Friday, 30 January 2009

Trial and Jesus

On the way back from speaking at Bradford CU I listened to this sermon by Mark Driscoll from his new series in 1&2 Peter. The sermon is titled Trial and Jesus. I had thought of trying to give a synopsis as a blog post but I reckon you'd just be better of hearing the whole thing!

Listen to the audio:

Or watch the video:

It is well worth a listen or watch, very challenging, very encouraging, heart-warming and mind-nourishing.

Jesus Christ is awesome!

I recently went to Bradford to speak at their CU meeting. They are studying Colossians this term and I had the privilege of taking them through chapter 1v15-20. I had a great evening (and I hope they did too). It was great to be reminded of how awesome Jesus Christ is.

Under the over-arching title of Jesus Christ is supreme and sufficient I looked at 3 ways this was shown in the passage:

Jesus Christ is the Creator
Jesus Christ is the Sustainer
Jesus Christ is the Saviour

Without putting my whole talk in this post, let me share a few of the things that served as a great reminder to me that it's all about Jesus.

All things were created by Him and through Him and for Him. The language Paul uses makes it very clear. In the ESV translation, the word all is used 5 times in 3 verses. Jesus is supreme. He is above everything, all powers, thrones, authorities, in heaven and earth. As the childrens song "God rules" says, "He's the boss of everything!" He is the heir of creation, it is His. Jesus Christ is Lord of it all. If this is true it gives massive implications for the way in which we live. Jesus is the one who is be reverently feared. Nothing can stand in His way. He is the one who deserves all praise, all admiration, all worship. Only He is worthy, anything else is a poor substitute!

Ultimately everything that exists is there for the glory of Jesus Christ. So as, Christians we should seek to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

Not only this, but everything that is here, everything we see around only continues to exist because He enables it and allows it! You only take your next breath because He allows and enables it too. This should humble us. Jesus is Lord, down to finest detail. Each day we should be thankful for the air we breath, the ability to breath it in and all the other good gifts, but we should thank the Giver for them. As Paul says in Acts ch17 the God we believe in gives "life and breath and evrything."

Finally, Jesus is the Saviour. He is the head of the church. Without Jesus Christ kept as the main focus the church will, like a headless chicken, lose its direction, keel over and die. We sadly see this in church history and even played out for us today. Jesus is fully God and because of this He is able to reconcile all things to God. So reconciliation with God is through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross and only through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

Jesus Christ is awesome. Take some time to look at the passage for yourself, I have only gievn a brief insight into its content. I hope and pray God will warm your heart and feed your mind as you meditate on the glorious nature of our supreme and sufficient Creator, Sustainer and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Timothy and Epaphroditus - Living (well they were then!) examples.

Following on from the "grumble" post, I was looking at the next section of Paul's letter to the Philippians (ch2v19-30) as part of my job (what a great job to have!) and thought there were a few things worth noting from Paul's commendation of Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Most of Paul's greeting and commendations about individuals come at the end of letters yet here in Philippians we have a detailed description of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Why?
They are living examples to the Philippians of what Paul has been teaching and exhorting the believers in Philippi to be doing. He is sending them to Philippi with commendation.

Timothy has served with distinction "as a son with a father" in the work of the gospel. He has the interests of Jesus Christ at the centre rather than his own. In those ways Timothy is the embodiment of things Paul has been exhorting. Timothy is servant-hearted not self-promoting or self-centred. Just as Paul has declared that as Jesus was an humble servant, he is showing the Philippians a close to home example of how this is lived out. The believers there know Timothy.

Epaphroditus is one of them. He came from Philippi to minister to Paul's need. He too is a very close-to-home example. Someone who the Philippians know and who they can watch and witness with their own idea. He has been a brother to Paul, a "fellow worker and fellow soldier." Epaphroditus "nearly died for the work of Christ." This guy demonstrates what it is to live a life worthy of the gospel, he is willing to suffer for the sake of Christ and even die if that be God's will.

Paul's priority has been clear all the way through the letter from the start. The gospel is to be preached, and if it is being preached faithfully he will rejoice. His attitude is also clear, he looks to the interest of the gospel first, which means setting aside his own preferences for those of others for the sake of furthering the work of Christ.
If the Philippians were thinking, "this is ok for you Paul, you're an Apostle and showing us Jesus, well He was the Messiah," Paul has given them two people they can very very easily relate to.

Finally, Paul calls for the Philippians to "honour such men" as Epaphroditus. We too today I think should honour, respect and look to godly, gospel-centred, Christ-exalting people. I'm not saying we should put them on a pedestal but we all need examples to follow, and where there are godly people who are imitators of Christ we can follow their lead. Thank God for the works of grace in their lives and pray that He will keep them strong in that grace.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

In memory of Ruth...

Today would have been the 26th birthday of a very good friend of mine from University. Ruth Elizabeth Bryant died last April from cancer. She was a godly woman, a great example to many. Her love for her family and friends shone brightly, and her desire to help the helpless, love the loveless and fight injustice was infectious. Even in the toughest days after being diagnosed with cancer and knowing she had only weeks to live Ruth held firmly to the promises that her God was sovereign and everything was happening for a reason and ultimately for her good, even if she could not understand it. Below is a prayer that she wrote just after finding out that the doctors could do nothing else but make her last weeks as comfortable as possible. It was an encouragment to me, I hope it may be to you too.

"Father God, please help me to keep clinging to you above everyting else and be confident that however bad it gets, you will never ever leave me to face it alone, even if I can't see where you are and I'm angry at you. Please help me to trust your promises and stay faithful to you. Help me to believe that I'm beautiful no matter what happens to this feeble body of mine - my flesh and my heart may fail but please always be the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Thank you that you are so much bigger than I'll ever be able to understand or imagine, help me to stop boxing you in - in the life I expect and plan for, in the ways I expect you to respond, in the higher plans and ways you have through all of this. I just pray that however long this life is for and however painful it is, that I would enjoy you forever and literally shine with life. I want to know the whole truth of what you meant when you said you came that we might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10)"
Ruth Bryant, 16th February 2008

She is now with her Lord and Saviour Jesus and I look forward to seeing her again in glory.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

"I can be your Relay worker"

Well done to the North East Relay workers for their hilarious karaoke at Relay 2 conference last week. You did the region proud! I hope you enjoy it too!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble!!!

As part of my job I get to study the Bible with students, a great privilege. Today I met with a student to continue to work through Paul's letter to the Philippians. We looked at chapter 2 and verses 12-18. This is not going to be an exposition of that passage, more observation and thought. In verse 14 Paul says:

"Do all things without grumbling or questioning," (ESV)

What a challenge, and on the surface a pretty outrageous one. I don't know about you but what comes to my mind are questions like this "What if someone annoys me, or gives me an unattainable deadline, or treats me harshly, or asks me to do something I don't want to do? Are you telling me I'm suppose to stay quiet and smile politely and get on with it?" Quite simply the answer is yes. But it's not an empty, of the cuff command. We have clear reasons to help us understand. The passage goes on:

"that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world..." (Philippians ch2v15 (ESV))

If we do all things without complaining but instead are servant-hearted and joyful in all we do it is a huge witness to the world around us. In this command we are being spurred on to holiness, encouraged to shine like stars, exhorted to be who we are, children of God.
This section follows an awesome description of the Lord Jesus Christ and His humility and servant-heartedness in coming to save sinners, leaving glory to become obedient to death, even death on a cross. Paul say to each of his readers "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" and this is because God is working in them for His glory. Just as Christ was obedient and came to serve, and did it all without grumbling, so we too are called to obey and serve in the same manner.
So next time you're thinking of grumbling or complaining or questioning, remember this and ask God to help you to serve humbly with joy.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Quote of the Day - Sin and Salvation

"the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting Himself for man" John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP.

I wish I could so succinctly sum up glorious doctrine and truth! At the heart of our sin as human beings is our desire to please ourselves, look after number 1 and reject the One who created us and sustains us and deserves all our praise and worship. Yet, God, who could so easily have left us in this state, out of love and to show mercy, came to earth, stepped into time in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and gave Himself so that we might be brought into relationship with the Triune, Living God, to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Why "All that's in my head is in His hands?"

So why the title for the blog. Well, it's another lyric from another band I love, Switchfoot. Again it adequately described something that is very true, something that is a great challenge and comfort to me and also a fitting title for a blog I think. All that I think, everything that is in my head that stresses me out, that brings me joy, that causes me to reflect and to seek to understand more is known by God and is in His hands. All that I write on this blog He knows before I write it. The Triune living God of the Bible whom I believe in holds the whole world, including all of my thoughts in His hands! Amazing!

Why bloodwashed pilgrim?

"I saw a bloodwashed pilgrim a sinner saved by grace..."
The quotation is the opening line of a song by the OC Supertones, a ska band from Orange County California, and the inspiration for the address of my blog. I chose it because I not only love the band but it describes who I am in Christ. I have been bought and washed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (see Romans ch3v21-26, Romans ch5v9, Ephesians ch1v7, 1 John ch1v7, Revelation ch1v5 and so on). I am a sinner saved by grace.
Not only that but I am a pilgrim too. God has called me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians ch2v12-13) and I am to run the race, fight the good fight and keep the faith, persevering by the preserving grace of God until the end. (1 Corinthians ch9v24-25, 1 Timothy ch6v12, Jude 24-25).