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 23 posts from the blog 'The Good Book Company.'

Disclaimer: Reproducing an article here need not necessarily imply agreement or endorsement!

Subscribe to The Good Book Company feed
The Good Book Blog
Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

Friday Quiz: The Minor Prophets

Fri, 26/05/2017 - 11:25

What score did you get? 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

Tim Keller on How to Forgive

Wed, 24/05/2017 - 14:27

Whether it’s our spouse, friend, colleague, child… Forgiving people is hard. So here’s a brief reminder from Tim Keller on the day-to-day discipline of forgiving those who have wronged us.

The only way to avoid bitterness and angry resentment is to practice forgiveness. How can we do this? Three ways:

1. Realize what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is granted before it is felt (Luke 17 v 3-6). It is a promise to not bring up the wrong with the person, or with others, or in your own thoughts; not to dwell on the hurt or nurse ill-will.

2. Realize how forgiveness is possible. We will only forgive if and as we see and feel the reality of God’s massive and costly forgiveness of us through Christ. Only knowing how vast our debt to God was, and that it is now canceled, will enable us to have perspective on someone else’s debt to us (Matthew 18 v 21-35).

3. Forgive before we try to be reconciled (Mark 11 v 25). That way we won’t approach someone angrily, or try to “beat” them. We will be able truly to seek to restore the relationship.

(From 90 Days in Judges, Galatians and Ephesians, a devotional by Tim Keller and Richard Coekin)

Categories: Christian Resources

Five things to pray after the Manchester attack

Tue, 23/05/2017 - 09:53

Photo credit: 'MEN Arena & Strangeways Prison' by Mikey on Flickr (image cropped)

Perhaps your heart broke as you switched on the news this morning and saw pictures of last night’s terror attack in Manchester. But if you’re a Christian, you’re not powerless to help—you can pray. You have the ear of the God of the universe; so here are five things to ask him, based on Psalm 56.

1. For those in danger

“Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack” (v 1).

Pray for those people whose lives are in danger right now, as they lie critically ill in hospital or are separated from their family. Ask God to show mercy to them and protect them.

2. For the fearful

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (v 3).

Last night’s events make us feel vulnerable. We start to worry that something like that could happen to us, or to the people we love. Thank God that when we’re trusting in Christ, we do not need to fear death; we can say confidently with David, “What can mere mortals do to me?” (v 4). Pray for some specific people you know who are afraid of a world that seems out of control—ask that this sense of helplessness would drive them to the Lord, who is in control.

3. For the wicked

“Because of their wickedness do not let them escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down” (v 7).

Ask God to help the police and intelligence service identify whether anyone else was involved in planning this attack, and to find them and bring them to justice. Thank God that no wickedness will ultimately go unpunished, since one day everyone will face his perfect justice.

4. For the grieving

“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (v 8)

Thank God that he hears the cries of those who are mourning—not one tear shed will be forgotten or unaccounted for in God’s faultless reckoning of the world on judgment day. Ask him to comfort the grieving in their misery, especially with this promise.

5. For survivors

“You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (v 13).

The news brings reports of casualties—but it tells stories of survivors too. So thank God for those he has delivered from physical death. Ask God to extend his spiritual rescue to them too—that they would come to see Jesus as the light of the world, and spend the rest of their life walking with him.

Adapted from 5 Things to Pray for Your World: Prayers That Change Things for Your Community, Your Nation, and the Wider World by Rachel Jones (Out September 1).

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Hosea

Fri, 19/05/2017 - 09:44

What score did you get? 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

“I killed him with love in my heart”: the complex and painful tragedies at the heart of assisted suicide

Thu, 18/05/2017 - 12:13

In 2008, Frances Inglis, injected her son Tom with a massive overdose of heroin, which ended his life. Tom had become brain-damaged, after an accident; he was paralysed, doubly incontinent and unable to communicate. Francis, a mother of three who worked with adults and children with learning and physical disabilities, considered what she did a “mercy killing”. In court, she admitted killing him, saying, “I did it with love in my heart”—as his mother, she couldn’t bear to see him in that state. She was convicted of murder and given a life sentence. Frances was released after serving five years in prison.

Around the same time, Kay Gilderdale was also in court. Her 31-year-old daughter Lynn had been paralysed since she was 14. In frequent agony, she received a constant supply of the painkiller morphine through a syringe driver into her veins. But, unlike Tom Inglis in the previous story, Lynn was able to communicate through sign language, and participated in online forums through a hand-held computer. She laid bare her frustrations, describing her “miserable excuse for a life” and adding, “I can’t keep hanging on to an ever-diminishing hope that I might one day be well again”.

One night she pleaded with her mother for over an hour to end her life. Kay surrendered to her wishes and gave her daughter extra doses of morphine, which Lynn self-administered. When the dose did not prove fatal, Kay injected her with more morphine, and pumped three syringes of air into her veins. Lynn eventually died of morphine poisoning. A jury found Kay not guilty of attempted murder, but she was convicted of the lesser charge of aiding and abetting suicide. The sentence was suspended, so she walked free from court.

Kate Cheney, 85, had terminal cancer and told her doctor that she wanted assisted suicide, which is legal in her home state of Oregon, USA. The doctor was concerned that she didn’t meet the required criteria for mental competence because of dementia, so he declined to write the requested prescription and instead referred her to a psychiatrist, as required by law. She was accompanied to the psychiatric consultation by her daughter. The psychiatrist found that Kate had a loss of short-term memory, and reported that it appeared that her daughter had more interest in Cheney’s assisted suicide than did the patient herself. He wrote in his report that while the assisted suicide seemed consistent with Kate’s values, “she does not seem to be explicitly pushing for this”.

He also determined that Kate did not have the “very high capacity required to weigh options about assisted suicide”, and therefore declined to authorize the lethal prescription.



Reports suggest that Kate seemed to accept the psychiatrist’s verdict, but that her daughter did not. Her daughter viewed the guidelines protecting her mother’s life as obstacles, and in a press interview she called them a “roadblock” to Kate’s right to die, and demanded a second opinion. This was provided by a clinical psychologist, who expressed concern about familial pressure, writing that Kate’s decision to die “may be influenced by her family’s wishes”. Despite these reservations, the psychologist determined that Kate was competent to choose death. She was given pills, which she later took to end her own life.

This case is one of many that has given concern—in places where assisted suicide is legal—that the process is open to abuse. It may be possible to circumvent safeguards by “shopping” for an agreeable professional, and there is a real danger of family pressure.

Stories such as these appear regularly in the media 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. It may be that you know that all too well from your own experience, perhaps because you, or someone you love, suffers from a terrible progressive condition, such as Alzheimer’s, or has received a terminal diagnosis.

As I was preparing to write Assisted Suicide, 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 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.

Many people live with a desire to end their lives. Perhaps you or someone close to you is one of them, whether because of illness, mental distress, a concern not to be a burden to others or fear that a progressive condition will make life unbearable. We all know in principle that we are mortal and that death is inevitable, but there are times when those realities especially press upon us. What the apostle Peter says in his letter resonates with us all:


"All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, and the flower falls…" (1 Peter 1 v 24)

The question is: should others be free to help us end our lives? How can we navigate this complex area filled with heart-wrenching stories and painful choices? Peter points us towards the source of the help we need in the words that finish his sentence:

 
"… but the word of the Lord endures for ever."

Read more in Assisted Suicide by Vaughan Roberts - designed to brief Christians and help them think through the personal and ethical issues around assisted dying.

Categories: Christian Resources

Why faith is like flying: what to do when your faith feels weak

Wed, 17/05/2017 - 10:18

My wife, Ceri, suffers with vertigo. If we go up a turret in an old castle and look out from the top, she’ll freak out and scream, “Hold on to the children”. Logically it’s quite hard for a toddler to leap over a one-metre-high wall, but that’s the thing about irrational fears… they’re irrational. As Ceri describes it, her legs turn completely to jelly on top of a castle turret and she feels as if she’s going to fall. The truth she needs to know is that her safety doesn’t depend on her legs, but upon the castle’s solid walls.

Look at Jesus, not at yourself

It’s easy to live the Christian life looking at our legs rather than at the solid ground. So we worry about the strength of our faith, rather than looking at the object of our faith: Jesus. Partly that’s a problem with Christian shorthand. We often use the phrase: “We’re justified by faith”. Happily that does not mean that we’re justified by the quality of our faith. It does mean that we’re justified by faith in Jesus.

It would be a disaster if it was the quality of our faith that put us in right standing with God. Sometimes our faith feels strong; sometimes it feels weak. Sometimes we trust the Lord in our actions; sometimes we don’t. Our faith is highly variable. So it’s a relief that our salvation doesn’t rest upon the quality of our faith, but upon Jesus! Our faith may go to jelly, but he is the solid ground upon which we stand.

Our faith may go to jelly, but Jesus is the solid ground upon which we stand.

Faith contributes nothing to our righteous status. It merely connects us to Jesus. Faith is worthless, unless it is faith in Christ.

I used to work with a woman who hated flying. Before any flight she’d take several tablets of valium to calm her nerves. On take off, she’d close her eyes and grip my hand until I wanted to scream with pain. By contrast, I’ve never been a nervous flyer. Yet at the end of the flight, both of us arrived at the same destination. For her it had been stressful; for me (apart from a sore hand) it was very relaxing. I was confident in my faith in the plane. She was not. But we both got there. Our faith is somewhat like our confidence in flying. Jesus takes us to heaven whether our faith is strong or anxious.

I know too many Christians who spend a lot of time worrying about their faith. It is not the strength of your faith that brings you righteousness. It is the strength of your Saviour.

A better phrase to use

Rather than using the shorthand expression, “We’re justified by faith”, it might be healthier to say, “Jesus justifies us by faith in him”. It’s a little clumsier but more accurate. It stops us looking at our own wobbly faith and helps us to look at him.

You are not justified by your faith, but by faith that unites you to Jesus, who justifies you.

Martin Luther suggested that “faith clasps Christ as a ring clasps its jewel”. No one looks at a ring and comments upon the clasp. It’s the jewel that sparkles; it’s the jewel that’s special; and it’s the jewel that costs the money! The jewel is valuable and the clasp holds onto it. Yet, there’s a greater degree of intimacy than that. Righteousness is not a substance thrown across God’s heavenly courtroom. It is intimacy with a person: Jesus. It’s not the quality of your faith that makes you acceptable to God. It is Jesus who makes you acceptable, and Christians are united to him.

You are not justified by your faith, but by faith that unites you to Jesus, who justifies you.

There’s a man at our church that I’ll call Raymond, whose attendance is patchy. On past occasions he has stated, “I don’t feel like I belong in church. I just can’t forget what I’ve done in the past. I can’t ignore how I’ve lived. I can’t let it go.”

I don’t want to be trite, but we always come back to this fact: “Raymond, it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. Don’t look at your own life. Don’t look at your own faith. Stop looking at yourself and look at Jesus.”

This is an extract from Matt Fuller’s new book, Perfect Sinners: See yourself as God sees you, which is available now.

Categories: Christian Resources

"I walked away from Alice, the love of my life": same sex attraction and the cost of discipleship

Tue, 16/05/2017 - 12:22

This moving story of one woman’s struggle to remain faithful to the Bible’s teaching is one example of the many thousands in our churches...

Alice was everything I had ever wanted in a partner. After two previous long-term relationships and a few dalliances, I just knew that she was “it”. We were destined to grow old together.

And then randomly, as a non-believer, I started reading the Bible.

When I wasn’t at work, I had my head stuck in this book, and was devouring every word in front of me. During the subsequent months, although I don’t recall reading any of the specific passages, I came to realise that my gay life and behaviour were simply not compatible with this holy and all-powerful God. I just knew that I couldn’t become a Christian and continue with life as I knew it.

I just knew that I couldn’t become a Christian and continue with life as I knew it.

This left me in a dilemma, for I had only been attracted to my own gender since childhood. The sense of feeling different began around the age of three and only ever deepened and clarified as I entered puberty. While my friends at school started to drool over pictures of pop stars and became giddy at the sight of certain lads from the boys’ school, I longed to be the recipient of their affection. I longed to love and be loved. In the 1970s, however, these were not the kind of feelings to which one could admit. I entered university at 18, finally finding other like-minded women, and soon engaged in my first physical relationship.

Over time, being gay not only felt completely natural to me, but it also became central to who I was as a person; and besides, at this particular stage in my life, I loved and was committed to Alice. The ideal scenario would be for me to become a Christian and continue actively living my life as a gay woman.

I didn’t speak to anyone about my conflict, and in those days, there was precious little to read on the subject. As much as I wanted to absorb Christianity into my life, the more I read God’s word, the less I was convinced that this was possible. This God, if he was who he said he was, demanded so much more than mere integration; he demanded sole rights.

And yet, I was smitten. I was being been wooed by someone who offered everything—everlasting life and love, protection and vision, peace and unfailing commitment. In return, however, this someone demanded that I lay aside all that I had ever known and commit fully to a person I hardly knew.

The angels may well have been rejoicing in heaven at the moment of my conversion, but joy was far from me. I knew that what I was doing was right, but I cried tears of sorrow knowing, at least in part, the immediate cost of taking up the cross of obedient discipleship. I walked away from Alice, the love of my life, a keenly anticipated future, and a mindset that had been fashioned over a 25-year period. My conversion to Christ happened at 2:30 am on January 23 1985.

It would be a lie to say that these past 32 years have been ones of unremitting joy. Like everyone else, my life has been a mixture of both blessings and loss. Choosing to live life in obedience to God’s created order is a tough call for every believer, irrespective of orientation, attraction or marital status. But it is not an impossible call, and neither does it automatically resign a man or woman to lifelong doom and gloom. However, I haven’t always found the single life to be one of endless joy and satisfaction. I have often found it to be a difficult and lonely path, especially during my 30s and early to mid-40s when my contemporaries seemed fully focused on and engaged in marriage and child-rearing. During that time, their friendships seemed forged at the school gates and via their children’s friends and hobbies. It was hard not to think back to seemingly happier days (Numbers 11:5) and wonder “what if?”.

Obedience to God’s word truly offers a quality of life that far exceeds the cost of commitment.

But obedience to God’s word truly offers a quality of life that far exceeds the cost of commitment. Denying myself the easy option of self-satisfaction has exposed the sin-infected attitudes and behaviours that are inherent in all who fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and has driven me to find solace and solution in him. This treasured relationship has opened the door to service both in my local church and all around the world.

This is an extract from Same Sex Relationships —an updated and extended edition of John Stott’s masterful exposition of the subject from Issues Facing Christians Today. It is launched on July 1.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Daniel

Fri, 12/05/2017 - 11:23

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

Three great soundbites that make terrible theology

Thu, 11/05/2017 - 15:20

Punchy sound bites are great—they’re memorable and help us get some things clear in our head. Jesus often used punchy sentences without any nuance: “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.” Yet most of us recognise that if we turned that sentence of great preaching into an absolute statement, then they would be a lot of Christians stumbling around without any eyes.

There are other very helpful sound bites that often get used in church. They are good preaching and make a helpful impression upon us. But, again, we don’t want to turn them into absolute statements or our faith will similarly stumble. Let me mention three common ones related to sin.

1. “There’s nothing I can do to make God love me more, or love me less”

On one hand that is wonderfully true! Our status before the LORD is secured by our union with Christ. The Christian is one who is justified, adopted and dearly loved by the Father, not because of our performance, but because of Christ’s performance. Jesus is sat down at God’s right hand; we are united to Jesus and so that’s where we belong. Nothing can ever move us.

So, Yes! Nothing I do affects the status of God’s love for me.

Jesus is sat down at God’s right hand - we are united to Jesus and so that’s where we belong.

And yet…

We can bring the Lord pleasure and we are able to bring him grief. It is not the case that our actions are completely without consequence. As one example, we can bring more pleasure to the Lord by giving sacrificially:

“I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4 v 18)

On the other hand, we can also bring grief to the LORD:

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Philippians 4 v 30)

Although consideration needs to be given to how God accommodates his language to us, the headline here is clear: We can bring pleasure to God. Isn’t that fabulous! Despite our motives always being mixed, despite our sin, the things we do for the Lord matter and can please him.

The status we have as a loved child cannot vary, but the pleasure we bring to the Lord can. When you’re united to Christ you can do things that make God proud of you as his child.

2. “Christians shouldn’t feel guilty. Jesus has taken it all”

Again, this is wonderfully true. When we’ve confessed our sin, we are meant to know liberation from guilt.

However, we do need to confess our sin!

I recently was involved with a man who had been having an extra-marital affair for more than a year. He felt that his marriage was sexually disappointing and so he deserved to have sex outside of his marriage. He lived guilt free for over a year.

I really wish he had felt guilty. That particular Christian should have felt guilty. He was guilty! Until the point where he cracked and felt guilt and then confessed his sin, he could have no assurance that Jesus had paid for his sin. He was very much in the category of 1 Corinthians 6 v 9:

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

“Christians shouldn’t feel guilty” is a good sound bite for the repentant Christian, but a terrible one for the person who remains in their guilt and is unrepentant.

3. “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.”

Again, there’s helpful truth here. Every sin naturally cuts us off from the living God, but the Christian knows that Jesus has atoned for each and every sin so that God’s love cannot be removed from us.

The Christian, who is united to Christ, can say: “God loves me, even though he hates my sins.” Yet it is not a true statement for someone who is not yet a Christian:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” (John 3 v 36)

If we hold onto some Biblical truths at the expense of others, then we may end up blinding ourselves.

Although God loves the sinful world—that’s his general stance or disposition—he also hates those who have rebelled against him. God loves every human being as one of his creatures, yet he hates them as sinners. When you become a Christian, you know that God’s wrath has fallen upon Christ and so now God loves you, not merely as his creation, but as his child.

So it’s a true sound bite… for some people.

So, punchy sound bites can be of great use in communicating one biblical truth vividly. We don’t want to nuance every sentence we say. Jesus didn’t. Yet we do also need to be aware that if we hold onto some Biblical truths at the expense of others, then we may end up blinding ourselves.

Discover more in Matt Fuller’s new book, Perfect Sinners: See yourself as God sees you.

What do you think? 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

How should Christians be distinctive in the way that we care for the elderly?

Wed, 10/05/2017 - 11:22

What do you think? 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

He has done all things well: reflections on losing my dad

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 11:58

We went against the wishes of my dad to be cremated and instead we had him buried.

My mum joked that she hadn’t followed his instructions in life and she wasn’t going to start changing now, but the reality was that her humour hid the pain. In the grief of the aftermath of my dad's death, the flames of cremation were a step too far.

In our minds cremation would have been one more act of violence upon his tired and broken body, and with the losses of a double leg amputation in the months before he died, it was one final physical act of destruction that we couldn’t endure.

His six foot four frame had been reduced first by one limb and then by the second… the gap between each loss being only a matter of weeks. His compromised circulation after multiple aneurism repairs had proved too much for his fragile blood supply and the colour of his legs slowly changed from a healthy pink to a dull grey, and then a distressing black.

Having already survived four previous heart surgeries, and lengthy recoveries, it seemed a cruel after-effect and a bitter consequence of a story that appeared to be turning a corner.

But he was here. And we were planning his homecoming.

The hospital’s occupational health team had visits planned to convert our home into one in which my dad could still move around. There was talk of putting in a lift that would create an access point through the ceiling. A ramp was going to be installed. And we felt that the wait to have him home was coming to a close.

But then, one summer afternoon a huge bleed, which the hospital couldn’t predict or prevent, poured through his body and all my hopeful anticipation of his homecoming evaporated, as he left us to be with his Savior.

The devastation to our hearts was complete.

But the surprising and altogether unwanted appearance in the mix of emotions churning in my heart was anger.

I was angry. Furious even. As my mind raced through the events of the last months I was angry and defiant that the Sovereign God who knew ALL things had allowed us to walk such a road when, in the end, even extreme medical intervention would not ultimately save my dad’s life.

Surely it would have been better if he’d died on the surgeon’s table months before if the end was already in sight? The indignity of amputation, the upset of one and then another felt like a cruel and unnecessary journey, as did the hopeful anticipation that one day he would be home with us again.

I couldn’t understand it. I knew that I would have done it so differently. Better even. How could God have got this so wrong?

I would have chosen a different road.
I would have chosen less suffering, less pain, less time.

Less time? Would I really have chosen less time? My thinking turned a corner as my 21-year-old self considered the implications of the way I might have chosen.

Could I really write off so easily the last months we’d had together purely because they were difficult?

And because they were hard did that mean that they were bad?

If they were easier would that alone have made them good?

And as I reflected I remembered the bitter-sweet hospital visits in those last few months, in which my dad shared observations from life in a hospital bed and we regaled him with stories from outside the confines of the hospital. I recalled us laughing, when yet again, I sat down heavily on the bed and he jumped, thinking I was on his legs. I re-visited the sweetness of the open emotions and the conversations that even now I hold precious.

In those closing months there were moments that I would not, could not, exchange for a different story.

Vaughan Roberts has described the experience of caring for his dying father as “intensely sad and yet also, in a strange way, profoundly beautiful”. I too have found that to be true.

I helped my dad shave, held his hand, wheeled him outside to enjoy the sunshine. He gave me words of encouragement for my future; I fetched him a carton of cold milk and a packet of Doritos from the cafeteria. He complained about the hospital food and I smuggled in a McDonalds.

In that hot little curtained-off bay in the middle of a busy hospital he sang Sunday School choruses from his childhood. He spoke of Jesus to anyone who would listen, and even more determinedly to those who would not. And in those last moments he spoke of seeing angelic ‘outriders’ waiting for him.

He was preparing to go home... Not to our little 3-bed terraced housed in Tottenham, North London, but to a glorious, heavenly, everlasting home in which the saints were preparing to line the way to celebrate his homecoming.

In my fallen wisdom I would have chosen another way—less suffering, less tears, less difficulty. But then I would never have known these and many other such treasures that a different story would have left written out.

In one of our last conversations my dad shared with me, as he often did, a poem frequently found in the writings of Corrie Ten Boom, but whose author is unknown,“My life is but a weaving”. In the final verse it proclaims with tear-jerking confidence the goodness of our Saviour in every circumstance:

Not ’til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
will God unroll the canvas
and reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
in the Weaver’s skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
in the pattern he has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
who leave the choice to Him.

My wisdom is fallen and my heart inclines towards ease, but my dad knew it—and he brought me to see it too—that even in the darkest of threads, the Saviour in his infinite wisdom "has done all things well” (Mark 7 v 37).

Explore more about the Christian worldview on end of life care and assisted dying in Assisted Suicide by Vaughan Roberts.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Ezekiel

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 11:04

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

More meaningful confession: four ways to keep it fresh

Thu, 04/05/2017 - 11:45

I suggested in my previous post four reasons why it is vital to retain corporate confession in church services. Namely, that confession is at the core of the Christian life; it prevents the ever-present temptation to self-righteousness; the Bible models; it and the Lord delights in it. This is the reality of the Christian life: we are justified and forgiven, but remain sinners.

Here are some suggestions for making our times of confession more helpful.

1. Vary when and how

One major objection to confession I’ve heard is that it’s easy for people to drift off mentally when you say something out loud by rote. Well, possibly. But don’t forget that people can drift off in singing, they can drift off during a Bible reading, in a conversation, and, sometimes, even in a sermon! You can try and help by introducing confessions in a varied way, changing whether you sit or stand or kneel, and by varying at which point in the service you do it.  Sometimes it’s an appropriate way to respond to a sermon.

2. Keep it serious but ultimately joyful

Confession shouldn’t feel gloomy—it should feel real. And confession should always be followed with hope-filled words of assurance that through Christ, all our sin is forgiven. In our church we often follow the confession and assurance with a joyful song focusing upon the cross and our forgiveness. It reflects the pattern of healthy Christian living to have a corporate confession and then words of gospel assurance.

It reflects the pattern of healthy Christian living to have corporate confession and then words of gospel assurance.

3. Make time and be varied

If we are convinced that corporate confession is important we’ll want to give it appropriate time—not just a segment to get through before we move on to the next song or the notices. Our sins are many and varied, and so our confessions can vary too. We sin by omission (things we haven’t done) as well as commission (things we have done). We sin as individuals, but also as a whole church. We sin against God, and against others, and against God’s good creation.

Why not give some proper time to silent personal confession, and focus your suggestions on a specific area of life: our tongues, our consumption, our prayerlessness, etc. I’ve found that simply listing—in general terms—the things I know that I have failed in has often resonated powerfully with my congregation.

4. Source widely

There is some advantage in using a single form of confession—we learn the words, and they can burrow deep into our souls. But any prayer can wear thin over time, and become something that bypasses our minds as we say the words. So, to keep it fresh, why not hunt out some new ways of confessing.

a. From the past

Using some well written prayers from the past is good for us. The language can be startling and profound. The confessions from The Book of Common Prayer, or the Puritan prayers from The Valley of Vision or on this site can be useful.

b. From the Bible

Use sections of penitential psalms like Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 or 143. Or paraphrase other Bible confessions such that of Nehemiah (1 v 4-11). Or create a confession from some selected verses from a chapter of Proverbs.

c. In song

There are some terrific songs and hymns that can be used as confessions. God made me for himself is an example of a traditional hymn that can be sung seated or kneeling. There are many others that you can use in a similar way.

Explore more about how to think, feel and act as those who are both perfect saints and wicked sinners in Matt Fuller’s new book, Perfect Sinners: See yourself as God sees you.

How do you do corporate confession in your church? 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 reasons every church service needs a time of confession

Wed, 03/05/2017 - 11:01

I don’t get out much.

That is, I’m a church pastor and so I don’t often get the chance to visit other churches. So when I took a sabbatical a couple of years ago, I took the opportunity to attend lots of different churches. There were lots of things I learned and loved, and some new ways of doing things that I thought I could adapt to my own meetings. But it quickly became clear that corporate confession in church—that is, all saying a prayer of confession together—had become a rarity.

I can understand why. We think that people just drift off mentally when we all start saying something out loud together. Some people think it sounds a bit cultish. And it’s just, well, a bit gloomy. And so it drifts off the agenda.

But I think this is bad… Really bad.

Confession is inherent to the Christian life. We approach the Lord as sinners who are loved and forgiven as his children. That’s simply who we are, according to the Christian gospel. If we neglect either of these truths, our Christian life is going to get distorted pretty quickly—so we want to remember both when we gather as church.

Here are four reasons why having a corporate confession matters:

1. It is worship that the Lord delights in

“These are the ones I look on with favour: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66 v 2)

Every church is going to say that it worships God when it gathers. But we tend to associate worship with the more upbeat moments of the gathering—singing, inspiring preaching, etc. Yet one thing that honours the Lord and worships him rightly is humble confession; a contrite spirit. He looks in favour upon those who come before him and say, “We’re truly sorry and repentant.”

Why would we ignore something that pleases God and moves him to look on us with favour?

2. It is the shape of Christian living

The whole Christian life is one of repentance and faith. Repentance should deepen our delight in the gospel. Without it, our thanks for the cross is a vague pleasure in someone being kind to us. When we are penitent confessors we are acknowledging our deep need for Jesus.

When we are penitent confessors we are acknowledging our deep need for Jesus.

Confession also allows us to be honest and real with ourselves and one another. We don’t have to pretend that we’re good people. We can admit that we’ve done all sorts of things wrong that week, which means that we only approach the Lord through the forgiveness won by Christ.

So we come to confession with both regret and relief. A deep regret at how we’ve failed our heavenly father but a wonderful relief that he still loves us. It’s in this sense that we always live at the foot of the cross—conscious of our sin but praising our Saviour.

I’m also conscious that, for some believers, Sunday really is where they meet with God. We may wish that everyone had a daily time of Bible reading and prayer, but the reality is that many, perhaps most, will limp through the week with a perfunctory prayer life. So, it’s essential that we help those people to live an authentic Christian life. That means confession and then words of gospel assurance must be built into the pattern of our services.

3. It prevents self-righteousness

Corporate confession is a great leveller. It’s something every person in church does and so we’re declaring that all of us have fallen short of the glory of God and all of us need to come for forgiveness. A corporate confession prevents our “inner Pharisee” from looking around the room and saying: “God, I thank you that I’m not like…”

The corporate confession is a reminder that we need to be gracious to one another. Some of us hide our sin pretty well. But we all still have it.

The corporate confession is a reminder that we need to be gracious to one another.

And it’s important too for those among us who are not yet Christians. If the believers they see are genuinely penitent, and freely confessing to our sins, yet joyously rejoicing in our forgiveness, we are modelling a gospel life to them, and will be far away from the caricature of “hypocritical Christians”.

4. The Bible models it

There are some obvious moments in the Bible when the people of God gather and express their collective guilt:

“The Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads … They stood in their places and confessed their sins.” (Nehemiah 9 v 1)

Then there a number of Psalms which were personal confession that have been turned into corporate songs to be sung when believers gather:

“For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51 v 1-2)

“You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 69 v 5)

But perhaps your objections remain… so we’ll look at those in part 2 tomorrow, and make some suggestions for some fresh and creative ways to conduct corporate confession.

Matt Fuller’s new book, Perfect Sinners: See Yourself as God Sees You, explores how Christians live “in the tension” of being both perfect saints and wicked sinners.

Do you do corporate confession in your church? 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

Friday Quiz: Lamentations

Fri, 28/04/2017 - 10:57

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

Christian, what does God think of you?

Thu, 27/04/2017 - 11:14

What do you think? 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

Two broken hearts, one faithful Father

Wed, 26/04/2017 - 10:41

As soon as we saw the finished manuscript, we knew Hope When It Hurts was going to be a very special book; and so as a marketing team we wanted a special way to launch it. As part of that, one of the things we’ve been running is the Hope When It Hurts stories project.

The premise was simple: we would ask people to share a photo and their story of how God has given them hope in hard times from the Hope When It Hurts Facebook page.

But frankly, the results have been astounding. It has been such a joy to have stories of God’s faithfulness popping into my inbox over the last couple of months. Stories about different people from all over the world facing all kinds of heartaches: chronic illness, infertility, abuse and accidents. But stories about the same Almighty Father, who has been good to every one.

So here are just two stories of those—but if you haven’t already, do head to the Hope When It Hurts Facebook page to see them all:

Emily’s story:

When I was 18 I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological condition. My hands feel weak and are at times unresponsive, my legs grow tired easily, and my nerves cry out in pain at their servitude. My muscles are shrinking over time and my balance and stability on my feet is poor. I struggle with controlling small movements, I drop things, I get angry. But most of all, I feel afraid for the future.



There's a lyric from a Casting Crowns track that says, “There's a place where fear has to face the God you know.” And for me it captures perfectly the stand-off that has to happen when fear and pain dominate your thinking. When fear meets God, there's only ever going to be one winner. Fear is forced to back down when it comes face to face with the mercy and the grace of our King.


…But conquering fear is not a one time thing. It's a day by day thing.

And I've found that when fear rises, the best thing I can do is to speak the truth about God. Not just about all that He has shown me through His Word but by re-iterating the unfaltering faithfulness that He has shown to me in my life. There are peaks of God's faithfulness that stand out in the landscape of my mind, and when I count the mercies and the blessings and the answered prayers, and the ways in which God has used other people to show me more of Himself, then my fear and frustration falls down in the presence of the Rock of Ages.

God may not protect me from further suffering to come. But the promise-maker and the promise-keeper has promised me this, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”, and on this promise I can stand.

Karen’s story:

To the outsider, it looked like my husband and I perfectly timed the purchase of our first home (and dog) just before announcing our pregnancy. But the reality is that our journey began with nearly three years of infertility—days, months and years of sadness, confusion, and most regrettably, heavy questions for God about how this could possibly be the story he was writing.



I had always dreamed of having a family, but this vision for my life was fading and consumed every corner of my heart. I had to hold fast to the promise that my worth and identity would never be in whether or not I was a mother, but fully rested in the fact that “to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).



Our son was born in 2014, and when I thought the challenges were behind us, we had a miscarriage the following year. God almost instantly began using the hardship of loss to show me afresh the power of His word, and to minister to others who carried the same burden. Though 2016 brought us a daughter (and we praise God deeply for her!), having children doesn’t erase a painful journey as many think. Rather, the Lord continues to use these experiences to reveal his purpose and his power as he shapes me into the woman he’s calling me to be.

Would you like to be part of the Hope When It Hurts stories project? To share your story, email hopewhenithurts@thegoodbook.com

Categories: Christian Resources

Frontline ministry: Life Explored in Leeds

Tue, 25/04/2017 - 09:54

Katherine, Publicity Secretary of Leeds University Union Christian Union reports on their mission week and shares how Life|Explored is allowing students to continue conversations about their big questions.

From 13-17th February, Leeds University Union Christian Union held a week of events called Something More. We met to pray every morning before going onto campus to flyer and share the gospel. Students were invited to lunchtime and evening events, which we held in our marquee in the centre of campus. Lunchtime talks included big questions like ‘Heartless: How can a God of love allow suffering?’ and evening events gave opportunity to search deeper into the purpose of life, with talks like ‘Something More than the here and now. Is there life after death?’. The marquee was packed with over 100 people for each event and in the afternoons the Something More café was buzzing with gospel conversations.

At the end of the week we had about 100 people who wanted to know more and we needed to follow up! Many of these will meet one-to-one with a Christian to read Uncover John’s gospel. Some have attended church. But we also wanted the option of a stepping stone between the CU events and church, a way to bridge the gap. We found Life|Explored as a great way to do this. It has been brilliant.

We meet every Tuesday evening in a coffee shop in Leeds city centre. We enjoy good coffee while watching the video and chatting through the passages and the questions in groups. We’ve had two sessions already and they’ve been really encouraging, with 10 non-Christians attending. One of the girls made a commitment to Christ after the first session!

The conversations and questions that come up during the evenings are fantastic, and the Life|Explored material is really helpful and engaging. One of the girls told us, "It’s a really great idea to offer such a friendly, casual environment to ease you into an understanding of what faith means, week by week." People have really enjoyed the discussions and have been open to sharing their ideas and thoughts. We are excited to see how God will continue to use Life|Explored over the coming weeks to follow up from Something More, and praying that more people would give their life to Jesus!

Christianity Explored Ministries helps people love, live and tell the good news about Jesus Christ. This post originally appeared on the Christianity Explored Ministries website. Used with permission.

Categories: Christian Resources

Friday Quiz: Jeremiah

Fri, 21/04/2017 - 10:00

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

Why opposition is good for us

Thu, 20/04/2017 - 10:00

“…I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals, whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord” (Jude 3-4)

In every age since Christ, different aspects of biblical Christianity have been attacked. Faithful responses to these challenges help clarify what is distinctive about “Reformed evangelical” (i.e. biblical) faith. Here is a simple summary:

# In the first three centuries of Christianity, the divinity of Christ was attacked (our distinctive view of Jesus), and defended by champions like Athanasius against the heresies of Arius.

# In the fourth and fifth centuries, it was the seriousness of sin (our distinctive view of humanity), defended by champions like Augustine against the heresies of Pelagius.

# In the Middle Ages in Europe, it was Jesus’ substitutionary death: that is, Christ dying in our place to satisfy God so that we can be saved (our distinctive view of the cross)— championed by men like Anselm against those, later led by Abelard, who taught that salvation is won through our own moral living inspired by Jesus.

# By the 16th century, it was justification by grace through faith alone (our distinctive view of salvation), rediscovered and defended by champions like Luther and Zwingli despite Catholic persecution.

# In 17th-century Europe, it was the sovereignty of God in salvation (our distinctive view of God) being defended by champions like Calvin against those, later led by Arminius, who wrongly claimed human free will in salvation.

# In the “Puritan” age in England in the 17th century, it was the need for regeneration (our distinctive view of the Holy Spirit), defended by heroes like Owen and Baxter against lifeless High Anglicanism.

# In the 18th-century revivals in Britain and the US, it was the reality of the coming judgment (our distinctive view of history), preached by Whitfield, Wesley and Edwards against liberals who falsely promise eternal peace for everyone.

# In the 19th century, it was the urgency of mission (our distinctive view of the world), championed by men like Hudson Taylor in China, William Carey in India, and C.T. Studd in Africa against the selfish apathy of “Reformed” churches.

# At the beginning of the 20th century, it was the authority of Scripture (our distinctive view of the Bible), defended by men like Warfield and Machen against scholars from liberal theological colleges obsessed with speculating about the sources of the text.

# By the middle of the 20th century, it was the centrality of expository preaching in the local church (our distinctive view of ministry), defended by Lloyd-Jones, Stott and Lucas against the social priorities of the ecumenical movement.

# At the end of the 20th century, it was the primacy of the local congregation (our distinctive view of the church), defended by champions like Broughton Knox and Phillip Jensen against the centralising control of traditional Western denominations.

# As we begin the 21st century, the false teaching tearing established denominations apart challenges the necessity of repentance from sin for salvation (our distinctive view of holiness), which contradicts the hedonism of personal autonomy.

This is now morphing into a challenge to the “given-ness” of our gender by God (our distinctive view of creation), and we await the emergence of our theological champions.

But we mustn’t despair as we face new challenges and must “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). For our opponents are condemned, we shall be preserved and facing opposition helps to clarify our faith - celebrating fresh treasures of the gospel in every age.

This is an edited extract from Gospel DNA by Richard Coekin.

Categories: Christian Resources

Pages

Automated Visitors