Tag Archives: christian

The Practice of the Presence of God

God’s Presence is with us Always – Image courtesy of SXU/fotoviva

I am currently reading through The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and it is a profoundly inspirational book.

Although not compiled by Brother Lawrence itself it provides a great insight into his practice of seeking constant communion with God. It details his methods and practices and gives a good inspiration to fulfil the words of the Apostle Paul when he states that we are “to pray without ceasing”. Brother Lawrence seems to have mastered this during his religious life.

A word of warning, though – it appears that Brother Lawrence was devoutly attached to the Romanist Church and the monastic life, and there are aspects of both that make me, as an evangelical Christian, somewhat uneasy.

Yet the descriptions in this book, through a series of conversations and a series of letters, give a good impetus to me to seek to be in greater and closer communion with my God and remain in fellowship with Him.

Brother Lawrence’s view is quite profoundly stated in the opening section of this book:

[He] related that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s Presence by continually conversing with Him. It was a shameful thing to quit His conversation to think of trifles and fooleries. We should feed and nourish our souls with high notions of God which would yield us great joy in being devoted to Him

It is too often in the Christian life that our minds wander from a sense of God – yet Brother Lawrence, after many years of struggle with sin and condemnation, seems to have found that by constant prayer he was able to enjoy a peace and joy that is truly the mark of the Holy Spirit working in us.

Brother Lawrence did have times when this conversation slipped, and also had times when upon a reflection after tasks had been done had found himself to have fallen short. In such instances he advises: “Without being discouraged on account of our sins, we should pray for His grace with a perfect confidence, as relying upon the infinite merits of our Lord.”

Brother Lawrence would confess his sins and shortcomings and then think upon them no more as he returned to his conversation with God.

So much can be learned from this book and from Brother Lawrence’s experience and practice and I would thoroughly recommend it to your reading.

4 Comments

Filed under Faith

Putting the Poor in Their Rightful Place

A short while ago I wrote a blog post saying that we should not place the poor as equal to the Lord – we should not base our doctrine on our relationship with the poor but rather on our relationship with Christ.

Run down housing

We must love the poor and provide for them

Yet it is also important to say what the proper regard of the poor should be. In Matthew 25 Jesus Himself identifies Himself with the poor:

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:37-40

Jesus makes clear that if we love Him we will love the poor – if we truly love Him we will consider the poor and give to them, because it is primarily with the poor which Jesus identifies Himself. He is the outcast, the rejected, the oppressed. He is the Man of Sorrows.

We should regard others before ourselves and be interested in the welfare of others before our own welfare – now that is a continuing challenge to me and I am sure to many – for it is through loving our brother whom we can see that we demonstrate that we are capable of loving Jesus whom we do not see. If we neglect the poor we are, effectively, neglecting Jesus. Whilst our doctrine must be based on our relationship with Jesus, the application of that doctrine should effect in us a compassion towards the poor.

Psalm 112 speaks of the nature of the righteous:

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion.
Surely he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance.
He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is established;
He will not be afraid,
Until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted with honor.
The wicked will see it and be grieved;
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked shall perish.

– Psalm 112: 4-10

Do not neglect the needy. And do not neglect the Lord.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christians in the World, Relationships, Scripture teaching

Sin and Repentance

Prayer

If we fall into sin, our response must be to come to God and confess

I have had reason today to spend time in prayer confessing and repenting from certain sins.

There is a danger when we sin of reacting in two ways: either we can treat it as a light thing, something that doesn’t really matter, or we can be so consumed by our wrongdoing that we feel condemned and unable to approach God. Both responses are in grave error.

Firstly, we must remember that Jesus died for our sins. It wasn’t a “cheap” or unimportant death – He did not die a painless and sorrowless death – He suffered enormously. Our sin is a great and heavy burden – it should never be regarded as something that “does not matter because Jesus dealt with it”. Yet in that death Jesus did pay the full price for our sin and our sins. We have a God that does not condemn but rather loves to show mercy.

We should never feel that our sins are too great to prevent us from approaching the throne of grace. Remember that one of the greatest tools of the enemy the devil is to make us ineffective as Christians through making us feel condemned and unable to approach God. Jesus is our Advocate. In the ongoing courtroom of justice, the devil is the accuser, yet Jesus pleads His Blood and by such we are forgiven and assured of salvation if we have trusted in Him.

So how do we experience in the here and now that very precious gift of forgiveness? We must come before God, confess our sins and turn from them and to Him (repentance). It doesn’t matter how many times we need to do this. My own battles with sins have lasted many years and I do fall into the trap sometimes of thinking that all hope of deliverance from those sins is gone. Yet even if a particular stronghold has gone on for many years we can place our hope and trust in our Redeemer, and indeed we must.

Leave a comment

Filed under Faith

Aspiring to greatness? Or for Jesus’ Name to be Honoured?

The following post I have directly purloined from a fellow blogger.  I do not usually do this, but it is just too good not to re-share.  Indeed, Arthur Sido, who wrote this, took it himself from a fellow blogger.  It is just superb.

Aspiring to be a nobody

Loved this from Dave Black yesterday regarding the desire to raise up leaders.

Personally, I’m not all that eager to raise up a new generation of leaders. I want to raise up a new generation of butlers and scullery maids. A generation of nobodies who are content to be obedient to the simple teachings of Jesus. A generation of Christ-followers who die to family, fame, fortune, success, patriotism, and the American Dream. A generation of Dietrich Bonhoeffers who realize that “when Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die.” I want to raise up a generation of men and women who give without counting the cost, who deny themselves, who willingly take the cross as the path of union with Christ, in whom there is no trace of triumphalism, who put their lives at Christ’s disposal with unconditional surrender, who place Christian allegiance over their national allegiance, who act as though they were part of an upside-down kingdom, who die to all claims of the self-indulgent life, who refuse to lionize success or repudiate pain, who “share in suffering as good soldiers of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3), who stand high and lift their drooping heads because the Son of God inhabits their lives in the power of His resurrection. We cannot all be seminary grads or professional ministers. But we can all be engaged in fulltime Christian ministry. We can all bring others to faith in the Savior. We can all be devoted to prayer. I am concerned not so much with raising up a generation of leaders but with training a generation of men and women who are consumed with a passion to understand Christ better and make Him known. This does not invalidate the educational enterprise. It gives it purpose.

I just liked that a lot. The best word in that entire paragraph? “Content”. If only we were content I think we would see so much more zeal for Kingdom work.

What is missed in so many circles is the utterly Biblical sense in which the true leaders in the church are universally the servants, the nobodies. Not only do we miss this, we tend to go in just the opposite direction. We raise men up, we elevate them, ordain them, exalt them. We buy their books and listen to the talks and attend their conferences. We cleverly drop their names and post their quotes on Facebook and Twitter. If they are dead, that is even better! I believe more each day that those who we will see as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven will be people we never heard of or those we know but rarely paid attention to.

We don’t need more leaders, we need more nobodies!

 

Credit: Arthur Sido @ The Voice of One Crying in Suburbia

Leave a comment

Filed under Christians in the World

We the People of God – Our Citizenship is of Heaven

We are a People once not a people, but now the People of God
As Christians we cannot be separated by politics, culture, locality or language. We are One Body, and our first and foremost loyalty should be to God and then to each other

We cannot, seriously, be consumed in a system that pits Christian against Christian. Yes, we will sometimes (maybe often) disagree in areas where political, cultural or ideological views are divergent, and possibly all three to the extent that much of our political and ideological view is coloured by our cultural heritage. But we must not let that hinder the work of the Gospel nor let it hinder our love for one another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous theologian, died in the concentration camps. His loyalty was not firstly to his government nor his nation. His loyalty was to God, and he died for an attempt to bring WWII to a speedy end. In that way he showed more love to the many British and American Christians that were suffering in the battle against Hitler. Was he a traitor? No, because his primary nationality, his real citizenship, was heavenly, not German.

In our disagreements over whether the political left or the political right; the capitalist or the socialist; the libertarian or the anarchist are correct or more correct, we must be careful that we do not lose sight of the undeniable fact that we are of the same eternal Kingdom and we belong to God and to each other, and not to the systems of this present world.

Taking self-profession as sufficient and not a cause for argument over doctrinal and practicable ideologies, President Obama is the brother of former President Bush, and they (and we) are a nation of God, not of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christians in the World, The Church

Stewardship – A Vital Principle for the Earth

Current scientific consensus is that the life-system of the earth is becoming dangerously destabilised, and that the threats of climate change, pollution and dwindling resources pose a practical and political issue that is of immense importance.

The view, widely-held, is that the severe imbalances that are occurring are doing so because of the actions of man upon the eco-systems and environments of the planet.

But there are some who disagree.

Some, generally name-called “climate change deniers” (although such terminology is not always helpful given the need for rational debate and well thought-out arguments), say that the changes that are being experienced are not due to man’s actions but are a natural development in the life-cycle of the planet.  These people would be best placed in a non-interventionist bracket.

The non-interventionist policy would be that there is no need for man to take any remedial steps as pertaining to eco-systems or environment, and that much of the “green agenda” is dangerous in itself, either because of the increase in governmental and inter-governmental control, or the negative impact such remedial steps would have on a consumerist-based and consumption-based economic system.

Non-interventionists can be classified into three varieties:

1. The total denial group.  Claiming that the science behind man-induced eco-system danger is flawed, this group asserts that there are no notable changes to the systems of the earth and that therefore, as there is no problem, there does not need to be a solution.

2. The natural cycle group.  Whilst accepting the vast evidence that climates are changing and that the eco-systems of the world are in a state of flux, the natural cycle group asserts that these changes can be exclusively attributed to the natural changes that would have occurred without man’s influence.  Because man is not responsible, they say, then man need take no remedy but just let the planet get on with it.

3. The climate-changing God believers.  Full acceptance is made that the changes to the environment and planet are taking place, and an acceptance is also made that these changes pose a great risk to the survival of the planet and of mankind. Those in this category, however, disown any responsibility to act because it is the work of God, and that instead of looking to address the environmental issues nations need rather to repent of their sins and turn to God.

The science behind the claims of climate change and eco-system strain are either countered or dismissed by these groups.

Yet there is a very important Christian principle which is often overlooked by the non-interventionists, and this is especially relevant to those who claim climate change is the work of God.  That principle is the principle of stewardship.

The Bible is very clear, and in numerous places, that a Godly person should be a good steward of the resources that God has entrusted to him.  Many would take this to mean a faithful tithe to the Church, or even lining the pockets of wealthy and attractive TV presenters (“evangelists”).  Yet stewardship is a far deeper and profound concept that covers 100% of what God has entrusted to us.  That 100% includes all our finances, all our time, and all of the resources that are available to us.  “All things come from God, and of Your own do we give You,” we say after giving our offerings at church.

The vital principle of stewardship brings a new light on the arguments for intervention.  The concept that the earth is our plaything and the resources are there for us to use as we please is not compatible with the principle that these resources are to be used wisely, purposefully and diligently not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those less fortunate.

Whatever the causes behind climate change and eco-system degradation, it is very clear that the consumerist and consumption-based economic system has a poor stewardship record, and that if we are to counter the issues, or even if we cannot and the systems have already reached tipping point, part of our “repenting and turning to God” must be a repentance of the sinful greed and waste that the consumption-based economic system has produced.  Then we may be in a position to properly relate to and steward the Creation in our care.

Leave a comment

Filed under The World

The Offence of the Cross

I have been prompted to make this entry in my blog because of the debate about Christianity and homosexuality.  Note that this was the prompt, but I am not going to focus on gay issues as my main point in this post.

There is a difficult, and at times un-Christianly bitter, debate within the Church between those who stand on Biblical principles in moral behaviour and those who suggest that the grace of God and the requirement to love all means that all or any behaviour is acceptable, providing it conforms to the World’s standards of morality.

For example, the liberals would say that a homosexual priest is fine, but a serial murderer priest is not.  The Bible, in fact, and in the New Testament, classes both sins as equal.  The liberals dispute this.

Yet to move beyond the homosexual debate is, I believe, important.  The conflict over gay rights is currently to the fore, prompted by moves in the UK to prohibit Christian principles in the workplace and by moves in the US ordaining openly homosexual bishops.  But the charge is now often brought that the Church is obsessed with “gay bashing”.  Although the debate wasn’t started by conservative Christians, we have risen to the bait and it seems that much campaigning has been focused on this.

But it is important, I believe, to move the debate forward.  The UK, and the world, are being swamped by sinful behaviours, and they are not exclusively to do with sexual behaviour.

My own particular struggle,  with drink and drugs, needs to be brought to attention.  I would take the same approach to heavy drinkers and drug users as I would to homosexual practice, for the Bible treats them as equal sins.  Show love, offer help, but do not shy away from saying such behaviour is sinful.  I have a deep sorrow at my past drink and drug use, and now I would not thank those who said “never mind, roll around on the floor dribbling, God doesn’t mind”.  The truth is: God does mind, He calls it sin.

There are other issues too, such as the oppression and exploitation of the poor.  The degree to which this happens in the UK, from the human trafficking to the exploitation by clothes shops in using overseas sweatshops, is appalling.  Christians need to speak on these issues.

I want to say one more thing: there has been a growing move in the UK to make Church “fashionable”.  To make Jesus attractive.  Sometimes this borders on attempting to con people into becoming Christians.  It is done in the name of “making Church relevant”.  Yet, the Bible is clear that we should “speak the truth”.  We cannot accept the “fluffy God” or the “it’s okay Jesus”.  God, Jesus, is Holy.

We must be clear.  A refusal to obey God will result in judgement.  But God is so loving that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

If we Christians truly live, breathe, and then speak the Truth, believe me we shall soon find, and rejoice in, the fact that Jesus Christ and His Cross are most offensive to those who refuse to believe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christians in the World, Faith, The Gospel

Why Doesn’t God Just Sort Things Out?

One question I remember hearing often is this: If God is so loving, why doesn’t He just stop all the wars and come down and make everything okay?

Perhaps, He did.  And we killed Him.

Jesus’ death upon the Cross marks the crossroads of life.  Many anti-Semitic Christians have asserted that it was the Jews who killed Jesus.  Christian Jews sometimes point out that it was the Romans who killed Jesus.  But we are all responsible.  The Jewish authorities orchestrated Jesus’ death, the Gentile (non-Jew) authorities carried the sentence out.  Both Jews and non-Jews bear responsibility.

Now, one may say: “But I wasn’t there.  If I had been, I would have had no part in it.”  Such a statement is understandable, yet profoundly arrogant.  Haven’t you ever said an unkind word about someone behind their back?  Maybe, as your friends laughingly mocked, you resisted for a while, but when you sensed that you’d miss out on the party unless you joined in, didn’t you throw in a smidgen of insult?  Trust me, no, trust God, when He says that “all have sinned”, and that if you had been present at the crucifixion of Jesus, you, like me, would have mocked.

But why did Jesus die?  Surely, if He’s God, He couldn’t die?  Some, such as the JW’s and Unitarians, deny that Jesus is God.  But Jesus Himself claimed to be the great I AM (one of the Names of God).  Thomas cried out “My lord and my God!”  Jesus said, “I and the Father are One.”  Maybe we can’t get our heads around God being three persons but only One God, but then I can’t get my head around the Hadron Collider.  It doesn’t make something not true just because we don’t fully understand it.

Okay, so God, as the Son, came to earth.  Why didn’t He just say: “Okay, I’m here now, stop fighting, stop bickering and we’ll have a party.”

There is the question of sin.  What would have happened if God had said that He would make everything perfect, bring justice and reward everyone.

Well, as God is just, He would have had to reward everyone according to the state of their hearts and their deeds.  Remember: all have sinned.  All are guilty.  All deserve to be punished.  So, God brings Justice and we all stand condemned.  It would have been a literal hell for everyone.

So, because God is loving, He sends His Son, who is One with Him.  God had already shown in stark clarity the method by which sin could be forgiven: only by the shedding of blood.  The Old Testament times are full with the blood of lambs, goats, pigeons and the like.  There is a law: sin causes death.  For sin to be forgiven, something had to shed its blood.

And so, at the Passover, God provides for Himself a Lamb.  A Lamb without blemish.  Perfect, pure, holy.  His Son Jesus.  Jesus’ shed blood makes the atonement.  If we accept that He died for us and believe in Him, we can receive that atoning work of the Cross: we can be forgiven.

We killed Jesus.  But Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  But that forgiveness only comes when we accept the Truth.  Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by Me.”  Jesus is the only Way of salvation, be you Jew or Greek or Roman or Indian or American or African or Australian.

So, a just God takes upon Himself our sin, a merciful God calls us to respond, and a gracious God offers us all, as many as would respond, life joyful and everlasting.

2 Comments

Filed under Scripture teaching, The Gospel