When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means! For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also!”

— Martin Luther, "Letter to Jerome Weller", in Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), p86-87

Killing it

Great stuff from Nim Clemo:

What gospel truths do you use to excuse your sin?

  • “Jesus died to forgive my sins”
  • “I’m saved by grace, not works”
  • “I mustn’t be legalistic about holiness”

But when I look in the mirror of God’s word – alongside the challenging words of John Owen –  I can’t help but see the ugly realities of my heart:

  • “Holiness and obedience aren’t my top priorities”
  • “I’m too lazy to deal with sin”
  • “I don’t want to fast and battle in prayer”
  • “I don’t believe my sin is dangerous to me”

Wow. Told you it’s ugly. How greatly we need Jesus!

Why God can work with your depression

I’m coming to the end of two years as secretary for Bangor CU. It’s been a journey. It’s been a rollercoaster. There have been times where my depression has been so bad that I haven’t been able to get out of bed. Stress is a major trigger to my depression, so what with being a third year student who has a dissertation to write and some kind of future plan to form, life has been a bit of a struggle for me recently. You might be asking why I carried on with committee. It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. But it’s been such a blessing.

Lovely testimony from Katie Middleton.

Don’t even try to pay God back

Lovely stuff from Neil Powell:

I don’t think for a moment that Paul wants us to see the purpose of the Christian life as pay back to God. The problem I have is that it is pretty instinctive to want to pay back what I owe, and to begin to apply that to our relationship with God. So can I ask whether your Christian service begins to function in that way for you? Ever tempted to think that way? I owe God and therefore what he wants of me is to pay him back.

The problem, friends, is that when our drivers are duty, or even guilt, our very ministry begins to be a denial of the gospel. It’’s actually putting the gospel in reverse. When Paul says that you and I have a debt to God he is not using guilt or duty to motivate your service. You see the secret of the gospel, I’m just beginning to discover, is that the right place for us to be, the only place for us to be, is forever in Jesus’’ debt.

“O to grace, how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to thee.”

Top secular books of 2013

My top secular books of 2013 – not necessarily those published this year (as will be apparent) but those I read for the first time this year. Related: Top Christian books of 2013.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare. This play went from being unknown to my favourite Shakespeare play in a very short space of time due to its word-play and verbal sparring between the leads, but also because it is often laugh-out-loud funny. The Joss Whedon adaptation was my initial introduction, and is also my film of the year.
  2. Quiet, by Susan Cain. A book on introverts by an introvert that helped me understand myself and others better, whilst also showing me that quiet is not only possible but desirable for extroverts like me too! This and Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows (see last year) make a powerful case for silence, space and reflection: a message I need to keep hearing in the noise of our always-connected culture.
  3. The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. Oh my. This is the year that Margaret Atwood became my favourite living author. Stunning in its scope, subtle in its nuances, bringing together biography and fantasy in an intense narrative that hints and weaves and dances before reaching an explosive and emotional end. Epic and oh-so-worth-it.
  4. Tender is the night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I had one failed attempt at starting this slow-moving but beautiful portrayal of 1920s glitz in terminal decline, but I’m so glad I persevered. If The Great Gatsby is small and perfectly formed, this is the sprawling and strange elder sibling.
  5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré. A gripping introduction to one of the great Cold War story-tellers. This is to Ian Fleming’s Bond as Alec Guinness is to Roger Moore – sophisticated rather than salacious, complex characters rather than stereotypes, and thoughtful prose rather than terse one-liners. (This may be unfair to Fleming, but it’s certainly not unfair to le Carré.)