Category Archives: Christian

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan

I have started a new Bible reading plan, the M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan) which is going well. Some cool and profound quotes on the Word of God:

“The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars” – Henry Ward Beecher

“The Bible…is the one supreme source of revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God, and spiritual nature and needs of men. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation” – Woodrow Wilson

“There is one sure and infallible guide to truth, and therefore, one, and only one, corrective for error, and that is the Word of God” – G. Campbell Morgan

“We cannot attain to the understanding of the Scripture either by study or by intellect. Your first duty is to begin by prayer. Entreat the Lord to grant you, of His great mercy, the true understanding of His Word. There is no interpreter of the Word of God than the Author of this Word, as He Himself has said, “They shall all be taught of God” (John 6:45). Hope for nothing of your own labors, from your own understanding: Trust solely in God, and in the influence of His Spirit. Believe this on the word of a man who has experience” – Martin Luther

“Go to the Scriptures…the joyful promises it contains will be a balsam to all your troubles” – Andrew Jackson

“Though we claim to believe the whole of Scripture, in practice we frequently deny much of it by ignoring it.” – Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones

“To what greater inspiration and counsel can we turn than to the imperishable truth to be found in this treasure house, the Bible?” – Queen Elizabeth II

“What Dryden said about Chaucer applies in infinitely greater degree to the Bible: “Here is God’s plenty” – Robert J McCracken

“Everything must be decided by Scripture” – Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones

And one more quote that is related to the Word of God through Jesus, the ‘Word made flesh’, by Queen Victoria

“I wish Jesus would come in my lifetime so that I could take my crown and lay it at His feet.”

“One of our problems is that very few of us have developed any distinctive personal life. Everything about us seems secondhand, even our emotions. In many cases we have to rely on secondhand information in order to function. I accept the word of a physician, a scientist, a farmer, on trust. I do not like to do this. I have to because they possess vital knowledge of living of which I am ignorant. Secondhand information concerning the state of my kidneys, concerning the effects of cholesterol, and the raising of chickens, I can live with. But when it comes to questions of meaning, purpose, and death, secondhand information will not do. I cannot survive on a secondhand faith in a secondhand God. There has to be a personal word, a unique confrontation, if I am to come alive!”

-Alan Jones in Scott Peck’s “The Road Less Traveled”

The conclusion…

The concluding note on how to live your life: (see A Binary, Over-simplified Model of the Consequences of my Choices – previous 3 blog posts)

Perhaps by dichotomising this issue I have made it seem overly simple. Either you choose option A or you choose option B for your life. This is not the case. The world is not a binary system of ones and zeroes but an infinitely complex set of multivariate, interconnected relationships. We try and model the world by making assumptions (economists!) or by over-simplifying complex issues (as above). When we model in this way, we risk losing the usefulness of the model, quite simply because it no longer represents reality. It is too far removed and abstracted from the real, complex system that the jump from the model to the real world is too large. I hope that my model (a binary, over-simplified model of the consequences of my choices) still has some usefulness, even after the oversimplification.

Very few people are entirely hedonistic, without a shred of redeeming character, and even less live completely godly lives. We are all some combination of these two options. The one advantage of the binary representation, I think, is that it symbolises that we cannot or rather that we should not dabble in one (the hedonistic option for me) every now and then and live mostly in the other, but should live wholly in one of these – either hot or cold, not some perverted mixture of the two (salt-water and fresh water, grapes and thorn bushes, figs and thistles for example). Wherever you find yourself, I think it is imperative that we are honest with ourselves – something I am trying to do.

It’s all good and well to know what we should do, but how can we actually do this? This is where my little model fails – it is descriptive and not prescriptive. I highly doubt that a prescriptive model of that complexity could be represented dichotomously, and my initial speculation is that we already have that prescriptive model…we just don’t follow its prescriptions….just a thought  🙂

Word of God option

The second of two options on how to live your life: (see A Binary, Over-simplified Model of the Consequences of my Choices –  see 2 previous blog posts)

  1. Word of God Option


  • For lack of a better description I shall call this option the W.O.G. Option. It encompasses seeing things from God’s perspective. Acknowledging that the Bible is God’s manual for life and outlines the best way to live. The directives and exhortations outlined in the Bible are not suggestions on a ‘good’ way to live, they outline the only way that leads to life.
  • You are more productive. You are more focused. You care about doing your best. You are able to work for longer periods of time.
  • You have to be more disciplined if you are to choose this option. You cannot act on every whim, fulfil every desire or say anything that comes to your mind. You act like a rational human that thinks, contemplates and considers things before doing them. Not like an animal that does whatever it wants to. There is thought for the long term and not only the here-and-now.
  • You are confident inside yourself. “The righteous are as bold as a lion” – you know this is also true. This confidence manifests itself in numerous ways; willingness to challenge anyone if they are acting unjustly and the ability to act courageously when needed.
  • Your moods are much more stable and you are more able to brush off your irritability. You are a nicer person to be around; you are more stable and joyful.
  • You are more organised, probably a bi-product of living a more disciplined life.
  • You are less materialistic. You understand better that people are what is important and spend your time accordingly. (Although there are numerous elements relating to Biblical directives this is one of the most pertinent for me). Some of these other directives are: to care for the poor, to share God’s love with people, to fellowship with believers etc)
  • Another directive is to study the Bible and to know God more. In this option you devote more time to theology and understanding the Bible.

Hedonistic option

The first of two options on how to live your life: (see A Binary, Over-simplified Model of the Consequences of my Choices – previous blog post)

  1. Hedonistic Option
  • Feels very good (let’s not kid ourselves) when you are doing it but afterwards you feel guilty and dirty. If you indulge in this option enough the guilt might start to lessen and the dirty feeling might stop feeling dirty in the same way that people who live by a rubbish dump don’t smell the stench.
  • You are not as productive as you can be since you are distracted by every whim and pleasure that might cross your mind.
  • There is very little discipline involved in this option and this spills over into other areas of your life.
  • Inside yourself you are less confident even though this isn’t necessarily reflected in your outward composure. “The wicked flee though no one pursues them” – you know this is true. You are less confident to withstand confrontation by righteous people.
  • This option is ‘common’. It takes little effort, skill, determination, humility, growth and all the virtues of life.
  • You live by the seat-of-your-pants and take the world as it comes, with little thought for the future. As a result, you have to deal with the consequences arising from your actions (often this brings pain and much unnecessary, wasted effort).
  • This option is encouraged by mass media, perhaps as a result of corporate evolution and the profit motive (combined). It makes sense to want consumers that act on impulse, buy when they feel like it (or more realistically when prompted by advertising) and live ‘in the moment’ with little thought for the future (particularly to discount your future physical, emotional and financial health).
  • Probably as a result of the lack of discipline, your moods are erratic and you are easily irritated by some people. There isn’t much constancy and stability.

A Binary, Over-simplified Model of the Consequences of my Choices

You have two options. You can live a life of hedonistic pleasure and do whatever your heart desires, whatever that may be. Or you can choose to live a life according to the Word of God. Let’s be creative and call these two options the “Hedonistic option” and the “Word of God option” 🙂 It’s always a good idea to think about things, so I’ll think about them now and write them down so that when you are deciding which of the two options to choose (for we face these choices often, if not daily) you will have a well thought out summary of the two. The next two blog posts will be about each of these options.

Celestial Love

Celestial Love – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Higher far,
Upward, into the pure realm,
Over sun or star,
Over the flickering Daemon film,
Thou must mount for love,
Into vision which all form
In one only form dissolves;
In a region where the wheel,
On which all beings ride,
Visibly revolves;
Where the starred eternal worm
Girds the world with bound and term;
Where unlike things are like,
When good and ill,
And joy and moan,
Melt into one.
There Past, Present, Future, shoot
Triple blossoms from one root
Substances at base divided
In their summits are united,
There the holy Essence rolls,
One through separated souls,
And the sunny Aeon sleeps
Folding nature in its deeps,
And every fair and every good
Known in part or known impure
To men below,
In their archetypes endure.

The race of gods,
Or those we erring own,
Are shadows flitting up and down
In the still abodes.
The circles of that sea are laws,
Which publish and which hide the Cause.
Pray for a beam
Out of that sphere
Thee to guide and to redeem.
O what a load
Of care and toil
By lying Use bestowed,
From his shoulders falls, who sees
The true astronomy,
The period of peace!
Counsel which the ages kept,
Shall the well-born soul accept.
As the overhanging trees
Fill the lake with images,
As garment draws the garment’s hem
Men their fortunes bring with them;
By right or wrong,
Lands and goods go to the strong;
Property will brutely draw
Still to the proprietor,
Silver to silver creep and wind,
And kind to kind,
Nor less the eternal poles
Of tendency distribute souls.
There need no vows to bind
Whom not each other seek but find.
They give and take no pledge or oath,
Nature is the bond of both.
No prayer persuades, no flattery fawns,
Their noble meanings are their pawns.
Plain and cold is their address,
Power have they for tenderness,
And so thoroughly is known
Each others’ purpose by his own,
They can parley without meeting,
Need is none of forms of greeting,
They can well communicate
In their innermost estate;
When each the other shall avoid,
Shall each by each be most enjoyed.
Not with scarfs or perfumed gloves
Do these celebrate their loves,
Not by jewels, feasts, and savors,
Not by ribbons or by favors,
But by the sun-spark on the sea,
And the cloud-shadow on the lea,
The soothing lapse of morn to mirk,
And the cheerful round of work.
Their cords of love so public are,
They intertwine the farthest star.
The throbbing sea, the quaking earth,
Yield sympathy and signs of mirth;
Is none so high, so mean is none,
But feels and seals this union.
Even the tell Furies are appeased,
The good applaud, the lost are eased.

Love’s hearts are faithful, but not fond,
Bound for the just, but not beyond;
Not glad, as the low-loving herd,
Of self in others still preferred,
But they have heartily designed
The benefit of broad mankind.
And they serve men austerely,
After their own genius, clearly,
Without a false humility;
For this is love’s nobility,
Not to scatter bread and gold,
Goods and raiment bought and sold,
But to hold fast his simple sense,
And speak the speech of innocence,
And with hand, and body, and blood,
To make his bosom-counsel good:
For he that feeds men, serveth few,
He serves all, who dares be true.

You, me, us, them…all of us…together…

The world and its peoples are our responsibility. We have a duty to humanity to care for the oppressed and afflicted. While we may not be the ones fighting the wars of our governments we are duly responsible for them. The future of the world lies in the collective hands of the youth – we will decide how our world will change around us. To quote a friend, ‘you are as different from me as I am from you’ and yet paradoxically we share so much in common. The threads of humanity that run so deep in our veins cannot be broken by culture, nationality or even religion. We have glimpses of this unity when a mother in a foreign country will voluntarily care for a stranger’s baby. We see it in times of crisis when the threats facing us supersede our differences and we join together, black and white, young and old all together to face the threats head-on.

There are evil forces around the world that aim to draw us from each other. They highlight our differences, encourage independence and coax our prejudices. They try to isolate us from each other. They promote fear, discord, anger, envy and hatred. And yet within each of us there is an echo of our common humanity. An inherent knowledge that we are all in the same boat together.  We fulfil our destiny as a human race when we act selflessly. I know of no other principle or way of life that is able to do this other than love. When we act in love and care for each other, we declare to the powers that be that we will not be torn apart and lose our humanity. We will not succumb to the temptation of rampant individualism.

So much of my life is characterised by sterile indifference to the problems of strangers. And yet when we see these people through the eyes of God we will be filled with warm compassion to replace our cold indifference. I rejoice in my sharedness, my cointegrated humanity and the fact that while I may be one of billions of my fellow humans, somehow I (and indeed each of us) play an infinitely important part. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, each one of us makes up a part of the organism that is the human race. In a very real sense, you are part of my family. There is a desperate need to recognise this. We cannot let our tainted experiences of a fragile world dictate our disposition. We choose to love our fellow human beings. This is truly divine, it is God outworking His plan on the Earth. I do not know you but I love you…

Contentment

“Enjoy where you are on the way to where you are going” – Joyce Meyer

Love

“One mark of genuine Christianity is faith in the eye-witness testimony concerning the historical facts of the gospel (1 John1:1-4). Another test is love: how we respond when we are  ill-treated, whether we show kindness or whether we lack kindness, our freedom from jealousy or envy, our unfeigned graciousness towards people, our endurance when people are difficult, our humility or lack of humility, our attitude to our ‘self’, our ability to control anger, our freedom from a critical spirit, our willingness to suffer for the sake of good relationships, our determination to persist in friendship no matter what happens, our determination to make goodwill characterise everything we do.”

What a useful description of how we can test for love in ourselves. Eaton is a machine!

From Michael Eaton’s Commentary on 1,2,3 John. Focus on the Bible. 1996. Christian Focus Publications

Agents of God’s love

I think I am beginning to see why the devil tries to wrap us up in sin. By its very nature, sin is selfish. When we are caught up in our own concerns/business/pleasures /careers/family we don’t have time to reach out to the downtrodden, the ill, the dying, the starving and the millions of millions of people who have never experienced the love of God. We become inward, selfish, small-minded and petty. There is a world of people who need us to be who God made us to be – the agents of His love. God help us!

The man who does the will of God…

1 John 2:16 “For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires will pass away but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Growth

We have to grow, we have to move forward, to learn and evolve, add to our dictionary of life” – Janet Leigh

If there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another” – Anatole France

Hmmmm. So, I am currently feeling reflective and wondering about progress, personal development and the future. As I’m sure you’ve thought before, this is a very broad and deep topic. The process of growth is seen everywhere: In nature, in children and even in our own lives. When we learn from something and change for the positive, this is growth. While it may sound unthreatening and harmless, I think true growth can be very painful, especially when it concerns the inner-life. Those set of ideas, beliefs, feelings, traditions and thoughts that we consider ‘normal’ often become (or have always been) a hindrance to growth and progress and must therefore be discarded in favour of new ideas and beliefs, more appropriate traditions, and better thoughts, feelings and ideas. This is often very difficult and painful. To realise that something which, up until now, you have considered to be part of who you are needs to be given up is quite shocking. I think it can be likened to losing a good friend. You have memories together, you have ‘history’. In a sense you see yourself as part of that old system, or more accurately you see that old system as being part of who you are (although I suppose these could be one and the same thing). And yet if we are to progress, these realisations must happen many times and in many different ways throughout our lives. A healthy sense of depression will ensue as we mourn for the loss of part of ourselves, but ultimately this is for the good. The comfort we derive from the familiar must give way to the necessity for growth.

Where do we get the strength to deal with these difficulties? To take that first step and assess our situation objectively (searching for the truth irrespective of what it may be) takes tremendous courage and inner strength – where does this come from? I’m not sure. Is it from our personality? Up-bringing? God? Or more realistically a combination of these three.

The above has assumed that we are willing to deal with problems when they arise. This is (unfortunately) not the only option. One could ignore them and hope that they go away ‘da Nile is not just a river in Egypt’. So many people choose this second option of ignoring their problems. They will make up stories, take drugs, get drunk, get in a relationship, all in an effort to avoid dealing with their problems or even more ridiculously in the hope that this will solve their problems. This leaves broken people who propagate broken children and ultimately a screwed-up society of ill-disciplined individuals who cannot grow.

I think two of the most comforting things about being a Christian are: Firstly, that God has told us so much about ourselves, His plan, and how the two interact in the Bible. Secondly, that the true source of determination, ability, motivation, self-control etc is external to ourselves – the Holy Spirit. True and sustained growth is not possible without the Holy Spirit who is that part of the Godhead that is here on earth dwelling with us, helping us, counselling us, leading us and growing us.

In sum, growth is fundamental. We cannot grow without giving up unhelpful parts of ourselves. This is painful and only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Just a thought… 🙂

Faith

“Now Faith, in the sense in which I am using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods” – C.S. Lewis

The Jesus of our dreams…

The Birth of Jesus Christ

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”…But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

-Matthew1-3 (excerpts from ESV)

The commercialization of Christmas

C.S. Lewis on the commercialization of Christmas:

It is in fact merely one annual symptom of that lunatic condition of our country, and indeed of the world, in which everyone lives by persuading everyone else to buy things. I don’t know the way out. But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them the money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.”

-‘What Christmas means to me’ (1957)

The difficulty of death…

Journey of the Magi – T.S. Eliot
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.”
.

The above is the end of Eliot’s poem describing the Three Wise Men when they gave up their previous world view and accepted the truth that is Christ.

Brokenness

Our life is full of brokenness – broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives.” – Henri Nouwen

Indifference

Indifference – Studdert Kennedy

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet
and made a Calvary;
They crowned him with a crown of thorns,
red were his wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham,
they simple passed him by,
They never hurt a hair of him, they only let him die.
For men had grown more tender
and they would not give him pain,
They only passed him down the street
and left him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried ‘Forgive them,
for they know not what they do’
And still it rained the wintry rain
that drenched him through and through.
The crowds went home and left the streets
without a soul to see,
That Jesus crouched against a wall, and cried for Calvary.

Impossibility

I have always liked Alice in Wonderland and thought that it has many profound insights. The Queen’s comments above are quite comical and yet thought provoking. Why is it that we base our entire notion of religion and belief on faith in God and yet proof and reason are needed for any other form of belief? If we are to believe in others, we demand a reason for that confidence. If we are asked to believe in, and support a notion/cause/group we require that they give us ample reason to do so. While I don’t think that any of these these are necessarily wrong, I think it does warrant a rethinking. Often we try to apply the principles of reason and logic to God because that is how we operate with everything else in the world. However, after our eyes have been opened to the greater reality of God and we have received the gift of faith, surely our point of reference should also change? No longer do we bow and scrape to the god of rationality – demanding that everything must make sense or else it is hogwash. Perhaps I should believe in someone based purely on the sense inside me that tells me (in that most indefinable, unsystematized, nonclinical way) to believe in them. How often do we step off that venerated branch of reason, logic and rationality into the unknown world? If I am honest, not very often…

“Precision is not reality” – Henri Matisse