Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 176.
I pity celebrities, no I really do – Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself. You see Sly, Bruce, and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfilment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable. – Cynthia Heimel, “Tongue in Chic” column in The Village Voice, January 2, 1990.
Taken from Tim Keller’s great book Counterfeit Gods
Everything we are told about Jesus’ arrest, trial(s) and mockery are consistent with what we know of Roman practice in the first century and consistent with the political and social establishment of Judea in the time of Jesus. Although hyper-critics have called into question this and that detail, there is every reason to regard the gospel accounts of the juridical process that overtook Jesus of Nazareth as essentially reliable. Most of the noted objections, then, amount to something other than valid historical reasoning. – Craig Evans, “The Shout of Death” in Troy A. Miller (ed.), Jesus: The Final Days, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox), 28
“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”- John Stott, The Message of Galatians, (Downers Grove, Intervarsity Press), 179
“Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close. Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close. Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough. Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”
― David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
This week there have been a few articles going around that Republican nominee for President Donald Trump has prayed the sinners prayer and now is a Christian. For example Dr. James Dobson says this about Trump and his conversion:
“I don’t know when it was but it has not been long, and I believe he really made a commitment, but he’s a baby Christian, we all need to be praying for him, especially if there’s a possibility of him being our next chief executive officer, and I think that he’s open. He doesn’t know our language, you know, we had 40 Christians together with him, he used the word hell four or five times, he doesn’t know our language, he really doesn’t, and he refers a lot to religion and not much to faith and belief.” (This quote is taken from this website)
Dr Dobson is not the only one. Many other evangelical leaders have come out saying that Trump is a Christian.
Now I want to ask do these religious leaders really believe this? I find Trumps’ conversion hard to believe because of the kind of politician he is. Trump has a habit of saying what he needs to say to curry favour with those he is trying to woo and I think this is what is happening here. All through out history politicians have taken on religion for political ends. I was just reading about the great Scottish reformer John Knox who saw politicians pursuing ungodly ambitions under the cloak of religion. He also says that these men who do this have a habit of then turning around and stabbing the very religious leaders who helped them get into political office in the back. Will this happen if Trump gets into power? I don’t know. I hope not.
Is Trump a Christian? I have huge doubts about his conversion but I am praying for him. I hope he is. If he truly is we will see this in the way he leads with humility and grace and how he publicly repents of sin and pursues righteousness.
I’m also praying for the evangelical leaders of our world. I’m praying that they will pursue righteousness not power in this world and that they will have courage in the face of political pressure and love in the face of potential trials.
This is a long Interview but a very Important one and insightful one. I have read Douthat’s column for some time and I am going to Read his book Bad Religion. Douthat is very intelligent and insightful and this is well worth an hour of your time.
I am more and more convinced that what gives a ministry its motivations, perseverance, humility, joy, tenderness, passion, and grace is the devotional life of the one doing ministry. When I daily admit how needy I am, daily meditate on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and daily feed on the restorative wisdom of his Word, I am propelled to share with others the grace that I am daily receiving at the hands of my Savior. There simply is no set of exegetical, homiletical, or leadership skills that can compensate for the absence of this in the life of a pastor. It is my worship that enables me to lead others to worship. It is my sense of need that leads me to tenderly pastor those in need of grace. It is my joy in my identity in Christ that leads me to want to help others live in the middle of what it means to be “in Christ.” In fact, one of the things that makes a sermon compelling is that the preacher is worshiping his way through his own sermon. 
 Paul Tripp, A Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. (Wheaton: Crossway), 35
Church for many of us can be a ho-hum activity. Yes we love the people and we like church but we sometimes leave church underwhelmed and uninspired. I think we leave church this way because we forget why we meet together. The Ancient Israelites had a day set aside for rest and the worship of God. So let us look at what God said their day off of worship was all about:
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” – Deuteronomy 5:12-14
The first word in this sentence is be careful. The whole point is we must carefully ensure that the Israelites obeyed the Sabbath. There is scrupulous care here. Did you also notice that it was a holy day. The Sabbath being holy meant that it was sanctified, separated from the rest of the week and given by God. The idea is that this was to be a special day. Why? Because God has designed for us to work for six days and then we have a day of rest and worship. I think the word “holy” here implies that a Sabbath for Israel was meant to be a day which, at least part of it, was devoted to God. It was a day where you would go to the temple if you could. And one of the ways you showed you worshipped the true and living God was to take one day off. No other religion in the ancient world had this practice. But the Israelites showed they served God by taking a day off to rest and worship.
Now thinking about the day we meet together, which some Christians regard as a Sabbath. Wee see from this passage that the Sabbath is meant to centre us once again. As we take a day off and meet together and sing and praise God’s name. As we hear God’s word, read and preached and prayed we are recentered on what matters and we are reminded on what doesn’t matter. Corporate worship is meant to remind us that there is something better than things of this world – sex, power, money fame, status – and that thing that is better is Jesus. Corporate worship is about your heart, that’s why we sing because music has a way of engraving words that we sing onto our hearts, that’s why we preach because we are trying to communicate this book in a way which grips your heart. You see as you go out into the world so many things are after your heart’s affections and yet today when we meet together your heart gets recentered. Your life gets recentered.
A few years ago I went to a chiropractor because I was very sore. I thought there is no way he needed to crack my back or neck or anything. But when I got there that is what he did. He pulled my neck in this weird way and it cracked and then pressed on my back and it cracked. And the cracks were loud and I was scared and I was like, “what are you doing?” He said that my spine was out of whack and he was realigning it. I told him that my spine didn’t feel out so I didn’t think I needed it. He said that all of us use our bodies in such a way that take our spines slightly out of whack. We can’t feel it but they are and unless they are realigned one day we will feel it.
Do you realise that the way we live causes our hearts to become our of whack? They love the things that they shouldn’t love and are drawn away from God. What corporate worship does for your heart is like what the chiropractor does for your back it brings it back into line. God is a good God he knows we need realignment every week and so he commands one day where this will happen.
Are you valuing and treasuring the time you meet with other Christians? Do you come to church expectant that you will hear from God through his spirit in his word? At this church, as the bible is being sung, taught, prayed and preached, God is doing eternally significant work. Do you come expecting that, anticipating that? We are called to join in this work as we sing praises to God which will encourage those around us. We are join in this work as we encourage each other as we remind the person who is down of the hope they have in Jesus. As we encourage the person who is struggling with sin that Jesus has dealt with their sin and that they are forgiven. God is doing eternally significant things every week at Church.
Now what would happen if got this vision of Church? Wouldn’t we be so excited to get here? Wouldn’t we be so pumped that we would get speeding tickets on our way to church? You see God is a great God and this commandment to have a day of worship and rest is one of the his most beautiful gifts to us because on that day we are brought into line with who he is and what he has done. Let’s accept this day as it has come from a good and loving God.
This is an excerpt from a sermon preached at Resolved Church called “The Freedom to Rest” which was based on Detueronomy 5:12-15. You can listen to the sermon in ITunes here
There is a modern orthodoxy that says no secular people actually believe in sin, guilt and shame. But on Saturday the UK newspaper The Guardian published the article ‘Would he disapprove of my single heathen lifestyle?’: me and my Syrian refugee lodger. Which as the title suggests, is about a single, non-religious, white, British lady named Jenny and a Syrian refugee that she took in named Yassir.Now this a commendable deed that Jenny has done. What is interesting however is her reason for taking Yassir in. She says:
“I thought having Yasser to stay would be a kind of atonement for mistakes I have made in my life, but his presence has made me feel guilty. Guilty for what I have, for the easy life I lead, for complaining about trivial things.”There are three things to note here.1. She believes she has done bad things she is guilty of.2. She is looking to have her guilt taken away.3. In looking to deal with her guilt and shame herself she only encounters more guilt and shame.The problem with our secular society is that deep down we all have a gnawing feeling that we have done wrong, we all have guilt. But our society can’t give us any way to assuage that guilt that is actually successful. Only in Jesus do we find someone who will take away our guilt and shame and a new identity. Out of which we can do good things, like helping refugees, not to atone for our sin but because he first loved us and so we want to love others as we have been loved.