Monday, February 28, 2011

Consider ourselves as Christ does

After a little break - the Bruised Reed blogging is back!

We have seen what it is to be bruised and how Christ is our greatest comfort. But Sibbes also talks about what it is to be a smoking flax. He describes the smoking flax as:

"In a smoking flax there is but a little light, and that weak, as being unable to flame, and that little mixed with smoke. The observations from this are that, in God's children, especially in their first conversion, there is but a little measure of grace, and that little mixed with much corruption, which, as smoke, is offensive; but that Christ will not quench this smoking flax."

I think what Sibbes is getting at, is the times of doubt and times when we feel discouraged at our growth as Christians and the frustrations of sin in our lives that blemish us. Which can bring us to being bruised as well, its like a circle of feeling bruised because we are a smoking flax and the other way around. I think this because he gives examples: 
"Moses at the Red Sea, being in a great perplexity, and knowing not what to say, or which way to turn, groaned to God. No doubt this was a great conflict in him. In great distresses we know not what to pray, but the Spirit makes request with sighs that cannot be expressed (Rom. 8:26). Broken hearts can yield but broken prayers.

Help thou mine unbelief.' There is smoke (Mark 9:24). 
Jonah cries, `I am cast out of thy sight.' There is smoke
`Yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.' There is light (Jon. 2:4)

`O wretched man that I am!', says Paul, with a sense of his corruption. Yet he breaks out into thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 7:24)." 

But there is always great hope in times of doubt and our confrontation with sin. I think I find these times really hard because I see how unworthy I am and how much I need Christ and how much I am so far from living for Him in my heart. My heart is certainly corrupt!! 

But again Sibbes encourages us to not look within ourselves nor dwell to much on our sin but to look to Christ, who values us so highly because of the work He does in us! -

"Let us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as elected to be `holy and without blame' (Eph. 1:4). Let us look on our imperfect beginning only to enforce further striving to perfection, and to keep us in a low opinion of ourselves. Otherwise, in case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ does, who looks on us as those he intends to fit for himself. Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto. We call a little plant a tree, because it is growing up to be so. `Who has despised the day of small things?' (Zech. 4:10). Christ would not have us despise little things. "

This is amazing, just digest this again.... 
"Otherwise, in case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ does, who looks on us as those he intends to fit for himself. Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are elected unto."

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sitting by the fire of Christs love

Why do you evangelise?

Or perhaps a better question is:

Why don't you evangelise? 

The more I think about this the more I have to look into my own heart and see how I respond to these questions. Most the time my answer would be:

Why do I evangelise?: Because I feel like I have to or church told me to or that's what Christians do, right?

Why don't I evangelise?: Because I feel like have to or I just dont feel like it. 

I don't think I stand alone in this. That may sound odd. But I bet youth workers and pastors struggle with this too. Perhaps you sigh with relief when you hear my response?

I have been thinking about why this is and I have realised that when I am feeling most alive and on fire for God - in the sense that my affections for Christ are on fire is the time when I most want to tell people about Jesus. I want to tell people about Jesus when my heart is soft and melting with his love. Its when I am being reminded of the Gospel, when my heart is warmed to the truth of Christ, when someone sets Christ in front of me as the greatest joy in the world, where they bring about flames of adoration and worship to my soul because of the love of Christ.

I don't mean just knowledge of who Christ is nor "feeling" pleased with how I am doing as a Christian. Forget what I am doing and how my quiet times are going - they are not the object of my affections. I mean when we truly, deeply love Christ and are drawn to Him, seeing that he is lovely in the sense of all beauty, all perfection, all comfort, all satisfaction, all joy... if my heart can be kindled by the love of Christ which will then set my soul on fire for Him and to burn with deep love and adoration for Him alone - then there will be no escaping the desire to tell the world about the one whom I love.

So I ask:

Imagine if we heard sermons like that on Sunday?
Imagine if we fired up the Christian Union like that during the week?
Imagine if our 121s were like that?
Imagine if we as Christians were reminded of the Gospel daily, drawn to the love and depth of Christ so that our hearts are dripping with adoration for him...

Imagine how that would affect our lives. Our desires. Our evangelism. Our conversations. Our attitudes....

Lets have more of Christ. More affectionate, heart stirring, Gospel warming, sin cutting, soul healing, fire burning love for Christ in our conversations, sermons, seminars, 121s, outreach....

Are you sitting in the cold right now? You don't feel this love? Well why don't you sit by the fire of Christs love, remind yourself of the Gospel and His great love for you. Sit there until your heart has melted.

Richard Sibbes says:
" If God love us thus, what must we do? Meditate upon his love. Let our hearts be warmed with the consideration of it. Let us bring them to that fire of his love, and then they will be like hot wax within us"

Why do I evangelise?: Because the love of Christ burns in me and warms my heart so that I cannot help but share the Gospel

Why don't I evangelise?: Because my heart is hard and cold and needs to sit by the fire of Christs love until it melts

Friday, February 18, 2011

Petty, Trivial, Unworthy?

I spent the morning listening to the Dawkins and Lennox debate on The God Delusion... right at the end it came down to one thing which Richard Dawkins says...

“It all quite really comes down to the resurrection of Jesus. It has a fundamental incompatibility [with] the sophisticated scientist,”
“It’s (resurrection of Christ argument) so petty, it’s so trivial, it’s so local, it’s so earth-bound, it’s so unworthy of the universe.” - Richard Dawkins in the debate
 I found that very interesting...

For more information on the resurrection have a look here:
The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus 

Contemporary scholarship and the resurrection of Jesus

Is there really solid evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Enough mercy for today

A really wonderful reminder of how God gives us Grace and Mercy that is enough for today and today only. Each new day he gives us exactly what we need:

The manna in the wilderness was given one day at a time. There was
no storing up. That is the way we must depend on God’s mercy.
You do not receive today the strength to bear tomorrow’s burdens. You are given mercies today for today’s troubles. Tomorrow the mercies will be new. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, RSV). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will act!” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, author’s translation).(John Piper - A Godward Life)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be-Engaging :: The Last Supper

What if you were posed with a question and situation that could change the world? What if you invited someone round for dinner and found out that they had thoughts and ideas that were very wrong and evil? What if you could rid the world of one evil person in order to save hundreds... what if Hitler came to dinner at a time when he was a young man, many years before he did all those horrible things - what would you do knowing the truth of his actions many years later?

Big Questions.

This film, "The last supper" is about the problem of evil. Its also an exposure of justice and how we think of Evil. 

The scene is around a dinner table where good food is served and good wine is poured. But there is a twist. The wine doesn't taste so good and the company doesn't seem so much fun anymore. A group of university graduates invite controversial people round for dinner, knowing that their ideas and thoughts are quite radical and perhaps very wrong. These students took the liberty to kill off these guests in order to save man kind.
But then it gets out of hand. Suddenly they were killing people that they simply disagreed with. The table turns - who is evil here? There conscience plays against them and they cant shake off the feeling that perhaps what they are doing is wrong... 

This film is brilliant and one of my favorites because it has many twists and turns and delves into some extreme ideas. It gets you thinking about the big questions in life. 

And the questions I would ask are:

1. Who is evil? 
2. What is evil and where did it come from?
3. Do we, like the students, think that we should take justice in our own hands and kill off people we disagree with?
4. Is there any room for persuasion and conversation?
5. What does the Gospel say?

Well I want to tie in what the Gospel says about who is evil, because I think thats the most important question and Jesus answers it:

      And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
(Mark 7:20-23 ESV)

This list from Jesus doesn't excuse anyone. Which means that the problem of evil is the human heart and everyone has a human heart like this and therefore we come to a conclusion that the answer to the question "Who is evil?" is me and you. Suddenly I sit at that table and I know I am not pure and cannot judge other people - for my heart is evil. And I think thats what these students suddenly come to realise in the film, they saw that they themselves have an evil heart with wrong thoughts - they were no better then those they were killing. 

But there is hope and the Gospel offers hope. On the one hand Jesus says the problem is our hearts, but on the other hand he offers us a renewed heart and salvation. 

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. [Ezekiel 36:26]

How amazing is that?

For more resources on the problem of Evil, do look at the bethinking website.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This grace in which we stand

Something really struck me the other day as I was walking home and thinking of how the day went. What struck me was the life of Jesus in the Gospels. I realised that Jesus understood something about his relationship with God more then I do. Of course Jesus knows and understands more then me in everything, but there is one thing that really caught my attention.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus went through so much hurt and rejection and yet never stumbled? He never doubted himself or his relationship with his Father. I know Jesus is God, but as I am thinking on a human level I was reminded how Jesus really did grasp and understand how his worth and identity was completely in the Father. He knew that no matter how much the world rejected him, his standing was still the same with the Father. 

Imagine if we truly grasped that? If in our hearts we really did understand that our worth and identity was in Jesus and no matter how the world views us, whether they praise us or rejects us - it can never change our standing with God. Never. 

Imagine if our hearts really treasured this truth the same way Jesus did?
Where we no longer strive for the praises of man or believe that I need to do things to earn the praise of God. But that I truly rest in what Christ has done for me on the cross. There I am secure in my relationship with God and can no longer worry about the praises of man or what people think of me. 

Then Romans 5 does seem sweet indeed:

     Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(Romans 5:1-2 )

Friday, February 11, 2011

Be-Engaging :: Angel-A

Set on the noir streets of Paris we are introduced to a self loathed small time criminal that can't pay his debts back. What does he need? A helping hand! So an Angel falls from the sky and helps him out. But there is a twist, this Angel and man called Andre fall in love and we are taken on an adventure of self discovery and the complex emotions of love. 

The biggest theme I picked up on was that of Andre and his idea of love. Angela (the Angel) confronts him and places him in front of a mirror and tells Andre to say "I love you" to himself. The idea behind this is that he cannot love others unless he is first loved and she points the finger back to him and suggests that he needs to start loving himself before he can love others. This caught my attention and made me ask two questions:

1. How much truth is there behind the idea of self love and loving others?
2. What does the Gospel say to this?

Some of my thoughts about self love were a mixture of understanding where they were coming from and not being quite satisfied with that. But perhaps it is indeed true that if we hate ourselves and see ourselves completely unworthy of love, then loving others will perhaps prove difficult. It is also very true that we cannot love others unless we ourselves are loved. But I want to move the picture further on and say that self love will never satisfy nor complete us, that the story can never end at self love or we will swing between the emotional roller coaster of love and loathing ourselves, between pride and pity. 

This idea of love must come under Gods love in order to be fully satisfying and complete. We are wonderfully told in scripture the truth that we can indeed love because we were first loved:

      "We love because he first loved us. "
(1 John 4:19 ESV)

Here is where the pin drops. The true colours of love are displayed here with the richness of this verse. Yes we cannot love if we are not ourselves loved first. But for ourselves to be loved it cannot be about looking within ourselves and lavishing ourselves with our own love. No, it must come from outside ourselves - from the perfect creator that is Love, that lavishes his love on us that is pure and selfless, our God who enables us to love because he loved us first. This is what Andre needed to hear, he didn't need to shout at his reflection that he loves himself - in fact he loves himself too much. But he needed to hear that he is loved and its not from within but it is from our Heavenly Father. 

Is this not a message we all need to hear? A message that students need to hear on university campus as they struggle with loneliness in their halls or trying to fit in on sports socials? Is this not a message for staff workers who may be struggling with approval, or stay at home mums who may feel disconnected with the world or the teenage girl who is struggling with image... there are many situations where we need to not look in the mirror and say "I love you", but where we need to hear our heavenly Father say "I loved you first"...

Thursday, February 10, 2011


As we walk with Paul through Athens in Acts 17, we see him observe idols. We see him contemplate and discuss and reason from looking at the culture around him. What a model of doing evangelism and apologetics!!

So after much thought I have decided to re-launch my Be-Engaging series where for the next couple of weeks I will be focusing on films and not just mainstream ones, but different ones and will be writing about the themes and ideas behind them and how they relate to the Gospel. This will hopefully get you thinking and challenge you and spur you on to watch these films and question the themes and ideas behind them. Do join me by walking through Athens and observing the idols and the culture and comment on the films I write about.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Mission Team on Campus

February is mission week season for Christian Unions across the UK. Its an exciting time and also a challenging time. Who knows what God will do during that week, what seeds will be sown, what hearts will be changed. This week will be my 8th Mission week and so here are some of my thoughts/tips that will hopefully help you if you are student and about to have a mission week on campus...

1. Pray - pray for this week, pray for the weeks afterwards. Pray for your non christian friends and pray for yourself and energy and wisdom. Pray for the speaker and the CU guests, pray as a mission team...enjoy lifting up the week to our heavenly Father that hears our cries.

2. Sleep/Rest - Don't think you can function well without sleep. Get early nights and enjoy the sleep given to you. Find time to rest because you are not God and cannot do everything!

3. Eat well and together- Eat fruit and veg... don't live off popcorn and pot noodles... this is obvious, but eat well and invite your friends to dinner before an event so you can go to an event together... Share Jesus over a meal and enjoy eating well.

4. Invite by talking - Conversation is brilliant. So open your mouth and invite your friends to an event instead of shoving a flier in their face... talk and enjoy conversation. Chat about Jesus, hopes, dreams, desires and the Gospel...

5. Go to your lectures - Its tempting to skip lessons and go to everything that the CU is putting on. But that doesnt display a good witness to your friends. Go to your lectures and enjoy the truth that the CU event wont fall apart cos you are not there...

A good talk to listen to:
Why it's ok to stay in bed for the whole of mission week

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

To go boldly to the Throne

We often find ourselves hiding from God when we feel bruised and rubbish. So far in this series we have seen that Christ is our comfort in our bruising, that our bruising brings about some good and that Christ is a good physician and calls us to Him. And so what shall we do at this point in time? Sibbs suggests 3 things:

1. Go boldly to the throne of God, do not hide but find comfort in Christ! - "What should we learn from this, but to `come boldly to the throne of grace' (Heb. 4:16) in all our grievances? Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? "
Sibbs asks us - "Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan's counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, `If I may but touch his garment' (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer."
2. Stay in Christ and do not despair - "If Christ be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair, nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces."

3. Be conscious of your weakness so that it makes you run to Christ - "As a mother is tenderest to the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest. Likewise he puts an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support. The vine stays itself upon the elm, and the weakest creatures often have the strongest shelters. The consciousness of the church's weakness makes her willing to lean on her beloved, and to hide herself under his wing"
 All of these run on the same theme - run to Christ and do not listen to Satan. Even though we are weak, Christ has allowed us to come to the throne of His Father by His blood. Therefore do not hide in darkness, but cling to Christ and find comfort.

And therefore to conclude this section of the Bruised Reed with Sibbs encouraging us more:

"His tenderest care is over the weakest. The lambs he carries in his bosom (Isa. 40:11). He says to Peter, `Feed my lambs' (John 21:15). He was most familiar and open to troubled souls. How careful he was that Peter and the rest of the apostles should not be too much dejected after his resurrection! `Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter' (Mark 16:7). Christ knew that guilt of their unkindness in leaving of him had dejected their spirits. How gently did he endure the unbelief of Thomas and stooped so far unto his weakness, as to suffer him to thrust his hand into his side."