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Showing posts from August, 2020

The Slavery of Prosperity

I am currently reading C S Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.  In one of the chapters, Lewis puts a finger on why “prosperity” is dangerous to the human soul. It makes living in this fallen world comfortable. It makes us want to live longer in this world not because we want to honour God with our lives but because we are afraid of losing what we already have. In short, properity reduces the size of God and enlarges earthly possessions. Here is how Lewis puts it in his own words: Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is “finding his place in it”, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle-aged and the old.When I think of prosperity, I see it in terms of the four thin…

On the right side of history?

One of the dominant lies of the age we are living in is that “you must be on the right side of history”. The thinking is that any opposition to immorality is wrong because in the end society will come to embrace the immorality in question. We are told we must ensure we are on “the right side of history now” or risk being shamed in the future because what is “moral” is determinedly by social consensus or the will of the majority.This is the thinking behind the push for a woman’s right to kill babies (which is wrongly called the woman’s right to chose). And also western society’s embrace of homosexuality, self-identification and transgenderism. In C S Lewis' Screwtape Letters, the senior devil Screwtape reminds his junior devil Wormwood on the importance of ensuring humanity remains obsessed with this philosophy of "living on the right side of history": Now if we can keep men asking “Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionar…

Do you have leadership potential?

A couple of years ago, Lord Harris of Peckham, one of the largest donors of the UK Conservative Party said some unkind things about the then Prime Minister, Theresa May. He said, Mrs May was a “hopeless” leader of a “weak” government. He went on to remind her that she was “no Margaret Thatcher”. Mrs May certainly did not agree with him because history tells us she went on to run the election campaign on the slogan of “strong and stable leadership”. 
I mention that that story not to imply Lord Peckham was right. Although some would argue he was vindicated in the end because Mrs May did go on lose her majority after a poor campaign. My immediate point is simply that we all have an interest and opinion about leadership regardless of our station in life because it affects all of us! So it is good for us to be aware of the criteria for effective leadership. All of us face situations where we choose leaders whether nationally or in our communities. And of course many of us serve as leaders i…

Race, Justice and the Gospel

How should churches respond biblically to the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement and the issues it has generated on race and social justice? I recently sat down”virtually” with my good friends Tom Allen and Josh Williamson to discuss these issues with Dr Tom Ascol (Founders Ministry, USA). 

This conversation is in addition to two separate lengthy Q&As we have had in our church on race and justice (July and August). The wisdom of Dr Ascol provides priceless additional resource for future reference. It has been a joy to see our ethnically diverse church think biblically and counter-cultural about these issues.

Is “online church” church?

Ronald L Giese has written an excellent lengthy piece in Themelios addressing the theology of the “online church”. Here is his conclusion:Online church is not church. This is a contradiction, not an oxymoron. Some of the things a church does can certainly be taken online. Perhaps some parts can be done better online, in certain contexts, than in person. Perhaps others are best done in a hybrid model. The reason that online church is not church is at least two-fold. 
First, all the indicators, both historical (the past and future temples), and in imagery (the ramifications of the church as temple now), are that God’s dwelling in the church is in a place. And the indicators are that this place is in one place, the local church. So yes, this third level of God’s presence could exist in thousands of places at one given time, since there are thousands of (physical) churches that meet in a given time zone on a given Sunday. But the third level of God’s presence does not occur in one “church”…

Who Shall Deliver Me?

God strengthen me to bear myself; That heaviest weight of all to bear,Inalienable weight of care.All others are outside myself;I lock my door and bar them out,The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.I lock my door upon myself,And bar them out; but who shall wallSelf from myself, most loathed of all?If I could once lay down myself,And start self-purged upon the raceThat all must run! Death runs apace.If I could set aside myself,And start with lightened heart uponThe road by all men overgone!God harden me against myself,This coward with pathetic voiceWho craves for ease, and rest, and joys:Myself, arch-traitor to myself;My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,My clog whatever road I go.Yet One there is can curb myself,Can roll the strangling load from me,Break off the yoke and set me free.CHRISTINA G ROSSETTI(Source: The Complete Poems of Christina Rossetti)

The Decomposition of Christianity’s Rivals

Gene Edward Veith has written a wonderful open letter to encourage pastors, as we wage war on the front lines of today’s cultural and spiritual battles. I particularly found his summary of the morphing of competing ideas to Christianity very helpful (with a little bit of rearranging of the points on my part):  “Modern and postmodern ideas and practices that have challenged Christianity have been taken to ever greater extremes. But some have been pushed so far that they are coming apart or morphing into something new. The arts seem to be at a creative dead end, rehashing their past and running out of new ideas. Science was thought to have banished the mysteries of existence, but now it is showing the universe to be more mysterious than ever. Technology is performing wonders, but in giving us virtual reality and virtual relationships, it is undermining actual reality and actual relationships. Society has become an assemblage of isolated individuals, under a polarised and dysfunctional go…

Why Minneapolis, and not Hong Kong?

Carl Trueman  has an interesting blog post where he discusses why young people in the UK and media I general have been more exercised about the dead of George Floyd than what is going on in Hong Kong. He suggests that it rather comes down to current negative perceptions of democracy in an era of identity chaos:  “I suggest that this is the result of two complementary cultural pathologies, both with rather worrying implications. First, the issue with Hong Kong lacks cultural appeal because it involves the importance of democratic freedoms—and democracy is increasingly seen by the burn-it-to-the-ground right and left (Exhibits A and B: Trump and Sanders) as part of the problem, not the solution. Fighting for democracy in the West is simply not as trendy as it was in the days of the Cold War. Now we take democratic freedoms for granted even as we decry the components of democratic culture—e.g., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, respectful civility toward those who disagree with us—a…

Book Reading Goal : Book 15

There are some books which we need to read and have in our library even though we are not able to immediately appreciate their full value. I think Mark Vroegop’s book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy is one of those books. 
Even though the book does a good job to explain why we need to learn how to lament now, it is quite obvious that there is another layer to this book that can only be felt when we ourselves are walking in a very deeply painful situation. 
There are not many memorable lines in the book. What the book does is that it keeps reminding us to empty out our pain before God in a way that honours him. I found the early chapters particularly helpful in this regard. The middle section on lamentations was also outstanding. The final third was less so. 
I think if I have a complaint, it is that he tries to cover too many aspects of lament. I don’t think combining the personal, corporate and pastoral elements of lament did the job. A shorter book focused on only one of those areas would have…

The Invitation of Pain

I came across this short piece by Joni Eareckson Tada which puts captures in an evocative way the way God uses pain to invite us into a deeper relationship with Him:  When a broken neck ambushed my life and left me a quadriplegic, I felt as though God had smashed me underfoot like a cigarette. At night, I would thrash my head on the pillow, hoping to break my neck at a higher level and thereby end my misery. After I left the hospital, I refused to get out of bed; I told my sister, “Just close the drapes, turn out the light, and shut the door.” My paralysis was permanent, and inside, I died. You don’t have to be in a wheelchair to identify. You already know that sad situations sometimes don’t get better. Problems don’t always get solved. Conflicts don’t get fixed. Children die, couples divorce, and untimely deaths rock our world and shake our faith. We try to manage, like jugglers spinning plates on long sticks. When we feel utterly overwhelmed, we try soaking in the tub, sweating on th…

Look to Christ Alone!

Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you —it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.C H SPURGEON(Source: Morning and Evening)

Book Reading Goal: Book 14

I have been preaching through the gospel account of Mark. As part of my reading, I thought I would read a book that is just focused on the experience of our Lord in Gethsemane. To my surprise I could only find one book on the subject, J H Pickord's Gethsemane. I believe the book is no longer in print. The copy I have was published in 1937. 
It is a series of meditations that look at Jesus' experience in Gethsemane through the lens of suffering, service and love. In general it a very helpful book, well worth hvaing  in the library. However, it was not immediately useful for my purposes which was focused on meditating on in an expository. I found the author wander off too often.
Memorable Quote: There can be found nothing like a holy contemplation of the sufferings of Christ, to arm us against the tide of our sufferings - to sit not only in the enclosed grounds of Gethsemane, nor in the shadow of the Cross, but to ponder the whole life of Christ in all its peculiar shades of suffer…

The Idolatry of Safety

I have enjoyed reading though Knowing God with a group of guys in our church over the last few months. Last night we did the final chapter on the Adequacy of God. This section jumped out at me from Packer: We are unlike the Christians of New Testament times. Our approach to life is conventional and static; theirs was not. The thought of “safety first” was not a drag on their enterprise as it is on ours. By being exuberant, unconventional and uninhibited in living by the gospel they turned their world upside down, but you could not accuse us twentieth-century Christians of doing anything like that. Why are we so different? Why, compared with them, do we appear as no more than halfway Christians? Whence comes the nervous, dithery, take-no-risks mood that mars so much of our discipleship? Why are we not free enough from fear and anxiety to alow ourselves to go full stretch in following Christ? One reason, it seems, is that in our heart of hearts we are afraid of the consequences of going …

Book Reading Goal: Books 12 & 13

I am currently reading through slow the five volume set of the Works of Stephen Charnock. This is slow reading alongside other books.  I recently completed Volume One which provides discources on the providence of God and the existence and attributes of God. 
In parallel to this, I also finished reading Richard Sibbes' Volume One, which has the famous discourse of the Bruised Reed. I made so many highlights of both books and will be sharing more quotes from it due course. Needless to say theese life changing volume sets, which I am eager to read and re-read. 
Book Reading Goal Review Books Read So Far : 13 Remaining Books : 27 
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