Much of our Christian life is a process of becoming more and more like God. God is holy, so we are to be holy. We love, because God first loved us. In fact, our English word ‘godliness’ implies that the Christian life is, by definition, ‘God-like-ness’. But sometimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes, ‘godliness’ is about being completely unlike God. Here’s an example:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
The thing about familiar stories is that you eventually stop reading them. You know them too well. And even when you do read them, you don’t really take the words in because you already know what they’re going to say. (more…)
None of us wants to be the cause of another person’s sanctification – at least, not unintentionally – and yet, so often, that is what we are.
Is this one of the reasons that God allows us to become weak, dependent and forgetful as we grow older? Is it so we can place a necessary burden on those who were once dependent on us: a burden of forbearance and loving care? (more…)
There’s nothing like parenting to reveal your true values.
My 12-year-old daughter started secondary school this year. It’s an anxious time for any parent. Your mind fills with questions: will she settle well into her new school? How will she cope with the extra homework? Will she make good friends? Will she make any friends?
One lazy afternoon in 1999, travel writer Bill Bryson discovered a shop that sold pet supplies and pornography.1 It was at the far end of the main street of an unassuming Australian country town called Young. (more…)
Days like this only come along once in a while. On this sun-drenched morning, there’s a cool breeze and the air is clear. Every dancing shadow is sharp-etched, every leaf suffused with a deeper meaning, every branch lifts a multitude of tiny twigs in praise. The world seems fair and unspoiled, as if it was made new this morning just for me. It’s a small taste of how Adam and Eve must have seen the world, in all its shining newness, when they walked with God on the morning of creation, and discovered its beauties for the first time through eyes unmarred by sin, doubt and sorrow. (more…)
Christians regard unity as being of primary importance, reflecting a theme that runs through the Scriptures: unity is where God bestows his blessing (Ps 133); Christian unity testifies to Christ’s identity and his love for his church (John 17:23); unity in the church glorifies God (Rom 15:5-6); and we are commanded to be united because there is one body and one Spirit (Eph 4:3-6). In fact, unity in the faith is the goal of Christian ministry and edification in the church (Eph 4:11-16). (more…)
The Bible says rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. But does that mean that when you suffer, you should make others suffer too? Claire Smith investigates.
Are you a stress-thrower or a stress-absorber?
A stress-thrower blames things on others and expresses stress in anger; a stress-absorber blames things on themselves and expresses stress in anxiety (I think I’ve got that right!). This useful distinction was taught to me by Tom Cannon, a chaplain I used to work with in university ministry. In our family, we have both stress-throwers and stress-absorbers.
It’s well known that John Newton was the captain of a slave trading ship who converted to Christ and eventually became an Anglican minister. Some people condense the whole story romantically by implying the horrific storm at sea that spurred Newton to first turn to God immediately led to a mature and complete repentance from his evil ways—such that he wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ as an expression of his gratefulness for being saved. But for some time after Newton’s storm-driven adoption of Christianity, he continued to make his living from the slave trade.
However, I believe it is accurate to say that soon after his conversion, he did begin to treat his slaves better. Yet it was only 32 years after his conversion—long after he’d given up seafaring and become an Anglican minister, and some years after he wrote ‘Amazing Grace’—that in 1780, Newton began to express regrets about his part in the slave trade. In 1785, he began to fight against slavery by speaking out against it, and he continued to do so until his death in 1807 (the year of the trade’s abolition).
Our subject today, my novice fiends, is ‘How to help the Enemy’s urchins avoid persecution and suffering’. Now, hush your maggoty howls and listen to your Uncle Screwtape! Our Father didn’t promote me to Professor of Persecution for nothing, so listen and learn. (more…)
Hell is not a popular subject for Christians and non-Christians alike. However, for Jesus, hell was a very important topic—so much so that much of the information we have about it came from him. In this article, Jonathan Gibson explores several alternative views of hell as well as what the Bible says to form a picture of what hell is and why it matters.1
At the risk of being too general, most Christians agree it’s good and wise to keep the intention of the Sabbath by taking a day off every week and resting. We don’t do this because we’re under the law of the Sabbath, for Jesus has fulfilled that law for us. We don’t have to have it on a certain day of the week, and it’s not done to win God’s favour. Instead, we observe these Sabbath-type days because we trust the God who loves us in Christ and who rules all things; taking a day off once a week is “an expression of this commitment”. (more…)
The assembled students were oblivious to the presence of the sharply dressed man of indeterminate age who had appeared silently in the doorway at the rear of the buzzing lecture theatre. He stood there for a few moments, surveying them with a curious mingling of desire and loathing. Then as he smoothed his greasy ponytail with one hand, he flicked a long, narrow tongue across thin lips, twisted his mouth into something approximating a smile to reveal a glimpse of abnormally pointy teeth, and made his way to the front of the room. (more…)
Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. He also said, “Now go and sin no more”.
Keen Bible readers will know that Jesus said both things on the same occasion. (See John 8:3-11—especially verses 7 and 11 respectively.1) My question is how do we hold and communicate both truths together to a society that denies the second statement’s relevance and does not think we Christians believe the first?