Delighting In The Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves

While almost every Christian knows the word ‘Trinity’ few Christians can articulate what the Trinity is and WHY it is a vital aspect of the Christian faith.

In the midst of the lofty erudite works which few Christians wrestle through on the trinity Michael Reeves has produced a great little book which provides a down to earth introduction to not only what the trinity is but it’s importance in the Christian life.

For Reeves, understanding the Trinity relates to the type of God we know and worship; which God we will proclaim and serve.

This is going to be a very good resource for pastors to give away for people who are interested in starting to explore the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Highly Recommended!

Superstorm Sandy has come…But are we ready for the even bigger storm?

Living 14 miles south of Washington DC we watched the path of Sandy very carefully.

It is fascinating, being a Brit living in the States, watching people prepare for a major storm or hurricane. They become diligent in making sure that they have all the supplies they need – some buy generators – almost all batteries for flash lights – food, water, clearing the yard of any loose items, if necessary nailing boards to windows and making sure your car has gas in it.

Each year you can get a hurricane preparedness kit to help you plan for a any possible storm.

To not be prepared is regarded as stupid and irresponsible, not just by putting yourself and family in harms way but by possibly putting first responders in harms way when they try and come and rescue you!

And yet, as a Christian, I look and cannot help but  see the parallel of what is still to come. While people are diligent in their preparedness for a weather storm, the exact opposite is true with regards to people’s preparedness for the great storm to come – the coming of the King of Kings.

Sandy’s strength and size meant that the federal government ground to a halt. The President of the United States had no power to stop, divert or lessen the impact of the storm. He was frankly helpless and weak against it’s onslaught.

The same will be true when the Shofar is blown from heaven and the Lord Jesus steps into the world again as the returning king.  All the diligence and work and preparedness which was poured into riding out a weather system is one thing; and yet so many  people are being stupid and irresponsible in their preparedness for the coming of Jesus Christ. Nothing can stop it – nothing can divert it. To believe it will not happen is as dumb as refusing to leave your house that is in the direct path of a hurricane.

I guess our job as the Church is to tell people that an even greater storm than Sandy is coming – a storm so big, so universal that every single person on the face of the planet will be caught up in it. It is our job to tell people it is coming and to help them be prepared.

Do Not Show Partiality, Even T0 Your OWN Life

Our reading from James this morning always causes me a pang of guilt – I know that I have showed favoritism in the past – that I have not been partial. It’s hard not to. You are naturally drawn to people who are like you – those with whom you have much in common. Those who are different to you – both socially and physically cause us to withdraw. But James is very clear, is he not, partiality is a sin.

Now, partiality can be shown in many different ways. James’ example is with regards to a poor man and a wealthy man. Remember that James is speaking to a Christian Church. This obviously has happened and James is warning them that this is not acceptable in God’s sight. We can show favoritism or partiality even unconsciously in many different ways.

But our gospel reading shows another type of partiality or favoritism.

Jesus has asked the disciples who he is. They have responded with various reports of being Elijah or a prophet but Peter, by revelation, proclaims Jesus to be the Christ. That is, the one sent from God to redeem Israel. Now, Christ was not a name, but a title. And Peter’s understanding of that word is important. Because by declaring Jesus the Christ he had a vision of what that would entail. Peter would have believed that the end of the world was near and that the great battle, where the nations – the gentiles, would rise up and battle and Israel. But the Christ would take the field and make war and destroy the gentile nations. The Christ would denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness and would display before them their contemptuous dealings – and when he had reproved them he would destroy them. The Christ would be the most destructive conqueror in history. There then would follow the renovation of Jerusalem and the dispersed Jews all over the world would be gathered into the new Jerusalem. Palestine would become the center of the world and the rest of the nations would be subject to it.

This is what Peter’s understanding of the Christ would have been – violent, destructive, nationalistic and vengeful.

And then Jesus says to the disciples that he would suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Can you see why Peter reacted to Jesus’ words so strongly. This did not sound like the Christ he thought would come and so he tells Jesus – no you’re not going to die.

Peter is showing favoritism here – the Christ cannot suffer like this – that’s ridiculous – his status can not allow such a thing.

And Jesus’ response to Peter’s rebuke shows the battle that was going – “Get behind me satan.” After Jesus had faced the devil in the temptations we are told that the devil left until another time. Here was another time – the devil using Peter to tempt Jesus off the path. No, you Jesus should not go down such a road – you are too important, too great too powerful to be killed – you’re life is too valuable.

It is to this that Jesus teaches in the rest of our gospel reading.

And what he says is hard.

Do NOT show partiality or favoritism to even your own life.

This concept is probably the hardest for the world to grasp about the Christian faith – in order to have life you must die, and if you try to live, you will instead die.

And it is one of the hardest things for us as Christians to grasp too!

One theologian has written: God gave us life to spend and not to keep. If we live carefully always thinking first of our own profit, ease, comfort and security, if our sole aim is to make life as long and as trouble free as possible, if we will make no effort except for ourselves, we are losing life all the time.

Now, notice, he does not say live recklessly. This is not about giving everything away to the poor or never having anything or being embarrassed by success. The point is that as followers of Jesus we must give up favoritism to our own life, or lifestyle – that we say to God that it is his and he can use it as he sees fit – and when we do this we receive real, eternal and glorious life.

If we say to God – I want to SPEND my life for you Lord – for others – for your kingdom, we are winning life.

Jesus never sugar coated the Christian life. He never tried to bribe anyone by the offer of an easy way. He did not offer peace in this life: He offered GLORY!

Also Jesus NEVER preached something which he himself was not willing to show. On one level Peter was right – the Christ, being arrested, tormented and killed – that is outrageous. And it is outrageous. And yet Jesus does not just SAY that you must DIE to yourself; he SHOWED us, modeled to us HOW we die to ourselves.

Jesus does not show favoritism to his own life. He lays it down willingly. Jesus has known this was coming since the beginning of creation. Isaiah prophecies this in our Old Testament reading – notice what God says I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. 7 For the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

This suffering servant – Jesus – will be smitten – and yet will not suffer shame because God helps him! John’s Gospel speaks of the cross as Glorification for Jesus. Jesus never holds onto his life but gives it completely into the Fathers hands knowing that whatever happens to Him will end with Him in God’s presence.

And that is what Jesus asks of us. When Jesus says “take up your cross and follow me” – he was speaking of death. When ever you saw a man carrying a cross you knew that he was going to die.

Jesus says – we must die and follow Jesus. We must not show favoritism or partiality even to our own life.

Deny yourself – that is, say no to self. Gal 2:20: 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The biggest temptation we face is to regard our life with favoritism. We may be able to give up many things us – some money, some comfort, even careers for the Lord. But we lay down boundaries don’t we, when it comes to the possible impact on our life. But God asks of us everything – even our very life for the truth of the gospel.

One of the results of Christian maturity, of sanctification, is that we begin to stop regarding our own life with favoritism. That we truly begin to give it over to God, that God would use our life for his purposes and that we would be willing to put ourself in any situation God asked of us.

Telemachus was a Christian monk in the later 4th century. He went to Rome. At this point in history, Rome was Christian. No longer were Christians killed in the arena. However, in this ‘Christian’ city, there were still gladiatorial games. Instead of Christians, prisoners of war, those captured by the Roman army in their battles, were used to entertain the Christian crowds. Telemachus went to the arena and was appalled at what he saw. Foxes Book of Martyrs says this:

Suddenly there was an interruption. A rudely clad, robed figure appeared for a moment among the audience, and then boldly leaped down into the arena. ….These were his words: “Do not requite God’s mercy in turning away the swords of your enemies by murdering each other!”

Angry shouts and cries at once drowned his voice: “This is no place for preaching!–the old customs of Rome must be observed!–On, gladiators!” Thrusting aside the stranger, the gladiators would have again attacked each other, but the man stood between, holding them apart, and trying in vain to be heard. “Sedition! sedition! down with him!” was then the cry; and the gladiators, enraged at the interference of an outsider with their chosen vocation, at once stabbed him to death. Stones, or whatever missiles came to hand, also rained down upon him from the furious people, and thus he perished, in the midst of the arena.

The few who knew him told how he had come from the wilds of Asia on a pilgrimage, to visit the churches and keep his Christmas at Rome; they knew he was a holy man, and that his name was Telemachus. His spirit had been stirred by the sight of thousands flocking to see men slaughter one another, and in his simple-hearted zeal he had tried to convince them of the cruelty and wickedness of their conduct. He had died, but not in vain. His work was accomplished at the moment he was struck down, for the shock of such a death before their eyes turned the hearts of the people: they saw the hideous aspects of the favorite vice to which they had blindly surrendered themselves; and from the day Telemachus fell dead in the Colosseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.

The last known gladiator fight in Rome was on January 1, 404.

Another story i want to tell you is of Nate Saint. He was an evangelical Christian who was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Waodani people of Ecuador.

Just before he left on his final mission his young son asked him if he would use his gun to protect himself against the Waodani if they should attack. His response was “ Son, we can’t shoot the Waodani –  they are not ready for heaven. We are.”

The point of these two stories, and this sermon as a whole is not a guilt trip, or a call that we must go and do something life threatening if we want to be real christians – but that we understand that Jesus’ words, ‘Take up your cross and follow me’ and ‘Deny yourself’ are not metaphorical, or illustrative but a real request – that Jesus asks that we no longer hold onto our own life with partiality or with favoritism and that we really do want to say to God:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
*Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.

What does taking up our crosses and following Jesus look like in our society today? What does it look like to say “Lord, I will not show favoritism even to my life?”.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6: do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a] and in your spirit, which are God’s.

It is a willingness to stand up for truth, justice, righteousness and to glorify God in our actions regardless of the cost to us. It is about never shying away from an action which we know is right and true because the result might appear to impact us negatively.

We don’t need to worry about what happens to us. We are ready for heaven. So many are not!!

Gregory of Nyssa: Sermons On The Beatitudes: A Paraphrase by Michael Glerup

 

I am a firm believer that Christians should engage with the early church fathers. However, both the size of their writings and the language can be be a barrier to many. And while the purists will probably not like Michael Glerup’s paraphrase, I think this is a great idea.

 

Whether we like it or not we are living in a culture whereby language, reading habits, reading levels have changed. That does not mean we should not attempt to raise those standards, but giving people access to the essence of Gregory of Nyssa’s teaching, when in all probability they would never seek it out or have the patience to wrestle through it, is in my opinion a very good thing.

 

Glerup’s paraphrase is easy to read and easy to understand. He does a very good job of taking the essence of these sermons on the Beatitudes and transporting them into the 21st century. And the sermons themselves are just wonderful.

 

This book is so accessible that you could give this to a senior high Youth Group as a discussion book and have an amazing time talking through the meaning and application of the Beatitudes.

 

Highly Recommended.

The Rise and Fall of Dinesh D’Souza

This is a sad article by World Magazine. Read it all HERE

There are two things which make me sad reading this article. Firstly  D’Souza has shown an incredible lack of judgement and discernment. To file for divorce on the 4th Oct and yet on the 28th Sept, announces to a group his new fiancee & they share a hotel room together is a horrendous lack of judgment.

Secondly, what on earth has the Church come too when people can charge $10,000 for D’Souza to come and speak. Surely the standard / the tariff of what to charge for truth was determined by Jesus!! Of course a worker is worth his wage – but in my opinion no-one, and I say no-one should ever get RICH off the gospel.

Very sad indeed.

Preaching Politics From The Pulpit?

October 7th was a Sunday whereby many preachers broke the ‘rule’ of endorsing a candidate from the pulpit – and even sending the recording to the IRS. Technically, preaching politics can lose you your tax exempt status.

I have mixed feelings about this. I deliberately do not mention directly politics or political views from the pulpit. Not because a pastor’s views should be silent – if a congregation member asks you directly how will you vote I think you should respond (with discernment of course). But because it can all too easily degenerate into a nasty mess. Of course God is neither Republican or Democrat. And this particular election has, from my perspective, become quite nasty not just between the candidates, and the ads, but between people. Just recently a bus driver told a 12 year old child that maybe his mother should have aborted him, just because the family had a Romney sign in their yard.

The pulpit is about the gospel. Jesus Christ. The Saviour of the world. There is healing and reconciliation in the gospel – there is none in politics.

 

 

A Recent Sermon Prov 9v1-6 Eph 5v15-20 John 6v53-59

It is calculated that the average American adult makes 30,000 choices every single day. Most are very easy simple ones which we spend no time contemplating. However in every aspect of life we are confronted by choice all the time. Not only that but in every aspect of life we are able to make a choice. From the mundane of what to watch on television and how we watch it to what we buy and wear, to where we live. how we are educated and the jobs we do.

Our culture today has even allowed us choice in terms of morality and truths. We are able to decide what we think is right and wrong in many areas,  even when to choose life and when to end life.

Choice is everywhere and has infiltrated every part of society. Choice has become a right.

Now, the problem we face is that because we are so used to having choice and to exercising OUR choice, we have lost the gravity that faces us in some choices. Whether we watch Fox Sports or ESPN, or CNN and MSNBC, or shop at Giant or Walmart or Trader Joe’s are ultimately irrelevant choices. We can exercise the choice but the outcome is of no consequence.

However there are choices which are very important – and I fear that these important choices, or at least the gravity of the choice has been lost in the sea of choice.

As someone has said When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice

Today we have made the acknowledgment of God a choice – take it or leave it. Believe it or not. The issue with a a so called atheist is not so much they have made a choice not to believe, as if it is on the same level as whether to watch Fox News of MSNBC – the issue is the so called atheist has decided to be foolish. To rebel and to reject and ignore God. It is a foolish choice and a dangerous choice. It has grave consequences. And yet our culture covers this up. We, as followers of Christ, are called to show people the gravity of the choice.

This is exactly what our reading from Proverbs 9 is saying.

If you read the whole of Chp 9 you will see that it is about a choice between two things – wisdom or folly. Each has their stall set out to entice people. The thing is, when you compare the two stalls – what wisdom and folly offer, the wisdom stall outstrips everything. The description we have in our reading shows how obvious the choice should be – wisdom has built a house with seven pillars. The number seven is the number for perfection or completion in scripture. We don’t have time to talk about the number seven in detail but: The seventh day was the holy day; the seventh month was specially hallowed by its number of sacred festivals; the seventh year was the Sabbatic year of rest for the land: while 7 x 7 years marked the year of Jubilee (Lev 25:4,8).

Wisdom’s house, what it can offer is perfect. And what wisdom provides in terms of food and drink is exactly what we need – perfectly nourishing.

To choose not to enter this wisdom, God’s wisdom, or to choose to be without it is foolishness. It is also rebellion against God.

Also notice that the choice to enter or accept God’s wisdom is not because you are already wise – we do not choice God because we have wisdom, we choose God because we acknowledge we are without wisdom.

Jesus shows us this in Luke 10:21 “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Paul echoes this a number of times not least in 1 Corinthians: 1 Cor 1:26 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  1 Cor 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. fIf anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.  19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”  20 and again, i“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Paul never equates wisdom with human wisdom. We see this in our epistle reading in Ephesians. Walk not as unwise but as wise. The word for wise is sophos – it does not relate to brilliance or scholastic training but the ability to apply with skill what one knows. The New Testament uses this word in regards to applying spiritual truth to ones life.

When we choose to apply spiritual truth to our life we are sophos or sophia – wise.

v17 of Ephesians 5 lays it out clearly. To not be foolish or unwise you must understand the will of Lord – application of spiritual truth to our lives.

The problem is that when we try to apply spiritual truth to our lives the world will either scream at us that we are foolish, or that the choice is irrelevant. The world does not see a live given over to the worship and following of God as a wise thing to do.

Some of you have heard me say that when I was in Lloyds Bank in the city of London, just after I was converted, I had started to be involved in church more and more. This meant that I would leave work on time, not staying behind to do overtime and I did not work on the weekends. When my annual review came up with my senior manger he said to me that I needed to make the same choice he had to make as a young banker. He was in a rock band and he had to decide whether to pursue music or a career in the bank – I now, he said, hd to choose between the bank or God.

Now looking back that seems like an obvious choice but as a young man, recently married, the world was screaming at me that I would be a fool to choose God over a career in a premier global bank.

I have appeared foolish to may people over my life – the decision to leave a career in banking to go to seminary – to become a youth minister – to sell everything we had and leave England to move to America.

Eleanor Roosevelt said:

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die.

So in the midst of the 30,000 choices we are going to make today and tomorrow, we must each day make one vital and all encompassing choice – that today we will walk as one who is wise – we will follow the Lord.

How do we do this? We must absorb wisdom. What do I mean. Wisdom has her food and drink and the invitation is to eat and drink. Food and drink enter our body and nourishes us and the food and drink become a part of our body.

That is the wisdom we are called to choose. And the food we are to eat is the word of God. And who is the word of God? Jesus.

And that is the point of our Gospel reading in John this morning.

The whole of John 6 is about what really nourishes a person. Jesus begins chp 6 by feeding 5000 people. They then want to follow Jesus about because they think they will be feed for free all the time. Jesus challenges them on that in v26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

Jesus then goes on to tell the real issue – v27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life. That is what Jesus is doing for the rest of chp 6.

And in our reading this morning we reach the climax – the choice he lays before the people v53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 

[54] he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

That’s the choice before the people right here.

Of course we know that Jesus is not talking about eating his literal blood and literal body and that Jesus is making an illusion to the Lord’s Supper. But it is more than that. It is an image of Proverbs 9 – Jesus is wisdom – and we are to eat and drink of God’s wisdom – we are to be nourished by it and this is the choice we must make everyday – that the by the Holy Spirit, through the word of God and in relationship with him in prayer and worship we have Christ in us.

This is the wisest choice we make in our live and we must choose it everyday – to walk in the ways of the Lord. Out of this we will find that all our 30,000 other choices  will come from the foundation of this one choice of Christ in us.

v56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

In a few moments we will come the Lord’s Supper. This part of our worship is a remembrance of Jesus’ words here – and it is also to testify that we have chosen wisdom – that Christ abides in us and we abide in Christ.

And it is only from this place are we able to say to others that their choice regarding God has eternal consequences and that they should turn to the living God and recieve wisdom.

May it be so!

Catch Up

One of the interesting learning curves I have been on over the past year is regarding the management of time. Now pastor of a small church plant, it took a little time to re-adjust from a larger church environment with a staff and administration facilities to, well, ME only. Once settled into that things went well.

And then, more recently, another adjustment had to happen and this time it was a little more difficult. This time it was in regards to growth. Literally, over two weeks, we grew by 5 families. Not a big deal you may think – but for us it was. The children’s  ministry went from 4 to 12 overnight. And meeting in a school, with all the challenges that brings, meant we needed to suddenly make sure we had a nursery.

All these have been good challenges – exciting challenges. But it has also taken up time and energy – hence the silence here. But now, I am catching up. I have ‘re-adjusted’. God has been so good. So faithful. So amazing! He blesses despite our failings. He encourages us despite our unfaithfulness!