Tuesday, 27 July 2010

much ado about nothing

The disagreement between theism and atheism is a disagreement about who made the world. The New Athiests talk about humanistic evolution time+ chance= life as we know it. Chance though isn't really a thing it is a way of describing nothing. In Jonathan Edwards day he said there were only two possibilties for the origin of the universe God or Nothing. John Gersnter the Edward's scholar explains: 
'In other words, either that which is has come from Nothing or from God. The choice is between God and Nothing.
It seems self-evident that if everything came from God or Nothing, it must have come from God. God or Nothing leaves only one choice-God. It would seem that if God has no competitor but Nothing, he has nothing for a competitor. "God or Nothing" and "only God" are synonymous expressions.' He goes on to cite Edwards "'Nothing is the same thing that sleeping rocks dream of". He would say that if one thinks he knows what Nothing is, he has rocks in his head. He also called it "the dreadful contradiction." 'John Gerstner-The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards p.123

Sunday, 18 July 2010

In all things love

One of my favourite quotes is usually attributed to Augustine of Hippo but more likely comes from Richard Baxter.

In essentials unity
In non-essentials liberty
and in all things love.

I like this quote as it sums up how to live out truth in a sinful fallen world.

There are some issues that we need to divide over theologically. For example, Martin Luther said Justification by Faith Alone was the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. It is one issue by which the Church stands of falls but there are others. The authority of Scripture, the Gospel, the Deity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity are all good examples. Those people who differ with us on these issues are non-Christians and so any relationship with them that we develop is one as a witness to the truth of the gospel. This includes Roman Catholics, liberals, J. W's, Mormons, etc.

As a Baptist living in John Knox's Scotland, there are many of my friends who I passionately disagree with on the issue of baptism but this is a non-essential issue so we can discuss it as brothers. Any discussion  that we have on a non-essential is an in-house debate and we can have fellowship in the gospel.

The call of a Christian is a call to love everyone no matter how much we disagree. Whilst we should recognise the theological heresies of cults and cultists and disagree with the alternative morals of those who live as non-believers, we are to do this not as their judge but as a fellow sinner pointing the way to the Redeemer.

Stephen <><

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

what kind of love is this?

When you think of the love of God what kind of love do you think of? When I met my wife she ticked all my boxes, her long dark hair her brown eyes and her tanned skin. Her curves, her smile, her laughter, more than any of that we could talk and talk, a connection greater than any I ever had before. If I was to tell you that the love I have for Joy is like God's love for us then I would be wrong.
God's love is something entirely different about 19 months ago Joy was asleep after eight hours in hospital in complete agony. In the room was a screaming blue/ grey alien looking creature with blotches of blood all over, it didn't look good at all. I was emotional exhausted after watching the pain that Joy had gone through and being unable to do anything about it. The blue/grey creature was someone I didn't love because of the way she looked, or because of the connection we had. Our relationship at that moment consisted in nothing but her screams, she wasn't aware of me, she wasn't interested in anything but herself. Yet at that moment in spite of the situation Joy was in, in spite of the way this creature loved the only emotion I was feeling was love, unconditional love. I didn't love Hannah on the basis of anything she had done but purely because she was my daughter and I was her father.  God loves us because He loves us because He loves us, we showed no interest in Him, and we had nothing in us that would make us attractive to God, yet He loves us.
As for my little girl, they pumped some air into her and wiped her off and I saw that she was beautiful, and that is another illustration in itself.

God Bless
Stephen <>< 

Friday, 9 July 2010

who else can I tell.

Before my little girl Hannah was born, Joy gave me a list of all the people I would need to ring to tell them about the birth. As a guy I avoid ringing people like the plague so this seemed like a  really big chore to me. In fact I remember saying that I have to do everything in this pregnancy (that was a joke)! 

Hannah was born at 8:01pm and I stayed until after 11:00 kissed my girls good night and returned home. I rang my mom and my brother and then as it was 11:50 I rang Joy's family in Colorado, I was excited to them the good news. I worked my way through the list and my next response was, "who else can I tell"? It was 1:30am Christmas morning so I put the details on here, and then thought who else can I tell? So I put the details on facebook! I went to bed that night very excited, in the morning I woke up at 5:10am not even slightly tired and my first thought was 'who else can I tell' at a more reasonable hour I rang the rest of my family and started to work my way through the church directory. When I had exhausted this I still had a couple of hours before I could visit the hospital but I was bursting with excitement. When I saw to strangers talking in the street the one asked the other, did you get anything good for Christmas, I piped in, "I did I had a little girl". This news was good news and I couldn't keep it in, in John 4 we are told of the Samaritan woman, she was an outcast of outcasts and went to the well in the middle of the day. This is an unusual time of day to go and the reason is probably so she can avoid the other women who looked down on her. Then she met Jesus who told her everything she had done, he exposed her sin but He showed Her love and told her about Himself. She went excitedly into the village to tell the good news about Jesus, asking if this man could be the Messiah. If you are a Christian you know Jesus is the Messiah and know that He has forgiven you for your sins, this is good news. Good news is exciting, I wonder do you ask yourself, who else can I tell? 

Shalom <><

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Holy, Holy, Holy- various contributors

I have received this book from the Reformation Trust to review, I am not obliged to give a positive review:
In the opening of this book, R C Sproul tells how an introduction to some of the great theologians at college brought him into contact with people who had a profound understanding of God. He writes, ‘I discovered one strand that ran through the works of all these men—they were intoxicated by a profound sense of the majesty and of the holiness of God.’ The same thing it true about R. C Sproul and all of the authors of this book hence the title and the conference from which it is drawn. One of the blessings we are receiving from the resurgence of Calvinism in our day is a greater awareness of who God is and through that a greater awareness of our sinfulness and of God’s amazing grace in saving us.

In this book we are treated to several of the leading reformed evangelical pastors and teachers exploring different aspects of holiness. Sinclair Ferguson for example takes us into the garden with Jesus where we get to see Jesus’ great emotional desire to be with the Father and to share the Father and the Son’s glory with his disciples, this is the greatest thing that we shall ever experience.
Alistair Begg writes about the departure of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit in the fourth chapter. He reminds us beautifully of the unity that Jesus enjoyed with the Father, ‘When we read the Gospels carefully, we see that Jesus’ sense of intimacy with His Father, an intimacy they shared in eternity before Jesus’ incarnation, 'was pressingly meaningful and precious to Him.’p.43. Begg helpfully points out the work of the Spirit in bringing all that has been said and making it understood. It is not the work of the Spirit to bring new revelation in new and novel ways. Begg quotes Calvin on this issue, which shows that his day and ours was no different with people seeking innovation rather than illumination.

In chapter 5 Thabiti Anyabwile points out the utter sinfulness of sin against a holy God, he reminds us that God is not a kindly grandfather, or as he puts it a teddy bear, ‘God is no teddy bear. He is sharp. He has edges. His wrath pierces. His holiness consumes. Those who would commit treason against this God will have this God to deal with on that great day of reckoning.’ P.62
I find that this gets to the heart of the problem with much of contemporary evangelicalism; we do treat God like a teddy bear. This is because we do not see ourselves as we truly are in our sinfulness or God in His immense holiness.
Derek Thomas reminds us that having a high view of God’s holiness is not a badge to be worn as a doctrine but something that should be our passionate concern. This for me was the most challenging chapter in the book. I know from past experience that it is easy to let your head convince you that you are passionate about God’s holiness without it having an effect on the heart. R C Sproul Jr helps us with this as he invites us into his family worship times. He dislikes the term family devotions because it suggests to him a duty rather than something that springs from a grateful heart.

The final chapter of the book by R.C Sproul Sr takes us to the holiness of God as a gospel event; he reminds us that if God exists and is holy then he is a consuming fire. It is through understanding this and our great sin that we understand what is amazing about grace.

I knew I was going to like this book as the subject is one of my favourites and I like many of the contributors. What a great conference it must have been and what a great book!

Stephen <><

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Spurgeon on Public Prayer

Very occasionally we go away for the weekend and get the chance to visit a new church, a couple of years ago we visited a very strange church. It was evangelical but at no point in the service did the minister pray, in fact no-one prayed until the communion section which was tacked on at the end of the service.  The sermon lacked any power and the service was completly meaningless. At the time I was reading Spurgeon on public prayer and how Spurgeon said he would rather pray than preach, I emailed the pastor after we got back and asked him about the prayerlessness. He just said he was having a bad day, I am sure that was the case which suggests to me that there was more need to pray. A church without prayer is as pointless as a well without water and that is probaby a good analogy a waterless well.

I was reminded of this again as I read the chapter again yesterday and it is well worth a read, it comes from chapter 4 of Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon goes on to talk about somethings we come accross on a regular basis, prayers that are formal or even written that don't seem to be seeking to do business with God. Also eleoquent prayers that are aimed at the congregation rather than to the LORD.
'Let your confessions of sin and thanksgivings be truthful and to the point; and let your petitions be presented as if you believed in God and had no doubt as to the efficacy of prayer: I say this, because so many pray in such a formal manner as to lead observers to conclude that they throught it a very decent thing to pray, but, after all, a very poor and doubtful business as to any practical result. Pray as someone who has tried and proved his God, and therefore come with undoubting confidence to renew his pleadings: and do remember to pray to God right through the prayer.' p.59 Lectures to my Students,  my copy is published by Baker.
God Bless
Stephen <><