Blog and writing news

Group Tonight: Discipleship

Tonight (Thursday 16 September) we’ll be talking about the challenges of being vulnerable (discipleship) with each other at our Life Group in Sandton, which meets every Thursday at 6:30 for 7pm.

We’ll be chatting not just about ‘discipling’ others but the challenge of being discipled — the difficulties we all have in our heart with opening up to someone else, to each other, and allowing people to actually see our bad side. It’s time to take off all masks and be real. But like real for real, not just talking about being real but then doing our own thing and zoning in on our own lives.

Anyone’s welcome to join. The group meets in the heart of Sandton. Phone 011-884-3820 for the address (we meet in an office block) or just email me at ryan (at) ryanpeterwrites (dot) com.

Blog and writing news

Faith, Love and Good Works — Ben-Hur

1959 movie of Ben-Hur
(The infamous chariot race in the 1959 movie adaptation of Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston. It won 11 Academy Awards.)

Last night while waiting for the game between South Africa and Uruguay (which we will not talk about 😉 ) I was sitting reading an old 1960 print of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace.

There are reasons why this book’s a classic. It’s written incredibly well and the dialogue is incredibly interesting — at least until where I read to.

Other than the feeling of serenity I enjoyed while reading an old hardcover book originally written in 1880 while my feet were warming at a gas fire, one quote in particular stuck out to me.

“The world [will learn] a new lesson — that Heaven may be won, not by the sword, not by human wisdom, but by Faith, Love and Good Works.”

The scene is a vivid one. Three wise men have travelled from different parts of the world because God has told them that they will meet the Redeemer of mankind. One is an Egyptian, the other is a Greek, and the last is an Indian Hindu (spelled Hindoo in those days). Each of them have rejected the religion, philosophy and gods of their culture and upbringing and have, through much persecution, come to believe that there is one God and creator of all, and that the soul is immortal.

Each has come to this realisation through the testing of their faith, their love, or their good works. Wallace does a brilliant job of resolving their stories in this quote.

God has told them to meet at this place in the desert, even though they have never known each other before, and the Spirit has guided them to meet the Redeemer. They are the Three Wise Men from the Bible who meet Jesus when He is born (Matthew 2).

I find the quote interesting because of the way Wallace has connected these three things — Faith, Love and Good Works, and said that these will win a man Heaven, not human wisdom or the sword.

I would be theologically sound, I think, to mention right off that heaven has already been won through the faith, love and good works of Jesus. That’s what I believe and that’s what Grace is. Yet heaven is not entered without faith in Jesus, and inheritance not gained without love and good works, and the bridge between faith and good works is surely love.

The Christian life is one of walking in these three things.

As an aside, this quote also perhaps makes something else clear — that faith and good works are not the same thing. The endless Calvinist / Arminian debate (for theologians reading this) centres very much around whether or not faith is a work. But faith is not a work. Faith is faith, and works are works, and love is love. They are connected in a mysterious way but they are not the same thing.

Check out Ben-Hur at Project Gutenberg or read it online here.

Blog and writing news

How Ambition Makes Me a Bad Friend

I have this issue with ambition that I regularly struggle with. You see, I want to go places, do things, live my life! So in an effort to get there I ignore the here. I look to the future, a thing that the world says I must do, but by doing I so largely ignore the present.

This is known as unhealthy ambition. And it makes me a very bad friend and son to my folks. This is because it gets me to always work towards the goal. For me, the goal is to become a full time novelist. So I’m working at my writing career from all angles to get there, so that one day I’ll “have the time to spend with those I love.”

The problem is that that time will never come. I mean, I know one day I’ll be a full time novelist, but what makes me think I’ll then have the time to spend with those I love? I have to keep my career going then.

Most of us work our lives away so we can enjoy our retirement. But when our retirement comes it’s short lived because our health, and our relationships, suffered so much in the process.

What we really all want is joy, peace, love and a bit of adventure. At least that’s how it is for me. And I can have that all pretty easily by just looking for it in the right place.

For the Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure hidden in a field. God is the source of real joy. That’s where I need to go looking for it. But why do I get sidetracked so easily, and so miss the very thing I’m looking for?

Rather I keep chasing after fleeting dreams which, even though they may be good in themselves, are tainted by this unhealthy ambition to get me there.

I’m know my experience is not unique. If you’re like me, let’s look to God as the source of our joy and hope and let our ultimate ambition be to truly know Him.

Blog and writing news

Love is WAR

(Pic found at this guy’s website.)

Jesus’ commandment that we should “Love one another” is an act of war.

It’s an act of war against the devil and the philosophies and attitudes of this world. Every time we obey this command and the others of Jesus, we wage war against these things. We implement the victory Jesus got for us on the cross into this world and so usher in a new Kingdom and reign.

Our war is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers. Against every thought that comes up against God. If our war is not against flesh and blood, we don’t take up guns and shoot each other. Rather, we work to capture the hearts of people through our relationships, our speech, our conduct, our deeds. And these things in themselves also wage war against the devil and wicked philosophies because our relationships, speech, conduct and deeds are decidedly anti-devil and anti wicked philosophies and ideas. Everything we do is an act of WAR. We are not on the defensive, we’re on the offensive.

Jesus has gotten the victory over all these things and came to destroy the devil’s works. (1 John 3:8.) Christians are to implement this victory into our world, our time, our age.

Let’s go and wage war today.

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All Those Sins are Washed Away

One of the hardest things to believe in Christianity is that, quite simply, all our sins are forgiven and washed away through simply asking God to forgive us.

We complicate this endlessly. But the Bible is emphatic — our sins are washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

If they are washed away when you become a Christian, they are washed away as you live as a Christian.

Listen to this: THEY ARE WASHED AWAY. If you sin and sin and sin and sin constantly, doing the same thing, these are WASHED AWAY by the Blood of the Lamb. You can sin now and ask for forgiveness and then sin in the next moment and then ask for forgiveness. God doesn’t count your sins, He washes them away. We count them. He doesn’t. When God looks at you He sees you as righteous because you are in Christ.

Your sins are washed away. Washed away, washed away, washed away.

It’s so hard to really believe it, isn’t it? We want to constantly add conditions. Are you sorry enough for your sins? Are you determined to stop doing them? Did you repent properly? Did you do all the acts of penance correctly?

The promise is that Jesus washes away our sins if we ask. It’s really simple. When I first decided to believe in Christ I asked God to forgive me of my sins and he did so. I didn’t have to worry about all this other stuff. I simply repented and that was that. Why should I have to worry about it now?

His mercies are new each morning. His steadfast love never fails. (Lamentations 3:22, 23.)

Blog and writing news

Knowledge and Philosophy Could Never Lead to Joy Themselves

Over the years I’ve learned a lot about philosophy and theology. And, although there are others that know more than me (of course), I could tell you a few things, I’m sure.

I could tell you about Spinoza, Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Epicurus, Hobbes, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Marx, Descartes and a couple of other famous names.

I could tell you about existentialism, nihilism, mysticism, atheism, empiricism, rationalism, post-modernism, modernism, pre-modernism and more. I could tell you a bit of Eastern Philosophy and Indian Philosophy too, and so the list goes on.

I could tell you some things about theology too – eschatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, emergent theology (and the mix bag it is), methodism, anglicanism, roman catholicism, pentecostalism, fundamentalism, whatever you’d care to discuss.

And of course, there are those out there who could tell you far more if you wanted.

I’m no expert, but I know enough about all this stuff to know how darn interesting it all is and what a delight it is to know stuff and have high-convoluted ideas of how the Universe works and the mystery it all is. It’s a delight to be so darn knowledgeable isn’t it? To come up with some new bright idea. To know ideas. To be one-up on the rest.

Yet, it’s all worthless at the end of the day isn’t it? Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. (1 Cor 8: 1-2.) Even if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and have a faith that can move mountains – but I have not love – I am nothing. (1 Cor 13:2.)

But even love can just become another philosophy to many. We’ve all heard the wishy-washy philosophies centred around ‘love’. The 60’s introduced some new definition of ‘love’ that had more to do with sex and lip-service than actual love, such as laying down your life for your friends.

I’ve heard lots of new agers talk about love too but it’s just a wonderful philosophy to many of them. I’ve seen Christians do the same. “You know Ryan, it’s all about love. It really is.” Take a sip of their tea. “Now, let me tell you about that girl (whoever), boy she really grates me…” (and the gossip continues).

God is love but love is not God. Philosophy and knowledge cannot save. It can’t bring life. It never seems to achieve the desire of our hearts to be in fellowship with the Creator. It delights the mind, yes, but it can never delight the heart. The joy of knowledge is fleeting, and so we need more. Study more. Read more. Look for the next big idea. This has been my experience and I know I’m not alone.

Knowledge may be there to help our hearts, because the heart is where it’s at. But we don’t treat it that way. We make it the point, when it isn’t the point.

But there is another joy… a lasting joy… one that sticks with you through good times and bad times. The joy that does speak to our hearts, as uncomfortable and difficult as this Joy is. For it is far easier to fill and mold the mind than let the heart be molded and filled by someone else. It’s far easier to study than to trust.

It is the Creator’s own joy. The only way to get life is to get it from the one who gives it – the Creator. God Himself. By trusting Him, completely. By giving Him our hearts.