Monthly Archives: October 2015

We’re the Gospel’s perfect foil

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You can serve as a foil to someone if you show them to be better than you by contrast. If you can’t dance but your friend Lisa can, you can be a foil to Lisa’s grace. (http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/foil)

For the Gospel to demonstrate its true magnificence it needs someone to save who is utterly unable to save themself. We are all the perfect fit.

The Gospel is light to our darkness, hope to our hopelessness, righteousness to our sinfulness, power to our powerlessness, ability to our ineptitude, acceptance to our rejection, wisdom to our folly, and the solution to our problem. It supplies our lack, meets our need, and it answers our questions. It is the strength in our weakness, the constancy in our vissitudes, the order in our chaos, the clarity in our confusion, the joy in our mourning, the peace in our storm, and the substance to our reality.

The Gospel is everything we need, and the Gospel is all we need! The Gospel is Good News, Perfect Theology, Spiritual Reality and Eternal Veracity. Correctly understood, the Gospel is a Person, and that Person is Jesus. He is our Perfect Fit!

 

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Technical News – Share Button

We’ve just added a great new feature to the site. Click on the Share button at the end of any blog post and the site will help you share it to your Facebook page or Twitter account, share it with or e-mail it to a friend, or exercise a host of other sharing options. Check it out and use it to help us build the SoMuchGoodNews community.

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Of first importance

One of the tricks of the trade I’ve learned is to always end the day’s writing having made a start on the next day’s work. That way you keep momentum going. Because you’ve already thought through what comes next, even if starting out cold you can warm to the task in no time.

This is an attempt to apply the principle on grand scale. Why not start the next book while wrapping up the current one. What follows is my opening stab at the first chapter of the next in the NOT CONFUSED series. It might still end up on the cutting room floor amongst the out-takes, but at least the crew are on set and the cameras are rolling.

We’re days away from the release of How To Read The Bible & Not Get Confused. Hitting the deadline has been a frenetic affair. The publishers require the final manuscript more than a week in advance, which gives them time to process it through their systems. The clock is ticking and tomorrow is the day of final edits.

Please share the news as the book launches. I’d love to get this material into the hands of everyone on the planet. I’m trusting the Lord to end up is many formats – e-books, print, audiobooks, multiple languages and the like. Hundreds of thousands of copies at least. Trust with me. Pray for me. Help me where you can as your own convictions permit.

Enjoy the preview!


Chapter 1

Jesus instituted a New Covenant in His blood.

This New Covenant was cut as the Lamb of God, falsely accused, laid down His life.

Crucifixion was a gruesome death. It was sadistically crafted to be slow, painful and humiliating. Relief eventually came to the fever-wracked body by asphyxiation. That happened when the body was so traumatised and exhausted that it overcame it’s involuntary fight for oxygen. By then the loss of control of bladder and bowel had removed every last vestige of dignity.

Strong men lived for days on crosses. Jesus died quickly. Not because the authorities needed Him to; which was why they precipitated premature asphyxiation for the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus by breaking their legs. Not because of the heavy scourging which He had endured; the multi-thonged whip was well able to end a life as well, which was why lashes were carefully rationed. And not because He was in a weakened state by nine o’clock when they crucified him. Three trials, trumped up charges, no food, no sleep, a beating and a scourging; most of us would need help lugging our crosses. Jesus was weakened, but not weak!

A weak man doesn’t take time mid-carnage to forgive those who are persecuting Him. A weak man doesn’t ensure that His mother is taken care of. And a weak man certainly doesn’t have the energy to minister to the down-and-outer next to Him. Doing any one of these things under those circumstances would have been remarkable. Jesus did all three. He also declined the pain-relieving opiate offered Him, declared His job done (”It is finished”, He said), and surrendered His spirit as He breathed His last. The world will never again see so consummate a victim, and yet all through His suffering He remained in control. Jesus laid down His life.

He died quickly because of sin. The Lamb of God had the iniquities of humanity laid on Him. Can you ever begin to imagine how to quantify that? How much sin is the whole world’s sin? The Scriptures are unequivocal about this. He died for our sin. He became a sin offering. In that moment of imputation, He became as unacceptable to God as sin is, and received sin’s reward. It’s wages have always been death. We know that the anguish which sin caused Jesus outweighed everything that the murderous crowd and the executioners were throwing at Him. He remained silent through it all, except for, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Six hours on that cross! Six hours of tumult as the hordes of hades congregated in supposed triumph. Six hours that played havoc with creation. Hours of darkness which proved earth-shattering in the end – literally. Six hours of other-worldliness. The Centurion in charge walked away shaking his head, believing.

Gehenna (our Bibles translate it as hell) was the city dump and the place where the corpses of a destitute criminals were disposed of. Jerusalem had as much of a challenge when it came to sanitation as any other city does. In Gehenna the fire and worm did their work, loved-ones wept, dogs gnashed their teeth, and sulphur was used to mask the smell. Jesus had used its image in His teachings more than once, and Gehenna ought to have become His grave. Joseph of Arimathea stepped in instead, and Jesus’ body was entombed in his brand new rock-hewn sepulchre. Isaiah had prophesied some seven hundred years previously that His grave would be with the wicked and with the rich, and it was.

But the story doesn’t end there. The stone was rolled away. His grave clothes were neatly folded. Multiple resurrection appearances followed. It was explanation on the road to Emmaus, reassurance in Jerusalem, and breakfast in Galilee. More than five hundred people attested to being with Him on one occasion. His resurrection ratified His atoning work. The Lamb of God had done His job. The New Covenant had been cut. It really was finished after all! If the cross was the cheque that paid the debt, then the resurrection was that cheque that cleared the account.

The rest is history. His ascension from the Mount of Olives, His being seated in honour at the right hand of the Father, enthroned. The Lamb of God is the Lion of Judah. The choirs of heaven added a new verse to their hymn – it’s now “Holy” and “Worthy”. Jesus is the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant. God has spoken. His final word on all matters is Jesus!

This is the Gospel. Paul called it “of first importance”. This book is about why that is so!

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:3–6)

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All things are possible

A Christian can never be powerless. That very thought is a contradiction in terms. Christians are righteous. They are in Christ and Christ is in them. Anyone in right-standing with God, and in right-standing with the right-standing of Jesus at that, qualifies for and has access to all of the resources of heaven. Powerless? Never!

Christians might acknowledge their utter weakness apart from Christ. They might point to their absolute dependence on Christ, in all things, and for all things. They may even subject themselves under God’s hand to injustices of all kinds. Paul encouraged being wronged above seeking vindication (I Cor 6:1-8) and elsewhere are described those who suffered mocking, flogging, chains and imprisonment, who were stoned, sawn in two or killed by the sword, and who were destitute, mistreated and afflicted (Hebrews 11:36-40). Such things may well have the appearance of weakness, but they are in fact examples of strength harnessed for the unity of the bretheren, or for perseverance in times of persecution.

Jesus harnessed His strength and in humility laid down His life. He chose when to die, where to die, and how to die. His life was not taken from Him. His was a life given. In the same way, His followers may well lay down their lives in any number of ways, submitting themselves to the unenviable for He bids them so do. This is not weakness. This is extraordinary strength.

Let us be clear. A Christian can never be powerless. Apart from Christ we are hopeless and helpless, but in Him we can do all things, because these things are accomplished by His strength at work in and through us (Phil 4:13).

Nothing is impossible with Him!

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Condemnation-free living

      Some days are better than others. Today is one of those others.

Nothing cataclysmic mind you. But there are some relationships that would have been a little less tender right now had I been a little less reactive. And so much more could have been accomplished had I been a little better organised and a little more focussed. Time for some recalibration!

This is not the first day that I’ve had like this, and it will sadly not be the last. Nothing extraordinary there. But what is extraordinary is our consolation in Christ at times like these. My performance is variable. Jesus never changes. And the Good News is that my right standing with God is based on His performance and not my own. My righteousness is a constant because it’s an untarnishable gift. I’m not even sure if untarnishable is a word, but reminding myself (on the good authority of Scripture) that I’m in fellowship with God and fully acceptable to Him is the game-changer on days like these.

Believing quickly makes it experientially true. Thinking on these things is always breathtaking in its effect. The downers of guilt and shame are dispelled by the influx of peace and joy. Darkness yields to light, death yields to life, despair yields to hope, and muttering is replaced by gratitude and praise. A mood swing in the right direction is a lovely thing!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). There is no better way to live! Thank you Jesus!!

 

 

 

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Emancipation

It was this time of year five years ago that I stood before the church and proclaimed that from then on the eldership would lead and govern in ways consistent with the New Covenant. I admitted that we had little understanding of what that meant, but that we had resolved, as best we were able, to do all “by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone”. Christ and His perfect, complete, all-sufficient work was to be our only foundation.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what the result would be. From then on it felt as if we were lurching from crisis to crisis. Our lives were flung into disarray and peppered with conflict, difficulty, opposition and struggle. When we would conclude that we could not possibly cope with one more thing, another calamity would come crashing down on us. In the tumult we lost relationships which we had valued deeply, and in some of the darkest moments we despaired of all hope of ever exiting the storm.

That was then. This is now. Looking back, as often happens with hindsight, the story tells somewhat differently!

Looking back we can see that what felt like out-of-control lurching from crisis to crisis was in fact a loving Heavenly Father leading us from one suppurating sore to the next, graciously enabling us to deal with that which was awry. We felt out of control but He was in full control. Hindsight reveals that many of our relationships were abusive in nature, albeit in varying degrees. Our lives were accusation and condemnation riddled. Sometimes we were the intimidators; at other times we were the intimidated. The Lord had us visit wherever the destructive dynamics of manipulation, control, anxiety and fear were at work. Problems were faced and chains were broken. Amidst the carnage the guilt, condemnation, shame and accusation gave way to freedom, joy and peace. The kingdom of God had come!

Grace was doing what grace does. It disempowers our enemies and dismantles our own enmity. As our identity in Christ takes root and we are fully pursuaded by Word and Spirit that our debt has been paid, and as we become convinced that the tyranny of that unholy trinity of sin, satan and this world’s system has indeed been broken off our lives, so we walk into freedom. At the same time we begin to release others whom we have bound.

It has not been at all easy. As our enslaved lives began to come free from the toxic paralysis of religious effort that the mixture of law and grace brings (it’s also helpful to recognise that snake satan is all-at-once a fanged viper and a suffocating constrictor too), things seemed to get much, much worse before they got any better. This was not the Lord breaking us in order to mould us aright or anything of that ilk (as was suggested by more than a few well-meaning and sadly misguided folk). No! “He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This was not the Lord fixing us but the Lord freeing us! As His life flooded our lives, the pain we experienced was more akin to the thaw of a frostbitten foot (apparently it’s excruciating) or the removal of a cancerous tumour. Bad stuff was leaving our lives and good stuff was flooding into them! The outcome is that today our hearts sing the songs of freedom and our relationships are substantially without obligatory entanglements. In the matters that matter we are indebted to no one, and no one is indebted to us!

Life is still not without it’s challenges. Perhaps it never will be (although I am deeply pursuaded on good authority that our inheritance in Christ is abundant life). Yet, through it all, we can see that we were preserved by an over-arching all-pervasive security (righteousness), peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. This was and is entirely supernatural, completely undeserved, and comes only from Good God.

We’ll not tell our story in any more detail than this. To do so would be to justify our own failings all the while naming and shaming others. This cannot be done as grace insists that we forgo vindication in thought, word and deed. Yet I do unapologetically write this much for the sake of the many saints who find themselves slowly dying in sickness of soul. The way out is the realisation that His (Jesus’) story is our story. Those who have believed have been co-crucified with Christ, and having died with Him, have been raised to new life in Him also. We are saints, not sinners. We have been made righteous; we have been forever put right with God. This is so because Jesus lived the sinless life we never could and died the sinner’s death we deserved. It was His life for ours, so that now His life is ours! Believe it and you’ll walk to liberty. Believe it and you’ll serve no master but Him. Believe it and you’ll open your heart and hands in emancipation of others.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1), and nothing begets freedom like freedom. One whiff and you’re ruined for anything else. Believing in Jesus truly is a new way of living!

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Welcome to SoMuchGoodNews!

This is it. SoMuchGoodNews is here!

It was always going to be something of a soft start. We’ve been fiddling around for weeks getting our heads around the technical side of things and learning to use social media and e-publishing platforms. That kind of thing continues in the background as we work towards podcasting, vlogging (video blogging) and the like, but today we celebrate what is already available.

Confidently I can say a whole bunch of things that I couldn’t say a few weeks ago. “Follow me on Twitter @SoMuchGoodNews“, “download a free copy of “Welcome Home” (a short story) from Smashwords or Barnes&Noble or Kobo”, “subscribe to my blog” or “check out my NOT CONFUSED series; the first book is on pre-pub on Smashwords and Amazon, with 1 November the release date”. And as I say them, they’re not only true, but I know what they mean.

But here’s the thing. I couldn’t possibly have gotten here on my own. There’s the magnificence of knowing that the Holy Spirit is birthing something. There’s the support of family and friends who do the job of a fan club in the background. It’s appreciated, and humbling. (Today is my 27th anniversary and Estelle is still the best plus some). Then there’s Kandas Ackhurst, who has plugged away in the background with extraordinary tenacity and Scott and Di Wilson who have done some high-impact playing of late. And Ros Otte, who did some important background stuff. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you!

For now we celebrate the launch of a website. How much more we shall celebrate when we receive report of it’s fruit! Jesus is the best thing that has ever happend to me. May SoMuchGoodNews reveal Him in fresh ways to many.

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