Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Just:God through Christ's death makes us righteous. CH Spurgeon

Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. Conscience accuses no longer. Judgment now decides for the sinner instead of against him. Memory looks back upon past sins, with deep sorrow for the sin, but yet with no dread of any penalty to come; for Christ has paid the debt of his people to the last jot and tittle, and received the divine receipt; and unless God can be so unjust as to demand double payment for one debt, no soul for whom Jesus died as a substitute can ever be cast into hell. It seems to be one of the very principles of our enlightened nature to believe that God is just; we feel that it must be so, and this gives us our terror at first; but is it not marvellous that this very same belief that God is just, becomes afterwards the pillar of our confidence and peace!

If God be just, I, a sinner, alone and without a substitute, must be punished; but Jesus stands in my stead and is punished for me; and now, if God be just, I, a sinner, standing in Christ, can never be punished. God must change his nature before one soul, for whom Jesus was a substitute, can ever by any possibility suffer the lash of the law. Therefore, Jesus having taken the place of the believer—having rendered a full equivalent to divine wrath for all that his people ought to have suffered as the result of sin, the believer can shout with glorious triumph, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” Not God, for he hath justified; not Christ, for he hath died, “yea rather hath risen again.”

My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, he is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what he has done, and in what he is now doing for me. On the lion of justice the fair maid of hope rides like a queen.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

You may or may not be familiar with the following letter written some time ago.It was written by a young pastor in Zimbabwe who was later martyred for his faith: Again this will challenge us regarding our passion for God. Are we willing to die for Christ? It was certainly an everyday reality for Christians during the first three centuries. It is still the same for many Christians in many parts of the world today. Click on the Open Doors link on my fav. websites which will tell you how you can become involved with the suffering church.

'I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made—I’m a disciple of his. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colourless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits,or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on his presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labour with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must keep going until he comes, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until he stops me. And, when he comes for his own, he will have no problem recognizing me. My banner will be clear'

Monday, 10 September 2012

The Lifeboat Station

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifeboat station. The building was no more than a hut, and there was only one boat; but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out day and night, tirelessly searching for the lost. Some of those who were saved, and various others in the surrounding area, wanted to be associated with the station and give their time, money, and effort to support the work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifeboat station grew.

Some of these new members of the lifeboat station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those who were saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifeboat station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they used it as sort of a club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club’s decoration, and there was a memorial lifeboat in the room where the club initiations were held.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them were foreigners. The beautiful new club was in chaos. Immediately, the property committee hired someone to rig up a shower house outside the club, where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because they felt they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. A small number of members insisted upon lifesaving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The small group’s members were voted down and told that if they wanted to save lives, they could begin their own lifeboat station down the coast.

They did.

As the years went by, however, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old station. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore.

Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the passengers drown.

As disciples of Jesus, our primary task is to go and make disciples. (See Matthew 28:19.) To put it another way, we are to go and save lives. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget our purpose. We need to recover our passion for lifesaving. We need to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (See

MINISTRY IN THREE DIMENSIONS: Ordination and Leadership in the Local Church by Steven Croft

I found Steven Croft’s book on leadership both informative and challenging. Though perhaps primarily written with a view for those in the Anglican tradition it is also relevant for those interested in the ordained ministry in the wider Church.

Evangelicals will enjoy it because it is thoroughly biblical and examines several key passages on leadership as well as exploring leadership throughout the history of the Church. Croft also scrutinises secular management/leadership models and argues for the New Testament model of diakonia, the servant ( one who is prepared to serve behind the scenes etc.), presbyteros, the elder ( the minister of the word and the sacraments), and episcope (the visionary, Shepherd and enabler). Croft deals thoroughly with each of these three ‘dimensions’ of leadership in the church by first building on diakonia and arguing that this is the foundation of all the others, and that though one becomes an presbyteros or episcope, ‘The root of diakonia is in every sense the foundation of all ministry which is truly Christian, including the exercise of leadership’. This might be contrasted to the ‘New Calvinist’s’ leadership models of prophet, priest and king which precludes the same emphasis on servant leadership.

In Croft’s discussion of diakonia he argues that this in fact is the neglected dimension of the ministry of the ordained, stating that ‘The attitudes and attributes of diakonia need to be acquired before those of the presbyterate or of episcope and are the validation and foundation of the second and third dimensions of ministry’, also that it is ‘the most important .. if ministry and leadership are to be truly Christian and Christ-like’. After looking at diakonia from a biblical perspective Croft then traces its history in tradition and then within the ordained ministry today.

In discussing the dimension of presbyters Croft again looks at it firstly from a biblical perspective and challenges the readers from the good shepherd passage in John’s gospel stating: ‘To be a good shepherd, and by implication a good presbyter involves self sacrifice and the laying down of one’s life’. Presbyters and Priests are then examined within the Christian tradition which also includes an examination of the charge to priests in the alternative service book. In the next two chapters Croft firstly looks at the presbyter’s call to study, preach and catechise and secondly, their call to minister the sacraments, minister through prayer and call to a life of holiness.

The third dimension of ministry, that of episcope, is then discussed in detail. Croft first looks at it from a biblical perspective, then from the perspective of tradition. Croft sees the person exercising episcope as being firstly ‘a focus for the unity of the people of God’, secondly ‘that of enabling, developing and sustaining the ministry of others, and thirdly having ‘the ability to keep watch: over one’s own ministry, over the lives and ministries of others, and over the whole congregation’. In the discussion of the episcope as enabling others, Croft offers many useful applications in the present day Church with regard to shared responsibility, differentiation of tasks and responsibilities (rota and team ministries), gifts and vocations, review, rest and renewal etc.

In his penultimate chapter Croft discusses how this ministry in three dimensions can be balanced without finding ourselves ‘in the wastelands of stress: exhaustion, bad temper, addictive and dependent cycles of behaviour, vulnerability to temptation, ill health and damaged relationships’. He argues the case for having a ‘portfolio approach’ and becoming self aware with regard our danger signals.

The final chapter, ‘Pioneering, Sustaining, and Connecting: Patterns of Ministry in a Mission Shaped Church’ deals with how the Church today tries to engage with the world. Croft specifically addresses the concepts behind ‘Mission shaped Church’, ‘Fresh Expression’ and the role of ordained and lay ministry within it.

This is an excellent book by Steven Croft, the best I have read on the subject. It is highly relevant, informative and challenging as well as being thoroughly biblical. It is also supplemented with a large number of notes, an excellent bibliography and useful appendices.