16 Jan

Top Ten – 2015 Week 3

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My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward – Not written from a Christian perspective, but definitely food for thought. What would you do if this sort of trial appeared in your life?

Porn: Human Trafficking at Your Finger Tips – YouTube video with a message that needs to be shared. I think more people are realising just how ruinous pornography is, both to the people represented in this form of media and to the the observers. Society would only be a better place if we had more control of our bodily urges.

Randy Alcorn on Calvinists, Arminians, and Everything In Between – Biblical balance is always important!

When the Sin of Sloth Sneaks Up on You – I loved reading this well described and pithy account of how married life changes with the pressures of kids and how one mother works to overcome the chaos.

Home for the Holidays When Home Isn’t Safe – Some strong contrasts between the Christian way and the world’s way occurred to me while reading this.

How Classical Education Shapes Us as God Intended – If you don’t know what a classical education is, follow a few of the links in this article, in particular the piece by Dorothy Sayers is essential reading.

Religious Liberty, Bigotry and Gays – New York Times piece written by an openly homosexual man who does not believe that his point of view stops religious freedom. While reading, see if you can spoke the logical flaws in his arguments and then read the next article by Albert Mohler and see if you were right.

Religious Liberty vs. Erotic Liberty – Religious Liberty is Losing – Albert Mohler’s response to the above article.

The Ineptitude of Moral Equivalence – A helpful analysis of Islam in the light of recent terror attacks and comparison to Christianity.

The Privilege of Persecution in Northern India – Some great quotes in the second half of this article by persecuted Christians with their eyes on eternity. It’s the right perspective!

Thought for the week:
Even though God loves you, he will judge you.

10 Jan

Top Ten – 2015 Week 2

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How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent – Who is giving you those impressions, prophecies, words of knowledge, etc? (The first of three articles from the always solid www.ligonier.org).

How to Grow Spiritually – It’s simple but often too boring for an over-entertained and over-stimulated generation.

7 Truths We Have Forgotten – Wisdom from earlier times (The last of the three from Ligonier).

Christmas Hands – I was touched by this short message of joy at serving and blessing others.

What Would Jesus Say to Someone Like Leelah Alcorn? – Christians will need a loving and biblical response to transgenderism and similar issues which will become more prevalent.

10 Questions for Moms in the New Year – Some deep and challenging questions from a woman who takes her role seriously.

Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers – An article which has been surprising for its wide spread readership. Some really important things to consider here.

Productivity: Simple Tricks – The thinking behind these tips is what struck me as most important. You can apply the concepts to your life to come up with your own tricks (a sneaky fourth from Ligonier).

An Update On The Triceratops Fossil That Contained Soft Tissue – It’s good to keep up with evidences which counter old earth timescales. Dr. Wile is always balanced and fair in his approach.

Would You Skip Church for Football – or any other sport? We should be more committed to getting ourselves and our families to church.

Thought for the week:

You can’t understand God, otherwise you would be God, but you can know the things about him that he has revealed to you.

 

03 Jan

Top Ten – 2015 Week 1

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Rather than sharing a multitude of articles through the week, and sometimes daily, I thought it would be more considerate to curate my top for the week and share in a single post. I will try to do this weekly.

Bible Reading Is an Art – Ever wondered what the difference between meditation and study of scripture is? This was one question that was answered in this piece.

Reflection on my 40-day fast

Worship Like a Puritan – I’ve been reading and thinking about family worship this week.

Family Worship – Tim Challies reviews a book on family worship. Tim’s reviews often teach the main concepts when you don’t have time to source or read the book yourself.

More Archaeological Evidence That Supports The Bible – It’s always encouraging to read about more evidence to support the historical accuracy of the Bible.

Pursuing Holiness – Jerry Bridges’ final few thoughts on key biblical understandings really resonated with me.

What Cessationism Is Not – A helpful look at a biblical perspective on the view that the more miraculous spiritual gifts are no longer around.

The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin – Newsweek with some commonly used but totally hopeless arguments against the Bible. I suggest reading this first and seeing whether you can answer the objections before reading a couple of responses to this article below.

Newsweek on the Bible: So Misrepresented It’s a Sin – Albert Mohler responds to the Newsweek article above.

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible (Part 1) – A more detailed look at the arguments presented in the Newsweek piece.

24 Dec

Self Control – The Neglected Fruit Of The Spirit by Sam Hight

I’ll keep this brief. There is a huge problem in many Christian circles. We are severely lacking in self-control, one of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians chapter 5. We see a lot of love, joy, patience, kindness, and more, but not so much self-control. As a result, we don’t see as much personal holiness as we should either.

I won’t go into whether that is a sign of absent salvation or not, but that is something you might like to think about for yourself. You should see more self-control in your life as the years pass if you have the Spirit of salvation growing fruit in your life.

What we should see is a greater ability not to give in to temptations. It might not be easier, but we should be giving in to the lusts of the flesh less and less. You know what your particular weaknesses are: pornography, speaking untruths, gluttony, giving in to fits of anger, putting yourself above others in your opinion of who is better, being wise in your own eyes, etc.

We should see more encouragement between saints to be holy as He is holy. We should be unashamed of our weaknesses and trusting one another to remind us and strengthen our resolve to overcome.

When was the last time you were encouraged to aim for holiness and blamelessness from the pulpit of your church? When was the last time you opened up to someone trustworthy about the struggles you were facing that week and sought their prayers for your deliverance? When was the last time you heard about someone being asked to leave your church for denying their sin and failing to repent? When was the last time you heard someone taking sin seriously enough to risk embarrassment by confessing their weakness?

I want to list some ideas to think about for fixing this awful state of Christianity, but before getting to that there must be an acceptance of the problem. Take a moment to search your heart… Do you lack in discipline and holiness? Is there a culture of self-discipline and encouragement of holiness in your church? Your family? Your relationship with your spouse?

I urge you, nay plead with you: Please be prayerful and honest before your God in this, and remember that there is mercy and grace to be had for our failings.

Consider these as possible parts to the solution:

1. Get clear on the importance of self-control and personal discipline in personal and communal holiness.
2. Encourage one another in holiness (identify where we are lacking, praise the good done, lead in positive ways by example)
3. Raise the profile and practice of spiritual disciplines (Bible reading, scripture memory, prayer, fasting, etc.)
4. Engage your brain in worship more. The emotions need to be informed more by the truth of Christ in this age of sensuality and emotionalism. We need to worship in specific truths about who God is and what he has done to save us from our sin and not just “the truth” in general as a vague notion. The enemy of holiness is our fallen human instinct which is sensuality and over-emotionalism.
5. Discipline is difficult. We need to make it easier on ourselves by having greater structure in our lives so that we live by the structure without having to exert ourselves mentally every time a situation pops up which tests us. We must be willing to bend our lives around self-discipline and not make our self-discipline something flexible that shifts to suit our lives. Our lives are not our own anyway: we should serve Christ our Lord, not run around expecting him to serve us at every whim of fleshly desire.
6. Pray, pray, pray!
7. Talk about this with your church leaders.

I hope and pray that this leads to further holiness and self-control in your life. If you are not a Christian I hope that you will see your own lack of holiness and your need for the power of God to save you from the consequences of your sin. Hell is real. I hope that some would even receive greater assurance of their salvation through reading this.

May God bless your pursuit of holiness!

07 Oct

Preaching To My Two Year Old by Sam Hight

“35 Jesus wept” – John 11:35 (ESV)

We’ve begun experimenting with scripture memorisation for April (2 years old). She learns many words and phrases from us so we thought that this would not be an impossible task. Even so, we decided to start with the shortest verse in the Bible.

It’s not a perfect process by a long shot, but that’s not the point. It’s the spiritual discipline of scripture memorisation which we want her to develop.

When April quotes this verse she doesn’t quote the chapter and verse. We’ll keep working on that but larger numbers are not very consistent for her yet. She also says, “Jesus wet,” which isn’t really too far off since she knows that weeping is crying and crying is a wet process. I doubt it is deliberate interpretation at this stage but it is very cute.

This morning April was sitting on my knee while I was reading my Bible. I thought I would show her the verse in the book so she could see that it came from God and not just from mum and dad.

Our children see us reading a fair bit. They know the words are the important bit and that we can read words from a book or from a screen and they are just as important. But the Bible has a special significance, whether electronic or paper, and our children know this too.

As we read the two words of April’s memory verse, I was struck by how much text was on the screen and I considered what a two year old would notice when they looked at the jumble of words. Too many words for a child who has to consider each letter carefully to decipher them one a a time – very overwhelming.

I decided that an explanation of the verse was called for instead of just marveling at words and letters.

I started with a question, “April, do you know why Jesus was crying?”

“No, papa.”

“Jesus was crying because his friend had died.”

No point in sugar coating it, I thought, but that’s not something she could comprehend yet… How to communicate this concept to a small child.

“That means his friend had gone away for a long time and Jesus wouldn’t see him any more. Jesus would really miss his friend. It’s like when you and papa visit Queenie and Rangi and we start to miss mamma.

Jesus was really missing his friend so he wept.

But Jesus is special so he made his friend come back.

When you and papa are away we can’t make mama just come back. We have to get in the car and drive all the way to her. Jesus can just make mama to be there with us so we don’t miss her any more.”

I watched her thoughtful two year old expression for a few seconds…

And then her attention span was at an end and she slipped off my lap and went to dance to the music playing in the background.

If I had the attention of little April for longer I would like to have shown her how she can ask Jesus to fix things that upset her. Or to make her feel better when things can’t be fixed.

Any opportunity to show the character of God to my children, even on a very simple level like this, is well worth the time spent. We parents must constantly be on the look out for opportunities to glorify God before our children. Some are obvious like this, but some are not so obvious such as keeping cool when something goes wrong or frustrations mount up.

I’m certain that most of what I said went over her head, but this is a message we will come back to regularly with April. Just like adults, children need to hear things over and over before they stick. I think it’s important to note that God’s word won’t return empty as it will accomplish what he sets for it to do (Isaiah 55:10-11). This applies for children or for adults, even if it might seem a little silly to speak about such deep concepts with children.

It is always worth it to speak holy truth to our children. Always. I can also testify that it is such a rewarding feeling if children hear something from the Bible which makes them happy. The caution then is to not just stay within the happy parts of scripture like blessing, mercy and love. Death, sin and judgement are also important, but at the right time.

Please feel free to share your experiences with teaching God’s word to your children. God bless.

05 Jul

Extended Scripture Memorisation Experiment by Sam Hight

For the past two and a half months I have been trialling the memorisation of larger chunks of the Bible. I have successfully memorised the book of Jude (25 verses) and the first two chapters of 1st John (39 verses) and will continue the practice as long as my life (God willing).

I’m not sharing this to brag. I’m sharing this because I think pretty much anyone is capable of doing this and it is a given that such memorisation is good for your spiritual development.

I’ve had a number of obstacles through this process which have made it a challenge to keep up the practice, but despite these it has proven surprisingly easy. If you are similarly challenged I want to encourage you that you can do this still, and if you are not facing similar obstacles then you have no excuse at all.

Some Of My Obstacles (And Why They Should Not Stop You)

Time – this must take a while to work on right? Actually, it takes about five to ten minutes in the morning over breakfast in my modified version, and a few minutes scattered here and there through the day to check and correct what I learned in the morning. The long part is daily reciting the whole of what I’ve already learned (developing long term retention) but this I do while driving or riding to and from work, or while spending a few moments with my eldest daughter while putting her to bed (she asks, “Papa lie on the floor?” and I quote about 30 verses)

Tiredness – This can be hard to overcome and takes a little persistence. However, if I keep in mind that the method will definitely work, even through the foggy-tired-brain of a father of sleepless young children, I do manage to stay positive during the practice until each part is successfully completed. Because the method is basically repetition it is almost a mindless process anyway. It tends to go faster if the mind is engaged, but it can definitely be done under less than ideal mental conditions.

Distractions – similar to tiredness, distractions require some persistence to overcome. This is not because of the interruptions to the memorisation process, which you just make time for when there are no distractions around (get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later – when all of the distractions/children are asleep). This is more an issue of an overworked or divided mind which refuses to focus on the task at hand. Once again, trusting the process and committing to completing the verse repetitions is all that is required.

Really, all hurdles to completing such a beneficial practice for your spiritual walk will be overcome if you just commit to doing it, and trust God to make it happen. You will always find a way through if you are serious about making the effort. I hope I have inspired you to make the effort!

Resources:
Extended Scripture Memorization by Dr. Andrew Davis (free PDF or for purchase on Amazon)
Video of me showing how to do the daily memorisation, minus the extended quoting of the entire previously memorised section:


Video of me quoting the book of Jude:

01 May

“Expository Preaching: Time for Caution” by Iain H Murray (289/1600)

Ian Murray puts forward two views of what constitutes expository preaching:

  1. Where the preacher “…confine[s] himself to the text of Scripture, and … make[s] the sense plain to others…”
  2. The same as the first except this also insists upon working through a book or passage of the Bible consecutively.

Murray is addressing the view that the second way of expository preaching is right and the first, applied to texts of scripture which are unrelated from week to week, is wrong.

There are several obvious benefits to preaching through entire passages/books, and Murray details them briefly. However, his intent is to focus on the disadvantages of such a style of preaching.

First, not every preacher is gifted in this style of preaching.

Second, preaching isn’t necessarily about covering as much of the Bible as possible – it’s about meeting the current needs of the congregation.

Third, working through an entire section of scripture consecutively can easily become a lecture rather than a sermon.

Fourth, the consecutive style tends away from being memorable due to covering too many ideas (rather than picking one or two main ideas from the passage). Murray explains that this is why Reformed preaching is often considered dull.

Fifth, consecutive preaching  does not fit well to an evangelistic style. Murray says that “preaching to heart and conscience commonly disappears.”

Murray finishes by saying that these points should not stop this style of preaching from happening, but that preachers must use it at the right time along with the one-off type messages in their right time. He is eager to emphasise that both consecutive and individual/isolated verses can be expositonally preached, and that all preaching must be exposition of the Bible.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/Expository_Preaching_Iain_Murray.pdf 

15 Jan

Made In The Image Of God by Sam Hight

When challenging ourselves to treat others with love and respect, it can be difficult to see anything worth loving and respecting in them. Drug dealers, dole bludgers, disobedient kids, and disabled people (who may seem like a drain on society).

It is easy to put yourself above these others because you have no illegal addiction, work for your livelihood, obey the rules, and contribute more than you take. But these things are very minor, vanishingly minor even, compared to the one thing which gives each of us our surpassing worth.

You, me, and everyone who makes you grind your teeth in “righteous” anger at their worthlessness – we are all made by God and made in his image. Being an image bearer of the God of the Universe is a crown of high royal standing and worthy of love and respect. This is true even if those people are not living up to the standard for which they were created. Mistreat royalty, even if they mistreat you first, and it is “off with your head”.

I want to say it again because it is so important that you understand this: Our worth comes from our relationship to God. He made all of us. Our actions don’t really reflect our worth because we all fail to live up to that high, high standard which our Creator has set for us.

A quick note on love: love is not always a feeling, and that is true most especially in this case. Love is committing to do what is caring for another’s wellbeing and reputation, and honouring their inherent value through actions. The feelings tend to follow in any case. Sometimes it is hard to feel love for certain of your family members but you do the loving thing anyway. It’s not such a huge step to love your enemies from there. It is often those closest to you, who you love the most, who will wound you the worst anyway!

A quick question: We can see now (hopefully) that everyone is worthy of your loving kindness, but are you truly living up to the value of your own royal worth? How can you know? What can you do if you are failing in this?

You can only know what is expected of you by reading the instructions from your Creator and following them as best you can. Read your Bible for the details but here is the essence of those instructions:

You are expected to be perfect in pleasing your Creator. That is what he made you for. Nobody has lived up to that level of worth and we are all guilty of undervaluing ourselves and others. This is such a wicked crime because it means we are undervaluing the One who made us and stamped his image on us. We have failed to please God by our actions and attitudes towards each other and towards God.

But God is merciful and made a way for us to be forgiven and to be restored to the function for which he made us. Rather than take our own deserving punishment in hell, God’s son Jesus will take it for us on the cross if we turn to him and follow his way of living. This will begin a personal transformation toward purity which will continue through this life. And when Jesus returns at the end of the age we will complete that transformation and we will be perfectly pleasing to the Lord. We will never again undervalue him or his image.

Free Bible Apps:
YouVersion (Android, iOS)
Logos (Android, iOS)
ESV (Android, iOS)

Bible websites:
Bible Gateway
ESV

10 Jan

“Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency'” by Tim Keller (243/1137)

Tim Keller addresses the common objection to Christianity, that of the inconsistency of Christians following only the rules from the Bible which seem to suit them. For example, the Old Testament sacrificial laws and laws about stoning disobedient children are ignored but the laws about prohibiting homosexual behaviour are not.

Keller explains that the essential morality in the Old Testament continues in the New Testament and in the teachings of Jesus, however the ceremonial laws and laws about ritual cleanliness are no longer in action as they have been fulfilled in Jesus.

He also explains that the punishments for moral crimes in the Old Testament are different to those for today. This is because of the difference between the religiously controlled state law of Old Testament Israel and the church instituted by Christ which is a part of all nations and cultures under their own state rule.

Keller finishes with the observation that, “If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense,” and that those objecting to Christianity on the grounds of their misunderstanding of what seems to them to be inconsistency; those people are asking Christians to deny this core of Christianity in order to make Christianity not make sense, i.e. they make an assertion without logic behind it.

Christianity, properly understood, must lead to picking only some rules to follow from the Old Testament.

The full article is required reading for a deeper understanding.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/mobile/article/tgc/making-sense-of-scriptures-inconsistency

08 Jan

Set Your Mind On Things That Are Above by Sam Hight

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” – Colossians 3:2

It’s hard to believe that every Christian can feel as Paul the Apostle did when he said that he was the chief of sinners. He was responsible for the death of many genuine and godly believers in Jesus, and had made it his mission to quash Christianity completely. Yet I can tell you that it is not only our actions but our thoughts which condemn us, and this raises each of us to the level of the worst sinner ever.

Jesus was clear on this in the Sermon on the Mount when he raised lust and anger to the level of adultery and murder. The thoughts of your mind are exceedingly sinful when they are set on the wrong things.

I think we all know enough to be able to tell when something is bad in our mind, but often these things occur to us without any conscious ability to control them popping into our awareness. The first appearance of wicked thoughts is not sin, but it is a sign of our sinful nature. It is sin when you set your mind on them, that is, when you think them again because you are dwelling on them, when you linger a little longer on these hellish thoughts than you should.

As fast as you can you need to set your mind on things that are above – godly things – and not hide these sinful ideas inside yourself and nourish them and grow their power over you.

I’m not going to mention specific thoughts and ideas of evil, for a number of reasons which I won’t go into here, but the general terms for these things are commonly mentioned in the Bible:

“sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” – Galatians 5:19-21

I’ve been a Christian for 15 years, since I was 18 years old. During this time I have been fighting sin in my life in thought, word, and deed. I’m far from perfect, but by the grace of God I have continued to grow in holiness and purity of mind. However, just a few years of setting my mind on things that are on earth – doing all that I wanted to fulfil my earthly desires without restraint (except for the restraining notion of the shame of being found out as a terribly wicked person); these few years of practising evil and thinking about evil things have continued to be a burden as I’ve tried to practise holiness.

15 years in the pursuit of holiness and I am still worn down by the wickedness of my mind to suggest evil things. Just a few years of unrestrained evil during my teenage years has set a pattern of thinking which, while thankfully reducing every year, will be with me until I die or until Jesus returns.

It is so vital that we encourage young boys and girls to set their mind on things that are above from an early age so that they are not worn down by the battle against themselves when they are adults. This is in part so that they can spend more of their energy building the Kingdom externally amongst God’s people rather than internally inside themselves.

Now, some might object that these thoughts are not really that bad, that they are definitely not as bad as carrying out the acts for real. That may be true because you are not involving anyone else in your sin, causing them to participate in the actions which you think about. However, we have seen from Jesus that a thought is as good as a deed at condemning you to hell, so there must be a little more to it.

I think that this is because the gravity of a crime is determined by who that crime is committed against. And all sin is against God, who created us for a holy purpose which we deny and corrupt by our evil thoughts and actions. As far as God is concerned, since he sees the thoughts and intentions of our hearts as clearly as he sees our actions, there is no difference.

Others might object that such thoughts are more than humans are capable of thinking for themselves and that it must be devils putting them into their mind. Again, there is an element of truth to this objection, that Satan can have enormous power over people to suggest such things, but you must not underestimate the creative imaginations of humans to come up with wildly wicked ideas.

God has intended our intelligence and our creativity for good, but we continually use them for bad. And that is why we must set our mind on the things that are above, because in doing so we train our conscious and our subconscious to dwell on holy things. This way, we will find that less evil thoughts from the back of our mind, which we are less aware of, will be sent forward to full awareness in the front. This then leads to less sinful and distracting thoughts for us to deal with.

An important note to remember, for Christians and non-Christians, is that Jesus has died to take the punishment for sin. If we put our trust in him to do this for us, we can then put our failures of mind and body behind us and set ourselves on doing what we know is right. Every day is a battle for holiness, but our failures do not need to weigh us down. We must continually thank Jesus for the forgiveness that we have for our daily errors, and then set our minds on things that are above so that it becomes more natural for us to think right and to do right.

And we can also look forward to the return off Jesus, when every evil notion and urge will be completely removed from all of creation, and we will finally have the rest in our minds which Christians should crave daily. What a wonderful relief that will be!

Some practical ideas for setting your mind on things that are above:

    Read your Bible – how much closer to things that are above can you get than filling your mind with the Word of God? And every day, multiple times a day, you should fill your mind with Scripture rather than filling it with the latest TV series about worldly fancies.
    Memorise Bible verses – perhaps pick Colossians 3:2 to start so that in those moments where evil thoughts pop into your mind you can immediately quote to yourself “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”.
    Make a practice of wondering about people’s faith backgrounds and where they will spend eternity – many of our unholy thoughts are about other people, so when you talk with people or walk past them in the street you should look them in the eyes and try to consider their eternal fate or detect clues about their faith so that you can ask about these things.
    Keep yourself busy enough mentally and physically so that you do not have an idle mind which is waiting for something to occur to it – hard work is not bad, games are not bad (sudoku, cryptic crosswords if you can), reading is not bad, so fill your mind and life with activity which will grow your potential to be holy and to think holy things.

What other practical ideas do you have for setting your mind on things that are above? Add them in the comments below.