Worship Christ, the newborn King!
Saturday, 25 December 2010
Worship Christ, the newborn King!
Friday, 24 December 2010
Christmas is a fun time for most of us, because everyone’s happy and nice to each other. We meet our family – sometimes people we haven’t seen for years. And we give each other gifts and reminisce about old times and share our hopes and dreams. And it’s all fun and lovely.
But then we hear things like this:
Each year police and support services prepare themselves for a spike in domestic assault cases over the Christmas to New Years’ eve period. A combination of financial strain, families spending more time together, and increased alcohol consumption contribute to the rise in figures.
The prophet Isaiah spoke to people who were oppressed and afraid, because they were under threat from their enemies.
1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan. 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Isaiah’s talking about real, historical places. Zebulun, Naphtali, Galilee and the Jordan River. They’re in the north of Israel – in the area that was the first to be attacked by enemies. That’s why they lived in darkness, and the shadow of death - they were always under threat by their enemies.
Think of North and South Korea. There’s only a few hundred kilometres between the two capital cities, Pyongyang and Seoul. The two nations are technically still at war with each other – so they’re always afraid, always ready for war. Death could come to them any time – they live in the shadow of death.
We too live in the shadow of death. We’re not at war with another country. But we don’t have peace in our lives. Some of us really do live in the shadow of death – we’re battling cancer, or some other life-threatening disease. We all have some tension in our families – someone who won’t talk to someone else, and that makes Christmas lunch kind of awkward because they’re in the room together but everyone knows they won’t even look at each other, let alone talk to each other…
Isaiah explains the root cause of this breakdown, this tension, this war we experience. It’s simple, but profound: it’s because we have rejected God.
The prophet Isaiah says some really harsh things against his own people. He tells them that all their religious rituals are useless. In fact, they’re worse than useless – they actually make God mad. He compares his own people to Sodom and Gomorrah – the worst, most disgusting cities in the Bible.
And it’s all because they rejected God.
2 Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
The people were worse than animals. Pets know where their food comes from. They respect their owners. The people of God don’t even know that much. They bite the hand that feeds them.
We’ve done exactly the same thing. God has been very kind to us. He gives us everything we have: families, friends, homes, jobs. But we reject him, we tell him to get out of our lives.
We don’t do it directly. We just ignore him.
Imagine going to someone’s place for Christmas lunch, and then barging in, talking to all the other guests, and merrily helping ourselves to the food – but completely ignoring the host. We don’t even say thank you. In fact, when the host comes to us to say hello, we deliberately turn our back and ignore them.
That’s how we treat God. We live in God’s world, and enjoy all the good things God gives us; and then ignore him.
That’s why God gets angry with us. How would you feel if you were the host at Christmas lunch, and your guests ignored you like that? First you’d be surprised; then you might be sad; but eventually, you’d get furious!
The amazing thing is – even though we reject God, and even though he’s angry with us, God still loves us enough to offer us peace through Jesus .
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
The people have gone from sorrow to joy. They were in darkness and gloom and distress. Now they’re partying – like at harvest time, or like when the last English wicket fell in the third Ashes test match, levelling the ashes at one all, and the whole of Australia rejoiced…
They’re happy because God has got rid of their enemy. The defeat of Midian refers back to an episode in Israel’s history. It’s recorded in Judges chapters 6-7. The people of Midian had conquered God’s people, and were ruling over them. God raised up a leader, Gideon, who defeated the Midianites, and released God’s people from their oppression.
God can defeat the people's enemies. He’s done it before; he’ll do it again. Only this time, it’ll be better than Midian. There’ll be world peace; no-one will need any weapons any more, they can all be burned in the fire.
And the way God will defeat the people's enemies is – through a baby.
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
- He’s a ‘wonderful counsellor’: he’s going to know how to do the right thing, and teach wisely - with a wisdom greater than Solomon;
- He’ll be an ‘everlasting father’: He’s going to look after the people like a father cares for a family; and, he’s going to be everlasting: he’s going to be from eternity, to eternity;
- He’ll be the ‘prince of peace’: we've already talked about how the baby will bring world peace - only Jesus can really do that, because only Jesus fixes our rebellion against God;
- And he’ll be ‘mighty God’ [Hebrew El-Gibbor, also used in Isaiah 10:21] - God would become a baby! Only Jesus can fulfil that!
And this child will fulfil God’s promises to David. Again, this refers to what God had done in Israel’s past. King David had defeated the enemies, and brought peace and security to God’s people. God promised David that one of his descendants would rule the world for ever – see 2 Samuel ch 7. This descendent from David will destroy God’s enemies, and bring peace, forever.
But it won’t be just this child doing it. The last phrase of the passage says “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” God himself will act, in and through this promised child. That’s why we know it’ll work. When we try to do things, it doesn't work – because we’re weak and ignorant. When God does stuff, it works; because he’s wise and powerful, so he knows how to do things so that they last, forever.
Only Jesus could be this promised peace child.
- Jesus really is divine - it’s not an exaggeration; he is himself mighty God;
- That’s why he’s everlasting - he’s from eternity, to eternity;
- Jesus really is God acting in the world - so the peace that he gives is for everyone, and goes on for ever, because he gives us peace with God;
- Jesus is descended from David; he is David’s greatest son;
- And he really does rule for ever - with him, it’s not an exaggeration, it’s real – because he rose from the dead, and lives for ever.
This is why Jesus can fix our main problem: our rebellion against God. When Jesus died on the cross, he wasn't just dying physically; he was taking all the punishment we deserve for rejecting God. So he fixes up what’s really wrong with the world: our rebellion against God. And because he’s fixed up our rebellion against God, he can rescue us from the evil powers that really oppress us: the powers of sin, death, and the devil.
So the question for all of us is – do we have peace this Christmas? Not just peace with our family & friends. Not just peace with ourselves – our sickness & worries. Peace with God!
Have you accepted Jesus as who he really is? God in the flesh; God’s chosen king; everlasting father; mighty God? Have you accepted the freedom from sin, death and the devil that he has won for us?
May the Lord bless you all, this Christmas and always.
Friday, 17 December 2010
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:14a The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
John 1:10-11: He was in the world, and though the world was made
through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.
John 1:12-13: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
Saturday, 20 November 2010
To simplify the debate (without, hopefully, distorting it too much): Wright says "justification" refers to the church - God accepts those who identify with Christ as the mediator of the covenant. The "Lutheran" or "traditional" response is that such a view makes our act of identification with Christ meritorious - it waters down the idea that justification is an entirely gracious act of God, springing entirely from his willed generosity. The "Lutheran" view of justification is that it is a judicial declaration which sets the sinner in a perfectly right relationship with God. God is therefore the active agent in justification; humans are merely passive recipients. Wright replies that the Holy Spirit is active in empowering the believer to trust and obey. This achieves the same result as the "Lutheran" view - God is still the active agent in justification - but, Wright contends, his view is theologically and anthropologically richer, in engaging the whole Trinity in justification, and seeing faith and obedience as a whole-person response.
Both sides of course claim to be Biblical and publish books and blog posts and beat each other round the head with Bible verses (*sigh*).
Anyway... the Evangelical Theological Society just hosted a debate between Wright and two of his critics: Tom Schreiner, professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Frank Thielman, Presbyterian professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School. Unsurprisingly, the blogosphere has promptly gone ballistic. The foll. ppl have posted summaries & comments:
- Collin Hansen summarises the whole debate on The Gospel Coalition Blog;
- Mike Wittmer comments on the interaction between Wright and Schreiner;
- Marc Cortez has a long post summarising Wright on Scientia et Sapientia;
- Justin Taylor posts a summary of Schreiner's critique of Wright;
- Phillip Long posts summaries of Schriener and Thielman.
Friday, 19 November 2010
The restoration of our sexuality, while real, will always be incomplete in the present - as will be all aspects of our human restoration. The Bible looks forward to a new creation, a new universe, where everything that is corrupt and painful will pass away, and we will only ever enjoy life and peace and safety. Only in this new creation will the effects of sin – of our willed rejection of God – be finally dealt with, and our human wholeness completely restored.
In this new creation, our sexuality will not just be restored, it will be transcended. The bible talks about God’s relationship with his people as a bride and bridegroom. In one of the final chapters of the bible, the Apostle John sees this vision - Revelation 21:2, 3:
2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”The image is of God taking his people home, to live with him, like a husband taking his wife to their love nest. The new creation is like an eternal honeymoon. The joys, pleasures and fulfilments of sexuality will be fulfilled, and transcended, in the eternal joys, pleasures and fulfilment of relationship with God.
This future hope empowers present contentment and self control. People with a regular sexual partner can enjoy sex, without demanding it be ‘perfect’. Single people can affirm their sexuality, without expressing it, because it will be fulfilled and transcended in the new creation. We can control our desires now because the pleasure of seeing God face-to-face will be, literally, better than sex.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Monday, 15 November 2010
To the woman he [God] said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Saturday, 13 November 2010
4 “Haven’t you read,” he [Jesus] replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
Friday, 12 November 2010
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…”
23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
These posts are adapted from my presentation a couple of weeks ago at the 'sexuality and religion' panel at the annual conference of the Australian Soceity of Sex Educators, Researchers and Therpists (ASSERT). It represents my continuing efforts to arrive at a comprehensive, Biblical view of sexuality, with a view to helping all people - Christian or not - to live healthily with this very important aspect of human life.
Some people think Christians believe that sex is the original sin. That is, God considers all sexual activity to be intrinsically and irredeemably wicked and offensive. To have sex is to offend God.
If this were true, it would have two effects.First, it would give us a warped view of God. God becomes the cosmic killjoy. Because the one activity that gives us greatest human pleasure is deemed to be the one activity that most offends God.
Secondly, it gives us a warped view of ourselves. If we believe in God, we don’t want to sin; we want to please God instead. So sex becomes an activity full of guilt and shame, instead of joy and happiness. And to be saved – to have a full relationship with God, to “go to heaven” – means to become asexual. The more holy you are, the less sexual you can be.
In contrast, the Biblical view is that sex is immensely good, because God created sex, and created us as sexual beings. More in the next post.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
- Eternity news says the best way to keep kids Christian is not to preach at them in specific religious classes or chapel, but to give them an all-encompassing world-view.
- Mike Gilbart-Smith has posted some notes from Stuart Townend's seminar on Corporate Worship, delivered at Oak Hill College. The "A.R.T. of Corporate worship"
Monday, 8 November 2010
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Kingship in the human sense - the authority to rule over a people - is, according to Scripture, something authorized by God and also something constantly corrupted by human sin... Jesus did not set out to destroy the rule exercised by the Roman and Jewish establishment. By manifesting and exercising the true kingship of God, he exposed their corruption and thereby... disarmed them, robbed them of their pretensions to absolute authority. He exercised his kingship by bearing witness to the truth - to the one great reality against which all claims to reality have to be tested (John 18:37). All kingship from Calvary onward is tested and judged by the standard of the true kingship established there...[The church] has the duty to address the governing authority of the civil community with the word of God... the church reminds them of the fact that - whether they know him or not - Christ is the judge before whom they must stand in the end to give account of their stewardship of the power he gave them. With that responsibility comes, necessarily, the duty of regular and public prayer for the governing authorities.
Friday, 17 September 2010
... the Bible is informed by a vision of human nature for which neither freedom nor equality is fundamental; what is fundamental is relatedness. Man - male and female - is made for God in such a way that being in the image of God involves being bound together in this most profound of mutual relations. God binds himself in a covenant relationship with men and women to which he remains faithful at whatever cost and however unfaithful his covenant partner is. And people and nations are called to live in binding covenant relations of brotherhood. Human beings reach their true end in such relatedness, in bonds of mutual love and obedience that reflect the mutual relatedness in love that is the being of the Triune God himself...True freedom is not found by seeking to develop the powers of the self without limit, for the human person is not made for autonomy but for true relatedness in love and obedience... Nor will the quest for equality create real justice, for justice - the giving to each of what is proper - can only be realized in a mutual relatedness in which each gives to the other the love and obedience that enable all to be truly human. Apart from this, the quest for justice become self-destructive, since it is of the very essence of fallen human nature that each of us overestimates what is due to the self and underestimates what is due to the other.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Traditional Christian ethics had attacked covetousness as a deadly sin... [but] the eighteenth century, by a remarkable inversion, found in covetousness not only a law of nature but the engine of progress by which the purpose of nature and nature's God was to be carried out... In the economic realm the basic law is that the free operation of rational self-interest will alone secure general well-being... Each person must be free to better his condition as far as he can, and he alone is the judge of what is better. There can be no imposed or even generally accepted norm of what is good...
The driving power of capitalism... is the desire of the individual to better his material condition... The name the New Testament gives to [this] force is covetousness. The capitalist system is powered by the unremitting stimulation of covetousness...
The result is that increased production has become an end in itself... Growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose [beyond the temporary satisfaction of unlimited desires to consume - which Newbigin takes as internal to the model]. And that, of course, is an exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer.
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
[Augustine] insists that love is the basis of [all human] society; even in their wars men are in fact seeking peace. But peace is only possible where there is order, and order depends on proper government; but government in which one is subordinated to another is only right is the one who is called to govern does so for the sake of those he governs - as their servant. The motive power of order is therefore love... Love, not natural justice, is what holds even the earthly commonwealth together... love creates order first in the family and among neighbours and then, by extension, in the city and the nation... Faith working through love is the foundation of justice, and without justice there is no commonwealth.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Sunday, 5 September 2010
Friday, 3 September 2010
Thursday, 2 September 2010
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!You reign in a glory beyond us to tell;And yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.Lord of all power, I give you my will,in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill.Your bondage is freedom, your service is song;and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find.What eye has not seen, and what ear never heard,is taught by your Spirit, and shines from your Word.Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart;I praise and adore you for all you impart;your love to inflame me, your counsel to guide,Your presence to shield me whate'er may betide.Lord of all being, I give you my all;if ever I disown you, I stumble and fall;but sworn in glad service your word to obey,I walk in your freedom the rest of the way.
Monday, 30 August 2010
- The true gospel is the Apostolic one, given by God through the Apostles, including Paul;
- We need wisdom to recognise and resist false gospels;
- Ministers of the true gospel have the kind of character Paul describes in Gal 6: caring for others; being wary of temptation; walking by the Spirit, not the flesh; etc.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
You, Kamal, have been called by Almighty God in his fatherly love to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments and ordained by the Church and have now been appointed to the Pastoral Charge of St Mary's, I charge you anew in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to walk worthy of the vocation to which you are called, with all humility, with long suffering, forbearance and peaceful behaviour, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ.Take heed to yourself and to the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseer. Love Christ and feed his flock, taking the oversight of it, not as one who lords it over the people committed to you but being an example to all in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.Give attention to reading, to exhortation and to teaching. Do the work of an evangelist. Do not neglect the gift which is in you. Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Pray always, watching with all perseverance. Thus shall you save both yourself and those who hear you; and in that day when the Chief Shepherd shall appear you shall receive a crown of glory which will never fade away.Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Good Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do his will working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, 28 August 2010
- 2002-03: ministry training at Multicultural Bible Ministry, Rooty Hill;
- 2004-07: full time study at Moore Theological College;
- 2008-09: part-time study at the Presbyterian Theological Centre, while also being interim minister at Strathfield Presbyterian (2008), then part-time assistant minister at Merrylands East Presbyterian (2009).
13 You call me'Teacher' and'Lord', and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet.
2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Friday, 20 August 2010
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Also, you can download the conference papers for free. 25 presentations, 12.8 MB, nearly 300 pages. Enjoy!
Saturday, 14 August 2010
God's provision of saving, sustaining, and glorifying grace is the golden thread uniting all Christian Scripture and enabling all Christian faithfulness [...] all world honoring God [...] find proper motivation and enablement in love for Christ. The wonder and joy of these truths for those preparing for church leadership comes with the understanding that God is not calling them to ministries of guilt-manipulation, arm twisting and doctrinal haranguing.Bryan Chapell, ‘Here We Stand: Rooted in Grace for Reformation and Transformation’, in All For Jesus: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Covenant Theological Seminary, Ed. Robert A. Peterson & Sean Michael Lucas, Mentor, 2006. Pages 16-17.
As Christ's ministers emphasize grace, they are not compromising holiness but rather are promoting the power of the gospel for all endeavour that is truly Christian. [...] We learn to see ourselves as he [God] sees us in Christ. We learn to treat others as he [God] has treated us through Christ. As a consequence, the joy that is our strength floods into our lives to drive us to greater levels of Christian humility, love, and commitment. Thus, presenting the doctrines of grace in a warm and winsome way is not the converse of holy boldness; rather, courageous compassion is the compulsion of humbled and grateful hearts that have bowed before the wonders of God's sovereign mercy and now yearn to extend the blessings of his everlasting covenant to all he loves from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
Thursday, 12 August 2010
So, Bryan Chapell's the guy in charge of the training college of one of the major Evangelical Reformed denominations of the largest Christian nation in the world. That means his personal impact will be multiplied all over the world, for a significant period of time - just because of who he is & where he happens to be.
Well, here's a sample of what he says about ministry.
Alarm over the encroachments of secularism, while understandable, has led some too quickly to equate biblical spirituality with legalistic observance of Christian disciplines, cultural conservatism, or creedal compulsion. At the same time, concerns to boost the gospel’s impact have too often led to an unreflective promotion of worldly satisfaction or success as evidence of God’s blessing (demonstrated in churches promoting themselves through consumer strategies indistinguishable from secular appeals).Bryan Chapell, ‘Here We Stand: Rooted in Grace for Reformation and Transformation’, in All For Jesus: A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Covenant Theological Seminary, Ed. Robert A. Peterson & Sean Michael Lucas, Mentor, 2006. Pages 14-15
As contrary as these legalistic and consumer approaches to faith may seem, they actually spring from the same source – the error of attempting to establish one’s standing before God on the basis of human achievement or acceptance. […] [T]he corrective for such deviations […] [is] a return to the heart centre of our historic faith – the message of sola gratia [grace alone]. By reminding ourselves and others that grace alone is the source and sustenance of our salvation, we turn the heart to Christ for initial justification, continued sanctification, and ultimate glorification. Self-serving and performance-driven spiritualities die when we preach the gospel to ourselves each day.