The Mystery Of The Cross: Bringing Ancient Christian Images To life by Judith Couchman

It goes without saying that the Cross is one of history’s most iconic symbols. Its image recalls THE one event and THE one person of human history – the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

But how did the image of the cross develop in the early church from a symbol of torture and deathto a sign of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

Judith Couchman takes you on a delightful journey through Church History examining images of the cross in the early church. The book is divided into seven parts; The Cross in Pre-Christian Times; The Cross and the Suffering Savior; The Cross and the First Believers; The Cross and Early Religious Freedom; The Cross In Everyday Life; The Cross In Early Church Life and The Cross and Its Eternal Power.

Each chapter is filled with wonderful pieces of information, from the historical to the implausible yet fascinating stories of Hebrew tradition. Couchman writes in a clear, easy and flowing way that at times is so disarmingly personal as to touch your emotions. But there is much more to this book than information – there is a strong spiritual content and winsome insight. At the end of each short chapter Couchman manages to bring the subject back to the solid foundation of faith, rooting it into a real context of our life in Jesus Christ and his salvation.

There are 40  chapters in this book that makes it ideal for a Lenten Mediation. However, don’t wait until Lent to buy this book. Buy it now, read it and then re-read it slowly, and meditatively during Lent. At least that it what I am going to do!

Buy the book HERE

Two More Books

I received two more books from IVP this week for review.

The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical World of the New Testament, Vol. 1: The Individual Witnesses

Seeking to write a Theology of the New Testament (framework), Witherington asks why it is that we try to understand elements of New Testament theology apart from history, ethics, and praxis. They are certainly not unrelated, and indeed feed into the very heart of one another. Witherington believes that the globally focused theological project of the New Testament Theology cannot be understood without the components (ethics, praxis) that support it (explication).

God the Peacemaker (New Studies in Biblical Theology)

In this book Graham A. Cole seeks to answer this question by setting the atoning work of the cross in the broad framework of God’s grand plan to restore the created order, and places the story of Jesus, his cross and empty tomb within it. Since we have become paradoxically the glory and garbage of the universe, our great need is peace with God and not just with God, but also with one another. Atonement brings shalom by defeating the enemies of peace, overcoming both the barriers to reconciliation and to the restoration of creation through the sacrifice of Christ. The “peace dividend” that atonement brings ranges from the forgiveness of sins for the individual to adoption into the family of God.

Look out for my reviews in 2010!

A Calvinist, a Pharisee and Angry…

A great post by Thabiti Anyabwile over a his blog . Here is a snippet…

I am a Calvinist.  I love the glorious truths of God revealed in His word.  I praise God for His mighty works in creation, redemption, and providence.  I live, I trust, for the glory of God in all things.

I am a Pharisee.  I shouldn’t be.  How can anyone claiming to be a Calvinist living for the glory of God also be a peevish, joyless, and fearful little Pharisee?  It’s a shame.  But I’m a Calvinist and I’m a Pharisee.

Narrowness for the letter and not the spirit, suspicion of joy, and fear are not the only things that make it possible for me to be a Calvinist and a Pharisee.  There is a fourth reason why these two things blend together more often than they should, and why they blend together in my heart.  Anger.


Is Lazarus The Beloved Disciple?

Ben Witherington wrote a few years ago a fascinating and challenging paper on whether the Beloved Disciple was in fact Lazarus and not John. Witherington’s thesis is that Lazarus is not only the Beloved disciple, but that he is responsible for much of the material in John’s gospel – which was edited and compiled by John after Lazarus dies. Evidence? Well, why not read the paper. I think you will at least be fascinated by it.

You can read it as posted on Ben Witherington’s blog HERE

Why The Church of England…

A great little paper published through Reform giving three reasons why the Church of England is a great boat to fish from…

Secondly, we bother with the Church of England because of its glorious liturgy.  This may surprise some, but not only does the Book of Common Prayer (supremely in the order for the Lord’s Supper) express Protestant truths, but it models the ingredients for a congregational gathering. Even if we do not use the Book of Common Prayer itself we should learn from the model it provides for that meeting. (And note that the word ‘worship’ is never used to describe the gathering. It only occurs in the marriage service – ‘with my body I thee worship’.) The introduction to the order for morning and evening prayer spells out the five reasons why Christians gather to encourage one another. We are to confess our sins; give God our adoring praise; bring Him our gratitude and thanksgiving; listen to His holy Word as it is read and preached (the Prayer Book is full of Scripture); and pray for others as well as ourselves.

Read the whole things HERE

Books Received For Review…

I received two books recently for review. Look out for the reviews in the next couple weeks. The first is from IVP..

The Mystery Of The Cross. Judith Couchman engages forty different images of the cross taken from life and art from early Christianity up to the year 1000.

The next one is from Thomas Nelson..

Where Is God?: Finding His Presence, Purpose and Power in Difficult Times. Where Is God? assures readers that even when it feels as though God is absent it is his nature to be in relationship, to connect with, love, and guide us. And when we seek him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, he shows up in ways that transform us forever.

A Reflection On Galatians 3:24ff

Paul is talking about the law of God – the Old Testament law. And he uses some interesting language. He says that those under the law we were confined and kept restrained. He uses prison terms – terms which make it clear that God’s law and commandments in the Old Testament hold us in prison and KEEP us confined so we are unable to escape.

What does this mean? It means that we were in bondage. The law told us something very important. It told us that we are sinners. That we have failed to uphold the law. We are unable to be good. We can NEVER be good.

Just look at the ten commandments. We may not have murdered but we have probably coverted, and probably lied. You break one command, and you have broken the whole law.

But that is were the message of the law ends. There is no solution. There is no way out. The law alone is a harsh disciplinarian, with no mercy. It tells us God’s requirements and it tells us the penalties for disobedience. And since we have all disobeyed we have fallen under its condemnation.

But Moses and the law was not what came first. What came first was Abraham and the PROMISE. God gave Abraham a promise before he gave Moses the law. And after he gave the law he sent the prophets with the message of hope and a future redemption.

God never intended the oppression of the law to be permanent. He gave the law in his grace in order to make the promise more desirable. And we cannot receive the promise without first the experience of the law. We must know that we can never be good in order receive the promise of God and be set free.

The birth of Christ is the fulfllment of the promise.

And what is the promise? We all may say – freedom, eternal life, reconciliation with God – and you are right. But notice something here with Paul. He says that God’s purpose was to redeem AND adopt. He came not just to rescue us from slavery, but to make slaves into sons and daughters – which thus makes us heirs of the hope to come.

Do you realize that by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you have been redeemed AND you have been adopted as his Son or Daughter. Do you know that you are an heir of the Kingdom of God.

This Christmas as we celebrate the event of Christ’s birth – his Incarnation – let us know that we receive this promise, not because we are good enough, but because we could never be good enough, but through the gift of Christ and his work, we have been redeemed and adopted as his sons and daughters.

Bah Humbug!

OK, I am going to slammed for this – and called a kill joy. But really, is not Santa Claus one of the most insidious anti-God messages out there. Does it not worry anybody that Santa is made up of the same words as satan? Both wear red! Yet Santa’s message to the world is “Be good and you will receive good gifts.” How anti-gospel is that. Satan must rejoice every Christmas as that message sinks into the hearts and minds of millions of people. IF I preached a sermon whereby I said “Just be good and you will receive good things” I would (at least I hope I would) be slammed by the leadership of the Church.

And yet we let that message go into our children across countless churches.

The message of Christmas is that you are not good – you can never be good – and yet God came to earth to rescue us and to give something we can never deserve – a gift which we could NEVER earn – salvation through trust in Christ.

What Kind Of Theological Education Leads To This…

… a UK priest allegedly telling people who are in dire need, and who have exhausted every legal method for help, to shoplift from big corporations? (see here). I understand his line of argument – but I cannot agree with him. To some extent he is right when he says that in our culture of greed and selfishness, the least worst option that we can leave people with is to shoplift. I see this in the US everyday – people who have nothing and no place to go for help. A mother who is desperate to feed her children and who has no other means might shoplift. But it is still wrong to steal. It is sin. Even under such desperate circumstances. Many churches have soup kitchens and provisions for the poor – but does EVERY church? Why not? In such a time as this the church needs to step up. I am amazed that a man who has been through theological education and training could say this.

Trust In An Age Of Arrogance by C. Fitzsimons Allison

Wisdom is not just about knowledge. True wisdom has a spiritual edge. One who is truly wise is one who has grown in knowledge and love of God – who sees and understands their own true state of weakness from the firm rock of faith and trust in Christ; who has traveled the road of faith, not faultlessly but with perseverance and humility.

Bishop Fitz Allison is wise. Having spent some time hearing him preach and teach, I know he is a man who is still learning and growing, despite his learning, status and achievements, ecclesiastically and academically. 

This book is filled with wisdom. Ttaking Matthew 16:6  (“beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”) Fitz tackles the huge twin issues within the church of the secularism and arrogance of the Sadducees (I am SURE this world is all that there is), the self-righteousness of the Pharisees (I can achieve this / I am not that bad) both of which reveal the insidious view that we are in some sense free to ‘make’ decisions. 

Fitz’s thesis is that we are not free. We are in bondage. We are selfish. Our natural tendency is to want the universe to revolve round us.

It is only in Christ, and by submitting to Christ that we can be set free. It is only when we understand that those around are not free but in bondage that we will begin to love as Christ loved us – knowing that people need Jesus – they need his love, his justice – his forgivness.

 This book is packed with a lifetime of learning, understanding and reflection. Fitz takes us on a powerful and humbling journey as he unpacks these issues with a wisdom which comes from a deep relationship and love of Christ.

This is a true elder of the church speaking. Buy this book – read it – and be richly blest.

A Recent Sermon Of Mine – Complacency

The audio here:

Sunday Sermon 29 November 2009

Written below:

Complacency is a dangerous thing.

The dictionary defines Complacency as a feeling of  uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements 0r  self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies

Being complacent means we stop being self aware – or generally aware. We stop looking. We stop learning. We stop being prepared.

One writer has said: Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are. The second is rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard.

A classic example of complacency is the Titanic. A ship built by man with the most up-to-date technology available and declared by man to be unsinkable. Such was the complacency of the ships invincibility they only had enough life boats for 33% of those on board – which happened to be enough all the first class passengers. Those in second, third or carriage class were not even told were the life boats were. Such complacency led to the loss of 1500 lives.

As Christians we are not to be complacent. We simply can’t.

Just look at ourselves. We know that if we are complacent with our flesh we will be in trouble. We know that when we relax, just for a moment, thing start to fall apart. We don’t go to church for a week or two, or perhaps take a short break from praying every day, or decide not to read the scriptures this week because we are busy and all of sudden a month, or two months or more go by where we have not been in church, or read scriptures or prayed.

Maybe there is a habit that we know we struggle with. And maybe one day we just stop battling it, or we give in just for one last time and all of a sudden we find ourselves immersed back in the habit fully and all the gains we might have made have been lost.

Each day we must make choices which are god centered, scripture centered and grounded in faith. If we think we are holy we will soon slip from that pedestal. Each day we must spend time with God – confessing our mistakes, seeking his Spirit to live in us so that we might walk in his ways.

And yet, many Christian’s I think have become complacent about the end times. I have often heard people say: “I can’t wait until the end of time”, or “I can’t wait for the Lord’s return.”

Really? Really? Are we really that ready to receive the arrival of the Lord of Glory who comes to judge the world, knowing our hearts and who will expose and lay bare publicly all that is in us! Are we ready for that?

The image of the end times in the Bible is not a pleasant one. The run up to, and the end times themselves do not involve a warm white light enveloping us in a sense of cosy security.

No. The scriptures tell us that the run up to the end times will be terrifying – to the point of social collapse.

Now before I go on, I need to clarify, what are the end times. Well, we are IN the last days now. The resurrection of Christ and his Ascension has happened. We are in the midst of the great commission to call the world to believe in Jesus. And we are 2000 years closer to that day when the Lord Jesus returns.

No-one knows WHEN the Lord will return. There is no date that can be discovered or worked out. Only the Father knows that time. But we are on the approach to those final days. As Paul said in his sermon two weeks ago, it may be 10 years, twenty years, 200 years in the future, or it could be this afternoon.

While we do not know the time when this will happen we are given instructions on what to look for and how we must act.

The apostle Paul gives us warnings about the last days in 2 Timothy 3. He says:

Understand this, that in the last days difficult  times will come. 3:2 For people 2  will be lovers of themselves, 3  lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3:3 unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good, 3:4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God.

Are we still looking forward to the end times now?

As Christians we are told to be prepared, and to hold our nerve in the approach to the end times.

As Christians we are to be a people who UNDERSTAND what to expect as the last days grow nearer.

This is Jesus’ point in our Gospel reading this morning. We must understand the signs of the times, and we must respond rightly.

These end days will see people fainting from fear as society seems to collapse around them. The great cosmic battle which rages in the heavenly places out of sight for most of us now begin to break into view as the enemy’s last desperate stand against the inevitable  defeat is about to take place.

But notice what Luke says our reaction should be: But when these things begin to happen standup and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.

We should not be the ones fainting from fear or cowering in a corner. No, we are to look up knowing that our redemption is coming near.

But in order for us to be able to do this we must be ready. We must know the signs of the times. We should be experts at discerning what is happening.

This means we should not be taken by surprise at the state of the world. We should not be shocked or alarmed as we see wars increase, or earthquakes and tsunamis and famines and plagues ravish the earth. As followers of the living God we have been told that this WILL happen – and that it is a sign of the end times. Yes we must be sad. Yes we must pray for those caught up in the tragic-ness of such events, but we must never be shocked. We know such things are coming. We know these are the signs of what is too come.

So what are we to do in the meantime?

If we were to read on just a little further in Luke we would read Jesus’ words:

But be on your guard  so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day close down upon you suddenly like a trap. For  it will overtake  all who live on the face of the whole earth. But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that must 85  happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

We are to be alert, active & praying. We must be preparing ourselves.

2 Peter 3 says this: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, 27  the heavens will disappear 28  with a horrific noise, 29  and the celestial bodies 30  will melt away 31  in a blaze, 32  and the earth and every deed done on it 33  will be laid bare. 34  3:11 Since all these things are to melt away 35  in this manner, 36  what sort of people must we 37  be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness, 38  3:12 while waiting for and hastening 39  the coming of the day of God?

Along with being alert, active and praying we must be growing in our faith and in our walk with God. Conducting our lives in holiness and godliness. We must be so immersed in Jesus, so immersed in the Bible that we will not only be  not deceived or become complacent, but that we will be able to look up and rejoice as we see our redemption draw near!

But just as important as being prepared ourselves, we must also be announcing this rescue to all people.

Surely we must be expending energy warning people of what is to come. We know the rescuer. Surely we MUST be telling people to trust in Jesus.

If we are truly aware of what is to come then that should spur within us a passion to bring as many people into the Kingdom of God as we can. We should be walking the decks of the sinking ship screaming for people to get into the life boats!

We know that not all people will accept the gospel – the road to destruction is wide  and many follow it, Jesus says, but the road to eternal life is narrow and few find it. This tells us clearly that not all will accept the gospel. We must understand this. But yet our message must be constant to all – flee the judgment to come.

There is a very moving sermon on-line. It was preached the weekend after 9/11 by Carter Conlon a New York minister.

He recounts some of the stories of police men, firemen and others who were running towards the towers, running into the danger area, shouting to those in the streets to flee. Some of those police officers knew they might die but their sense of duty meant that they kept running towards the building shouting to people to run for their life.

Where is our sense of duty as believers as we look around at those who are oblivious of what is coming.

We know what is coming.

Are we running away from the conflict or are we running into the conflict shouting to people ‘run for your life – flee – run from the culture which ignores God – run from false gospels which ignore Jesus – run – run – run from ministers who glorify themselves and not Jesus Christ – run – run – run from practices or rituals which do not give the life of the spirit – run! Run from Churches that have no Bible or theology; that have no mention of  sin, or the blood of Jesus, or repentence – run. Run for your life. Flee and run from all that is not of God.

Is this our message? Do WE NEED this message? Are we people who are running into the conflict knowing the signs of the times shouting to those in danger to flee to Jesus Christ? Surely if we truly understand what is to come, we CANNOT but be telling people to flee.

Let us not be complacent about the coming of the end of the age. Let us be active – let us be signs, mouthpieces, living examples of the gospel – that Jesus is calling all people to turn to him – to flee from the judgment to come, and run into Christ, where we will spend eternity.

Bible Study – Acts 10


Last week Paul took us through chapter 9 and Saul’s encounter with Jesus that immediately changed the entire course of his life forever. God’s ways are most perfect making Saul blind so that he was unable to do anything EXCEPT pray and mediate, fast and reflect. For three days Saul re-adjusts to what he has now discovered and we also know that in these three days God speaks with Saul – he receives the vision of Ananias coming to heal him.

We also saw the faith of Ananias and his wonderful relationship with God – his faithfulness in going to the house to pray for his ‘brother’ Saul.

Saul’s transformation is immediate – baptized and then witnessing – no transition – Saul’s passion was the truth and he goes and confounds the Jews. This man who once sought Christians to imprison and kill is now sought by the Jews to be killed.

Then we saw another amazing disciple – Barnabas. Saul’s conversion was a bit too much for the disciples to stomach – they did not believe he was genuine – but Barnabas lives out Jesus’ teaching – he is not afraid but reaches out his hand of friendship, forgiveness and love to a man who may be his enemy.

The shock waves of Saul’s conversion lead to his life being in danger straight from the get go and so the disciples send his to Tarsus.

Luke now shifts focus away from Saul and onto Peter.

READ 9:32-43

What is Peter doing?

He is evangelizing, speaking, ministering.

Who does he visit in Lydda?

Saints. Believers. Converts. Probably from Philip’s ministry in the area.

And Peter continues to exercise his healing ministry.

At this time a disciple dies in Joppa. Tabitha or Dorcas – I know which name I would prefer.

What were the believers in Joppa’s intention in sending for Peter?

They did not send messengers to Lydda for Peter to come and preside over a funeral. They sent for Peter TO RAISE HER FROM THE DEAD. What faith these believers had. What expectation of the power of God.

Do you notice anything interesting in how Peter approaches this situation?

He kneels and prays. He does not walk in and say “Tabitha get up.” He prays to God. This has nothing to do with Peter. This has nothing to do with his power. This is a demonstration of the Living God’s authority over life and death.

Also, Peter does not touch Tabitha at all – until she awakens. To touch a dead body would be an unclean thing for a Jew.

Where does Peter end up staying. Do you see any significance in what we have just seen with Peter?

Peter ends up at Simon the Tanner’s place. He traveled to Lydda to minister and meet the saints, and there he heals a paralyzed man. That event spreads to Joppa and the believers there realize, just as Tabitha is dying that Peter is only 10 miles away. So they send for him. He goes and prays and Tabitha is raised from the dead. Peter is now in Joppa and so he needs a place to stay – Simon the Tanner.

This is God’s incredible sovereignty in view. Two people healed and Peter’s travels land him in exactly the right place so that Cornelius is able to send for him.

All this is simply setting the scene for the next movement of the spirit and the church – the encounter between Cornelius and Peter.

READ 10:1-23

What do we know about Cornelius?[i]

A God fearer – not a convert to Judaism – hence not circumcised or baptized. Believed in a coming messiah.

Prays regularly.

And God speaks to him – a gentile – and affirms that his gentile prayers have come before the throne of God.

It’s a wonderful piece of irony here – This God fearer, who was barred from presenting offerings to God in Jerusalem at the temple, is here told that his acts of generosity and prayers have been an offering directly to God and God has accepted them.

It’s not just about the ritual – but the heart.

He obeys God and IMMEDIATELY sends for Peter.

Meanwhile, back in Joppa Peter gets peckish and while the food is being prepared he goes and prays.

What is God challenging Peter with in the vision of the animals?

Peter is still culturally prejudiced. Notice here – Peter disobeys God. God says clearly GET UP, KILL AND EAT.

Peter says NO.

He has an ingrained prejudiced which needs to be dealt with. His Jewishness must be set aside when God so commands. If God has made all animals clean his Jewish understanding must be set aside to accommodate God’s command.

If three men show up on your doorstep and said – Someone has asked for you – please come now. Would YOU go? What does Peter’s willingness to go show us?

His life is not his own. Where he goes is not his decision. What he does is not his choice. All these things we tend to hold onto in Western 21st Century Christianity. We struggle with the idea that our future should not be in our hands, or our control but in God’s. That if God should call, we must leave our nets and go.

I think God has often called many, who have simply not recognized the call or have thought “how ridiculous. I have a family to feed – my life is good here. God could not possibly ask me to do this.”

READ 10:24-48

What image does Luke give us of Cornelius in v24?

Expectantly waiting. He has gathered family and friends. He is eagerly awaiting Peter, and the words Peter will bring with him. Are we like this on Saturday evening’s awaiting worship on Sunday?

What remarkable significance is there in Peter and Cornelius standing and talking together?

Here is a picture of the reconciliation of the gospel. Peter a Jew, speaking with and about to become brothers with a man who represents the occupying army of Israel – a man whose colleagues have killed and tortured Peter’s countrymen and women. For Peter, Cornelius represents everything that should be hated and despised – a foreign invading solider who is a gentile.

Yet God orchestrates this amazing meeting.

What changes for Peter in v34 – why is this amazing?

Peter’s journey is complete. The penny drops. He now realizes that God is not more favorable to the Jew than to the gentile but that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people. Peter’s prejudice has been removed.

And this is why he presents the Gospel of Christ to Cornelius in v36-43.

But there is one more shock for Peter and his companions!

READ 10:44-48

I love this – While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came upon them. The image is almost of God waiting for Peter to finish talking – but after a while the eternal realized that Peter might speak for eternity and so he just let the Spirit loose.

Why were the circumcised companions of Peter astonished at what they saw?

The Holy Spirit. Poured out upon Gentiles. No way!


Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

[i] Caesarea – third time mentioned. Philip resided there after Azotus (8:40). Paul went here having fled Jerusalem (9:30). Originally Stratos Tower – Caesaer gave it to Herod the Great who renamed it Caesarea.

The Politics of Self…

I have been interested in, and involved with politics for a number of years, both UK and USA.

The editor of the political magazine The Nation sent an email out with the following statement:

Barack Obama’s election marked a remarkable moment in our country’s history — a milestone in America’s scarred racial landscape, a victory for the forces of decency, diversity and tolerance, and an end to eight years of destructive, swaggering unilateralism.

A year later, it’s clear we’re a ways from reshaping the prevailing order of our politics and economy. That will take more than one election. And in this winter of discontent, I could dwell on the disappointments. I am sure you have your list. At the top of mine is Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, squandering funds needed to rebuild and renew our country.

Of course in politics you live with disagreements all the time – different ideology, method, approach etc. But this statement from a political editor smacks of what has become the politics of self… . WE have elected YOU – YOU have not done immediately what WE want – WE are disappointed in YOU.

Less than a year after taking office people are talking about disappointment – anger – frustration in Barack Obama as if Barack Obama should  have been dealing with THEIR personal beliefs for the past year. I don’t understand why Political commentators never take into account the huge gulf between things one can say as a challenger for an office, when they do not have all the information, to when they win and actually take office, dealing with the machinery, history, complexity of office. Every President and Prime Minister has had to leave SOME ideology, belief and method at the door of the Oval Office or 10 Downing Street. We should EXPECT that some of the campaign rhetoric can NEVER be turned into policy once the person has seen the reality of the situation.

Should We Fight Persecution?

The Ugley Vicar has, as usual, a great post HERE.

It’s about the Christian registrar who refused to register civil partnerships as a matter of religious conscience. She has lost her appeal against dismissal. John Richardson gives a thoughtful response. He ends with this:

The question which must now be asked, frankly, is whether social normalization of homosexuality can co-exist with Christian morality. Currently, the answer would appear to be that it cannot, for despite all the talk of religious ‘rights’, it is quite clear that they are trumped (in Spades) by the acceptance of society’s sexual norms. At very least, this suggests that the Ugandans might look to our experience before making any decisions regarding their own situation, for the exercise of godly compassion in our case has clearly not resulted in a more godly society.

With great respect for John Richardson, here is my question: Is his question irrelevant? If we are heading towards the time, told us in the New Testament when society will degenerate, when persecution will come, when itching years will hear only what they want to hear – if God has foretold us some of the signs of the end, do we fight it? Is this not just another sign of where sin leads – to a rejection of God’s ways? Of course we must pray – preach the gospel – declare the grace of God and the cross of Christ – but we do so knowing that soon such a message will be ridiculed, attacked, even may become illegal.

Surely this incident should not be a surprise to us – those who are discerning the sign of the times – sad, yes, but not surprising. Are we ready for it to get worse?

Books Read In 2009

OK, this is not in any order, or even divided up into categories (I mean, who has TIME to do THAT!! 🙂  )

The only category is fiction, at the end of the list. Again, because of time, I have not put comments with the books but the links are to my reviews.

Trust In An Age Of Arrogance by C. Fitzsimons Allison

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle

THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE: The ministry Mind Shift That Changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ by Thomas Torrance (edited by Robert Walker)

GOD IS GOOD, GOD IS GREAT: Why Believing In God Is Reasonable and Responsible Edited by William Lane Craig & Chad Meister

The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher

Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ by Thomas F Torrance (Edited by Robert Walker)

Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh & John Perkins

Lloyd-Jones: Messenger Of Grace by Iain Murray

The Search For God And Guinness by Stephen Mansfield

Find Your Strongest Life Yet by Marcus Buckingham (Reviewed By Lauren Winslow)

Right Thinking In A World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response To Today’s Most Controversial Issues by John MacArthur (and the leadership team at Grace Community Church)

Baptism: Three Views (Paperback) by David F. Wright (Editor), Sinclair B. Ferguson (Contributor), Anthony N. S. Lane (Contributor), Bruce A. Ware (Contributor)

Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear by Max Lucado

The Glory of Preaching: Participating in God’s Transformation of the World by Darrell Johnson

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging And Traditional by Jim Belcher

Stand: A Call For The Endurance of The Saints Edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor

God At War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict by Greg Boyd

A Serious Call To A Devout & Holy Life by William Law

Everyday Greatness Inspiration for a Meaningful Life By Stephen R. Covey and David K. Hatch

William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague

Escape from Reason: A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thoughts by Francis Schaeffer

Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty To Delight by J I Packer & Carolyn Nystrom

Bible Overview By Steve Levy (With Paul Blackham)

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez

The Essential Bible Companion: Key Insights For Reading God’s Word by John H Walton, Mark L Strauss & Ted Cooper Jr

John (IVP New Testament Commentary Series) by Rodney Whitacre

The Gospel of John: A Commentary – 2-Volume Set by Craig Keener

John (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Andreas J. Köstenberger

The Gospel of John: A Commentary by William Hendriksen

Being Consumed: Economics And Christian Desire by William Cavanaugh

The Principle of the Path: How To Get From Where You Are To Where You Want To Be by Andy Stanley

Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision by N.T Wright

Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer by C.S. Lewis

Missional Renaissance: Changing The Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal

Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From growing by Geoff Surratt

Cross Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Caliborne

A Praying Life: Connecting With God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc by Kevin DeYoung

Faith and Pop Culture by Christianity Today Study Series

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out Of The Box by The Arbinger Institute

Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns

Why Johnny Can’t Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messages by T. David Gordon

Passing The Baton: A Handbook For Ministry Apprenticeship by Colin Marshall

Islam: The Religion And The People by Bernard Lewis & Buntzie Ellis Churchill

Christianity In Crisis 21st Century by Hank Hanegraaff

Passing The Plate: Why Americans Don’t Give Away More Money by Christian Smith & Michale O Emerson

Next Generational Leader: Five Essentials For Those who Will Shape The Future by Andy Stanley

Zion’s Christians Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and The Church

The Life Of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

The Word Of Promise. Next Generation New Testament Dramatic Audio Bible

The Enemy Within by Kris Lungaard

A Survey Of the Bible by Wiliam Hendriksen

The Supremacy of God In Preaching by John Piper



Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin by Douglas Bond

Dissolution by C.J Sansom

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Way Home by George Pelecanos

Roadside Crosses by Jeffery Deaver

Imperium by Robert Harris

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle

Why should you read a book about Alfred the Great. Who IS Alfred the Great. Alfred lived in the 800’s (born 849) and was a King in the British Isles (England). During this time the Vikings (the Danes, from Europe) would travel the English Channel and attack and plunder parts of the British Isles. By the time Alfred was of age the Vikings had attacked and conquered most of the British Isles. Only Alfred’s kingdom was left and the Vikings were determined to take it. The rest of Alfred’s like was spent as a King repelling the Vikings attack.

This does not read like normal history books – it is easy and has a nice flow to it. It is definitely for those who do not know much about this period of history.

Why should you read the book? Alfred is quite a remarkable man. One who began his public life by leading an army into battle without any experience and yet realized that whatever else he must do – he must stand at the front of the army, shoulder to shoulder with his men. This was a pattern that continued throughout his life – being at the front of his armies as he fought the invading Vikings, achieving victory after victory. And even in defeat Alfred learned and grew in wisdom. A natural strategist Alfred changed the face of England. He created a standing army, ready to meet any invaders (the traditional method had been to call the men from their farms and crops to gather to fight an invading army, a slow and laborious process – Alfred soon realized that the delay in gathering these men from their farms damaged their ability fight and be flexible.) He also realized that those who died and did not return to their farms damaged local economies through lost crops.

He became a master at out witting the Viking and was a mighty fighting machine. And yet he showed mercy and compassion – allowing defeated armies to leave instead of just slaughtering them.

Alfred is smart, savy, brave and a born leader who never let set backs defeat him, but adapts and finds a way to move forward and win.

That’s why you should this book.

THE TRELLIS AND THE VINE: The ministry Mind Shift That Changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne

Mark Dever has put this book in the top ten reads of 2009. He says “This is the best book I’ve read on the nature of church ministry.”


My first impression was “Welcome to the conversation – a little late, but welcome nonetheless.” What Marshall and Payne have written about here has been written about many, many times in the past 10 years or so, mainly by Emergent type folk.

A lot of their suggestions and conclusions have already been suggested and concluded in various books about church ministry. What Marshall and Payne do here is articulate it through a very biblical framework – more so than other books – as well as offer a concrete way of doing church differently, and that is what makes the book good.

Their fundamental point is simple – yet transformational if churches understood it – Disciple making should be the normal agenda and priority of every church AND every Christian disciple.

EVERY Christian’s focus should be to BE a disciple and to MAKE disciples and Churches and pastors are meant to be facilitating that process.

This requires a shift of focus for churches and ministries. Early on in the book they give 11 such shifts that must take place:

1. From running programs to building people
2. From running events to training people
3. From using people to growing people (huge shift away from church ‘volunteers’)
4. From filling gaps to training new workers
5. From solving problems to helping people make progress
6. From clinging to ordained ministry to developing team leadership
7. From Focusing on Church polity to forging ministry partnerships
8. From relying on training institutions to establishing local training
9. From focusing on immediate pressures to aiming for longterm expansion
10. From engaging in management to engaging in ministry
11. From seeking church growth to desiring gospel growth.

This cannot be achieved through superficial change, or implementing small groups. In fact, for Marshall and Payne the issue goes far deeper than just starting small groups. In fact, they argue that small groups are not the issue. The small groups need to be TRAINING groups; trained on how to read the Bible, pray with each other, work on spiritual growth. Without this drive and focus small groups are useless. Even preaching is not sufficient. Yes, you heard that right; Tony Payne and Colin Marshall say on pg 102 that, Sunday sermons are necessary but not sufficient. Preaching is ONE form of the ministry of the word – not THE form.

It is always coming back to the issue of ongoing, continuous training and discipling of ALL members of the church.

One of the most interesting discussions in the book revolves around calling. How does one know that they are called to ministry, The current model is to wait for someone to say ‘I feel called to ministry” and then the process begins.

This is not a biblical approach for the authors. They say that pastors and elders should be talent scouts. Scripture suggests that people are called and set apart by others (see Timothy). Pastors should be actively recruiting suitable people within their churches and challenging them to expend their lives for the work of the gospel.

They write:

“When we try and discern what it is that makes that role special [the one called out for ministry] in the New Testament it’s not full time verses part time or paid verses unpaid. It’s not that some belong to a special priestly class and others don’t. It’s not even that some are gifted and others aren’t because all have gifts to contribute to the building of Christ’s congregation. The key thing seems to be that some are set apart or recognized or chosen, because of their convictions, character and competency and entrusted with the responsibility under God for particular ministries.”

Their summary proposals are:

Summary Propositions

1. Our goal is to make disciples
2. Churches tend towards institutionalism as sparks fly upwards
3. The heart of disciple-making is prayerful teaching
4. The goal of all ministry – not just one-to-one work – is to nurture disciples
5. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker
6. Disciple-makers need to be trained and equipped in conviction, character and competence
7. There is only one class of disciples, regardless of different roles or responsibilities
8. The Great Commission, and its disciple-making imperative, needs to drive fresh thinking about our Sunday meetings and the place of training in congregational life
9. Training almost always starts small and grows by multiplying workers
10. We need to challenge and recruit the next generation of pastors, teachers and evangelists

As I have said, while the main content and issues have been raised many times, what makes this book special is the solutions and suggested models which the authors put forward as a way forward. Too many books in the past have raised the problems but have never given substantial proposals or suggestions for a way forward. This book gives a biblically focused framework to allow you to work through the 11 required shifts thus becoming a church which trains disciples to be disciple-making disciples.

Romans 2 v14-15 – part 3

C Cranfield and Karl Barth are almost alone in connecting v14 of Romans chapter 2 with v13b. Cranfield writes:

“The most natural explanation of the “For” (at the beginning of v14) would seem to be that these verses are thought of as confirming v13b…. v13b, which might at first sight appear to conflict with “And also for the Greek” of v10, does not in fact do so, since those Gentiles who do the things the law requires stand in a real positive relation to the law (v14b & v15a) and so may be regarded as included in the reference of the “doers of the law” in v13b” .

In other words, Cranfield sees a continuing between v10 and v13. The greek can do good and receive honor and glory and peace (which is salvation), v10, and therefore the doers of the law who will be justified can also be greeks. V13 refers to separate groups of people, those who hear the law (and so have the law physically – the jews) and those who do the law (anybody, Jew or Greek). To connect v14 to v12a would imply that v12b-13 is a form of parenthesis or explanation. I do not see such a division. Paul is merely establishing the fact that to have the law, to hear the law, does not mean you are saved.

The word ‘Gentiles’ is without the definite article, which suggests that it refers to some gentiles, not all gentiles. As we have said, Moo et al see this as referring to gentiles who are not converted while Cranfield / Barth sees these gentiles as Christians.

The next part of the verse: who do not have the law do by nature what the law requires has some difficulties. Traditionally the word nature has been taken with what follows. This means the verse would say the gentiles, as a result of their possession of natural law, do some of the things required by God’s law instinctively.

This is what Moo argues. He says that Paul is almost certainly referring to a greek / stoic tradition that all human beings possess as unwritten law, an innate sense of right and wrong. Hence, we do the law by nature. Moo says that for this reason, this cannot refer to believing gentiles, because believers do the law by grace, and not by nature.

Tom Wright and Reformed Theology

There is much going on in Reformed circles regarding Tom Wright and his work on Justification.

Below is an interesting quote from Tim Ward. Tim is reformed and he has a book out called  Words Of Life – a book which has been very well received. Also, Tim was at Oak Hill when I was there – If I remember rightly, we were in the same tutorial group for my first year. In a recent interview, Tim is asked Are there any current trends in biblical scholarship that either concern or excite you? He says this:

If I can add ‘theological’ to ‘biblical’ scholarship, I am among those who are excited by the widely-noted resurgence of Reformed theology among younger scholars and pastors. (That is happening in its own small way in pockets of English evangelicalism, too.) I am increasingly convinced that it is in this theology that we find the richest theological resources for living under Scripture that God has given us. Of course, like all new-ish movements, it currently runs the risk of trendy superficiality, hero-worship and thoughtless excitability. However if we work hard on seeing it mature and settle down then it could strengthen evangelical life for a good time to come. In biblical studies, as far as evangelicals are concerned, the outstanding trend to my mind is the work of Tom Wright. I know that there are difficulties in his work, both in the content and in the manner in which he engages (or frankly fails to engage well) with friendly critics on his theological right (I think here of John Piper especially), but there is no doubt that his project is rich, thoughtful, profound, and hugely respectful of Scripture. If Reformed people end up simply dismissing him, we will do so to our own cost, I think.

Wise words from Tim.

Any Humility Without Christ Is A Waste Of Time

Luke 14:7-11 tells us that Jesus is at a party, a dinner party and he has noticed something – people wanted the places of honor at the banquet. Now, in this setting people did not sit at tables, but reclined, and those places closest to the host were the places of honor. People wanted the places of honor so that they could show their importance. So Jesus tells a parable – a story.

Jesus says that instead of taking the highest seat, and risk humiliation because a more distinguished guest may arrive, you should take the lowest place, so that the host may move you up.

But is Jesus just giving us a great scheme to allow us to get honored at parties – the key is take the lowest place and then wait to get bumped up to a higher seat and you get honored and everyone wins?

No, Jesus is not providing a scam to enable us to climb the social ladder covertly, because the flaw in the plan is what happens if we take the lowest seat expecting to be bumped up and the host never comes to us; we just remain in the lowest seat.
If our motive is to take the seat simply to get moved up, and the host does not move you up, we would sit there seething, angry and humiliated.

That is the key to the story – we are to take the lowest seat without expectation of moving up. We take the lowest seat willingly, happy to remain there, not threatened or worried by issues of status or position. And in taking the lowest seat, we are by our actions lifting others higher than ourselves, happy for them to take the places of honor.

Jesus’ parable is not just about humility, it is also about witness – taking the lowest seat witnesses to those at the party; about what is important in a persons life; about where a persons security is based and about Christ. It makes a statement.

To be desperate for God is to willingly, happily take the lowest seat, not expecting to be honored by men, or God – just because you love God and are desperate for him.

Humility without Christ at the center of our lives is valueless – it has no purpose. Without Christ, humility does not bring peace – it either becomes quiet arrogance or it turns into humiliation or hatred of being the lowest. True humility walks in the foot steps of Christ – Philippians 2:1-11:

Humility in Christ; humility that walks IN the foot steps of Christ, knowing our security is in him; that our life has a destiny – gives us peace and it also moves us to service for our God.

Do The Best ‘Staff’ HAVE To Be Paid The MOST

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s chief said, referring to bonuses which are going to be paid out at the bank;

He warned, though, that there could be a “very clear and very sharp” potential for “conflict of interest” between the desire of the government to keep bonuses within limits acceptable to the public and the needs of shareholders to retain the best staff, when other banks were paying bigger bonuses.

So, his philosophy is, we must pay a ton of money to people they perceive to be the BEST so that they will stay at that particular bank and not leave for MORE money. Mmmm!

Maybe another philosophy could be – those who are perceived to be the BEST stop being greedy and accept ENOUGH money, not necessarily the MOST.

If one can live affluently on $150,000 or $200,000 per year, surely it is GREED to demand $500,000 a year, or a $1 million a year simply because you can demand it.

It surely says something about the character of such people who work in the City of London, or Wall Street, that while they could live well, comfortably and securely on maybe half what they earn in salary or bonuses, allowing the other half of such money to be used to pay others, they demand the very maximum of what they are perceived to be worth.

One day, we may read about a person who, while being the BEST, decides they will accept LESS and  happily stay in the job they are in (I am sure such people exist today – we just do not hear of them).


Status and pride are a lethal combination when it comes to Christ, especially in the Church, whether from a member of the congregation or a bishop.

A definition of Humility says Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself one way or the other at all.

I would add to that definition – the freedom is knowing that your worth is in Christ and Christ alone.

Someone has said that those who are truly humble recognize their desperate need for God, not any right to blessing. In other words, our desire should NOT be to love God to get blessed – but simply to love God because he is God – he is the one Lord and king over creation the universe and the earth and he quite simply deserves to be loved regardless of what we receive from him.

And this is the key issue – how desperate are we for God? The answer should be that God is what life is about and therefore we should be very desperate for God.

Giving Up Our Sense Of Self Importance

We live in a world of rights. Human rights, animal rights, employment rights, children’s rights, parent’s rights, constitutional rights.

Its sometimes the first words we utter – it’s my right!!

We sometimes feel that we have earned our rights – nationality; education; experience; status; position in life – surely I have earned the right for respect, or acknowledgment, or that promotion, or that pay rise.

Of course there are good things that have come from human rights – the protection of the young and innocent; the defenseless or persecuted.

But generally, most of the time, what we call human rights, should be re-named as MY RIGHTS – WHAT I WANT!

Which is why we can find it so very difficult to give up what we want; what we think we deserve; what we expect is owed to us.

It is perhaps one of the hardest lessons for a human being to learn – to put others ahead of themselves – to put your desires second – humility!!

Henry Augustus Rowland, professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University, was once called as an expert witness at a trial. During cross-examination a lawyer demanded, “What are your qualifications as an expert witness in this case?”
The normally modest and retiring professor replied quietly, “I am the greatest living expert on the subject under discussion.” Later a friend well acquainted with Rowland’s disposition expressed surprise at the professor’s uncharacteristic answer. Rowland answered, “Well, what did you expect me to do? I was under oath.”

For most of us, we are not the greatest living expert on any subject. Therefore giving up our own sense of importance is hard to do.

But if we are Christians, followers of Christ, then give it up we must.

Preachers Need To Read…

… good literature. C.S lewis said it – Eugene Peterson says it, T David Gordon says it and Cornelius Plantinga says it.

Good preaching needs good reading to nourish it, and the best preachers read a great deal more than Scripture and commentaries. They also read fiction, for instance, and biography, and essays. They read great children’s literature for its “noble simplicity.” A few even tune their ear on the poetry of such masters as Jane Kenyon. Why read in order to preach? Of all reasons let me develop only one: reading deepens our knowledge of human character.

Hence, a Pastors day MUST have time set aside for reading.

reading for preachers is as non-negotiable as training for athletes, and just as arduous and just as rewarding. Maybe church councils should appoint committees to which preachers monthly report their conquests in the field of reading. Nothing less than the vitality of the preached gospel is at stake.

Imperium by Robert Harris

I love historical fiction – and my word, this is historical fiction at its best. I loved this book. The story revolves around Cicero and his climb into the top places of Roman politics. The story is told from the perspective of Cicero’s slave who is also his scribe.

Right from the beginning Harris draws you into the world of ancient Rome. His descriptions are rich but not over done – you easily image the scenes as he describes to you the Senate room, Pompey’s villa, Cicero’s home. The book never stalls and you are constantly taken to each event in Cicero’s life without over dramatization or unlikely segues. A great read. I will now read the rest of Harris’ books in this series.

Romans 2 v14-15 – part 2

The phrase “also the greek” is to be connected with the positive side as well. In other words the greek who patiently does good and seeks glory, honor and immortality will be given eternal life. Such a Greek can only be described as a gentile Christian walking with God, for such things can only be sought through a relationship with God. This is continued in v10, “glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the jew first and also the greek.” What is doing good? It is obedience to the good news – the gospel. Believing and trusting and following the good news, the gospel of Christ is our good works. Romans 2:6-8 says He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition18 and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.

V11 sums up the main point – God shows no partiality. This is then followed, in v12, that ALL people will be judged, either by the law or without the law. You cannot shield yourselves from God’s judgment with the law, or with ignorance. Then in v13, Paul focuses specifically upon the Jew. It is not the hearers of the law that are righteous but the DOERS of the law who will be justified. We know that the law cannot be fulfilled by human effort.

So, having this background in mind, we now reach our text – v14-15.

V14. The first question to tackle is the relation of v14 to the rest of the chapter. Moo, Murray, Fitzmyer and Calvin see v14 as connected to v12a – v14 is an explanation of v12a. To paraphrase: those gentiles who will perish without the law can, by nature, do things that the law requires, like love and honor their parents. Therefore they are aware of moral obligations and hence the ground upon which they will judged! Murray writes that v14 is:

“providing the answer to the question arising from v12a, namely; if the gentiles are without the law, how can they be regarded as having sinned?”

Murray’s conclusion is that the gentiles are not entirely without law. There are some gentiles who do have the law (converted believers), but here Paul is referring to those who are not converted. Calvin sees these verses as rejecting ignorance as an excuse by a gentile . Moo likewise argues that the gentiles are not without a law – they have some knowledge of God’s moral demands .

The conclusion is that God does not condemn the gentiles without their having any understanding of his demands upon them. The question that is primary in this whole pericope is already clear – Is there such a thing as natural law? Can you have a little bit of knowledge of God? These questions must be left until later.

Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ by Thomas Torrance (edited by Robert Walker)

This is the companion book to `Incarnation’ and in a similar fashion its contents have been complied from the notes of the late Thomas Torrance, comprising of over 25 years of lectures given to students in Christology at New College Edinburgh.

As with the first volume, this is really a remarkable work. Torrance takes you on a journey through the theology of the atonement, examining it from every possible angle. As you read through this book you soon realize two things; Firstly, this is theology at the very highest level; scholarly, in-depth, and yet readable. Secondly, it is immensely pastoral. You can sense the passion and love that Torrance had for Jesus Christ. This is true theological reflection – not just for academic purposes, but also in order to elicit a change in our thinking and in our spiritual life. This is what has struck me reading these two books. I have not just `learned’ information about the Incarnation and Atonement, but I have been challenged, encouraged and even moved by understanding deeper the immense work of Jesus Christ in his life and ministry; his death and resurrection. Is this not what theological study should lead to? Such is Torrance’s skill in his prose that I found myself drawn into each chapter not just by what he wrote but also by how he wrote. I challenge any reader not to come away from this book enriched and rejoicing at what Jesus Christ achieved through the atonement.

Far be it for me to declare these books as future classics (that must be done by those with far more influence and weight than myself) – these are two of the very finest books I have ever read on Christology.

Daniel Chapter 6 – Part 2

Daniel would get caught because while he did not flaunt his faith he did not hid it either – windows open he prayed to God three times a day.

And this is the key to Daniel’s survival in Babylon. How did this man thrive in Babylon for 60 years? How did he maintain, and grow in his relationship with God?


Prayer is the source of Daniel’s survival, growth and success.

Daniels prayer was a consistent habit. His enemies knew he prayed. He had probably prayed like this for the entire time of his life in Babylon and before in Jerusalem. He was consistent to make sure that he set the time apart so that he could go and pray. Prayer can only happen if we consistently create space to GO AND PRAY!!

His prayer was a conspicuous habit. People knew he prayed. There was nothing hidden about Daniel’s prayer life. Do people in your youth group know you are a prayer! Do you know that you are prayer!!

His prayer was a committed habit. Daniel was highly unlikely to break this pattern for the sake of the Kings new law. What priority does your prayer life have in your life.

This habit of prayer is neither short-term nor superficial. It was not panic prayer ‘Oh God help me” – it was not pleading or bargaining prayer, “God if you this I will do that…”It looked beyond what Daniel could see and focused on God, seeking his perspective and his view point.

It is through prayer that Daniel finds a different center to his life and through prayer that he maintains it.

Whatever else might help us through changed and changing times the one thing we cannot do without is a commitment to pray.

No-one, and I mean no-one who claims to be a Christian can maintain a rich or growing faith without prayer.

No relationship can exist without communication. The same goes for God. The practice of prayer is inseparable from the nature of the Christian life. The Christian life is all about being “In Christ” – knowing Jesus as our Lord, learning about Him, growing in Him and He growing in us though his Spirit. But in order for this relationship to happen and continue requires us to spend time with Jesus, both through Scripture and in talking with him.

And one of the incredible things that we learn through prayer is that there is another world beyond the visible. Daniel knew that Babylon and Persia and all the other Kingdoms to come do not have the last word.

We really have no idea what power we have in prayer. Prayer is an incredibly powerful thing to do – to speak to the King of the Universe. This is not about wielding power as we want it – that we pray because God will yield to our wants. But as we seek God and ask him to be involved in our life we will see some incredible things.

That is why Daniel went to prayer, as he always had done, with his windows open, knowing that it would lead to a possible death sentence. God is God and deserves worship and praise regardless of what anyone says – and Daniel knows that he must be faithful to this.

When Darius realizes what has happened and that his own decree is going to put Daniel into mortal danger, he is upset.

Darius likes Daniel. He knows of Daniel’s prayer life – he tells Daniel that he hopes that the God he prays to will save him.

I find this incredible. Daniel’s faithfulness, his integrity, his commitment to worship God is attractive to Darius as it was attractive to Nebuchaddnezzar.

And yes, Daniel’s faithfulness to God saves him, just as our faithfulness to God will save us.

But faithfulness is grown through prayer and through prayer we will continue to be faithful.

Learn to be consistent in prayer, to be conspicuous in prayer and to be habitual in prayer. To do this will be a battle for you. Andrew Murray, author of Christ in the School of Prayer, said that “the devil’s greatest tool is to keep the believer from praying.”
Today, make a decision to get rid of your misconceptions about prayer. Admit that maybe your too busy, too lazy or too tired to pray. Acknowledge that prayer was the VERY method of communication that Jesus used to talk to God! And if Jesus needed to pray, wanted to pray, was compelled to pray…what makes us think we could ever live without it?
The first step in a, consistent daily prayer time starts with a
humbling, surrender of ourselves and our sin of prayerlessness.
Second, make a decision to pray every day for the rest of your life. Rather than considering it a legalistic gesture, think of it as your unwavering commitment to your relationship with God.
But it begins with your time.

The Good Side Of The Episcopal Church…

I count it an honor that I was ordained into the Priesthood by Bishop Mark Lawrence. Bishop Lawrence was at our Church this past Sunday doing confirmations. There is no doubt that the Lord speaks through our bishop – I have not met many bishops who can pray as powerfully and as prophetically as Bishop Lawrence. He is a godly, worshipful servant of Jesus Christ. I have not met many Bishops (or Priests for that matter) who celebrate communion with such passion and worshipfulness(?). Also, we have a Bishop who is anointed to preach. Below are the two sermons that the Bishop preached on Sunday. Listen to them knowing that here is a man who loves Jesus Christ – has given his life to the spreading and service of the Gospel and who now leads this diocese in humility.
Sunday Sermon – 9am – 6 Decemb

Sunday Sermon – 11am – 6 Decem

Daniel Chapter 6 – part 1

Most of us have heard the phrase “A quiet life.” How many of us have said to ourselves “I just want a quiet life – no hassle, no problems, no conflict, no hard work – just a nice quiet life.”

We look at retirement as the time to enjoy a quiet life. The problem is as believers, we probably will not get a quiet life.

For as long as Jesus decides to remain in heaven Christians will have the task of declaring the name of Jesus to the world.

Over 60 years have passed since the young Hebrews first arrived in Babylon. Daniel is now in the region of 80 years old. He has spent his lifetime in this foreign land. He had spent a lifetime in exile. He had spent a lifetime in exile still worshipping God.

Daniels lifetime of worshipping Yahweh had turned him from a tenacious teenager to a provocative pensioner.

And Daniel is not going to have a quiet retirement!

At the end of chp 5 we have Babylon falling to Darius the Mede, who now rules Babylon, and he appoints Daniel as one of the rulers over the Satrsps.

And even after 60 years, Daniel keeps making enemies. Daniel is not liked. His abilities, his willingness to everything as well as he could made people jealous of him. They were jealous that Darius planned to make Daniel the number one guy in the Kingdom.

Faithfulness to God requires us to be faithful in EVERYTHING we do, from friendships to chores in the house, to obeying our parents, to doing our school work. And as we are faithful, people will see that we can be trusted and that we are honest.

Joseph, in Genesis, was just the same. His brothers sell him into slavery, he is sold to Potiphar who then sends him to jail on a false accusation – but in EVERYTHING Joseph did he did it well, even when he was in prison.

Jesus was faithful to the Father in EVERYTHING he did – and that led him to the cross.
Being faithful, honest and trustworthy does not lead to an easy life, or even to being liked by people.

One person that you will definitely make an enemy of as a believer is the devil – and he will never stop trying to destroy YOU. As a believer in the one God of the universe, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, you have made an enemy of Satan. There will be no rest bite – there will be no quiet life as long as you declare jesus Lord.

But Daniel’s behavior was such that they could not find any charges against him. He was a man of integrity – trustworthy, not corrupt or negligent.

I wonder what would happen if someone tried to find some dirt on us? How easy would it be for them to discover something about us? Would it be easy or hard? Would someone trying to make trouble for us discover that we too are trustworthy, not corrupt, false or negligent?

In the end the only way to try and get rid of Daniel was to dupe a gullable Darius into signing a decree that meant everyone had to worship Him for the next thirty days.

Darius probably fell to flattery and pride – how would you like a nation to worship YOU for 30 days. It showed Darius’ weakness. Being influenced by flattery is so easy isn’t it! There is an old saying which says: beware of the person trying to butter you up – he is preparing to fry you!

What is interesting about this is that they limit the time to 30 days. This shows that they knew Daniel’s way of life and that there would be no doubt that Daniel would break this law.

There is a strong connection between this chapter and chapter three where Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego are thrown into the fire. The similarity is striking – but there is one difference – the three where thrown into the fire for REFUSING to worship an idol.


Despite the peer pressure – the public pressure – the pressure of death, Daniel KNEW that it would be a SIN to stop worshipping Yahweh – no matter who said so and matter the cost.

Is there anything that would stop us from worshipping God? Peer pressure? Public pressure? Family Pressure? Reputation pressure?

Daniel knew it would be so wrong to stop.

And his enemies KNEW this too – which is why they set this plan up.