Boredom – an incredible gift

“We no longer expect children to endure boredom for a second. In our infancy we bounced balls, fed the rabbits, made a model with Mechano and watched the ascent and descent of a yo-yo. We also read books. Our meals were pretty predictable, and a visit to the local park was an event. Today visits to the zoo, bouncy castles, jumping on a trampoline are routine necessities. Daily playgroups and day-nurseries fill every vacant minute with watching videos, learning how to play with computers and bouncing on the soft-play. Everything is wound up to a pitch of noisy razzmatazz. The toys children play with are made of garish plastic of primary colours. The child who would cheerfully have eaten mashed potatoes and vegetables every day is now encouraged to stimulate its palate and develop a taste for chillies, aubergines, vindaloo curry or garlic.

A.N. Wilson has written, “Pascal said that all human trouble stemmed from our inability to sit quietly in one room. If he was right, then we have serious trouble ahead, with an extraordinarily restless, vacuous generation of human individuals waiting to take over the world. The lesson of how to be bored must be learnt if the child is to grow up sane, and this is for two reasons.

First, boredom is what most human lives consist of. Few jobs are interesting all of the time; and when retirement age has been reached, the long days of emptiness cannot possibly be entirely devoid of tedium. Learning how to cope with these periods of vacancy can actually reduce, or eliminate their boringness. A human being who has only grown up with the notion that he or she must be stimulated all the time will never be able to assuage ennui in the way that we grown-ups do – by walks, gardening, crosswords, or the inner life.

And this is the second and greater reason for hoping that a child will learn how to cope with an eventless afternoon. Out of what feels like boredom comes the capacity to be inward. Unless you have been bored, an essential part of your imagination will never have been allowed to grow. Stories, poetry, prayer and mathematics, all activities which have stretched the human race…have developed out of its capacity to live with boredom.”

This excerpt comes from ‘A Child Was Bored in the Service | Banner of Truth’

What is so amazing about “Amazing Grace”?

In honour of John Newton’s birthday I’m posting this one from two years ago, which many of you fine followers probably missed. I trust you will enjoy these contemplations about the enduring nature of Newton’s Amazing Grace.


It just dawned on me that though I have been blogging for almost a year now on the subject of music and grace, I haven’t even made a single mention of that most famous combination of music and grace: John Newton’sAmazing Grace“. It has been an anthem of hope and faith for generations.
But why has this hymn had such an impact? What does Newton point out about God’s grace that resonates with us so strongly? Is there something in the music which made it so popular?

At the time Newton penned Amazing Grace, hymnbooks did not contain music; they were simply religious poetry books. The first time Newton’s lines were joined to music was in 1808, in A Companion to the Countess of Huntingdon’s Hymns, set to the tune “Hephzibah” by English composer John Jenkins Husband. More than twenty musical settings of “Amazing Grace” circulated…

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Reflections on effective Preaching: “A view from the pew”

  1. 14–Charles-SpurgeonFor a preacher to have mastery of a passage, the passage ought to have mastery over him.
  2. Preachers who preach God’s truth into life (births, deaths, marriages, job losses, debts, breakins, car accidents, cancers etc.) give me the equipment to fight and survive as God’s child in the real world.
  3. Good preachers obliterate the divide between lofty grandeur of God and the messiness of real life, so that I see and do something about the constant rub of idolatry against the call to discipleship in my own life.
  4. I love it when preachers tell me what arrests, intrigues, amazes and captivates them from God’s word. A preacher’s delighted, wide-eyed insight is a massive aid to engagement.
  5. Preachers with a humble conviction about the authority of preaching pack more punch.
  6. “Unpacking a passage” is much less exciting than releasing a wild lion into our midst.
  7. I sense when a preacher’s preparation has included preparation of his own heart, because he preaches not only to me but to himself.
  8. I find preachers who walk boldly into a passage hungry for vital truth, fearless of apparent exegetical, theological or pastoral difficulty are far more compelling for their courage.
  9. I like to hear a preacher’s certainty born of a thoroughness of preparation and theological conviction.
  10. It is frustrating when a sermon has no application.
  11. I am discouraged when applications are effectively an exercise in heaping guilt on the listener. Rhetorical questions are a cheap way out! It is different from being challenged by gospel. My guilt has been taken by Christ!
  12. I’m captivated when I get sense that the preacher’s hardest fight has been the fight for his own soul, obedience, understanding and submission to the truth.
  13. Only after taking God’s word to his own heart is a preacher able to cleverly, sensitively, wisely, boldly craft a sermon that has the hearts of others as its goal. Pastors make good preachers – they are students of their own heart and other’s. They anticipate my questions.
  14. Laughter opens hearts and minds and helps me stay awake.
  15. Listeners lose interest when the preacher has lost interest first. (Boredom is the new morality – if it is boring it is more than wrong!)
  16. Every preacher must ask himself at the end of every sermon, “So what!?”
  17. God-breathed scriptures are full of risk, danger, opportunity, drama and daring – not like a stuffed lion in a museum. Tame sermons turn the living Word of God into a lifeless museum exhibit.
  18. Preachers shouldn’t be afraid of deep truths that average mortals have to take time and thought to comprehend. It isn’t bad that a listener doesn’t understand something this time round.
  19. I feel secure when preacher shares his sermon structure/aim for his sermon with me.
  20. Passion in preaching is by product of love for God.
  21. Preachers who tell me how to feel – or how they feel – leave my feelings unstirred. Challenge is to so use their words and their insight into the text and people to add the weight of all their energies to the Spirit’s sovereign work.
  22. Choose someone interesting if you are going to copy another preacher!
  23. Poetry and art are the preacher’s friends – they move hearts and stir affections…that my life would be warm to God!
  24. Biblical theses and models are helpful in my understanding and recall of breadth, theme and unity of the bible.
  25. Biblical theses and models can suck the life out of sermons when they become wheel ruts.
  26. Good preachers don’t take themselves too seriously, but take God’s truth seriously enough to die for.
  27. A sermon must be personal, passionate and pleading – not just a talk.
  28. A truth known intellectually may not be a truth truly comprehended, believed and obeyed. (It’s helpful when a preacher knows I believe it, but that I haven’t acted on it or truly comprehended it. It’s great when a preacher probes, personally, from pulpit!)
  29. You may never say anything really new, but that’s no excuse for not saying it in a fresh way.
  30. My obedience (thought, word, deed) completes God’s purpose for preaching.(These points were taken from a talk given at the QTC Preaching Conference 2012 by musician Colin Buchanan)

Play each day like Jazz.

This will make sense to some of you . . just a little musical humour to brighten your day. Blessings!jazz

New Christmas album from Sovereign Grace!

Sharing an exciting announcement from Sovereign Grace: A new Christmas album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, will be released on September 1. Here are the details from Bob Kauflin:

PHR Album Art bg_Fotor“We released our first Christmas album, Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, in 2006. A few years ago I started thinking we should do another one. After all, we can never have too many songs that help us reflect on and celebrate the wonder of Jesus becoming Emmanuel, God with us.

So I was intrigued last fall when my good friend, Marty Machowski, asked if Sovereign Grace Music would be interested in producing a Christmas album to accompany an Advent curriculum he had written. After a few conversations with Marty and his publisher, New Growth Press, we decided it would be a great opportunity. The result was our next album, Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus in Song, due out Sept. 1. While the album will stand on its own, thirteen of the fourteen songs on it correspond with lessons from Marty’s devotional.

Writing songs to specific passages of Scripture in each lesson caused us to explore some new territory for Christmas songs. While not all of the songs ended up being congregational, I’m pretty excited about what we ended up with.

Below is a preview version of a song I co-wrote with Jason Hansen, a pastor in the Sovereign Grace Church in Gilbert, AZ. We started it at a songwriter retreat in January and finished it over many long distance sessions using FaceTime and Google Docs.

The song is called “Who Would Have Dreamed” and is based on Micah 5:1-2.

Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

We tried to capture the wonder that God would choose unlikely Bethlehem as the birthplace for the Messiah, and the greater wonder that the Son of God himself would be born as an infant. Here are the lyrics:

On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep
But to this little town of no great renown
The Lord had a promise to keep

Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come
Long-awaited Ruler, God’s anointed one
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small
As God gave the world His own Son

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

And here’s the preview (above). I’m delighted that it’s being sung by my youngest daughter, McKenzie.”
(By Bob Kauflin)

Light meets the Dark – Tenth Avenue North

I’ve been enjoying the songs on this album (Light meets the Dark) by a group called Tenth Avenue North. The song below (track 1) reveals some great aspects of grace, of what happens when grace collides with the darkness within us. It was used in the film ‘Grace Card’. I trust you will enjoy!

“Healing Begins”

So you thought you had to keep this up All the work that you do So we think that you’re good And you can’t believe it’s not enough All the walls you built up Are just glass on the outside

So let ’em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now

This is where the healing begins, oh This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won’t disappear

So let it fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now
We’re here now, oh

This is where the healing begins …

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don’t fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins …

Pursuing Unity in the Spirit of grace

unity tree“Unity is unique because it relies on the Holy Spirit. While uniformity is built upon the preference of the individual, unity is built on the foundation of Christ. The same Lord that dwells in my soul is the same Lord that dwells in your soul, and the Spirit of God will literally agree with itself inside two believers when we put aside personal preferences and insignificant differences.

The church can and should be a motley group of believers working together for the gospel, but this kind of unity is counterintuitive to sinners. It requires love, patience and self-control – all character qualities we don’t naturally have.

If you and I ever want to experience true unity with one another, we need to take advantage of the abundant grace in Christ so that we can give that same grace to our brothers and sisters. And because of the Cross, that grace is made available to you every morning.”

Paul David Tripp

I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist

Bryan Patterson's Faithworks

From I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

It turns out that atheists have bigger gaps in knowledge because they have far less evidence for their beliefs than Christians have for theirs. In other words, the empirical, forensic, and philosophical evidence strongly supports conclusions consistent with Christianity and inconsistent with atheism. Here are a few examples of that evidence:

1.. The scientific evidence overwhelmingly confirms that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Either someone created something out of nothing (the Christian view), or no one created something out of nothing (the atheistic view). Which view is more reasonable? The Christian view. Which view requires more faith? The atheistic view.

2. The simplest life form contains the information-equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Christians believe only an intelligent being can create a life form containing the equivalent of 1,000 encyclopedias. Atheists believe…

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