Monday, 31 October 2016

For Reformation Day

Why Martin Luther's work is as vital today as it was 5 centuries ago:
Mike Reeves on the 'joint' statement on Justification and why it changes nothing.

Happy Reformation Day!

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The worst of all

I don't know how it is for you, but I regularly get all manner of 'drop mail' that others have liked or re-posted on my general Facebook page. Much of it gets skimmed over, but every once and a while, someone adds something that gets my attention.

This week, for instance, someone posted a link for '50 things that Jesus hates'. Intrigued, I clicked on this to see what was there, and wasn't surprised to find myself looking at nothing more than an empty entry alongside numbers 1 through to 50.
I'm sure that raises lots of smiles on unquestioning faces, but I immediately found myself thinking of what's said in Proverbs -
There are things that the Lord hates and that are detestable to Him;  haughtiness, lies, love of evil, murder and ill passion, and those who conspire to act wickedly (Proverbs 6;16-19)

It's so easy for us to forget, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew, that one of the very last things Jesus is engaged in before going to the Cross is cleansing the temple (Matthew 21) and then confronting the religious leaders of His day with a full on list of woes that will befall them because they entirely fail to hear what counts and willfully lead people astray as a result of their blindness and arrogance (Matthew 23).

Mike Horton notes in he opening of chapter 5 of Beyond Culture Wars that we may be surprised by some of the life of the 'saints' in Corinth, which was clearly tarnished and needful because of their sins, but these were not, he notes, by far, those who were in the greatest trouble in those days. Read the books of Galatians (1:6-10, 3, 5) and Colossians (chapter 2) and it quickly becomes apparent that the hideous thing which severs us from God's love is when we give ourselves over to a manner of belief and then practice which in effect deliberately denies God's revelation and seeks to assert our 'right' to determine what is good and right in detachment from that. It's the poison that Paul informs us which leads to judgement in Romans (1: 21-32) and the darkness that Jesus tells us leaves us without remedy (John 3:19-20).

The thing God hates is our rejection of His love for things which are so pitiful and brief that they do nothing but diminish us to creatures without hope and, eventually, even devoid of natural affection.

The weight of this life is often great indeed, but the true joy of it is that even amidst our trails and our pain, we can become those who recognize the glint of something sweeter, greater than the fool's gold of wanting nothing but our own satisfaction. Life, notes Solomon, must be defined by something more than such vanity.

The hateful thing is that evil which makes us into nothing more than a shell of what love is aiming to forge and fashion in our broken, shattered world.

God wants men to see the folly of life without that remedy, and hates it when we choose to ignore His care in showing us His love. May we be people who draw close to Him in our times of need and thereby find the richness of His unique, enduring and steadfast love.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Scourge

"The reason we live in a culture increasingly without faith is not because science has somehow disproved the unprovable, but because the white noise of secularism has removed the very stillness in which it might endure or be reborn".
Andrew Sullivan - I used to be a human being.

Running on empty, but still running as hard as proves possible, we're a race that is progressively leaving some terribly deep and cruel scars.

If we look at the earth, then we've managed to loose, for example, around a tenth of the world's natural wilderness since the 1990's. That's staggering.
It also sounds a large warning about how what we're so often about is running away from a stillness, as Andrew Sullivan notes, that challenges us to be satisfying something more than the hollowing blur of the painfully present, unrelenting in its demands upon us.

Recently, I had a 'luxury' holiday with some of my family, generously paid for by them. Whilst it was certainly an experience, amongst all the scheduled events for our pleasure, we spent an hour playing a game of quoits, which was filled with everything that defined us as people who just enjoyed and loved each other. It was exactly what was needed.

The scourge of our times is that we're so often prevented from becoming something richer, deeper than what a schedule provides (or allows). "Radical" thoughts and opinions on the nature of what defines us are no longer given space to even be raised, much less considered, and that is our tragedy and loss, because when we're "allowed" to be that free, the real treasure begins to be discovered (see my prior post, 'The Conversation'). Candid expression and conversation may not be easy, but it's often the route we need to take.

It's not our immediate choice, but we have to start 'loving the alien' - finding ways to comprehend and then appreciate what is outside of us, because what really counts is so often out of reach of our regular thoughts and opinions. Paul leant that as Saul, breathing nothing but threats and murder, on his furious drive to Damascus. His 'network service' was cut (something that would amount to total tragedy for most of us) and love broke through, turning him into a man who had a passion to share something far deeper than the daily schedule (what his own religion gave him) to everyone.

There is, indeed, a better way, which would allow us to use all this stuff well - not as the be all and end all, but as a means to something deeper.

Paul learned that all the 'stuff' that had motivated him to be so passionate and zealous was actually of no real value, because he'd entirely misunderstood what and where it was meant to be taking him - it was actually driving him in the wrong direction, but thankfully, God wouldn't leave Him there. He wants each of us to exit from the 'me only' tyranny of life into something much more true. Paul was truly 'found' by the excellence of relationship with God amongst us - Jesus Christ. Christ brings to us a new and profound definition of being, something that will change us and, eventually, all of creation, into something defined by true meaning and value. That is how we can use now well - to cultivate something eternally of true value. Don't settle for your treasures being in the superficial - life is meant to be about something far richer!