Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Shielded Inheritance

Storm Approaching

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

I’m prone to ‘spiritual panic.” I see the condition of the world, especially in the West, and I think to myself, “We’ll all be doomed!”

The promise found in 1 Peter is very comforting. Put simply: through faith we have an inheritance. This inheritance is preserved for us in heaven and as we wait, God’s power shields us. For the Christians in Peter’s day, this wasn’t theory. As they were under intense persecution, this promise had to be lived and acted upon.

If we did an honest audit, where do would we find our security? In the largeness of our church? In our church’s worship team? In our doctrinal basis? Or is it, as Peter suggests, as it should be, in the person of Christ who is the guarantor of our salvation. We KNOW what it should be, but is it?

God often reveals himself through weakness – Christ epitomising that. We could learn a lesson. Our strength lies in our vulnerability and our dependence on Christ, and not on the structures and programmes we build.

Our inheritance will not spoil or fade but anything we build, even in our church communities which is not on Christ our foundation, will certainly rot to nothing.

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Prevenient Grace – some more thoughts

My soul clings to you; 
   your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:8
 
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44

Prevenient Grace was not a doctrine I grew up with as it is not popular in Calvinist circles which is, rightfully, cautious about giving man credit for his own salvation. However, the more I reflect on its simple truth, the more I love it. A.W.Tozer decribes it as, “That before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.”

Simply. the doctrine of Prevenient Grace reminds me of a number othings:

1. It reminds me of my blind condition: the impact of sin is deadly to my spiritual sight.

2. It reminds me of the amazing grace of God who, through His Spirit pursues me and gives me His Spirit to open my eyes.

3. It also reminds of my need to repent and believe. (e.g. John 3:16).

In the list of doctines, such as Justifying Grace and Sanctifying Grace, remember Prevenient Grace – God pursuing us. As the old hymn declares:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee. Anon C19th
 
Usually sung to the beautiful tune Finlandia.
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Prevenient Grace

Relentlessly,
chasing and pursuing.
Leaving no stone unturned,
You chased me and
hounded me.
Still, no stone unturned,
no thought un-pricked, 
no glory in nature unspoken.
I ran,
but you ran faster,
I twisted and turned,
but you did it quicker.
I hufffed and puffed,
but you 
were boundless,
unstinting.
And then,
I thought,
foolishly,
that I had found you.
But you
in hymnal words
“found me!”
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Prepared for Action

Therefore prepare your minds for action: 1 Peter 1:13

If, as I have suggested in my earlier posts, we are rapidly heading into a post Christian/Christendom era in the west. In this environment, how should we live?

Once again Peter’s epistles overflow with answers. For example:

Do not conform to evil deisres (1 Peter 1: 14)
So be holy (vs 15)
Remember who you are in Christ: a chosen people and etc. (2: 9)

And he continues with submission to authority, love, self control, willingness to suffer and much, much more. In all he is urging the church to live lives that are an alternative to the way the world lives: lives that are a beacon of hope in the hopelessness of paganism. You find the similar echoes in the second letter.

We could translate that into negative statements: Don’t live the selfish, selfcentred lives of those around you. Don’t live lives obsessed with ego, fame, money, possessions, greed, materialism, consumerism. Don’t live fractured lives in fractured families … and so on.

Churches speak about mission, evangelism and witnessing, which I hasten to add is great, but unless we come to realise ( as Peter is telling us) that our greatest tool is the witness of our own lives – our actions, deeds, words, character, our expression of Christ to our neighbours and friends, our marriages, our families … or to put it into a Biblical term, our holiness. Lives purchased by Christ and being transformed by the Holy Spirit. Our lives need to attractive and attractional. God’s people need to be living billboard to the character of Christ.

I see this as the challenge for the C21st Church and Christian. Every time a celebrity preacher falls and every time you and I fail, we damage the name of Christ. So in the words of Peter, “Be firm and steadfast.”

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A Visit

Lids drooping,
eyes glazed
wandering lazily
unfocussed
around the room.
The words are clear
but not the meaning.
Ideas float between
reality and fantasy
and back again.
Memories
and people from the past
leap into the present.
The present fades.
Joys and sorrows
true and imagined
struggle for presence.
A fist clamped in frustration,
the face contorts
and the eyes narrow
but that memory,
that fact,
that important point
refuses to come.
The eyes wander lazily
again.
 
But this I know
and hold firm
that the heart and soul
behind those fading eyes
are in His hands!
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Comfortable Church Part 2

… though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds

The Colosseum. A Place Where Christians Were Not Called Hypocrites

of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.1 Peter 1:6 & 7

In the West, on the whole, our faith has not been tested by fire. Christians and Churches are not scattered in fear of their lives. “Suffering grief of all kinds” has not been the norm. With the continuous decline of Christianity from a mainstream movement to a peripheral group, maybe that time is not that far away. Social and moral values in our cultures are diverging from Biblical values everyday. Understandably, from within the church there are many cries of alarm. People even try to hijack political parties and candidates. But is this the answer?

Could there be a silver lining to this dark cloud? Is it possible that the church, scattered and strangers in the world (1Peter 1:1) could be a far more effective witness for Christ as it was in the early church. Could it be that a Church unencumbered by 1700 years of peripherals (i.e from the time of the Edict of Milan under Constantine) such as buildings, constitutions, robes, habits, customs and the rest, could be far more effective and genuine than it is today? Imagine, the only thing to grab hold on were the promises of God – nothing else. Imagine – your only protection was our invisible God ( 1peter 1:8)! Imagine, that our joy at being a child of God’s was so infectious it transformed a sceptical world.

It seems to me, the people of God are most effective when under the pressure of refining fire; whether Daniel in Babylon, Christians in the Roman world or Christians suffering persecution today. In the West we are often called hypocrites. I am sure this charge was never made against those who were, and are, prepared to die for their faith.

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The Visit

The doors were tall and dark,
The handle ominous.
A suited gent
extended a hand
with a made up smile
that tweeked his lips.
“Bulletin”
Thank you.
Cautiously we wandered in.
Hushed mirmurs.
Which seat?
There is a cushion there,
and a book.
Lets take a chance.
The space dribbled full.
well, fullish.
Pipe organ rumbled the building
Men filed in.
One man ascended.
Songs, and words, 
alternated.
A long word.
Songs and words
alternated again.
Then
Hands lifted.
(One set. At the front)
Amen declared.
And people made
for the doors.
Eyes averted,
Shoes inspected.
Ah, fresh air again.
The service is over.
Time for Coffee.
Want one?
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Comfortable Church

 To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus …                 1 Peter 1:1

Currently I am reading 1 Peter. The book begins with 3 conditions: the church are “elect”, “strangers” and “scattered”. The first speaks of the Christian’s relationship with God but the other two indicate that the church was living on the edge. The church in Asia Minor were living a tough life of persecution. They were on the fringes of society and certainly not   part of the Roman mainstream

They didn’t have big buildings or budgets, large music teams, large staff and the budget to match. Yet the church at this time was effective.

There are many themes woven through Peter’s epistle, but the one thought I want to reflect on at this time is: Is the Western Church today too dependent on structures and programmes rather than living the nitty, gritty coal face Christianity that is reflected in 1 Peter?  Then, if it was more like the early church, would it be more effective?

I would love to have your thoughts.

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Our God Sings Lullabys

The LORD your God is with you, 
   the Mighty Warrior who saves. 
He will take great delight in you; 
   in his love he will no longer rebuke you, 
   but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

This is an amazing verse! It is the only verse in Scripture in which God is described as singing. What is even more amazing is that God is described in maternal terms. He is like a mother cooing and singing with love over the baby in her arms.

In Zephaniah God foretells the disaster that is about to overcome His people because of their arrogance and rebellion. Yet later in the same book, in 3:17 He manifests his love. Despite this rejection by His children, He paints this picture of, on the one hand, a warrior who will ride in the like the cavalry to save them, and in a contrasting image, one of pure maternal love.

The second image is one we often associate with Mary and Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem – motherly love and adoration with her new born baby, quietly singing songs of rapture and joy. (The irony, of course, is that in Bethlehem it is humanity holding God in her hands!)

Two final thoughts: Note God’s delight. Like a doting mother He doesn’t just tolerate us, but He delights in us. He enjoys calling us His children. We see the motivation for sending Jesus to the cross on our behalf. The other, He rejoices. In other words He celebrates the fact that we are His children. There are echoes here of the future parable of the father of the prodigal son.

So today as you live before and worship your Creator and re- Creator, know and delight in the truth that to Him you are like a baby in His arms – someone to celebrate.

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A Day in the Garden

Finally, after a number of wet weekends, I had an early start and got into the garden. I was reminded once again that rain and warmth equals luxuriant growth – particularly for weeds.

A while back after spending many hours in back breaking weeding, I made the comment that I wanted a word with Eve when I got to Heaven. A friend ( a lady) said I would have to stand in line behind all the women before I had my turn to say my piece. I was put in my place!

The garden is a place of two truths, One truth is the miracle of creation and its beauty. There are flowers, trees and shrubs of infinite shades, colours, shapes and sizes. I am always amazed at what I hadn’t noticed before. I love being out there. It is a place of respite after a busy head filled week. The other truth, though, is the reality of brokenness and sin. Plants die, there are pests that destroy them and then there are the weeds that run rampant and choke anything in their path.

This tension between beauty and ugliness is a metaphor for our lives. There is much to rejoice over, and sadly, much to sorrow over. For the Christian, the beauty is also a reminder that Christ has a place for us – a new weedless and pestless heaven and earth. In fact, we are there with him now (Eph 2). Still, we are also here dealing with our own sin and that of those around us.

But for me, the garden is a place of hope (usually) and it helps me look forward with a real sense of joy. So I had better stop rambling and get out there again.

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