Monday, January 21, 2008

Facebook and Fellowship

All over the world men and women and young people are in search of community. Within each of us beats a desire to be known and to know others in a deep and satisfying manner. In a past generation this was displayed in meeting at the local corner or in the proliferation of public houses up and down the country. Today the longing for community is displayed in cyberspace. Myspace was at one time signing up 500,000 new users a week. Bebo advertises itself as a social media network where friends share their lives. Friends Reunited uk claims to have 19 million old friends listed. All in the quest for community. Why such a strong desire that displays itself in so many different ways? The answer is simple - we are wired for community. When God created man, though he was perfect, in a perfect world and in contact with God for he had no sin we are given the startling information in Genesis 2v18 It is not good for man to be alone. Made in the image on God we are designed to have meaningful and satisfying contact with others. Sadly our sin has spoiled everything and every effort to connect with others quickly gets marred and does not satisfy.
So where is the answer? In the gospel, in I John 1v3 we read, We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. When we are restored to fellowship with God through faith alone in Christ alone we are linked with other Christians in true fellowship.
The local church is God's visual tract to the world. The world ought to be able to look at your church and mine and be blown away by the unity amidst our diversity. They ought to see in all our local churches where true community is found and how to true community can be experienced. Your congregation is God's facebook for the lost world the one place where people can truly share their lives that God is remaking. Your church is to show that it is possible for enemies to be reunited - that is how it was in the NT church with Jew and Gentile sitting together, lovingly caring and providing for one another.

God's Man of Influence Book Review

God's Man of Influence, Jim George, Harvest House Publishers, £8.50

This is the first Jim George book that I have read. He and his wife seem to have a whole series. While initially it seems light and lacking in any substance it is a very genuine attempt to help men not to friter away their days but to do something with their lives. The book consists or 19 short chapters with a study sectin tagged on at the end. He covers a range of subjects: obedience, challenges, discipline, purpose, plan, temptation, serving, mentoring etc. While not the best written book in the world I found this thought prevoking and stimulating. It is a sort of 5 minute a day book, read a chapter on the bus book, take on vacation book. While a tad American in places Jim George has some helpful comments throughout. Useful to do as part of your daily devotions and also to study alongside someone. Best read with a pen and notebook and most especially on your knees confessing your sin and asking that God in His sovereign mercy would give you grace to make an impact for Him.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blogging and Jogging

Let us run with perseverance the race set out for us. Perhaps for some who read this blog your Christian life has been a bit like my running of late. A few aches and pains during the summer made me ease up on the miles. The hectic pace of autumn schedule made me slack off even further. When the Christmas holidays came the plug was virtually pulled and the pounds piled on. Now a few weeks into the new year and it is time to press on - three short runs this week and a game of five aside that left me walking like the proverbial octogenarian.

Amidst a run tonight in the driving rain I thought - how just like the Christian life - a few distractions, often legitimate and the quiet times drops, the pressure of work and the commitment ease off again and week by week the spiritual flab begins to appear, the pace of devotions ease back and the spiritual life splutters further into ill health.
So if you are easing up let the madness of a middle aged man out running on a wet and windy Friday evening drive you back to the training that far surpasses the training of the body and run with perseverance the race set out for you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Four Devotional Commentaries on Hebrews

There are a whole range of commentaries available for studying Hebrews. Over the past few months I have been easing myself into the book trying to get to grips with the themes and structures. I decided to start my studies at purely a devotional level. To that end I have over the past few months made my way through four of the devotional commentaries that are available.
A Glorious High Throne, Edgar Andrews, Welwyn Series, Evangelical Press
Hebrews, Walter Riggans, Focus on the Bible, Christian Focus
Hebrews - A Call to Commitment, William L. Lane, Hhendriksen Publishers
Hebrews, Hywel R. Jones, Let's Study Series, Banner of Truth
All of these light devotional commentaries are useful for quiet time studies but not for serious sermon preparation. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Lane is good for showing the overall structure of the book and how the sections link together. Riggans is useful for giving some of the Greek words at a very simple level. Jones I found least helpful though sound throughout. My favourite was Andrews A Glorious High Throne. An easy read, well broken up and helpful application. Excellent for personal devotions.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Washing by the River - Redeeming the Time

Every night at tea time I set my dinner plate on a place mat that has been speaking to me for years - only now am I getting the picture. The place mat has an old image printed on it of my home town. The interesting thing is that the main street and other well known landmarks are all evident even though the image is from over 100 years ago. What really has been catching my eye is the women in the image - all down by the river washing their baskets full of clothes. No automatic washing machines then, not even a scrubbing board - just hour after hour scrubbing by the riverside talking to the other women folk.
Flash forward a century or more and what of all the women folk now - what do they do with all that extra time on their hands now that there is no going down to the river. How will all the free time be filled - watch another sordid episode of Loose Women, the brain numbing Trisha or Property in the Sun?
Don't get me wrong - I am not having a go at women folk. Just the lesson - what are we doing with the free time that all the modern conveniences brings to us - another episode of East Enders, another game on the play station, another game on the Wii.
At least the women at the river side were learning the art of conversation.
What of you and me in 2008 - will we redeem the time? Use those moments to read another chapter, have more time for prayer, have more time to share the joys of our family, talk to the neighbours and tell them the Good news of Christ crucified and risen.

No Little People Francis A. Schaeffer

Bought this book published by Crossway some months ago for a tenner and only now getting round to finishing it off. The book is a collection of Schaeffer's sermons -sixteen in all, which he preached at L'Abri in Switzerland. Some are better than others and most have those definite Schaeffer touches that open up unseen truths. The book is worth buying and reading for the last chapter, Ash Heap Lives. In this he challenges the reader to take a walk through a city dump - it is all the riches that people have wasted their lives gathering - don't waste yours.
This outing with Schaeffer has reminded me of student days at QUB back in the early 1980s when I first discovered Schaeffer and found his writings a lifeline amidst godless philosophy. I could hardly put down the small paperbacks: The God who is there, He is there and is not Silent, True Spirituality and The Church Before the Watching World. If you haven't read them yet - why not cash in a few selection boxes to some younger family member, return a few unwanted gifts to Next - gather the money and happy reading.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Big Issue

Saturday 29th December’s Telegraph referred to the recent trouble between two Presbyterian ministers in Portadown as a “Presbyterian Pickle” and a “sad saga.” Many no doubt would agree that the whole saga is indeed a sad and sorry one and hope and pray that “good might come of it yet.” It is however a pickle that is easily resolved. Resolution of the matter and indeed good coming from it will only happen when the real issue is seen. To date the whole episode is being portrayed as an issue about gender, or conscience, or discrimination, or accommodation or church law.
While these may be issues that no doubt sell papers and grab the headlines, none of them come anywhere near the real issue. The big issue here is none of these blood pressure raising topics but something much more important. The real issue, the big issue is the authority of Scripture. The real issue is listening to what God says and not what we think might be best.
All of us have a natural and sinful bent that makes us imagine that we know better than God. The sooner we wise up to that fatal flaw in all our hearts the better. The God of the Bible is our loving, caring Creator. There is nothing to know that He does not know. In His love and kindness He has given to us the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments. The self declaring statement of the Bible is that it is the breathed out Word of God. Every sentence, every word, every jot and tittle given by God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” (II Timothy 3v16) That means that it is without error, thoroughly dependable and trustworthy for it is His Word. Since it is God’s Word it will not bring any harm, only good to those who will listen in humility.
In His remarkable book God has told us who He is, who we are, what has gone wrong with the world and most of all about the only answer, His Son the Lord Jesus Christ coming to earth to live, die and rise again. The Bible also gives clear instructions as to how the church is to function. God tells us who belongs to the church, how the church is to worship, how the church is to be governed.
In I Timothy chapter 2& 3 God makes it very clear that the leadership of the church is to be in the hands of suitable, Biblically qualified men. God has said that clearly. It is not that He is down on women or that somehow God is a little backward and behind the times. It has nothing to do with culture or the developments of society. God makes it crystal clear that He has set the order on the basis of how He created things and what happened at the Fall.
If only we would listen to what God says and not imagine that we know better. None of us can afford to sit on the fence when it comes to the authority of the Word of God. If the Bible is what it says it is – the breathed out Word of God, then we should to a man, and a woman, close our mouths, open our ears, humble our hearts.
Then there will be peace in the church and blessing for all.