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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Musings on Life and Psalm 139


Psalm 139 3-5: Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;  it is high, I cannot attain unto it.  
For me life has been a mystery, why do some suffer even extremes and others seem to have it all together. As for myself I have to wonder why I have had to suffer with epilepsy and depression from my youth. Was it part of some divine plan? Or was it just fate? Life is hard, more specifically, everyday living is hard I have found no peace in pleasure seeking, nor escapism ( so easy to do with modern social media and movies). In fact when talking to a friend the other day, I they commented “ everything seems so futile” there is no lasting pleasure in even the noble pursuit of work.
I think that is absolutely right, Scripture tells us in Romans 8:20 “for the creation was subjected to futility, not voluntarily, but on account of the One who put it under subjection …”

All my life I had been taught in one form or another, that in order to get a reward, you have to perform, you have to achieve, in order to find favour with God and men. The gospel presented me with something else however, Romans 5:8 says “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”  It speaks to me of something that the Psalmist also says in Psalm 139:4 Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me…..
I think the Psalmist also came to the conclusion that God indeed there is no escape from God and everything that has happened and will happen, in full view of God. There is nothing God does not see, not one thing that happens in all the created order that He is not aware off. This is the scope and Nature of Omnipresence to be “ Everywhere at the same time, in equal parts and with equal force.” In one way it is comforting to know that God sees and God cares, in another sense given our human sinfulness and frailty, it is terrifying. Who can understand it, God who made us, planned from eternity past and bought us to the very time and place we now occupy. This is a hard concept to grasp, especially for those who believe the self-help guru’s and those who say claim to be masters of their fate, what did Descartes say “ I am master of my ship and captain of my destiny” In the end I do not think he really believed that anymore, either. I like the verse from Ecclesiastes 7:13  Consider the work of God:  for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? 
It explains a lot, it tells me that God makes and bends every man to His will, God will not bend to the will of man, and it has been said that unregenerated man will not bend even to the will of God. There is war between the unregenerate soul and its Creator, men will have it that they create themselves in their own image. Yet in all the history I have read I see men onl bent on destruction, their own and others. Men left to themselves are no recommendation to anybody. Romans 1 illustrates such a picture, Romans 1:  “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them;  for God hath showed it unto them.   For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead;  so that they are without excuse:  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful;  but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.   Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves”
There you have it for a man to remain in a state of spiritually dead state, all that really has to happen is that God has to let him alone, a man left to himself will self destruct in one form or another. But then we have this wonderful verse in Ephesians 1: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ….” There it is God is not a spectator in our human predicament, He is very much a partaker, in that God in the person of Jesus Christ became man, and tasted death for us all, why was this needful? Well for one as was mentioned, the souls of men in their natural state are at war with God, and He with them. God was wrathful because men consistently broke his commands and men persisted in breaking them. There seemed to no way repair the breach, in fact so much so that in all ancient stories there is no heaven. Ancient civilizations new nothing of a merciful God, all they knew were gods who demanded their very lives and gave nothing in return.  But God, our God gave His only Son that we may be reconciled to God through His propitiary death for our sake. Being our substitute to save us from the just punishment due to us because of our incessant sin against each other and against God’s commands. We are reconciled by the blood of the divine Son of God. This mystery is too wonderful for me, it is my hope and my anchor, aside from this I have no hope.

 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Lost in Niceness - Alistair Begg

http://www.youtube.com/v/U8ZsNSRUlMs?autohide=1&version=3&attribution_tag=Z7rgBQ3tCpNKUMYTx6B9jw&autoplay=1&showinfo=1&autohide=1&feature=share

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Our God does whateve pleases Him


Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens:  he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.  

If ever there was a text that highlights for us, just how sovereign the Lord our God is, this has to be it. Or it at least one of the many. I have so many folks who just go through their day without a thought for God, or about God. Just living as they please. But seen in context this is something we can do in a very finite context. The prophet Jeremiah says as much in Jeremiah 10:12 12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion…

In other words God does things because it pleases Him to do it. It pleases Him to save some and to leave others to their own choices. This is not a popular doctrine because most people want a God they can manage. I understand something of the fear of the Lord because I know God does whatever He pleases. This teaching is difficult because it gives fatal blow to human pride. Many people like to hang on to the belief that their free will is what determines their destiny but the Bible has another opinion Psalm 37: 23-24 “ The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:  and he delighteth in his way, Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. Romans 9 elaborates this point even further showing that not only uphold the ones He chooses  He sustains them by His mercy  Romans 9:20-21 states “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 

This brings us back to our text in Psalm 115:3 Our God is  the heavens, He does whatever pleases Him. When I was very much younger the older folks used to tell us “ we will go here or there as the Lord wills” to a young mind that did not make sense. But it is the very truth that will save us, Our God does what pleases Him, if we have a saving interest in Jesus Christ, then it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.

The gospel then becomes to us who are being saved, the very power of God. To think upon Christ and what He has done for us is exceedingly precious. Not only Has He chosen us in the Beloved, he sustains us.  Nothing can be added to this, God in Christ has reconciled us to Himself and we will one see Him as He is, without fear since perfect love casts out all fear.  This is the Christian hope, God was pleased to choose us and reveal His Son to us. Why? Because it pleases Him. Let us then fear Him for He has loved us with an everlasting love.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Living your life with the end in Mind


 

 

Eternity! "What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)   "A subject stands out on the face of this text which is one of the most solemn and heart searching in the Bible. That subject is eternity.  The subject is one of which the wisest man can only take in a little at a time. We have no eyes to see it fully, and no mind to grasp it; and yet we must not refuse to consider it. There is a depth of stars in the heavens above us, which the most powerful telescope cannot pierce; yet it is well worth it to look into them and learn something, even if we cannot learn everything. There are heights and depths about the subject of eternity which mortal man can never comprehend; but God has spoken of it, and we have no right to turn away from it completely."--J. C. Ryle  (Chapter 21 of J. C. Ryle's book "Practical Religion" with updated English)

Truthfully from what I observe with my interaction with people on a daily basis, most of them care only for the things seen. Thoughts about God, Eternity, Heaven and Hell, these things are shifted to a place of non-importance. We care for our mortgage, and our “stuff” more than we care for thoughts of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Of course you should about everyday things but they should not be your consuming passion. Your soul is of infinite more value than where you stay of what car you drive.

I despair when I see how wrong my focus has been for many years. I don’t think it is out of place to evaluate how we live our life.  It is good to remember that we are mortal, many live like the best life they will have is the one they live now. That of course is not true, We are to be mindful that we will meet our God in the not too distant future. I see young people throwing away precious years on frivolous activities, our generation has been bent on being entertained, we are prepared for nothing! Yet the world around us is creaking under the weight of the sin of the people. Do we not see it? The world and its entertainments are passing away. Those things we cherish most now, will meaning nothing when we are deposited in our grave. And just like the generations before us, this fate will befall us maybe sooner than we realize.

Maybe you thing I sound morbid,  the preacherin Ecclesiastes tells us however that this is realism “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh:  but the earth abideth for ever.’ (Ecclesiastes 1.)

That is our reality, we must face, if the Lord does not come in the meantime to fetch us to Himself, we will suffer the fate of sinful humanity. Maybe it is hard to think about, it certainly is hard to write about. When you have never faced death, how will you know how to handle it? Certainly not by staying awake endless days and wasting your precious life with endless amusements. So then what are we to do. I once heard someone advise ‘ begin with the end in mind” He was not talking about things relating to God, but it is nevertheless good advice. Maybe if we live with the view in mind that we will one day stand before the Judgement Seat of God, to receive either his reward or His punishment for our sins. These things bear thinking about. I let the preacher in Ecclesiastes here have the last word  Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”

Monday, 12 August 2013

Understanding Depression- a Christian perspective


 
 
One of the things that need to done when approaching the topic of depression is realizing that those who suffer from Depression, really suffer. Some believe you just “need to pull yourself together” and other say you “just need a positive mental attitude” while these may be contributing factors it does not nearly cover what depression is about.

One of the first things that need to be looked at is how does it make you feel when you suffer from depression. Just off the top of my head there are a couple of things that a person will feel that help to identify what kind of treatment is needed. There are at least nine symptoms that most people will identify with.  Common signs and symptoms of depression are:

·        Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.

·        Loss of interest in daily activities. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.

  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.

These symptons set out like this do not however begin to describe the darkness I know you feel when you are in the throes of a depressive episode.  The important things to recognize what triggers it for you. Once your feelings start spiralling no amount of positive talking can help you come out of that. But one thing I have learnt is that your feelings belong to you, they are belong to you, no matter how frayed and tattered you feel, your feelings are yours. Only you can do something about them.

I understand the darkness of depression, having gone through that in a almost yearly cycle, where I have felt in some instances a that “ a darkness would wrap around my soul, and I would despair even of life for many months. Many times such seasons in the soul would start with periods where I was sleep derpived for long periods of time. It is hard to keep your wits about you when you are chronically tired!
Many times there is not much you can do when are so chronically tired, but you have to realize this Is a fight, if you are a Christian it is a fight for your soul, you must realize is your friend and who is your enemy. John 10 :10 say “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly

Friend, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, if we are going to win this fight at all, we need to realize that first of all it is a spiritual battle. The affliction of the depressed is particularly painful because in many cases it affects your mind. So believing right is very important, it is important because wrong believing will cause you many times to do wrong things, C. H Spurgeon who himself was a sufferer of depression once said “ Your affliction is not the thing that will get you into heaven, you cannot plead your pain to a Holy God, just like others, you need to come God in faith and confess your sin and weakness to Him. Having said that , we need to be very careful to not to Bible Bash people who are suffering with this particular malady. Isaiah 42:3 says very plainly that A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. Our Lord is a faithful and compassionate High Priest who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. Yet we are not excused when we use our sickness as an occasion to sin.
Coming back to the depression itself, very often have good self-understanding is helpful as we deal with this illness.  Some of the symptoms of more severe forms of depression like Bipolar or Major depression is likely to involve irritability, guilt, unpredictable extreme mood swings, and feelings of restlessness. It is important to note that you take care of yourself and very often taking care of yourself in this area is to get the correct medication to alleviate some the stress bought on by such symptoms. Doing sensible things like avoiding the things that triggers depressive episode can also help, avoiding exesive amounts of television, getting the right of sleep you need and amending your diet are all things that can help.

Richard Baxter, Puritan Pastor and write who lived in in the 16th century had this to say in advising his congregants what to do about when they suffer from depressive episodes.
If you cannot otherwise command and turn away your thoughts, rise up and go into some godly company, or to some employment which will divert you, and take them up. Tell me what you would do, if you heard a fiend in the Street reviling you, or heard an atheist talk against God, would you stand still to hear them, or would you talk it out again with them, or rather go from them, and disdain to hear them, or debate the Case with such as they. Do likewise in your case: When Satan casts in ugly or despairing or murmuring Thoughts, go away from them to some other thoughts or business. If you cannot do this of your self, tell your Friend when the temptation comes, and it is his duty who hath the cure of you, to divert you with some other talk, or works, or force you into diverting Company. Yet be not too much troubled at the temptation, for trouble of mind doth keep the evil matter in your memory. And this is the design of Satan, to give you troubling thoughts, and then to cause more by being troubled at those, and so for one thought and Trouble to cause another, and so on as Waves in the Sea, do follow one another.

In short, if you suffer from depression, remember it does not take a day off. Depression is a bit like the devil, it does not take time off. Do not let your guard down, in times of peace there will be time for that but this is not time for peace until you walk into the arms of Jesus. The battle is set and you are at war, Proverbs 4 says well “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it Reach out and you will be helped.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Does God Exist? a defense of the Faith.



 
Today maybe more than in other times, truth has become relative yes the fact of God’s existence needs to be defended sharply by all believers we are to give and account of the hope that we have.  There are at least three useful approaches that we can use in conversation and evangelism to break down the arguments of atheists and evolutionist alike. Why would we do this ?  1 Peter 3:15 says plainly “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:  and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

These approaches assume that the person or persons it is addressing has no respect for the Bible as the Word of God and therefore a more philosophical approach is pursued to engage the mind of the enquirer on their own playing field.

 
1. The first approach  is the  Ontological Argument . Fist penned by St. Anselm (11th to 12th centuries A.D.) In a priori fashion, Anselm's Ontological Argument attempts to prove the existence of God. The arguments start by deeming God the greatest thought of which could be thought. Therefore, God exists as an idea in any individual subject. However, an idea that also exists in reality is much greater than a mere subjective idea. If we confine God only to the mind, then we can think of something greater than God. Since no thought is greater than God, it necessarily follows that God must exist.

2.Then there is the Cosmological argument for the existence of God that looks something likes this.

 Everything that began to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore from and the universe has a cause.

However, at this point we notice that this argument doesn’t actually say anything about whether a God actually exists or not — it just says something about the universe. But when you are evangelizing a unbeliever who has no point of reference greater than the nose on his face. This a good place to begin. Francis Schaeffer a Christian philosopher who lived in the last century said that “today’s people regard themselves as a point of reference, but this can never be, just a look at the created universe will show you plainly that man can not do this, because is a part of created order, he is not above it”

Cosmology of this kind shows us that the fact that something that has come into being, that has a first cause. It can therefore be safe to say any cause of the universe must have existed prior to the universe, or anything that existed prior to the universe cannot be part of the universe it is above the created order and cannot be equated to the physical order. God in this argument is the primary cause for the created universe coming into being and therefore the primary cause of it.

 To solve this, some theologians have filled in some additional premises, which I will summarize as follows:
Anything that existed prior to the universe cannot be a part of the universe. Since the created universe is a physical entity. We can safely say that whoever made it in the first place was a non-physical being.


 The matter of the universe and the maker of the universe are not of the same substance. Therefore the universe is not physical and its Maker is of another kind.

 At this point we identify God as our Maker and point out that only God, who cannot be equated with His creation, can cause the universe to exist. No nonphysical object except God can cause a universe to exist. God caused the universe to exist.The logical deduction from this line of thought is that God exists.

I remember trying to explain this idea to a budding agnostic. Who acknowledge that  somehow that there had to be a God, but he was not sure he was any relevance. This way he could be shown that not only does God exist, He caused everything that does exits and therefore has ownership of all He made.  

3. The next argument for the existence of God is called the”Teleological argument” This argument or defense for the existence of God is the premise that if there is a design there has to be a designer, nothing creates itself out of nothing. There has to be a an intelligent designer behind the order in wee see in the universe. The name “the teleological argument” is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning “end” or “purpose”. When such arguments speak of the universe being ordered, they mean that it is ordered towards some end or purpose. The suggestion is that it is more plausible to suppose that the universe is so because it was created by an intelligent being in order to accomplish that purpose than it is to suppose that it is this way by chance.

The teleological argument was used by St Thomas Aquinas as one of his Five Ways of knowing that God exists, but the most cited statement of the argument is that of William Paley. Paley likened the universe to a watch, with many ordered parts working in harmony to further some purpose. Just as the complexity, order, and purpose of a watch implies intelligent design, he suggested, so too the complexity, order, and purpose of the universe implies intelligent design.

It is useful to have a knowledge of at least the basics of these appraoches in proving the Existence of God when speaking to those who deny the Scriptures as the Word of God.  There are at least three questions that most thinking people ask at some time or other. The one is a) Does God exist b) If He exist what is He like? c) If God exists what Has He said? This short intro is meant to give an evangelist edge when speaking to those who query the first.
Please leave a comment I want other views on this subject too:)
 

 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Fear Not!


Jeremiah 13:20, Ezra 36:38.) Then the good Shepherd says to you, "Fear not!"

I know not what your worldly means may be. You may have to work hard for your bread, and have a large family depending on your labors. Perhaps you have known better days, and the bread of your humiliation may have a bitter taste. You may have had great great expectations which came to nothing. Schemes of ambition, or prospects of gain, may have been blighted. Promises of advancement may have failed. Your whole life may have been one chain of trials:
  trials of poverty;
  trials of bereavement;
  trials of disappointment;
  trials in the family;
  trials enough to break your heart—


if it were not stayed on Jesus. But fear not!
He has words of comfort to cheer you!
He has gold tried in the fire, to make you rich!
He has honor and privilege, to make amends for all your trials!
He says, "Fear not little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!"
Are we yet perplexed by the many disappointments we experience? Is the fear of death a present reality? I know from sad experience how deep such thing can drive you into the black darkness of depression and despair. What are we to do with such despondency? Must we live with it and have endless mind numbing pills that eat at our very fibre?
That is not the destiny of God’s own! Whatever disrepair we suffer in this life, He will restore, we must just take our eyes off our own resources and cast ourselves on His sufficiency. Jesus oir King  and our God who has reconciled us to God with Himself has said “it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!"

What shall we say to this? If God is for us who can be against us! Shall we be downcast all our days? May it never be, we shall joy in Christ! We shall be those plucked from the fire and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. He has not called us to despair but to Hope. Let us then rejoice in the Lord, for we are His and He will mend us in His time…