Saturday 24 February 2024

Have you ever put anything at risk for the Lord?

1 Corinthians 15:30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

In context, Paul explains that his ministry made sense, and only made sense, in the light of the fact of the resurrection of believers. Jesus Christ is already risen, and believers will also rise - and this is why they live as they do in the present age, offering their lives up for Jesus Christ. This is the rational way to live, because they cannot everything - even if they die, they shall be raised up again. Jesus is risen, and we shall rise too. Hence, risk makes sense - because ultimately, the victory is already won. It makes no sense for believers to jealously guard their comfort, their security, their peace, because these things are not in ultimate jeopardy: the resurrection means that these things cannot be lost in the end. And actually it makes no sense to try to cling on to them as the highest good, because they can't be kept. We shall lose this earthly body, so that we shall rise again in a glorious resurrection body.

I do wonder that if Paul were writing back to churches in the year 2024, if some of them wouldn't respond to him and suggest that he needed a break. "Paul, we're very concerned about you, and the extreme things that you are writing. In jeopardy every hour? This lies far outside the parameters established by our care committee and operational guidelines. You are taking yourself too seriously. Relax. Don't you believe in God's sovereignty? God doesn't need you to do this. We suggest you take a long period of leave for your mental health, and to reflect upon best practices." That is the atmosphere that we are immersed in in the modern West; these are the ideas that spontaneously come to us if we have lived there long enough. But Paul didn't believe in those ideas. He believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his own future resurrection because of it. Do you?

Thursday 22 February 2024

Meekness and Majesty

 I've been singing the beautiful hymn "Meekness and Majesty" since I was a small boy, but only in the last few weeks came across its inspiration.

"He is thy Lord, worship thou him... He is meek, but it is the kind of meekness that likewise takes nothing away from his majesty. The meekness and majesty of Jesus. I wish I could write a hymn about that or compose music about it. Where else can you find meekness and majesty united? The meekness was his humanity. The majesty was his deity. You find them everlastingly united in him. .... the majesty of the man who was God." - "Worship every day of the week", A W Tozer.

Thursday 25 January 2024

Are painless and comfortable deaths possible?

 I can't help noticing that in the media, two separate but linked debates go on in parallel:

  • Capital punishment: the trend of opinion in our Western culture is that this is always inhumane, and that no effective means exist for putting someone to death that are not degrading and unconscionably painful.
  • Euthanasia: here, we are told that a painless and dignified death is medically and scientifically possible for everyone, and that the only reason why euthanasia isn't generally available is because of cruel and arbitrary legal hurdles, which should be removed.

I'm not, here, going to rehearse the arguments in favour of either one or the other (though, for the record, I believe that capital punishment can be justified and is the proper judicial response to certain crimes such as murder or rape; and that euthanasia defined as the deliberate application of procedures or substances (as distinguished from the contrary declining to apply them) to cause death is morally wrong).

Rather, I'd just like to point out what you've probably already spotted: the things said about the possibility of a painless and dignified death in the case of the two debates are mutually contradictory. If such a death is possible in the case of euthanasia, then it is also possible in the case of capital punishment. Conversely, if such a death is impossible in the case of judicial punishment, then it is also impossible in the case of someone's elective decision to end their own life. Or in other words, in at least one of these two debates on this particular point, the proponents of the arguments for the popular position (against capital punishment, for euthanasia), are lying. They say that a thing is both impossible in one case, and possible in the other, in a direct formal contradiction. A painless and dignified death is either available or non-existent depending on what is being argued for and nothing else. This is deception. People making either argument should have this contradiction pointed out to them, and be challenged as to which of the two they believe to be true: pick one side and then accept the implications, not both or neither depending upon your goal.

Note that here I'm not claiming that you have to either favour both capital punishment and euthanasia, or vice-versa be against both. Either, neither or both could be argued for despite conceding that death either can or cannot be dignified and painless. My point is that if the argument is being made based upon this supposed possibility or impossibility, then the argument has to be consistent; and currently, the arguments are being made based upon the possibility or impossibility of dignity as a central plank of the argument.

The question in general of whether death can or should be made dignified or not, and to what extent (and whether the answer to that depends upon whether the death is a penal infliction or not), is worth exploring. So are the ideas of personal choice and freedom and control in Western culture and how they relate to death. But that will all have to wait for another day.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Time for self-evaluation over Covid?

A little under 4 years ago, across the UK, churches closed their doors and ceased to meet for corporate worship, meekly accepting the UK government's announcement that the worship of Almighty God, unlike in-person food shopping or physical exercise, was a non-essential activity. Church services could, it appeared, be conducted over Zoom or Youtube - whereas everyone was allowed to exercise their own discretion over whether to buy their groceries online or in person.

Whatever you think of this, I hope that we might agree that what should have happened afterwards is that churches carried out an analysis and evaluation of their decisions and responses. When new announcements were being sprung by governments with rapid fire, it could be difficult to step back and think through the principles (though you might also say that there was plenty of time during the lockdowns, and in between the lockdowns, to catch up). But supposing that it was for some reason not possible to do at the time, there's now been a few years since. What are the principles, and how should they be put into practice?

I don't hear of churches or other organisations in the UK doing this. Why not? Do we have principles? What are they and how do they relate and get applied in the difficult cases? Was this event - the making of corporate worship to be illegal - big enough to matter enough that we need to think this through? I like to think that evangelicals have principles, and that they think it's important to think through how to apply them in events of this size. It's been nearly 4 years now... please can we hear something soon?

Monday 1 January 2024

The year of our Lord, 2024

This year, the Father, Son and Spirit invite us to grow nearer to them. We are invited to have communion with the blessed and Eternal Trinity in prayer and personal worship, in meditating upon the Word, and in the corporate worship and fellowship of God's people.

The year will bring lots of duties of different kinds, according to the station that God has appointed us to in life. There will be a mixture of blessings, challenges, griefs, sorrows and joys, according to his good and perfect and loving will. But whatever else comes to pass, we are assured that there is nothing which need leave us further away from our God and Saviour. If anything does, then that is through our response to it, not through any lack of willingness or resources on God's side to draw us nearer.

It is always helpful at times of pause and reflection in the year to remember that a lot more is possible than we have yet experienced. The Bible teaches this clearly and repeatedly. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” - Luke 11:13. "Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" - James 4:2-3. "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" -  Matthew 6:6. Christian history and experience teach us too. Currently I am reading "Island Aflame", perhaps the most historically rigorous account that we now have of the 1949-52 Lewis revival ( There are many people who have known and experienced more of God than we have, and every last one of them was a son or daughter of Adam with the same sinful propensities, and the same glorious Saviour and God of grace, as we have. At a time around 18 years ago I had the privilege of knowing a believer in our own locality who was in Lewis at the time of the revival, and it was such a thrill to hear from him about it and pray with him. The God of the Bible, and the God of all the advances of the Christian church in the past, is alive today. He invites us to know him and walk with him. There is a cost in doing so. But it is nothing compared to the price paid if we waste our lives doing something else.

May 2024 be a year in which God visits our souls, our churches, our prayer meetings, our missions, our families and our nations, to put us down in the dust and to lift up his own glorious name, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday 29 November 2023


1 Timothy 6:2 - "And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things."

It's often useful to notice not only what is said as the main/direct point in a verse, but also what is assumed.

The above verse is an instruction from Paul to Timothy about what should be taught to believing slaves about how to relate to their masters - in this verse, particularly, believing masters.

"[T]hose who are benefited are believers and beloved."

Because, it is implied, all believers are beloved. If you are a believer, and you meet a fellow believer, or work alongside them, or under them, or whatever, then this is your attitude to them: they are beloved, for Jesus' sake. The Beloved One counts them as beloved, and so, of course, do all of his brethren.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Christmas inn-keeper is a fictional character

The few words about his birth in the Bible indicate that the Son of God was born in a poor family home, not in a community stable for travellers which a fictional inn-keeper sent them to. 

It's much better to teach children to study the Bible carefully, than to leave them believing a sentimental version that they later find out has the flimsiest basis in the actual text (really, a misunderstanding built upon a single word):