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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Back to there

Well, just as I'm starting to get the blogging bug back, albeit rather slowly, I'm away for a week! Which no doubt, judging by past experience, will make me forget about blogging altogether again for a while.

Off to Ledbury, to the legendary Dyke House, for Relay 2.

Bring it on!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Voice from Christian past

"There is much in the attitude of professing Christians in this day which fills me with concern, and makes me full of fear for the future. There is an amazing ignorance of Scripture among many, and a consequent want of established, solid religion. In no other way can I account for the ease with which people are, like children, "tosses to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:14). There is an Athenian love of novelty abroad, and a morbid distaste for anything old and regular, and in the beaten path of our forefather. Thousands will crowd to hear a new voice and a new doctrine, without considering for a moment whether what they hear is true. - There is an incessant craving after any teaching which is sensational, and exciting, and rousing to the feelings.-There is an unhealthy appetite for a sort of spasmodic and hysterical Christianity. The religious life of many is little better than spiritual dram-drinking, and the "meek and quiet spirit" which St Peter commends is clean forgotten (1 Pet 3:4). Crowds, and crying, and hot rooms, and high flown singing, and an incessant rousing of the emotions, are the only things wich many care fo.-Inability to distinguish differences in doctrine is spreading far and wide, and so long as the preacher is "clever" and "earnest", hundreds seem to think it must be all right, and call you dreadfully "narrow and uncharitable" if you hint that he is unsound!"

"After all, I am convinced that the greatest proof of the extent and power of sin is the pertinacity with which it cleaves to man even after he is converted and has become the subject of the Holy Ghost's operations. To use the language of the Ninth Article, 'this infection of nature doth remain - yea, even in them that are regenerate.' So deeply planted are the roots of human corruption, that even after we are born again, renewed, 'washed, sanctified, justified,' and made living members of Christ, these roots remain alive in the bottom of our hearts, and, like the leprosy in the walls of the house, we never get rid of them until the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved. Sin, no doubt, in the believer's heart, has no longer dominion. It is checked, controlled, mortified, and crucified by the expulsive power of the new principle of grace. The life of a believer is a life of victory, and not of failure. But the very struggles which go on within his bosom, the fight that he finds it needful to fight daily, the watchful jealousy which he is obliged to exercise over his inner man, the contest between the flesh and the spirit, the inward 'groanings' which no one knows by he who has experienced them - all, all testify to the same great truth, all show the enormous power and vitality of sin. Mighty indeed must that foe be who even when crucified is still alive! Happy is that believer who understands it, and while he rejoices in Christ Jesus has no confidence in the flesh; and while he says, 'Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory,' never forgets to watch and pray lest he fall into temptation!...No proof of the fulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable as the cross and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be for which nothing bu the bloos of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane, and cry at Golgotha, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' (Matt 27:46). Nothing, I am convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we shall have of sin, and the retrospect we shall take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never till the hour when Christ comes the second time shall we fully realize the 'sinfulness of sin'. Well might George Whitfield say, 'The anthem in heaven will be, What hath God wrought!'"

"'Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord...' - Hebrews 12:14...Are we holy? Shall we see the Lord? That question can never be out of season. The wise man tells us, 'There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh - a time to keep silence, and a time to speak' (Eccles. 3:4,7); but there is no time, no, not a day, in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we? That question concerns all ranks and conditions of men. Some are rich and some a re poor - some learned and some unlearned - some masters, and some servants; but there is no rank or condition in life in which a man ought not to be holy. Are we? I ask to be heard to-day about this question. How stands the account between our souls and God? In this hurrying, bustling world, let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. I believe I might have chosen a subject more popular and pleasant. I am sure I might have found one more easy to handle. But I feel deeply I could not have chosen one more seasonable and profitable to our souls...Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real heart desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ. Wait for nothing. Wait for nobody. Linger not. Think not to make yourself ready. Go and say to Him, in the words of that beautiful hymn - 'Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.' There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them."

"I grant it costs much to be a true Christian. but who in his sound senses can doubt that it is worth any cost to have the soul saved? When the ship is in danger of sinking, the crew think nothing of casting overboard the precious cargo. When a limb is mortified, a man will submit to any severe operation, and even to amputation, to save life. Surely a Christian should be willing to give up anything which stands between him and heaven. A religion that costs nothing is worth nothing! A cheap Christianity, without a cross, will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown."

"When I speak of 'growth in grace' I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigour, and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. i hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, preogree, and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and the like, may be little or great, strong or weak, vigorous or feeble, and may vary greatly in the same man at different periods of his life. When I speak of a man 'growing in grace', I mean simply this - that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness more moarked. He feels more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith, and from grace to grace...Now would it not be well to look within, and put to our souls a simple question? In religion, in the things that concern our peace, in the great matter of personal holiness, are we getting on? DO WE GROW?"

JC Ryle (1816-1900), "Holiness"

Thursday, January 18, 2007


God's been reminding me a lot of this lately.

The inspiration and the words He gave me.

Maybe He's trying to tell me something...

Friday, January 05, 2007

O wondrous story!

Who is He in yonder stall
At Whose feet the shepherds fall?
Who is He in deep distress,
Fasting in the wilderness?

’Tis the Lord! O wondrous story!
’Tis the Lord! the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall,
Crown Him! crown Him, Lord of all!

Who is He the people bless
For His words of gentleness?
Who is He to Whom they bring
All the sick and sorrowing?

Who is He that stands and weeps
At the grave where Lazarus sleeps?
Who is He the gathering throng
Greet with loud triumphant song?

Lo! at midnight, who is He
Prays in dark Gethsemane?
Who is He on yonder tree
Dies in grief and agony?

Who is He that from the grave
Comes to heal and help and save?
Who is He that from His throne
Rules through all the world alone?

A silly illustration

Maybe somewhat cheesy, but hey, you know me (if you don't, then be informed that ever so occasionally I like cheesy links/illustrations).

So on Christmas day it's become a tradition in the Oakes household to go to Ebenezer Baptist Chapel. It's not the church we attend now, but we did, and my parents did before they were married (in fact, that's where they were married, as were I think most of my dad's family). My Nana still attends this church, has done all her life, along with my uncle and his family. My earliest memories of Sunday school are in that church. I remember thinking actually this past Christmas day that they'd changed the gates at the front of the church because they were a lot smaller...obviously I'm a lot taller (steady on the jokes).

Anyway, enough of the history lesson!

The point is, this particular Christmas day the church was celebrating its 100th Christmas and so after the service everyone gathered for a photo. Now, I felt somewhat cheeky at first and thought that maybe we shouldn't be in it as we're not part of the congregation anymore. But after all, we do have (and my parents certainly do have) close associations with that church that go back years - and my Nana can claim the title of 'person who's celebrated most Christmasses in Ebenezer' - so I decided that we were entitled to be in the photo as part of the Ebenezer family 2006 because of our family ties.

And this is where the cheese comes in.

As I stood in that photo I thought "This is SO the opposite to grace!" A funny thought, let me explain...

Isn't it great that we are members of God's family not because of our own family history, or ties to so-and-so, or anything other than grace?!

Because if we were to take a photo of all of God's kingdom we would see people included who have NO family ties to a church ever.

Isn't it in fact wonderful that there is nothing I can claim in and of myself or my relations that entitles me to be part of God's kingdom?

On the face of it it doesn't seem wonderful. On the face of it, by our nature, we look for evidence to present to God that He can count us in. Especially when we feel we've stuffed up. Grace seems too easy, too good to be true, and so we desperately search for something in and of ourselves that we can show to God, in a slightly warped way, something that will make Him proud of us and count us in. This is something I've been struggling with lately...maybe more thoughts to follow...we shall see what God says on that one.

And (more cheese) as I said to some students at Bournemouth...grace, and everything the Bible says about God and how to have a relationship with Him IS too good....but it IS true.

Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of saying isn't grace amazing? Praise God that we are counted righteous in Christ, we are welcomed into God's family not on our own merits or the merits of our family. Nothing else comes into it except our acceptance that Christ is our substitute, that He took the punishment we deserve for going our own way and not God's.

Nothing, absolutely nothing and absolutely nobody can be used as a token to get ourselves into God's kingdom apart from faith in Christ. That is a very good thing.

Nothing, absolutely nothing and absolutely nobody, is worthy of more praise than our wonderful God for what He has done.

(And the word 'wonderful' just doesn't cut it.)