Are you sitting comfortably?

A few days ago the daily word from Dictionary.com was,

As a young man I remember talking to a Catholic friend about his experienced of being catechised, he had gone through a series of classes teaching him the basics of the Catholic faith. He was a nominal

believer, having a form of faith that had no impact in his life. He used to go to confession on a Saturday night before we would go out clubbing on the basis that he repented before we did anything and so he was ok with God.

In my twenty eight plus years of having been born again no one in a Protestant church has ever suggested I get “catechised.” There is little emphasis on learning the basics of the faith, on being able to defend the basics, and of seeing the importance of learning such things as a basis for producing a flow of worship from our lives. Ask the “average believer” to consider such things, or to read a good theology book, and you will probably get a sneering disdainful response along the lines of “I am not a theologian.” (Little do they realise that we all are – some [many?] are just not good theologians.)

Most people are happy to hear of his glory, grace, mercy and love, of our destiny as believers, of gifts (and did I mention how unconditionally he loves us?) and so we preach those on a Sunday morning.

Yet any mature believer knows that such doctrines have a corollary in the fall, sin, justice, wrath, and even hell. And these doctrines should inspire us to proclaim the gospel to declare that worshipping the Living God is the privilege of all peoples, and to delight in God with increasing measure. If you don’t know or think about hell, the chances are you might be too comfortable in your salvation whilst the world is running rapidly towards it.

Slippery Fish

I remember whilst working at a Bible school in Denmark calling a student a slippery fish. Fortunately he wasn’t offended, in fact we went on to become good friends. And he knew precisely what I was talking about.

God desires to deal with us, he works in our lives to remove the rubbish, to mend the broken and to display his glory (2 Cor. 3:18). It is a great plan with one minor obstacle – us. Our fallen nature still sometimes resists the work of God. We might know it is for the best, know that it is out of his great love that the Lord is challenging and changing us, but still we slip and slither around.

One of the ways the Lord choses to outwork his good plan in your life is through situations, circumstances and people. This makes it difficult. We feel isolated, lonely and vulnerable – and are tempted to turn back because of the pain and cost. Don’t. Remember God is at work, working for your good so that your joy will be complete in him. Don’t slip out of his grasp.

James 1:2-4 (TM),

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

 

Spurgeon on numbers

I read this here. In a day when so many people evaluate church and mission (and missionaries) in terms of numbers, it is sobering to realise it is not a new thing, nor, from Spurgeon’s perspective, a healthy one.

Do not, therefore, consider that soul winning is or can be secured by the multiplication of baptisms and the swelling of the size of your church. What mean these dispatches from the battlefield? ‘Last night… fifteen souls were justified…’ I am weary of this public bragging, this counting of un-hatched chickens, this exhibition of doubtful spoils. Lay aside such numberings of the people, such idle pretense of certifying in half a minute that which will need the testing of a lifetime. Hope for the best, but in your highest excitements be reasonable… if [a harvesting of responses] leads to idle boastings they will grieve the Holy Spirit, and work abounding evil” (Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, p. 16; The Downgrade Controversy).

And weighing in on the subject here is Martyn Lloyd Jones,

“The business of the Gospel is to bring people to God, and to reconcile them to God. Not to fill churches! Not to have good statistics! But to reconcile men to god – to save them from the wrath to come.”

When a church has large numbers of people attending does that mean it has the blessing of God, or is there something more we need to look for (as well)?

It's ok to dress like a slut

I like articles that challenge me to think about things in a new way so I read with interest this one about Esther. Just to whet your appetite, before you click on the link,

The book of Esther is NOT about a morally upright girl whom God uses because she’s righteous. It’s about God using someone, who—like Judah (Gen 38)—is morally suspect. Here’s why:

First, Esther does not resist being taken into Xerxes’s (a pagan king) harem and participating in his beauty contest (2:8).

Second, Esther not only spent the night with the king before they were married, but of all the virgins that did the same, Esther “pleased him the most” (2:9, 16-17). I’ll let you do the exegesis on what went on that night, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t playing cards.

Third, after spending the night, Esther marries Xerxes—a pagan king—in blatant violation of Mosaic law.

Fourth, she wines and dines with the king (chs. 6-7), something that Daniel and his three friends explicitly chose not to do.

My mind searched for a modern equivalent, what situation would be similar to that faced by Esther today? Possibly model, actress or musician who has to wear revealing clothes but who then has the opportunity to “share their faith” as a result of the position they are “elevated to”? Maybe a degree of compromise would be involved but the end justifies the means – doesn’t it? Was I right in my thinking and praying, to leave Esther asking God not to put my daughter in that position?

I am a man of destiny (or am I?)

What is a right way to think about yourself, what is a good self image? What is the right way to think about who I am? How should I balance the fact that I am saved by grace and live to and for the glory of God with the fact that God chose to save me, God has a plan for me and his love for me is extravagant? How do I avoid pride and conceitedness whilst knowing God sees me as the apple of his eye?

As men and women of God are we all meant to think and act like Calvin (see below not the reformer)?

“God formed Adam, not as if he stood in need of man, but so that he might have someone upon whom to confer his benefits” Irenaeus