Theology
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Firebrand Notes

“Defeating pride through 1 Peter 5” works as a title for a sermon and as a poetic device (in that it rhymes) but it’s no reason to be proud. In fact, we have nothing to be proud about. Nothing. Spurgeon makes the point, “We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural to us, for we have nothing to be proud of.”

But this chapter offers some awesome thoughts from Peter’s own transformed life (from the pride of denial and fear to the humility of praise, worship and surrender).

1) God actually opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We don’t fully appreciate how ridiculous pride is. As Spurgeon says, ‘we have nothing to be proud about’ and we must remember that breath in our lungs, sanity in our minds, strength in our…

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Theology

The Devil Is Not A Natural Lion


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“Defeating pride through 1 Peter 5” works as a title for a sermon and as a poetic device (in that it rhymes) but it’s no reason to be proud. In fact, we have nothing to be proud about. Nothing. Spurgeon makes the point, “We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural to us, for we have nothing to be proud of.”

But this chapter offers some awesome thoughts from Peter’s own transformed life (from the pride of denial and fear to the humility of praise, worship and surrender).

1) God actually opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We don’t fully appreciate how ridiculous pride is. As Spurgeon says, ‘we have nothing to be proud about’ and we must remember that breath in our lungs, sanity in our minds, strength in our bones is nothing more than sheer grace. Every day. Pure grace. How can we be proud? Let us again bow and receive the grace we need.

2) He longs for us to be lowly so He can lift us (v6). This isn’t the motivation for getting low but it is an encouragement in the process. Peter encourages us to get down because it is the location of personal revival and there is no greater ‘lifting’ than the one unto greater intimacy with Jesus. Jesus will never lift the proud.

3)The hand of God is mighty (v6). This means that when we are humble under His hand it is a place of safety, security, impenetrable protection. Like the place of ‘Onething’ for David in Psalm 27. Armies and enemies may advance but, even then, you shall be confident. Equally it means that when He lifts us (in the proper time) it is a mighty lifting not just a ‘hand up’

4) The devil is not a natural lion (v8). The strutting, arrogant, blasphemous picture of a lion roaring as it looks for food is disgraceful. No natural lion does this. Natural lions get low and humble themselves, containing their strength, before they are exalted to feed on nature. Perhaps this is a part of divine order revealed in the life of the king of beasts. Maybe God views the lion as being exalted when it feeds on something as beautiful as a gazelle or as strong as a Buffalo? The devil is a liar and he is  fool. Any wild animal that would be consumed by a roaring lion would be stupid. (See Isaiah 14: 12-15 for the pride of the devil and Revelation 2: 5 for personal application).

5) As we humble ourselves we will hear the Lion of Judah roar. Hosea 11:10 pictures the true Lion and His children returning. The roar of a lion is here an invitation to come to the Lord in intimacy and humility.

Resist the prominent scheme of the devil today to be proud by humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God that He would lift you at the right time and that you would know an anointing to increasingly live in that place.

Theology

Easter Paradidomi – Why is Good Friday good?


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I’m colour blind – i.e. I can’t always discern between shades of brown and red and green. This means very little to me except that I can’t be an RAF pilot or a bomb disposal expert. It also means that I occasionally foul in snooker by playing a brown by mistake.

And it means that I can’t always see patterns, like the boat, below:

Only seeing messy, indiscernible patterns because of colour blindness is a great visual aid pointing to what the cross of Christ looks like if we are spiritually blind.

Perhaps the cross is simply brown to you this Easter and all you see is a religious symbol and nothing more. Or perhaps you are seeing the red of His sacrificial blood, the green of His humanity as the Son of Man and the yellow of His divinity as the saving Messiah.

In either case, God wants you (us) to see more and to see better – to see the cross in higher definition than ever before.

For most of Great Britain today, it isn’t actually a Good Friday. Today is Beige Friday, or Low Definition Friday. It’s 2d Friday or it’s just Any-Other-Friday-Except-That-We-Have-A-Day-Off-Work Friday. There’s nothing exceptional about it. We live in a non-Christian Nation and so Good Friday for millions of people is not Good. In fact, for billions of people it’s a non-event – the excuse for a big night out on Thursday.

And so spiritual blindness is pandemic.

Not being able to see the goodness, the beauty, the significance, the glory of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is because of a profound spiritual blindness that we are all victim to until the Spirit of God breathes in our inner-man. Every single human being, regardless of their post-code, is born spiritually blind/dead. The Bible says that,

“the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor.4)

John’s Light

The gospel of John is full of this blindness. It hangs over the gospel like a stifling short-sightedness that borders on the absurd. Time and time again Jesus spoke and was met with ignorant blindness:

1) CHAPTER 2:20 – When Jesus clears the temple and then references the temple that will be rebuilt within three days
2) CHAPTER 3:3 – Nicodemus not understanding Jesus’ words re being born again
3) CHAPTER 4:15 – The woman at the well doesn’t understand Jesus’ living water is the water of His Spirit
4) CHAPTER 4: 33 – Jesus talking to the disciples about the heavenly food
5) CHAPTER 7: 33 – Jesus announcing that He will be going back to heaven

So, if blindness is the illness, then what’s the vaccination?

Light.

In John 8 Jesus stands before the Jews and the entire Universe and announces that,

“I am the Light of the world”.

The answer to spiritual blindness is trusting Jesus to help you see by His Spirit. You can’t perceive spiritual things with physical eyes any more than you can see the complexity of someone’s heart by looking at their face alone.

For you to see the ‘light of the gospel of the glory of Christ’ you need spiritual sight and Jesus offers it, freely, to those who would believe.


The Light comes for us all in the moment of Paradidomi – a Greek word – when Jesus  in John 19:30 breathed His last and ‘gave up’ His Spirit. The word is in two halves: Para and Dido – “to give up” and “with close personal involvement”.

This is exactly what Jesus did as He threw Himself into the arms of His Father and committed His Spirit (ruach/pneuma) to Him.

“Yet not my will but Your will be done”.

Good Friday is good precisely because Jesus gave up His Spirit on that day so in order that we might be able to do just the same. He gave up His Spirit in the most radical expression of trust possible – into the hands of His unseen Father amidst His own indescribable anguish morphing into sin, His physical pain and separation from the Father.

But Jesus gave up His spirit in the close, intimate flow that comes from knowing that God really is there.

This being possible by God’s grace for you and I, flowing from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, for anyone who would come as a child and believe, is what makes Good Friday and Easter Sunday so spectacularly good.

Prayer, Theology

Global Bridegroom Fast


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In Matthew 9, Jesus has a bunch of finger-pointing guys come up to Him and demand an explanation for His disciples not fasting while the disciples of John were. (Matthew 9:15)

Jesus’ response was surprising because He pointed immediately to the issue of His forthcoming absence as being the fitting time for His disciples to fast and the appropriate time for their ‘mourning’.

This word ‘mourning’ isn’t sadness as we understand it in human terms. It’s a word linked to the word in Psalm 84:2 that describes what was happening to the psalmist’s soul…i.e. it was faint, pining, longing and homesick for that place of full presence of his God.

The significance of Jesus pointing to His identity as a Bridegroom God in response to the question about fasting has a massive implication about how the end-time church ‘gets itself ready’ (Rev. 19:7). The end-time church will be a praying church full of the grace of fasting, prayer and worship and who are homesick for their God. The end-time church will have an authority in response the spiritual darkness plaguing the Nations…the authority will come from a radical change in lifestyle of the church and transfer of appetites of believers.

Every year, multiplied hundreds of thousands of Muslim believers fast and pray and enter into intercessory places in the spiritual realms. Do their fastings and prayers effect the spiritual climate of the Nations? Absolutely. It is estimated that, by 2040, 50% of Europe will be Islamic. Europe, not the middle East. Things happen when believers join hands in holy prayer and give themselves to fasting in ways that, currently, we perceive to be radical.

Is it really radical that the praying Christian church arise and enter into new lifestyles of personal and corporate prayer? Is it really radical for the young people of this Nation to prefer the place of prayer to Night clubs and bars? There is no high like the Most High. The lifestyle of prayer, worship and fasting that Jesus desires from is bride is not doable in isolation….it requires the strength and safety of a company of believers.

So, like Lucy in Lewis’ Narnia, there is an invitation to have an extra sensory (Eph.1:17) awareness of the movement of Jesus. Of the four children, Lucy has a special relationship with Aslan who, for her, was everything. When it came time for Aslan to leave, Lucy mourned and fasted by leaving the party.

May we miss Jesus. May we become more abandoned in our love for Him. May we encounter His nearness as we give ourselves to prayer and fasting and discover the authority that will break every spiritual bond of darkness in this Nation and see the veil of unbelief  blown off the eyes of unbelievers, just as Lucy’s Aslan breathed on stone statues and saw life return.

And may we pray and fast for His return.

“Come, Lord Jesus, come…the Spirit and the Bride say come!”

writing

33 Meters


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“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Eric Liddle

I think we all know the feeling when you’re doing something and not only knowing that you’re not doing it very well but knowing that that’s because you’re kind of not supposed to be doing it very well and that it’s something that you’d probably not be very good at even if you did it every day for the rest of your life. I am shocking at painting and decorating, or patiently reading a map – I’d rather get lost than work it out.

I’m most naturally comfortable when I’m playing football, with the ball at my feet, head up and about to spray a 20 yard cross-field ball to a winger, or bringing it down neatly on my chest and laying it off to the left back to ‘start again’ or slipping a delicious through ball for the striker and then glorying in the assist. (I always got more assists than goals). I love football and feel accomplished playing football and carry a strong confidence that I know what I’m doing in the sport, even watching professionally on TV. It’s kind of just in me…apart of who I am and it’s been a big part of my life until injuries recently took their toll.

I was in the pool today and got to my sprints section and this Liddle quote (above) came to mind as I started sprinting through the water. As I carved through the waves just this sense of ‘rightness’ came over me. I was moving through the water very quickly over a decent distance (33m) and it felt really good. I knew that I was moving fast, technique smooth, fitness great, and it felt like I was being pulled through. As I was swimming, I felt His pleasure. It wasn’t His pleasure because ‘Nick’s keeping fit even though his ankle is bust…’ – it was His pleasure because  I was doing something well and excelling in it.

There are things that you are created to do very, very well. There are things you are created to do better than most other people. There are things you are made to do for purpose much higher than your own agendas but as simply as ‘because you can’.

Please may I simply encourage you to find, look for and explore maybe brand new things that you have never thought about in the hope of  feeling His pleasure when you’re doing them? It could literally be anything. I know a lad at Church who is flipping awesome with technical stuff. He sees things I don’t, he appreciates things that I miss and he feels pleasure when he’s doing all that. You can just tell. He’s called Sam and he’s a ledge.

What are you best at? What do you enjoy? What do you feel accomplished at? Answer this then go look for doing that more and more and more….and even things related to that…you were made uniquely to thrive in unique ways!

My plan is to become accomplished at some new things and then hone and polish that until I feel His pleasure some more. Why? Because I’m a hedonist? No! Because, somehow, feeling His pleasure over me GLORIFIES Him in unspeakably precious ways.

Go get ’em!

Theology

Thank You


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This blog article is to stimulate gratitude for the simple things in life…the blessings that are by their thousands, every day, but that often go uncelebrated.

I’m sat in a restaurant in Torbay in Devon looking out to sea. There’s an Easterly wind today which is good news for surfers because the waves are churning, and I’m thankful. I very much appreciate the sea because it gives me a sense of ‘inner space’ to think and feel. It’s actually really grey and wet and cold too….but I’m still thankful for the sea. Really thankful.

I’m thankful too for a healthy appetite – being able to order a JP and eat it with no problems in my body, not to mention the £4 in my account to pay for it. Such a simple thing to be thankful for but, if it were taken away, I’d miss it big time.

I’m thankful that I’ve got two wrists that work without any pain so that I can type this and two eyes that can look up occasionally to look at the inky grey waves with their white froth. I’m thankful that I have a car parked outside (The Beast – it’s done 135’000 miles and owns the roads here) – it’ll take me to where I wanna go later without having to get wet. Amazing!

What’s in your immediate world today that you’re thankful for but which could easily be missed or that you take for granted?

And this spirit of gratitude and thankfulness can spring up in us even in the midst of difficulty.

My right ankle that I broke when I was 14 means that I can’t really play the sport that I truly love anymore, (football), because when I do it swells up and makes me limp. But my other ankle is awesome and the rest of my body is really strong and well….so I can do pretty much anything else – including kite-surfing or pushing myself to the limit in the gym or body pump (yeah a bit lame but great for building lean muscle mass). So I am super thankful for that!

And the best thing is that His mercies are new EVERY morning. It’s getting dark now but when it gets light again tomorrow His mercy extended to me again will be new…and you too.

Thank You!

writing

30-year old Brothers


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I thought I’d write a quick post  without much thought because it’s my brother’s 30th birthday today. I’ll turn 30 in a few years (I jest – I have already). Banter. But I remember at the time thinking, “wow…I’m really 30?”. It felt landmarkesque. That’s not even a word. It is now.

The seventeenth verse of the seventeenth chapter of Proverbs (it’d have been a lot quicker to write Prov.17:17) says that ‘Brothers are born for adversity”. This is an awesome truth that applies to Christian brothers but, uniquely, our blood siblings.

Proverbs 17:17 is an amazing verse. It doesn’t say Mothers or Fathers or even friends are born for adversity; it says that brothers are. Perhaps that’s because brothers and sisters are usually around for the larger span of one’s life whereas the others aren’t, normally at least – (parents because of age and friends often because of the changeable and nomadic nature of life).

It is true that spirit is thicker than blood, (because heaven is more real than earth and spirit more than flesh) but when you have kindred spirits with a blood brother (or sister)…it is amazing.

This is seen so powerfully in Genesis 42-44 as Jacob’s 11 sons travel to Egypt to see Joseph to buy grain in the midst of famine. They didn’t recognise Joseph but he did recognise them. The most striking part of this account is the way that Joseph struggles to maintain composure in the presence of Benjamin (the son of his own mother) such was the sense of connection with him as a brother. Joseph had to leave their presence to wash his face because he was weeping, and this is over a brother (so powerful is the connection) who had sold hm into slavery years before.

One of the main reasons that brothers and sisters can help in adversity in ways that others can’t is because of shared history. Yes, you can share history with a friend (perhaps more meaningfully) than a sibling, but the unique blood/dna/spiritual link with a family member means that the synergy in shared history will be more poignantly shared than with others. I think it’s this closely shared and interpreted history that is especially valuable in times of adversity – at least, this has been my experience.

Told you it’d be quick!

Theology

Ancient Skies


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The Greek word for ‘creation’ is ‘poema’, the root word for poem.

If you look at the sky on a crisp, clear night and begin counting the countless twinkling stars; or if you feel the fading warmth of a day’s heat on your face as you watch the sun dip under the dusty horizon of the grand canyon; or if you stare in disbelief during a solar eclipse  –  the sky is an amazing part of God’s poetic creation.

I’ve never thought about creation as a poem before.

Poems need rhyme, meter, rhythm, lyrical hooks, themes and originality. Some poems are obscure and difficult to ‘get’. Others seem child-like and too superficial to have any impact. But other poems can touch you deeply.

Creation should touch us deeply.

The sea touches me deeply as do songs and melodies and peoples’ words and BBC classics like The Frozen Planet. But it was the sky that touched me this Christmas.

Image
DARTMOOR SKY - DECEMBER 2011

It is like a canvas onto which God projects all manner of colour and shade and cumulus form. And clouds concealed Jesus when He left planet earth and it will be the clouds that are his foot-stool when He returns.

To me, the sky represents heaven touching earth. If there was going to be a portal to touch and walk through to enter the other heavenly reality, it would be the sky. It seems so ultimate and ethereal in that it can’t be touched, too high and lofty to fully appreciate. But one day Jesus will split the sky.

Finally, it is virtually impossible to think about the sky without thinking about clouds,  in the same way it is impossible for a Christian to think about God and not think about grace and love. Skies contain clouds and clouds represent the presence of the Almighty.

I hope when you next look at the sky or a cloud, or the waters of the sea, or even a flower bed on a busy roundabout, that you remember that ‘creation’ all around is a ‘poem’ to be read.

What is the poem of the world around you saying, today?

Blogroll, Theology, writing

“Do You Trust Me?”


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When David Brent repeatedly asked the Swindon lot, ‘do you trust me?’, we laugh because of course they didn’t! Brent is the last person in the world that you would find yourself trusting. The Swindon crew’s resounding silence tells the story:  ‘No, we do not trust you” – even when Brent makes them say that they do.

One particular verse has kept me sane recently from Romans, (15:13). It goes like this:

“May the God of hope FILL you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in Him so that you may OVERFLOW with HOPE by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT”

I love this verse for many reasons. One of them is the flowing exuberance of experience that Paul is writing with and another is the word AS.

This tiny word points to such a crucial principle in our lives of faith – i.e. that actually in the process of trusting we experience the joy and peace and overflowing hope of the God of hope who pours into us to the point of filling up and the point of overflowing. As we trust we are filled by the power of the Holy Spirit with hope, joy and peace.

Again, Isaiah 26:3 – “For You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You. This steadfastness of mind is to do with the trusting of God’s reality in our lives, by the Holy Spirit, above all other things…all other temptations, trials and difficulties…the things of situations and contexts that press in and flex their muscles around us so that this word AS might be done away with, the very link with the hope we crave.

If we don’t trust we become like the Swindon lot and our God is dishonoured. Even when we say we trust He sees if we truly do. When we choose to trust, despite it all, He is honoured and we know the link to limitless and supernatural joy, peace and hope.

Our great Abba longs, longs, longs for us to experience this hope, joy and peace and to overflow into testimony of it, not just theoretically agree and nod our heads.

“Do you trust me?”

Prayer, Theology

Divine Mitosis


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When the Bible shows us Jesus praying, it’s a big deal. When the Bible gives us a whole chapter of Jesus praying, this is an even bigger deal.

I think we all struggle with prayer to some extent and at different points in our lives. Feelings can rise up in us like: “But I’d really rather watch the football…or I’d rather chill out at the movies or watch x-factor…or have an hour more in bed.” (more…)