Blogroll: The Good Book Company

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 29 posts from the blog 'The Good Book Company.'

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Friday Quiz: 1 Corinthians

26 min 4 sec ago
Categories: Christian Resources

The Good Book Company's Summer Camp playlist

1 hour 52 min ago

We need your help! It's summer camp time for many of us so we're compiling a playlist. So far we've got School's Out, Singing in the Rain (hopefully not!) and Dancing in the Dark.

Please give us your (appropriate) suggestions and we'll add them to our playlist.

Categories: Christian Resources

Charlie and Noel. Two sides of a real human dilemma

Thu, 20/07/2017 - 14:43

Once again, British courts are in session arguing over two very different cases. Noel Conway who is in the early stages of Motor Nerone Disease, is arguing for the right to be given a lethal dose when his health deteriorates further. Meanwhile, the parents of Baby Charlie Gard are arguing for the right to live. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital are prepared to remove life support for Charlie, as his degenerative mitochondrial disease has advanced, they believe, beyond hope. His parents want the right to allow the child to receive experimental treatment from an American doctor.

We must never be heard only to be saying “no”. Our message is a gloriously positive one.

Their tragic stories have created a groundswell of popular support, and, in both cases, on first sight, it appears to be heartless and lacking in any compassion to disagree with their wishes. But there is something much deeper going on that Christians need to be aware of if we are to enter intelligently into this discussion.

Vaughan Roberts lays out the problem in his recent book: 

Stories such as these appear regularly in the context of the ongoing discussions about whether assisted suicide should be made legal. They illustrate the complexity of the subject and the potential dangers associated with the relaxation of the law. But, above all, they remind us that behind the moral and legal debates are real people facing extremely difficult circumstances…

As I was preparing to write this book, my own father was told that he had terminal brain cancer, and he died a few months later. That has meant that I have not only been thinking about some of the issues raised in this book, but have also been very much living them as I have been writing. The whole experience has strengthened my conviction that assisted suicide should be firmly resisted, but it has also given me a more personal insight into the intense pain involved in the circumstances that often trigger the discussion.

End-of-life decisions will never be straightforward. Christians believe in life, because we believe in the God who is the author and giver of life. But we also believe in death as a reality in our fallen world. It is not always right to pour huge amounts of money and effort into keeping someone alive; sometimes it is better for them, and for their friends and family to withdraw treatment and allow them to die naturally. Some who are terminally ill and their loved ones can lose perspective in the emotion and sorrow of the situation—they will clutch at straws, and see hope where there is none. Encouraging them to cling on and receive every possible treatment, is not always advisable.

Christians will always want to engage in discussions on this subject with understanding and compassion, especially when the conversation is with someone who is speaking from personal experience. We can offer to pray, we can show Jesus’ love by giving emotional and practical support. And when appropriate, we can talk about the convictions that undergird our position: 

We must never be heard only to be saying “no”. Our message is a gloriously positive one: the great value of every human life, the dignity of mutual dependence, and the sovereign love of God working in and through suffering, as seen supremely in Christ.

Assisted Dying by Vaughan Roberts will help you think through the issues surrounding these cases and others, and help you engage positively in the debate about Assisted dying.

Categories: Christian Resources

How should we read John 1:1? Ed Stetzer interviews Josh Moody

Wed, 19/07/2017 - 06:00

Author and speaker, Ed Stetzer interviews Josh Moody about his new book, John For You.

Watch the full interview here.

As part of The Good Book Company's 'For You' series, Josh Moody helps those new to John to dip their toes in its waters, while also showing new depths to those more familiar with this Gospel. Jesus came to bring life to the full—and in showing us his seven signs, John pictures the fulfilment that comes from living life as a follower of the Word become flesh.

Josh Moody is Senior Pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois, and President of God Centered Life Ministries. The author of several books, Josh studied at Cambridge University, where he served as President of Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. @godcenteredlife

Find out more about the book.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Romans

Fri, 14/07/2017 - 10:53
Categories: Christian Resources

Keller, Allberry and Stott. 3 responses to Eugene Peterson's affirmation of same-sex relationships

Thu, 13/07/2017 - 06:00

In a recent interview, Eugene Petersen, a prominent Christian author and creator of The Message Bible translation appears to affirm same-sex marriage. He is the latest in a long line of leaders who have done a U-turn on this issue. Here is what he said:

"I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned."

When asked if he would now perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, he simply replied: “yes”.

Peterson expresses what is perhaps the most powerful argument for changing our minds on this issue: when you actually meet and spend time with gay people, you find that they are often kind, loving, caring individuals with a good quality to their relationships. It seems like a self-evident argument that puts anyone disagreeing into the category of “homophobic bigot”.

Tim Keller makes this telling comment on the issue of people changing their minds because they have met nice gay people in a book review recently:

"When I see people discarding their older beliefs that homosexuality is sinful after engaging with loving, wise, gay people, I’m inclined to agree that those earlier views were likely defective. In fact, they must have been essentially a form of bigotry. They could not have been based on theological or ethical principles, or on an understanding of historical biblical teaching. They must have been grounded instead on a stereotype of gay people as worse sinners than others (which is itself a shallow theology of sin). So I say good riddance to bigotry. However, the reality of bigotry cannot itself prove that the Bible never forbids homosexuality. We have to look to the text to determine that."

John Stott makes this masterful observation in his book Same Sex Relationships:

"We should not deny that homosexual relationships can be loving. But the love quality of same-sex sexual relationships is not sufficient to justify them. Indeed, I have to add that in a sense they are incompatible with true love, because they are incompatible with God’s law. Love is concerned for the highest welfare of the beloved. And our highest human welfare is found in obedience to God’s law and purpose, not in revolt against them." 

"our highest human welfare is found in obedience to God’s law and purpose, not in revolt against them.

Sam Allberry makes this observation in his book Is God Anti-Gay:

"As Western culture becomes ever more approving of homosexuality it is going to feel more and more as though we Christians are failing in our attempts to commend a Christian view of sexuality. But … this is no time for pessimism, and as society moves further and further away from its Christian moorings, the church is given more and more of an opportunity to model a counter-cultural alternative. Key to our witness and credibility on this (or any) issue is the quality of our life together, and the clarity of our message. We need to be clear on the gospel.  Clear that it is good news for everyone. That no one is too far gone to enjoy it, or too complete to need it. We need to be clear not just that we are all sinners, but that we are all sexual sinners. None of us is coming at this from any position of superiority."

"We need to be clear not just that we are all sinners, but that we are all sexual sinners."

In concluding his book, John Stott sums up the good news that we have to offer everyone—no matter what their sexual orientation:

"Perplexing and painful as the homosexual Christian’s dilemma is, Jesus Christ offers him or her—indeed, all of us—faith, hope and love: the faith to accept both his standards and his grace to maintain them, the hope to look beyond present suffering to future glory, and the love to care for and support one another. “But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). "

Image credit: Clappstar

Categories: Christian Resources

John Stott's life-changing chapter

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 11:17

Back in the mid-1990s I was an undergraduate at a university college with an evangelical heritage. An ordained staff member had just published a book suggesting that sexually active same-sex relationships were not wrong for Christians. A huge amount of controversy followed.

I sat down and read this revisionist book over the next university vacation: I didn’t want to criticise something I hadn’t explored with an open mind for myself. I read it as a young Christian not yet open about my own developing same-sex attractions. I had never come across such new ideas before but both the pain of the author’s experience and his odd methods in questioning scripture and doctrine deeply troubled me. Afterwards I needed someone who could help me respond with both pastoral compassion and biblical clarity to this book - and my own personal experience.

Looking back I have John Stott to thank for encouraging me not to seek a same-sex sexual relationship for myself.

I suspect it would have been my Dad who would have pointed me in the direction of the latest edition of John’s Stott’s Issues Facing Christians Today and this chapter on homosexuality. There I found someone who clearly both loved the people he was writing about and God’s Word. I also benefitted from the insights of an evangelical leader who was not afraid to interact with the ever-developing scientific research in this whole area and those who interpreted the bible very differently to him.

Looking back I have John Stott to thank for encouraging me not to seek a same-sex sexual relationship for myself. The characteristically careful distinctions he opens with helped me process my sexual feelings in a liveable way. His exposition of the biblical passages that speak about homosexual practice built my confidence in God’s Word. His big picture portrait of the place of marriage in the Bible and Christian doctrine enabled me to make sense of these biblical prohibitions in their wider context. His careful refutations of new interpretations and cultural attitudes exposed the flimsy premises on which they were built. But his clear pastoral love and concern for people like me also stopped me from feeling steam-rolled by the intellectual weight of what he was arguing.

In particular I can remember being moved by how he provocatively challenged his evangelical readers. Towards the end of the chapter Stott makes this incredibly important point:

“At the heart of the human condition is a deep and natural hunger for mutual love, a search for identity and a longing for completeness. If gay people cannot find these things in the local ‘church family,’ we have no business to go on using that expression.”

This was written by a man who got what I was looking for. But it was also written by a man who saw the need to challenge evangelical churches to enable me to find these life-giving things in their midst. He rightly saw that repeated talk of “church family” was not enough – it needed to become a lived reality for people like me.

A couple of decades later the ministry of www.livingout.org continues to pose a similar challenge to evangelical churches – often using Stott’s words here. We continue to need to take them seriously and use them to help break the all-pervasive idolatry of the nuclear family in society today. Wonderfully they are words that have been taken seriously by many and I keep hearing of evangelical churches in which gay people are experiencing a genuine family life - warmly welcomed and supported by their sisters and brothers in Christ.

But if that is to become a universal experience this challenge from Stott needs to be heard again. And its wider context needs to read too. Interestingly no new significant territory has been opened up in the Church’s protracted discussions on human sexuality since he wrote these words: they continue to speak with relevance into our contemporary debates.

I am so grateful to John Stott for the guidance he gave me as a young same-sex attracted Christian over twenty years ago. He helped keep me on a course that has enabled me to grow in Christ and flourish as a human being. I am delighted that this new edition will give others the chance to benefit from his wisdom and insight – in the hope and prayer that many will be encouraged to further embrace the life-giving teaching of God in Jesus Christ.

Ed Shaw is the pastor of Emmanuel City Centre in Bristol and a trustee of www.livingout.org

This is an extract from Same Sex Relationships by John Stott, a revised and updated section from Issues Facing Christians Today

Categories: Christian Resources

Is this the Bible you've been waiting for?

Mon, 10/07/2017 - 12:25

Encouraging people to open up the Bible is at the heart of what we want to do at The Good Book Company. For many of us, reading the Bible is a simple, daily activity, but for millions of individuals with sight loss, learning disabilities or lower levels of literacy, accessing God’s Word can be a real struggle.

That’s why we were delighted to welcome into our warehouse this morning copies of the new NIrV Accessible New Testament. The New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) is based on the NIV, but uses shorter sentences and simpler vocabulary.

In the UK there are there are 

  • 1.2 million people with learning disabilities
  • 360,000 people who are registered with impaired sight or who are blind, and
  • 5.2 million people who only have functional literacy

This new edition has been designed with a host of features to help people access the Bible more easily:

  • A specially designed large 16pt font
  • More white space
  • Single column setting
  • Simpler navigation
  • Some simple line illustrations that enhance the text.

It is also worth considering as an edition to give to people who have English as a Second language, and who may struggle to read the English script.

Order your copy, and watch the moving video trailer here

 

 

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Acts

Fri, 07/07/2017 - 09:12

How did you get on? Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Categories: Christian Resources

Love is love...right?

Thu, 06/07/2017 - 09:49

In this extract from Same Sex Relationships, John Stott addresses an argument commonly posed in favour of same-sex relationship…

A common argument in favour of same-sex sexual relationships borrows from Scripture the truth that love is the greatest thing in the world (which it is), and from the “new morality” or “situation ethics” of the 1960s the notion that love is an adequate criterion by which to judge every relationship (which it is not). Yet this view is gaining ground today. 

Quality of love is not the only yardstick by which to measure what is good or right. 

Back in 1979 an Anglican working party issued the report “Homosexual Relationships: A Contribution to Discussion”. Its authors did not feel able to repudiate centuries of Christian tradition, yet they “did not think it possible to deny” that in some circumstances individuals may “justifiably choose” a homosexual relationship in their search for companionship and sexual love, “similar” to those found in marriage. Surely any relationship characterised by mutual commitment, affection, faithfulness and support should be affirmed as good, not rejected as evil? It rescues people from loneliness, selfishness and promiscuity, and it can be just as rich and responsible, as liberating and fulfilling, as an opposite-sex marriage. 

In the spring of 1997, in a lecture delivered at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Bishop John Austin Baker gave his own version of this argument. Formerly Bishop of Salisbury, he had chaired the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission, as well as the drafting group which in 1991 produced the report “Issues in Human Sexuality”, which argued that while same-sex relationships could be permitted among the laity without church discipline, they were not appropriate for clergy, who were expected to live out the teaching of the church. In his lecture, he astonished the church by his apparent volte-face. The goal of Christian discipleship, he rightly affirmed, is “Christ-likeness”—that is, “a creative living out of the values, priorities and attitudes that marked his humanity”, especially of love. Now sex in marriage can be “a true making of love”, and “erotic love can and often does have the same beneficial effects in the life of same-sex couples”.

However, the argument based on the quality of same-sex love is flawed. 

Love needs the law 

While it is of course true that love is the only moral absolute, even love needs law to guide it. Not in the sense of keeping the Old Testament law in order to be saved, or in terms of observing the various requirements of the Torah which have been fulfilled in Christ. But for Christians, the moral Law has not been abolished. In emphasising love for God and neighbour as the two greatest commandments, Jesus and his apostles did not discard all the others. Indeed, the rest of the Law and the Prophets “hang” (NIV) or “depend” (ESV) on the commands to love God and neighbour (Matthew 22:40). All the other moral commands flow out from and express the commands to love God and our neighbour. They spell out more specifically how we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Or, as Paul puts it, love “sums up” and “fulfils” the Law (Romans 13:8 and 10 and Galatians 5:14). Love and Law cannot be separated. Indeed, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my command” (John 14:15). 

So then, although the loving quality of a relationship is an essential criterion, it is not by itself a sufficient criterion to authenticate such a relationship. Let me give you an illustration, drawn from my own pastoral experience. On several different occasions a married man has told me that he has fallen in love with another woman. When I have gently remonstrated with him, he has responded in words like these: “Yes, I agree, I already have a wife and family. But this new relationship is the real thing. We were made for each other. Our love for each other has a quality and depth we have never known before. It must be right.” But no, I have had to say to him, it is not right. No man is justified in breaking his marriage covenant with his wife on the ground that the quality of his love for another woman is richer. Quality of love is not the only yardstick by which to measure what is good or right. 

Similarly, we should not deny that homosexual relationships can be loving. But the love quality of same-sex sexual relationships is not sufficient to justify them. Indeed, I have to add that in a sense they are incompatible with true love, because they are incompatible with God’s law. Love is concerned for the highest welfare of the beloved. And our highest human welfare is found in obedience to God’s law and purpose, not in revolt against them. 

This is an extract from Same Sex Relationships by John Stott, a revised and updated section from Issues Facing Christians Today

Categories: Christian Resources

Love is love...right?

Thu, 06/07/2017 - 09:49

In this extract from Same Sex Relationships, John Stott addresses an argument commonly posed in favour of same-sex relationship…

A common argument in favour of same-sex sexual relationships borrows from Scripture the truth that love is the greatest thing in the world (which it is), and from the “new morality” or “situation ethics” of the 1960s the notion that love is an adequate criterion by which to judge every relationship (which it is not). Yet this view is gaining ground today. 

Quality of love is not the only yardstick by which to measure what is good or right. 

Back in 1979 an Anglican working party issued the report “Homosexual Relationships: A Contribution to Discussion”. Its authors did not feel able to repudiate centuries of Christian tradition, yet they “did not think it possible to deny” that in some circumstances individuals may “justifiably choose” a homosexual relationship in their search for companionship and sexual love, “similar” to those found in marriage. Surely any relationship characterised by mutual commitment, affection, faithfulness and support should be affirmed as good, not rejected as evil? It rescues people from loneliness, selfishness and promiscuity, and it can be just as rich and responsible, as liberating and fulfilling, as an opposite-sex marriage. 

In the spring of 1997, in a lecture delivered at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Bishop John Austin Baker gave his own version of this argument. Formerly Bishop of Salisbury, he had chaired the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission, as well as the drafting group which in 1991 produced the report “Issues in Human Sexuality”, which argued that while same-sex relationships could be permitted among the laity without church discipline, they were not appropriate for clergy, who were expected to live out the teaching of the church. In his lecture, he astonished the church by his apparent volte-face. The goal of Christian discipleship, he rightly affirmed, is “Christ-likeness”—that is, “a creative living out of the values, priorities and attitudes that marked his humanity”, especially of love. Now sex in marriage can be “a true making of love”, and “erotic love can and often does have the same beneficial effects in the life of same-sex couples”.

However, the argument based on the quality of same-sex love is flawed. 

Love needs the law 

While it is of course true that love is the only moral absolute, even love needs law to guide it. Not in the sense of keeping the Old Testament law in order to be saved, or in terms of observing the various requirements of the Torah which have been fulfilled in Christ. But for Christians, the moral Law has not been abolished. In emphasising love for God and neighbour as the two greatest commandments, Jesus and his apostles did not discard all the others. Indeed, the rest of the Law and the Prophets “hang” (NIV) or “depend” (ESV) on the commands to love God and neighbour (Matthew 22:40). All the other moral commands flow out from and express the commands to love God and our neighbour. They spell out more specifically how we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Or, as Paul puts it, love “sums up” and “fulfils” the Law (Romans 13:8 and 10 and Galatians 5:14). Love and Law cannot be separated. Indeed, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my command” (John 14:15). 

So then, although the loving quality of a relationship is an essential criterion, it is not by itself a sufficient criterion to authenticate such a relationship. Let me give you an illustration, drawn from my own pastoral experience. On several different occasions a married man has told me that he has fallen in love with another woman. When I have gently remonstrated with him, he has responded in words like these: “Yes, I agree, I already have a wife and family. But this new relationship is the real thing. We were made for each other. Our love for each other has a quality and depth we have never known before. It must be right.” But no, I have had to say to him, it is not right. No man is justified in breaking his marriage covenant with his wife on the ground that the quality of his love for another woman is richer. Quality of love is not the only yardstick by which to measure what is good or right. 

Similarly, we should not deny that homosexual relationships can be loving. But the love quality of same-sex sexual relationships is not sufficient to justify them. Indeed, I have to add that in a sense they are incompatible with true love, because they are incompatible with God’s law. Love is concerned for the highest welfare of the beloved. And our highest human welfare is found in obedience to God’s law and purpose, not in revolt against them. 

This is an extract from Same Sex Relationships by John Stott, a revised and updated section from Issues Facing Christians Today

Categories: Christian Resources

Same sex relationships: should we just agree to disagree?

Tue, 04/07/2017 - 15:04

As the Church of England’s General Synod meets this week, once again, the tortured issue of same-sex relationships will dominate the agenda. Sam Allberry is a same-sex attracted Anglican minister who has sought to be faithful to God’s will as revealed in scripture. In this blog post, he reflects on the reasons why Christians must hold firm to the traditional view on this issue.

Some issues in the Christian life matter more than others. The apostle Paul made a distinction between matters that were primary to the gospel, and issues that were not. In 1 Corinthians 15 v 3 he writes, “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance.” This is not to say that other issues are of no importance, just that they are not of first importance.

Not taking a side on this issue is to take a side. To decide it is a matter of indifference is to risk having Jesus against you.

In Romans 14:1 he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day ‘disputable matters’ issues like infant baptism, or our understanding of the end times. On such matters Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

There are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

1. The witness of the church

For virtually all of church history the people of God have held that homosexual behaviour is sinful. This is still the case for the vast majority of Christians around the world today. Those in the church who demand that we affirm homosexual behaviour are proposing something that virtually every member of the universal church would be bewildered by. And the one place where this is being pushed is in the Western church at the precise moment our culture is making this a defining issue. This should give us enormous pause.

2. The authority of Scripture

What you have to do with the Bible to make it supportive of gay relationships is profoundly un-evangelical, un-Anglican and un-Christian. There are six passages that directly mention homosexual behaviour, and all of them do so negatively. For those of us with same-sex attraction these are not easy passages to read. But they are clear in what they say and we must receive them as good words to live by.

The only way to make such passages supportive of gay relationships is by employing the most tortuous methods of interpretation to discount them. These methods include: ignoring the contexts such verses come in; and determining the meaning of key word and terms not by how the biblical author uses them but by how later secular culture uses them.

These passages are studied in detail in an excellent book by John Stott—in a freshly edited edition. John Stott remains a compelling and urgent voice in today's discussions about human sexuality, and so it is wonderful to have his work refreshed and available to the church in this format, alongside stories that underline how God's timeless word continues to bring goodness and flourishing.

3. The purpose of marriage

One of the purposes of the union of a man and woman in marriage is to display the mystery of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:32). Marriage is the visual aid of how our saviour relates to his people. If we construe marriage as being between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, then this picture is radically distorted. When we alter the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, we radically alter the gospel such marriage is meant to visualise. The Bible’s teaching on marriage alone is enough to settle the issue of homosexuality. Even if the six passages directly mentioning homosexuality were not in the Bible, we would still be clear that homosexual practise is ungodly. Christians believe what we believe about homosexuality because we believe what we believe about marriage.

4. The fate of homosexual people

Paul is very clear that the “unrighteous” will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6 v 9-11). Among the very various examples of unrighteous behaviour he lists is homosexual practise. Paul is delivering a profound warning: those who do not repent of such behaviour will not enter heaven. Eternity is at stake. To say the issue does not matter is to say that the eternal destiny of people does not matter. This is not the case with secondary issues like infant baptism or women’s ordination.

5. The censure of Christ

In Revelation 2 Jesus rebukes the church in Thyatira for tolerating someone whose teaching leads people into sexual sin (Revelation 2 v 20). We do not know if this is a lone voice or one of many (most likely “Jezebel” is not the teacher’s name). What is more significant, however,  is how Jesus responds to this situation: he is not just against those who are doing the teaching; he is against those who tolerate such teaching in their midst. Not all tolerance is godly, and it is Christ-like to be intolerant of certain things.

Not taking a side on this issue is to take a side. To decide it is a matter of indifference is to risk having Jesus against you. Read the description of him in Revelation 1 and consider if you would ever want to risk that Jesus being against you.

This is a gospel issue. When so-called evangelical leaders argue for affirmation of gay relationships in the church, I’m not saying they’re not my kind of evangelical, I’m saying they are no kind of evangelical. This is not an easy position to hold, for I have friends who hold to different views on this subject. But it is the right position to hold. For the five reasons given above, we must never allow ourselves to think of this as just another issue Christians a free to differ over.

This will inevitably bring faithful Christians into conflict with our culture. When John Stott first published Issues Facing Christians Today, he said:

 

"I have sought with integrity to submit to the revelation of yesterday within the realities of today. It is not easy to combine loyalty to the past with sensitivity to the present. Yet this is our Christian calling: to live under the Word in the world."

 

His foundational, and authoritative take on this question, recently republished by The Good Book Company as Same sex relationships is a clear and compassionate statement on this issue that has stood the test of time. I think that John Stott’s writing on this subject is still the best brief exposition of the biblical texts and arguments surrounding the issue of same-sex relationships.

Keith Sinclair, Bishop of Birkenhead, said of it, “I believe that the wisdom and insight the Lord gave John Stott will, through this republished work, help us to fulfil our calling in these days. I pray it will be widely read.”

Same Sex Relationships by John Stott is available to buy now.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: John

Fri, 30/06/2017 - 09:35

How did you get on? Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Categories: Christian Resources

Will we remember our sin in heaven?

Thu, 29/06/2017 - 10:31

What is it you most look forward to about heaven? Freedom from suffering, perhaps, or being reunited with loved ones you’ve lost. Certainly, we look forward to meeting Jesus face to face. But here’s a wonderful truth about heaven that I’m sure I don’t dwell enough: there will be no more sin in us.

We currently live our lives as “perfect sinners”. We are already perfectly justified and loved by God as our Father. That will never end. But sin will end. In the new creation we will be “simply” perfect. When Christ returns, our justification will be declared before all creation and we’ll be perfected.

The Bible happily gives us a variety of pictures of our future in glory and yet, the things we are shown about the new creation are only seen in comparison with this sinful earth. It’s surely going to be far greater than all we can ask or imagine!

We’ll know the sweetness of being forgiven but not the shame for what we’ve done.

Here are some of things we know will be true:

  1. We’ll not battle against sin

Nothing impure will ever enter it … but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21 v 27)

There is no sin in heaven and there can be no sin in us. We’ll all be given a white robe (Revelation 6 v 11) to show we’re without sin. Won’t that be wonderful?! 

No longer will we know the temptation to do wrong. No longer the frustration of falling into sin. No longer the misery of causing hurt. No longer times of losing in our battle. We will sin no more.

  1. We’ll cherish Christ rightly

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3 v 2)

How wonderful that I’ll never again have a devotional time that’s dry and leaves me unaffected. We will see Christ, hear his voice and respond passionately. It will be impossible to “go through the motions” of the Christian faith. Impossible to be half-hearted. Impossible to doubt.

  1. We’ll delight in others truly

It’s frustrating that here on earth, there are Christians we don’t always see eye to eye with. They’re our brothers and sisters, yet we disagree on some issues and ideas. We’re a little nervous in their company; we’re careful with what we say in case we cause offence or irritate them. I’m so looking forward to being perfectly one in heart and mind. 

We’ll also fully enjoy the gifts others have without any hint of jealousy. The green-eyed monster is locked out of heaven.

So, will we remember our sins?

I’m not sure the Bible addresses this question directly, yet it’s one I’ve been asked plenty of times. How can we rejoice in being forgiven but not look back in pain at our sin? In the end, we trust the Lord with this question, yet I think we are pointed towards the answer.

There are many wonderful descriptions of how the Lord views our sin. It is blotted out, wiped out, not remembered and cast into the depths of the sea (Isaiah 43 v 25; Acts 3 v 19; Hebrews 8 v 12; Micah 7 v 19). But these are descriptions of the guilt and consequences of our sin. It’s not that the Lord has selective amnesia. He chooses to not remember sin. The point is that our sin and its consequences cannot be found because they have been dealt with.

We know that, even now, the degree of our love for Christ is connected with the awareness of how deep our debt of sin is. As Jesus explained to Simon the Pharisee:

You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little. (Luke 7 v 46-47)

It seems that in heaven right now, the song of the Lamb is founded upon a recollection of sin:

And they sang a new song, saying: 

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5 v 9-10)

The blood of Jesus purchases us out of our slavery to sin. That’s what he’s being praised for.

So I think we will have an awareness of our sin, but that in our sinless state, it will not cause us distress. We’ll know the sweetness of being forgiven but not the shame for what we’ve done.

In the meantime, we live as children of God. We’re justified, loved and secure, united to Jesus Christ. We seek to put sin to death, even as we trust God’s promises that we are perfect before him.

Sin will end; perfection will not. What a day that will be.

Oh, that day when freed from sinning,

I shall see thy lovely face;

Clothed then in blood-washed linen

How I’ll sing thy wondrous grace!

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,

Take my ransomed soul away;

Send thine angels soon to carry

Me to realms of endless day.

(Robert Robinson, 1758)

 

This is adapted from Perfect Sinners: See yourself as God sees you by Matt Fuller, available now.

 

 

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Luke

Fri, 23/06/2017 - 09:36

How did you get on? Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Categories: Christian Resources

Five great reasons to skip reading your Bible this summer

Thu, 22/06/2017 - 09:34

  1. You’re on vacation!
    Vacations are for doing fun stuff: road trips, hikes, BBQs, water fights, and yeah, reading. It’s not that you don’t like the Bible, it’s just that after working hard all year, you deserve to relax with something a little, well, lighter…

  2. You’re out of routine
    You had a good work-day Bible time routine going, but now summer’s here and all the habits start to slip. The late nights and sleeping in start to stretch, neither of which is conducive to keeping your regular Bible time going.

  3. The kids are under your feet all day
    It was difficult enough trying to get time and space for Bible reading when the kids were at school all day. But now they’re at home. Making noise. And mess. “Quiet” time? No chance.

  4. No one will notice
    Your small group has wound up for the summer, and you’ll miss a couple of Sundays because you’re on vacation. For once you can let a whole week pass by without opening the Bible, and no one’s going to tell you to feel bad about it. Au revoir, guilt!  

  5. It’s too hot
    As God’s word itself says, “Our skin has become as hot as an oven” (Lamentation 5 v 10). He doesn’t expect you to focus in this heat.

****** 

Ok, so none of these are good reasons to stop reading your Bible over the summer. Yet who can honestly say they haven’t ever used one of these excuses? Not spoken out loud perhaps, but in our own minds at least. And yes, some of them really do present a genuine challenge to our habit of regular Bible reading and prayer.

Who can honestly say they haven’t ever used one of these excuses?

But imagine if this summer were different…

Imagine a summer spent savouring the presence of your Saviour.

A summer when you slow down and take time to ponder the truths of the gospel—even if it’s just fifteen minutes snatched from the chaos.

A summer when, amongst all the fun and the family time, you keep lifting your eyes to thank the Giver of all good gifts.

A summer when you discover something new about the Lord.

A summer when you steal away to read God’s word, delighting in the knowledge that no one else will know about it except the One who matters.

A summer of real spiritual growth. A summer when you arrive at the beginning of Fall spiritually refreshed…

So set your mind to make this summer different! Friends, opening up the Bible is a spiritual battle. But it’s one worth fighting. Of course, you’ll fail sometimes. And that’s ok, because you’re not saved on the basis of whether or not you read your Bible this morning. You’re saved by the one who said, “Come to me, all your who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11 v 28). Don’t you want to spend time in his presence? 

And to help you, I’d like to suggest a resource: 90 Days in Judges, Galatians and Ephesians by Timothy Keller and Richard Coekin. These open-Bible devotionals are some of the most popular readings from The Good Book Company’s Explore Quarterly range, presented in a beautiful hardback format. Keller and Coekin help you work through these Bible books with carefully crafted questions, insightful explanations and helpful application prompts. 90 Days in Judges, Galatians and Ephesians is a great aid to going deeper into the riches of Scripture this summer, as you draw closer to the Lord and gain fresh appreciation for his love for you in Christ.

Categories: Christian Resources

Please, please stop asking: “Do you have children?”

Wed, 21/06/2017 - 13:27

You’ve just met someone new, at a friend’s house, at the pub, at church. And then they ask the question that you—and many over 30s—dread: “Do you have children?”

Your heart sinks.

There’s an awkard tension and you look at your hands and respond with “No”.

“Oh…” they say.

When you meet a woman for the first time and you want to make conversation, ask us anything—even our shoe size!—just don’t ask us if our uterus is fulfilling its purpose.

It makes us feel all kinds of rubbish.

It’s like asking a single person if they are married, or a bald person if they have cancer. You just don’t do it!

And normally, it’s not even necessary. In my experience those that have children will reveal that to you within the first half hour of meeting them.

Usually it’s coming from a good place but when people ask, “Have you got kids?” I get that. They’re trying to be interested. Yet I feel like the silence that inevitably follows is deafening. I am hugely tempted to say, “Actually I’m barren” just for the kicks, but I haven’t ever had the courage to.

 My not having children is not a fact that should create pitying looks or awkward silences.

But for some women the efforts that they have undergone to try and conceive are lengthy, traumatic and painful. I’m not one of those women, although my age and my marital status mean that kids are now not likely in my future (at 33 I’m not getting any younger!).

I LOVE kids and I love to babysit and hang out with them. I find them wonderful and fascinating little humans. But my life hasn’t steered that course, and for some women it wasn’t even that they had a choice.

But sometimes people can be just plain insensitive. I recall talking to one parent who had three children and was struggling with sleep deprivation. He said to me, “Just you wait, you’ll have it all to deal with one day!” Wow, thanks… great way to encourage a sister in Christ…

For him it was a throw-away comment. But it made my heart sink.

But the thing is, within the family of God there is more than one way to be a mother. I look after teenage girls every year on a Christian summer camp. I try to be a kind and loyal friend and have been referred to as a good “mother” by lots of people that I have cared for or done life with. (Mainly because I always seem to have a pen on me or a tissue and know how to get red wine out of the carpet.) But I often find I’m a shoulder to cry on.

And that should hardly surprise us. Jesus himself said, “Truly I tell you … no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10 v 29-30) And I love how at the end of Romans Paul chooses to greet his friend Rufus, and also his mother, “who has been a mother to me, too” (Romans 16 v 13). My not having children is not a fact that should create pitying looks or awkward silences—it’s an opportunity to embrace and rejoice in being a mother in God’s family. And sometimes I need reminding of that too.

So for those that are married and blessed with children, here are a few helpful things you can do and say to love your childless friends:

  • Ask, “Do you have family nearby?” instead of “Do you have kids?” Then it gives us the chance to respond positively with other people rather than be on the backfoot all the time.
  • Get creative. There is so much more to a person than who they are married to or their children. “What do you do for work?” “What do you do to relax?” “What genre of movies do you like?” Keep it simple. In fact, many women I know with children would gladly welcome a break from talking about them!
  • Invite us to dinner and let us hang out with you. Your kids like having new people round and we get to experience a “family chaos vibe” that is missing from our own lives. Also, as we are enjoying 8 hours sleep a night we may be more likely to have the energy to deal with your crazy kids!
  • Ask us to babysit. We may well have time on our hands and our plans can be flexible. We get kids, food and wifi! But equally…
  • Don’t assume we’re not busy. I find I am busier now than I ever was, and filling my life with what is important. 
  • Ask if we have plans over the holidays or bank holiday weekends. If we don’t have plans, ask us to be part of yours. Even if we do have plans, it’s still nice to be asked so that we can have the chance to share what’s going on in our lives.
Categories: Christian Resources

The danger of personal Bible reading

Tue, 20/06/2017 - 11:57

I am so grateful for the encouragement I received as a new Christian to form good habits. To find a time and a place and a method that worked for me to meet with God in his word. The idea could be summed up in the children’s song that was old even when I first sang it:

“Read your Bible, pray every day … if you want to grow"

Over the years, the time, the place and the method has changed, but the discipline remains the same at it's core: reading and thinking about a part of God’s word, talking to the Lord about it, and the other things going on in my life, then praying for friends, family, my church and the world.

The danger

But there is a potential danger to personal Bible reading. Encouraging personal spirituality, Bible knowledge and prayerfulness is nothing but good, but it is possible for it to breed a personal faith that remains personal. There is a corporate aspect to Christian faith that must connect both with the other believers we have been called into fellowship with, and the outside world.

John Stott once described the church as a “hermeneutical community”—in plain language, we are a group of believers who are just trying to work out together what God is saying to us about the world, our lives and what is important. It’s what is supposed to happen in the gathered church week by week as we hear God’s word taught, and discuss or help one another to apply it.

In plain language, we are a group of believers who are just trying to work out together what God is saying to us.

But when this practice is cut off from others, it can create a spirituality that is lop-sided at best, and rotten at worst. We are given the knowledge of the truth to share with others in love. We are given the gospel to bear it to a lost and waiting world. And it is as we express these truths to others, that we can be helped to understand it better and have it impact us more deeply. "Expression deepens impression", as the saying goes.

This thought lies behind a new initiative we are announcing today.

We have published Explore Bible reading notes for over 20 years as part of the way we encourage and help ordinary believers to engage with God’s word day by day. But now, through the wonders of Facebook, we are introducing a way that Explore readers, editors and authors can interact with each other to share encouragements, ask questions, offer prayer requests, and to discuss application.

This group is not a substitute for regular fellowship with other believers at church or in Bible-study groups—and it's still great to share with "offline" friends about what you're reading in the Bible. But is another way you can meet with and share in the glorious hope we have in Christ. It's a way to be reminded later in the day of the truth you discovered that morning. We are hoping that this new Facebook group will be a place where you can find some positive encouragement and interaction with other believers around the world as we seek to follow Jesus together. 

Just click the link to join the group and take part.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/tgbc.explore/

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Mark

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 10:40

How did you get on? Join the conversation and comment below. You can also like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our YouTube Channel, and download The Good Book Company App straight to your phone or tablet.

Categories: Christian Resources

Four Christian responses to Tim Farron’s resignation

Thu, 15/06/2017 - 16:04

(Image credit: Liberal Democrats on Flickr)

Political leaders come. Political leaders go. It’s the way of government in democratic lands. But few have left leadership in the manner of Liberal Democrat, Tim Farron. His statement, issued yesterday, has stopped many of us in our tracks.

Whether we agree with his politics is not the issue here. We’re free to be liberal, labour, SNP, conservative or green—to name just a few of the choices in the Westminster house. As Christian evangelicals, however, we should not be unaffected by his words: “I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.”

On one level this should not surprise. The Bible says that Christians are “in but not of” the world (John 17 v 16)—there is always going to be some degree of tension between our faith and the ways of a society that holds secular values in such high esteem.

But it does beg the question, how then should we respond?

  • Is our call to analyse the intolerance of our supposedly tolerant society towards many of Christian faith?
  • Is our path to rail against the prejudice seen in some recent interviews online?
  • Or should we criticise Tim Farron for the ways he could have acted differently in debates in recent months? He openly admits there are times his words were not as wise as they could be.
  • Or maybe we should withdraw. Submit to those in authority as Romans 13 reminds us, but do so at a safe distance, never dipping our toe in the political pond which, after all, has previously said it “doesn’t do God”.
  • Perhaps we should stay silent. Keep our faith a private affair—acquiescing to the notion that politics and religion are best left undiscussed?

I can see the attraction in all those paths. Many others too will see their appeal. But there may be better ways to respond this week. Certainly, there is a case for addressing our hearts before opening our mouths. At the very least, there is a call to respond in the follow four ways:

1. Respond in prayer

There are still evangelical Christian MPs in the House of Commons. Tim Farron is indeed one of those. There are many evangelicals engaged in grass roots politics across the land. Their hearts are likely to be torn. We are called to pray for them—and all others involved in politics. As Paul reminded Timothy in his letter so many centuries ago, we need to sink to our knees each and every day:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2 v 1-2)

2. Respond in love

There will be conversations today—in many and varied ways. In offices, on building sites, at school gates, in Bible study groups, questions will be asked and opinions sought. Social media posts already abound – each crying out for a comment or retweet. How will we reply? Will we honour our brother in Christ who has stepped down from his post with such a heavy heart? He is part of our family—the church worldwide—one of the people we are called to love (John 15 v 12). Will we be patient with those who argue or would pour on scorn? Will we forgive those who unleash contempt on what we believe and hold dear? Will we show them the same grace that Christ has shown us?

3. Respond in truth

Giving a reason for the hope we have in Christ is part of what is means to live for God (1 Peter 3 v 15). Whatever our political persuasion, if people know we are evangelical Christians (and I sincerely hope they do) they may want to know why we believe what we do. Let’s pray that the discussions provide ample opportunities to share what our faith really means. Maybe, just maybe, this will be a catalyst for more open and honest conversations about God with those who hold politics dear. Wouldn’t that be a joy in the Kingdom of God?

4. Respond in faith

Whatever our feelings on recent events, we can be sure God’s sovereignty holds firm. And, along with our brothers and sisters across the globe—many of whom face far worse political struggles than this—we can rejoice that all things are under his loving, sovereign control.

And all of faith can echo Tim Farron’s final words: “Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, [it] demands my heart, my life, my all.’”

Helen Thorne is the Training and Mentoring Director of London City Mission and a Lib Dem supporter. Helen is the author of Purity is Possible.

Categories: Christian Resources

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