Your first chance to SEE the New Testament Book of Psalms

There are many misconceptions about the Book of Psalms, so I am starting a short series of blog posts under the subject “The New Testament Book of Psalms”.

  • I’d like to show how the Book of Psalms are FOR the New Testament church, especially in showing how we can understand them better now that Christ has come than the Old Testament Jews ever could.
  • I’d like to ease the difficulties people can have trying to understand the Psalms.
  • I’d like to demonstrate how relevant all the Psalms are and to show how the Old Testament is not disconnected from or out-of-touch with New Testament Christianity.
  • I’d like to help people to enjoy the Psalms more, particularly by revealing Christ in them.

But firstly, to get started, I’d like to begin with the following superb illustration from the work of OpenBible.info. This shows cross-references between the Book of Psalms and the New Testament.


When you see this, do you think the Psalms have a lot to add and to contribute to the New Testament church? Does the prospect of discovering this excite you?

There are excellent logical arguments in favour of the Psalms, such as are based on the Regulative Principle of Worship, and explaining how when Paul wrote “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” he was referring to the titles that head up the Psalms in the Greek Old Testament they had at the time. But I think we also need to engage the modern church with the content of the Psalms so that the Psalms are better appreciated and the good logical arguments are more palatable.

Logical love: Opposites attract

Is the phrase “opposites attract” grounded in how we admire the strengths and skills of others especially in particular areas where we aren’t so skilled?

Does this explains the scope of where we can be opposites, in terms of skills and roles, and how in the remainder of who we each are and where we’re going we need common ground?

Does it also explain how we become more and more like each other, since we desire to be like what we admire?

The differences give rise to the greatest potential for conflict, because they’re where we each pull in separate directions, but if we make up for one another’s deficiencies, then don’t “you complete me”?

The tea lover’s self-deceiving heart

Having realised how passionate I am about tea from my previous post, I’ve funnily got another post to follow up with. This time I’m not praising tea.

Confession time

When I was younger I’d heard a few people talking about caffeine affecting sleep. Now I loved a cup of tea every evening, or two, and never made a connection with struggling to fall asleep. Especially not when I heard we don’t absorb as much of the caffeine in tea as we do coffee, and when I heard one person saying that they had a cup of tea to help them sleep.

Therein lay my golden excuse that I repeated to myself for the next decade.

I’ve only recently realised over the years that as I enjoy tea more, and crave it to be stronger and stronger, that I’ve been using it as a stimulant.

I’d use it to be alert until late in the evening (often with two to six chocolate digestives per cup), and then I’d crash exhausted and sleep.

Explains something of why I’ve been so worn out.

Eureka epiphany

As I’ve started getting up earlier lately, I’ve decided not to take caffeine in the evenings before bed. I discovered a few things. I start to feel tired, and my dreams have changed.

Before, my most vivid dream I remember is that adding milk to my tea turned it grey. Since I’ve stopped taking tea I’ve noticed that my dreams have become very real. I thought someone at work gave me a large bunch of equipment to store, because I dreamed it, and it was only sitting at my desk today that I realised it hadn’t happened. This is a totally strange experience for me – I used to think that I didn’t dream because I never ever remembered a single dream. I saw someone else online reported having longer, more realistic dreams too.

I’ve also realised that I start feeling tired in the evenings. The previous desire I used to have to stay up late is rapidly vanishing as I’m starting to realise I’ve less time I’m alert for and to use my energy better. Going to bed has always been the hardest thing for me, and it seems that removing a few cups of tea could be the easiest change for me to make to fix that.

I’ve been using an app that monitors my sleep, and so I know how much I sleep and try and catch up if I fall behind. I’ve been feeling tired lately but I think my body probably needs to adjust from all the long term sleep debt its accumulated.

Important points to remember when making a British cup of tea

Tea’s a hard thing to get right. But it’s worth getting right, because we’re all very opinionated about how we like our tea. I’ve some pointers I’ve learnt over the years below:

Impatience kills a good cup of tea.
Let the teabag actually get into the water, and leave it there a while before removing it. I’ve known people who’ve made half a dozen cups of so called tea with a single teabag. That would fill me with disdain, except that it usually fills me with sorrow as I’m going to have to drink one of those cups. The correct response for “what do you want with your tea?” in this instance, is “a teabag” please. And you better hope you can get one in before milk is added, because,

Adding milk stops the infusing process.
If you like pouring milk in the cup first, then make the tea in a teapot. Don’t get impatient and add milk while the water & teabag are doing their thing making that wonderful elixir. Whoever put a chicken in the preheated oven, and then instantly removed it? It needs time to become a wonderful succulent roast chicken. So too does a cup of tea need time to develop strength. Time can be reduced by the skillful use of a spoon – don’t chase the teabag round the cup, swirl water through it.

Bend the spoon.
Not always literally, but it has to happen sometimes. The teabag needs every last drop of strength squeezed out of it. My friend Rob supplied me with the “bend the spoon” test to tell whether you’re squeezing the teabag hard enough.

Normal tea is not broken. It doesn’t need fixed. Stop with the alternatives, alright!
I think what we enjoy is known as “breakfast tea” in other parts of the world. At a stretch, maybe some Earl/Lady Grey is about as adventurous as we’d like to go. Green tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. Chai tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. Peppermint tea is not tea, or it would just be called tea. If you offer me a cup of tea I should be sorely disappointed to get one of these alternatives. I’m saddened by the watering down [BOOM BOOM] of our tea legacy by the recent popularity of Rooibos tea, which seems to have claimed its niche as caffeine free (and somehow therefore better for before bed?). If caffeine before bed wakes you up, it’s because you’ve not had enough caffeine earlier in the day for the stimulative effects to lessen in effectiveness. I’ve known people to have a cup of tea before bed to send them to sleep. Drink more tea, the real kind.

Don’t drink stewed tea. Keep it fresh, people, keep it fresh.
Some have been known to keep a teapot on the stove, and they top it up with water and teabags as it gets used – so it can get stronger and thicker throughout the day. I’ve known that to put people off tea for life.

Thank you for listening. I shall now dismount my soapbox.

The dangers of ubiquitous technology for a Christian, or Your smartphone’s killing you

Having a high tech phone always on you can mean:

  • the quiet moments are about self-amusement or social interaction. A relationship with God is forgotten.
  • sleep, and other forms of rest, are relegated to second place as there’s always a constant distraction. The needs God made us to have are ignored, and we suffer as a result. Tiredness leads to a kind of weakness that can make us very vulnerable to temptation.
  • the world and eternal stimuli are constantly being pumped into us. We become immune to soul-searching or self-examination, and act/think like the crowd around us. The world is good at making that which is exciting and enticing, and in applying significant pressure on us to fit in. Psalm 1 refers to the blessings of the upright man who isn’t influenced by worldliness.
  • the occasions for temptation multiply. We are in more situations where we can act on our sinful thoughts, as mobile devices have plenty of opportunity to feed/stimulate gossip, envy, pride, bullying, greed, and carnal longing’s for instant gratification. Dangerous.
  • devotional time is squeezed out by more engaging media. Talking with my wife I was realising I often read blogs/twitter in the mornings to “try and wake up”, but all too often after I’m awake they continue to eat into the short time I have for personal devotions before family devotions and work.

There are plenty benefits, but for most of us that’s not what we need persuaded of. We’ve really got to be on our guard.

To try and take some action in the fight back against it all, my wife and I were realising the need to get all technology out of the bedroom, so we can guard sleep and devotions particularly. I hope that, with repentance, is a good start.

If you’ve any other thoughts on the dangers we face, or the way to put the right boundaries around our use of technology, please contribute them below. Let’s use technology to help each other out.

How to read a book

Start:

Pick a book you have some reason to read.
Good reasons are:

  • Healthy curiosity,
  • A trusted recommendation,
  • or the expectation it’ll be fun/mindblowingly-helpful/wildly-interesting/exciting.

Enjoy the journey:

No distractions. Turn off facebook or twitter (unless you plan on posting/tweeting quotes, in which case storm ahead, as it may encourage you to read through and identify what’s actually good).

No starting other books. Only read one book at a time. Otherwise that will constantly distract you – bouncing from one thing to the next, ultimately, gets you nowhere. Imagine you’re a tennis ball on a court, being hit to and fro for hours – you may have travelled miles and yet you’ve gone nowhere. It’s a journey, so travel it.

Know when to finish it:

This usually happens when you hit the last page. This can be with feelings of joy and satisfaction, and is wildly exhilirating.
Finishing can sometimes also happen somewhere during the book, but usually it’s accompanied by more disgruntled feelings. The desire to avoid these feelings can push us on to finishing the book, where we feel relief, but we should often try and avoid this. Often you’ve finished a book in the middle but you don’t realise it. It’s been read a bit, and found to be boring/hard/not worth the effort, and you just don’t pick it back up. Realise this is what it is and get excited about intentionally closing it completely and starting another book.

Share it:

Having filled yourself up on books, let it all flow out, with witty anecdotes, thrilling stories, and golden nuggests of information interspersed through your chat.
Update your www.goodreads.com profile, if you’re into that. I am, it’s great fun.

So, I’ve been married 22 days and it feels like a lifetime

😀

I’m a happy man. Richly blessed.

In a good way, it feels like I’ve been married all my life – it feels right, something like what life is supposed to be.

In some ways I feel ready for it, in other ways I’m daunted at the challenge (living close to someone really does expose our own selfishness). Exciting times ahead :).

I’m not planning a big post, but just to get back into the way of it, a few thoughts:

My wife is afraid of underfeeding me, and I’m afraid of offending her by not eating everything (and it does taste delicious), so I’m pretty sure I’ve already put on weight [I’ve been attempting this for years now, and it took a wife barely weeks to manage it].

I relish the opportunity to serve Debbie, because in doing so I can help one I dearly love [and have a long term vested interest in ;)], but I find it a great blessing to my soul to do so too. Serving others doesn’t ever lead to us losing out. For example: Today I was trying to encourage her to do an essay that she was finding hard, and I tried to explain how we need to be thankful to God for our work (to me that’s the easiest litmus test to see how we feel about it). That, was a real reminder to myself too, and I’ve had one of the best days at work that I’ve enjoyed in months – I felt I worked well, and still came home and felt energetic. And when she seems helped too, it makes me really happy :).

The few days that Debbie’s not at home when I come home, already feel so strange, and the flat feels so cold and empty. Her place by my side is so new, yet it feels so essential. I started to appreciate how Christ must yearn for His bride, having gone to prepare a place for her He must surely desire her to be there. Few thoughts have encouraged me to pray more for the coming of Christ (specifically, as opposed to His Kingdom coming).

The devil hates Christian homes, and especially wants to stir up strife in them. I heard this in a sermon as I drove home from work yesterday, agreed with it, and saw it illustrated instantly in what he tried to provoke in my heart. To my shame I had too much of a “that’s true, but it won’t apply to me/I don’t need to worry about that yet” attitude, which just illustrates how deceitful my heart is. Knowing we’re sinners, and we’ve been forgiven so much, by God’s grace we really can bear with one another’s weaknesses and glory in their strengths.

Learning to feel more deeply, and living with someone who does feel deeply, is really making me appreciate the coldness and hardness and deadness of my heart. I’m seeing how the Lord’s at work to tenderise me.

I’m blessed with a wife who deeply wants to encourage peace, harmony, and a general happy attitude between us and all we meet with. It’s almost as though she’s pained by anything other than deep joy and satisfaction abiding in those around her – I don’t really understand it myself, can I use the excuse I’m a “man”? It’s always about positivity. Negative things are said in the most gracious, kind, positive way. Beauty is appreciated for being beautiful, so I’m starting to find a world of enjoyments I never delighted in before [as I write this, she just pulled me through to look at the sunset in the other room].

Anyway, I’m away now. The wedding photos should be available soon – send me your info if you want to get the link :). If you want to read some more, my father wrote a blog post on the wedding day.

400 year old advice: Don’t miss the point, when singing the Psalms

A friend was telling me about books written in a “how to” way on subjects like prayer, etc. He warned me that they can miss a focus on Christ and how it relates to him, because they focus on the mechanics of what they’re teaching instead.

I came across some rules for psalm singing from The Practice of Piety by Lewis Bayly (p154-155), I think they help point us towards a right attitude. I found them very interesting and I hope you do too:

  • Don’t sing divine psalms just for fun, mixed in with all sorts of unholy songs. They are God’s word: don’t take them lightly.
  • Sing David’s psalms with David’s spirit (Matthew 22:43).
  • Practice Paul’s rule: “I will sing with the spirit, but I will sing with the understanding also.” – 1 Corinthians 14:15.
  • Behave appropriately, with a suitable reverence as though you were in the sight of God, singing to God with God’s own words.
  • Make sure that the content makes more melody in your hearts (Eph 5:19, Col 3:16) than the music in your ear; for it’s singing with grace in the heart that pleases the Lord.

Beneath Hill 60

Beneath Hill 60 is an Australian war film from 2010 based on a true story about miners who dug tunnels under enemy lines in order to plant explosives.

The story cuts between the situation in the trenches and the principle character’s love interest. I’d suspect the latter is to make the film more palatable to female audiences, and it is well done, but to be honest I’d have thought the friendships between the guys in the trenches would have humanised a war film sufficiently for it to appeal to women. Maybe I’m mistaken – do tell me what you think please!

The film flows well, though it can be nail-biting at points – the story and characters are sufficiently well developed (with the knowledge that it’s true) that you really care for what’s happening. The balance between what is predictable, and some of the big uncertainties about how it will work out, is excellent.

I wasn’t sure about watching it (I’d got it on recommendation), as it is rated 15, but the rating comes from the subject matter addressed. I was glad for no gratuitous glorifying of sin or bad language. It felt pretty real.

Moving and thought provoking. Some of the decisions the characters have to make aren’t easy, and some of what they have to go through is harrowing – imagining ourselves in their place means we have to ask some hard questions.

The historical note at the end tells us the explosion (somewhere in Belgium) was felt in London and Paris. At that point it was the biggest man-made explosion the world had ever known. A momentous event in world history, albeit a costly one in sad circumstances.

Conference Introduction: Paul as an example to believers, Rev Trevor Kirkland

The Rev Trevor Kirkland spoke on “Paul as an example to believers”. The addresses were given at our Youth Weekend in Arbroath earlier this year. This is a transcript of his introductory talk (the emphasis is mine). Also available: video, audio. I’d recommend the audio version for the emotion and emphasis in the voice, and the video versions of the talks (where available) to be even more involved, but I hope this is of use to some.

The other talks by Rev Trevor Kirkland at the Youth weekend:
Paul’s Spirituality. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Virtues. Audio.
Paul’s Relationships. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Boldness. Audio. Video.

‘Paul as an example to all believers’.

By way of introduction if we could turn to 1st Corinthians 4:13-16, the Scripture reads as follows:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

And it is that statement in verse 16, ‘Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me‘.

Approximately 30 times believers are exhorted or commanded to imitate someone or something, and that demonstrates to us the role, the power, and the place of example. We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘role models’, we have it in football, we have it in all walks of life. Another buzzword is ‘mentoring’, so we have trainee nurses who have a mentor, doctors, teachers, and mechanics, and so books are written by alleged experts at how to be successful at a particular walk of life. Someone starting up a business will buy the latest business books – maybe some of the people who have appeared on Dragon’s Den have written books and so they want to buy all their books and read what their advice is on how to be successful. But that the Bible speaks of examples, examples then to be imitated, comes as no surprise to us. Of those exhortations to imitate others, many of them relate to the Apostle Paul. So we have the statement in verse 16 ‘be ye followers of me’.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Paul then, is primarily the example for us as believers. Yes, the ultimate example is Christ, but Paul is also a significant example for believers. And if we turn to one other passage in Philippines 3:17 ‘Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.‘ Here we are told, first of all, all of us are to do this. This is not an optional extra. All of us are to do this. We are all commanded to take this example, Paul, and others like him. And then it goes on to tell us that Paul is the primary example, but not the exclusive example. ‘be followers together of me’ so he is a primary example for all of us who say we are Christians, but he is not the exclusive example. He makes that clear in that particular statement, ‘and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample’.

So it’s Paul plus, and of course, the others. If we think of the Old Testament saints, if we think primarily of Abraham, who is so often quoted or referred to in the New Testament. So Abraham perhaps is the primary example in the Old Testament; Paul is the primary, but not exclusive, example in the New Testament.

Now one of the ways Paul will help us, to be an example to us, to help and to encourage us is to consider the dangers that Paul faced in life. What are some of the dangers that Paul had to face up to? Well cynicism on the one hand and rationalism on the other. Another danger was mysticism and emotionalism. Legalism and antinomianism. These were dangers that he faced, issues and problems that arose in his culture and in our culture. What we can say is Paul lived such a life that we can all identify with that life. Yes we know he was an apostle, and we’re not apostles, and there are no apostles, but setting that apart Paul lived such a life, he is an example that all of us can imitate in our so-called pluralistic, post-Christian, tolerant age in which we live.

Paul shows us not only how to live and survive, but how to live and survive and triumph without succumbing to some of the ideas of our culture. Without compromise, without descending into liberalism, or without succumbing to what is often referred to as worldliness. Jettisoning some of the key characteristics of what it means to be a Christian in every age. And so what I intend to do and plan to do is look at Paul’s life from four areas or angles under two general headings.

First Paul’s private life, and there I’ll look at his spirituality and his virtues.

And then Paul’s public life, his relationships and his witnessing.

And I want in bringing all this to a close to leave you with some points to ponder. Some things you might want to think about the rest of this evening or at some other time.

The first is this. Do you have any examples? Who are they, and why them?

And secondly. Are your examples those whom you would imitate and look up to, are they an eclectic mix that includes those from our contemporary culture, and if so why have you picked them? Why do you copy them? What is there about them that you think is important or relevant?

And thirdly. What reasons do you give to justify the ones you have picked, you maybe haven’t picked them particularly – you’ve grown up with them or you’ve just come across them, but what reasons would you give to justify looking up to those people? Why?

And fourthly, amongst all those who you look up to, who are the ones who you’ve selected deliberately, or maybe casually, form our contemporary age.

And finally, is such an idea, of having an example, someone to imitate, someone to look up to, is it still relevant in your life or has it now become irrelevant? If it has become irrelevant, why has it become irrelevant? Is there something wrong with the modern church that the church hasn’t produced fine examples who others would look up to? Or are there examples that we ignore because we might consider them to be out-of-date/irrelevant? How has it come about that we perhaps are not producing examples that others should imitate?

And then finally, are we good examples? what kind of examples and patterns do we show? If someone needed an example of a Christian would you be happy to be selected, maybe someone said ‘look at so-and-so, spend a week with them, and you’ll see what a real Christian is, what a good Christian is, one who is a good ambassador, a good example of one who is a true child of God’? It’s not an easy thing, and it’s easier sometimes to say, ‘well there are others’, but look at what Paul reminds us of: ‘yes’, he says, we are to follow him, ‘mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample‘. Could we mark the person beside/behind/in front of us and say “I know that person, and they are really good Christians, they’ve got really good values, they really understand what it means to be a Christian, and I want to be like them’? And would we be comfortable if someone said to us, ‘we want you to be an example’? Would we instantly say ‘No, someone else please, not me’?

I trust that as we look at the life of Paul and look at some of these characteristics about Paul, that they will be a challenge to us; a help; an encouragement to us; a means of strengthening us as Christians, so that we will not ever be ashamed of what it means to be a Christian in the culture in which we live.

The other talks by Rev Trevor Kirkland at the Youth weekend:
Paul’s Spirituality. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Virtues. Audio.
Paul’s Relationships. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Boldness. Audio. Video.