Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Christian should always be looking at that

(The Christian's) whole out look upon everything that happens to (him) should be governed by three things: my realization of who i am, my consciousness of where i am going, and me knowledge of what awaits me when i get there. You will find this argument in many places in Scripture. The apostle Paul once put it like this, 'our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;while we look not at the things that are seen but at the things that are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.' (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) The Christian should always be looking at that.
Martin Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol 1, P 144

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas: Wake Up!

In the middle of winter, being woken up by the sun feels like a distant dream. At the moment i watch the day slowly dawn as i read the Bible in the morning, and, on very bad days, while i'm driving my wife to school sometime later that morning. But there's something wonderful about sunrise, something hope filled, something refreshing about seeing the sunrise, something significant.

And because the Gospel is true, we should expect everything in the natural world to be filled with significance. This was clearly Malachi's point of view, when he described the coming of Christ like the rising of the sun. And there's lots of ways that's true. The sun brings hope, healing, help, security and joy, just like Christ's coming does.

But i think there's something else that Christ being like the sun does as well. It wakes us up. Malachi ministered in such a depressing time in the history of Israel. Not as bad as the times of the Judges perhaps, and in some senses better than the exile itself, but not by much. The people had returned the the promised land, free from captivity. As good students of Moses, they'd have known what to expect next. A glorious temple and a glorious kingdom, and they got neither. The temple was ok, but nothing in comparison to the old one, and as for the kingdom, they'd gone from being a world power to a provincial backwater.

And worse, they were asleep spiritually. The people offered the blind and sick animals in sacrifice, and the priests let them. Few took God's Word seriously. Worship had become wearisome to the people. There were few who were faithful, few who heeded Malachi's call. They were asleep, and they needed the sun. And the sun is the prescription for all our ills. We need to stop chasing the darkness away and open the windows.

If we're asleep, our prescription is the same. If tithing seems like madness to us, we need to be woken up. We need to remember that we have no earthly city, we have to remember that what we earn belongs to God anyway, we have to remember that our faith is seen as we serve God not money. As the sun rises, we hold money cheaper.

If worship is a weariness, we need the sun to warm us up. We need to remember our riches in Christ, our salvation from sin, our union with the Son of God. We need the sun to warm us up until we sing. And worship isn't just singing. We need to be woken up so that we live our whole lives as if the Gospel is true. So that what we read in the Bible stays with us, and changes us. we ned to bathe in the sun until we sing.

If we struggle to take the Bible seriously, we need to open our eyes and be dazzled by the sun. We need to ask for help every morning to see what's really there. And just like an eye doctor is glorified when we ask for help to see the sun, so God the Father is glorified when we ask for help to see the Son. And those are the prayers He loves to answer.

This is the healing we need. To give, to sing, to see. We need to be weaned off the dark, cold air, which we're told to desire, which we're told is safe, and come out into the light. We need to leap like calfs, because the Son of God has come, and He shines on us in all His glory.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas: Refiners Fire

Malachi was written during the most depressing time of Israel's history. Not the darkest, that honour goes to Judges or Lamentations, but definitely the most depressing. The Hebrews had returned from exile, been blessed with Godly leaders and rebuilt a temple, but still the people sinned, still they offered blind animals in the temple, still they married the daughters of a foreign God.

There's a depressing familiarity about all that isn't there? Your author has been blessed with loving parents, world class training, a faithful wife, and types this from an office on a million dollar campus, but he still sins, he still shows unfaithfulness, ingratitude and laziness whenever he feels like he can get away with it. And the same is true (to a greater or lesser extent) of you too.

So what's to be done? Malachi tells us. And the answer is not found in religious activity, nor moral relativism, nor a government programme, the answer is a person. This person will suddenly come to His temple, He'll turn up one day and throw out the money changers. This person is the messenger of the covenant, He has made promises to the Sons of Jacob that He will keep. And He's like refining fire.

Fire. Bad news. Fire is a terror, as Smoky the Bear reminds us every summer. Fire will burn up the alloy, and since we're all alloy, we need some good news. The good news? That sweet word, refiners. Yes we're alloy, but there's silver to be made, when we are refined.

So Christ comes to refine us. He comes to end our false worship, our spiritual adultery, our lazy sins. He comes to burn up the things in life that displease Him. He comes to help us live by the Spirit, He comes to help us choose the narrow way. He comes to save, and to sanctify. He has saved us from the penalty of sin, and He is saving us from the power of sin. Slowly but surely those joy killing weeds in our hearts are being burned up. Slowly but surely sin looks less and less attractive, and Jesus more and more.

This is the hope that Malachi held out to the faithful remnant. There won't always be blind and sick animals being sacrificed. There won't always be priests who lead their people astray, Judah won't always be a forgotten backwater, God will keep His promises. The Christ will come, committed to His people, and save them from sin.

And it's that same hope that the whole Bible holds out for us this morning. We won't always sin. One day, we'll be with the Lord, and sin will be, well, not even a memory. But before then, be encouraged, that the Lord is so committed to your happy holiness, to your refinement that He not only lived to make it happen, but He died to make it happen.

Monday, 1 December 2014

We Have No Authority Save This Book

There is nothing more important in Christian life than the way in which we approach the Bible, and the way in which we read it. It is our textbook, it is our only source, our only authority. We know nothing about God and the Christian life in a true sense apart from what we read in the Bible. We can draw various deductions from nature (and possibly by mystical experiences) by which we can arrive at a belief in a supreme creator. But i think it is agreed by all Christians, and it has been traditional throughout the long history of the Church, that we have no authority save this book. We can not rely solely on subjective experiences, because there are evil spirits as well as good spirits; there are counterfeit experiences. Here, in the Bible is our sole authority. 

D.Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Vol I, P10

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today, i'm thankful for;

My salvation. It should come first, it's the foundation for everything else.

My marriage. Seven years ago this week i first told Rachel, 'i love you.' I've not regretted one moment since.

The Church. The global body of believers who love Jesus and will one day be with Him.

My church. I love Trinity.

The Bible. Nourishment, joy and hope every morning.

My Bible. I use the ESV Readers Bible, and i recommend it to you.

My family. I love my parents and my sister, and i'm thankful i get to be their son and brother.

My in-laws. Who welcome me in, love me, and put up with my cheap West Virginia jokes.

My wife. I love her heart, her compassion and her desire to do all things well.

My new house. Perfect for us, a mercy from God.

My ministry. A joy and a responsibility to work with teens day in and day out. One that i love, and i love them.

Trinity Christian School. It thrills my heart to see what the Lord is doing here.

God's love is steadfast and enduring. And the more i know myself, the more i understand how it must endure.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Why Does Each Gospel Sound Different?

The first four books of the New Testament report the same Gospel account, but from four different perspectives. They give the same message with differing but perfectly harmonious emphases. Matthew presents Jesus as the sovereign, whereas Mark presents Him in the extreme opposite role as servant. Luke presents Him as the Son of Man, whereas John presents Him as the Son of God. The same Jesus is shown to be both sovereign God and servant man.  

In presenting the sovereignty of Jesus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the genealogy of the Lord - going back to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people through King David, Israel model King. In presenting Jesus' servanthood, Mark gives no genealogy at all, because a servant's lineage is irrelevant. In presenting Jesus as the Son of Man, Luke traces his genealogy back to the first man, Adam. In presenting Jesus as the divine Son of God, John gives no human genealogy or birth and childhood narratives. He opens up his Gospel, by giving, as it were, Jesus divine genealogy: 'in the beginning was the Word, as the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' 

John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, pp xi-xii

Friday, 21 November 2014

Like Elijah

I've come to love James' letter over the last couple of months. We've just finished fourteen weeks going through it in Teen Church at Trinity. It's part Sermon on the Mount, part Amos, part Isaiah, all Jesus. I suppose, since it's in the Bible, it would be. It's a letter that gets in your face and forces you to deal with things you'd rather not, it's a book to challenge, and to encourage.

Near the end of the letter, written to struggling, dispersed, Christians, James makes a startling comparison. An encouraging comparison. A provocative comparison. In his conclusion, as he challenges his readers to examine their faith, their prayers and their community involvement, he tells us in 5:17 that 'Elijah was a man with a nature like yours.'

Excuse me?

'Elijah was a man with a nature like yours.' In terms of provocation, and encouragement and startling the kids in the back row awake, he couldn't have chosen much better. Elijah was a man just like you. There is power in your faith, power in your prayers, just like there was for Elijah. He prayed that it wouldn't rain, and for forty months it didn't, and then he prayed that it would rain, and it did.

'Elijah was  man with a nature like yours.'  Elijah who fed the hungry and healed the sick and raised the dead. Elijah who faced down the prophets of Baal, Elijah, to whom and through whom God worked wonderful things. James doesn't tell us that 'a king who you can barely remember' had a nature like ours, or 'that minor prophet whose book you skip ober,' had a nature like yours. He says Elijah.

So stop wishing that you had faith like that man, and realise that through and in Christ you have something better. Your nature is just like his, and he longed to know what you. Stop assuming your prayers bounce off the ceiling, and pray in faith, knowing that Christ's name is the signature on your dirty cheque, and God is listening. Struggling, dispersed Christian; stop doubting the power of your prayers, and pray with faith.

Be encouraged, Elijah...Elijah! was a man with a nature like yours!