Culture, writing

New Firebrand Notes


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Dear Reader

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working on a new updated blog site to capture not only thoughts and ideas, but to generate healthy, helpful forums for discussion about a whole bunch of topics.

Firebrand Notes are rooted in the knowledge of Who Jesus really is – to me, to you and to the Cosmos. It is rooted in a passion to make Him known, really known, because He is often not known at all or known in a way that makes Him seem less desirable than He is in reality.

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Theology

What Jesus Would Say About Marriage if He Appeared on the BBC’s Question Time Panel


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Why Bother Writing?

The main purpose of this article is to empower Christians to be able to think about the philosophies of our modern culture that produce the anti-Christian atmosphere hanging over virtually every tabloid and headline. It is also to empower expression as to why the proposed (so-called) ‘redefinition of marriage’ is absolutely wrong.

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Theology

Overflowing


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I had a thought yesterday that really encouraged me, so thought I’d share.

In Romans 15 Paul prays, “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”. Where might this land in your world?

When we are hoping and believing and trusting for some things in life for any length of time it can easily become weary or tiring if the things themselves don’t materialise within our time-scale – ie we hope for an outcome but it doesn’t happen and so we can become discouraged. We hope for an outcome again but it still doesn’t happen and so we can become more discouraged.

But when there is a bubbling, overflowing brook of Hope constantly brimming over within us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it means we can go on and on and on hoping, despite not seeing the object of our hope appearing. We are free so we don’t need to see the things in reality for our hope to be intact.

This is supernatural hope, not the hope that the world offers. It’s not a blind, ‘stick your head in the sand’ type of wishful thinking; it’s the very evidence of the very God of Hope Himself residing within you enabling you to continue hoping as you believe in Him. Being able to hope like this (against all hope Rom.4) is a mystery and an unspeakable blessing.

Be encouraged!
spring

angels&demons, Theology

Screwtape’s Law of Undulation


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Screwtape is a senior demon and his nephew, Wormwood, is a junior tempter. The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis is an apologetic work that seeks to mock the devil by satirising his methods in tempting and limiting Christians in their relationship with God. It’s a series of letters between the two demons.

It’s an ingenious work from Lewis (1942) and, while I wouldn’t agree with his soteriology, (or at least some of that which is implied through Screwtape’s council to Wormwood about his ‘patient’), it is an amazingly insightful work, bristling with the electric juxtapositioning of the most laughable and the very darkest elements of human life, communicating to the reader the, perhaps, incognito principles of the spiritual battle we’re all in. I’ll mention just one…

In Screwtape’s 8th letter to Wormwood, he refers to the human ‘law of undulation’. This is what he says:-

“Humans are amphibians-half spirit and half animal (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.)…This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation-the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.” Letter 8


You might not like Screwtape’s summary of you as an amphibian, but it’s quite helpful if you think about it more. We are all constantly fighting for progress in life. Progress in finance, relationships, our health…whatever sphere it may be, we want to go forward. But as much as we want progress we are met with discouragement as we ebb and flow in vitality of faith and experiential victory over satan. Paul summed up the law of undulation in Romans 7 by not being able to follow through and do that which, in his inner-man, he most wanted to do. The war is between the flesh and the Spirit.

I was encouraged by a thought from John 1 this week. Towards the back end of the chapter Jesus describes Nathanael as a ‘true Israeite in whom there is nothing false’ (John 1:47). This commendation is despite Nathanael’s scepticism about ‘anything good coming out of Nazareth’. Jesus called this guy the real deal despite his undulating faith which one minute slated any thought of Jesus being the Christ and, the next, was bowing the knee in His presence. He ebbed and flowed big time (just like the Apostle Peter and you and I) and yet was announced as being true and without duplicity.

Proverbs 20 says: “The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being” and David’s prayer in Psalm 139 was “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting”.

Despite Screwtape’s correct diagnosis of us being up and down, hot and cold, in and out, the main point is that he couldn’t possibly ever see your inmost being as God does. He sees you from completion, from eternity, and so doesn’t judge you based on your tendency, like mine, to undulate – to ebb and to flow. Nathanael was ebbing and Jesus was commending. I think that’s the point of the law of undualtion that Screwtape couldn’t see.

Theology

Into the Barn to Burn (sermon)


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Plato’s problem is that there isn’t enough stimuli in the world around us to reinforce the knowledge-based convictions we have in our heads; we don’t experience what we know. But Heraclitus would have said 100 years before that it doesn’t matter because everything is changing constantly anyway – you can’t step into the same river twice because before your second foot touches the water the river has moved on. The river changes.

And so is our knowledge-application-gap getting smaller or is it getting bigger as we continue to ‘know’ and struggle, (if we’re all honest), to experience? Are we changing and becoming more as our knowledge tells us we should be? Specifically, are we changing to progressively experience the power of the Holy Spirit that we see in the Bible?

 

Theology
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Having recently revisited this blog for a sermon on Sunday about ‘Grace’, I thought it might encourage you to engage with with the Person of Grace again. He’s our Constant help in times of need!

Firebrand Notes

If we really believe the gospel we proclaim, we’ll be honest about our own beauty and brokenness, and the beautiful broken One will make Himself known to our neighbours through the chinks in our armour – and in theirs”

In September I wrote about The Furious Longing of God, by Brennan Manning, whose revelation expresses the mind-bending truth that Abba “loves us as we are not as we should be”. The full truth of course is that none of us are as we should be.

“All Is Grace” is a moving autobiographical account of Manning’s life including his deep struggle with alcohol addiction. The account is so transparent that it served to kindle again the fire of grace in my life. Sometimes this fire might simmer down in all of us to something more resembling a glowing ember, and so it needs the stoking of testimony and of revelation.

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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.