Thursday, July 14, 2005

What about MAKE SPIRITUAL POVERTY HISTORY?

I’m glad that so many Christians have gone public on the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY agenda. I think as Christians we ought to be concerned to make a difference for the poorest in our world. It’s been good to see so may publicly displaying their commitment to the cause by wearing a white armband.

I guess the one sadness that I feel in my heart about such things is that while the churches in this country have been so willing to so publicly stand up and be counted for the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY cause, it seems to me that we are so often very reluctant to stand up and own the good news of Jesus Christ in the public sphere with anything like the same level of conviction.

Of course the gospel is a less fashionable cause than poverty. When we wear white wristbands (and I do) we align ourselves with the fashionable and the hip and the cool in our society. When we speak words of gospel conviction we seem to many, anachronistic and out of step in a tolerant society.

We should not be surprised at the unpalatable nature of the gospel. One of it’s greatest exponents wrote "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1Co 1:18 ESV But nor should we be ashamed.

Paul did not write “I am ashamed of the gospel, for it is not politically correct to speak of such things and it may offend and alienate.” His world was as intolerant as our own, and the stakes were higher, yet he wrote “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rom 1:16 ESV

What about a commitment to MAKESPIRITUALPOVERTYHISTORY?

Friday, July 08, 2005

I do not understand, but I’m grateful ….

How do we make sense of the evil that so often rears its head in our world? I along with others watch with shock and horror as the BBC website carried the first hints of the bombings in London yesterday. In the face of such indiscriminate malice what does one think?

I have to confess that when I listen to those who strip away mystery and make confident assertions about how such things could be, it often sounds to me like foolishness. The reality is that when we probe for answers to human suffering we are in grave danger of saying that which we ought not to say. The book of Job draws towards it’s conclusion with Job admitting that he “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." Job 42:3

So I will seek to avoid such pitfalls and simply share a thought:

I’m grateful that Jesus did not come down from the cross. Do you remember how they taunted him? "You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." Mat 27:40

Do you recognize the taunt “If you are?” Do you hear the echo from an earlier time in the ministry of Jesus? When three times in the wilderness the devil speaks to tempt Jesus from his mission and on the first two occasions begins his taunt with the words; “if you are the son of God.”

The devils temptation is to hunger easily satisfied and to acclamation easily gained but it is not God’s way. And the taunts of those who mocked were a temptation to escape the Father’s redemptive plan, but Jesus did not come down from the cross.

I do not pretend to understand why evil flourishes in our world, but I know that God’s sovereignty is never compromised. I know that God has done something about it. I know that God’s redemptive commitment to our world is massive and costly and I know that God loves this broken and fallen world and the sinners who live in it. I do not pretend to understand but I’m grateful because Jesus did not come down from the cross.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What’s pot and what’s not pot.

This has been a busy week, and I have had no time to post, so forgive me for putting up something which I have posted elsewhere before! Hopefully there will be some new posts over the next couple of days.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

This is one of those quotes that I have come back to time and again over the years. Paul sees himself as an unlovely pot containing a fabulous treasure.

I wonder if this doesn’t have something to say to ministers, ministries and life in general for those who love Jesus.

If you are a minister, or a leader in a ministry, there is a great temptation to forget what’s pot and what’s not pot. A lot of what we do in churches and ministries is “pot.”

Now don’t get me wrong here. Calling something “pot” is not to say that it is worthless. The jar of clay in 1 Corinthians 4:7 is a useful repository for treasure even if it is not itself treasure. Of course the value of an empty pot might be called into question, but if the "pot" is a repository for treasure then that’s a different matter.

There is a danger that in our ministry effort and energy we substitute “pot” for treasure. So much of what we rightly do is “pot.”

Church buildings are “pot”, necessary, but “pot” none-the-less. So to is finance, essential, but “pot.” Greater numbers and church growth? What about healthy churches? “Pot”too.

Some might be getting uncomfortable with this. Surely the treasure is the gospel isn’t it? I think we need to be careful here.

Notice what Paul says immediately before in v 6 “ For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

If Paul sees himself as the “pot” then he sees the treasure within himself as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” The treasure is knowledge of the glory of God, or to put it more simply, the God we know in Jesus.

Now that is in a sense the gospel, but if we are not careful we will allow more measurable ministry achievements to supplant the living God as the goal and treasure of our hearts.

Sure such temptations are seductive, but to allow that to happen is to settle for “pot” when treasure is on offer.

Friday, July 01, 2005

DIY Atonement.

I’ve been reading through 2 Kings recently and came this morning to the sorry story of Ahaz. You can read his story in 2 Kings 16.

Many of the accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah are salutary tales, and the book of 2 Kings is a tragic catalogue of compromise and outright rejection of God.

Ahaz is willing to stoop to human sacrifice, (16:3) but I’m not sure that that is his most shocking sin. Ahaz is willing to embark on a radical redesign of the temple, and that is an attempt to redefine Judah’s relationship with God.

Visiting Damascus, Ahaz sees an altar there, obviously in his mind more impressive than the altar in the temple, and he orders the construction of a replica to replace the altar in the temple and he redesigns the layout of the temple moving the old altar out of the way. (vs 12-14)

The old altar intended by God as a place of atonement becomes for Ahaz merely a place for seeking guidance. (v15)

2 Kings often seems reticent in expressing God’s concern about the sin and rejection of the kings of Israel and Judah, instead it’s tone is that of a sad reporter of things that should not be.

I find this passage quite revealing and may preach on it at some point. You see Ahaz's redesign of the temple reveals his disdain for the things of God. The Temple was not ordered by human design, but after the tabernacle which in turn was ordered after a divine plan to reveal something about the nature of atonement. To put this another way, mess with the temple and you mess with atonement.

Human beings ought not to attempt a redesign of God’s plan of redemption for any reason. We live in a day when sadly, the historic doctrines of atonement are under attack and those who call themselves evangelicals seek to redefine their meaning.

Interestingly enough part of Ahaz’s motive for his redesign seems to be the feelings of the king of Assyria v18. The tragedy is that if he had been more concerned for the glory of God than the feelings of a fellow king or the aesthetic qualities of the temple, then the verdict on his reign might have been quite different.

I guess this post is simple a way of reminding myself, and anyone who cares to read that I must relate to God in accordance with his design for relationship and not presume the right to redesign the basis of relationship in order to make it more attractive or palatable to those whom I serve.