Last week, with the help of my blog community, I posted a number of resources to help Christians passing through the trial of miscarriage or the loss of a child.
Henk Kleyn, our Registrar at Puritan Reformed Seminary, sent me a beautiful meditation he penned when his family faced the sorrow of miscarriage. You can read the moving four-page account here (for non-Dutchies, Opa is Grandfather and Oma is Grandmother!). This is how Henk begins his story:
The family first heard about Malachi at his daddy’s 27th birthday party. No one knew his name then. No one knew his gender. God knew everything. He had a special plan for this new grandchild in our family.
We heard the good news of Kimberly’s pregnancy when Stephen unwrapped a present that contained a baby outfit. We were told that we would meet our new grandchild some time in October. We praised the Lord together. Ever since that wonderful evening we included this baby in our family prayers. We had a new member in the family. A soul had been created for God’s honor and we were privileged to pray for him.
Everything seemed to be going fine for both Malachi and Kimberly. We were glad to hear of his rapid heart beat with the regular doctor’s visits. Kimberly looked well and we all expected a healthy full term baby in due time. We praised the Lord for the miracle of a beating heart in our grandchild.
It was Thursday, May 8, 2003, that we first heard that life had left little Malachi. He had lived in Kimberly’s womb for seventeen weeks. The doctor could not detect a heartbeat. A subsequent ultra sound confirmed the sad truth that our grandchild’s earthly life had ended. We visited Kimberly and Stephen and tried to console them with hugs, prayer and Scripture. God has sent a trial. He provoked many questions in our minds. We received the grace of submission but the pain of grief was and remains a hard reality for us. Our prayers changed. We pleaded for the grace of comfort and that Kimberly’s life would not be threatened….
Read the rest of the story.
Want to find and worship Christ in the Old Testament? Need a weekly Bible Study that’s doctrinal, devotional, and doable? Trying to help your children study the Bible on a Sunday afternoon, but they aren’t great readers? Looking for a Sunday school series that marries “old” theology with new technology. The CrossReference series of films from Head Heart Hand Media may be for you.
CrossReference has been created to help Christians understand and enjoy the Old Testament in a Christ-centered way. The first season of ten films will be on Christ’s Old Testament appearances as the Angel of the Lord. We plan a number of other seasons, of 8-10 films each, to cover Christ in prophecy, Christ in the Tabernacle, Christ in the Psalms, etc. The films are 4-5 minutes each, and both the DVD and digital download versions will come with short study guides containing questions for application, quotations for meditation, and suggestions for further study.
To whet your appetite, from March 1 onwards, we will be releasing one film a week for free streaming via various websites. You can keep up-to-date via Head Heart Hand’s Facebook page or Twitter feed or our website. And to entice you a bit further, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our first day in the studio last week.
A couple of weeks ago, David Blake contacted me via Facebook to tell me the inspiring and encouraging story of how he is using God’s technology for God’s glory. I asked David to write his story and here it is.
Since my ‘second conversion’ – the one from PC to Mac – I’ve been intrigued by the way that Apple are always breaking new ground. As a result I became a follower of all things Mac, and in particular their ‘apps’ for iPhone and iPads. So last October I set myself a challenge to write an app. Up until then I had never possessed an iPhone or iPad and I can honestly say that the mobile phone scene had passed me by. The number of text messages I had ever sent up until then could be counted on about half the fingers of my left hand and if you had asked me for my mobile phone number I could not have given it to you. Phones were for my emergency use only. So writing an app for an iPhone was a pretty tall challenge.
Three weeks later I submitted my app to the Apple store for their approval and about 8 days later it was approved and went ‘live’.
So what has all this got to do with serving the Lord?
Well the first app I chose to develop was something akin to an ebook and since there are plenty of apps of books around I figured that this fitted well with my ideas. My first app was Psalm 1 with four accompanying commentaries. The user can read the Psalm, select any verse from the commentaries and additionally make their own notes. To this I added a link out to SermonAudio.
About 4 or 5 days after it went live I happened to look at the downlaod statistics which Apple can track, along with country and city. I was amazed to see that in a few days, with no advertising or promotion of any kind, that this app had been downloaded nearly 75 times. As of today, some 9 weeks later, there have been more than 550 downloads from 51 countries and 299 cities – again with no promotion whatsoever. The app is free to download.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Japan, Ethiopia, Brazil, Singapore, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, India to name but a few as well as the US and many European countries.
As soon as I began to see what was happening I decided to make the offer of 2 booklets free of charge – ‘How can I find God today? and ‘How can I become a real Christian?’. This has resulted in a steady stream of requests and I can use this opportunity to write to the user and send them the free literature. Having their contact details will also allow me to keep in touch with them if they so wish.
One of the most encouraging requests was from a lady in the US who wanted to know if I could supply her with 50 copies each of these two booklets for her outreach work. Bulk orders!
I have since created apps for Psalm 2 and 3 and these are attracting similar attention – please don’t ask what I will do with Psalm 119 – that will be a real challenge!! I have just completed an app specifically aimed at seekers, atheists, cults and Muslims and that should go live a few weeks time. It is linked to an established website and ministry here in the UK and includes video and audio material.
The apps will run on iPhones and iPads and I have since converted them to run on the Android platform. Thus the complete smartphone and iPad market is covered.
So what started out as a bit of a personal challenge has developed into a little outreach ministry and has opened my eyes the potential of how technology can be used for the spreading of the Word. It may be that many of the users are the Lord’s people, but that doesn’t matter, if it helps to build the Lord’s people up in their faith then that is a great goal to work for. However, since these booklets are being requested it leads me to think that there are seekers out there who are downloading it.
I see this as no different to standing on the street corner handing out Christian literature, except that here the world is passing by and which one of would ever have the opportunity of reaching into some of the countries mentioned above. Plus, I capture their contact details, not the easiest thing to to do on the street corner.
Needless to say I now have more ideas than I can possibly cope with. I would value any thoughts you may have on how this work could be developed and of course your prayers, especially that I would not be deflected from the work I have to do in my local church with outreach and among the young people. It is so easy to let technology become an idol as opposed to an effective tool in the service of our Lord.
The iphone/iPad download can be found here and the Android www.androlib.com/android.application.com-databeuro-psalm1-zjwnw.aspx” target=”_blank”>here. Searching in Google under Psalm 1 app will bring various store links up in the top 3 or 4
David is a member of Westoning Baptist Church. He lives in the heart of Bunyan country – the oak tree he preached from is just a few yards along the road and he was arrested about a mile away. If you wish to contact him about this work his email address is email@example.com
Ever wonder why you can’t get anyone in your congregation to do anything?
Maybe it’s because you’re pushing people with immobilizing threats rather than pulling people with an inspiring mission. To illustrate, here’s an extract from Neil Fiore’s The Now Habit:
“Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performance, writes of the power of commitment and the shared mission of the Apollo moon-shot program:
What sparked everyone’s imagination and harnessed powers few had known they possessed was the realization that they were taking part in a project that would fulfill one of mankind’s oldest dreams. They had a mission. I saw men and women of average capabilities tapping resources of personal energy and creativity that resulted in extraordinary human accomplishments. I saw their excitement and pride come alive, affecting everyone around them, kindling imaginations with the possibilities that arose from what we were trying to accomplish. One thing became very clear to me – it is not the goal, but the ultimate mission that kindles the imagination, motivating us toward ever higher levels of human achievement.
This sense of mission is really the “pull method” of motivation that draws you toward your goal with positive energy, rather than trying to push you by using fear and threats. In this positive work atmosphere, you are more likely to demonstrate extraordinary capabilities and motivation.”
The Now Habit by Neil Fiore (page 94).
Let me introduce you to seven men who will give us a guided tour of Romans 3v19-31.
Mr Goodness hardly needs an introduction. We are all born hand in hand with him, know him well, and like him. After all, he tells us how good we are. And if we have any doubts, he helps us to find excuses, blame others, or find others that we can still look good beside.
As Mr Goodness is extremely experienced, persuasive, and skillful, Paul spends the first few chapters of Romans attacking him with the sharp sword of Scripture. And in Romans 3:9-18 he “goes for the jugular” with thrust after thrust of multiple verses proving universal human sinfulness: “None righteous, no not one…none who understands…none who seeks after God…they have all turned aside…etc.”
With Mr Goodness slumped on the floor, Mr Guilty enters the room. And when Mr Guilty enters the room, every mouth is stopped (3:19). Without defense, alibi, or excuse, we stop arguing with God.
Mr Guilty drags us again and again to Mr Law (we’ll look at him a bit later), who presents us with two documents: precepts to be obeyed and penalties to be suffered. And what can we say there but ,“Guilty, guilty, guilty.” The precepts I have not obeyed. The penalties I cannot suffer.
Into this dark and gloomy room walks Mr Righteousness. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed” (v. 21). Mr Righteousness has a nickname – Mr Law Satisfier. He comes to law, looks at the precepts to be obeyed and the penalties to be suffered, and says, “I can do both. I can obey these precepts and suffer these penalties until there is nothing left to be paid.”
But how come Mr Righteousness has a righteousness “apart from the law”? How can he be a law-satisfier apart from the law? It’s like saying red tomatoes are not red. This cannot mean what it seems to mean – a law satisfaction without satisfying the law. Rather it is a law satisfaction without any regard to our attempted law-satisfying.
Imagine if Mr Righteousness walked into your yard with a wheelbarrow. Instead of admiring his perfection you start trying to put some of your own imagined law-keeping into his wheelbarrow. But he says “NO! I don’t want any contribution from you. I’m not interested in your law-satisfaction. I offer a law-satisfaction that is completely separate and independent from your attempted law-satisfying.”
It is also a “righteousness of God” (v. 21, 22). This is not a mere human righteousness but a divine righteousness. This is not a mere man that has obeyed the precepts and suffered the penalties. It is God himself. Can you imagine the value of that law-satisfaction!
We might conceive of a man who obeyed the precepts, suffered the penalties, and survived. That’s conceivable; but what good is that for anyone else? How can his righteousness extend beyond himself to any other human being. It might be enough for himself; he might be able to hand it over to someone else; but as it is only one human righteousness, it can only cover one human being. But divine righteousness is infinitely valuable and can extend to a multitude greater than any man can number.
Mr Righteousness was witnessed to by the law and the prophets and has now been revealed even more clearly. Both Old and New Testaments point towards Mr Righteousness. Who is Mr Righteousness? It’s Mr Jesus Christ. He can obey the precepts and suffer the penalties until they are exhausted. He is “the righteousness of God.”
So, here’s this soul chained to Mr Guilty. And there’s Mr Righteousness who can meet this soul’s deepest needs. But how to get rid Mr Guilty and connect with Mr Righteousness? That’s where Mr Faith comes in. The righteousness of God is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (v. 22).
Mr Faith comes to the soul, severs it from its guilt and connects it with Mr Righteousness. As soon as this soul believes, faith smashes the chain of guilt and connects the soul with perfect righteousness (v. 25). All my guilt gone. His whole righteousness mine.
And this is not just for special believers, for those with special faith, or even strong faith. It’s “to all and on all who believe.” Instead of hearing, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” the believing soul now hears not just, “Innocent, innocent, innocent!” but “Perfect, perfect, perfect!” All precepts obeyed, all penalties met.
The light has gone on, the dust is settling, and the soul is enjoying this salvation. Paul looks around and says, “Now, where is Mr Boasting?” (v. 27). Mr Boasting and Mr Goodness were great allies. But with Mr Goodness gone, Mr Boasting is friendless. In fact, he’s very angry, especially with Mr Faith. Because faith looks away from self to Christ. Faith turns the spotlight from self to Christ. Boasting is now evicted and runs away, cursing Mr Faith. O, to be sure, he sometimes gets back together with Mr Goodness and they stick their heads in the window again from time to time. But with the help of chapters like Romans 3 they are kept outside and at a safe distance.
So faith has chased away Mr Goodness, Mr Guilt, and Mr Boasting. What about Mr Law? Does Mr Faith chase him away too. Let Paul answer: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (v. 31).
Every other pretended way of salvation diminishes the law in one way or another: it’s requirements, it’s penalties, or it’s inner-penetration. In one way or another it makes void and diminishes the law. It helps people be saved by lowering the barrier, or by compromising justice. But this way of salvation strengthens and confirms the law. Mr Righteousness reached the standard perfectly, and suffered the penalties fully. That’s why Paul says God is both “just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). He is “a just God and a Savior.”
Mr Goodness has gone. Mr Guilt has gone. Mr Boasting has gone. Who do we have left? Mr Righteousness, Mr Faith and Mr Law. And then walks in our seventh man, Mr Joy.
Mr Joy says to Mr Law “Are you happy?” “I’m happy,” he replies, “my demands have been met, my penalties satisfied. Rejoice!”
“Mr Righteousness, you happy?” “Of course! I still have a perfect complete righteousness.”
“Mr Faith, you happy?” “Sure, I’ve severed another soul from sin and united it with perfect righteousness!”
“And what about you, Soul?” asks Mr Joy.
“Me?” says the soul, “Who could be happier! The law is satisfied. Guilt has gone. Righteousness is mine. And all by faith, without any contribution from me.” What a happy scene. What a happy soul!
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
Here’s next week’s Morning & Evening Bible Reading plan. And here’s the Morning or Evening Bible Reading plan, with just one reading per day (as per last week’s explanation). As requested, in the latter I’ve included space for prayer points. Let me know if I can make these any more helpful. Click on the Bible Reading tab below for all past downloads.