Biting back

The effects of the reading the Bible seem to be multitudinous. Consider this (originally seen here),

The Center For Bible Engagement released a study in 2009. It revealed the following:

If you read your Bible just four times per week you had a:
228% higher odds of sharing your faith.
231% higher odds of discipling others.
416% higher odds of giving to church.

You were also:
57% less likely of getting drunk.
68% less likely of sex out of marriage.
74% less likely to engage in gambling.

Reading the statistics makes me wonder if reading the Bible can simply make you more religious and / or more moral. You become a nice religious person – who was it who spoke of much Christianity being moralistic, therapeutic deism? Whoever it was often I think they are right.

Of course that is said before stating the most obvious aspect of reading the Bible: There is a chance you will meet God in some way.

Many Christians are  spiritually impoverished because they don’t read the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit – it is not living and active but is word upon word. Others read it in a way that simply says bless me, bless me, still more read not asking or being ready for God to speak in correction or challenge.

So go on, take a a bite of the Bible today – but if you are open don’t be surprised if it bites back.

The Northern Lights

I used a picture of the northern lights in a class a few days ago – it appeared that none of the students present knew anything about them. They are spectacular, just look at the photo below which was taken from space by some astronauts onboard the international space station. As with much of the world around us seeing this causes me to stop and worship as Psalm 19 (Msg) says,

1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

Here is what NASA has to say in explaining them,

The northern lights are caused by collisions between fast-moving particles (electrons) from space and the oxygen and nitrogen gas in our atmosphere. These electrons originate in the magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field. As they rain into the atmosphere, the electrons impart energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules, making them excited. When the molecules return to their normal state, they release photons, small bursts of energy in the form of light.

northern_lights_iss_20131009

Reflect and reposition

October is ending, the year is rapidly drawing to a close, British summer time ends tomorrow, the days are urgent, the world needs credible people who testify to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. How has your month been? Time to reflect and reposition.

James Bryan Smith and Richard Foster, of Renovare, have compiled this list of questions for accountability to spiritual disciplines.

  1. In what ways did God make his presence known to you since our last meeting? What experiences of prayer, meditation and spiritual reading has God given you? What difficulties or frustrations did you encounter? What joys or delights?
  2. What temptations did you face since our last meeting? How did you respond? Which spiritual disciplines did God use to lead you further into holiness of heart and life?
  3. Have you sensed any influence or work of the Holy Spirit since our last meeting? What spiritual gifts did the Spirit enable you to exercise? What was the outcome? What fruit of the Spirit would you like to see increase in your life? What disciplines might be useful in this effort?
  4. What opportunities did God give you to serve others since our last meeting? How did you respond? Did you encounter injustice to our oppression of others? Were you able to work for justice and shalom?
  5. In what ways did you encounter Christ in your reading of the Scripture since our last meeting? How has the Bible shaped the way you think and live? Did God provide an opportunity for you to share your faith with someone? How did you respond?

May God joyfully interfere

I work in an environment where many people are cessationist in their theology. Cessationism believes that miracles and healings stopped after the death of the last of the apostles who were chosen by Jesus during his life on earth.

I am almost diametrically opposed to them in our view of the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. I believe in healing, I believe in speaking in tongues, I believe in miracles happening today…and so much more.

I am also happy to say that I agree with this comment found at Political Jesus,

My problem with cessationism is that once pastors lead churches into believing that the Holy Spirit does not work as God does in Acts, then the Bible held captive by limited cultural interpretations.

I have always found it hard to understand how people who claim to love the Bible as much as cessationists claim to seem to have such a limited (and limiting) way of interpreting the events post Jesus’ resurrection.

I find it easier to read my Bible and believe that the God who inspired its writing, is in fact the same yesterday, today and forever, and that might just mean he still wants to joyfully interfere in the world he made and in the lives of the people he loves.

Long may it continue.

 

202, Life of Christ, Section 10c Passion Crucifixion Resurrection

More notes on the Life of Christ, this time we move past the cross and quickly cover post resurrection appearances. As usual the notes are on slideshare and scribd, or can be read below:

202, Life of Christ, Section 10c Passion Crucifixion Resurrection by richard

I am not clever enough to worship

This is a comment from a Q&A at the Strange Fire conference,

[Moderator] Friel: Let me play devil’s advocate. “Your problem, Pastor MacArthur, is you like organs and cellos. This is our way of expressing ourselves in worship. What’s the problem with our way of worshiping?

John MacArthur: It’s mindless emotional hysteria. It’s not about worship. Worship only goes high when understanding goes deep. The deeper your understanding of the truth of God, the higher your worship goes. Worship is directly correlated to understanding. The richer your theology, the more elevated your worship becomes. You don’t have to turn the music on for me to worship. In fact, I sometimes wish the music would all go away, and that I didn’t have to deal with sensations along with my thoughts. Low understanding of God, superficial, shallow understanding of God, leads to shallow, content-less, superficial hysteria. That’s not worship. Why have you been singing hymns this week? Because there is rich theology in hymns. We don’t have to go hysterical. We want your mind fully engaged.

I was disappointed to read that.

John MacArthur obviously has a love for God. He has been gifted by God intellectually and part of the result is that his ministry and his writings have blessed many.

It seems grossly unfair to me that he can think only by having a greater understanding of God can you have a greater experience of worship. (Incidentally I am using the word worship in the way Dr MacArthur appears to, though readers of this blog will know I believe biblical worship is far more than singing a song.) Does it mean that god finds worship offered by intellectuals more acceptable than that of people with a lower IQ? Do I need an M Div to acceptably worship God? What of the widow who in giving two copper coins worshipped in a deeper way than those giving untold riches? Jesus seemed more than happy with her worship. What of a forgiven woman “wasting” a jar of perfume (which cost a years wages) by pouring it over the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair? Jesus had no problem with such extravagance.

What is wrong with simple people singing simple songs of passion and adoration to their glorious Lord and God? They might never attain to the educational heights of Dr MacArthur but surely that doesn’t mean their worship is any the less acceptable to God? In simplicity they cry tears of adoration, their prayers are simple unsophisticated declarations of love. Is that in any way wrong, does not being a sesquipedalian mean God cannot hear prayers offered in mono/disyllabic words?

Worship is aided by our minds but it is not finalised there. Worship stirs the whole of our being in adoration to God – body, soul and spirit sing in joyful adoration of our King.

I am not a clever man Dr MacArthur, possibly by your standards not clever enough to offer real worship to God. I am simple. I love Jesus, love the Lord my God. And I worship him as best I can.

Wow!

John MacArthur is usually condemnatory of the charismatic church – below is some of the strongest criticism of it that I have ever heard from him.

I admire his confidence that he knows who is saved and who is not, that he understands their lives so well that he knows if they are growing. I cannot claim such certainty – and am happy that I can’t. For it seems to me that ultimately such judgement belongs to God.

I totally disagree with MacArthur, especially in regard to his declaration that charismatics do not know Christ  or the Gospel, and who are not growing or seeing their lives transformed. However, I  believe it is good to be aware of such strong opinions and give them proper consideration. Please do not sit on one side of the argument or the other and throw stones, think about the evidence and pray for these people who disagree passionately in their beliefs and yet still call upon the same Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

I confess that I think charismatics have made some mistakes, I know I have made many and I am thankful that people who love me do not feel the need to parade them before the watching world. However I have also seen “evangelicals” who lack grace, peace and love in their walk with christ. Undoubtedly people on both sides of this argument have, at times, spoken in haste or without grace. Can’t we love one another and move on in our love for Christ?

In this link Michael Brown takes some time to give a slightly fuller discussion on the subject and his attempts to discuss the issue personally with John MacArthur. He tries to refute some of the claims made by MacArthur, for example,

“In his own pre-conference video, Pastor MacArthur makes the absolutely false claim that 90 percent of charismatics worldwide are Word of Faith—it is actually a fairly small percentage, one which includes almost none of the major Pentecostal denominations. And so he mistakenly attributes an extreme prosperity doctrine to the vast majority of charismatics worldwide (meaning, the false belief that Jesus died to make us rich, as opposed to the true belief that God meets the needs of His people and blesses us to be a blessing to others).”