Jesus’ arguments against anxiety

These points could have come in handy during the Bible study on Matthew 6:19-34 I led a little while back:

PS: Yes, the first reference is supposed to be Matthew 6:25, not 6:35

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A helicopter tour of the book of Isaiah

Last year in my reflections on Isaiah I wrote that I didn’t know what to expect as I set out to read it. Thankfully, in the intervening time, I’ve become less clueless on the large chunk of Isaiah that we don’t read at Easter and Christmas.

In that vein, I’d like to recommend this series of talks given by John Bell, who is the (white) pastor of a (mostly black) church in Harare. In 5 talks he covers a number of themes in Isaiah including judgment and the messianic kingdom. Here are some teasers for each session to whet your appetite:

Isaiah 6:1-13

  • What was the significance that Isaiah saw the Lord in the year of King Uzziah’s death?
  • What lessons did Isaiah learn about God, about himself and about God and himself as a result of the vision?

Isaiah 11:1-12:6

  • Why do these two chapters go together?
  • Why does God include chapter 11 as a part of scripture?
  • How does Isaiah respond to the pictures drawn in chapter 11?

Isaiah 40:1-31

  • What is special about this point in the book?
  • What do these verses teach us about God?

Isaiah 63:1-6

  • What is the ultimate fulfilment of these verses?
  • What is the right response to these and similar passages of scripture?

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

  • Who are the singers in this ‘servant song’?
  • What are the themes explored in the song?

In the Q&A he gives a brief history of Zimbabwe and tells what the members of his church are doing in their particular situation. (IMO he cares a lot about his country and its people.) He also answers questions from the floor on what he had preached.

If you have the time and the bandwidth, have a listen to John Bell and to pretty much anyone else who has spoken @The Castle!

1 Peter: Called

What, according to the apostle Peter, are believers in Christ called to?

Called to be holy

1 Peter 1:15 – but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct

Called to marvellous light

1 Peter 2:9 – But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

Called to suffer

1 Peter 2:21 – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Called to be a blessing

1 Peter 3:9 – Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

Called to eternal glory

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Source: An offhand  comment made by David Jackman in one of his sermons.

Finding contentment

Freely and joyfully submitting to God’s will, whatever that may be. That’s how author Stephen Altrogge defines biblical contentment. In this interview (length 50:25), he talks about his latest book, The Greener Grass Conspiracy.

To give you an idea, here’s a sampling of the questions he answers:

  • Is contentment based on circumstances?
  • What can we learn from the apostle Paul on learning contentment?
  • Is there good discontent and bad?
  • How is discontent a worship problem?
  • What are some of the warning signs of growing discontent in one’s life?
  • What practical steps can we take to fight discontentment?
  • Can discontentment be a prompting from the Holy Spirit?

May we as children of God find our greatest contentment in Him!

Review of ‘I dared to call Him Father’ (an autobiography)

I don’t recall the last time I read a book in one sitting, or indeed, if I ever have read a book from cover to cover all at once. Before you put I Dared to Call Him Father on your wishlist, let me add that I had nothing particularly pressing to do the afternoon I sat down to read it. Notwithstanding, I heartily recommend this autobiographical account of how Bilquis Sheikh, a wealthy Muslim woman from a prominent family, came to trust in Christ. In what I hope isn’t a slothful review, let me offer some observations:

Book cover of 'I dared to call Him Father'First, this story is one of the power of the Word of God to accomplish the work of God.Though Bilquis did converse with Christians before her conversion, her conviction largely came simply from reading the Bible. The book opens with her having strange supernatural experiences and unsettling dreams. After failing to find assurance in the Quran she turned to the Bible, which the Quran often referenced. The first words she read—as a result of opening the book at random—were from Romans 9:25-26. She would go on to read more of Romans and John’s gospel before daring to call the God of the Bible ‘Father’.

Second, faith needs cultivation. After her conversion, she had to deal with a family boycott, threatening phone calls and someone attempting to burn down her house with her in it. It was through such trials that she learned to stop relying on her ingenuity and her political and family connections for protection. She had to choose to trust in God each day of the seven years she lived in Pakistan after becoming a Christian.

Third, by their fruits you will know them. The transformation in her life was evident for all in the village where she lived to see. She who had once been a bitter recluse (because of the humiliating divorce she’d been through) read Luke 14:12 and invited the widows, orphans, unemployed and poor people in the village to her Christmas dinner. On another occasion, she issued an open invitation to the children to climb her prized loquat trees. One of her household servants put it this way: “Begum Sahib, do you know that when you start talking of the Lord your whole appearance changes?” (p. 134).

Fourth, God is a wonderful Father. In the afterword written for the 25th anniversary of the book’s publication, Synnøve Mitchell, the first missionary Bilquis talked to tells how her visit came at a time Mrs Mitchell was considering quitting the mission field. Isn’t God delightful in how He provides reassurance for His weary servants?

On the negative side, there seemed to be a lot of lucky-dipping as far as Bible reading was concerned. Additionally, there was a mention of ‘secret Christians’, citing Nicodemus (who came to Jesus at night) as an example. What was left out is that by the end of John’s gospel, Nicodemus came out as a disciple of Jesus when he helped Joseph of Arimathea with the burial. I have no idea what it means to risk your life for being a Christian, so I shall leave it at that. (Addendum: The gospel of John isn’t too kind towards secret disciples.)

Bilquis passed away in April 1997, still loving the Lord. May we also hold fast to the end!

How Christians silence their critics

Here’s what the apostles Peter and Paul had to say:

Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.
–Philippians 2:14-15

Set an example of good works yourself, with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.
–Titus 2:7-8

Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation.
–1 Peter 2:12

However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame.
–1 Peter 3:16

Here’s  what I get from these verses in their context:

  1. It’s more about what you do than what you say;
  2. It’s more about vindication on the last day than vindication now;
  3. It’s more about God’s reputation than our own.

[I previously blogged about a cranky but honest critic.]

Verses taken from the HCSB translation.