Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Edwards on Christian love, giving and the poor.

In a simply excellent book I am reading through which is a thorough overview of the theology of one of the greatest Theologians to have lived, Jonathan Edwards, I have encountered these thoughts in relation to Edwards' on Christians and the poor:

"He preached to his church in Northampton that charity to the poor was a Christian duty as important as prayer or church attendance. No commandment was 'laid down in stronger terms' than the commandment of giving to the poor. It was therefore an all-important test of grace [This means a test of whether one was in grace - controversial I know!]. 'And the scripture is as plain as it is possible it should be, that none are true saints, but those whose true character it is, that they are of a disposition to pity and relieve their fellow creatures, that are poor, indigent, and afflicted.' ..."

"... Edwards practiced what he preached. His first biographer, disciple Samuel Hopkins, who lived in the Edwards home for 6 months, reported that Edwards was a stellar example of giving to the poor and usually did it secretly -- despite his having a large family to support and remaining in debt for most of his career ... Hopkins told of a time that Edwards heard of a family in another town that had fallen into poverty because the father had become sick. Edwards made arrangements to have the man receive a bundle of money without knowing its source. Among his last words on his deathbed were the following: 'May my funeral be like Mr. Burr's, without pomp and cost. Any additional sums of money, that might be expected to be laid out that way, I would have it disposed of to charitable uses.
'" - The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (519)

God has a radically open and gracious heart to the poor, as did Edwards. Do we? Does our church/es?

Sow people, sow and be God-like!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Little More on 'Paradox'

This past Sunday while taking time to speak to the people of X1 after a week filled with the sorrow, awakening, and reality of one of our dear saints I felt it necessary to attack a heresy that I feel plagues contemporary Christianity.

I quoted one of my fantastic professors from the University of Nottingham called Conor Cunningham - a man I stated has "a mind the size of Nottingham", one of those individuals whom you encounter at an intellectual level and have to use the words of Wayne and Garth (Wayne's World), "You big, me small!" - who noted that, "All heresy is birthed from an inability to live with paradox."

One of the legends at our church felt it necessary to ask me to further explain paradox after the sermon. So here's a quick help for all I hope.

The definition of Paradox is thus: A statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
The primary paradoxes of the Christian faith are Christological (fully God, fully man in one being) or Trinitarian (Three persons in one) and the major heresies in Christian history are offshoots of these two - there are of course many more.
But the heresy I was highlighting is that of a demand for the "yet to be realised" promises of glory for Christian saints to be absolutely necessary and realised in our everyday life now.
This comes from an inability to live with the paradox of the "now and not yet" (this may not in fact strictly be a paradox by definition but I considered it one for the sake of the message) reality of life as followers of Jesus today.

The context was that the godliest among us suffer and die, those most worthy of long life die at a young age, those most unworthy of death are those attacked by this venomous foe with complete effect in a totally untimely manner.
We must live with paradox. O yes, and we must be those willing enough to live with it that we shout down the pathetic heresies that may be mouthed by those nearest to us who have bought into some quasi-truth without measuring it against the absolute truth of biblical revelation.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Meaning of Marriage - Timothy Keller

Just finished The Meaning of Marriage a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful read on the dynamics and realities of marriage envisioned from a Christian perspective. Marriage is God's, it - in all humility but with biblical foundation - is a Christian idea/reality and so it is helpful that such a brilliant Christian Pastor (and his wife Kathy Keller) have given us this book.

It is definitely a 'recommended resource' for anyone in our church, Christ First Watford, whatever age, background or marital status. The authors' clarity and forthright insight into the multi-love demands of marriage and its often "seemingly impossible demands" is of notable value and will provide hugely beneficial input for all people. The authors broach so many of the integral elements of Christian love in the wonderful Christocentric (cutting through the extremities in which so many people in our time approach marriage and erotic love) style that makes Tim Keller almost peerless at times.

I certainly suggest this as a read. I sense it, if read in humility and openess, will demand reassessment of how we understand marriage and perhaps even a humble stepping down from any lofty position we may have assumed in our marriages. It is a read that will, if taken on board and ingested, place demand upon you to be a more Christlike husband or wife or future husband or wife pursuing biblical marriage within biblical community. That must be a good reason to give it a thorough read!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Edwards' Balm to the Grieving Heart

As briefly exposed in an earlier post this week, June 21st the day of much light was plagued with a heavy, hurtful darkness as a dear brother from X1 passed away. My co-elder expressed in an email to our worship team yesterday the thought that every element of our gathering tomorrow as a people would be reoriented "in light of the passing of our precious brother into Glory." What a beautiful way of embodying in words the truth of the fruit of the death of a lover of Jesus, and who better to turn to to enforce and seal such a sweet truth than the beauty-centric theologian Jonathan Edwards. He writes in a simply remarkable sermon on I Corinthians 13 entitled, "Heaven a World of Love"
There are many principles contrary to love, that make this world like a tempestuous sea. Selfishness, and envy, and revenge, and jealousy, and kindred passions keep life on earth in a constant tumult, and make it a scene of confusion and uproar, where no quiet rest is to be enjoyed except in renouncing this world and looking to another. But oh! what rest is there in that world which the God of peace and love fills with his own gracious presence, and in which the Lamb of God lives and reigns, filling it with the brightest and sweetest beams of his love; where there is nothing to disturb or offend, and no being or object to be seen that is not surrounded with perfect amiableness and sweetness; where the saints shall find and enjoy all that they love, and so be perfectly satisfied; where there is no enemy and no enmity; but perfect love in every heart and to every being; where there is perfect harmony among all the inhabitants, no one envying another, but everyone rejoicing in the happiness of every other; where all their love is humble and holy, and perfectly Christian, without the least carnality or impurity; where love is always mutual and reciprocated to the full; where there is no hypocrisy or dissembling, but perfect simplicity and sincerity; where there is no treachery, or unfaithfulness, or inconstancy, or jealousy in any form; where there is no clog or hindrance to the exercises or expressions of love, no imprudence or indecency in expressing it, and no influence of folly or indiscretion in any word or deed; where there is no separation wall, and no misunderstanding or strangeness, but full acquaintance and perfect intimacy in all; where there is no division through different opinions or interests, but where all in that glorious and loving society shall be most nearly and divinely related, and each shall belong to every other, and all shall enjoy each other in perfect prosperity and riches, and honor, without any sickness, or grief, or persecution, or sorrow, or any enemy to molest them, or any busybody to create jealousy or misunderstanding, or mar the perfect, and holy, and blessed peace that reigns in heaven! And all this in the garden of God — in the paradise of love, where everything is filled with love, and everything conspires to promote and kindle it, and keep up its flame, and nothing ever interrupts it, but everything has been fitted by an all-wise God for its full enjoyment under the greatest advantages forever! And all, too, where the beauty of the beloved objects shall never fade, and love shall never grow weary nor decay, but the soul shall more and more rejoice in love forever! Oh! what tranquillity will there be in such a world as this! And who can express the fullness and blessedness of this peace! What a calm is this! How sweet, and holy, and joyous! What a haven of rest to enter, after having passed through the storms and tempests of this world, in which pride, and selfishness, and envy, and malice, and scorn, and contempt, and contention, and vice, are as waves of a restless ocean, always rolling, and often dashed about in violence and fury! What a Canaan of rest to come to, after going through this waste and howling wilderness, full of snares, and pitfalls, and poisonous serpents, where no rest could be found! And oh! what joy will there be, springing up in the hearts of the saints, after they have passed through their wearisome pilgrimage, to be brought to such a paradise as this! Here is joy unspeakable indeed, and full of glory — joy that is humble, holy, enrapturing, and divine in its perfection! Love is always a sweet principle; and especially divine love. This, even on earth, is a spring of sweetness; but in heaven it shall become a stream, a river, an ocean! All shall stand about the God of glory, who is the great fountain of love, opening, as it were, their very souls to be filled with those effusions of love that are poured forth from his fullness, just as the flowers on the earth, in the bright and joyous days of spring, open their bosoms to the sun, to be filled with his light and warmth, and to flourish in beauty and fragrancy under his cheering rays.
Enjoy my dear friend! Simon

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Death: 'Sting' and 'Effect'

Today is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the day in which we in the United Kingdom are to experience the greatest amount of light in a twenty four hour period. Although for a precious family whom, like me, are from the Southern Hemisphere this day will most certainly be long, very long, but there will be not much light in their life. Why, you might ask. Today the Chemabus family lost their daddy, husband and friend. Today the darkness of death descended upon such a light-filled family. This dear man and his family were unequivocally the most God-loving family I have had the joy to encounter. His life radiated the love of God and was permeated by an 'aura' of one who was Enoch-like in his being constantly with the Lord.

You may rightfully question the apparent gloom with which I have written above. The often accusative finger would point out that surely we Christians are those who should be most full of hope when one whom we love has passed. Can I respond by saying a resounding "yes and Amen" to that! I, his lovely wife, my wife, my co-elder and the beautiful X1 church family will boldly proclaim with valiant assurance that our dear friend is resting in peace indescribable, and is filled with joy unimaginable in the presence of his dearest friend and most loving brother the lord Jesus Christ. NO ONE else has this hope, hope is Christianity's sole prerogative and we will stand in that. Death for us followers of Christ has "lost its sting." But...

Death has not lost its effect. One whom we embraced, one who always charged us to pray, who was an ever-present at every occasion in the life of this family of God's people, one who encouraged many with relentless energy, one who brought immense joy and strength to his wife and family is no longer with us. This rests with rightful sombreness upon us. I think we can often kid ourselves that we deserve in some sense that pain and sorrow and loss shall never come our way because we 'love Jesus.' But that, if I may be forthright, is downright stupid, shallow and in no way reflects truth. Hope is the mighty measure of our faith precisely because we live in a world which is real, broken, and saturated with pain within which we need such hope.

So we rest in hope - the sting of death is hopelessness, apathy, end - but we grieve, we reflect, we contemplate and, and what, we pray and love with deed not just word.

Rest in Peace my dear brother Humphrey Chemabus, I wait with great expectancy till the day we shall meet again. Until then I will seek to be as prayerful and Godly as you, because you were always a model of that to me!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jonathan Edwards on the 'minister.'

A little taste of Jonathan Edwards' thoughts on a minister/pastor/church leader;

"If the minister is to be successful watching over his flock, he must be a man of 'holy ardour. It is not enough to have 'speculative knowledge or opinions, or outward morality or forms of religion.' True faith 'is an ardent thing with true spiritual comfort or joy.' The heart of the good minister 'blazes with divine love or charity,' which is 'a holy flame enkindled in the soul.' He will likely suffer reproaches and defeats if he preaches the true gospel, but he will still have an inner power that comes from the 'participation in the divine nature',' which is a divine principle -- 'the life of a risen Saviour, who exerts himself in the hearts' of all true saints and their ministers. The Saviour will within will inspire a love to both Christ and human souls. That love will produce a fervour or zeal that animates the minister's prayer, preaching, exercise of church discipline and counselling.

A life of secret prayer is what keeps the inner flame growing brightly. Ministers 'should be much in seeking God, and conversing with him by prayer who is the fountain of light and love.'"

Quoted from The Theology of Jonathan Edwards, McClymond and McDermot (2011)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New Home

So the LJ family have finally moved into their own home. That is not necessarily true I feel I need to state to all, "You need to own a home to be somewhat human" fanatics, as the bank certainly owns a more significant portion of it than my wife and I. But we are now actually paying off a mortgage which apparently is a good state in which to be in the UK.

I've not ever been a homebuyer type of guy and in fact it has been a major part of the marriage narrative between my wife and I that I've had the view that I've had. I think growing up somewhere like Zimbabwe and leaving your home with a couple of suitcases and some cash - twice! (I left America the same way) - causes you to place minimal emphasis on owning your own property. One is delighted with 'having a ceiling over your head' rather than actually owning said ceiling. But, there is a state of peace that has come upon us as a family even in these early days that is different to what I've felt before and I must admit I enjoy it.

There is always the latent 'concern' in my heart that having such an investment will in someway hinder a radical openness to the total-life-giving call of God, but I guess I need to trust that my love for Him, inspired by His great love for me will serve to powerfully undermine even a 'love' for something as significant as my own home. I hope so.

Back to Blogging

So, as you most likely would have guessed I have taken a totally unacceptable extended break from blogging of late. Multiple factors have contributed to this aside from the laziness of which you are rightfully accusing me.

Firstly, is the transition from two to three children - wow! Several people had informed us that this transition would make a significant impact to our lives and whoa were they spot on. It doesn't help in any way whatsoever that our 11 month old is as energetic, life-filled and active as the older two. Two kids were something we seemed to be able to handle individually as husband or wife quite well on our own but three seems to have pushed us over some organisational cliff-edge and we are still adapting 11 months in. Secondly, we've moved about three times in 12 months, not fun, unsettling and certainly quite demanding. Thirdly, is that I have been putting a HUGE number of reading hours into a Masters Degree in Theology, Philosophy and Literature at the University of Nottingham - more of the fruit of that to come I assure you. Finally, is the demands of leading a church all the while longing to be a faithful, time-giving husband and dad. That balance is an ongoing transition for me and some of the things I was able to incorporate early on I've not given the time I've wanted to in order to focus on my one and my three.

I hope to be back on now, and I hope to really get to putting stuff up here that will be a blessing, challenge, inspiration and insight to all that dare to give it the time.