Pete Jackson

Highlights from the AMiE conference

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We continue to be blessed by being an Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) church and the way

this provides us with gospel fellowship both in the UK and around the world. Some of us recently

attended the recent AMiE conference in Leeds and you can read a report about it by another AMiE

church leader here.

One of the highlights was hearing from new GAFCON general secretary Archbishop Ben Kwashi.

He and his wife Gloria lead a remarkable life serving the gospel in Nigeria, where the threat of

violent persecution remains all too real. You can hear a bit more of their heart for the gospel (and

their quite staggering care for 50 orphans in their own home) in a video from GAFCON 2017 here.

Fasting

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[This post is a revised version of one that was published last year for our March week of prayer]

Christians need to cultivate what might be called ‘godly dissatisfaction’. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for costly change to occur. Such ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting. 

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer. 

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18. 

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning ‘God-points’ by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting. 

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do too when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have a medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, for example by fasting from something else. 

Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

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Acts: Hospitality and the Gospel

In the recent sermon on Acts 2v42-47 we saw the striking devotion of the believers in Jerusalem to the teaching and life of the church, sharing their lives in daily generous joyful community.

Our temptation would be to feel burdened by their example with yet more things I need to add to my to-do list. But that just perpetuates the same problem, whereas the believers in Jerusalem saw the community of Christ’s disciples as their primary community - in which they found their identity, belonging and purpose in life. They shared normal life, their homes, mealtimes, as well as committing themselves to more ‘formal’ gatherings for instruction and prayer.

Therefore, a better place to start growing here is to think about what we already do in our lives that we can readily include others in. This is something that can aid christian discipleship but also (as it evidently did for the Jerusalem church too v47) forms an important part of everyday evangelism.

As part of this, I think we could do with re-visiting the practice of hospitality. It was a feature of the church as it spread out from the community described in Acts 2, and a number of places encourage hospitality (Romans 12v13 & 1Peter 4v9 or example) or make it a key aspect of the lifestyle expected of Elders (Titus 1v8).

It’s probably important to say that hospitality is different from hosting or from having a dinner party. Hospitality is ‘come as you are’ and ‘take us as you find us.’ It’s setting another place at tea time, it’s making the chilli stretch to another portion, it’s ‘do you want to stay for a cuppa?’ when someone pops round to pick something up. Many of us feel we don’t have much time - but however busy we are we need to eat. We might not have much money, but could we include others in our mealtimes once, twice or more times a week?

I recently read Rosaria Butterfield’s book ‘The Gospel comes with a House key’ (you can find it at CCW’s online bookstore at a discount price). It’s an inspiring read, full of stories about hospitality from Rosaria’s own life, including her own conversion to Christ and the life she and her husband (a pastor) now share with their neighbours. While our own contexts and capacities will undoubtedly be different to Rosaria’s, it is striking how ordinary it all is. While it’s not the story of a dramatic revival, we do see church family built up in Christ and the gospel shared with neighbours through walking the dog together, sharing simple meals and talking about the issues of life.

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Reading the whole bible in 2019 (Part 2)

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This is the second in our New Year bible reading series. It follows on from Pete Jackson’s first post.

I want to encourage you to try and read the whole bible in a year in 2019. Here are a few follow-up thoughts to the previous post…

First of all, Trevin Wax builds on some of the things I said before in this post here, which also has some suggestions for schemes to use at the bottom.

Secondly, here’s a post arguing that we all have more time to do this than we think. Amongst other things, it shows that if you give only 12 minutes per day to your bible reading, you could read through the whole bible in a year. (And it uses an infographic to show this, which means it must be true.)

Thirdly, there are loads of good schemes or plans to try. Here is the link to the one I did this past year. I liked this scheme for a number of reasons, including

  • There being only 25 readings a month, so if you fall behind it is not a disaster, you can catch up. There were several times when this kept me going during the past year. In the latter part of the year I used this feature to get ahead and finish by the end of November. This means I have been doing something different for my bible reading during December and can return to the same scheme fresh in the new year.

  • Each day has four readings of varied lengths and across different types of bible book. I found it encouraging to be able to make rapid progress in some books, plus the shorter readings for those books makes it easy to achieve quite a lot if you need to catch up. It also made the experience each day less like slogging through heaps of text, which I sometimes found to be the case in the schemes that get you to read chunks of equal size from three books. 

Finally, I think it is worth giving it a go even if you are fearful that you will soon fall woefully behind. Even just trying to do this sort of reading plan and ‘failing’ might well mean you read more of the bible in a year (and more of a variety of the bible) than if you hadn’t bothered. Plus, if you start out and end up so behind that you take a year and a half instead, that will still be so much to your benefit than if you hadn’t even bothered at all. 

Reading the whole bible in 2019

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This is the first post in our series on reading the bible and praying in 2019. This one is written by Pete Jackson - look out for his next one with links to various bible reading resources.

I have failed at reading the whole bible in a year schemes on many occasions. However I am delighted to say that this year I successfully completed the new one I tried - and a month early at that. I don’t say this so that you will congratulate me, but to point out that it can be done. 

As I look back over the year, here are some of the reasons I think reading the whole bible in a year is a worthwhile practice, even though it is hard. 

It means you read the less familiar parts of God’s word…

One danger of sticking to the parts we know well or find ‘easier’ is that we are muting the voice of God and missing perhaps the very parts that will be most stretching or the most challenging to the way we naturally think and live.  

It means reading across a variety of types of writing each day…

God’s communication to us in scripture comes in a rich variety of literary genres, and each affect us in different ways. The bible communicates to us not just by conveying information alone. Most days there’s been some kind of story/history, poetry and song or proverbs, and letters.

It makes sure we are reading the 71% as well as the 29%…

That’s the split between Old and New Testaments. Let’s face it, we often neglect the Old Testament in all sorts of ways, which means we are regularly tuning out of over two thirds of what God has to say to us. 

It trains us in reading the bible for its own sake…

Sometimes we judge the value of our time in scripture from our immediate reactions or emotional responses, or a sense of what we have ‘got out of it’ there and then. At best that’s because we are expecting God to speak through his word, and for that word to be ever relevant. But at worst, this can descend into a search for a ‘blessed thought’ for the day. This is a misunderstanding of how scripture works and of how God’s word changes us. We are mistaken to look for ‘instant gratification,’ we must expect God to form us through constant and regular exposure to his word over the long haul. What’s more, we don’t just need tweet-sized nuggets of God’s word that we can instantly apply, we also need to know the big story arc and the repeated themes that recur page after page, so that gradually over time we learn to place our lives and understand our world from within that story.

It helps us join the dots differently…

Reading passages side by side that you wouldn’t necessarily have put together yourself will help you make connections you would never have made otherwise. This is important because the best tool for understanding the bible is the rest of the bible - God intends us to come to his word as one interconnected and diverse whole which reveals Christ in his many-faceted glory. 

Christian Concern and Dr Joe Boot  

We live in interesting times for Christian witness. Whereas a short while ago apathy or mockery was a common response to authentic Christian preaching and living, now there is increasing suspicion and even hostility in some quarters of society. With this change in temperature comes many opportunities, though the costs are always high.

I have been personally very thankful for the work of Christian Concern over the past ten years and was very pleased to be able to attend their birthday celebrations in London the other weekend. As well as their work in defending Christian freedoms, they have spoken gospel truth in places and into issues all too often abandoned by evangelical Christians. 

On top of this, they also have an eye on the longer and arguably more foundational task of re-building Christian cultural influence from the ground up. It’s in that context that I’ve come to know the ministry of Dr Joe Boot, who visited and preached for us this past Sunday. His work with Christian Concern on the Wilberforce Academy aims to equip Christians to think and act with full-blooded Christian faith in a variety of spheres and public callings. 

For an example of the theological clarity and cultural analysis Joe brings to this role and his work with Christian Concern, you might find this article a challenging and encouraging read.

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Bishops, Mission and Missionary Bishops

This past Sunday we thought about the leadership God’s people need in order to be faithful to the mission God has given us. In particular we considered how the Anglican (though not exclusively Anglican) model of oversight by a Bishop can be an important part of such leadership.

The background to this is the visit later this year of our new Bishop Andy Lines, who was appointed by GAFCON as a ‘Missionary Bishop for Europe’ last year. We are looking forward to having him preach God’s word for us and get to know CCW a little better. 

In the mean time, for those who want to see and know a little bit more, the first 24 minutes of this video is an interview with Andy:


Why re-read the Psalms?

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This month we returned to regularly reading through the Psalms together on a Sunday. For some people this might seem like a strange practice. Aren’t the psalms a little bit random and archaic, and isn’t it confusing to be reading parts of the bible that we’re not then going on to explain?

Well, here are some brief thoughts of mine to help us understand why we’re doing this, and to help us engage with the Psalms. 

Firstly, there’s the general principle that it is good for us to have plenty of bible in our gatherings

We believe that the bible is the word of God, the Father’s testimony about and through his Son, breathed by the Spirit. Therefore our Sunday gatherings should be saturated in the bible. Moreover, it would be odd if our services gave the overall impression that our words spoken to God are more important than his words to us. Or that the only time the bible can be read is when someone is going to preach from it. This is one of the reasons we try to have scripture read, taught and sung at various points throughout our gatherings. 

But why the Psalms in particular? Here are three of the many reasons:

The Psalms are significant for piecing the bible together

In some ways the Psalms is like a poetic reflection on the history, laws and wisdom of the rest of the OT. It’s no surprise that Psalms is one of the most-quoted books in the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles clearly saw them as fundamental to understanding Jesus’s identity, life and mission. 

The Psalms are a help to us in the reality of life

The 150 songs and prayers in the Psalms cover an incredibly broad range of circumstances and emotions. This makes them of immense value pastorally, helping us work through anger, loss, fear, doubt, joy, sickness, all within covenant relationship with God our Father.

The Psalms are important for prayer and worship

(Almost) unique amongst the whole of the bible, the Psalms aren’t simply God’s words to us, many of them are also words given to us by God for us to say back to him. As such the Psalms are the prayer or song book of the bible – the place where God teaches us how to speak with him. It is no surprise that for centuries the Psalms have been pretty crucial to the corporate worship of God’s people. 

The Bible Project has a helpful video giving an overview of the content and message of the Psalms...

... and we did a short series on Psalms 1 & 2 which can be found here.

This summer why not... grow as a parent?

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This is the fourth in our Summer Reads series. All the books can be found and bought here.

The central focus of parenting is the gospel. You need to direct not simply the behaviour of your children, but the attitude of their hearts.
— (page xxi) 

This sentence, from the introduction of Ted Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart pretty much captures the essential approach to parenting argued for and outlined in this extremely helpful book. 

It’s an approach that at points will be very different from, even opposed to, the standards and methods for parenting that we might pick up from the world around us. It’s an approach that is shaped instead by the bible’s goals for life in general and for the family in particular. It’s an approach that puts issues of authority, sin, forgiveness, and transformation at the centre. 

In Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Ted Tripp has given the church a wide-ranging, practical and biblical book, that will help parents to set the right goals and expectations for raising their children, and to employ methods of communication and discipline which fit with these gospel-oriented goals. Reading this would benefit all parents, from those who are preparing for their first child through to those with children of any age still at home.

This summer why not... read the bible with your children?

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The education of children for God is the most important business done on earth...
— R L Dabney, 1982

This quote opens Jon Nielsen’s book ‘Bible reading with your kids’ and sets the pattern for what is to follow - a short, direct and punchy book aimed at helping parents (and fathers in particular) form solid convictions and good habits for family bible reading. 

It starts with the assumption that Christian parents will want their children to grow up to know and follow the Lord for themselves, and from the conviction that this is most likely to happen through ‘steady and consistent exposure to the powerful word of God.’

Part 1 of the book deals with why and how, both biblically and practically. Part 2 then gives more practical details for how Jon has gone about this vital task himself. The idea isn’t that we slavishly copy his model, however. For example, in our family we read smaller chunks of scripture than seems to be typical for the author. 

Whilst readers might want to adapt the specifics for our own situation and preference, the main benefit of the book is the central conviction that reading the bible is a vital task and that fathers in particular should be engaged in it (see Ephesians 6v4). The author is well aware that many of us will feel daunted and inadequate for this task, so gives plenty of encouragement to simply give it a go and improve with time and experience.

You can listen to bible teaching related to the whole area of parenting in our ‘The Family of God’ series (see especially the sermons on ‘Family Planning’ and ‘Family Lore’).  

GAFCON

Christ Church Walkley's pastor, Pete Jackson, tells us about his upcoming trip to Jerusalem...

Soon, I will be travelling to take part in the third Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in Jerusalem. While there will be opportunities for me to share once I return, I’d love our whole church family to join together in praying for the conference while I am away.

GAFCON is the global movement of which Christ Church Walkley is a part. It brings together many bible-believing Anglicans from around the world in the fellowship we share in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his mission to the nations. The context for its formation and work over the last ten years has been the challenges to the authority of the bible in the West and the growth of biblical Christianity in many other parts of the world. Over 2000 delegates are expected at the conference, coming together from around the world for teaching, worship, discussion and prayer.

There are lots of reasons to be glad that we are a part of this global movement of God, but underlying many of them is the fact that we need each other. We need the challenging witness and call to faithfulness from our brothers and sisters in Africa, many of whom have recent memory of serious suffering for the gospel. We need the testimony and wisdom of those who have already faced challenges familiar to our own in North America and Canada. We need to have our eyes lifted from our own local situations to see what God is doing around the world.

If you want to read more about the history and the foundation of GAFCON you can read the Jerusalem Statement and Declaration which is part of our church’s doctrinal basis, or you can take a look at the GAFCON website.

Honour your father and mother

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The fifth commandment is in Exodus 20v12 and it says

Honour your father and your mother…

Which means we must respect, love and (if we’re a child living in their house) obey our Mum and Dad. But why does God want us to do this? 

It’s not just because if we don’t we’ll get in trouble.

It’s not because parents always get things right (they don’t).

It’s because God has given Mums and Dads the job of bringing us up, and especially bringing us up to know him. That’s why the command is accompanied with a promise:

…that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

The message of God’s love and promises for his people was to be passed down to the next generation through the teaching, example, discipline of your father and mother. So that if children were to ignore them, they would be ignoring Him. 

This has some big implications for parents - for what they teach, how they discipline, what they want for their children, and how they organise life in their household. This is something the bible goes into in more detail elsewhere (Deuteronomy 6v4-9 for example). But this commandment emphasises the responsibility children have in all of this. 

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Why the 10 commandments?

Our pastor, Pete Jackson, tells us why we've started looking at the 10 Commandments together - 

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We’ve recently started a series in the 10 Commandments on Sundays across all ages. It’s helpful to ask why we think this is worth doing.

In this post I just want to highlight one aspect of the answer, and it’s because Jesus links ‘law’ with mission

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
— Matthew 5:14-16

In Matthew 5v14-16 Jesus tells his disciples that they are the Light of the world, like Israel of old. They are to the let the light of their good deeds shine before others and the result will be glory to God the Father - presumably as people trace the light to its source and become his worshippers. So far so good.

But what does Jesus mean by good works? Where do we find out what that sort of thing is? It's no accident that from v17 onwards Jesus starts talking about his relationship with the old testament law, how he has come to fulfil it not abolish it. That means lots of things, but part of that is seen in Jesus’ teaching, where he gives (like he does from v21 onwards) the true meaning and application of the commandments. 

We should note that this is the case, even when our ‘good works’ are aspects of the Christian lifestyle that raise the curiosity, misunderstanding or even criticism of the world around us. The 10 commandments inform how we live in relation to money, truth-telling, sex, parents, human life - all areas of opportunity for our gracious witness to the difference that following Jesus makes.

Finally, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gives his disciples the great commission. They are to go and make disciples of all nations. But how do you do that? Jesus says it's by 'baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ This is broader than the 10 commandments of course, but it certainly includes Christ’s fulfilment of them in his teaching. 

Growing firm convictions about God’s commandments (and how these flow from and are a witness to his gospel) is part of being equipped for mission in today’s world.

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The 10 Commandments

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Last week we began a series in the 10 Commandments. We’re going to be looking at them in brief in every service, the children are going to be learning about them in their groups, and the adults will also be studying them in their mid-week small groups

It’s very important to see, right at the beginning, before he gave any commands or rules, God said this:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
— Exodus 20v2

This tells us that the 10 commandments are

Not a ladder...

God did not give these commandments so his people could climb up to him. He’d already come down to them. He was already their God and they were already his people. What’s more, he had already rescued them, even though they didn’t deserve it

Not a chain…

Some people think these rules are God’s way of spoiling our fun by controlling our lives. As if trying to obey God’s commandments is like being chained up as a slave. But they are given by the God who had rescued his people ‘…out of the house of slavery.’ The bile tell us consistently, it’s when we don’t live by God’s ways that we end up as slaves, not to Pharaoh, but to sin. 

Train tracks 

Everyone knows it is good for a train to be on its tracks. And (to stretch things for a minute) if a train decides ‘these tracks are a bit of a pain, they stop me going where I want to go’ - we know that would not be a good idea. 

When a train is on the tracks, whizzing along, it is doing what it was made to do. It’s the same when we follow what God says about how we should live. He gives us his commands because they are like the train tracks for a train. We might think we are restricted by them, told not to do certain things, and so on. But the reality is that living life God’s way is the life we were made for.

(Look out for more blogposts on The 10 Commandments over the next few weeks...)

Fasting - what’s it all about?

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At the vision evening last November I said that we needed a ‘godly dissatisfaction’ during 2018. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for change to be costly. This ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting.

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer.

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18.

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning God-points by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting.

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, by fasting from something else, something other than food.

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Renewing Your Mind - Part 1

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Resources for Renewing your Mind

We recently returned to our ongoing series in Romans to hear these words from the Apostle Paul:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12v2

This is the first in a series of blog posts suggesting some resources which might help us all know God's ongoing work of renewing our minds by his word & Spirit in our daily lives. That is about more than our bible reading but it certainly involves it, and the resource in this post is designed to help with that.

The Bible Project is a crowd-funded non-profit organisation dedicated to making high quality animations to aid people in their reading and study of the bible. For example:

  • They have videos giving an outline and overview of every bible book of the bible. You can see their videos on Romans here for example. 
  • There is a growing number of videos on major bible themes, such as this one on the Image of God.
  • There are some series exploring the bible in-depth by looking at particular types of book or common words, or like this series on how to read the bible

There is even a way to link their videos with a daily reading plan (scroll down the home page for details).

Check back next week for a blogpost on recommended podcasts...

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Lamentations

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The LORD is good to those who wait for him, 
to the soul who seeks him. 
It is good that one should wait quietly 
for the salvation of the LORD.
— Lamentations 3v25-26

For the next few weeks we will be reading through Lamentations at our Sunday gatherings. There is tremendous benefit in reading the bible together and doing so in public.  Even when there's no further comment, study or preaching of a passage, there is tremendous benefit in reading the scriptures together. The scriptures themselves encourage such public reading (1Tim 4v13) and promise blessing when it is done (Revelation 1v3, Psalm 1v1-2). 

But why are we reading the book of Lamentations in particular? Here are a couple of the (many) reasons:  

It's an unfamiliar book, but we still need it

Even if you have been a Christian for a long period of time, chances are you haven't heard much preaching on Lamentations, or studied it in a small group or one-to-one. Likewise, most of us will read more frequently from the gospels, Psalms, epistles and narrative books of the bible than Lamentations. But, as with all scripture, Lamentations is inspired by the Spirit of God (2Peter 1v21) for our salvation through knowing Christ (2Tim 3v15) and our encouragement in living as the people of God (Romans 15v4). It is part of the richness of God's message to us and his world. If we neglect it, we miss out. One particular aspect of this is...

It expresses things we don't often express, but we still need to grapple with

The clue is in the title of the book: Lamentations is a series of laments. It is written in the aftermath of the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple of God by the Babylonian Empire in 587BC, confirming and deepening Israel's exile. This was an event of seismic proportions, one which threw the Israelites into turmoil - a spiritual dislocation to match the political and geographical upheaval they had been through. Although there are many differences with our own lives, there are important similarities. We too live in a world of tragedy and suffering, we too live in a world where God's people often fail, we too live waiting and longing for our true home in God's restored and renew creation. 

And yet, we are not very good at expressing our pain or hearing the pain of others expressed. We do not often pray or sing 'in the minor key.' We ignore, or distract ourselves from the painful reality of living in a world under the judgment of God. We have much to learn from Lamentation's graphic descriptions of Jerusalem's devastation, its confessions of sin and expressions of hope the far side of judgment.

For a helpful video about Lamentations see here.

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