David's Blog

For the broken-hearted at Christmas

Here's a reminder that Christmas is for those of us with broken hearts & empty seats at the table - it's one of John Piper's Solid Joys Advent posts - you can find out more about these posts and how to receive them at the bottom of the page here:  Solid joys 

Life and Death at Christmas
By John Piper

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
As I was about to begin this devotional, I received word that Marion Newstrum had just died. Marion and her husband Elmer had been part of our church longer than most of our members had been alive at the time. She was 87. They had been married 64 years.
When I spoke to Elmer and told him I wanted him to be strong in the Lord and not give up on life, he said, “He has been a true friend.” I pray that all Christians will be able to say at the end of life, “Christ has been a true friend.”
Each Advent I mark the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was cut off in her 56th year in a bus accident in Israel. It was December 16, 1974. Those events are incredibly real to me even today. If I allow myself, I can easily come to tears — for example, thinking that my sons never knew her. We buried her the day after Christmas. What a precious Christmas it was!
Many of you will feel your loss this Christmas more pointedly than before. Don’t block it out. Let it come. Feel it. What is love for, if not to intensify our affections — both in life and death? But oh, do not be bitter. It is tragically self-destructive to be bitter.
Jesus came at Christmas that we might have eternal life. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Elmer and Marion had discussed where they would spend their final years. Elmer said, “Marion and I agreed that our final home would be with the Lord.”
Do you feel restless for home? I have family coming home for the holidays. It feels good. I think the bottom-line reason for why it feels good is that they and I are destined in the depths of our being for an ultimate Homecoming. All other homecomings are foretastes. And foretastes are good.
Unless they become substitutes. Oh, don’t let all the sweet things of this season become substitutes of the final, great, all-satisfying Sweetness. Let every loss and every delight send your hearts a-homing after heaven.
Christmas. What is it but this: I came that they may have life? Marion Newstrum, Ruth Piper, and you and I — that we might have Life, now and forever.

Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever. It is so near.

Christmas lesson from Chicago

What a Poor Chicago Family Taught Me One Christmas Eve (article by Lee Strobel - posted by Bible Gateway - Lee Strobel worked on the Chicago Tribune.)

The Chicago Tribune newsroom was eerily quiet one day before Christmas. As I sat at my desk with little to do, my mind kept wandering back to a family I had encountered a month earlier while I was working on a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people.
The Delgados—sixty-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny—had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement and were now living in a tiny two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn’t believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls—only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. That’s it. They were virtually devoid of possessions.
But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced he had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace.
I wrote an article about the Delgados and then quickly moved on to more exciting assignments. But as I sat at my desk on Christmas Eve, I continued to wrestle with the irony of the situation: here was a family that had nothing but faith and yet seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially but lacked faith—and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment.
I walked over to the city desk to sign out a car. It was a slow news day with nothing of consequence going on. My boss could call me if something were to happen. In the meantime, I decided to drive over to West Homer Street and see how the Delgados were doing.
When Jenny opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tribune readers had responded to my article by showering the Delgados with a treasure trove of gifts—roomfuls of furniture, appliances, and rugs; a lavish Christmas tree with piles of wrapped presents underneath; carton upon bulging carton of food; and a dazzling selection of clothing, including dozens of warm winter coats, scarves, and gloves. On top of that, they donated thousands of dollars in cash.
But as surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.”
That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me.
“This is wonderful; this is very good,” she said, gesturing toward the largess. “We did nothing to deserve this—it’s a gift from God. But,” she added, “it is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.”
To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything—more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus—because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.
They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material—and something made me long for what they had.
Or, more accurately, for the One they knew

A prayer in the midst of all the busy-ness of Advent

An advent prayer from Scotty Smith (anglicised in its references & spelling!)

Heavenly Father, the Advent theme of “waiting” confronts me in every context of life. Why am I in such a hurry? Why the rush? At just the right time, you sent Jesus. Not a day too early, and not a day late. It will be the same with Jesus’ second coming.
But as for me, cars in front of me cannot move fast enough. Amazon and Royal mail can’t be delivered quick enough. Restaurants can’t serve me soon enough and Wi-Fi can’t be speedy enough. Worse, people can’t make their point soon enough.
I repent. Early in this season of Advent, I want to recalibrate my heart, that I might live and love at the pace of grace. Free me of my busy, cluttered, in too-much-of-a-hurry self. According to you, the only thing that counts is “faith expressing itself in love” (Gal. 5:6), not impatience expressing itself in irritability. May my “to love list” supersede my “to do list,” a thousand-fold.
Father, thank you for not being in a hurry. Thank you for waiting to be gracious to us. Thank you for not being slow about your promises. Thank you for being patient with my impatience. I lament my busyness and repent of my hurriedness. I purpose to slow down—look, listen, and linger in the presence and beauty of Jesus. Oh, come let us adore Him, indeed.
In Jesus’ wonderful and merciful and name.


Thoughts on a train journey

Sitting in a carriage on a train journey - Who are all these people? Who are these people that I may never see again? Why am I seeing them today Lord? What does the rest of their day hold? What does the rest of their life hold? One thing I do know about them, one thing I do share with them - they, like me, will one day stand before you, Lord Jesus.  I can pray for them to be ready: if there is anything I can do or say to help them be ready for that day, help me to do it, to say it -  whether deliberately or unwittingly. 

Prayer changes things

“Prayer does change things, all kinds of things. But the most important thing it changes is us. As we engage in this communion with God more deeply and come to know the One with whom we are speaking more intimately, that growing knowledge of God reveals to us all the more brilliantly who we are and our need to change in conformity to Him. Prayer changes us profoundly.” (RC Sproul)

A reminder of our dependence

Here is a great devotional from John Piper from his daily Solid Joys - it was originally published here - Solid Joys under the title:  'We can do nothing'

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5)
Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?
Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”
And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.
In John 15:5, Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So we really are paralyzed. Without Christ, we are capable of no Christ-exalting good. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”
But John 15:5 also says that God does intend for us to do much Christ-exalting good, namely bear fruit: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So as our strong and reliable friend — “I have called you friends” (John 15:15) — he promises to do for us, and through us, what we can’t do for ourselves.
How then do we glorify him? Jesus gives the answer in John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” We pray! We ask God to do for us through Christ what we can’t do for ourselves — bear fruit.
John 15:8 gives the result: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”
So how is God glorified by prayer? Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help we need.

Nabeel Qureshi - why he resonated with so many

Nabeel Qureshi was brought up in a loving Muslim family but came to faith in Jesus and spent much of his life thereafter seeking to commend Christ to others. Last Saturday (16th September) he died of stomach cancer aged 34. Ravi Zacharias was asked to write something about him for the Washington Post - his words are printed below or can be found in the original article here: Nabeel Qureshi If you would like some further information on his life you can find it here

Why this Muslim-turned-Christian speaker resonated with so many before his death at 34

By Ravi Zacharias
The Washington Post
"The first time I saw him, he sat at a table across from me, one of his legs constantly moving almost subconsciously, as though he was warming up for a run. It was a habit of his restless disposition to stand and gallop. I asked if we could talk about his mission in life. He joined me in the back seat of the car, that leg still moving.
That was Nabeel Qureshi. He hated sitting still. He was a man with a mission, ready to run. Sadly, for us, he died Saturday at a young age of 34 after a year of battling stomach cancer. Nabeel, who was raised in a Muslim-American family and converted to Christianity after a fellow college student sparked his interest in Christianity, worked with me in Christian apologetics.
The field of apologetics deals with the hard questions posed to the Christian faith. Each of us has a worldview, whether we recognize it or not. A worldview basically offers answers to four necessary questions: origin, meaning, morality and destiny. Christian apologetics is the discipline of answering people’s specific questions and making the truth claims clear. We aim to engage people in meaningful interactions with gentleness and respect, bearing in mind that behind every question is a questioner.
Because Islam is so much in the sights of the world right now, an articulate and attractive personality like Nabeel was often given a fair hearing. He was also a medical doctor and well studied in theology and philosophy, academic credentials that earned him respect. He was well versed in the faith in which he was raised.
Nabeel held dear the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old and New Testaments and carried the message of salvation. He said that for years as a young man, he labored and struggled to gain “righteousness before God” only to find out that righteousness was already found in the cross through Jesus. That was his message in his best-selling book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.”
His grandparents were Muslim missionaries in Indonesia. His conversion to Christianity took place after he seriously examined the historicity of the gospels and the unique claims of Jesus. The conversion was very hard on his family and probably the greatest heartache he carried because he loved them.
Yes, his conversion stirred many questions, but his gracious and clear responses touched many in the Islamic world. He met numerous people who had read his book and made their own journeys to faith in Jesus. It also hurt him deeply when Muslims were painted with a violent brush, something he believed was false and wrong-headed.
He was not just an evangelical; he was passionately evangelistic. He desired to cover the globe with that good news: that God’s forgiveness was available to all. When he spoke, he held audiences captive.
I lead a ministry called RZIM, which began in 1984 and has a full-time team of more than 70 speakers from numerous cultural backgrounds in 15 countries and on every continent. We speak to artists, academics, business and political leaders, addressing the questions of origin, meaning, morality and destiny. Our goal is to present the answers of Jesus in cogent and intellectually persuasive ways to bridge the head to the heart.
I invited Qureshi to join our team four and a half years ago. He reached tens of thousands in live audiences, but his books reached even more people. He was a powerful speaker and debater.
I tear up as I think of the meal we had a little over a year ago. Nabeel was a man with a daunting appetite. I used to joke in his presence, “Don’t get behind him in a buffet line; there will be nothing left.” He would chuckle. He could make a big meal look like an appetizer. So I noticed that he was just nibbling away at his food.
I said, “Nabeel, are you not going to eat?”
He said, “Uncle, I have been having some strange sensations in my stomach.”
I asked how long that had been going on, and he said it had been a few weeks. I urged him to have it checked out. He said he was planning on it.
The rest is history. A doctor diagnosed stomach cancer — probably stage 4. We were all stunned. Within a few months, the writing was on the wall.
In May, he asked me to do one more trip.
We went to Malaysia. Even though his body was weak, his passion was undiminished. His answers to people’s questions about God and Jesus were profound and persuasive. It’s hard to believe that Nabeel Qureshi has left us all too soon. I am reminded that he died the same age as Jesus was when his mission was accomplished.
“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him,” so said the apostle Paul. We believe that Nabeel is now in heaven. He told me how painful it was to leave his wife, Michelle, and his young daughter, Ayah. But his pain is now over. I do not mourn for him.
I mourn for our broken world, where so much hate and destruction abounds. We have a cancer called sin. The disease that kills the body is minor, but the disease that kills the soul is eternal. Nabeel would want more than anything else that we carry the message of Jesus to help change the world. Only then can we understand that the sad news of Nabeel’s death is temporary.
The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it well.
Life is real! life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal.
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul."
Copyright © 2017 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved. 

Prayer from India

There has been an upsurge in recent times in the antagonism towards Christians in parts of India. Here is a a prayer expressed by Christians out of that context. I came across it at The Park Forum about which you can find more here:  The Park Forum

Prayer from India :: Worldwide Prayers
Our loving Father,

Thank you for releasing us from the bondage of sin by the shedding of the blood of your Son, Jesus, on that rugged Cross of Calvary.

Thank you for choosing us; for allowing us to serve you; for the privilege of bearing a cross and following you.

Daily we face shame, pain, blame, loneliness, and even exhaustion. But we believe that always you are present sharing our load and helping us bear our cross. Even when life seems to be at its worst we never despair because we live for you and your Son died for us.

Your Word tells us that we may need to suffer trials of many kinds and we should be glad for this will prove our faith is genuine. Lord we are here for you. We will lay down our lives if this will glorify your Name.

Lord use your people to spread the joy of your Kingdom.

In Jesus’ precious name.

Jonah - helpful spoken & visual overview of the book

If you want to get a grasp of what the book of Jonah is about here is a helpful summary produced by the Bible Project:
Jonah - Bible project

The tempter and the accuser

In the Lord's prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to pray 'deliver us from evil' or in some translations 'deliver us from the evil one'. Here's a helpful article from Emma Scrivener on the subtle & malevolent work of the evil one in the life of the Christian. It's entitled 'Satan has a forked tongue' and can be found by clicking here
  • Gatherings