‘You could have it all’ by Geoff Thomas – A Recommendation

‘You could have it all’ by Geoff Thomas, Reformation Heritage Books, 2020. I paid £4.50 for my copy. Sadly not available from 10 of Those. Try your local Christian Bookshop or failing that, £6.50 at Amazon.

The book is described as an ‘Evangelistic Booklet.’ I had a couple of people in mind to give a copy. I try not to give books and stuff that I’ve not read so set about reading it. Not quite in one sitting but very nearly. It’s an easy to read book. By easy I mean it isn’t complicated. You don’t need a degree to read it. The 10 chapters are not long with the whole book just 96 pages with stories and illustrations throughout. I loved it.

I can hear Geoff as I read and can see the evangelistic motivation behind it, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Yes, give it to your non-Christian friends. Do that. What I like about it is the sheer honesty of it. I love to hear Geoff pray and it’s in that vein. A phrase popular a while ago (by some) was that Christians need the Gospel too. And they do. I do. I need to hear the Gospel. Yes, I was thinking on the person I was reading it for, but I was drawn into the book as well. I needed to hear these things. It’s been a blessing to read it. Christians will be encouraged.

Let’s pray that when we read Geoff’s emails we’ll read of sinners brought to the Saviour by the Saviour as He uses this book for His Glory. Wouldn’t that be great!

Just go and buy a copy, read it, and then give it to someone.

A Happy New Year to All

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Last year we saw in 2020 with all the usual celebrations and the usual wish of a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Things didn’t work out that way. Nobody saw or predicted what was to come. What a year it was. And then celebrations (though very different) and wishes for a Happy New Year have again been expressed. Everyone (mostly everyone) is saying this year, 2021, will be a better year. We have the Vaccine. All will be well. Not necessarily.

If your business survived and you are able to pick it up again – great! But in many respects 2021 will be much the same as the previous year. Because we live in what is described as a fallen world people are still going to be ill. People are still going to die. All the hardships that are endured will in that sense continue. Things continue much the same in our ever changing fallen world. Our bodies continue to grow old. So so many awful things happen in our unstable sinful world. Things don’t stay the same in the sense of stability, rather, things continue in a sinful unstable state where nothing stays constant. The only constant for us is our sinfulness.

The only reliable constant is the Lord God. He stays the same. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. Instead, let me point you to the only wise God. We’ve just celebrated how God has intervened in our world by sending His Son – The Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t it time you considered Him?

The verse above came into my mind this morning. Below is the full text of the hymn. Worth pondering. Christian, rejoice that His love and grace remains the same. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
and I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace,
sure as Jehovah’s Name;
’tis stable as His steadfast throne,
for evermore the same.

The clouds may come and go,
and storms may sweep my sky –
this blood-sealed friendship changes not:
the cross is ever nigh.

My love is oft-times low,
my joy still ebbs and flows;
but peace with Him remains the same –
no change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Horatius Bonar, 1808-89

Boris points to Christ – sort of

The Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) gave his  Christmas Message (see below) on Christmas Eve after securing a last minute Brexit deal.

It was obvious that he was on a Brexit high and took the opportunity to give us a happy Brexit Christmas. I’m sure just as many will have been pleased to hear it as those that were displeased or simply horrified at the whole process. The Brexit deal is definitely not the feast.

Like Prime Ministers before him Boris was able to demonstrate that he’s actually clueless as to what the real Christmas message is about. Of course he knows some of the details which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it shows Christianity is still, for now, embedded in our culture. One might even say Boris had totally lost the plot if he really knew it in the first place. Like many of us probably. Embedded as it may be, the real message is easily obscured where there is no real knowledge of God or the Saviour who has entered our world to save people from their sins. There are so many things that Christmas is not about and Boris’s message for many is about as close as they want to get. I mean, contact with Christ, who is Lord of all, can be life changing. Boris is a good example, perhaps, of people that want ‘something’ to do with Christmas but really don’t want to get too close. Like Herod, he didn’t want to get close at all and set about making sure he didn’t. That didn’t work out so well for Herod. Let’s face it, the PM (any PM) has to say something Christmassy even it’s mostly nonsense.

What is Christmas about then?

In a nutshell, we all have a problem. The problem we face is that we are born with a sinful rebellious nature that wants nothing to do with God. That puts us at odds with God and makes us by nature ‘children of wrath.’ This rebellion will be dealt with and put down once and for all when The Lord Jesus comes again to Judge the world – that’s all of us. You and Boris included.

But such is the love of God that he sends a Saviour. A rescuer from the Judgment of God has come.

What do I want for Boris? The same as I want for you. Salvation from sin. A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. ‘You shall call his name Jesus’, Mary was told. Why? Because he (Jesus) will save his people from their sins.

How does Jesus do this?

The Christmas message, and in fact the whole Christian Gospel, is all about what God has done. In the first place, He is born into this world. He lives a life of perfect obedience and is offered as a sacrifice to turn aside the wrath of God. This he does on the Cross. Wonderfully He rises from the dead and ascends to the right hand of God where he waits till the day of judgment. In the meantime, right now, Jesus is building his Church. And he is right now calling people through The Gospel (good news) to ‘repent and believe.’

Boris rightly talked about ‘rebirth and renewal’ but the rebirth and renewal the Bible talks about comes through repentance and faith in the one God sent. That is the Lord Jesus Christ. The question for you then, and for all of us (Boris included) is will you repent and believe, calling upon God for forgiveness?

Jesus – The Rescuer has come!

My friend Ken Samples has recently posted an article on his page about Original Sin. Basically saying how this doctrine has great explanatory power. Why? Because we see it at work in ourselves and in the world every day. I remember a Tozer sermon where he said how it is sin that has filled all the prisons, how it is sin that causes all the brutality and cruelty, the lying and deceitfulness, and the pride and arrogance we see in the world – and in ourselves.

How sad our state by nature is!
our sin how deep it stains!
and Satan binds our captive minds
fast in his slavish chains.

(Isaac Watts, 1674 – 1748)

His article made me realise afresh what it is that will be great (one of the things anyway) about heaven. There will be no sin. None at all! That is good news. Although if you love your sin that is not good news. There’s a double edge to that. It’s not good news because you love your sin and the rescuer has come. But you don’t want rescuing! Or you don’t see the need for a rescuer. And it’s not good because there will be a price to pay – eventually. You may hang on to your sin, and you may love it: But it’s only for a season. It will be short-lived.

To some extent we all love our sin – including Christians. But Christians can look forward, and do look forward, with joyful anticipation to that time when we shall be unencumbered by our sin. The glory of being without sin will be to worship God. To worship face-to-face without sin. Robert Murray M’Cheyne puts it so well in verse two of ‘When this passing world is done.’

When I stand before the throne,
dressed in beauty not my own,
when I see Thee as Thou art,
love Thee with unsinning heart,
then, Lord, shall I fully know,
not till then, how much I owe.

(Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 1813 – 1843)

This is our desire as Christians is it not – to Love Thee with unsinning heart!

But not yet. But the Rescuer has come! Christ The Saviour has been born. He has lived. He has died. He has risen. He has ascended. And He will return!

Perhaps this Christmas with all the disruption and confusion, and even great sadness for some, we have lost sight of what it is we are supposed to be celebrating?

Yes, the Rescuer has come! Jesus, the Saviour for sinners!

The doctrine of original sin has great explanatory power. It explains the state of our world. But the Christian Gospel offers much more than an explanation. It provides an answer. In fact the only answer.

Again, there is only one answer. Jesus, The Rescuer has come.

You will hear it, you may even sing it, but pray with the hymn-writer:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel.

(Philip Brooks, 1835 – 1893)

Call upon Jesus The Lord. Call upon Him to be your Rescuer! To be your Lord Emmanuel.

‘Beyond the Big C: Hope in the face of death’ by Jeremy Marshall

Beyond the Big C by Jeremy Marshall, 10 Publishing, 2019. £3.99 at 10 of Those (£1.75 each if you buy 10 copies).

Of course unbeknown to Jeremy there would be a new Big C in town, no longer is it Cancer but Coronavirus. Cancer has been (temporarily) usurped. I’ve always known Cancer as the Big C. (My Mum died of cancer, my sister-in-law died of cancer, and my wife died of cancer) Even with massive leaps forward in treatment and diagnosis I think most people would still see it like that. A cancer diagnosis is a solemn thing.

As for the book, I started reading it in bed one evening and finished it the next morning. It’s a very short book – 70 pages. No chapters but lots of helpful headings throughout. His honesty at the shock diagnosis and the fears he had, are, I think, really helpful. I thought his honesty was, and is refreshing. Non believers out there aren’t stupid and can detect insincerity at ten paces so it’s much better to be honest.

A strong and vibrant faith is not incompatible with being afraid. I’ve seen it. We don’t want to be afraid but it’s a powerful emotion. Here’s a successful man, a very capable man whose world is changed completely. What he finds is that Christ is right there with him in his suffering. I know what cancer treatment involves, having seen what my wife went through, and it isn’t pleasant!

Just a brief quote from page 45:

I long for my suffering friends to know that God has entered this sad, fallen, sinful world and he meets us right in the midst of our grief and sorrow.’

‘What we can offer – as well as compassion to those suffering from cancer or other terminal diseases – is the one thing that the world craves above all things: hope in the face of death. I love to tell people how the Lord has, by his death, defeated death.’

That does not mean having cancer for a Christian is a barrel of laughs – it isn’t. It’s tough. Really tough.

I like the way he challenges non-believers but without being aggressive or condescending. This is a great little book to give away or maybe leave (COVID regulations permitting) in a dentist or doctors waiting room. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that, but it’s a thought.

Jesus: The Great Physician

Not sure why this came to mind but I remember going to see the Oncologist back in January 2015 with my wife Sue. She had been given the all clear of a previous cancer and although I’ve no idea why, as the treatment was quite brutal, we were hopeful she would come through the treatment. Not so the second time. Again, I’ve no idea why, other than a feeling, but I remember well that we were not expecting good news. This time we did not have high expectations. Rather the opposite.

Then the meeting came. The doctor had all his notes, tests, and scan results. The news was not good. Sue was not expected to see Christmas. She didn’t. By November 23rd she was with Christ which is far better.

The doctor was the expert, he had been monitoring her condition for some time. He had all the expertise, the training, all the knowledge and all the test results. With heavy hearts we accepted the diagnosis, and the prognosis. Sue had to face the reality of leaving this world. As we all must sooner or later. I very clearly recall the drive home.

We go to the doctor and for the most part we accept the diagnosis: no matter how bad. The doctors usually know what they are doing.

But when faced with the diagnosis, and prognosis of Jesus the Great Physician we ignore it, laugh about it, mock Him, and resolutely refuse to believe it is true. You know the diagnosis. You, like me, and everyone else are sinners. We are fallen. We are under the judgement of a Holy God. The prognosis is eternal ruin.

Why O why, when the one who knows absolutely everything about you in all its sordid detail, your hopes and fears, your failures, all the self-righteousness, and every facet of your life you choose to ignore him? In Sue’s case the doctor could only offer another 6 months and that after a very severe and brutal round of cancer treatment. (Incidentally, Sue opted for palliative care only). The Lord Jesus is able to offer what the oncologist or any other doctor cannot.

The Son of God, The Lord Jesus Christ offers you Eternal Life, the Forgiveness of sins, Peace with God and you reject his offer out of hand. Even when The Lord Jesus bore the Cross instead of sinners, when ‘His blood can make the foulest clean’: still you reject him. This is a blindness, a madness even that only God can cure. Call upon him to have mercy upon you. Ask him to open your eyes. Turn in repentance and faith towards the Son of God, Jesus, the friend of sinners. Jesus, The Great Physician!

 

‘Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life & Thought’ by Stephen J. Nichols. A ‘Review’

‘Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Though’ by Stephen J. Nichols, P & R Publishing, 2002.

This is one book among many that are on the shelf and unread. We all have them. Not sure it’s been on my shelf for nearly 20 years but in any case I’ve wanted to read it for a while and as a change of reading matter was needed, here we are.

The ‘standard’ biography on Luther as I understand it is Bainton’s ‘Here I Stand (1987).’ I’ve dipped into an old edition of that but not read it, so apart from articles and the like this book by Nichols on Luther is really a first for me. Bainton’s book is mentioned at the end.

The book is 240 pages (it starts with the preface on page 11) about A5 size with easy to read print and headings throughout each chapter. It’s not complicated and suits me picking it up and putting it down. When I have sat and read it for a while it’s not been wearisome but actually very enjoyable. The book has several illustrations and is divided down into Preface (11 & 12), Introduction (13-20) followed by three main sections: Luther: His Life (21-66); Luther: The Reformer (67-146); and Luther: The Pastor (147-229). At the end of each chapter is a very helpful final section ‘A Note on the Sources.’ The last section (chapter?) of the book Nichols has included is Continuing the Journey: A Brief Guide to Books by and about Luther. At the end of the book there is a Bibliography, an Index of persons, an Index of Luther’s Works, and an Index of Scripture. A subject index would have been helpful. There are no footnotes or endnotes (my usual gripe) that can be a bit of a chore. I must admit the absence of notes helps the reading. The book is very accessible, reads well, and for me at least, was a good introduction to Luther.

On a topical note here’s a section in chapter 7 about Luther’s response to the plague. He wrote a pamphlet in 1527 on ‘Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague.’ Given our Covid Virus situation it made me sit up and take special notice. I’ve linked to it so I can read it later. I thought he’d say we had to stay. But he didn’t. He tells us to do what we can. However, Luther stayed and did not flee. Rather, he opened his house as a hospital and cared for the sick with his wife at great personal risk. Almost dying in the process. The guy is unbelievable on every level! Like many Christians I’ve picked up aspects of Luther’s life and teaching, without, if I’m honest, reading much about him. To actually read about him is amazing. It really is.

The downside of the book, and this is no fault of the author, is that it missed the 500th anniversary of The Reformation. So there is probably a truck load of new stuff on Luther.

If you are new to Luther or want an overview then this book will, I think, do the job. You will read about a giant of a man. In the history of the church there are few his equal. What he accomplished is simply extraordinary. With someone like Luther it’s easy to see how we can be so in awe of the man. We so easily venerate such figures. And I can see why. And it’s easy to do. But we lose sight of what it is that’s driving him if we do. He’s driven by a love for Christ his Saviour and a love for truth, and love for his neighbour. So we copy Luther not worship him. Or anyone else.

I apologise if my ‘review’ lacks detail. So, read the book!

Martin Luther quote on The Lord’s Supper

Unfortunately I’ve been reading this book (I will do one of my reviews later) on Martin Luther a bit piecemeal. But this morning I finished the chapter (6) on The Lord’s Supper, which for Luther held a place of great prominence in his thinking. I’ve realised that I don’t regard The Lord’s Supper in anywhere near as high regard as I should. And I’m not entirely sure the Church as a whole does so either.

I should read some more on this vital topic. During the insanity through which we are now living celebrating the Lord’s Supper is becoming a distant memory. This should not be so. This is a means of Grace instituted not by man but by the Lord of the Church. As such it is something that should and needs to be celebrated. Whatever your view of The Supper, on page 129 Stephen Nichols offers the following quotation from Luther that I thought helpful:

The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh itself and not weaken in the struggle but continually grow stronger…. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attacks the old man, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about everywhere, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or yield hand and foot and become indifferent and impatient. For such times, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.

I had thought this could be done online. After reading this I’m not so sure. It’s an understatement to say that Luther lived through turbulent times, including times of the plague, and yet still maintained the keeping of this vital means of grace. It’s a reminder that the church cannot possibly be a virtual church. The use of the word virtual could be taken both ways. That is as an online church, or as a pretend church.

‘The Creaking On The Stairs’ by Mez McConnell – A Recommendation

This is an absolutely brilliant book – I need to say that right from the start.

‘The Creaking On The Stairs’ Mez McConnell. Christian Focus, 2019.

This isn’t merely another testimony book. Please don’t think of it that way. It’s not a ‘things were really awful, but now  everything is wonderful’ book either. And, be prepared, it’s a harrowing read – in places it is utterly horrific! Mez’s life has been turned round  and ‘upside down’ in the most extraordinary way by the Lord Jesus Christ. But, and this, I believe, is very important to understand – it is NOT a book only about recovering from child abuse. It is about that. And that is amazing. But there’s a wider application as well.

If you have suffered any form of abuse this book will hopefully be very helpful. He writes TO the reader, especially to the abused reader. If that’s you – please read it. And to the abuser as well. And if that’s you – please read it! And if you’re wondering what Christianity is all about or has to offer – then you need to read it. As you can tell, I’m blown away by this book.

A brief word then about the book. There are 49 chapters, which given the content, are mercifully short, Mez doesn’t shy away from stating things as they are (and were). He’s brutally honest. I’m sure things were actually much much worse than he describes them but we, the reader, get the picture full on. He’s also honest about how he feels now.

Alarming perhaps to our Christian sentimentalities, but the honesty is shocking yet devastatingly refreshing.

It’s written really well. I like the way he’s structured it. It works. It’s easy to read as a book (the content is quite gruelling though). The book is full of Reformed theology. It’s not cold and lifeless. It’s warm and life-changing. Creation – Fall – Redemption. The reality, the factualness of sin, of the sinful nature and the cost of Redemption, the love of God in Christ, the Cross is all here. It’s a book of HOPE. Mez has been delivered by Christ the great deliverer. But the fact is we all need that deliverance. Respectable sinners are still sinners and just as lost as the drug addict, the abused, and the abuser.

If ‘The Problem of Evil’ is a problem for you then you may well find this book to be very helpful indeed. If you want an answer, you won’t do any better than to read this book. People are looking for answers. Especially about why the world and their lives are the way they are. Some say there are no answers. But there are. This book is one. The real problem is people don’t like the answers. The answer means handing authority over to another. And we won’t have that at any price, even if that means our own lives suffer. Sin is such an awful master!

In case you wondered, there’s no redemptive merit in what Mez suffered. There’s no balancing of the universe. But, unlike in a humanistic system, it isn’t without purpose either.

I like the way he’ll take a subject based on his awful experience and then contrast it in the following chapter with the suffering of Christ which is redemptive – for and on behalf of sinners, not himself. This, I think, works really well. For example he does this with chapters on humiliation, rejection and pain & suffering. Christ is humiliated. Christ is rejected. Christ undergoes pain & suffering.

Every chapter was either Jaw – Dropping in its description of evil or in the Amazing Grace of God in Christ.

These chapters stood out to me: Hell on Earth; The Glorious Wonderful Reality of Hell; The Terrible Reality of Heaven; The Bittersweet Pill of God’s Sovereignty.

Like I said this isn’t ‘merely’ a testimony book so at the end there is a section of Helpful Resources:

  • Worshipping with the enemy? – Interview with a child abuser
  • Interview with the Pastor of a child abuser
  • FAQs from Child Abuse Sufferers
  • A Response to this Book from an Abuse Sufferer
  • Next Steps

I was going to put loads of quotes in but instead I will end with a plea to read it. If you are a Church Officer, Elder or Pastor / Minister you MUST read it. I hope you will.

Death, Suffering and The Compassion of Jesus

I’ve been going through nearly 200 unpublished draft posts. I came across this one and decided to post it. The draft was dated 30th October 2015. That’s about a month before Sue died. I pray this will be of some help as you read this.


It’s easy to read the Scriptures and miss so much of their richness. Although commentators are useful and wonderful gifts to the Church they don’t always tell everything that’s happening in a passage of the Bible. A case in point is when the disciples come to tell Jesus that John the Baptist had died. The passage is from Matthew 14: 1-12. Thinking of verse 12:

‘And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.’

It had never occured to me before, but why did Jesus withdraw to a lonely place?

‘Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.’ Mat 14:13

Various views might be that His time was not yet, or that if we fill in the narrative from the other Gospels there are a few things happening. The Disciples come back from their evangelistic mission exclaiming how  the spirits are subject to them and that many have been healed. But could it be that Jesus is grieving the loss of His friend and cousin John.

Could Jesus have prevented the death of John. Of course. Jesus could have brought down a fiery judgement upon the head of that wicked man Herod. But He didn’t. What then about the executioner who upon delivering the fateful blow was only obeying orders. Could Jesus have delivered John from the axeman. Of course. What about Herodias and her wicked mother? Could Jesus have foiled their terrible conspiracy to silence righteous John? Of course.

Even in the light of the knowledge that King Jesus could have prevented all, yet permitted all, nevertheless, Jesus grieved over the death of John the preacher of righteousness. Suffering, is often cited as the achilles heal of the Christian faith. But is it really an achilles heel? As Jesus telescopes down history to the final judgement when Herod and all those responsible for the death of John will face another judgement. On that last day the friend of sinners will be the Judge on His throne. We may know it now, but then, it will be seen by all that Jesus does all things well.

‘And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”’ Mark 7:37