Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Billion Dollar Man

Last week I heard that Michael Jackson has earned a billion dollars in the year since his death, whilst this is more money than I'll ever earn it will do him no good as he can't spend a penny of it. Even if he was still in the land of the living it would not fill the longing of his heart. I don't no much about Michael Jackson, I know that he was very talented, very famous and for most of his life very rich. I also know that he was not a happy chap, he was searching for something to fill the void in his life. All his fame and money  never seemed to satisfy the longing within his heart for joy and purpose. This is not just true of Michael Jackson it seems many of the rich and famous live their lives in such a way that the myth that money, fame and success bring happiness is clearly seen for what it is a big fat lie. Yet this pursuit still continues even though it is a chasing after the wind, meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless said the preacher, everything that is under the sun. We can only find joy, lasting joy in the God who fills the emptiness within the human soul. As the preacher also said, you have set eternity in our hearts. Augustine summed this up on the very first page of his confessions, 'you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.

May you know this satisfaction, this joy unspeakable and filled with glory

Friday, 11 June 2010

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards- Steven Lawson

I have recieved this book from The Reformation Trust to review, I am not obliged to give a positive review:
I have never heard of Steven Lawson but Jonathan Edwards is always a draw as I have read many books at both an academic and popular level on Edwards as well as reading him myself. This book is at a more popular level but Lawson has drunk deep from the well that is Jonathan Edwards and so there is much to gain from reading this book.
The book starts excellently ‘Sanctification is never an elective course that a believer may or may not take. Neither is it an upper-level graduate study, required for only a few disciples. Instead, it is a core class, mandated for all Christians.
Godliness is a lifelong study for no-one graduates from the school of Christ this side of heaven.’ Wow I am hooked from the opening thought!!
Lawson is concerned to show that Edwards was not just the greatest theologian of American history but also that he stands above the rest not just because of his great intellect but because of his even greater piety. Edwards took God’s holiness seriously, it wasn’t just that Edwards was on a path to heaven but Edwards was on a path to greater and greater sanctification. Not for Edwards a dry academic faith or a sit back and wait for God type of attitude. Edwards was seriously committed to his own sanctification even though he knew he couldn’t do it on his own but was dependent on God. Lawson states,
‘This requires, as it did for Edwards, humble submission and dedication to God, all for the honor of Christ. Only in such self-denial is divine grace multiplied in one’s life.’ p 60
One of the reasons this book should be a best seller is because Lawson is committed to the same understanding as Jonathan Edwards. It is not that he has the same reformed theology as Edwards (although he clearly does) but that he has the same desire for himself and desires for us his readers to seek after God for holiness, to have the resolve of Edwards and the same loathing for own sinfulness and passion for his glory. He gives us this challenge, ‘God is looking for individuals in this generation who will rise above the status quo of contemporary Christianity and say with Edwards, “I am completely Yours.” P.60
Jonathan Edwards took God’s holiness seriously and because he took this seriously he took is own sinfulness seriously. Lawson points out that for Edwards sin was the opposite of God’s glory and as Edwards wanted to glorify God in all that he did sin needed to be conquered.
Jonathan Edwards was a passionate man, it is hard to believe sometimes as the disciplined character that he was that he was also white-hot in love with God and God’s grace. Yet Edwards was a man who knew that God loved him and this gave him a heart that was aflame with love. Lawson seeks to show us that behind the shy, social awkward man was a man who loved his neighbour intensely.
At the end of each chapter Lawson challenges us from something we have learnt from Edwards, and these are serious challenges as the Edwards who he presents to us is a man who is so earnest in his desire to please his God in all things.
Why you should read this book, firstly it is well written and a joy to read but secondly and more importantly, Lawson like Edwards is a pastor who cares for the soul. His desire in writing is not just to introduce you to Edwards but to help you in your walk with the God of Jonathan Edwards. ‘In this day, some three hundred years after Edwards’ time, there is a desperate need for a new generation to arise onto the scene of history that will prize and promote the glory of our awesome God. Beholding the soul-capturing vision of this all-supreme, all-sovereign, and all-sufficient God transforms individuals in life-altering ways.’ P.154


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Wisdom literature it ain't -The Shack

One of my favourite pictures presented in the Bible is the vision of Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6, he sees the majesty of God, the hem of the Lord's garment filling the temple. The Holy Angels cover their faces and cry, holy, holy holy is the LORD God Almighty. Scripture quite often presents us a view of God that is like that transcendent and majestic, and so holy that even sinless beings cannot look Him in the face. Isaiah himself is reduced to nothing as he sees his own sinfulness in light of God's majestic holiness.

I reluctantly bowed to pressure recently and decided to read the Shack, what a waste of paper I knew it was bad, people I trust have reviewed it and pointed out its faults but I was shocked just how bad it was. I knew about its presentation of the trinity as a trio of human beings but the picture of God the father as someone who makes rude comments about the state of the main characters underwear was more than I could bare. I made it to p.65 and will not be going any further with it. The author seems to be unaware of the greatness of God. He is seeking to answer questions of theodicy but his understanding of God is immanent but not transcendent. At one point the author equates God to the Great Spirit of Native American paganism seeing them as the same. The author through the central character criticises both the Bible and the Church but saves his biggest attack for the God who is declared to be Holy. Elouisa might have much in commn with William P Young's view of God but it is miles away from the God revealed in Scripture. When Job had questions for God his mouth was stopped when He saw God for Himself, Job said I have heard of you with my ears but now I see you face to face and I repent in dust and ashes. Job's questions disappeared in the presence of God. Young's God is not majestic and is not holy and has nothing to do with the God of the Bible.


Saturday, 5 June 2010

Christianity by the Book

I was recently shown this quote from one of the pastors here in Inverness
'The reason the church is in trouble is because it pays to much attention to a book that the early church didn't have, and ignores the Spirit that they did.'

This is quite possibly the most ignorant statement I have ever heard, it is ignorant of the problems faced by the contemporary church which leans towards ignoring the Word rather than paying it too much attention. The Bible is the word of God and as my friend who showed me the quote rightly said, ' what about 2 Tim 3:16' All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

In this text we can see that the Scripture is breathed out by God, that is Spirit inspired, the Spirit of God and the Word of God are not in competition. What we need is the Spirit to help us understand His word that we can live the way Paul encourages, living in righteousness and equipped for every good work. Both word and Spirit are necessary for life and godliness.

Secondly it is ignorant of the state of the early church, whilst it is true that the very first generation of New Testament believers didn't have the writings of the Apostles, they did have the Apostles and in Acts we find them siting under the Apostles doctrine every time they meet. Also they had the Old Testament which is still God's word, and even before the end of the Apostolic age Paul's letters were being passed around because Peter says, 2 Peter 3:14 just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

As you can see Peter and his intended audience had access to Paul's letters and Peter recognised them as having the same weight as the Old Testament writings, 'the other scriptures'.

Finally, most of the New Testament letters were written to churches that were experiencing problems because they were no longer remembering the lessons from the Apostles so the Apostles wrote to them to show them how they should be living in light of the grace they had recieved, pointing out along the way the errors that they might fall into.

Rather than overlooking the word in light of experience we need to check ourselves, our doctrine and our experience by the word, let the word speak and do its work.

Oh that we would be like the Psalmist in Psalm 1 who delights in God's law and meditated on God's word day and night.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Reformation trust blogger review program


As I have come to realise the idea of blogging for free books is only a good idea if the books are worth reading in the first place. How wonderful then that I just found out that the good folks at Ligonier have a blogger review program. This is the most exciting review program I can see as these are the publishers of R. C Sproul's books. I have many of R. C Sproul's books and I give him the credit for deepening my understanding of reformed theology and re-introducing me to Jonathan Edwards who I was initially introduced to through his Sinners sermon. In Many ways R.C is responsible under God for the growth of warm hearted Calvinism in the States and I praise God for him. Here is the link Reformation Trust. They also have Derek Thomas, Sinclair Ferguson, and even Al Mohler. Awesome, I just hope my location allows me to be accepted onto their books.

Stephen <><