Monday, June 27, 2011

Giving thanks to the Father

This morning, I was reflecting on a line in Colossians 1:12 where Paul writes about how he prays for his fellow Christians. I couldn't help but be thankful for the one line which reads "giving thanks for the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light."

The Father qualifies us (NASB).

My place in God's eternal plan for His people is not based on my own qualifications. He has qualified me. It is a gift given at His expense. It is a work accomplished by His doing. It is a provision granted by His grace.

Verse 13 and 14 tell us how God qualifies us:

i. "For He rescued us from the dominion of darkness..."
ii. "And (He) transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son..."
- "in whom we have redemption"
- "the forgiveness of sins"

He qualifies us by rescuing us and helicoptering us into the Kingdom of His Son who has paid for our forgiveness through His sacrificial death on the cross.

What a relief. God's qualifying keeps us from the performance oriented religiosity that is so dreadfully wearying and continually guilt producing. Jesus has qualified us by removing our guilt and stain and that makes our life one of joy-filled gratitude rather than constant wondering how its going to be when God finally posts my marks.

I am grateful that God provides the qualifications I need to share in the realm of His Son. This new life is all a gift opened up to me by His love and mercy. Thank God that you are qualified to share in this inheritance simply by trusting in Jesus.

MariAnne's Webpage

My wife, MariAnne, is writing a book teaching English as a Second Language and the Bible together using art and photography. She has a website for this book as it is developing. It is coming together well and here is the webpage if you want to take a look. There are some neat contributors from here and around the world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Objective Gospel

The Objective Reality is the Ground for our Subjective Experience
"The core of the gospel, the historical facts of what God did in Christ, is often down-graded today in favour of a more mystical emphasis on the private spiritual experience of the individual. Whereas faith in the gospel is essentially acceptance of, and commitment to, the declaration that God acted in Christ some two thousand years ago on our behalf, saving faith is often portrayed nowadays more as trust in what God is doing in us now. Biblical ideas such as 'the forgiveness of sins' or 'salvation' are interpreted as primarily describing a Christian's personal experience. But when we allow the whole Bible - Old and New Testaments - to speak to us, we find that those subjective aspects of the Christian life which are undoubtedly important - new birth, faith, sanctification - are fruits of the gospel. This gospel, while still relating to individual people at their point of need, is rooted and grounded in the history of redemption. It is good news about Jesus, before it is good news for sinful men and women. Indeed, it is only as the objective (redemptive-historical) facts are grasped that the subjective experience of the individual Christian can be understood." (from Graham Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Paraphrase of John Owen’s Paraphrase of Psalm 130

In the following, I will give you Owen's paraphrase, verse by verse of Psalm 130 -as he seeks give the sense of the prayer - followed by mine.

John Owen: Verses 1, 2.--O Lord, through my manifold sins and provocations, I have brought myself into great distresses. Mine iniquities are always before me, and I am ready to be overwhelmed with them, as with a flood of waters; for they have brought me into depths, wherein I am ready to be swallowed up. But yet, although my distress be great and perplexing, I do not, I dare not, utterly despond and cast away all hopes of relief or recovery. Nor do I seek unto any other remedy, way, or means of relief; but I apply myself to thee, Jehovah, to thee alone. And in this my application unto thee, the greatness and urgency of my troubles makes my soul urgent, earnest, and pressing in my supplications. Whilst I have no rest, I can give thee no rest. Oh, therefore, attend and hearken unto the voice of my crying and supplication.

Me: Verses 1 and 2 “O Lord, because of the ridiculous number and nature of my sins and the greatness of my failings, I have brought my soul into great distress. There isn’t a day, (or an hour) when I don’t think about them and as a result, I feel incredibly overwhelmed. Although I feel at times like I am drowning and beyond hope, I don’t dare to pack it in and cast away all hope of relief or recovery. Instead, I cry out to You. The more miserable I feel, the more determined I am to call out to you. As long as I have no rest, I cannot help but cry to You and to You alone. Therefore, I plead with you, O God, to hear me. Hear the cry of my heart.

John Owen : Verse 3.--It is true, O Lord, thou God great and terrible, that if thou shouldst deal with me in this condition, with any man living, with the best of thy saints, according to the strict and exact tenor of the law, which first represents itself to my guilty conscience and troubled soul; if thou shouldst take notice of, observe, and keep in remembrance, mine, or their, or the iniquity of any one, to the end that thou mightst deal with them, and recompense unto them according to the sentence thereof, there would be, neither for me nor them, any the least expectation of deliverance. All flesh must fail before thee, and the spirits which thou hast made, and that to eternity; for who could stand before thee when thou shouldst so execute thy displeasure?

Me: Verse 3 – I know, O Lord, that You are absolutely holy and that if You being perfect and unswervingly righteous, should deal with me, or anyone, even the best of all the saints, according to Your absolute standard of righteousness, that not one of us could stand. If you were to take note of and keep track of each and every one of us and our sins so that you could deal with us according to Your holy justice, that not one of us could expect to escape your just condemnation. If you were to execute your displeasure against each or any of us, who could stand?

John Owen: Verse 4.--But, O Lord, this is not absolutely and universally the state of things between thy Majesty and poor sinners; thou art in thy nature infinitely good and gracious, ready and free in the purposes of thy will to receive them. And there is such a blessed way made for the exercise of the holy inclinations and purposes of thy heart towards them, in the mediation and blood of thy dear Son, that they have assured foundations of concluding and believing that there is pardon and forgiveness with thee for them, and which, in the way of thine appointments, they may be partakers of. This way, therefore, will I, with all that fear thee, persist in. I will not give over, leave thee, or turn from thee, through my fears, discouragements, and despondencies; but will abide constantly in the observation of the worship which thou hast prescribed, and the performance of the obedience which thou dost require, having great encouragements so to do.

Me: Verse 4 – “But, O Lord, this is not the only way that You deal with sinners. You are, in and of Yourself, a God who is infinitely good and gracious, ready and willing in Your purposes to receive guilty sinners. You have made a wonderful way for You to be able to express your holy and loving desire to offer forgiveness to sinful people by providing the sacrificial gift of your own Son as a substitute for guilty sinners. In providing Jesus for us, you have given us a reasonable foundation to believe that there is forgiveness with You. It is for this reason alone, that I will, along with all those who believe in You, persist in calling out to you for forgiveness. Despite all the things that cause me to lose heart and begin to doubt that You love me, I will press on towards you rather than turn away. I will revere you rather than cower and crawl away. I will live for you, believing that You love and forgive sinners like me who sincerely seek to honour You.

John Owen: Verse 5.--And herein, upon the account of the forgiveness that is with thee, O Lord, do I wait with all patience, quietness, and perseverance. In this work is my whole soul engaged, even in an earnest expectation of thy approach unto me in a way of grace and mercy. And for my encouragement therein hast thou given out unto me a blessed word of grace, a faithful word of promise, whereon my hope is fixed.

Me: Verse 5 –And since I have this assurance in my soul that you are such a forgiving God, I will trust you with my life. I live everyday looking to you to be my Help and my Strength. You have promised in Your Word that I can count on you to care for me, both now and forever, and upon that promise I have banked my entire existence. I live my life, looking to You.

John Owen: Verse 6.--Yea, in the performance and discharge of this duty, my soul is intent upon thee, and in its whole frame turned towards thee, and that with such diligence and watchfulness in looking out after every way and means of thy appearance, of the manifestation of thyself, and coming unto me, that I excel therein those who, with longing desire, heedfulness, and earnest expectation, do wait and watch for the appearance of the morning; and that either that they may rest from their night watches, or have light for the duties of thy worship in the temple, which they are most delighted in.

Me: Verse 6 – In fact, as I live my life, the one thing I do is look to You, O Lord, to be my help and my salvation. I truly long to see You work in my life and there is nothing that I want more than to see You work in my life as You have promised. In former times, watchmen couldn’t wait to see the sunrise in the morning, relieving them of the concerns of guarding the city from night dangers. I watch for You more than they watched for the sunrise. I really long for You to come and to bless and to help Me, O God. I am eager for You to intervene in My life.

John Owen: Verses 7, 8.--Herein have I found that rest, peace, and satisfaction unto my own soul, that I cannot but invite and encourage others in the like condition to take the same course with me. Let, then, all the Israel of God, all that fear him, learn this of me, and from my experience. Be not hasty in your distresses, despond not, despair not, turn not aside unto other remedies; but hope in the Lord: for I can now, in an especial manner, give testimony unto this, that there is mercy with him suited unto your relief. Yea, whatever your distress be, the redemption that is with him is so bounteous, plenteous, and unsearchable, that the undoubted issue of your performance of this duty will be, that you shall be delivered from the guilt of all your sins and the perplexities of all your troubles.

Moi: Verse 7,8 – I have found such rest, peace and satisfaction in your forgiving and faithful love, o God, that I cannot help but invite and encourage others who feel the same distresses of soul to join me. Let all God’s people believe that God is a God who loves to forgive and who purposes to save and to restore. D not give up. Don’t let despair flood your soul. Don’t turn to other remedies to deal with your feelings of guilt and shame. Hope in the Lord. I can give testimony to the fact that whatever your distress may be, that the redemption that God offers is so bountiful, plentiful and unsearchable, that you will shall be, as you cry out to God, delivered from the guilt of all your sins and the perplexities of all your troubles.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

Today is November 11th. It is a day when in this corner of the world, people will pay tribute to those who laid down their lives to serve our country as our country sacrificially offered up some of its most beloved sons to bring peace to friends and strangers in distant lands. A moment's thought ought to cause us to be grateful and amazed that so many of our nation's heroes quickly gave of themselves to end oppression and violence on distant shores when most of them had never seen these places before they set foot in battle. So much freedom, justice, and peace was secured because our own lives were not considered to be of greater worth than that of others who were being violated and downtrodden. Scores of biblical lessons can be illustrated from this monumental sacrifice granted for the liberty of others.
Having said that, there are a few things that we must keep in mind without losing an enormous and unyielding gratitude for what we enjoy because of the sacrifice of many. First, war is never to be taken lightly, or entered into carelessly, or supported unquestionably. War is brutal and ugly. It is the slaughter of lives made in the image of God . God is not indifferent to this violence, and if we are to dare to enter into war, we must be sure that it is because the cause is truly the furtherance of justice. God's hatred of bloodshed echoes through the Scriptures. Do you recall the words of our God when David wanted to build a temple unto the Lord? 1 Chronicles 22:8 reads "But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, "you have shed much blood, and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me." God loved David. God hated the bloodstains of David's record. It was that important to God that David was denied the privilege of building a temple for the Lord. I wonder how many Christians have ever wondered if the Lord might deny us in the West the privilege of building His new temple, the church, if our hands are stained by constant support of war and bloodshed in the nations? Is it at all possible that one reason for the shift of church growth to the Asian world and other corners of the planet may be a divine determination to distinguish God's name and reputation from that of those who are known for war? We need to at least be open to that question. We need to proceed carefully, reflectively, patiently and faithfully. Christian leaders must sober the minds and soften the hearts of God's people for the sake of the nations for whom Christ died rather than be a rallying voice for the government or carelessly preaching on the biblical foundations for a just war without due diligence to examine ourselves and our nation's cause. I agree with one of my heroes of the faith, Charles Spurgeon, that we need to be very careful to see war up close and personal and not theoretically from a distance. Spurgeon put it this way: "It is astonishing how distance blunts the keen edge of anything that is disagreeable. War is at all times a most fearful scourge. The thought of slain bodies and of murdered men must always harrow up the soul; but because we hear of these things in the distance, there are few Englishmen who can truly enter into their horrors. If we should hear the booming of cannon on the deep which girdles this island; if we should see at our doors the marks of carnage and bloodshed; then should we more thoroughly appreciate what war means. But distance takes away the horror, and we therefore speak of war with too much levity, and even read of it with an interest not sufficiently linked with pain ("A Present Religion," May 30, 1858, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens). We also must keep in mind that war is not as clean and tidy as people might want us to believe. Listen to Dr. Timothy J. Demy, a commander with the Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Navy and a Dallas Theological Seminary grad. He writes "Yet, the definition and the experience of war are two vastly different things. In the first half of this decade, from 1990 to 1995, 70 international states were involved in 93 wars which killed five and a half million people. Most of the casualties were civilians, noncombatants. At the beginning of this century, most of the war casualties were military (85-90%). In World War II more than half of all war deaths were noncombatants. Today, at the end of the twentieth century, more than three-fourths of all war deaths are civilians" ( We need keep in mind that the issue in going to War is not simply is this war considered to be just. It must also be "Will this war be fought in a just fashion?" Christians should never align themselves willingly with the slaughter of civilians in the nations. We should not be supportive or be silent if we are not sure the war is just or if it will be fought justly. We must speak for the most vulnerable. We cannot assume that because our sons are returning in flag-drapped coffins that we are the good guys and the others are the bad guys. God's people have often been wrong. History is blotted with the errors of Christians who slaughtered the nations believing that they were doing the will of God. When God sends Isaiah to Israel in Isaiah 5, there is this metaphor given, describing Israel as the vineyard planted by God. Isaiah 5:7 reads "For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed. For righteousness, but behold a cry of distress."
Also, it is crucial for Christians to keep in mind when considering war - where your citizenship is and who your King is. We are not builders of earthly kingdoms. We do not serve an earthly King. Listen to Jesus and why He chose to suffer wrong than to retaliate. When standing before Pilate, Jesus was questioned about whether he was the King of the Jews. Jesus answers "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm"(John 18:36). That is our Saviour. He is not building an earthly kingdom therefore His servants are not fighting to spare Him from the wrong that was about to be executed against Him. You and I must always remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Our kingdom is won not by taking life but by laying down our lives. Yes, there is a governmental responsibility to wield the sword for the peace and protection of its citizens. Yet, we need to understand - that sword is not the path of Christ's kingdom. In fact, the sword may actually bring persecution on the church for something other than the gospel. It may make life increasingly miserable for our brethren in the nations and if the war is unjust, bring the nations to blaspheme the name of our God. Again, let me quote C.H. Spurgeon: "The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies. We have all thought otherwise in our time, and have foolishly said when a fresh territory was annexed to our empire, "Ah! what a providence that England has annexed Oude," – or taken to itself some other territory – "Now a door is opened for the Gospel. A Christian power will necessarily encourage Christianity, and seeing that a Christian power is at the head of the Government, it will be likely that the natives will be induced to search into the authenticity of our revelation, and so great results will follow. Who can tell but that, at the point of the British bayonet, the Gospel will be carried, and that, by the edge of the true sword of valiant men, Christ’s Gospel will be proclaimed?" I have said so myself; and now I know I am a fool for my pains, and that Christ’s church hath been also miserably befooled; for this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it...For my part, I conceive, that when an enterprise begins in martyrdom, it is none the less likely to succeed, but when conquerors begin to preach the gospel to those they have conquered, it will not succeed, God will teach us that it is not by might All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. Mahommedans’ religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians’ religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to "peace on earth, goodwill to men." And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. "Not by might." Now don’t be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don’t go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it’s such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel – it just is not. Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not; so that where South Sea Islanders have bowed their knees and cast their idols to the bats, British Hindoos have kept their idols, and where Bechuanas and Bushmen have turned unto the Lord, British Affairs have not been converted, not perhaps because they were British, but because the very fact of the missionary being a Briton, put him above them, and weakened their influence. Hush thy trump, O war; put away thy gaudy trappings and thy bloodstained drapery, if thou thinkest that the cannon with the cross upon it is really sanctified, and if thou imaginest that thy banner hath become holy, thou dreamest of a lie. God wanteth not thee to help his cause. "It is not by armies, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" ("Independence of Christianity," August 31, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens).
Remember the peace secured by the armies of men is never to be seen as the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us peace, but as He says, "not as the world gives it" (John 14:27). The gospel of the kingdom will advance in the nations not as the nations see us waging war against them but as we lay down our lives for them. The glory of Christ will be seen not as we defend ourselves from injustice but as we endure and love and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5). When we take communion, Jesus tells us to "Do this in remembrance of Me". We are not remembering the King who rode on a battle steed. We remember the Prince of Peace riding in on the foal of a donkey and Who laid down His life for His enemies. May the Lord bless us all on Remembrance Day as we give thanks for the freedom we possess but also for the freedom that no one can take away - secured by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I have just returned from being away in August. The end of summer, especially here in the north, comes abruptly. The temperature starts dropping this week. Yet, I am grateful. I am grateful because my youngest daughter has returned from California and I love having my girls around. I am grateful because, despite the fun of no normal schedule and being free of the usual responsibilities, I like a routine to life and getting reconnected with my brothers and sisters in Christ here. I also love all the seasons. I can't wait to see the colours of the trees and to smell the autumn air as I try to find time to head out into the woods now and again. Maybe, we'll even get our annual visit from a black bear in the back yard.

As I return to life and to ministry here this fall, I thought I would share with you a passage of Scripture that is guiding my mind and helping my heart. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18. I appreciate this because it helps me focus on what life as part of God's family ought to look like - when the temptation is either to fall back into an old routine mindlessly, or to jump energetically into a new system which can carry us along for a while, as an unfortunate substitute for genuine life in Christ.

Here is how it reads and I will break it up so you can hear the parts that make up the whole:
"We urge you, brethren,

admonish the unruly,

encourage the fainthearted,

help the weak,

be patient with everyone.

See that no one repays another with evil for evil,

but always seek after that which is good for one another
and for all people.

Rejoice always.

Pray without ceasing;

In everything give thanks;

for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I find in this passage a helpful call to service - joyful service, grateful service, gracious service, service to others, service for Jesus.

One of my prayers is that God might make me a joyful pastor, husband, Dad, friend, and neighbour. May my mind be full of gratitude. May I be filled with grace... and not bent on returning evil for evil. May the life of Christ which is mine forever, by His grace, free me to serve him happily as I help others run the race. Pray for me please as I seek God's grace to serve this way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Helpful Resource

Just thought I'd encourage you to check out the resources on the website:

Excellent list of sermons and subjects by good preachers/teachers.