Monday, January 29, 2007

News. Bird in garden!

I know that this is a rubbish photo. But there is a blue tit in it, and it is IN OUR GARDEN. Can you spot it? As we very rarely have birds in our garden (see here and here), this is quite an event. In fact, my entry for the RSPB Great Garden Birdwatch comprised 4 house sparrows and two blue tits; not impressive.

Actually, we have had blue tits quite regularly recently - probably because of the food we have put up. We also had a grey wagtail in our back garden a week ago, and before that a female blackcap, and to be honest, they are rather impressive - at least for our garden! I have never seen a blackcap in January before; it's mostly a summer migrant, but "increasingly spending the winter in the UK." (source)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The need for a deep knowledge of God

I have been studying the early chapters of Isaiah recently (Our current homegroup Bible studies are in Isaiah, as is our assistant pastor’s current sermon series.) I have been particularly struck by the depth of Isaiah’s vision of God – in His self-sufficiency, His sovereignty over all the nations of the world, His awesome purposes in judgment and salvation.

I have been struck by how vital it is that we know God, that we approach in some measure the depth of Isaiah’s own vision. Only a deep knowledge of God will sustain us in whatever trials may lie ahead of us in our lives (as individuals, families and churches). Only a deep knowledge of God will empower us for persevering obedience and service. Only a deep knowledge of God will lift our eyes from ourselves, and give us the desire to see His glory.

This morning our assistant pastor preached on Isaiah 6. Here are some further reflections on knowing God, drawn from Craig’s sermon:

- We need the right kind of knowledge of God; not the kind of me-centred knowledge that superficially acknowledges God but in reality treats Him as someone who can meet our needs, help fulfil our aspirations; someone who can be manipulated. True knowledge of God makes us realise how radically God-centred the universe is, and how radically God-centred we need to be.

- Nor is true knowledge of God a mere knowing about, an intellectualism that finds God a fascinating object of study but is not moved to obedience and godly fear and love.

- But true knowledge of God leads us to recognition of the huge distance between ourselves and Him – not merely the sheer ontological distance between the finite and the infinite, but primarily the moral distance between a pure, holy God and me – polluted, corrupted, disfigured by sin. The six woes of Isaiah 5, denouncing the utter corruption of the people of Judah, are followed by a seventh in Isaiah 6:5. “Woe is me”, declares Isaiah, “for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips”

- But that vision of God’s holiness and recognition of our sinfulness then leads in Isaiah’s case to the reality of forgiveness. To know God is to know oneself sinful but forgiven, polluted but cleansed, alienated but reconciled. A knowledge of God without the experience of personal forgiveness is not a true knowledge of God. So whereas the six woes of chapter 5 are interspersed with warnings of God’s certain judgment on their unrepentance, Isaiah’s confession is followed by cleansing: “your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” There is no true knowledge of God that has not come to the Cross.

- Finally, to know God is to be ready to serve Him. To know God in his holiness, and experience his cleansing of our sin-stained lives, is to then be commissioned to live for His glory. A knowledge of God that does not issue in obedience and service is not true knowledge.

Reader! – these things may or may not be familiar to you, but if they are, be refreshed in your desire to know God better; persevere in pursuing God Himself. For we can drift, we can lose our focus; we can become consumed by fears and insecurities. At least I know I can, and have. I have needed a reminder of these vital truths. And perhaps you do too.

Note: Craig’s sermons on Isaiah can be found here. Please note, this is the temporary download page for Beeston Free Church. The sermons on Isaiah are the following files:
20070114am.mp3 (Isaiah 1)
20070121am.mp3 (Isaiah 2)
20070128am.mp3 (Isaiah 6)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Evangelicals and Public Theology

Oak Hill College is having a school of theology day on Wednesday May 17th which looks very exciting. The title is "A Higher Throne: Evangelicals and Public Theology" and there will be four parts, as follows:

Evangelical Public Theology: What on Earth? Why on Earth? How on Earth? – Dan Strange
Rutherford's Case for Christendom – David Field
New Living in an Old Creation – Kirsten Birkett
Gabbatha and Golgotha: Punishment by God and His Servant the State – Garry Williams

Full details can be found here