inexpressible and filled with glory

Don’t Waste Your Life
11 February 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , ,

If you haven’t read John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, you should check it out (you can down load it for free here and download all of John Piper’s other books for free here). It’s such a challenging call to abandon our trivial pursuits and pleasures in this life and to take up our cross and treasure Christ above all things.

Check out this two powerful videos from Desiring God and Lecrae about not wasting your life. I’ve found them both really challenging as I’ve been preparing to speak at a youth event in Liverpool tomorrow.

What do you think?

Don’t Waste Your Life.


Today, Tomorrow
28 January 2010, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Books | Tags: ,

Some people live for today and die tomorrow. Christians die today and live for tomorrow. The true Christian life is about living for something else. It’s about having a vision for eternity that makes sacrifice now worthwhile.

Our life is but a moment, a breath. It’s the tick of a clock. A blink of an eye. A click of the fingers.

You get one life, one chance. And there’s no reply, no rewind.

Don’t live for the moment. Live for eternity.

Your suffering and your shame are for a moment. Your reward is forever.

Your temptations and your sin are for a moment. Hell is forever.

Your pride and your achievements are for a moment. God’s glory is forever.

Your career is for a moment. God’s “Well done, good and faithful servant” is forever.

Your love life and sex life are for a moment. Your union with Christ is forever.

Your money and possessions are for a moment. Your heavenly treasure is forever.

Tim Chester. The Ordinary Hero. pp. 205-208.

Can you consent to all this?
28 January 2010, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Books, Persecution | Tags: , , ,

In 1812 Adoniram Judson, aged twenty-three, sailed for Burma with the wife he had married twelve days before. He was the first American overseas missionary. He spent the rest of his life there. This is the letter he had written to Ann Hasseltine’s father, asking for her hand in marriage:

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daugther early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

Her father let her decide. She said ‘Yes’.

Tim Chester. The Ordinary Hero. pp. 202-203

Bonhoeffer’s Execution
20 January 2010, 11:21 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: , , ,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor theologian, was arrested on 6 April 1943 for his role in the resistance movement against the Nazis in plotting the assassination of Adolf Hitler. He was imprisoned for a year and a half before being sentenced to execution. On 9 April 1945 he was executed by a particularly brutal hanging. Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard, where he was hanged with thin wire for strangulation. This is the recollection of the camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s execution:

I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer … kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.

I thought this was incredible an incredible testimony of a man trusting God to the very end, even though that end was not pleasant.

Bonhoeffer’s books are much-loved by many who follow Jesus. I am hoping to read his most popular books, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, in 2010.

Have you read anything by Bonhoeffer? If so, what did you think? What impact did it have on your thinking, or on your life?

Community as Identity
23 December 2009, 8:38 am
Filed under: Books, Gospel Community | Tags: , ,

Check out Tim Chester’s latest post on Community as Identity. Tim Chester has been one guy who has influenced my thinking a lot this year in the two main ministries in which I am involved – LiVE (our young adults community) and my youth ministry work with Voice of the Martyrs. His two books that have particularly influenced me in these areas are Total Church and The Ordinary Hero respectively.

Total Church is a challenging call to a radical reshaping around gospel and community. It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to do life together at LiVE that we will be continually transformed to have a greater love and commitment to the gospel, to one another and to our community.

The Ordinary Hero has really consolidated a lot of the stuff that I am trying to communicate to youth when I speak to them about the persecuted church. Chester talks about the pattern of suffering followed by glory. This is not only true for Jesus’ life and mission but also for the life and mission of those who follow him.

The call to this radical life of discipleship is hard (both in the context of community and suffering), but it is a life filled with joy and hope as we look forward to sharing in the glory of our Lord in the new creation. Here are some of the things that Chester says in his latest post about Community as Identity:

The church is not a building you enter. Nor is it a meeting your attend. It is not what you do on a Sunday. To be a Christian is to be part of God’s people and to express that in your life through belonging to a local Christian community.

This is exactly what we have been trying to communicate at LiVE.

We belong to one another (Romans 12:5). If a car belongs to me then I am responsible for it and I decide how it should be used. If a person belongs to me them I am responsible for them and I am involved in their decisions.

While at the outset life in community is fun and easy, the longterm commitment to and love for one another is hard and messy. But this is our call to bring the gospel into one another’s lives and see the transformation and reconciliation that comes from life in Christ. This is true life and true joy – sharing not only in the sufferings of Christ, but also in his glory and resurrection.

Today or Tomorrow
5 November 2009, 9:59 am
Filed under: Books | Tags: ,

Over the last few weeks I’ve been reading through C J Mahaney’s series on Biblical Productivity. I read one part of the series today that really stirred my heart and made me think of what one of my good friends often says. Josh often expresses his lament regarding the false dichotomy between the sacred and the secular – that we are prone to compartmentalize our lives so that we end up talking about serving God as only one part of life, rather than it being about all of life.

Mahaney addresses this forcefully in his chapter on Roles in the Biblical Productivity series. He quotes Leland Ryken’s book Redeeming the Time.

The original Protestnats were right in going beyond this (being a Christian at work) and claiming that the work itself is a spiritual issue and a means of glorifying God. We can be Christian not only in our work but through our work if we view our work as an obedient response to God’s calling.

Mahaney comments that “this perspective will transform your attitude as you proceed to work, wait in traffic, and arrive to work for yet another day”.

Mahaney also discerns that “too many Christians are so distracted by thoughts of the future that they cannot discern with clarity how God has called them to serve in their present vocations. Though they show up for work each day, they don’ts work with passion and joy each day”. I know that I have been guilty of this, and through this article I have been greatly encouraged to see how God has sovereignly brought me to where I am right now. I can serve God best where I am in the present, and I can do that with passion adn joy because I know that it is God’s will. Mahaney stresses that “in the future God may call you [elsewhere]. But that is for another time”.

I am here. God has brought me here. God has given me all that I need. And so I will serve him day-by-day, where I am now, for his glory and honour until he calls me elsewhere.

One final quote for Josh (because I know that he will love this one):

…your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present. A person stuck in a dead-end job may have higher ambitions, but for the moment, that job, however humble, is his vocation. Flipping hamburgers, cleaning hotel rooms, emptying bedpans all have dignity as vocations, spheres of expressing love of neighbour through selfless service, in which God is masked.

So are you living in the present, serving God with passion and joy where he has called you to today? Or are you living in the future, overlooking the opportunities that God has given you now to serve and honour him, wherever that may be?

All About Us
7 October 2009, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Books, General | Tags: , ,

I went out for dinner with Katherine a few weeks ago. For any of you who know us well, you would understand that unfortunately time like this together comes around all too infrequently. Our lives are way too busy, we are over-committed and we have struggled to find balance and get our priorities right. Anyway, that is another discussion in itself, but praise God that the issues are being dealt with and that by his grace our habits and patterns are being changed.

The night was particularly memorable for me because of what we talked about. We delved deeply into the mystery of God’s love and his wrath. One of the books that I’ve been reading lately is John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. Through this, God has planted his truth deep within me and I have been so encouraged to understand that the cross is where mercy and justice meet – that the cross is the ultimate revelation of both of these aspects of God’s character.

Katherine and I were discussing the challenge of holding these two truths in tension in life and ministry, as well as thinking about the consequences of stressing one of these over the other. Katherine insisted on the importance of people knowing of God’s deep and unshakable love for sinners. As a social worker, this is particularly close to her heart. She knows that there are many broken people who have never tasted love, but only the bitterness of rejection and abuse. We all need to be bathed in the saving love of God, knowing that he loves us even though we are sinners.

One lingering question left in my mind, however, was ‘Why does God love us?’ If we are sinners, totally depraved, worthy of nothing but the coming wrath of God, totally unloveable, why does he love us?

After our meal, I didn’t really pursue an answer to my question. But I was greatly encouraged this morning as I was reading an abridged version of Jonathan Edwards’ A treatise concerning religious affections. Basically he proclaims the God-centredness of the gospel. Whereas we are prone to think about God loving us, forgiving and accepting us, taking us to heaven, Edwards teaches that God loves because it is in his nature to love. He says that:

people whose love for God is based on God’s usefulness for them, are beginning at the wrong end. They are regarding God only from the viewpoint of their own self-interest. They are failing to appreciate the infinite glory of God’s nature, which is the source of all goodness and loveliness.

Rather than first seeing that God loves us, then, Edwards insists that we ‘first see that God is lovely, that Christ is excellent and glorious’. I like this because it starts at God rather than us. This God-centred gospel gives us a big picture of God’s nature and the glory of redemption, and humbles us at the foot of the cross to acknowledge that we are saved because he loved us when we had no love for him. It reveals that salvation is God’s initiative and his glory. We are not worthy to be saved, and yet God loves us and invites us to enjoy him not because of what we can gain, but because of who he is.

Ahhh, refreshment…

What do you think about all this? Do we have a God-centred theology or do we still talk about salvation as if it’s all about us?