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Five Things I Want to Teach My Son

Should the Lord be pleased and I have a son (tentatively named Kofi Jr – has to be born on a Friday though but we can dream!), here are five life lessons I want to impart him – lessons I’ve learned the hard way but lessons I’m glad to have learned (and in most cases, am still learning!): father-and-son

  1. Learn to love the Word of God. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I came to truly appreciate the Word of God and all it could. It’s not in vain that Jesus prayed to the Father, Sanctify them by Your truth, Your Word is truth1 Love the Word, order your life around the Word, be prepared to get rid of people and circumstances that will tempt you away from the Word (and they will come thick and fast!) – do everything to be in the best position to receive the implanted word, which is able to save your soul.2
  2. Learn to embrace your weaknesses. Now understand me – I’m not talking about flaws of character – work on those through the Word in the power of the Spirit. I’m talking about those things which are not sinful but seem to cripple you. The culture around you will tell you to be ashamed of your weaknesses and to be on a constant hamster-wheel of self-improvement but, listen to me –  you are strongest when you are weakest. Never feel the urge to change who you are merely because someone says so – if it hinders your Gospel witness or impairs Gospel work, fix it. Otherwise, adopt the apostle’s approach: So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.3
  3. Be vulnerable. I’ve never liked being vulnerable – after all, who in their wrong mind wants to be open to even the possibility of being hurt by another person? Vulnerability, by its very nature, means people will hurt you – sometimes profoundly so. Yet still be open to people – there aren’t that many people who are open with people and the world suffers for it. For the good of others, be willing to spend and be spent, even if it’s for little reward now. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.4
  4. Watch how you treat women. There is a crisis of manhood in our culture – a fact so well-documented I’m sure I don’t need to devote an excess of time to defining how far-reaching it is. I hate to say it but sometimes that crisis puts on Sunday best and comes to church on a Sunday morning (or afternoon, if your church is like mine), Reject this culture’s treatment of women as game to be hunted or empty-headed ditzes worthy only of manipulation and mistreatment or equipment to be used for your own means. They are image-bearers of God – just like you are – and if they are believing, then they are heirs of the grace of life – just like you are. They’re your sisters in the Lord – even after you marry one, that’s still true. Don’t play with their hearts, don’t treat them as objects, don’t assume they’re inferiors – treat them with every ounce of dignity you can muster.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Seriously. There will be enough people in your life to do that on your behalf – of that, I can give you full assurance. Enjoy the laughter, engage in recreation, find time to do things which are…well, not that serious. Fun, in its proper place, is not a sin and be prepared to remind some folks around you of that. Be light-hearted when the moment allows. Learn to lighten up and laugh. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.((Prov 17:22))

Ultimately, kid – it’s not in you to do any of this. You’ll fail, you’ll grow weary, you’ll sin – but remember:

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.5

The Gospel will provide sweet balm for your cuts, scrapes and wounds – rest in it. I suppose that’s the most important thing I can leave you.

  1. John 17:17 []
  2. James 1:21 []
  3. 2 Cor 12:10 []
  4. 2 Cor 12:10 []
  5. 1 John 1:8-10 []
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Father Hunger

I did have a blog post planned today called “An Ineligible Bachelor?” – that’ll now be posted on Tuesday afternoon. 

However, yesterday I listened to a sermon series I hadn’t heard since 2013 from Doug Wilson, minister of Christ Church in Moscow, ID called “Father Hunger” and just had to share it.

Even if you’re not a father (like yours truly), this series may go some way in correcting some of the wrong views of fatherhood that exist in our minds as men. I pray it is as much of a blessing for you as it was for me.

 

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Christians Are Annoying (1)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Christians Are Annoying

I have long believed in and cherished the great ideal of brutal honesty.

As the saying goes, “Hard words make soft hearts and soft words make hard hearts”, and while I appreciate there is some pushback to that sentiment, it’s true on occasion.

Sometimes hard words need to be said in order to evoke change. For more information, please consult the Letter to the Galatians as an argument in favour of that principle.

This blog post is going to be one of those “hard words” – I am going to say something that you potentially may find upsetting, annoying (that would be ironic!) or rather arrogant. It’s not my aim to be but nonetheless, I apologise in advance if that is the case.

Why, then, do I think some Christians are annoying? Five distinct areas highlight this reality to me:

We are generally immature at times

To put it bluntly, sone growing-up is needed. ASAP.

There is a flippancy among Christians at times that I find totally disheartening – especially in younger Christians.

Kill-joy! That’s probably the choice of heckle I’d hear if I was having this conversation with folks in person but that’s not what I’m saying.

More than most, I enjoy my laughter (probably more than I should) and I love a good joke…but not everything is funny. If everything is a source of humour, then nothing is a source of humour – it’s just a morass of silliness.

But humour is not the only problem.

No there’s also a general issue with doing things on your own. Our instant-information age has made it such that we really think that there is an app or a guy or a guy with an app to do everything for us.

That’s annoying. 

We love cliques and elitism

Now I have to confess I am passionate about this one because I used to be that guy.

I’m something of a theological outcast for various reasons I won’t get into. (I’m a general outcast when it comes to life too but I made peace with that a long time ago.)

One of the beauties of not fitting in anywhere and people treating you as weird no matter what the context or setting is that you begin to realise that Christians love cliques, categories and a good dash of feeling like part of some elite group.

I’m a Calvinist – and I’ll be frank in saying that few theological sub-cultures have as many ‘sets’ (in the gang sense of the term) as Calvinist. I’ve seen Presbyterian go after Presbyterian because they weren’t ‘confessional’ enough, I’ve seen Reformed guys turn on Baptists because they have no sacraments1 and Lord help you should you be a dispensational-leaning Calvinist among covenantal brothers.

It more resembles this scene than Christian brothers with differences:

Simpsons_angry_mob

Now I don’t want to say that this is solely the problem of Calvinists…because it’s not solely the problem of Calvinists.2 But we have to confess that at times we genuinely think we are better than people because we have better theology – we might not say it but our actions do.

That’s elitism – the subtle belief that one group possesses an innate advantage over another group on the basis of shared knowledge, values and/or experiences. Sorry, Christians, we don’t do elitism in our circles.

Even if your theology is better than most people around you, build bridges and don’t build walls for Heaven’s sake3 – don’t allow your theology to puff you up lest God feel pleased to stick a pin in you for your soul’s sake.

Cliques and elitist thinking in God’s Church – that’s annoying.

We are really insensitive

Yes, yes we are. Christians have the capability to some of the coldest, uncaring, unapproachable people in any given situation.

Now, c’mon, Kofi, that’s an overstatement, ain’t it? 

Nope – there are some moments where I simply have to ask myself, “Is there actually a functioning brain in there as you talk right now?”

In many ways, this problem of insensitivity is the fruit of my first major gripe –  because we’re immature, we’re not sensitive to the reality that for some people, there is such a thing as a sore spot!

There are certain brothers in my life that though I love them dearly, I am resolved I will never tell certain things for the simple reasons their comments demonstrate a general inability to be considerate and in the interest of practicing what I preach, I restrain

I often half-joke that some brothers will hear about me getting married, should that ever happen, the week before. The reason why (which I never disclose) is that any earlier I will be dealing with a load of foolish jokes over something I take kinda seriously.

Ultimately, sensitivity is something you develop by getting to know people and knowing where they struggle.

My pastors are amazing at this. Pastor Tom and I talk a lot and while there is a lot of good-natured ribbing I undergo from PT, I can bank on the reality that there are certain issues he will be as sensitive in dealing with. In fact, I know there are certain subjects we joke about and some that are so raw I wouldn’t naturally touch them if he didn’t fulfil his pastoral ministry and ask for the good of my own soul.

But that is rare – because we Christians are not as sensitive to the pains and struggles of others and it is annoying.

To be continued…

  1. Again, I could go in on that…but I like being in the land of the living and somewhat happy []
  2. I grew up Pentecostal – we’re worse at being cliquish! []
  3. and I mean that in the literal sense []
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Looking Back, Looking Forward: Thoughts on Depression (4)

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Depression

I wrestled with what to say in this closing part of the series on depression and I decided to let Paul himself have the final word. I will add one closing word: even in a world where depression and its ugly side effects are real, we have the hope of a Kingdom to come where God will wipe every tear from our eyes and depression will be a shadow in the rear view. Now for Paul…

2 Cor 1:5-11 For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in your endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will share in the comfort.

For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia:we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life. Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again 11 while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on ourbehalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward: Thoughts on Depression (3)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Depression

So far in our journey through 2 Cor 1:3-11, we’ve seen two principles that help us understand though suffering may seem purposeless, no suffering is purposeless:

  1. Suffering is not purposeless because of who our God is
  2. Suffering is not purposeless because of what our God in it

The third principle we see in these verses is this:

Suffering is not purposeless because of what God does through us after it.

Paul says the following in verse 4:

He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

God’s design in our suffering is that the one who has suffered is able to turn around and comfort those who are going through suffering. God Himself comforts the afflicted but He comforts the afflicted so they can turn around and say with the Psalmist:

Psalm 66:16 ESV Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.

A lonely place…but it needn’t be!

In the last three or four years, I’ve had the amazing privilege of being able to sit with so many people going through depression and do two things – listen and let them know it can get better. There’s nothing worse than going through something as tough as depression and folks not listening and folks giving you no (or worse, false) hope. That’s the risk taken when one humbles themselves to let someone speak into their life…

But there is something beautiful, something amazing, something frankly powerful about what the Spirit of God does when someone armed with the truth of God speaks into the life of another believer who is suffering so that they are comforted.

May I say, that this includes talking but it’s not limited to just talking.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re reading to know how to help someone who is suffering with depression. You’ll do a lot of talking but be prepared for having to get the person out of their environment sometimes, going round and helping them do stuff, inviting them to spend time in your home or with your circle of friends, etc.

It’ll seem like a thankless job, the person you are trying to minister to might find you irritating at first and want to be on their own but keep the end in mind:

God is using you as an emissary of His comfort 

So press on!

For the person who is still going through it, I have a message from Paul (and we’ll pick this up in a couple of weeks – I’m off on holiday from Friday!):

For we don’t want you to be unaware, brothers, of our affliction that took place in Asia:we were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life.

Indeed, we personally had a death sentence within ourselves, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.

10 He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and He will deliver us. We have put our hope in Him that He will deliver us again

You might well be despairing of life itself but it can get better!

I’ll pick up how in Paul’s own words from verses 5-11 in part four in early March 🙂

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Looking Back, Looking Forward: Thoughts on Depression (2)

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Depression

In 2 Cor 1:3-4  Paul presents to us three realities about suffering of any form (and thus applicable to the issue of depression) that should help us realise that though sufferings seems meaningless, it is not meaningless.

Suffering is not meaningless because of who our God is:

That’s where processing anything we go through in life should begin – good experiences as well as bad, times of joy and elation and times of sadness and depression. Everything begins with knowing God.

Paul begins with the following:

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

As we’ll see in the next post as Paul shows these principles at work in his own life, Paul didn’t have a lot to praise about – he was suffering profoundly – and yet he was able to direct his praises, not towards the situation before him, but to God who is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.

That didn’t mean donning what my pastor referred to once as a SWEG – a sickly weak evangelical grin, supposedly veiling what pain he felt.

It did mean recognising that even in suffering, God was still worthy of praise and as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. That which Paul needed – the mercies and comfort of God – was to be found in Him and so He could still bend his knee in worship, even in such despair.

Suffering is not meaningless because of what our God does in it:

This Father of mercies and God of all comfort is not all talk. Paul reminds us:

He comforts us in all our afflictions…

That word comfort is phenomenal. It’s the verb form of the term used by Jesus in John 14-15 to describe the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, Helper, Advocate. It speaks to coming alongside someone and helping them. Even our English word comfort – the result of two Latin words (cum and forte – with strength) – speaks to the idea of one coming with strength to the aid of one without strength.

And it’s important to note that God does in our afflictions – He’s not the clean-up guy who waits till it’s a mess and then steps in to help. No, our God is with us in our afflictions in all His strength and power to see us through it.

fatigue-depression
How a friend of mine described depression: running on empty and resigning yourself to going nowhere any time soon…

Now, hear me – I am not saying that to minimize the pain suffering brings or (worse in my opinion) to tell you that the work of comfort our God does means you won’t experience any pain in the midst of adverse circumstances and seasons. What I am saying is that in the midst of that, He doesn’t leave us alone. He sees to it that we are left powerless against the storm.

One more thing under this point: The Holy Spirit writing through Paul calls these situations and circumstances afflictions. They are what they are. The default position for many Christians – and especially in relation to issues like depression – is to either downgrade it to something “not quite as serious” or to minimize the experience of the person suffering.

That kind of sweeping it under the rug or under-selling is foreign to a passage like this.

The word here for suffering is thlipsis – and literally it refers to pressure or pressing together. It’s elsewhere translated as trouble, distress, tribulation – this isn’t “I had a bad day and really don’t wanna talk about it…”, these are actual anguish-inducing, tear-jerking, painful moments of life.

I’ll deal with some personal reflection in the fourth (and final) part of this mini-series but I’ll hit this one while we’re on the subject – God doesn’t minimze the reality of suffering and neither should we. Call it what it is with the confidence that you and God, in a very real sense, are in this together.

So:

  • Suffering is not purposeless because of who our God is
  • Suffering is not purposeless because of what our God does

The third reality that springs from this text is so backwards to how society – and dare I say, the Church on occasion – deals with issues like this that I’ll save that for part three.

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My Five Favourite Non-Calvinist Preachers/Writers

One of my personal gripes with being Calvinist is that f0lks assume you only listen to other Calvinists. Now to a degree, that can’t be helped – a lot of preaching outside of reformed circles is, frankly, the highest grade of wack.  If you want to challenge me on this…I have a looooooong list of names. Or you could watch TBN, GOD TV, The Word Network – nine times out of ten, it’s spiritual garbage.

A_W_Tozer
A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer 

A member of the Christian & Missionary Alliance for many yearsI enjoyed reading The Knowledge of the Holy Spirit a few years ago and catching a little of Tozer’s vision of a “big God” – and if you’ve read it, you know it’s an infectious vision!

Warren Wiersbe
Warren Wiersbe

Warren Wiersbe

For years, the Bible teacher with Back to the Bible Radio, Dr Wiersbe is probably my favourite non-Calvinist expositor. Author of the popular BE series, Dr Wiersbe has a gift for weaving accurate handling of the text with soul-piercing application. I’ve probably learned more about how application of the text works from reading his commentary on passages as I prepare material for classes, Sunday school lessons, etc.

J. Vernon McGee

The first time I heard J. Vernon McGee, I was a new believer listening to Premier Radio, the big Christian radio station that we have out here in London. My dad practically swore by Premier Radio as a good hub for Christian material (I wouldn’t agree today) but there was something very different to this man with the most distinctive accent I had ever heard on someone speaking English with the unique proposition of just teaching through the Bible within five years. I will confess that I was curious and kept on listening as this guy did something that, years later, I would finally “get”. What was more – by the time I listened to his ministry on the radio, he’d been dead…for 16 years. He had gone home to glory that long and yet the teaching sounded as relevant as ever. There’s something to be said for that. (And yes…I’ve got back on “the Bible Bus” in the last year or so – currently in Hebrews 5 ;))

Howard Hendricks

“Prof”, as he was known to his many students, authored a book which has been influential in my attempts to have the Bible faithfully. That book is called Living by the Book – and it is a book that I personally would give to every new Christian so they had a grasp on how to study the Word.

Chuck Smith

The Calvary Chapel dude, Kofi!?!?!?!? Yes, that Chuck Smith. Hear me on this. There would be areas of significant disagreement that exist between Calvinistically-oriented types and Calvary Chapels. Some would even argue those differences to be deal-breakers (“They’re Arminian”, “They’re dispensational”, “They have a jacked-up ecclesiology”, etc.)

But consider this with me for a second. Smith, for all of that, was a man committed to the preaching and teaching of the Word. He used his influences over so many to further that commitment to the Word of God. I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of Pastor Chuck’s teaching and found him to be Christ-exalting, intentional about being Biblical and (honestly speaking), a little more warmhearted in his approach than some of my reformed brothers. There’s something we can all learn from such an approach in our preaching and teaching of the Word.

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The Curse Motif of the Atonement

On my way to work this morning, as my Dad drove, I listened to Premier Radio, which is the Christian radio station here in the London and the South East of England. The topic was on the Cross and the radio host and guest both made such a hack job of dealing with the subject that I tweeted about it on my way to work:

As I rolled into work, I was reminded of the stellar message of R.C. Sproul from a couple of T4G conferences ago on the theme of the Curse Motif of the Atonement. Enjoy!

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The Armour of the Adversary

I’m currently reading a modernised version of John Bunyan’s classic allegory The Holy War. 

Apparently this particular version is out-of-print but the Tabernacle Bookshop presents another modern edition that could be helpful.

The Holy War, John Bunyan
The Holy War, John Bunyan

One part of the book that struck me was when Diabolus (the Devil), the giant who had taken over the city of Mansoul, addressed the people and prepared for the coming of the forces of King Shaddai (God the Father) as he sought to reclaim his beloved city. As the speech winds to a close, Diabolus goes into the “armour” he provides for the people of Mansoul to ward off the advances of Shaddai and his army:

1. My helmet, otherwise called an head-piece, is hope of doing well at last, what lives soever you live. This is that which they had who said, that they should have peace, though they walked in the wickedness of their heart, to add drunkenness to thirst. A piece of approved armour this is, and whoever has it, and can hold it, so long no arrow, dart, sword, or shield can hurt him. This, therefore, keep on, and thou wilt keep off many a blow, my Mansoul.

2. My breastplate is a breastplate of iron. I had it forged in mine own country, and all my soldiers are armed therewith. In plain language, it is a hard heart, a heart as hard as iron, and as much past feeling as a stone; the which if you get and keep, neither mercy shall win you, nor judgment fright you. This, therefore, is a piece of armour most necessary for all to put on that hate Shaddai, and that would fight against him under my banner.

3. My sword is a tongue that is set on fire of hell, and that can bend itself to speak evil of Shaddai, his Son, his ways, and people. Use this; it has been tried a thousand times twice told. Whoever hath it, keeps it, and makes that use of it as I would have him, can never be conquered by mine enemy.

4. My shield is unbelief, or calling into question the truth of the word, or all the sayings that speak of the judgment that Shaddai has appointed for wicked men. Use this shield: many attempts he has made upon it, and sometimes, it is true, it has been bruised; but they that have writ of the wars of Emmanuel against my servants, have testified that he could do no mighty work there because of their unbelief. Now, to handle this weapon of mine aright, it is not to believe things because they are true, of what sort or by whomsoever asserted. If he speaks of judgment, care not for it; if he speaks of mercy, care not for it; if he promises, if he swears that he would do to Mansoul, if it turns, no hurt, but good, regard not what is said, question the truth of all, for it is to wield the shield of unbelief aright, and as my servants ought and do; and he that cloth otherwise loves me not, nor do I count him but an enemy to me.

5. Another part or piece,said Diabolus, of mine excellent armour is a dumb and prayerless spirit, a spirit that scorns to cry for mercy: wherefore be you, my Mansoul, sure that you make use of this. What! cry for quarter! Never do that, if you would be mine. I know you are stout men, and am sure that I have clad you with that which is armour of proof. Wherefore, to cry to Shaddai for mercy, let that be far from you. Besides all this, I have a maul, firebrands, arrows, and death, all good hand-weapons, and such as will do execution.’