Category Archives: Christianity

Birth 1

Birth 1

The angelic race fought a mighty fight
To glimpse the things I see-
A sovereign grace bought for a price
Has set this captive free.
“Captive” means I was a slave to sin,
The most enslaved was me,
But I’m now a slave to Jesus Christ
(Now and for eternity).

The angels must still wonder though
“What is that human really worth?”
For the price God chose to give
Just to let this sinner live
Was the most precious Life on all the earth,
His death became my birth.

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Monday Poem- “Origin or sin”

Origin or sin

“Let there be something”
Said no one to nothing
But no sound was found-
There were no words to be heard,
Or ears to hear
Or speaking lips
Or a medium which
Sound could exist.
Nothing.
No thing.
Not a thing,
But then it exploded.
A likely story
That although boring
Helps us sleep at night.

Matter splattered,
Protons, atoms,
Suddenly happened
And arranged themselves in order.
Primal chaos reigned
And then became
More complex
But I confess
That it’s insane for me
To just believe
A theory as fact-
The big bang of the gaps
Doesn’t tell me crap.

What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

(NOTE: I wanted to post something for Good Friday, but I have been very busy this week preparing a sermon for Easter Sunday and written nothing new for today. However, I thought I would repost something I wrote a few years ago as it is relevant for today. Have a blessed and safe Easter… nick)

What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

Traditionally Good Friday celebrates and publicly remembers something most Christians remind themselves of everyday- the day on which Jesus Christ the Son of God was crucified.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 11 to remember and “…proclaim the Lords death until he comes…” not just one day a year. However, Easter is kind of special because it’s a more public acknowledgement of the importance of Christ’s death and a widely accepted celebration of the gospel. Although there’s no Biblical reason to mark a certain day of the year and celebrate it as “Easter”, it’s a good chance to talk about these things with all sorts of people.

God didn’t just create the world, but in love died for sinners. Perhaps the miracle of salvation is more amazing than the miracle of creation. Salvation is the redeeming, recreating and renewing of wicked humans through sovereign grace. God did this through punishing His Son through crucifixion (a horrific punishment), exacting justice through the worlds only perfect man Jesus Christ. The cross is the most important chapter of Gods saving work. It is the event that split history, the centre point of everything for the Christian because it is at the cross that God punished Christ for our sin. It is where Christ saved me.

Every human alive today has sinned. Most people are aware of it, though not everyone acknowledges it. To sin is to do something with our minds, hearts, mouths or actions that go against God’s moral law and holy character. We are all guilty before God because of our sin and deserve to be judged and punished for it. Because of His goodness God will not allow evil things to go unpunished. Eternal punishment is the only just punishment for breaking an eternal law and sinning against an eternal God. You and I deserve to be punished forever. We deserve the wrath of God. That is why we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from.

As the only entity who is one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God, Jesus Christ is uniquely positioned as the only way that you and I can be saved from the Gods wrath. Buddha can’t do it, happy thoughts can’t do it, ignoring it can’t do it and neither can trying really hard to do nice things to make up for the bad things. Our sin is against an eternal God and our punishment is eternal. We have two options- as unholy people we can pay for our sins eternally or as an eternal, holy person Christ can pay for our sin once. The cross is salvation because God chose to save people by setting His wrath against Jesus Christ.

This is why today Easter Friday is referred to as “Good” Friday.

What was done to Jesus by humans was evil not good. What he suffered was horrific. The fact that somebody who was perfectly innocent needed to be punished is sad. But the impacts and implications of Christ’s death are very good- because of Jesus dying on the cross anyone who puts their faith in Him and follows Him by turning away from sin can appropriate the gift of His forgiveness. If today is to be set aside to publicly celebrate the cross then it is indeed Good Friday. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18).

Monday Poem- “The girl named No”

The girl named No

One still night during her ninth pregnancy
(After birthing eight girls)
Mrs. Johns prayed wantingly for a son
To assist her in this world.
Desperate, she dared to offer prayers,
Asking favor of God (of this God who cares)
And He responded with a “no”
And so, after the initial blow
She named her ninth daughter No.

Over the years
No domineered
The family prayer time,
And they became disinterested in blessings
And more focused on confessing,
On making things right
And on fighting the fight
(Less what they could get, more what they could do).
After some time Mrs. Johns knew
That what No had taken her through
Although undesirable at first
Could have been worse;
That No on one hand
Had helped her understand
That what initially hurt
In actual fact worked
For the good of her and her girls
And the entire world.

And so
Mrs. Johns was grateful for her sons…
And she named them all None
And thanked God for each one
And for every other no.

Monday poem: “Imitators”

Imitators

My thoughts and poems are plagiarized
But don’t scoff for yours are too
The only difference is I try to copy Christ
My question is how about you?

Do you copy those you meet and hang around?
Is it “fitting in or bust”?
Do you imitate the stockbrokers?
Is it money that you lust?
Do you strive and strain for what can be gained
Or do you just like to complain?
We all bend our knees to something else
What is it you let reign?

Do you wish for greater intellect,
A better body or skill-set?
Do you feel your life would be complete
If these little needs were met?
Surely you must realize
It’s not the glory, gold or sex
That makes a life worth dying for,
No it’s not what you can get.

These things are functional idols
That we worship and pursue.
We all bow to someone,
I’m Christ’s fool, whose are you?

A rare thing: On our depravity, our need for a reboot and the only way

Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.

We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.

You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.

When I’m alone.

But that’s when I’m alone.

As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.

“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.

Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.

It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.

Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.

My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.

God.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Forgive me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.

Review: Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem

I’ve got a lot of reference books on the bookshelf near my computer desk. Some I haven’t opened for years but keep around just in case, others I can’t go a week without opening. Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem is one of the ones I refer to all the time. I have given this book away so many times now I have forgotten how many, for me it is just one of those books. It is my favourite reference book and probably the only reference books I could read cover to cover on an ongoing basis if I had the time.

I first came upon Wayne Grudem by accident because I accidently purchased his book Systematic Theology instead of another book I was looking for with the same title. As a relatively new Christian at the time I was impressed with the understandable style that that book explained Christian doctrines. Wayne Grudem has a core belief that doctrine should be biblical, practical and understandable. He always writes and teaches in a way that embodies this belief. As a busy young person with little time I was delighted when I found out that Systematic Theology had been abridged.

Bible Doctrine is a more condense version of Systematic Theology, making it more accessible which is good for people too busy to wade through the textbook style. Despite its condenseness it maintains its depth and thoroughness. It sets out to introduce and cover essential teachings of the Christian faith for people to study once they have decided to become a Christian. Grudem’s style of writing is a nice balance between clear understandable language and complete coverage of the important stuff. He does not compromise depth for clarity but finds a way to manage both.

When I was in youth ministry I would often use this book to “check” my doctrine as I prepared bible studies or messages. I would use the application questions and review questions and adapt for use in the group studies I ran, and I memorised the memory passages at the end of each chapter. I honestly believe I could give this book to my pastor or to high school students and they could both benefit from it.

It is clear that Grudem ascribes to a reformed position of theological issues, although he is not shy to challenge things like infant baptism. Although he does offer various perspectives on issues that have caused divide within Christendom, he is willing to state with authority his own conclusions on the matter. He is able to do this because he teaches from the Bible, using it as his primary source, a radical and refreshing decision for a modern Bible teacher to make.
I love this book. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone but especially to Christians looking for clear communication of core doctrines in a practical but reverent way. As I have mentioned I have given it away countless times, and the price makes it easy to do that. I would suggest getting this book and reading it cover to cover as a study guide and using it as a reference after that. Having correct doctrine is important and Wayne Grudem gives you a passion to study and learn more about the Bible.

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – The unabridged version (1264 pages). A serious reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople who want to go deep deep deep.

Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem- Abridged version of Systematic Theology (528 pages). A great reference book for teachers and preachers, and laypeople of all ages and backgrounds. Great for giving away to serious people who are passionate about learning more about doctrine. Very recommended and probably one of my favourite books.

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne and Elliot Grudem- very concise, backpocket version abridged from Bible Doctrine (160 little pages). Great for giving away to anyone, and anyone should be able to read it in one sitting or as twenty short daily devotions. I have given away lots of these.

PS – While I am talking about Wayne Grudem, and plugging him really, I might as well mention he has a free teaching podcast where he teaches through the Systematic Theology book. You can find that on iTunes HERE.