Fighting the Fight

1 Timothy 6 New International Version

Final Charge to Timothy

Fighting the Good Fight

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.

I Vow To Thee, My Country

In light of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral yesterday I thought I would look at the story behind this hymn Although the hymn is commonly used at Remembrance to remember those who fought and died in both wars for the country, the Queen did at her coronation make a vow to serve the Country.

The origin of the hymn’s text is a poem by diplomat Cecil Spring Rice, written early in the 20th century, entitled Urbs Dei (“The City of God”) or The Two Fatherlands. The poem described how a Christian owes his loyalties to both his homeland and the heavenly kingdom.

The Story Behind I Vow to Thee, My Country

In 1908, Spring Rice was posted to the British Embassy in Stockholm. In 1912, he was appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America, where he influenced the administration of Woodrow Wilson to abandon neutrality and join Britain in the war against Germany. After the United States entered the war, he was recalled to Britain. Shortly before his departure from the US in January 1918, he re-wrote and renamed Urbs Dei as “I Vow to Thee, My Country” significantly altering the first verse to concentrate on the themes of love and sacrifice rather than “the noise of battle” and “the thunder of her guns”, creating a more sombre tone in view of the dreadful loss of life suffered in the Great War. The first verse in both versions invokes Britain; the second verse, the Kingdom of Heaven.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love.
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best.
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know.
We may not count her armies; we may not see her King.
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering.
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Re blog – Edward Elgar

This morning I bring to you a blog with a difference.

The story of the Enigma Variations is an amusing one. Tired from a day of giving violin lessons, Elgar returned home to improvise a theme on the piano. His wife liked it and he comically tried to imagine how some of their musical friends may play the piece instead, hence the proper title of Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) Op 36.

The collected pieces were known as Engima for two reasons. The first puzzle inside it is to tie the likely personalities to the variations, a game which Elgar himself gave away when he wrote some notes for (of all things) a pianola roll version of his music. The second puzzle contained in the music is far more subtle, and concerns a musical link that ties all the variations together. Elgar himself said that the theme is never actually heard and that the element that links the pieces is of the ‘slightest texture’ and therefore that ‘the chief character is never on stage’. Elgar never gave the game away about the identity of the piece and took the solution to his grave in St Wulstan’s Catholic Church in Little Malvern in 1934. He actually thought any suitably educated person would solve it on hearing the first performance. No one did, and no one has.

Others have wished the theme to be more obvious than all of this and have suggested that the musical link is anything from God Save the Queen, through Auld Lang Syne and (more promisingly) Bach’s The Art of the Fugue. Others have taken a more tortuous look at things and have suggested that the theme is in fact a reflection of Elgar’s own Christian faith, particularly in the context of some wordplay concerning biblical quotations. No one is ever going to know for certain and that, to me, is appealing.

The ninth variation was given the name ‘Nimrod’ after the biblical reference to Noah’s great-grandson of the same name who was a gifted hunter. It pays tribute to Elgar’s great friend Augustus J Jaeger (whose surname in German translates to ‘Hunter’) who managed to keep Sir Edward’s hopes up while he was still trying to make his mark on the world of music. Elgar attempted to capture Jaeger’s nobility in the slowness of the piece and (allegedly) tried to make a musical reproduction of a a conversation they once had late at night concerning the slow movements of Beethoven’s slow pieces. Indeed, the first few bars closely resemble the very start of the second movement of Beethoven’s Eighth Piano Sonata (also called Pathetique). Having said that, the piece also quotes from Mendelssohn at one point as well.

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the piece is always played at the Cenotaph on Rememberance Sundays that this piece of music captures – maybe more than even his celebrated Pomp and Circumstance – the essence of Britishness in a few pithy musical phrases. Jaeger’s personal nobility aside, its slowness and languid fluidity seems to speak of stoical endurance, making do, fighting to the last bullet and of a small ‘c’ variery of conservatism that the sceptred isle will probably never shake off as long as we exist.

As for the music, I’ve loved this one variation above all the others since I was a child. Like everyone else I probably know it best from a muted brass band playing it on some Sunday every November, but the orchestral version offers so much more. The music appears to climb endlessly, like some kind of Escher staircase (or Shepard tone), playing with cadence, crescendo, tension and release in the most masterful of ways.

Jonathan Scott playing Elgar’s Nimrod on the largest organ in the world

What Is a Born Again Christian?

The phrase “Born Again Christian” applies to people who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour or Redeemer. To be born again in this sense is not an actual physical rebirth, but it indicates a spiritual rebirth.

The phrase “born again Christian” is frequently misinterpreted. Looking at its primary reference, we see that its meaning is not about physical birth, but about experiencing a spiritual renewal. It is is an expression used by many Protestants to define the moment or process of fully accepting faith in Jesus Christ. It is an experience when the teachings of Christianity and Jesus become real, and the “born again” acquire a personal relationship with God.

The term is originated from an incident in the New Testament in which the words of Jesus were not understood by a Jewish Pharisee, Nicodemus.

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:3-5 NIV

How to be Born Again

The phrase “born again” applies to people who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour or Redeemer. The born again soul realizes that they are a sinner (Romans 3:23) and that the penalty for that sin is death (Romans 6:23). To rectify the circumstances, God sent His only Son to die in their place, to take the punishment for sin (Romans 5:8). After Jesus’ death, He arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6) and He provides the blessing of salvation. Each person has the choice to receive or reject God’s gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and experience new birth (John 3:1-8). Whoever follows Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, and has accepted His gift of life can be called Christian. That is where the journey of rebirth begins. 

Being born again is having a change or transformation of the soul and heart by the work of God’s Spirit. One’s soul is the part of our being that consist of three things: the mind (or its disposition), emotions (feelings), and our will (what we determine). 

This spiritual makeover when we become a born again Christian is a change in the way we think, the way we manage our emotions, and choices we make by our will.

Mind

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27). 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

“‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Through being born again, renewing our minds, and having an intimate relationship with God, we grow by spending time in His presence and in His Word (the Bible). Though we cannot fully comprehend God, His Spirit lives in us, giving us a profound understanding of Him and His ways. 

Emotions

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:29, 31). 

Born again Christians are not to let their emotions control their behavior. Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In Him we have peace. 

Being led by God

Psalm 16 New International Version

Psalm 16

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

  1. He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
    O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
    Whate’er I do, where’er I be
    Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
    1. Refrain:
      He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
      By His own hand He leadeth me;
      His faithful foll’wer I would be,
      For by His hand He leadeth me.
  2. Sometimes ’mid scenes of deepest gloom,
    Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
    By waters still, o’er troubled sea,
    Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.
  3. Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
    Nor ever murmur nor repine;
    Content, whatever lot I see,
    Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.
  4. And when my task on earth is done,
    When by Thy grace the vict’ry’s won,
    E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
    Since God through Jordan leadeth me.