Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

I cannot recommend The Meaning of Marriage highly enough. I found it very compelling, easy to read and hugely challenging, so whether you are married, engaged, dating or single, this is a must read!

Anyone who has been married for more than a month will tell you that marriage is hard work; it takes effort and a lot of it! In his book Tim Keller begins with the Biblical narrative and its pictures of marriage that span from what God always intended to the broken to the redemptive. He looks at themes of friendship and commitment; sex, singleness, divorce and ministry and discipleship within the context of marriage. Keller speaks form a place of experience, being married for over forty years, having more than thirty years in Pastoral ministry and an outstanding communicator of the bible, this book is soaked with Biblical wisdom alongside personal and first-hand experience.

Marriage is constantly coming under attack in the times we live in and as a Christian in the 21st century, it’s important to be able to articulate to an ever increasing secular society the importance and values of a healthy Christian marriage; this book will help you do just that.

From a man who has wrote so many great books, this is probably my favourite one!

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus – Part 2

A couple of months ago I wrote a post on what it meant to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus taken from 2 Timothy 2. Here is the second part.

4. Be able to handle your weapon – “a worker…who correctly handles the word of truth“.

In battle it would be fatal for a soldier to go out to war without knowing how to handle his weapon, knowing how to use it in times of danger and being able to rely on it. We may not own a weapon in the obvious sense but we do have something far more powerful than a riffle; the Word of God. As Christians it’s important that we know the Word of God, in fact, I’ll go one step further, it’s vital that we give our selves to memorising it. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Memorising scripture not only helps us defend our faith but also it aids us combat sin, fight and resist the enemy and speak truth to our souls when the enemy would have us believe some of his vicious lies.

5. Don’t get distracted in the battle“flee youthful passions”.

Most of us aren’t going to have our relationship hindered with God by morally wicked things (adultery, murder etc.) but more often than not, it will be morally neutral things. Things where we can’t get the Bible and say, “See, it says I shouldn’t watch TV for longer than an hour a day”, but what happens is we start to make more of computer games, sport, entertainment, holidays etc. (which I might add are not bad things) and we allow them to be in our life to the point that they become harmful spiritually. We need to be constantly aware of what stirs up our affections for Jesus and what robs us of our affections, and then fill our lives with those things. Things which will stir up a passion to know Him, worship Him, follow Him and make Him known.

I’m really enjoying watching Euro 2012 but if I follow it too carefully, it will start to matter – don’t get distracted in the battle!

6. Remember your part of an army on a mission “…pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart..”

Rarely will you see a soldier by himself, he will always be in a small group or with one or two others, this helps him with protection, support and backup. Likewise you shouldn’t be doing all that pursuing on your own. As soldiers of Christ Jesus, you need men (women) who can speak into your life, who will look to build you up, challenge and support you and encourage you in the pursuit of those things (righteousness, faith, love & peace). As soldiers of Christ, we are part of the army of God and it is important to be part of a church community if we are to grow in these things.

We were never called to fight the battle alone so be a good soldier of Christ Jesus!

Prayer: Discipline or Delight

If you’re in a relationship with someone, one of the things you do with them is talk. In its simplest form that’s what prayer is, talking to God. As Christians we know that it is good to pray as in doing so we grow in our relationship with Him and we get to know what is on His heart. But for most of us we find prayer difficult and at some level are frustrated with our prayer life.

Before my current job I spent a few years working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and I remember January and February being the busiest months with the gym being packed full of people trying to stick to their new year’s resolutions to lose that excess weight. Come March, all those people were nowhere to be seen. The majority of people who joined the gym did so not from a place of delight but hoping it would become a discipline.

If you love doing something, you’re much more likely to do it and build things into your life to enable it and empower it but if you don’t delight in it then regardless of what type of discipline you put in place you’re going to stumble and fall, fail and give up.

It’s the same with prayer. The best motivator out there when it comes to prayer isn’t discipline but delight. If you delight in praying and coming to God, you are far more likely to become disciplined in it, rather than trying to create discipline, hoping it will bring about delight. If discipline drives us, we’re more likely to fall short or, we’ll be doing it form a place of obligation but if delight drives us, we’ll look forward with eager expectation to approaching God, talking with Him, enjoying Him and we’ll experience what the Psalmist says, that, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.

No words can make something a delight it has to be a work of the Holy Spirit in you but there is favour from God as He wants all his children to come to Him with a desire to meet Him not because we are supposed to and it’s good for us but because we want to and it will change us.

So if prayer is something you struggle with, ask God to make it something in which you delight in so that you can enjoy talking with your heavenly Father and taste and see that He is good.

10 Reasons to Preach the Word of God

All of us are called to preach the Bible (Matthew 28:16-20), so, whether in full-time ministry, a house group leader or a Christian who wants to share the good news of Jesus (that should be all of us), here are 10 reasons to preach the Word of God.

1. Because the message of God’s Word is timeless and truly powerful

The Bible is timeless because it’s Author is timeless – and no matter how the culture changes, God’s message never changes.

2. Because God’s Word is the good news of salvation

Scripture alone unfolds God’s plan of salvation, as Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. Why would I go anywhere else for spiritual answers than to the inspired revelation of Jesus Christ?

3. Because God’s Word sets forth divine truth with clarity and certainty

The Bible is understandable. God revealed his Word in such a way that it can be comprehended with clarity. (Psalm 119:105, 130).

4. Because God’s Word stands as the authoritative self-revelation of God

Preaching the Bible establishes the authority of God over the mind and the soul. When the Bible is preached, people understand who has sovereignty over their souls – it is God alone who reigns over our thoughts and actions.

5. Because God’s Word exalts Christ as the Head of His church

Preaching exalts the lordship of Christ over His church. The headship of Christ is surely one of the most assaulted and least understood doctrines in church history, including today. When we preach the Bible, we establish the Word of God over the mind and soul, and thereby exalt the headship of Christ over His church.

6. Because God’s Word is the means God uses to sanctify His people

A sixth reason to preach the Word of God is that it is the instrument the Spirit uses to save and sanctify. We are born again by the Word of truth. As Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

7. Because God’s Word rightly informs our worship and our walk

Preaching the Bible has a massive impact on the reality and genuineness of our worship. Those who understand the gospel the deepest are the ones who worship with the greatest exaltation and exhilaration.

8. Because God’s Word brings depth and balance to ministry

Preaching the Word of God means that our faith and practice is tested by every text. When preaching the Bible (especially expository) we are being informed and refined by every verse in the New Testament with the support of the Old.

9. Because God’s Word explained ignites interest in personal Bible study

Another motivation for biblical preaching is that when we diligently study and teach or proclaim the Word of God, we demonstrate the value and blessing of personal Bible study and people are dramatically impacted by the power of the Word through us.

10. Because God’s Word builds a ministry with a divine foundation

Finally, a ministry that centers on the preaching of God’s Word is a ministry that is, by definition, wholly dependent on God. Rather than relying on gimmicks or ploys, it relies on God himself for both its content and direction.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Tim 4:1-5

Why should we proclaim the wisdom of men when we have the privilege of preaching the Word of God?

This post is taken from the book Preaching the Cross from the chapter by John MacArthur

A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus – Part 1

A soldier is known as someone who is engaged in military service as an officer or a private; one who serves in an army and who would be a loyal follower of an organisation.

As Christians we’re called to follow Christ, submit to Him and be part of His army, the Church. Whilst the war has been won and the enemy crushed and defeated, until the return of Christ, we still live in a fallen world and there is still a daily battle we are called to fight with His help (Ephesians 6:10-20).

In the book of 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul writes to him exhorting Timothy to be bold, endure and faithful in the face of false teaching that is occurring. Whilst this letter is primarily directed at someone who is shepherding and leading God’s people, there are some very helpful principles which we can learn from 2 Timothy 2 and apply them to our lives as Christian’s involved in the daily battle.

So what does it mean to be a good soldier of Christ Jesus?

1. Be strong in the battle “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. Ultimately our strength needs to be rooted in the saving work of Christ and as followers of Him, we need to cultivate a lifestyle of complete and utter reliance on Christ, a way of living that doesn’t depend on our own strength but on that which comes from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. We need to come to the Lord daily, acknowledging our own weakness before Him, knowing that He gives strength and increases might to those who wait on Him. As He fills us with His Spirit, we will go out strengthened and in turn, we’ll be able to strengthen others with the grace we’ve received and encourage them in the battle.

2. Aim to please your commanding officer“…tries to please his commanding officer”. In all that we do, we should be aiming to please God and not man. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says very plainly, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” So how do we please God? Genesis 5:21-24 states (twice) that Enoch “walked with God” and this phrase in the Septuagint (Ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament), is interpreted as Enoch having “pleased God”. This tells us that the way to please God is to walk with Him. But there’s more. In Hebrews 11, we read that just after the author mentions Enoch and that he was commended as having pleased God, he goes onto say in verse 6 that, “without faith it’s impossible to please God”. We can see that If we want to live lives that are pleasing to God, we are called to walk with Him by faith believing that God is who He says He is and that He is trustworthy to keep His promise to reward those who follow Him (Heb 10:35 & 11:26).

3. Endure in the battle“if we endure, we will also reign with him.” A Soldier rarely goes out to battle expecting it to be easy and if you have been a Christian for any length of time, you will know that it is not always plain sailing. The Bible calls us to persevere and endure in our faith (Rom 3:5, Heb 12:1, 1 Pet 1:7) and I love the way the Message speaks about enduring, in 2 Timothy 2 it says, “When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did.” Jesus promised that if you follow Him there will be persecution, so when things do get hard and we come up against opposition, it should drive us back to Him knowing we can rest on God’s promises believing that He will never leave us or forsake us. Very often when we do face challenges, whilst we don’t see what good can come from them or even question God in it, He often uses those times as a process of sanctification with the end goal of glorifying Himself and making us more like His Son.

This passage is clear that we don’t just endure for the sake of it; verse 12 tells us that, “we will also reign with him”. There is a reward if we endure in the battle; we will reign with him, we will be like him and we will spend eternity worshiping him.

So let us endure in the battle knowing that, “…the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”.

To be continued…

Only God can change your heart

It was December 2008 and I was sitting in front of a blazing fire in South West France. I had just spent some of the morning praying and was contemplating putting my hat and scarf on and going for a stroll down one of the country lanes, when out of the corner of my eye I saw Andrew Wilson‘s book, Incomparable. I had been battling through this book for some time now, enjoying it at points but finding it a bit of a chore and somewhat hard to keep focused for any length of time. Deciding against the stroll, I picked up the book and opened at the page I found my book mark on. Half way through the chapter I could feel myself getting bored, restless and a little distracted; this time by the tractors driving past the window, so I put the book down, got up and put the kettle on.

Whilst making a ‘cuppa’ I started wondering, would I ever enjoy reading or would I always struggle and toil through books. I then thought that if I was ever going to read and be excited about it, God would have to change my heart because I didn’t have it in me. So, as the kettle came to a boil, I prayed, very simply, “God, would you change my heart so that I would enjoy reading”. I then made my tea, drank it and went for my stroll.

I don’t remember feeling any different after my prayer or having a joyful feeling about the prospect of finishing Andrew Wilson’s book, but what I do remember is coming back from France and gradually having an increased desire to want to read more. As the weeks and months passed by, I found myself frequently on Amazon purchasing book after book (and reading them too) and by the end of 2009 I had read somewhere in the region of 30-40 books, which for me was completely inconceivable.

Throughout Scripture it is clear that only God can change people’s hearts. We see this with Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh of how God hardens the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12) so that he wouldn’t listen to Moses’ plea to free the people of Israel. Later in the book of 1 Samuel when Saul is anointed king, a few verses later we read that God changed Saul’s heart (1 Samuel 10:9), and ultimately if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour it is God who has orchestrated that by regenerating your heart and removing your old heart of stone and putting in you a heart of flesh so that you may see the beauty and wonder of Jesus.

3 years on my passion and desire to read is still there and I have enjoyed many books which have challenged, encouraged and helped me in my spiritual growth and journey. I thank God for the work he did in my heart back in December 2008 and see that it was a complete work of His Spirit and that it wouldn’t have mattered how much passion or enthusiasm I could have conjured up, I couldn’t have changed my heart. Only God could do that.

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. Youth Workers Conference 2012

Photo taken by Keith Trodd

The Newfrontiers Youth Workers Conference is increasingly becoming one of my favourite weekends of the year as it provides a great opportunity to meet with God, build relationships and fellowship with people you serve alongside with week in and week out. So as we headed up the M1 towards Sherwood Forest, there was a real expectancy that we would encounter God and receive from Him over the 3 days. Continue reading