It’s here!

FinalProof.png

It’s here! The (possibly) final proof copy of my book “Reaching for Healing” and I’m suddenly really nervous about making it available. I’m sure it’s far from perfect, but I trust it’s good enough for God to use in raising faith for healing.

I keep looking back to the time God put it in my heart, all those years ago, to begin reaching for healing. When progress stalled a few years ago, I remember vividly cycling to work and hearing him say to me “Finish the book. Finish the book. Finish the book.” I can still feel the warm weight of those words in my head now as I type; my Heavenly Father’s massive encouragement has made all the difference.

Anyway, while I prevaricate, you can go here to take a peek at the table of contents.

 

Straight to the heart

I have just finished reading another chapter from Phil Moore’s ‘Straight to the Heart’ books. At the moment there are three (Mathew, Revelation and Acts) but I hope others will follow. Each one takes a book of the bible and breaks it up into 60 bite-sized portions.  I keep them in strategic places around the house so when I get a couple of minutes I can read one of his short chapters. It’s what attracted me to them in the first place. I sometimes get overwhelmed when I try to start reading a big book so I dive into it again and again at random until I get the gist or build up enough curiosity to start at the beginning. (That could be why I have stalled in my attempt to read “God’s Greater Glory” by Bruce Ware. I feel I must read it sequentially to get the most out of it but haven’t made it past the excellent intro.)

I stumbled upon this bite-sized approach to learning a few years ago and tried to shape some of our church training material in that form. For it to work well each bite should be as independent from the others as possible and readable in any order. (See Bill Hyble’s leadership book Axiom for another example of this short nugget style.) It’s why I like reading and writing blogs I guess as they fulfil both these requirements.

So much for the style, what about the content? The blurb on the back cover puts it very well:

“God inspired the Bible for a reason. He wants you to read it and let it change your life. If you’re willing to take this challenge seriously, then you will love Phil Moore’s devotional commentaries. Their bite-size chapters are punchy and relevant, yet crammed with fascinating scholarship. Welcome to a new way of reading the Bible. Welcome to the straight to the heart series.”

Each chapter is easy to read without being shallow. He doesn’t serve up “fast food” bible burgers, rather rich cordon bleu meals. I don’t know how well he knows his onions but he definitely knows his bible.  Ok, I know, I got carried away and overdid the metaphor a bit there. Been looking over my wife’s shoulder at one too many TV cookery competitions I think. Basically, they are good books to get. The illustrations are very engaging, drawing you into one gem after another of life changing truth. I keep thinking to myself “wow, I never knew that, thats so good”. The series title captures it well “Straight to the heart.”

“Philosophy is dead” (The grand design part 1)

My copy of Stephen Hawking’s new book has just arrived. It is printed on high quality paper in top quality ink. It feels and smells wonderful. As I read the first page I was both excited and disappointed at the same time. He asks some very important questions but seems to set off boldly in the wrong direction. Yet I am a little curious too. Does he know something I don’t? Well obviously, yes he does – quite a lot of things actually! An understanding of 11 dimensional string theory for one, but do the answers to the big question of life lie hidden in such knowledge?

Here are the opening words of “The Grand Design”:

We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in that vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: how can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.

Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. The purpose of this book is to give the answers that are suggested by recent discoveries and theoretical advances. They lead us to a new picture of the universe and our place in it that is very different from the traditional one, and different from the picture we might have painted just a decade or two ago.

As well as being a brilliant physicist, Hawkings is also a great writer. He knows how to communicate in a very vivid and provocative way but can it really be that “philosophy is dead?“.  The statement conjures up images in my mind of physics metamorphasising into a massive monster. Drunk with power it strangles its foolish and puny master who gave it life. With the other hand it tears off its moral leash. Head tilted back it opens its mouth in a deep, spine chilling laugh. Beholden to no one, it’s feet begin to crush those dissenters who cry out in silly squeaky voices “stop this madness, there is more to life than can be written in an equation or measured in a beaker! Please – think about it!”

I’m probably  going over the top there, or misunderstanding him, but I have always thought of philosophy as “thinking about thinking”. It’s one of the best things we can do with this amazing mind of ours. Literally the word means “love of wisdom” so what are we to say if “philosophy is dead”? – “long live foolishness”?

What could physicists have possibly discovered and what eureka moment have they secretly enjoyed, that has lead them to burst forth from their lab and declare as obsolete all previous thinking about matter, morality, life, death, consciousness, love, personhood, epistemology (the study of knowledge – how we can come to know things and what that means etc…). I shall read on and find out.

I am only on page one and already it’s a crackingly good read!

A brilliant version of the bible for Adults and Children alike

When I first became a Christian I was so daunted by the size of the bible and particularly the Old Testament that I decided to buy a children’s version to get a quick overview. While it did help me a bit with the bare bones of some of the main events, like many children’s bible stories it was heavily sanitised plus I was left with the feeling that it was just a collection of unconnected faintly moralising stories without much of a plot running through them.

More recently, having actually read the OT for real, I was looking for a version for my children to read. They had three or four versions already but they all suffered from the same problems that I had encountered before. It was never obvious reading about Abraham, David, or Jonah what the point of the stories was. If someone loves Jesus and has decided to follow him why wade through the OT? Jazzing it up in colourful language and pictures may keep a child’s attention but what’s the point if it doesn’t tell them about Jesus? Recently a friend recommended “The Jesus Storybook Bible : Every story whispers his name”, and we have so far listened to/read the first third. I have to say it’s absolutely brilliant. It is written soooooo well, it’s exciting, funny and interesting but also very insightful and Jesus focused. Each story clearly points to Jesus in ways that even I hadn’t fully appreciated before. I really cannot sing it’s praises enough.

Here’s the introduction:

The heavens are singing

about how great God is;

and the skies are shouting it out, “see what God has made!”

Day after day … night after night …

they are speaking to us.

Psalm 19:1 — 2 (paraphrase)

God wrote, “I love you” — he wrote it in the sky, and on the Earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror — to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims. And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called “the Bible.”

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get a afraid, run away. At time are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a story. It’s an adventure story about a young hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairytales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this story is — it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one big story. The story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It takes the whole Bible to tell this story. And at the centre of this story there is a baby. Every story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like a missing piece of the puzzle — the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.

And this is no ordinary baby. This is the child upon whom everything would depend. This is the child who would one day — but wait. Our story starts were all good stories start right at the beginning …

It really is the best Children’s’ bible I have ever come across. The author is Sally Lloyd-Jones. Is she related to “the Lloyd Jones?” I’ll let her answer that from her blog:

http://sallylloyd-jones.blogspot.com/2007/02/are-you-lloyd-jones.html

When you’re such a fan, of such a great man, of course you’d love to be able to say you’re related or connected somehow. You wish you had met him. And been able to hear him preach. Or had him as your great Uncle. You sometimes even wish (inappropriately) you could tell all manner of lies to make it a better story–you remember him singing welsh hymns to you, he took you riding on his horse–in short, you wish you could say anything other than, “no”. Which for some reason I can’t help but follow with “sorry”. (I feel it is such a let down and I’m rather let down by the whole thing myself.)

I don’t think she needs to feel sorry at all. The truth is, asking the question is a massive compliment because given her amazing gift of writing and insight into truth being related to the late great Lloyd-Jones is a very plausible possibility. Another recognisable name that cropped up was Tim Keller. Sally says he had some input into the book and a little research confirms it is indeed “the Tim Keller”.

If you have young children and you’re looking for a great bible story book then this is the one to get. It’s also a good one to listen too (the Deluxe version has a great set of CD’s with it) if you have just become a Christian and want to get a quick feel for the whole bible story. Not only will it inspire you to read the “real thing” it will help you listen for the whispers of Jesus in every story.

Several questions raised by the sovereignty of God (God’s Greater Glory part 1)

It’s my wedding anniversary today. 11 years married to the girl of my dreams. Looking back at how we met and the ups and downs of our courtship I can clearly see the providential had of God at work and am overwhelmed with gratitude to him. But the sovereignty of God is a tricky thing to pin down.

One of Bill Johnson’s memorable one liners is that “God is in charge but not control – there is a difference”. He also says that to think that God’s will will always be done is irresponsible when it does also depend on us. Piper on the other hand, while recognising there is a profound mystery here, says God is “untimely and decisively” in control over all human decisions. But when you tell someone about Jesus does God want them to come to know him? If so will they? If not why not? When you pray for someone to be healed, does God want them to be healed? If so will they? If not why not? If God is sovereign and wants someone to be healed then why aren’t they? If God is sovereign and someone doesn’t get healed then doesn’t he want them to?

God's Greater Glory by Bruce Ware

Earlier I sat in the garden and opened God’s greater glory by Bruce A. Ware. I am hoping it will help me think through some of the issues here. As I read the first chapter I got that feeling again of being so excited that I found it hard to continue reading. The reason for my excitement was that he begins by spelling out so clearly the problems that the belief in a sovereign God throws up. Let me give you his definition of sovereignty / divine providence and then summarise the questions it raises:

God continually overseas and directs all things pertaining to the created order in such a way that 1) he preserves in existence and provides for the creation he has brought into being, and 2) he governs and reigns supremely over the entirety of the whole of creation in order to fulfil all his intended purposes in it and through it. p17

He points out there are two parts to this definition: Providence as preservation and Providence as governance. It is the second part that causes the most difficulty. Here is his  definition of Providence as governance:

God governs and reigns supremely over 1) all of the activities and forces of nature and natural law, and 2) all of the affairs of his moral creatures, in all cases accomplishing in them and through them (at times by divine concurrence) his eternal purposes — yet in neither realm does he govern in such a manner that it violates the integrity of creaturely moral responsibility and volitional freedom to choose and acts according to the moral agents strongest inclinations, nor does God’s exhaustive governance justly implicate the impeccable and infinitely holy moral character of God by making him either the author or the approver of evil (Deut 32:39, Ps 5:4 Ps 135:5-7, Prov 21:1, Isa 45:5-7, Dan 2:21, Dan 4:34-37, Eph 1:11, James 1:13, 1 John 1:5)

So far so good, now for the questions:

1) If God is sovereign in this way are human agents free to choose one course of action over another

2i) “how are moral creatures rightly held morally responsible for their actions when God is sovereign over the world?”

2ii) “how is God preserved from being blameworthy for moral wrongdoing that takes place, while also being fully praiseworthy for all the good that occurs under his sovereign governments?”

3) Does God stand differently behind his sovereign working of good and evil? Can we speak of him permitting evil rather than ordaining it?

4) Does God create natural laws that then govern the way the universe works (except by his miraculous intervention) or

“does God regulate all things in a direct manner, giving merely the appearance of laws of natural functioning within the structure of the created order?… Is God sovereign over tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, famines, birth defects, and so forth, which bring untold pain and suffering to sentient life in this world? And yet, is God not also sovereign over the sun and rain that cause crops to grow, the changing seasons of the years, normal and healthy child births, and bodies that heal themselves from cuts and scrapes and bumps and bruises? What, then, is God’s revelation to natural law and forces of nature, both beneficial and harmful to human life”

5) Exactly how is God is sovereign over and in salvation, prayer, evangelism, Christian service?

6) How are we to think about the very nature and character of God in the light of these things.

These are very, very, very difficult questions and so starting a book with them is a very brave and serious undertaking. I will read on and report back!