Thursday, March 31, 2016


The symbols under which Heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert. It would be grotesque to suppose that the guests or citizens or members of the choir didn’t know one another. And how can love of one another be commanded in this life if it is to be cut short at death?

Think of yourself just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half- waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But cock-crow is coming.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Twice as fast as aspirin

To Joshua's "I and my house" [the Israelites] add their "we too." But then Joshua does something no decision-loving evangelist should ever do. To Israel's "we too" he opposes his "you cannot." If Israel gives herself to Yahweh it must be in a cautious commitment.

Joshua's is a shocking refusal. "You cannot serve Yahweh, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not go on forgiving your rebellion and your sins." If you desert him, he will consume you. Don't lightly mouth your profession of faith, Joshua is saying. Don't you realise the sort of God you are dealing with? He is a holy, jealous God. You didn't dare come to him thinking, "though it makes him sad to see the way we live, he'll always say, 'I forgive.'" Yahweh is not a soft, cuddly Santa in the sky who drools over easy decisions during invitation hymns. Joshua seeks to put down that blathering self-confidence that makes emotional commitments rather than shutting its mouth and counting the cost.

"You cannot serve Yahweh." Neither Israel nor the church could hear a more beneficial word than that.

It was precisely when the Jesus bandwagon was going great guns (Luke 14:25) that Jesus emphasized who "cannot be my disciple." Rather, one must carefully "count the cost" before yielding allegiance to Jesus. The church should note this. Too frequently, the Jesus we present is some variety of prepackaged joy, peace and provision that works twice as fast as aspirin. He is our cellophane Christ. We should not sell Christ like that but warn people about him! Our task is not to bait people into saying, "I will lay down my life for you" (John 13:37), but to get them (and ourselves) to squirm under his searching, "Do you love me?" (John 21: 15-19). Too many of us perjure ourselves before a holy Judge as we sing, "I surrender all," or "My Jesus, I love thee." There are stanzas in some hymns that I dare not sing.

One of the healthiest things a Christian can do is to doubt and question his easy expressions of commitment. One of the ordination vows my denomination asks of me is:
Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public, and to endeavour by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
I would not touch that with the proverbial ten-foot pole. It asks too much of a proud, angry, lustful, covetous man. I affirm it only because there is that clause, "by the grace of God," in it. Otherwise, I would have to turn away, for it would be too much to promise. Baptismal, membership and marriage vows should receive the same scrutiny.

Dale Ralph Davis in No Falling Words, expositions on the Book of Joshua, pages 201-2

Saturday, March 05, 2016


The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water.

Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness. If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are. Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let "Christ and him crucified" be your ever recurring theme.

Charles Spurgeon, in Morning and Evening, for March 2nd. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Dissecting the recipe instead of feeding the family

From a footnote in Dale Ralph Davis' No Falling Words, page 167. 

Simplicity is, in my book, a plus; the more complicated an explanatory critical theory becomes, the less probability it holds of being correct, since every additional element inserts new (frequently uncheckable) variables into the problem. Multiplying the variables in a theory multiplies the uncertainty of their (all) describing the true course of events. Whether for a book or a chapter, the customary critical proposals inspire less confidence than a naive one. For chapter 22 [of Joshua], someone will hold we have a Gilgal tradition and a Shiloh tradition - these may have been in conflict originally. Of course, a Deuteronomic editor contributes his material, and a Priestly hand adds his touches - nor must we forget another post-exilic redactor (cf. the commentaries by Gray and Soggin on Joshua 22), Someone else will speculate differently. There are no controls; it is sheer guesswork. What's more, it seldom makes any difference (except to place question marks after the reliability of Scripture).

The real problem with such bloodless speculation is that, after having done it, its practitioners strangely enough do not bother to tell us what their literary monstrosity has to say to the flock of God. The problem with most commentaries of such genre is that they can in no way nourish the church in godliness. Do they provide technical help - linguistic, archaeological? Yes. But to them the Scripture is not warm. It is an artifact from the past, not an oracle from God. Nor should they wonder if the church finds all their furrow-browed, pin-the-tail-on-the-tradition-centre activity next to useless.