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Jun 25, 2012
neil

If God hates lies why does he approve of deception in the Bible?

If someone grabbed your cash-point card from your bag and demanded you gave them your pin-number would it be sinning as a Christian to give them a made-up number? If it’s wrong to lie then as Charles Hodge point out are you not lying when you leave the lights on in your home to deter a thief when you’re away ?

Is it always wrong to lie or can it ever be right to withhold the truth or even lie?

The 9th commandment reads ‘you shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.’

Given that God is a God of truth (John 14:6, Romans 3:4) and who does not lie (Titus 1:2) can it ever be right for Christians to lie? Over the centuries Christians have wrestled with the question of whether we are always required to speak truthfully. Do we owe everyone not just the truth but the whole truth?

When we read stories in the Bible we do find passages where God appears to praise those who deliberately deceive others. One famous example is in Exodus 1:15-21 and the story of the Hebrew midwives. In the account Pharaoh tells the midwives to kill the Hebrew boys but Shiphrah and Puah let the boys live. When questioned by Pharaoh they fabricate a story about the Hebrew women giving birth before they arrive.

Twice in the story we are told that their motive behind their action was that they ‘feared God’ in v.17 and v.21. Indeed they risked a great deal to cover-up what was really going on and faced extreme punishment in their attempts to protect the children.

The principle we find at work in the Bible is that God’s people are commended for their deceit when they use deception to a) protect innocent lives and b) prevent evil such as murder.

So is it a sin to lie? The passage suggests that not all deceit is ‘false testimony’ because not all deceit should be thought of as a failure to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’. When we lie to promote ourselves or inflict harm on our neighbour we are sinning but some deceit is a necessary action to show that we are willing to love and protect our neighbour in the face of evil. Just as we saw earlier in our series that not all killing is murder because for example killing in self-defence was allowed by God so now we see that not all deceit is false testimony.

It is surely worth remembering that although these cases offer fascinating case-studies of what it actually means to lie it is not likely that we will ever need to use deception in such a way in the course of our own lives (unless our role is in the military!)

But such stories do suggest that it might be necessary and appropriate to withhold information where that information would be used in a harmful way. We do not therefore have an obligation to speak all that we know when asked to reveal it if to do so would promote evil or fail to protect someone. Indeed when someone asks for information in order to commit a crime or to inflict harm they have forfeited their right to the truth.

 

Jun 4, 2012
neil

Why Christians have good reason to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

As the nation celebrates Christians, in particular, have reason to give thanks.  For we recognise that governing authorities are put in place by God. Paul says in Romans 13v1, there is no authority except that which God has established.

And there can be few countries in the world where Christians have enjoyed greater freedoms and blessing than we have under the reign of our Queen. Anyone living in the UK during the past 60 years has, by and large, enjoyed peace rather than conflict, economic prosperity rather than decline and freedom of worship.

Paul calls on us to  pray for those in authority – 1 Timothy 2 reads:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior,4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Around the world today many Christians are living under leaders who refuse to acknowledge God let alone honour him and as a result they live under fear. I wonder whether we stop to think and stop to thank God for the privileges we have enjoyed during the past 60 years.

In her coronation vows 60 years ago the Queen promised to govern with fairness and mercy and she has. She may be a figure-head for our nation but she is a figure of consistency and of Christian character. John Stott was an honorary chaplain to the queen for over 30 years and spoke of the reality of her Christian faith. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that she may be the last monarch who is Christian in my lifetime.

I want to finish with a quotation from her  Christmas Day message in 2011

The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

‘For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.

God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

So even if you don’t intend to wave flags or dress in red, white and blue I do hope you’ll join in giving thanks to God for a Queen who for 60 years has fulfilled her duty before God and the nation with utmost consistency.

 

May 28, 2012
neil

20 ways to keep the 5th commandment – honour your father & mother

Preaching through the 10 commandments I sought out some advice from friends and family on what it means to honour our parents.  Here’s what we came up with.

20 practical ways to honour your father and mother

  1. Show gratitude for the ways they have shown love – however imperfectly — thank them for their love in sacrifice, commitment, care, concern.
  2. Visit often
  3. Phone home. One guy said to me ‘ I phone both of my divorced parents at least 3 times a week during my walk home from work it’s because I know that communication and keeping in touch is important to them and makes them feel valued. This doesn’t come naturally to me (difficult relationship with my parents sometimes) but I continue because honouring is important.’
  4. Continue to seek out and then listen well to their advice – even if you choose a different path. Mark Twain once said ‘When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.’
  5. See they are well cared for in their old age (that may mean saving for their future, moving your home, etc.)
  6. Pray for them (if they are Christians ask how you can be praying for them).
  7. Tell them how great Jesus is (if you and they are Christians they will be blessed more than you can imagine…if not their salvation!)
  8. Say you’re sorry if you can look back and see ways in which you did dishonour them and thank them for their patience with you
  9. Repent of any attitude that wishes they were out of the way…to free up more time or because you want your inheritance now!
  10. Encourage and facilitate active grand-parenting! Let them in to your lives even more as grand-parents.
  11. Don’t talk negatively about them behind their backs or grumble against them to others.
  12. Speak positively about them to others
  13. Value your parents as most parents give their best to their children. I know this isn’t always the case but as a mum myself, I know we do the best we can’
  14. Expect the relationship to improve. ‘The beautiful thing about growing older is that my mum and step dad have become my friends.’
  15. Ask her Dad’s permission before you propose.
  16. Value what is most important in them especially if they prayed for you and encouraged you in your faith.
  17. Remember important dates…birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s day, Father’s day
  18. Place photos of them in prominent places in your room
  19. Accept them for who they are even if you wish they were different.
  20. Don’t take what you have been given for granted – a secure, loving, lifelong relationship

 

Ask yourself: ‘would we be happy if our young children treated us like we, now grown, treat our parents?’ Kevin DeYoung

 

Apr 25, 2012
neil

Essential listening – Mark Dever and Al Mohler discuss gay marriage

Very helpful 20 minute discussion from a T4G panel discussion between Mark Dever andAl Mohler.

Mar 31, 2012
neil

Why people in their 20’s are struggling with church

Why people in their 20’s are struggling with church

At our church we have started a ministry to 20somethings. Recognising that the transition out of teenage years and student life into the world of work and grown-up church brings great challenges for many.

Here are the 10 most likely reasons to struggle as compiled by Rob & Hosanna who head up this new ministry.

We’ve grouped them into four categories

Anonymous & unsupported:

  1. You used to be known by everyone in your parents’ church; now it seems like no one knows you.
  2. You were previously in a church where you felt you belonged and were valued. Arriving at your new church it might have been welcoming and friendly but you rarely see the same people Sunday by Sunday.
  3. You used to belong to a smaller church; now you feel lost in a bigger church and don’t know what to do about it apart from find a smaller church.

Under-used & unappreciated:

  1. You had a lot of leadership responsibility as a student; now it feels like you are bottom of the pile again.
  2. You were used to leading bible studies every week; now no one seems to want you to lead any.
  3. You did a year working for a church and felt invested-in and trained; now you are a ‘normal’ member you feel stagnant and under-used.

Frustrated by how other people are so very different to you:

  1. When in a student bible-study group, everyone seemed on the same wavelength and enthusiastic; now those around you seem more tired and perhaps a little apathetic.
  2. You felt challenged, encouraged and you were continually gaining new knowledge and skills; now you feel that those around you are old-fashioned and you find it difficult to engage in bible-study.
  3. You looked forward to getting to know non-students; yet you now find that you don’t really know anyone very well and it is taking ages to get to know people at a different age and stage to you.

Lacking in time and energy:

  1. You used to have plenty of time to go to lots of meetings/events; now work/life is so busy you can’t manage to get to things/feel pressured to go/guilty if you don’t/too tired to engage if you do/resentful and longing for things to finish so you can get to bed

 

Mar 12, 2012
neil

When I Don’t Feel Love for My Spouse

Great article by Steve Cornell. Does not say everything that would need to be said in such a situation but is a very helpful starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(HT: Tony Lane)

Dec 25, 2011
neil

Hail the incarnate Deity

Words then and now on the indescribable mystery of God made man.

 

Maker of the sun,

He is made under the sun.

In the Father he remains,

From his mother he goes forth.

Creator of heaven and earth,

He was born on earth under heaven.

Unspeakably wise,

He is wisely speechless.

Filling the world,

He lies in a manger.

Ruler of the stars,

He nurses at his mother’s breast.

He is both great in the nature of God,

and small in the form of a servant.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430AD)

Oct 18, 2011
neil

Bringing your children along to ‘big church’ – why and how to worship as families in church

We have a 5 year old son who attends our church twice on a Sunday. In the mornings we spend the first 15 minutes together in the service before he heads next door for Kidz Sunday School but he also attends each evening service where he sits through the full 80-90 minutes. He’s not the only child there and as a church we are slowly developing a culture in which our children feel welcome and included in the evening service so that families can worship together.

Here are a couple of quite excellent posts by Jen Wilkin on why worship together as families and then how to make it work.

She writes of the excellent children’s work at her church;

We see it as a rich and relevant worship environment for a child, as a vibrant supplement for “big church”. But not as a substitute for it.

She also recognises that things are far from simple when you bring your kids to big church;

Together hasn’t always been easy. I recall long worship services with four elementary-aged children scribbling with crayons, begging for gum, and contorting themselves like miniature yogis in the pew. Just remembering it makes my eye twitch. But over time, with clear participation expectations, creative activities and the right cocktail of punishments and rewards our kids have grown to see “big church” not as a place they tolerate but as a place they belong.

But she is full of practical wisdom too on how to help your child sit through the service and participate in the service. Her tips on debriefing after the service are terrific too;

Debrief and reinforce.

After attending Big Church together, remember to talk to your child about how it went and what could go differently next week.

·     Ask your child for feedback: “What did you learn in church today?” “What was your favorite part of worship?” “Tell me about what you drew.” Talk about what you liked from the sermon in terms they can understand.
·     Affirm success: “I liked how you sat quietly and colored, even though the sermon went long today.”
·    Correct failure: “Next week I want you to try to wait to ask me questions until after the service.”
·    Reset/re-emphasize the expectation of Behave-Follow-Listen for next week.
·    Reinforce the sermon message: plan a family devotion or service activity to correspond with what the pastor talked about.

Why not read the two posts Worship together and Big church for small kids for the bigger picture.

In our service on Sunday evening  I preached on Exodus chapter 4-5 and we wrestled with the issue of who was responsible for the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. I asked the congregation mid-way through the service  ’so who was it; Pharaoh or God?’ A five year old shouted out ‘God’ loud enough for the whole church to hear as she continued to colour her picture next to her father. That was quite possibly the highlight of our evening.

Sep 16, 2011
neil

God’s self-existence and his self-sufficiency is our great hope for the Christian life

Preparing to preach from Exodus 3 this Sunday on the bush that did not burn up I came across this tremendous reminder of how God’s self-existence and his self-sufficiency is our great hope for the Christian life;

God lives forevermore, a flame that does not burn out; therefore his resources are inexhaustible, his power unwearied. He needs no rest for recuperation of wasted energy. His gifts diminish not the store which he has to bestow. He gives and is none the poorer. He works and is never weary. He operates unspent; he loves and he loves forever. And through the ages, the fire burns on, unconsumed and undecayed.

Alexander Maclaren in Philip Ryken’s Exodus: Saved for God’s glory

Sep 5, 2011
neil

Is Homosexuality a sin that sends people to hell? Tim Keller’s answer

Back in 2008 Tim Keller was interviewed by Martin Bashir at Columbia University after the publication of his book The Reason for God. As part of the evening Keller also takes questions from the audience.

For his interesting answer to a question on homosexuality listen in at around the 50 minute mark.

For a great answer to ‘do atheists have faith?’ go to 48 minutes.

Justin Taylor has helpfully produced a breakdown of all of the questions, produced below.

Q&A with Martin Barshir

0:18 – Why did you write Reason for God now?
2:22 – Are faith and reason contradictory?
5:35 – Is God just a projection of our cultural circumstances?
9:10 – Is belief in God a mental defect?
11:39 – Is it narrow to believe in one God? Is everyone else going to hell?
18:30 – Is the Bible trustworthy?
23:59 – What about the behavior of so-called Christians?
30:33 – Are you resolutely convinced today that Christianity is true?

Q&A moderated by Dr. David Eisenbach

35:25 – How could God allow evil and suffering?
44:04 – Is there any reason to believe in God in a chaotic world?
45:48 – Does giving a reason for faith undermine its value?
48:49 – Does it take faith to be an atheist?
50:48 – What does Christianity have against homosexuals? Are they going to hell?
57:29 – Why is Christianity so exclusive?
1:03:58 – What do you believe about politics?
1:11:25 – How do you get to heaven?
1:13:13 – Why would God make people who sin?
1:16:58 – Why did God put that tree in the Garden of Eden to begin with?
1:199:34 – What happened for you to have so much peace?

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