Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Happy Holidays to You!

How it warms my weary heart in this jumble of a season to hear, in the oddest of places, carols of praise and thanks to our Great God. I don't have a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" banner on my balcony and I don't have any problem with saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" if that pleases people, but oh - what joy to hear "O come, Emmanuel" and "fall on your knees!" coming out of public stereo systems. In a world gone mad for Rudolph and beribboned angels, it is an uncommon luxury to be reminded of the unsentimental truth for which I am most grateful - that Jesus came and is coming again, and that when he does, every knee in the universe will bow in reverence before Him. With one voice and one heart, the earth will proclaim Him King. No war, no oppression, no violence. Love recognized and reigning...

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Have you ever considered that dying was a weird thing for a God to do-? Have you ever asked yourself why Jesus had to die? You don't really think he was just a good guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, do you?

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.


...we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:4-6)

Come and see, look on this mystery
The Lord of the Universe, nailed to a tree
Christ our God, spilling His Holy blood
Bowing in anguish, His sacred head
Sing to Jesus, Lord of our shame
Lord of our sinful hearts.
He is our great Redeemer.
Sing to Jesus, Honor His name.
Sing of His faithfulness, pouring His life out unto death
Come you weary and He will give you rest

(Fernando Ortega, Sing to Jesus)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Jesus, the Creator and the Man

I have thought much on the splendour of God, our Creator. He is worthy of my worship not merely because He is the Highest One, but because his unfailing kindness and multi-faceted wisdom and warm mother-care and unparalleled brilliance and deep goodness are observable both in all that He has made and in all His dealings with us. Who could help but reverence the One who spoke worlds into existence, before whom the highest angels cover their faces and cry "Holy, Holy, Holy"?

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

But what about Jesus, the man? What is He to me? How shall I worship Him?

And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you... for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation..."
(Revelation 5:9)

Jesus, God-with-us. He didn't pour grace from heaven; He packed up His position and His power, and He came here himself - not as a king, but as a homeless man. He wasn't too socially aloof to eat dinner with sinners or reach his hands out to lepers. He healed the blind and the sick, but he wasn't too morally uppity to provide wine for a wedding that had run out. He is the God who came down, and raises me up.

When I meet Jesus face to face, my eyes won't be on the blaze of His glory or the shining of his beauty. I won't look for the magnificence of the Eternal One, or the radiance of Him who is the Source of all Light. I will scan the crowds of heaven not for perfection, but for One who is forever marred. His hands and His feet, marked by man-made nails, will I seek among the incorruptible bodies of heaven's citizens.

No less the High and Holy, He is my Friend, the love of my heart. Though He sits now on the highest throne, he is none other than the God who became one of us, the God who knows as none other what it is like to be hungry and thirsty and tired; what it is like to cry and sweat and bleed.

Not with songs and low bows will I worship Jesus, the wounded One. When I see him, I will fling my arms around his neck. I will kiss his lovely feet.

THE cloudless day is nearing
When Thou, O Lord, wilt come,
Thy radiant beauty wearing,
To take Thy people home!
Bright hosts on hosts around Thee
Shall catch Thy living rays,
And all who once have found Thee
Breathe out new songs of praise.

But how shall I then know Thee
Amid those hosts above?
What tokens true will show me
The object of my love?
Thy glories, all excelling,
In pure effulgence shine;
But GLORY in Thee dwelling
Will ne'er proclaim Thee mine.

Thy wounds, Thy wounds, Lord Jesus,
Those deep, deep wounds will tell
The sacrifice that frees us
From self, and death, and hell!
These link Thee once for ever
With all who own Thy grace;
No hand these bonds can sever,
No hand these scars efface.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Ordinary Holiness

"There are religions in which holiness involves unusual conditions and special diet. Some forms of mysticism seem to be incompatible with married life. But the type of holiness which Jesus teaches can be achieved with an ordinary diet and a wife and five children."
(from The Jesus of History, by T.R. Glover)

Tuesday, 19 October 2010


The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)

My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Where else can we find a God for the weary? Every religion the world has been able to craft has a god or a creed that advises us to be strong; to do something; to be something. Some give detailed instructions about what we must do, and how we must do it. Nowhere except the Bible can we find a God who calls out to the weak. He alone has something to give, rather than merely a set of requirements. He alone offers rest and strength to the broken. He alone calls the empty and worn to his side without mocking, without reproach.

Oh, so thankful today for the Eternal God, who gives his strength when I've reached the end of my own, who bids me hold out my empty hands to receive before he asks me to give. He is a God worth worshipping. I may lay my whole heart in his arms.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Accounting Principles

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

(Matthew 16:24-26)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28)

[Words of Jesus]

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Without Excuse

To know what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Your God is Too Small

From J.B. Phillips' Your God is Too Small:

The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions, and their mental horizons have been expanded to the point of bewilderment by world events and by scientific discoveries, their ideas of God have remained largely static. It is obviously impossible for an adult to worship the conception of God that exists in the mind of a child of Sunday-school age, unless he is prepared to deny his own experience of life. If, by a great effort of will, he does do this he will always be secretly afraid lest some new truth may expose the juvenility of his faith. And it will always be by such an effort that he either worships or serves a God who is really too small to command his adult loyalty and co-operation.

It often appears to those outside the Churches that this is precisely the attitude of Christian people. If they are not strenuously defending an outgrown conception of God, then they are cherishing a hothouse God who could only exist between the pages of the Bible or inside the four walls of a Church. Therefore to join in with the worship of a Church would be to become a party to a piece of mass-hypocrisy and to buy a sense of security at the price of the sense of truth, and many men of goodwill will not consent to such a transaction.

It cannot be denied that there is a little truth in this criticism. There are undoubtedly professing Christians with childish conceptions of God which could not stand up to the winds of real life for five minutes. But Christians are by no means always unintelligent, naive, or immature. Many of them hold a faith in God that has been both purged and developed by the strains and perplexities of modern times, as well as by a small but by no means negligible direct experience of God Himself. They have seen enough to know that God is immeasurably "bigger" than our forefathers imagined, and modern scientific discovery only confirms their belief that man has only just begun to comprehend the incredibly complex Being who is behind what we call "life."

Many men and women today are living, often with inner dissatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. This is not because they are particularly wicked or selfish or, as the old-fashioned would say, "godless," but because they have not found with their adult minds a God big enough to "account for" life, big enough to "fit in with" the new scientific age, big enough to command their highest admiration and respect, and consequently their willing co-operation...

If it is true that there is Someone in charge of the whole mystery of life and death, we can hardly expect to escape a sense of futility and frustration until we begin to see what He is like and what His purposes are.

I can't recommend this book too highly. It says, with pith and measured reason, so much of what I long to say. You can read the rest of it (for free!) in pdf here.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Browning on the Precious and Eternal Soul

Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,--
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.

(from Rabbi Ben Ezra, by Robert Browning)

What a cruel joke it would be if we, able to imagine and hunger for eternal things great and deep, were no more than mosquitos or mushrooms. Don't you, with Browning, cry out in your heart at the outrage of such an idea, that we - knowing and longing for more - are here, by chance, for our short day with no greater meaning than we can manufacture ourselves? Doesn't your intellect swell with indignance at being forced to accept an idea so ill-matched to all that can be known and sensed about the self? There must be no mistake about this. We, into whom God has breathed the breath of his own life, are a thing wonderful and mysterious in our souls. We are eternal.

And, what is more, we are loved.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Does God Really Need Your Money?

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pinta of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
"Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.
You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.
(John 12:1-7)

To our way of thinking, Jesus comes across as a little callous here, doesn't he? Perfume worth a year's wages has just been poured on his feet, and Judas the self-righteous hypocrite is sure this is the Teacher's cue to deliver a sermon about how much good that amount of money could do for the poor. But amazingly, Jesus - the same Jesus who has been adopted as the posterboy for bleeding hearts everywhere - doesn't seem to care how much the poor people get at all. He's not urging his followers to end poverty - he's telling them that the poor are always going to be around. And this is not a typo or a mistranslation. The same story is told by no less than three of the Bible's writers.

Yet readers of the Bible are always being taught to give.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
(Proverbs 25:21)

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
(Luke 6:38)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:33)

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Mark 10:21)

If their giving is not primarily to satisfy a need, then what is the purpose?

King David knew that what God wanted from him was not his money, but his heart. He knew that the gift was not important; the cost to the giver was. Do we even grasp such a concept?

...Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you."
But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
(2Samuel 24:18-24)

Your gift, in God's eyes, is nothing compared to the love that prompts it. Without the love, there is no gift.

If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
(1Corinthians 13:3)

Did you hear that? Your money is nothing. It accomplishes nothing. It doesn't change a thing. It's a pebble on a road full of pebbles. Why mess around with such trivialities at all? Why give?

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)

Isn't it rather funny, after all, to think that we can do the Creator a favour; that he could do more with our petty contribution? He, who spoke the worlds into existence, waiting for a handout from you and I?

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,
speaks and summons the earth
from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him,
and around him a tempest rages.
He summons the heavens above,
and the earth, that he may judge his people:
“Gather to me my consecrated ones,
who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,
for God himself is judge. Selah
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, and I will testify against you:
I am God, your God.
I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices
or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats?
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
fulfill your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

(Psalm 50:1-15)

Let us remember that the God who asked his followers to give never mentioned the need of the one who receives from us; again and again he pointed out that the real, crying need of humanity can only be satisfied in receiving from Him. It is not the poor we bless with our alms, nor does God have any lack that we may satisfy: the lack is in us, and we are the ones who are liberated by heartful giving.

God doesn't need your money. Not for missions. Not for churches. Not for the poor. Dare you mock him with your carefully-counted twenties, hundreds, thousands...? He would have you set free in the giving of your heart.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


My friend Amy, without any reason, hates her name - so I googled it for her last night to see what it means. "Amy" comes from the old French "aimee" - "loved".

Loved. Warm; precious; held.

I wonder how differently we'd treat ourselves, and each other, if we knew ourselves loved. What kind of respect would we offer to the people we rub shoulders with every day, if we could see what makes them so precious to God that he would hurt for them? What if we could see the kind of beauty God sees when he looks at us? Do you ever wonder? Do you know yourself loved?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

God and the Politics of Circumcision

Ever wonder what God was thinking with the circumcision-thing? It doesn't quite match up with our God-as-prim-Victorian-grandfather concept, and I get the sense most Christians are happy to stuff the whole embarrassing issue deep into the dusty nether-regions of a cabinet marked "Old Testament Jewish Stuff"- which is full of things we don't use and don't really like but are too scared to throw out completely. (Kind of like that ugly green sweater your grandmother gave you for your birthday. You know you're never going to wear it, but you have to keep it in the back of the closet just in case she asks about it when she comes to visit.) "Oh yes, Grandfather-God, we do have your teaching on circumcision, it's right here somewhere...but it's all about the circumcision of the heart now, right? You changed your mind in the New Testament, remember?"

But secretly, don't you ever wonder why in the world God came up with something as weird as circumcision in the first place?

In Abraham's time, as throughout the ages, there were many gods worshipped. The difficulty a god always faced was in maintaining his followers' loyalty. Worshippers would stick to their guns only as long as they were either getting what they wanted or too scared of the consequences to go shopping for a new god. A good way to get people on board for the long haul was to require an enormous investment. So things like child-sacrifice were a common way to get people in so deep that it would be hard for them to walk away. Once you'd killed your youngest daughter and offered her to your god, you weren't as likely to say you were wrong and switch religions. Psychology calls this "investment theory". The Bible calls it an "abomination", a word that basically means "repugnant" or "disgusting".

For more or less obvious reasons, it was important for people to make a clear choice about which "god" they were going to follow. In the case of YHWH/Jehovah/the Living God, this was particularly important. He had told Abraham that through Abraham's descendants, he was going to bless the whole world. His concern was always that people should know who he was. If he was going to reveal himself, his followers were going to have to make a clear choice - otherwise, who would know what came from God and what came from any one of the variety of other deities worshipped throughout the ancient world? There clearly needed to be something that first, set his followers apart and made them distinguishable, and something that encouraged a loyalty that went deeper than a child's connection to the source of his supply of lollipops.

The ancient world wasn't squeamish about sex. It was an important part of life, and for most cultures, everything hinged on the ability to procreate. If you wanted to make someone really happy, you didn't tell them that they were going to win the lottery; you told them that their descendants were going to be many and powerful. The numerous wives weren't just harem-girls selected to keep their husband happy; they were primarily chosen to be mothers of children - insurance against the harsh realities of life in a time when disease, war, or famine could wipe out an entire people-group.

The root of our English words "testament" and "testify" is "testis" - a word that is interestingly close to "testes". Indeed, folks in patriarchal times didn't swear by laying their hands on their hearts, but by laying their hands on their fathers' testes - so say many historians. Abraham asks Eleazer to do this as proof that he will bring a wife for Isaac from Abraham's own people. (Genesis 24:2-4) They were recognizing the source of life swearing by their family's bloodline - the most precious thing a person or family had. A common and fearsome curse in Bible times was the cutting off of a bloodline. The person without descendants was a poor man indeed.

So circumcision was a rather ingenious linking of an Israelite family's commitment to God with the most precious thing they had: the ability to procreate and maintain their bloodline. It acted as a daily reminder of what their loyalty was, and it included the idea that a commitment to God was not something to be tossed out on a whim, but was to continue even beyond a person's lifetime and passed on to descendants. It set a people and their bloodline apart from others. It also meant that Jewish men were identifiable, and couldn't intermarry with other people-groups without their wives knowing that they and their families had been set apart to God. There would be no mistaking which God was working in and for and through the Jews.

Did God change his mind in the New Testament, then? "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6)

"In Christ Jesus" are the key words here. Remember the plagues of Egypt, which started off general and then got specific, eventually requiring people to make individual choices rather than it just being enough that they were part of the right community or people-group? God is always moving from the communal, the visible, to the personal. In Jesus, people have at last become fully free because they are offered a choice that is made with the mature intellect. We may be socially pressured, even coerced, into some action - but the will is above coercion. Let's be very clear on this: it is an act of the will rather than any religious action or societal connection that makes someone a Christian.

Circumcision is neither here nor there for the Christian, just as bloodline is irrelevant. The "circumcision of the heart" takes place when a person exercises her will and chooses to separate herself to God, worshipping only him. This kind of circumcision is visible only in its results: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

So God hasn't changed his mind at all. He has only brought us from the concrete to the concept that underlies it; from the action to the intent; from the communal to the individual. The onlooking world could see that the Jew's hope and chief joy was linked to belonging to God, but the message is taken from the picture to the word in Christianity: our hope and chief joy IS God. We belong to him, body and soul and spirit - not because he has power over us, but because he loves us to his own hurt, and we have chosen him.

The God of the Bible is not prim or proper. He doesn't lift his robe and tiptoe around the messy awkwardness of human cultures. He allows himself to be revealed piece-meal to our imperfect understanding. Dear, wise God!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Without the Shedding of Blood, No Forgiveness: Love's Imperative

Alone, in a garden damp and dim, see there beneath the olive trees a bent and wearied Jesus. He has not come away from the city shuffle for restoration, for rest. His knees press the dark earth; his head is bowed. He falls on his face - Why? Just a day ago, they hailed him king and strewed palm leaves in his path.

Only a Father's ear is bent to listen to his bewildering grief. Hear the gentle voice of the One who once said "Let there be..." and there was - world, light, and life. His words now are pleading. "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)

Why is he there - Son of the Living God - weak and heavy-hearted and alone?

With what strange purpose has he come?

But a word, a look, an outstretched arm, and every enemy of God is annihilated. As God, must not his power be absolute? Then why this bending, this pleading, this humiliation?

"Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
'Put your sword back in its place,' Jesus said to him, '...Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?'" (Matthew 26:50-53)

We all know how the story ends. (Or is it the end?) Some of us have celebrated today the triumph of an empty tomb, a risen Saviour. It is enough for us to know that He is alive now, that we are free. We face indignantly those who will ask their questions and examine skeptically such a gift.

But what does it all mean, really? Almighty God with his face in the dust; the King of Kings beaten and bleeding-? And now...God communicated with no miracles, no thunderings, but a book?

We speak of a God whose power knows no limits, and we are quick to remind skeptics that in the past, some have had demonstration of the vast might of our God. Where is it all now? Why doesn't He rise up and destroy His many enemies?

Ah, friends, here is Love. Here is a God of mercy, whose Lordship over you and me is not maintained by power, but by the undeniable claims of inexorable Love. Those who question him are not struck down, punished, destroyed. Instead, he speaks gently, simply. He uses not the language of the heavens, incomprehensible to the human ear, but communicates his vast mind through the imperfections and approximations of words and sentences. He will convince by Truth rather than power. "Come now, let us reason together," says the Lord..." (Isaiah 1:18)

This is not the Almighty we have imagined, but God reasonable and knowable. "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

There is much chatter these days about Jesus the Teacher, who came to tell us a better way to live. This is not what the Bible says. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners". (1 Timothy 1:15)

Why did Jesus have to die? He begged his father for "another way" - why was there none found?

"...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22)

But again, why?

"Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death..." (James 1:15)

"For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life." (Leviticus 17:11)

Sin is, by its very nature, destructive. That is what makes it sin. When destruction is chosen, it has power. By the choice of our first parents, our world has for a long time been under the destructive power of sin. In vain we have devised programs and plans to deal with power it has over us. Time and again, we have found ourselves defeated, on every level. Do you, like me, ever wonder why?

It was the strength of that first choice that made sin so powerful. Unlike the rest of God's wonderful creation, we humans were not spoken into existence. The Creator formed us with his own hands, and breathed into us the breath of his own life. We are something more special than we imagine. We are made like God. Like Him, we are creators. To us has been entrusted an awe-ful choice: Love or Self. Without such a choice, we could not share God's ability to love. But our choice is dangerous and powerful because it has been entrusted to us by an omnipotent God. A choice for self allows destruction a rightful place in our world - a place sanctioned by God when he offered us the power and the freedom. Our decision to satisfy self gives evil a moral right over us - we've chosen it, havent' we?

But Adam and Eve didn't make an informed choice. Isn't this what you wanted to say? They were innocents, tricked by the enemy of God; an enemy who deceived even angels with his beauty and power. The Bible warns us about his devices, but it refuses to leave the blame fully with him. "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." James 1:14 Temptation comes, not from without, but from within; from what we desire. I am not talking about the manifestation of desire, like wanting chocolate, but the deep choices we make that decide whether or not we will give in to a "want".

The only way for God to not snatch back the choice he had already given was for him to accept the destruction himself in order to offer them a new choice - an informed choice.

Jesus was not murdered. He was not overcome. He came to die. His death was a choice. Even the cross did not kill him - he yielded up his own spirit. "Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!' And having said this he breathed his last." (Luke 23:46)

The God of the Universe has been affronted by an enemy who gathers support with the lie that divinity is rooted in power. God's inherent right to rule has been called into question, and a mutiny begun in the heart of his precious project - a world of people who are able to choose between Love and self. He hurls no lightning-bolts in responding to the assault, and to the underlying question: Is he only God because his power is Supreme? Could another be God if the position were wrangled from his grasp? Patiently, painstakingly, he answers by folding his great power, and hiding his vast beauty. His right to be God is founded firmly on the inherent, inarguable supremacy Love.

So Jesus takes on humanity and subjects himself to the humiliation of death. So God reasons with men and reveals himself to sin-impaired intellect in a book. He is worthy to be worshipped not because his power is unassailable (though it is), nor because his beauty is captivating (though it is) - but because the goodness of Love is undeniable. Whether with the right of monarchy or with strength of dictatorship or with common understanding of democracy, the Living God is Ruler by every right because He is Love.

Isn't the beauty of Love fully displayed in the death of Jesus Christ? Isn't its immutable strength made known in his rising again? Who can fail to be convinced that Love is better, greater, more worthy to rule than anything that relies on mere power?

He reigns!

"'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. (Psalm 85:10)

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A Prayer

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

(Rabindranath Tagore)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Understanding God

The scientist trying to understand God is like a mechanic trying to figure out the computer. Both end up baffled because they start with the assumption that the vital parts can be seen and controlled.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


"'Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friend,' has nothing to do with Christianity; an atheist will do this, or a blackguard, or a Christian; there is nothing divine about it, it is the great stuff that human nature is made of. The love of God is manifested in that He laid down His life for His enemies, something no man can do."

Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of An Agony

Monday, 4 January 2010

On Being a Christian

"Going to church no more makes you a Christian than going to a garage makes you an automobile." (Corrie ten Boom)

Friday, 1 January 2010

On Our Need for Redemption

"If you have had no tension in your life, never been screwed up by problems, your morality well within your own grasp, and someone tells you God so loved you that he gave his Son to die for you, nothing but good manners will keep you from being amused."

(Oswald Chambers, The Shadow of An Agony)