The type of faith everyone wants

I just read this challenging description of our faith, which is gifted to us by our gracious God, and felt compelled to pass it on. It’s good to remember that the ‘world’ is not a faceless entity. It is  made of lost people who need a Saviour and hope! We have the faith they need!

“The world is desperate for a faith that combines two things: awestruck apprehension of unshakable divine Truth, and utterly practical, round-the-clock power to make a liberating difference in life. That is what I want too. Which is why I am a Christian.

There is a great God of grace who magnifies his own infinite self-sufficiency by fulfilling promises to helpless people who trust him. And there is a power that comes from prizing this God that leaves no nook and cranny of life untouched. It empowers us to love in the most practical ways.”

From Future Grace by John Piper, p. 259

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The Peace of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Peace-With-God“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16

There is much comfort from the promises of the Bible which tell us that if we are in Christ we have forgiveness, we have peace with God. (Romans 5:1, Romans 14:17, Philippians 4:7, John 14:27, Galatians 5:22, Colossians 3:15)
This next verse in the Three Sixteen series points us to Jesus, the Lord of peace, the Prince of Peace. If Peace were a country then Jesus is its royal head of State! And from Jesus this peace flows in every direction, at all times and in many different situations.

But why do we need this peace of Christ? Peace is something you only need when there is a time of war, stress, unrest, anxiety, a lack of peace. And such is our natural unpeaceful state apart from Christ.

The peace He brings works on 3 levels:
1. Peace with God.
When we bow to him as Lord we move from enmity with our Creator to a state of peace. Our sin, that the Holy one cannot look upon, has been dealt with in Christ. God’s wrath is removed. We are at peace with Him. This is the greatest treasure in the whole wide world: peace with God! In Christ it is as though a legal or political declaration has been stamped on us. A peace treaty has been signed for us by Christ. He has made peace for us by His blood shed at the Cross.

2. Peace in ourselves.
We need the peace of Christ not just for forgiveness but for each moment. We must choose to let the peace of Christ reign on the throne of our hearts, rather than our sinful desires. Even if we are in Christ we can still lack a sense of peace, due to the ‘wars’ that rage both around and within us in this fallen world. Sinful desires compete within us. But Jesus offers us peace for the moment, applicable to different times and places. Anxiety about health, the future, our children, a car accident, an exam….all can be met with the soothing balm of peace given by Christ. We can respond with a quiet confidence. He is our peace, and He gives us peace. He gives us purpose and wisdom to deal with our innermost conflicts. Sometimes just remembering the name of Christ is enough to bring peace to anxious hearts. He is an anchor for our souls, a mighty fortress, a refuge.

3. Peace with others.
Christian brothers and sisters still have their troubles and conflicts, despite their best intentions and the fact they are united in Christ. In this area the peace of Christ is also called on, to help us live what we are, to sort out our differences and make peace between us.

2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”

So today whatever troubles are with you, look to the Lord of Peace, and He will give you rest.

The Basin and the Towel

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
Mark 10-:29-30

When we are saved into Christ we are saved into community, a community of believers. This is a great promise from Mark 10. Even if we lose many things in order to own the name of Christ we gain so much more. We gain family! We gain relationship. We gain brothers and sisters in Christ. (And yes, we gain persecutions, though that is not the topic for today so I’ll just leave it to the side). As we serve one another, we grow relationships, we grow bridges between us – between people who would naturally be enemies of each other. Christ’s love makes it possible to serve and love one another. Songwriter Michael Card beautifully sums up this “call to community”, demonstrated by Christ in his earthly ministry. The call is now to us as his followers, to grow community in our churches by taking up the basin and the towel. I hope you have the time to chew over the lyrics below and reflect on your own attitude towards serving and growing community. (I know mine needs work.) The “servant’s bow” is a fragile bridge (see the bridge section below). Blessings! (Read more on Christian community here)

The Basin and the Towel (Michael Card)

In an upstairs room, a parable is just about to come alive.
And while they bicker about who’s best,
with a painful glance, He’ll silently rise.
Their Savior Servant must show them how
through the will of the water
and the tenderness of the towel.

Chorus:
And the call is to community,
The impoverished power that sets the soul free.
In humility, to take the vow,
that day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.

In any ordinary place,
on any ordinary day,
the parable can live again
when one will kneel and one will yield.
Our Saviour Servant must show us how
through the will of the water
and the tenderness of the towel.

bridge:
And the space between ourselves sometimes
is more than the distance between the stars.
By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow
we take up the basin and the towel.

(chorus)

You can look up sheet music for this song at the link below:

http://store.michaelcard.com/thebasinandthetowel-sheetmusic.aspx

The power of a foolish Cross – and how to make the most of it

Cross“The message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Making the Most of the Cross” (2011, Matthias media) is a book which gets right to the heart of Christianity, the Cross of Jesus Christ. It takes us on a tour of the riches God offers us at the Cross, and how to make the most of them, to grow our confidence in God. In less than 100 pages of fairly large print, author John Chapman examines two main topics: the death of Jesus and His resurrection.  Chapman writes in a simple yet engaging manner, with the clever wit of a seasoned preacher and evangelist.  He explains fully, yet clearly and in short chapters, who Jesus was and why he had to die. It is an excellent book for Christians to read, to revisit the basics of the Gospel and be challenged again by the grace of God. But it is also especially good for newcomers to the faith. It would make a great companion for home reading in conjunction with a course like ‘Christianity Explained’, ‘Christianity Explored’ or ‘Introducing God’ – or simply for extra reading for someone new to Jesus and the message of the Cross. Each chapter contains plenty of discussion from the big story of the bible to help people grasp God’s redemptive plan and how it is fulfilled in Jesus. There is a suggested short prayer at the end of each chapter, to pull together and apply what has been discussed.

For Chapman, Jesus’ death is “unique, unrepeatable and sufficient for all who turn to him” (p24). Chapman impresses on his readers that salvation is at the heart of what Jesus was about. Along the way he is not afraid to discuss God’s wrath (the reason we need salvation!) and to answer common objections, such as the belief that God is a vindictive child abuser (p26): “The Father did not force any punishment upon the Son; the Son himself chose to bear it on our behalf because of His love for us. That is anything but child abuse.” Jesus’ death turns away God’s anger, brings the defeat of Satan and justifies sinners. God is just, He punishes sin and love sinners. These are the clear concepts Chapman wants to reinforce.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 7 which explored the way ‘Jesus’ death is the unifying force in the Christian community’. He says we are “made acceptable to one another because of Christ. . . Understanding this truth is wonderfully liberating. We are free to be ourselves. There is no need to pretend. It doesn’t matter what you find out about my past, or what I might discover about yours. It is all deal with in the death of Jesus. That is the basis of acceptability. We are all sinners saved by grace.”
He then challenges us to apply this to how we treat others, to conduct radical surgery on our thinking, to accept and love others even (especially?) when it’s incovenient.

The second half of the book looks at the Resurrection across seven chapters. Of particular interest was his discussion of our ‘resurrection bodies’  This is a pretty difficult concept for people to grasp, but using texts from 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21, Chapman makes it clear that we won’t be disembodied spirits floating around forever on clouds. He says Christ will take up our bodies “and transform them so they will be breathtaking! They will be immortal, imperishable, powerful, glorious and spiritual. They will be perfectly suited to the new creation. . . When I see the apostles relating to the risen Lord Jesus, I can see how it will be. I can see that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus means that there really is eternal life; there really is a new world in which we will live and relate to each other and to the Lord Jesus Christ” (p83-84).

13CHAPMANOne great thing about reading “Making the most of the Cross” is knowing that the author, John Chapman, can now see the reality of the things he has written about, the things he has long hoped for.  Last year, after 82 years, John Chapman went to be with the Lord.  We can take great encouragement from his faithful ministry – and his many books – of which this is most worthy of a read! Buy two and pass one on today. (Buy here)

Some of Chapman’s other books include:

  • Know and Tell the Gospel: a coherent and highly influential theological account not only of the gospel but of the involvement of every Christian in its spread
  • A Fresh Start: the most widely used gospel give-away book of the past 30 years
  • Setting Hearts on Fire: an inspiring and informative training resource for evangelistic preachers
  • A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness: a short guidebook on how the gospel calls sinners to a holy life as the fruit, not the means, of salvation
  • A Foot in Two Worlds: a simple guide to the eschatology of the gospel—that we belong to the next age but live out our salvation in this evil age
  • Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life: an evangelistic book for seniors on the meaning of eternal life
  • Making the Most of the Cross: a simple exposition of the key facets of the death and resurrection of Jesus
  • Making the Most of the Bible: a simple argument for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture as a necessary corollary of our faith in Jesus as Lord.

Never Alone

“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT Matthew 28:20)

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (ESV Hebrews 13: 5-6)

Never Alone is a gentle song with a simple melody (which makes it great for church singing) but the lyrics bring us much comfort. Christ is with us! We are not alone . . . no matter how alone we may feel. This song closely echos and explains the reasons for our confidence in Christ, revealed in the bible passages above. In four verses it tells the story of the God-man Jesus coming to earth, dying and rising for us; now he walks with us, in all our joy and pain. He is alive!

Above you can watch a friend of mine with a beautiful voice (Sarah), leading a large group in singing ‘Never Alone’. It was written by Philip Percival & Simone Richardson (2006) from EMU Music – and has appeared on two of their albums: Let All Creation Sing and Songs for Little Rooms. You can buy the lead sheet here.
Whether or not you get to sing this with other people I trust it will be a blessing!

NEVER ALONE

1. We’re not alone, for Christ is here
Immanuel our God come near
We’re not alone, for to our world
Jesus has come, eternal Word.
And as he speaks, our souls laid bare
Naked, ashamed, sin is made clear
And yet he clothes us in his love
Never alone, Christ is with us, is with us.

2. The longest walk, earth’s darkest day
The pressing crowd, his mounting pain.
A heavy load of grief and shame
Breathless that we should breathe again.
“Father forgive them,” comes his cry
Silence from God blackens the sky.
A creeping dread in every heart
Lost in the world now God departs, God departs.

3. The dawn will come, the sun will rise
Out of the grave we’ll see hope’s light.
Tomb opened wide, stone rolled away
Morning has come, a brand new day.
“He isn’t here,” the angel said.
“He is alive no longer dead.”
Our hearts are lifted, souls raised high
Christ is with us, Christ is our life, he’s our life.

4. Never alone, is now our cry
In joy, in grief, in lonely sin.
Never alone, for Christ is ours
He lives in us, we live in him.
And ’til we reach that final day
When fears are gone, cast far away
We’ll live secure, trust in his love,
Never alone, Christ is with us, he’s with us.

Lyrics: © 2006 Simone Richardson Music: © 2006 Philip Percival

Future Grace by John Piper The Purifying Power of the Promises of God – Desiring God

Here is a review of a book I hope to read in near future, Future Grace by John Piper. Here is a taste.
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/books/future-grace

future grace“By future I do not merely mean the grace of heaven and the age to come. I mean the grace that begins now, this very second, and sustains your life to the end of this paragraph. By grace I do not merely mean the pardon of God in passing over your sins, but also the power and beauty of God to keep you from sinning” (p. 5).

In Future Grace, author John Piper helps readers discover the key to overcoming sin and living a life that honors God. Many men and women attempt to walk upright out of gratitude for what Christ did in the past, but Piper encourages believers to look ahead to the grace God provides for us on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis—putting faith into action by laying hold of God’s promises for the challenges we face.

No one sins out of duty. We sin because we want to. Sin promises happiness, and we buy the lie. So how can the root of sin be severed in our lives? The penalty of sin must be paid by the righteous blood of Christ. And the power of sin must be broken by banking on the promises of Christ.

John Piper’s meditations are rooted in rock-solid biblical reflection. Chapter by chapter—one for each day of the month—he reveals how, by cherishing the promises of God, you can break the power of anxiety, despondency, covetousness, lust, bitterness, impatience, pride, misplaced shame, and more.

First Edition 1995; Revised Edition 2012
Multnomah Books (Colorado Springs, Colorado)

Whatever is Lovely – Blog Award

“One of20130531-003155.jpg my favorite verses in the Bible is also Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” My thoughts can go in all sorts of directions, and most of them go in the course that is not in line with God’s way. What a gem this verse is to show me exactly how God wants me to love Him with all my mind! Right in the middle of this verse is the word “lovely”. It is one of the eight things mentioned in this verse that our thoughts ought to be. The original word actually has its root in the Greek word phileo, which means affection, friendship, or love (think of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love). So, the word in this verse does not mean beautiful or something that is externally pleasing to the eye, as sometimes we use that word in English. In essence, what the verse is saying is this: whatever would encourage a love and friendship towards others, let your mind dwell on those things.” (Note: this was so good that I left it as it was written!)

Blogging can become another means to encourage love and friendship, despite many miles between us as we write, and the fact that we may not ever meet face to face. Yet because of Christ we are united, we are friends and family!

Thanks to Lessons by Heart who nominated me for this Lovely Blog award. Her posts are most encouraging and I read them just about everyday! I would like to pass this award on to 7 lovely bloggers. Here are my nominees (I’ll send you to their “About”):

An Imperfect Life made perfect by grace (http://sheensteve.wordpress.com/about/) – Mother of triplets who is learning to rest on Christ’s perfection each day.
Mere Inkling (http://mereinkling.wordpress.com/about/) is written by a wise gentleman who lifts up Christ as the heart of Christianity, with plenty of humour, history, CS Lewis and Tolkien along the way.
Revelling in the Overflowing Grace of God (http://bickleyhouse.wordpress.com/about/) is a prolific blogger who writes some great long and interesting devotional material. Most encouraging!
Blazing Center (http://www.theblazingcenter.com/about) written by father and son pastors at Sovereign Grace Ministries, who also write amazing and encouraging song lyrics. This blog is the one I have enjoyed reading for the longest time.
Sermons and Soda Water (http://sermonsandsodawater.wordpress.com/about/) is an encouraging blog written by my wise “old” uncle (ha! ha!) about living simply and enjoying life in Christ.
Worship One (https://worship1.wordpress.com/) is a blog by a vocal teacher who has lots of great resources to share, and encouragement to sing!
MGPC Pastor’s Blog (http://garyware.me/about/) is one I’ve only discovered in the last week, but have really enjoyed the reports, reviews, thoughts, news (and fun).

That was a difficult task to choose just seven!

If you would like to post about this award and pass it on to others, here are the rules.
1. Add the “One Lovely Blog Award” image to your new post (you can cut and paste the top section also)
2. Share seven things about you
3. Pass the award on to seven nominees
4. Thank the person who nominated you
5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs

Last and certainly least, here are 7 random things about me.
1. I have a Maremma dog named Mia – A maremma is an “Italian Shepherd” used in some countries to ward off foxes and bears. Ours minds the chickens.
2. I play too much “Words with Friends”
3. I play flute, piano, alto saxophone and sing, with some degree of success.
4. My favourite foods include almonds, ginger, avocado, mushrooms, mango and lychees.
5. My favorite “big word” to use is perspicuity – which means clarity! (ironically this word is unclear to many)
6. I love blogging about the BBC TV show DOCTOR WHO – at blueboxparables.wordpress.com
7. I grew up in the shadow of Mount Warning (which Captain Cook named), inside a volcanic crater, on a cattle farm (below is a view of the “backyard”).

mount warning

Mistaking Christian Busyness For True Spirituality

This is very challenging. We need to rest in the grace of what Christ has done.

mgpcpastor's blog

We live in an age which confuses activity for fruitfulness.
Christians can import that confusion into the way they follow Jesus.
Part of the discernment process of wisdom is not to simply know right from wrong, but to also know which is best from among a range of worthy opportunities.
HT: Z

From Randy Alcorn.

The hardest lesson we learned in our first twenty years of marriage was this: life is full of good, worthwhile, and meaningful programs, activities, organizations, causes, and ministry opportunities — the vast majority of which we cannot and should not be involved with!
It is not sufficient that something be good or important. It must be the best and most important for me, and God must show me that. Why? For the same reason that if I have a hundred dollars to spend on groceries this month, I should buy meat and milk and fruit…

View original post 91 more words

“You make me want to be nice”

choirThis was the comment made by infamous Britain’s Got Talent judge Simon Cowell, in response to a performance of “O Happy Day”, by Gospel choir “Incognito”. This is the power of the Gospel in song, the proclamation that the day Jesus washed our sins away is indeed happy! And this makes others happy, despite their best intentions! Click the link below to enjoy.

http://www.godvine.com/Gospel-Choir-Simon-fb-gv-3433.html

Cowell

Now Go, Be the Church

“Don’t think of church as an address or location . . .
but as something deployed.

Don’t think of it as a place you are for an hour each week, but rather WHAT YOU ARE every day of the week.
The Church is the hands and feet of Jesus. . .
Now Go, be the church.”

church has left the buildingThis comes from a great 1.5 minute clip from Igniter Media. We have used it in our church services, when plenty of people were around who don’t normally come to church, or know what it means to follow Jesus. It’s also a good reminder to all of us, of what church is, and isn’t. Hope you can find a use for it. Blessings! (Click link below to watch the clip.)

http://www.ignitermedia.com/products/2202-this-is-church#

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