Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More from Job: A Man's Prime

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am in the middle (well almost the end) of reading through the book of Job. What a treat, how glorious to immerse oneself in the interactions of these 'friends' and see your own thoughts summed up and expressed often.

On Sunday morning I read a verse in the 29th Chapter that struck with divine force. Basically it is a verse that gives the biblical mandate for what is man's prime! This is something that every male thinks on; it is also something that popular culture has a lot to say on that is drastically different from this biblical view. I'll share it shall I?

"Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God's intimate friendship blessed my house, when the almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil."

WOW! I don't want to say much more, I just want to summarize:
* Intimate friend of God
* Home atmosphere is 'affected' by this
* Knows the presence of the Almighty
* A father, or a man who seeks to be a father figure
* Path is lavishly blessed with the goodness of God

Let's seek to be such men, pursuing our prime in every life stage.


Name Change

This last Sunday we announced a name change for our church. We were Church of Christ the King Watford (most of my conversations finished before I could complete the name) and have now changed it to a very simple name but also a name which demands a lifestyle. We are now called Christ First.

In many ways if any born-again Christian wanted to be part of a church that made a huge difference to society instead of being somewhat invisible which is often the case in the UK they would just need to embrace this name this identity as the ruling motive of their existence. I guess that is what we were struck by in our seeking to name the church this. As one of my other Elders mentioned on Sunday, "It does what it says on the tin." We do want to be a church that puts Christ First in all that we do and we certainly want our people to be driven by this as their ruling passion; you can't have one without the other I would surmise.

Oh yes and we talk the extremely risky (within church circles it seems anyway) move of having a logo as an identifiable brand in this extremely visually-aesthetics driven culture. We called it 'X1'. X being the ancient summary symbol for the word KRISTOS used by the greek Christians in the first century. We'll see where God takes us, but it is an immensely exciting moment when you begin to claim your unique identity by naming it!!

Take a look...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Heart of Job

Job is a stunning book of scripture. When one peers into the torment he receives at every side all the while retaining his righteousness and 'not sin[ning] against God', you have to be amazed. His interactions with his 'friends' are quite insightful and some of the comments made in an almost 'off the cuff' fashion are theologically rich and inspiring.

A verse that struck me today (and I have read the book of Job many times) was this verse in chapter 23. It is verse 12
"I have not departed from the commands of [God's] lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread."

Suddenly a huge area of the life and heart of Job is unveiled for me and I can see maybe one central foundational reason for his ability to endure incomparable suffering, all the while remaining a worshiper of God. He lived upon the word of God, he loved it, fed on it, no even feasted upon it! His mind was formed by the truth of God's promises and guarded with the assurance of His goodness and faithfulness.

We Western Christians do not suffer at all well today, we are barely any different to people who do not have our faith. This is a terrible tragedy and causes a lost world to turn away in confusion. Is one of the main reasons we suffer so down to our lack of hunger for the wholesome, soul-strengthening truth of God's word/
That question is almost rhetorical because I am certain that is so.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Office Visitor

You know you're blessed when you get a visit at the office by someone as wonderful as this little dude!


The Vital Link

The Cross without the Resurrection is an incomplete gospel, the two are vitally linked:

"The cross and the resurrection of Jesus belong together. They should never have been divorced into separate and all but hermetically-sealed components of dogmatic theology. It is not the cross which saves. It is Jesus, crucified and risen. 'Jesus was put to death for our offences and raised for our justification' (Rom 4: 25). And because this link has been so often lost sight of, our grasp on both cross and resurrection has been weakened. How could the death of a self-styled messianic figure avail for anyone - if God had not raised Him from the dead. And what is the resurrection but god's vindication of that suffering figure who dies in ignominy on the public gallows... they belong together."
- Michael Green


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Exquisite Breakdown of Anti-Theological Mindset

Christianity is attacked from within and without in one area most certainly. It is the area of Theology. Bring it up and almost everyone has some presupposed reaction to it. It tends to lead to a very airy-fairy faith within the church and a blatant, "This is anti-tolerance" (the God of the Age) response from outside.

Michael Green in the book I am reading (The Empty Cross) gives a fantastic breakdown of this cultural milieu (in the context of Theological Study) and I thought I'd share it

"The modern theologian is not exempt from the pressures of ordinary modern society. There is a great tendency towards universalism in a world that makes God in its own tolerant image. There is a tendency towards syncretism in a world that has shrunk to a global multi-faith village. There is a tendency towards secularism: with both the historic faith and future hope soft-pedaled in so much modern theology, Christianity is frequently presented in terms of love alone. And finally, there is an ever growing tendency towards indifferentism.
Alongside a shrinking world, a shrinking hold on biblical revelation, a growing ecumenism, goes a declining interest in doctrine. It derives, as we have seen, from the philosophical question of the absolute and contradiction. Truth is relative. The black I see and the white you see are no longer contradictory: they are complementary. Heaven and hell are all one, for truth is no longer objective. Doctrine is arrived at, both in politics and religion, largely by head counts: norms have degenerated into what most people of good sense and good will approve.


Father or Judge

I was struck while bringing my sermon to a conclusion this past Sunday morning by the concept of meeting God as your Father or as your Judge on the final day.
What struck me was linking it with my ongoing prayers about my little boy Malachi.
Something I often pray is that our relationship will always be one if intimacy and Father-Sonship. Let me explain.

What I do not want to happen is my son starting to live in a way that I cannot, as a follower of Jesus, support or champion. This does not mean I stop loving him at all, but it will mean that our relationship will know a different context. He will know me as someone who is not only his father but as someone that has a desire for a level of morality within him that is not being fulfilled and he may be destroying his (and others) life.

I long that in many years time when he is out of the house far more than he is in it, he will return to the door every time aware of our impending embrace and reunion. I do not want it to be very different where he actually returns to the door carrying the consciousness that I can neither condone or embrace his activity as a man. I hope you get my point.

Now I consider this scenario magnified to an infinite degree when each of us meets the Father. How will I meet Him? How will you meet Him? What will be the overwhelmingly all-encompassing consciousness within your heart? Will He be Father or Judge?


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Love & Justice

As I had mentioned in an earlier Blog, this is the pivotal weekend in the history of the Christian faith, and this week I am preaching on the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Here is another quote from some materials I am reading to prepare. (Please note I would not have as high a view of the free will of man as this author)

"Love does not override either the Holiness of God or the freewill of men. people sometimes ask how a loving God can send even Adolf Hitler to hell. The love of God does not send anyone to hell. The love of God, with arms extended a cross, bars the way to hell. But if that love is ignored, rejected and finally refused, there comes a time when love can only weep while man pushes past into the self-chosen alienation which Christ went to the cross to avert. God sends nobody to hell. But it takes two to make a friendship. If man firmly and repeatedly refuses the proffered hand of God, God will honour and ratify that man's decision to live to himself and die by himself. God respects our free will even in the hell of our own choosing."

Love & Justice, one does not overwhelm the other in some giant wrestling bout so there is a 'you win' tap out. They must, and always will, work in unison in the workings of our Holy King.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meaningless without Personal Response

Any idea of what was achieved at the cross, how it was done or why it was done is meaningless without a personal response. This is a point made by Michael Green in his book The Empty Cross of Jesus.

Here was William Barclay's response

"One thing I know-- that because of Jesus Christ and because of what He is and did and does, my whole relationship with God is changed. Because of Jesus Christ I know that God is my father and friend. Daily and hourly I experience the fact that I can enter into His presence with confidence and with boldness. He is no longer my enemy; He is no longer even my judge. There is no longer an unbridgeable gulf between Him and me. I am more at home with Him than with any human being in the world. And all this is because of Jesus Christ, and it could not possibly have happened without Him."
(Crucified and Crowned).

What's your response?


New testament Unity on the Cross

This week in the Christian Calendar celebrates the central event of our faith. Basically, if you do not get the Cross you do not get Christianity. With that in mind, our church is doing a series called '72' The Three Days that Changed the World. We will focus on the crucifixion of Christ this week. O the glorious death of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world.

Here are some thoughts from an author I am reading both for help in preparation but also for my own soul (Thanks to Lorraine, you know who you are, for buying this one for me). It is called The Empty Cross of Jesus by Michael Green. These insights are regarding the unified testimony of the New testament Authors on the cross of Jesus.

"[It is plain from a] survey of what the New testament writers have to say about the significance of Calvary, that it is a many-splendoured thing. There is a remarkable harmony in the central thesis, and remarkable diversity in the ways that the different writers look at the cross. Here we see supremely the love of God for sinful men and women who are lost, alienated from Him by sin, and are in a plight from which they could never extricate themselves. Salvation depends on what God has done for us in the Christ who is both human and divine. He silenced sin's accusing voice. He removed sin's guilt. He broke sin's power. He made satisfaction where we could not. He reversed Adam's fall. He defeated Satan. He rose as conqueror over the Last Enemy. He makes us partners of His life. He calls us to a share in this cross as well as in His triumph. And He teaches us that all eternity will be too short to understand the profundity of the salvation wrought by the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Saviour of the world."

Take that in, ruminate upon it and gaze in wonder at the mysterious truth of God dying for man!