Friday, 18 October 2013

When all's said and done...

Some twenty years ago, my Christian faith was rejuvenated by the discovery of an excellent regular American radio broadcast called the White Horse Inn. Twenty years on, and Mike Horton and Rod Rosenbladt, the regular team of that show, are still seeking to help us see what really matters and how that needs to be the focus of what we're about. This wonderful little video is a great little introduction to them, and the crux of Christianity...

ROUNDTABLE ON THE GOSPEL: Tullian Tchividjian , Mike Horton, Rod Rosenbladt | LIBERATE 2012 from Coral Ridge | LIBERATE on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

'Tis (nearly) the season... to warm up with a good read.

I don't know how it is with you, but I often find that the colder months 'encourage' me to settle down in a warm spot with a good book, so I thought I'd suggest a couple of theological treats that you might care to share and enjoy in this season. These are by no means new titles, but they are all currently available for a reasonable investment from places like Amazon.

(Ignore the 'click to look inside' instruction on some of the illustrations here... you have to go to Amazon to do that!)....

1. Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton.
If you're after a very readable work that places the essence of what Christianity is all about into a set of inspiring and easily digestible chapters, then this is it. I first read this explosive little volume in the 90's, and it literally re-aligned my understanding in a manner which has aided me to define genuine Christianity ever since. Penned by one of  the most insightful Christian thinkers of our generation, this one is well worth a look.

2. Creation Regained by Albert Wolters.
Another work that cannot be recommended enough, this brief insight into the nature of how Christianity impacts upon all of life will have you thinking, studying and discussing a plethora of issues and subjects in a way which is seasoned with the richness of the work of Christ - it opened vital doors for me into early church theology, the arts and contemporary culture. Highly recommended for anyone who is keen to know more about the scope and depth of the faith.

3. The Progress of Redemption by Willem Van Gemeren.
As Creation Regained gives an overview of the key themes of Christian theology, this volume invites you to examine those themes through wading into the deeper waters of scripture. From Genesis to Revelation, the author unpacks the cardinal issues of faith and life in a theological context and provides a framework which encourages thought and study on these rich themes.

4. Heaven is a Place on Earth by Michael Wittmer.
Pretty much an easy to read expansion of Creation Regained, with lots of useful material to use for personal and study purposes.

5. Six Modern Myths by Philip Sampson
A really helpful work which dispels some very common miss-understandings about Christianity's view and relationship to matters such as Science, Spirituality and the material world.

6. Where God Meets Man by Gerhard Forde
A really down to earth little volume which studies the Reformational approach to the Gospel and the ramifications of this.

and finally, a personal plug...

7. Preparing for Heaven on Earth by Howard Nowlan
Which seeks to distill the wisdom of all of the above (phew!), and is still available from Amazon UK.


Sunday, 13 October 2013

"Yes, but"....

"And you, Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish, but you remain. They shall wax old, as a garment, and you shall fold them up, but you shall remain unchanged, for your days shall never cease". Hebrews 1:10-12.

There are clearly many Christians who have a problem with all this talk of a 'new creation' -  the view that earth will one day be heaven - and when we read passages like the one above, it's not hard to see why. Surely, they reason, particularly in the light of this and passages like Hebrews 11:13-16, we are going elsewhere, and to focus on this realm is to become earthly minded, which isn't of great eternal value.

The answer, of course, is that there's a partial truth here.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul re-visits the issue of the life that is coming. He tells us that this current 'tent' (body) we inhabit will be destroyed, but that this is not the end of the physical - yes, those who are Christ's and who die go to be 'present with the Lord' (vs 8), but the ultimate hope for the believer is the 'clothing' of a new, heaven made 'house' - a physical body that will last forever (verses 2 & 3).

What is true of us is also true of creation as a whole.

In Acts chapter 3, following the miracle healing of a crippled man, Peter proclaims to those in the temple that Christ was crucified and raised so that they might repent and be renewed (redeemed) before the day comes when He will bring about the complete restoration of all things (vs 21) - so even judgement is merely a pre-cursor to the beginning of that momentous event.

So, let's go back to Hebrews.
The Amplified bible notes the true nature of what is being expressed here when it translates verse 12 of chapter 1, regarding the future of the heavens and the earth, "they will be changed and replaced".  In other words, the same change which happens to us, a death to the old (corruption) and a raising to the new (redemption) is common to all material things, but this brings renewal, not termination, to what God has made.

The men of faith, then, were indeed pilgrims in this life, because they looked to something far more substantial than the present temporary powers and structures to sustain and endure - they were truly mindful that from that other country, where we are given eternal citizenship, is coming a new city - the one John tells us will come from heaven to a renewed earth, where humanity will dwell at peace with God and each other without sin, sickness, sorrow or death - where all that is good shall be enjoyed through the astonishing and marvelous love of God, made ours in His beloved Son (Revelation 21:1-5).

Eternal life is not 'going up' to some pie in the sky 'otherness', where none of what has been bestowed upon us will amount to anything. True life is what we now see as good and true and pure amplified and magnified into its full potential.

So the next time someone starts talking to you about eternity on some distant shore, ask them why the Bible so clearly talks about that life as being something entirely tangible - the substance of what we all truly hope for... the return to the garden, but a garden, now, perfectly  transformed into the living city of God (Revelation 5:8-10).