-every stage of life, from high chair to wheel chair
- music, clothes, alcohol, drugs, smoking, work, tv etc.
-relationships is one part of that

Our ultimate need is a relationship with God. If we are looking for all our needs to be met, hurts healed by another person we will be very disappointed. God has made us to relate to him and only he, who is infinite, can meet our every need.

Relationships are designed by God. He made us with hands and one of the wise reasons he did that was so that a man and woman could hold hands. We could go on round the body noticing the same thing. So he is in the best place to tell us about how to conduct our relationships.

Lots of other people will tell us (by example or directly) how to conduct our relationships. Our families, friends, other people around us, soaps and chat shows, films, books, magazines, songs, adverts and the rest.

There is no one passage to go to about 'dating' - there was no such thing in the Bible times. So we will look at what God does say and then see how that helps us.

The first general truth is that sex sticks together, like a powerful glue. And sex is everything from kissing to condom, holding hands through to the bedroom.

Sex is for marriage to stick together a new family unit:
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
notice a few things here:
-> marriage (& therefore sex) has an implied age criteria ...being old enough to leave home and set up home with someone else. The legal age in this country is 16. What would we do if it changed to 12? Are two 12 year olds ready to set up home together? (it was agreed no!)
-> marriage (& sex within it) is about being united and one flesh for life and exclusively. 1 man and 1 woman (cf. Gen 1:27-28 & Matt 19:4-6).
-> marriage (& in this respect sex) is public. Not for in public (the bus shelters of Tipton!!?), but it is public because it is a new family unit it affects the rest of the family and society. Practically and emotionally. Hence the confusion, expense, hurt where there is no marriage or broken marriage. [and when there has been this hurt or confusion it is very easy to make the same mistakes through looking to heal/dull the hurt or through mistrust of others].

Sex is for 'producing' godly children in a godly family
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28

You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. 15 Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:14-15
notice a few things here:
-> sex & children go together [often people talk like the two are not related ... or magazines focus just on the 'glamour' of sex and not the 'glamour' of nappies/commitment etc.]. This raises the issue of contraception and abortion. This is a complicated area, but any action taken to kill a child or to allow 'no consequence' sex to happen outside of marriage, or within marriage to enable a couple never to have children, is wrong.
-> if God intends godly children for us then we need to marry a godly husband/wife. It will be confusing if our children are always having to choose one way over another. Perhaps you have experienced this already as a child.

Sex is to be part of marriage that is a picture of the gospel
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no-one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-- 30 for we are members of his body. 31 "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:22-33
-> sex involves service of Christ through the taking up of the roles he has given us in love and submission to him. It is fundamentally not self centred.

So sex is not 'all about me':

-> an appetite to feed (for my pleasure, feeling loved, getting street cred, getting knowledge about the unknown)
-> a competition to win (being a 'good kisser' or 'good in bed' as opposed to him or her who isn't)
-> for 1 person alone (pornography is just that)

So, back to dating then. Given all that, what does King Jesus say to us about dating?

Well, if we date (and that is a big if, I am not at all convinced that the way we do dating is at all helpful ... and if you haven't or don't date, you should not feel you are missing out!):

-> we will be dating as part of moving towards marriage. So, here's a question: 'will you marry this person soon'? Clearly if you are 12, no matter how much you like the girl or guy the answer is 'no'. So why date? Why not be great friends and take care to steer clear of all that powerful glue that comes with the physical/emotional intimacy of 'going out'?
-> we will date a Christian who will help us as a Christian (and not everyone who says they are a Christian will help us as a Christian)
-> we won't have sex as part of our dating.

This is nothing less than a relationships revolution!

Sex is a wonderful gift from God - marriage is the place to unwrap it and get good at it.
Relationships we enjoy with each other are all part of our relationship with God - we need him central in all of our life.
If you love someone, marry them! Or get ready to marry them in the future when you are ready for all the above - get ready to be the best husband or wife you could be for them.

So, here is a vision of marriage - your 50th or 60th wedding anniversary and still in love...
-> how important will it have been to have known how to kiss well aged 12 or 13?
-> will you be proud to tell your (Christian) children and grandchildren what you got up to at their age?
-> how will your husband and wife feel if you have kissed or had sex with loads and loads of other people? Would you want your wife or husband to have done that?

In all this don't forget that Christ loved us and gave himself for us that we might be forgiven our sins, even our sexual sins. That is wonderful news every time and every way we mess up and turn back to him. But don't forget that as your saving King he wants you to trust him in this area of life. So let's pray and ask his help.

Fear & Worry

Part 1

This looks at our fears and worries and notes what stands out on simple inspection:

->fear and worry runs deep in us all

->fear and worry have meaning - our fears and worries say something

->fear and worry say (among other things) the world is dangerous

->fear and worry reveal us - the things we value and love

Sunday, 15 March 2009



God's Wisdom and Ours - Part 4

What Wisdom isn't

the mistake that is commonly made is to suppose that....the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next. (p114-115)

More Top Baby Tips


Saturday, 14 March 2009

God's Wisdom and Ours - Part 3

Where can we find wisdom?

1. We must learn to reverence God
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
Proverbs 1:7

cf. Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 15:33

Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God's holiness and sovereignty (Nehemiah 1:5; 4:14; 9:32; Deuteronomy 7:21; 10:17; Psalm 99:3; Jeremiah 20:11), acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom be ours.

2. We must receive God's word

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are ever with me.

I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119:98-99

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
The Book of Common Prayer takes Anglicans through the OT once and NT twice a year.
Willaim Gouge, a Puritan read 15 chapters a day.
Packer goes on quoting intimidating examples (!!) but the question is as uncomfortable as it is unavoidable: 'How long is it since you read right through the Bible?'
Speaking personally I started around October 08 aiming to read through by Simeon's birth!! I have recently come a bit unstuck in Jeremiah, but am about to dive into Lamentations.

And I'd be a fool to give up! So I pray:

May my cry come before you, O LORD;
give me understanding according to your word.
May my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for you teach me your decrees.
May my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commands are righteous.
May your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O LORD,
and your law is my delight.
Let me live that I may praise you,
and may your laws sustain me.
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.

Psalm 119:169-176

Friday, 13 March 2009

Dad, when I grow up, I'm going to be .......

Quotes from the Introduction

As much as it may distress us, our boys are future men. (p9)

Boys take a lot of faith. This is good because the presence or absence of faith reveals whether or not we have a biblical doctrine of our future. Unbelief is always anchored in the present, while faith looks at that which is unseen. But even here we only get half the picture. Too often we think that faith only looks at unseen heavenly things, but this truncated approach is really the result of an incipient gnosticism*. In the Bible, faith includes the ability to see that which is unseen because it is still in the future. Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ, not the day when he, Abraham, would go to heaven. Faith conquers kingdoms, faith stops the mouths of lions, faith turns armies to flight, and faith brings boys up to a mature and godly masculinity. (p9)

*the heresy that, amongst other things, holds that matter is necessarily impure and holds that knowledge is supreme.

God's Wisdom and Ours - Part 2

The Bible has a great deal to say about the divine gift of wisdom.

Proverbs 1-9

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
Proverbs 4:13

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding,
Proverbs 3:13

Wisdom is personified and made to speak in her own cause:
Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. 35 For whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the LORD. 36 But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death. Proverbs 8:34-36

The picture throughout is on God's readiness to give wisdom, pictured as wisdom's readiness to give herself, to all who desire the gift and take the steps necessary to obtain it.


Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Ephesians 5:15-17

Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Colossians 1:9

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. James 1:5

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Bitesize Jonah (26)

Jonah 4

God's Wisdom and Ours - Part 1

There is so much good stuff in this chapter (ch 10) that I will split it over several blogs.

Older theologians dealt with two main 'groups' of God's attributes :

(which highlight his transcendence and belong to God alone):
- independence (self-existence and self-sufficiency)
- immutability (entire freedom from change leading to entire consistency of action)
- infinity (freedom from all limits of time and space ... so for example his eternity and omnipresence)

(which highlights that God has made man in his image and in some sense man shares these attributes with God):
-wisdom etc.
God made man a free spiritual being, a responsible moral agent with powers of choice and action, able to commune with him and resond to him, and by nature good, truthful, holy and upright. In a word, godly or godlike.
These were lost in the fall, God's image distorted and defaced.

But God reveals in the Bible his plan of redemption to restore this world and his image in his people in and through Christ. He communicates these qualities afresh to his people:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10)

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Top Baby Tips


thanks to Marc Lloyd for putting me onto these

Put Dates in the Diary NOW!

Birmingham Spring Convention
5th, 6th and 7th May 2009
Evenings at 7.30pm
Carrs Lane Church Centre

Studies in Isaiah

The Shepherd who Rules

The Servant who Rescues

The Sovereign who Restores

Speaker: David Jackman

And an extra bonus:
Wednesday at 10.30am
David Jackman "Old Testament Prophecy for Today's Church"

REALly Good Result


Read daily something of God's book for the increase of knowledge and conscience; and add also meditation and prayer to that. For these three, faith , love, hope make a 'divine': all time spent this way is well spent. As for trashy and 'idle' books, shun them as rocks.
Rejoice in the good you know by another: praise God for it, pray for the increase of it. But if you know any evil by any, mourn for it and if you can by brotherly admonition amend it.
Refrain your ears, eyes, mouth and hands, from hearing, seeing, speaking or performing any wicked and vain thing, knowing that death often enters in at the windows.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Bitesize Jonah (25)

I am beginning to wonder how to understand Israel's relationship to the nations & apply that to ourselves today. This puts the issue sharply:

The Gentiles of the Old Testament cannot be 'straight line' equivalent to the non-Christians of the New.

List the saved Gentiles of the Old Testament:

Melchizedek, Jethro, Joseph's Pharaoh, Namaan, the inhabitants of Ninevah at the time of Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar .... etc.

Name the saved non-Christians of the New.


soul songs

We are just starting using this in our Housegroups. It looks excelllent.

1. A song for sleepless nights (Ps 3&4)
2. A song for when sin seems good ((Ps 16)
3. A song for when we want to run away (Ps 18)
4. A song for dark days (Ps 23)
5. A song for when we are afraid (Ps 27)
6. A song for secret guilt (Ps 32)

Revving up

Tonight I am going with a few others from church to Neil Robbie's induction as vicar at Holy Trinity, West Brom. We are looking forward to this!
[I hope Liverpool can cope with my absence vs Real!!]

Calvin's Take on Jonah (4:10-11)

Here God explains the design he had in suddenly raising up the gourd, and then in causing it to perish or wither through the gnawing of a worm; it was to teach Jonah that misconduct towards the Ninevites was very inhuman. Though we find that the holy Prophet had become a prey to dreadful feelings, yet God, by this exhibition, does in a manner remind him of his folly; for, under the representation of a gourd, he shows how unkindly he desired the destruction of so populous a city as Nineveh.

Yet this comparison may appear ill suited for the purpose. Jonah felt sorry for the gourd, but he only regarded himself: hence he was displeased, because the relief with which he was pleased was taken away from him. As then this inconvenience had driven Jonah to anger, the similitude may not seem appropriate when God thus reasons, Thou wouldest spare the gourd, should I not spare this great city? Nay, but he was not concerned for the gourd itself: if all the gourds of the world withered, he would not have been touched with any grief; but as he felt the greatest danger being scorched by the extreme heat of the sun, it was on this account that he was angry.

To this I answer, -- that though Jonah consulted his own advantage, yet this similitude is most suitable: for God preserves men for the purpose for which he has designed them. Jonah grieved for the withering of the gourd, because he was deprived of its shade: and God does not create men in vain; it is then no wonder that he wishes them to be saved. We hence see that Jonah was not unsuitably taught by this representation, how inhumanely he conducted himself towards the Ninevites. He was certainly but one individual; since then he made such an account of himself and the gourd only, how was it that he cast aside all care for so great and so populous a city? Ought not this to have come to his mind, that it was no wonder that God, the Creator and Father, had a care for so many thousands of men? Though indeed the Ninevites were alienated from God, yet as they were men, God, as he is the Father of the whole human race, acknowledged them as his own, at least to such an extent as to give them the common light of day, and other blessings of earthly life. We now then understand the import of this comparison: "Thou wouldest spare," he says, "the gourd, and should I not spare this great city?"

God compares himself with Jonah; "Who art thou? Doubtless a mortal man is not so inclined to mercy as I am. But thou takest to thyself this right -- to desire to spare the gourd, even thou who art made of clay. Now this gourd is not thy work, thou hast not labored for it, it has not proceeded from thy culture or toil; and further, thou hast not raised it up, and further still, it was the daughter of a night, and in one night it perished; it was an evanescent shrub or herb. If then thou regardest the nature of the gourd, if thou regardest thyself, and joinest together all the other circumstances, thou wilt find no reason for thy hot displeasure. But should not I, who am God, in whose hand are all things, whose prerogative and whose constant practice it is mercifully to bear with men -- should not I spare them, though they were worthy of destruction? and should not I spare a great city? The matter here is not concerning a little plant, but a large number of people. And, in the last place, it is a city, in which there are a hundred and twenty thousand men who know not how to distinguish between their right hand and the left."

We now then see how emphatical are all the parts of this comparison. And though God's design was to reprove the foolish and sinful grief of Jonah, we may yet further collect a general instruction by reasoning in this manner, "We feel for one another, and so nature inclines us, and yet we are wicked and cruel. If then men are inclined to mercy through some hidden impulse of nature, what may not be hoped from the inconceivable goodness of God, who is the Creator of the whole world, and the Father of us all? and will not he, who is the fountain of all goodness and mercy spare us?"

Now as to the number, Jonah mentions here twelve times ten thousand men, and that is as we have said, one hundred and twenty thousand. God shows here how paternally he cares for mankind. Every one of us is cherished by him with singular care: but yet he records here a large number, that it might be more manifest that he so much regards mankind that he will not inconsiderately fulminate against any one nation. And what he adds, that they could not distinguish between the right hand and the left, is to be referred, I have no doubt, to their age; and this opinion has been almost universally received. Some one, however has expressed a fear lest the city should be made too large by allowing such a number of men: he has, therefore, promiscuously included the old, as well as those of middle age and infants. He says that these could not distinguish between the right hand and the left, because they had not been taught in the school of God, nor understood the difference between right and wrong; for the unbelieving, as we know, went astray in their errors. But this view is too strained; and besides, there is no reason for this comment; for that city, we know, was not only like some great cities, many of which are at this day in Europe, but it surpassed most of the principal cities at this day. We know that in Paris there are more than four hundred thousand souls: the same is the case with other cities. I therefore reject this comment, as though Jonah was here speaking of all the Ninevites. But God, on the contrary, intended to show, that though there was the justest reason for destroying entirely the whole city, there were yet other reasons which justified the suspension of so dreadful a vengeance; for many infants were there who had not, by their own transgressions, deserved such a destruction.

God then shows here to Jonah that he had been carried away by his own merciless zeal. Though his zeal, as it has been said, arose from a good principle, yet Jonah was influenced by a feeling far too vehement. This God proved, by sparing so many infants hitherto innocent. And to infants he adds the brute animals. Oxen were certainly superior to shrubs. If Jonah justly grieved for one withering shrub, it was far more deplorable and cruel for so many innocent animals to perish. We hence see how apposite are all the parts of this similitude, to make Jonah to loathe his folly, and to be ashamed of it; for he had attempted to frustrate the secret purpose of God, and in a manner to overrule it by his own will, so that the Ninevites might not be spared, who yet labored by true repentance to anticipate the divine judgment.

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast, in various ways, testified, and daily continues to testify, how dear and precious to thee are mankind, and as we enjoy daily so many and so remarkable proofs of thy goodness and favor, -- O grant, that we may learn to rely wholly on thy goodness, many examples of which thou settest before us, and which thou wouldest have us continually to experience, that we may not only pass through our earthly course, but also confidently aspire to the hope of that blessed and celestial life which is laid up for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Westminster Larger Catechism (Q41-50)

Q41: Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
A: Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saves his people from their sins.

Q42: Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A: Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.

Q43: How does Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A: Christ executes the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and Word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.

Q44: How does Christ execute the office of a priest?
A: Christ executes the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be a reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.

Q45: How does Christ execute the office of a king?
A: Christ executes the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

Q46: What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
A: The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection.

Q47: How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A: Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fulness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.

Q48: How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A: Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.

Q49: How did Christ humble himself in his death?
A: Christ humbled himself in his death, in that having been betrayed by Judas, forsaken by his disciples, scorned and rejected by the world,condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors; having also conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God's wrath, he laid down his life an offering for sin, enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross.

Q50: Wherein consisted Christ's humiliation after his death?
A: Christ's humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, he descended into hell.