Archive for the ‘Christian living’ Category
Scotland is heading to the voting booths. The people of Scotland will shortly declare whether or not they wish their country to remain part of the Union, or secede. It is, by all accounts, a momentous decision with consequences which can in some measure be accurately predicted, some which can at least be observed coalescing, and some which no-one will have expected. The campaigning, especially as the vote looms, has become strident, even violent. Impassioned pleas ring out from both “Yes” and “No” camps. And many Christians are making what seems to be a watertight case as to how they and others should vote. And some are saying, “Yes,” and others, “No.”
We can and should recognise with thanksgiving the peculiar heritage of the United Kingdom and its constituent parts, with the blessing of genuine Christian influence upon some elements of our national systems and structures. At the same time, I aver that the United Kingdom – in whole and in its parts – is not and never really has been a Christian country. At times, more “a people of the Book,” but not a Christian country. There are Christian individuals, and there are Christian churches, and there is Christian influence, but there are not Christian countries. It’s just not how it works.
So, what difference does this make? What difference might it make in Scotland? In the rest of the Union? In Europe (geographically and politically)? Across the globe?
Andrew Fuller’s brief sermon on “Christian Patriotism” from his collected works is always a helpful read at such a time, whether one considers oneself English, Scottish, Welsh or British. Whichever dog we think we have in the fight, Fuller puts it on a proper leash.
The outcome of the Scottish vote will, in some measure, in the shorter and longer terms, change the circumstances in which the saints go about their business. But our business will not change. We are all still citizens of a heavenly kingdom. When all these things are shaken, as they are in time and most certainly will be when the end comes, the kingdom of Christ remains. Our hopes for the kingdom are not shackled to any particular country or individual or system of government. Our fears need not rise or fall with any fall of rise of any person, party, policy or process, need not be yoked to any particular nation-state. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world – not absolutely of any part or portion of it, but throughout it and above it.
As Christian citizens and Christian patriots, we have genuine and legitimate interests in such questions as those now being posed. Our responsibilities and concerns as Christians in particular nations are many. There may be pains and pleasures, profits and losses, progress and retreat, as an apparent or untraced consequence of the vote in Scotland tomorrow, one way or the other.
However, when the voting is done, and the dust has settled, and the fallout begins, Christ himself remains our peace. He has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
While, of course, Paul is not speaking about the English and the Scots – whose enmity, it might be said, sometimes seems to rival that of the Jew and the Gentile – the principle surely stands. What saints from every country have in common transcends all that divides us. When the end comes, these will not be the things that last and they will not be the things that matter. There will come a time when we shall behold a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Until then, all our wrangling and wrestling, all our voting and investing, should be conditioned by these heavenly realities. After all, whatever afflictions we suffer here – up to and including being (un)shackled (together) – they are but for a moment, and they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Fix your eyes there before the vote. Consider it well when you or others vote. Hold fast to it after the vote. For we do not set our minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
Through the rise and fall of nations
One sure faith yet standeth fast:
God abides, His Word unchanging,
God alone the first and last.
In the course of a certain recent train of thought set off by a certain portion of preparation, I struggled to identify a particular set of resources.
Specifically, I was thinking of the power of example, and applying it especially to church officers. As I considered the available resources, I found myself reasonably well-stocked with pastoral theologies, and with plenty of historical studies and (auto)biographies to adorn those pages. What I do not have, in anything like the same measure, is a treasury of diaconal theology, adorned with the same wealth of biographies and other studies to show as well as to tell.
Knowing that both of my readers are well-stocked with this kind of knowledge, I am writing to ask if either of you have any suggestions for anything that falls into this category (either direct treatments of the office and/or descriptions of it, biographical or otherwise), whether more ancient or more modern, and (ideally) robustly orthodox. Authors and titles would be appreciated; links to online documents would be a special blessing! Even if you think something is obvious, please let me know – if a suggestion duplicates something I already have or know, I shall simply take it as a helpful endorsement. Thanks in advance for any help rendered, and I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.
Last night at a meeting at Maidenbower we heard a stonking sermon from Andy Young of Cheltenham on the preciousness of God’s word, highlighting how we ought to receive it, our appropriate response to it, and the fearful rejection of it. In his introduction, Andy made reference to the video below about the Kimyal people:
That further reminded me of this video of Chinese believers receiving the Word of God in their own language for the first time . . .
. . . and of this video of Christians in Africa getting their own Bibles:
What is the Bible to you? Is it better than thousands of pieces of gold and silver? Do you treasure it? I am reminded of a famous sermon by John Rogers. What difference would losing your Bible make to you?
The new generation of Christian journalists are doing the same. On podcasts, in blogs, on social media, and in places where an old fogey like me would not know to look—and, yes, even on television and radio—, they are writing, speaking, and advancing ideas that can save souls, transform lives, and renew cultures for the glory of God and the good of Man. Men and women just like Shaun Tabatt are joining with their predecessor of the Seventeenth Century, John Milton, in declaring,
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties” (50).
Michael Milton identifies the new Christian journalists who are having a real influence for good, using a friend, Shaun Tabatt, as an example. Some encouragement here for the intelligent and principled use of new media.
While immensely thankful for the benefits of modern travel, there are elements of it that are not in the first rank of Walker enjoyments. I tend toward dislike of the experience of being herded and managed, with even the temperature of the environment sometimes being adjusted in order to prompt appropriate dispositions. And there are, of course, those elements of being in confined spaces with a bundle of other sinners which tend to prompt more carnal reactions.
And so it was with that combination of weariness and amusement that I surveyed the departure lounge at Newark airport a few days ago on my way home from a delightful time of fellowship and ministry. All human life, if not quite there, was certainly well on the way to being healthily represented. Looking about me, I was struck by the prominent ways and means in words and in deeds by which various of my fellow wanderers were proclaiming their personal identity and spiritual allegiance.
Read more thoughts about the Christian traveller.
This day was the best that I have seen since I came to England. . . . After Dr. Twisse had begun with a brief prayer, Mr. Marshall prayed largely two hours, most divinely, confessing the sins of the members of the Assembly, in a wonderful, passionate, and prudent way. Afterwards, Mr. Arrowsmith preached an hour, then a psalm; thereafter, Mr. Vines prayed near two hours, and Mr. Palmer preached an hour, and Mr. Seaman prayed nearly two hours, then a psalm. After this, Mr. Henderson brought about a sweet discussion of the heated disputes confessed in the assembly, and other seen faults to be remedied. . . . Dr. Twisse closed with a short prayer and blessing.
Read some lessions from Robert Baillie’s experiences at Reformation21.
From time to time, in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the new school year, I receive enquiries about churches in particular places. They usually go something like this: “So-and-so has got a place to study this-or-that at such-and-such university in such-and-such a city. Do you know of any good church that he or she could go to?”
My initial response is almost always to hang my head in my hands, because I am grieved over the failure of the prospective students and their parents and perhaps their pastors to consider the consequences of their actions and to plan accordingly. In one sense, there is no good time of the year to address this, but hopefully that means that this is not a bad time. For some, I hope it will be timely, and help you to make the right decision in the right way in the right time.
Read the rest at Reformation21.