Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Robert {not the} Bruce

Robert Bruce who was a descendant of his more famous namesake and also descended from James the 1st of Scotland, he was a nobleman and was born into a Roman Catholic family. He was converted at University and became thoroughly reformed. Despite being a noble man and offered a title and an estate he turned these down for the call of the gospel. His Roman Catholic mother was deeply offended by his becoming a Protestant and disinherited him. Nonetheless he forsook it all for the sake of his calling.

Perhaps due to their being slightly related, Bruce was initially a favourite of James the 6th even being involved in the coronation of the Queen.
I've wanted to read him for a while as he was 'internally exiled' to Inverness, by James the 6th of Scotland and 1st of England. As the king had embraced Anglicanism and wanted Bruce to be an Anglican. The Inverness he was sent to was a hotbed of Roman Catholicism unlike Inverness today which has many, many churches many of which are evangelical at least historically. He was by far the most popular preacher of his day, seeing many thousands of people converted. This didn't stop when he was removed from his parish in Edinburgh but even in the Highlands people would come from miles around to hear him. Turning from indifferent or hostility to loving and appreciating his ministry.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

5 things I admired about Billy Graham

It's  been a few days since the death of Billy Graham, many people in reformed circles have shared my concerns about his ministry for the length of it, such as appeals, relationship with ecumenicalism etc. Now is not the time to get into that, rather to reflect on the life of the  most influential evangelical of the C20th. I'd like to share some things I admired about him.

The first thing I admired is that he loved God and the Gospel. I have listened to him a fair bit over the years and he majors on the major, I've  just listened to him preach  'I will boast in nothing but the Cross' and that sums up his life. He was an old fashioned Gospel preacher, forget the appeals and just listen to the message, he glories in the Christ and in His Cross, not seeing any other means of us getting back to God, loving the fact that in the person of His Son, God has reached down to us. He quotes from the Bible throughout his message, knowing the Scriptures well.  I have been in lots of churches across the UK and I often meet people who were converted under his ministry.

He scandal free life- Billy Graham has been involved in controversy because of his love for truth, such as standing up against segregation in America or Apartheid in South Africa, so he was no coward but in his own walk there has been no scandal, he loved his wife, and put means in place to avoid any temptation or any appearance of evil. 

His humility- Another thing that comes through especially when you see the televangelists is Billy Graham was a humble man, he knew that he was a sinner, he must have known how well regarded he was, packing stadiums around the world having the ear of the Queen, Prime Ministers including Churchill and his own Presidents yet despite all that he comes across as so self effacing, call me Billy he said to his friends and to acquaintances alike.

Training- Whenever the BGEA were in town they would train the counsellors from the local churches to be ready to walk people through when someone had come to the front. Setting up a partnership with local churches so they would be equipped to do the work of discipleship when BGEA left town. They came to my wife's home town and they were there meeting with folks months before the 3 day event itself. Not only this but the BGEA has used it's to resources to train other evangelists around the world, equipping people for the work to continue. 

He loved others- part of his appeal is that he clearly loved people around him. This came out of his humility but he seemed to reflect the nature of His Saviour when he met people he gave them his attention. Seeming to want to give the benefit of the doubt to all people, I think this is where he had clay feet and it is what gets him into trouble with conservative evangelicals but it's because he loves. He saw the log in his own eye so ignored the speck in other people's eyes. 

I for one am grateful for the powerful Gospel preached by this man, raised up by God for his generation and I am praying that God would raise up more men to preach this glorious gospel.

God Bless
Stephen <><

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Defining Deception- Costi Hinn and Anthony G Wood

I have just finished reading this important book, if you ever visit a Christian book store or if you have ever been part of the Charismatic movement the name Hinn will be well known to you, Costi Hinn the nephew of Benny Hinn is one of the authors. In 2012 God plucked Costi out of the Word Faith movement and saved him. Anthony Wood also spent time as part of TBN mixing with Word Faith Movement Leaders. Their concern in this book is both evangelistic and apologetic to winsomely point out the historical errors of this movement and how it is becoming mainstream via Bethany House. They chart how Bethany House is full of the same errors that the Word Faith movement is. Firstly in this book they trace the catalogue of errors through 'God's generals' the early proponents of Word Faith Theology, this has been done elsewhere especially in depth in Christianity in Crisis. The books strength lies elsewhere, in the raw passion and compassion found in it, you can feel that they have been part of it and love those in it. This came out very clearly when Costi was talking about his uncle Benny and the Hinn family still very much part of the Word Faith movement. It was also balanced as they disagreed very much with John Wimber's theology but go to great lengths to point out how his theology departed from fourth wave Charismatic theology in good ways, and how he travelled to Airport Vineyard church to remove them from Vineyard because of their strange practises.
A couple of downsides to this book are, 1) It could have done with proof reading better, for example 'which came first the chicken and the egg' and more importantly 2) it's too short, I would like to see an expanded version, in that version I would like them to examine the theology of Joyce Meyer who in the UK at least is even more mainstream than Bethany House, though she is a Word of Faith teacher.
I was in a Charismatic church for three years back in my youth, I wasn't much into but I wanted to experience Acts for today, I went to hear/see Benny Hinn do his thing and his theological errors were more they I could bare, this was a lonely 18 months as I found no-one of the same mind. I was eventually helped by Christianity in Crisis- I remember trying to give out the tapes to people around the tape ministry in the church, the tape ministry was full of faith teachers messages. It was the end of being a Charismatic for me, it took a long time to settle after but I am thankful for people then who wrote about these errors.  I hope this book is greatly used to help people move away from these errors. I was moved by the testimonies at the end of the book of people who were victims of Word Faith theology but have now come to know the real Jesus and see how precious His Gospel is.
My prayer is that God would use this book to deliver people from Deception to find the truth as it is in Jesus.
God Bless
Stephen <><

Friday, 29 December 2017

Richard Sibbes- Christ the servant

Is the Lord Christ a servant? This should teach is not to stand upon any terms. If Christ had stood upon terms, if he had refused to take upon him the shape of a servant, alas! Where had we and our salvation been? And yet wretched creatures, we think ourselves too good to do God and our brethren any service. Christ stood not upon his greatness, but, being equal with God, he became a servant. Oh! We should dismount from the tower of our conceited excellency. The heart of man is a proud creature, a proud piece of flesh. Men stand upon their distance. What! Shall I stop to him? I am thus and thus. We should descend from the heaven of our conceits, and take upon us the form of servants, and abase ourselves to do good to others, even to any, and account it an honour to do any good to others in the place we are in.  Christ did not think himself too good to leave heaven to conceal and veil his majesty under the veil of our flesh, to work our redemption, to bring us out of the cursed estate we were in. 

Richard Sibbes- A Description of Christ works page 8/9

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Infant God -Spurgeon

He that is God this day was once an infant: So that if my cares are little and even trivial and comparatively infantile I may go to him, for he was once a child. Though the great ones of the earth may sneer at the child of poverty, and say. "You are to mean, and your trouble is too slight for pity;" I recollect with humble joy, that the King of Heaven did hang upon a woman's breast. and was wrapped in swaddling bands, and therefore I tell him all my griefs..
How wonderful that he should have been an infant, and yet should be God over all, blessed for ever! I am not afraid of God now; this blessed link between me and God, the holy child Jesus, has taken all fear away. Charles Spurgeon -God incarnate the end of fear.

Merry Christmas

Stephen <><

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Good Night Dr Sproul

Lots of people have written over the last few days how R C Sproul's ministry has impacted them, including Joni Erickson Tada, Mark Dever, John Piper and lots more. These were his friends and colleagues people who knew him personally. I'm not even sure I've ever been within 400 miles of the man himself but he has impacted me nonetheless.

The people's theologian.

I first came across R C Sproul through a friend who loved listening to him. He played some of the Foundations Series for me, I was hooked! I remember not too long after some other friends were visiting and looking at my growing book collection, I remember one of them commenting,' wow you really like R C Sproul' and the other looking and saying, 'oh yes you really do, what they didn't know is that 12 months before I had never heard of the guy and yet all those books had been read and loved. I'd read quite a bit of Martin Lloyd Jones at this point but R C Sproul is for me what MLJ is for the generation before, the populariser of Reformed Theology. You can see this by reading Dave Hunt's anti-Calvinist material he credits the giftedness of Sproul as a communicator for the Reformed Resurgence in the States (much to Hunt's disappointment).
Since I started reading theology proper I've always had a taste for it and have always enjoyed it and understood it. Yet in R C's writings I found I enjoyed it more and understood it better, he had a real gift in communicating complex theology, philosophy and history in such simple terms. I believe more than anyone else he prepared me for the weightier stuff. I loved his theological writings but he also wrote on Christian living and I found these books very challenging and appreciate them very much.

The Winsome wit

The tag line to my blog is 'seeking a warm hearted reformed theology' it's slightly misleading as I found it early on in this winsome American teacher. I recall being horrified at Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the document endorsed by J I Packer, Chuck Colson et al, so was in a serious mood as I listened to R C, MacArthur and D.James Kennedy unpack their alarm and why we couldn't agree with Rome on the Ankerberg program (I had the tapes- back in the day) yet R C whilst being very serious injected humour into the conversation as he playfully ribbed one of his former student during the Q and A time and John MacArthur at another time.
You can hear this if you listen to Foundations or From Dust to Glory, even when you listen you can hear that he is speaking with a smile on his face. You can also see his quick wit in any panel discussion, his love for his God and for God's people is always evident.

The Holiness of God

In R C's writings and speaking ministry I found that he had an awe for the God revealed in scripture, that this God isn't to be trifled with, as He is Holy . While God is Holy we are not- in seeing this, in being taken to see it better, clearer the Gospel becomes more amazing. That's what I found in R C's ministry more than anything that God revealed in the Bible is bigger and better than I had known, that sin, my sin was also worse than I realised. How amazing then is the Gospel which saved a wretch like me. How truly amazing is this God who saves.

I thank the LORD for this gifted man of God.

Stephen <><

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Found By Love- Rahil Patel

I heard part of Rahil's story on UCB radio earlier this week so I downloaded the kindle book and began to read. If I'd seen Nicky Gumbel had endorsed it on the cover I wouldn't have bothered. Rahil writes well and I found myself following him on his journey from being in a moderate Hindu family to becoming a Swami and his quest for inner peace. All this was very gripping as he left his family at a young age to devote himself to following a guru in his journey not only for peace but for heaven itself.
There were slight warning signs for me though, every so often he would mention an experience he would have as a swami when he saw a cross or entered into a church. His positive experience of Rome was far removed from the experience of Martin Luther in his testimony.

The book turned into a disappointment when Rahil started going along to church, he went to Holy Trinity Brompton, I groaned inwardly but hoped for a powerful story of conviction of sin following by an understanding of the cross which would have a powerful affect upon this man and bring his troubled soul to rest- as the title suggests- to being found by the love of God.
Instead Rahil says he experienced acceptance, that a voice he often heard said, 'you;r home'. Rahil says nothing of how he encountered the life changing power of the Gospel, he just starts to identify as a Christian. As is typical of Charismatics he then isn't changed enough, there are unresolved issues that require more than salvation. He relates not only how he was 'filled with the Spirit' but how he experienced inner healing both in HTB and the controversial Bethel Church in California. I suppose this book is summed up in the "good advice" he receives, he was offered the opportunity of studying apologetics with RZIM but is offered the advice to ''keep receiving his love, and develop a relationship until it becomes a lifestyle, and then maybe a deep study of the Bible would be better". The worst advice he could be given, rather than the opportunity to grow in his new faith- or to learn that he hasn't yet crossed the threshold and experienced the new birth,  turning down the opportunity to study but the same person gives him the "opportunity" to go to Bethel. Setting him off on a journey chasing after experience after experience without the tools to discern if they are valid or not.

I don't know if Rahil is converted or not, there isn't enough to go on from this testimony. I pray that if he isn't he will be and that instead of chasing after experience after experience he will be impacted and transformed by the Spirit through the Word of God.

May God extend His Grace to you.

Stephen <><