Saturday, 25 December 2010

Jesus- meek and lowly our saviour holy!

I have heard many sermons over the years on the passage there was no room for them in the inn Luke chapter 2 none of them better than C H Spurgeon's: 

The invitation
Even as an infant, by being laid in a manger, he was being set forth as the sinners friend. Come to him, yea that are weary and heavy-laden! Come to him ye that are broken in spirit, ye who are bowed down in soul! Come to him, ye that despise yourself and are despised by others! come to him publican and harlot! Come to him thief and drunkard! In the manger there he lies, ungaurded from your touch and unsheilded from your gaze. Bow the knee and kiss the Son of God: accept him as your saviour, for he puts himself in that manger that you may approach him. The throne of Solomon might awe you but the manger of Christ invites you. 

Demands a response

As the palace, and the forum, and the inn, have no room for Christ and as the places of public resort have none, have you room for Christ? "Well" says one,"I have room for Him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me" Ah! I did not ask about your worthiness; have you room for Him? "Oh" says one "I have an empty void the world can never fill". Ah! I see you have room for Him. "Oh! but the room that I have is so base!" So was the manger. "But it is so despicable!" so was the manger a thing to be despised.
C. H Spurgeon
Your sin is no excuse to keep you from coming to Him who came into the world to save sinners. He left the comfort of heaven for a lowly manger and later a cruel and shameful cross because He came to seek those who are lost. If you are lost this Christmas call out to Him and He will save you.
Merry Christmas

Stephen <><

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The BBC Production of The Nativity, Christmas 2010

Over the course of this week from Monday to Thursday the BBC have being showing their version of the Nativity. I am pleased to say that it followed the story line as revealed in scripture with prophetic quotes from Isaiah chapter 9 coming from the lips of Elizabeth. Their Mary was young and a real woman living in a real world rather than the  other worldly Mary of Roman Catholicism. On the down side I would have liked to see Mary do the magnficate. Joseph for the most part fit the Biblical picture (although he did blaspheme at one point) as a man of humble means but who was a good man. I think they managed to capture the difficulties that Mary, as a  very young pious woman facing pregnancy outside of marriage would have experienced. As she was treated as an adulterer by her former friends and family, shunned for a time by Joseph until he finally believed what he was told in his dream as well as carrying a great weight upon her shoulders knowing that she was unworthy to be the mother of the LORD. 

The Shepherds were fleshed out, not as rough as they would have been but miles away from a children's play, the main one was struggling to believe in God's existence as he was dirt poor and  struggling to take care of his wife and baby, so desperate he nearly took a life the same day the angel appeared. When he was in the stable he was worried that there was not enough grace for him, but he was overwhelmed with the revelation coming to one such as him. I think that was my favourite moment in the whole drama as it captured the heart of the gospel, no one is worthy but all may come.

The magi were Babylonian astrologers and had far too much understanding of Yahweh and his plans for the world but this was to help with the flow of the story. The BBC followed the fairly recent view that the star was an alignment in the heavens between three planets. They showed the movement in the heavens which captured something of how monumental the birth of Christ is to the world. The magi arrived moments after the birth, just after the shepherd and quoted scripture "we have seen his star in the east and have come to worship Him."

We quite often give the BBC a hard time for sidelining Christianity but credit where credit is due, thank you for sharing the true meaning of Christmas on prime time TV!

God Bless
Stephen <><


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Think- The Life of the Mind and the Love of God- John Piper

John Piper is one of my favourite authors and my favourite modern American preacher, I always find him dangerous though as reading him will mean a change in lifestyle. There are two Piper books that stand out Desiring God which melted my cold heart and Don't Waste Your Life which impacted my life in practical ways. Think is the latest offering from Piper and it is not written for those who want to think and do nothing else. This is a book about using the mind in pursuing the greatest treasure there is God. Piper is not a cold academic but someone who is passionate in heart and mind for God. This book is about becoming like that, to contemplate and meditate on what you read in the Bible and in good Christian books is to be changed, to be set a light. Piper himself puts it this way on page 91:

God has given us minds so that, by thinking with the Spirit's help, we can know the truth and beauty and worth of God through Jesus and treasure him above all things and spend our lives expressing this in as many ways as our minds can pursue.... Loving God with all our minds that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.     
  
I would offer a couple of cautions though firstly be careful what you read, make scripture a priority and check everything you read against the Bible. Secondly do your reading devotionally, good books can give you good theology but if you heart is not right it can lead to becoming a Pharisee sitting in judgement over others and becoming unteachable.
Piper offers advice how to do this from B. B Warfield, Warfield was responding to someone who said 5 minutes on your knees is worth more than 10 hours in your books. Warfield replied, "what about 10 hours in your books on your knees."

The closing chapter of the book is quite odd at first, it is the story of a man who studied a fish for several hours over several days. The point of the story is that it takes a while to meditate on a passage to understand it, but working at it and digging deep into things you have never seen before. This book made me realise I have grown a bit lazy when it comes to studying and meditating on the word of God. In the new year when the baby is sleeping consistently through the night I intend to get back into the languages so I can meditate properly on scripture. I found this a useful exercise as I studied Greek at HTC because the passage would be in my head for several days as I slowly translated it. 

I am constantly surprised how little other Christians read of their Bibles let alongegood Christian works, this means I need to be patient as God deals with people differently and to our own master we shall stand or fall . I have also learnt recently that in the pulpit you need to keep it as simple as possible because must people don't have a clue and need help to understand. It is a sin to try to show how clever you are, the objective is to show how great God is. Piper does this well in everything he preaches and everything he writes, this book is no exception read it on your knees!

God Bless
Stephen <><




Sunday, 31 October 2010

Luther on justification- Reformation day

I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Roman's and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, "the justice of God", because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God but rather I hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant. 
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by his faith". Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and the sheer mercy God justifies us though faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before "the Justice of God" had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. As cited in Here I stand by Ronald Bainton.

Luther had tried like the Apostle Paul before him to earn his way into heaven, he knew that the gate was closed and he was condemned before a holy and just God. Then Martin Luther discovered that all his works could not save him but God who was rich in mercy could, only through the sacrificial death of God's Son on Luther's behalf. If you are ever to have your sins forgiven then the only way is to come realised that you have no hope and plead for the mercy of God through the death of Christ. Today is not Halloween it is reformation day, have a blessed day!

Shalom
Stephen <><

Saturday, 16 October 2010

the 16th of October 1655

Are you a a people pleaser? Paul says that he came to the Thessalonians declaring the message that God had given him that he sought to please God and not man. Hugh Latimer was like this bishop of Worcester in the time of Henry the 8th he would often remind himself when speaking in court not to fear the king of England but to fear the king of kings. A few years later during the reign of Mary Tudor, Hugh Latimer was arrested along with many other Evangelicals for his beliefs. Many protestants in England had simple switched sides when Mary came to the throne but not Latimer or Ridley, they were willing to die for the sake of pleasing God rather than pleasing their monarch. Today is the 16th of October 2010, on this same day in 1655 they were burnt on the stake. Latimer was heard to cry 'Master Ridley be of good cheer and play the man for we light a candle that I trust by God's grace , In England I trust, will  never be put out.'

It is good to remember the effect the gospel had on men and women in times past and pray that we will be bold to face the much smaller opposition we face when sharing the gospel with others. We are called to be faithful too, it is my prayer that God would remind us in the UK of those in England, Scotland and Wales who laid down their life for the success of the gospel in times gone by and that God would raise up a new generation to herald the gospel in our day.

Shalom
Stephen

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

baby news

Hi,


It is always good to share good news, last Friday at 5:28 my wife Joy gave birth to our second child. Bethan Grace Barton. Bethan is a welsh version of Elizabeth and means A vow to God, Grace means undeserved kindness. She was 8:3 pounds and 55 centimeters. Everyone is doing fine at home and baby and Hannah are trying to settle into their new situation. Photos to follow shortly!

We know that our children are an undeserved kindness from God and we are praying that they come to know Jesus whilst they are young.

May God Bless You
Stephen <><

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Are you a secular Sam?

Mark Dever in his The Message of the New Testament  writes about his friend Secular Sam:



Sam is successful. He has a good job, a nice girlfriend, and a beautiful apartment. His car is new, and his health fine. He is humourous, good with people, and intelligent. Secular Sam is also a Christian. That is, he affirms the things we believe as Christians. And he is quite active! Young Life, Campus Crusade, and Inter Varsity are all in his background. Long ago, of course, he left some of the more embarrassing and immature bits behind, He is not a theological liberal. He affirms the authority of Scripture. But is not a sterotypical, ghettoized fundamentalist. He has recovered the cultural mandate in Scripture. He understands Genesis, the great creation story, and what calls us to do. He understands that all of life should come under the scrutiny of Scripture: not just religion, but business, philosophy, ethics, economics, politics, law, and the arts. He has a thoughtful and refined appreciation for how Scripture gives the most satisfying explanation for all kinds of phenomena in our world- certainly the origin and meaning of life. Sam knows Scripture's awesome explanatory power. It has a first principle-God-who, by definition, needs no previous cause. Sam can honestly examine human foibles with his understanding of human sinfulness. he can confute his skeptical friends by the historical evidence for the resurrection. He seems to have a moral bearing that is the envy of many of his more thoughtful friends.
      But Sam is profoundly secular in this: He expects to wake up in his bed tomorrow morning. Sam has never even heard of what is grandparents' generation called "the blessed hope". No, his concerns, even about his own spiritual life, are all contained in this age, or saeculum, to use the Latin root. For Sam assumes that tomorrow will be just like today. In a strange way, Sam's hope has all been collapsed into the now, the present, the visible, and feel-able. What is your hope fixed on? Humans live by their hopes, you know, as surely as they live by the air they breathe. 

Mark Dever- The Message of the New Testament taken from his sermon on 2 Thessalonians Hope p.321

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Burning Issue

Last Saturday pastor Terry Jones planned to publically burn Korans, a strange sort of protest with bigger ramifications than he probably realised. Whilst I believe in freedom of speech and would defend his right to do something like this, I don't think it serves the cause of the gospel and the glory of Christ. The most amazing thing about it though is that it was deemed news worthy not only in the States but here in the UK and caused a stir in the western media. Of course they viewed him as intolerant and this can not be tolerated in the West to say that one religion is evil is well evil they argue.
I don't think the best way for Christians to deal with Islam is to burn Korans far better to debate them on the issue on what it says, for thinking evangelicals we should follow the advice of Henry Jones snr In Indiana Jones and the last Crusade and "spend more time reading books than burning them." So that we can debate the issues, we have nothing to fear by doing this.  I recommend the debates  with Muslims by Christian Apologist James White on youtube or on his website Alpha and Omega Ministries.

The other burning issue is the shock I have with world leaders who argue against intolerance in  western society but say nothing against intolerance in Muslim majority lands. Recently the president of Afganistan Mohammed Karzai has given approval to moves for the state to execute converts from Islam to Christianity and our leaders are silent on this issue, not one word of it is mentioned in the media. Please pray for the Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith.

Shalom
Stephen <><

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sinclair Ferguson- Grace Alone


I received this book from the Reformation Trust, I am not obliged to give a positive review.

Sinclair Ferguson is one of Scotland's best exports, a theologian and a pastor he is a conservative evangelical and is a leading conference speaker on both sides of the Atlantic. Ferguson is a heavy weight in the Reformed tradition and writes at both an academic level and like with this book at a more popular level. I would commend anything that he has written so I am pleased to review his book 'By Grace Alone.'
It might seem a strange subject matter especially as the subtitle is How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Yet my father who is not a believer once said "of course God will forgive me that is His job", that statement profoundly misunderstands God and presumes on His grace. That God who is Holy can forgive sinners who have sinned against Him like you and me is truly amazing. It amazes me that even those of us who have been walking with Jesus for some years still take grace so lightly. I believe it is because we misunderstand our standing before God when we were unbelievers, As Ferguson says 'Guilt is not just a feeling. It is not just a psychological condition, although it can become one. It is a legal standing. When the foreman of the jury in a trial speaks the word Guilty, he is not commenting on the feelings of the accused. He is pronouncing a verdict. He is saying that the accused has been judged to have committed the crimes with which he was charged. The accused is guilty and will be treated accordingly—no matter what he or she may "feel."p.56 And before the bar of heaven we would be condemned because we are guilty and justice demands a guilty verdict.

 
The other issue for us is to misunderstand both the meaning of the grace that we have received and its effects upon us for living out our lives before God.

 
This is what Sinclair Ferguson is seeking to redress, he does this by taking the hymn 'How the Grace of God Amazes Me' by the African pastor Emmanuel T. Sibomaname and examining the song verse by verse. This is a mistake in my view because even though it is a great hymn it is not well known, certainly not in the North of Scotland. Each chapter concentrates on the theme of a verse through this Ferguson examines, grace and the Christian life from start to finish. He serves the church well and recognises our need when he says in chapter 7 'Sometimes we imagine that our greatest need is to move on to the "higher" or "deeper" teaching of the gospel. But in fact, our real need is to get a deeper and firmer grasp of the main truths of the gospel' p102. Helping us to get a deeper and firmer grasp of the main truths of the gospel is in essence what Ferguson is seeking to give us through this book and overall he achieves this.

In the grip of His grace

Stephen <><

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

for the sake of you gentiles

One of the last things you could  ever imagine the very Jewish Jew , Saul of Tarsus doing is something good on behalf of the Christian church. Yet in Ephesians chapter 3 v 1 we find Saul of Tarsus saying "I, Paul a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles. Saul hated the church, the very idea was repulsive to him, he was very zealous to destroy the church, that was his personal mission when he set out on the road to Damascus. The last thing on his mind was getting saved, no-one was more (self) righteous than Saul, according the law of the Pharisees he was faultless. The Gentiles were scum in Saul's mind, they had no thought for God, the fact that some Jews had become followers of this crucified Jesus  (whom Saul believed to be a proven Messianic impostor)having fellowship with the Gentiles who acknowledged this Jesus to be Lord and saviour was the worst thing Saul had ever heard of. On the Damascus road Saul was  confronted with the risen, glorious Jesus. He knew when those words came like thunder from Jesus' lips, Saul why are you persecuting ME? That he deserved condemnation, yet he was saved and called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles and Paul never, never, never got over this, which is why he calls himself the least of all the saints.

If you are a believer in Jesus and have experienced His grace in your life have you ever got over it? Paul was a prisoner for the sake of the gentile mission, Paul knew why he was in prison, he didn't grumble at his sufferings he rejoiced in his calling. How about you, are you willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of the gospel? For the sake of others Paul endured much hardship and yet his passion for Jesus never diminished? Has yours?

Shalom
Stephen <><

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

an Eighties revival

You can usually tell how old someone is by their favourite music for example I am in my late thirties and people my age tend to like music from the mid to late eighties. I am no exception to this rule and find listening to music from this period has a certain nostalgic value, even when I didn't like the music originally. One of my favourite singers during the late 80's was Yazz, her music was upbeat and her voice was awesome. A couple of weeks ago I read that she is now a born again Christian. I checked out her website and this is indeed the case, she even has links to Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland and to Desiring God. On her website she has details of her Christian album called Running Back to You. I have recently purchased this album and it is excellent, the voice is still the same, some of the music is upbeat, all of it is sung to the praise of God. Most of the songs are original compositions with the exception of Amazing Grace and This is the Air I Breath all of them delight in God and His grace. Yazz is clearly someone who has been forgiven and cannot get over it as she delights in the grace that God has poured out into her life. One of her songs has this lyric "I am trading my sorrows for eternal tomorrows" which is what she has done, she has moved from the pursuit of fame to finding freedom in Christ. I am thankful to Yazz for a great album and I am thankful to God for His grace to Yazz and also to me.

Shalom
Stephen

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Prince of Preaching on ... Well Preaching of Course part 2

My father-in-law is working on an updated edition of Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students so I get the privilege of reading a great book twice as he sends it to me for comments. This comment from Spurgeon hit me between the eyes first time of viewing:

 Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk's sake; we cannot afford to utter pretty nothings. Our range of subjects is all but boundless, and we cannot, therefore be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance. if we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered for the saints must be proclaimed by us.' Lecture 5 Sermons and There Matter. 

I completely agree with Spurgeon in the circles that I move in I come across a lot of preachers who speak well but have nothing to say. A lot of them start with a biblical text but then wave goodbye to scripture, as I develop as a preacher I always want the text before because God and God alone should speak because only His word can bring life. 
God Bless
Stephen <><

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Steven Lawson- The expository Genius of John Calvin


I have received this book from the Reformation Publishing Trust, I am not obliged to give a positive review.  

Steven Lawson starts this book with a very short biography of John Calvin's life; he does this so we can know something of the man that is the main subject of the book. Lawson quotes extensively from other Calvinists in the evangelical tradition and as the book progresses from Calvin himself. Dr Lawson's style is warm and readable but if you are a preacher though do not get to comfortable at the end of every chapter Lawson finishes off with a challenge from all that he has said throughout the chapter.

 
I had been what is commonly known as Calvinist for about 10 years before I ever read any of John Calvin's work. In some sense I think that was a good idea, as a biblical understanding of issues such as election, sovereignty etc leads to a "Calvinistic understanding" without any dependence upon John Calvin. Yet it was a loss too, John Calvin was not a systematic theologian sitting in some library somewhere but a preacher of the Word and a pastor of souls. Having now read Calvin I realised that I missed out. I believe his Magnus Opus his institutes are totally dependent upon a Bible centred understanding and are worth reading every couple of years.

 
Dr Steven Lawson is a pastor who is committed to the word and wants preachers to learn from his hero John Calvin:

 
 In this present hour, we should pray to the supernatural Author of Scripture Himself, God Almighty, that all preachers would devote themselves to the exposition of the Bible. And like Calvin, may they waste no time in the pulpit, but get straight to the text. May they explicate their passages as soon as is reasonable. May their introductions serve to usher their listeners into the truth of the Word. And may such direct beginnings enhance their preaching, that God's Word should not return to Him void. P.62

 
For this reason alone this book is worth reading that it might stir preachers into being expositor preachers with a deep desire to preach the Word of God. Dr Steven Lawson is clearly a Calvinist who loves Calvin and believes that Calvin is the epitome of a good expositor.  Lawson commends to us not new ways of winning souls but a return to heartfelt biblical preaching.

 
'The church is always looking for better methods in order to reach the world. But God is looking for better men who will devote themselves to His biblically mandated method for advancing His kingdom, namely, preaching—and not just any kind of preaching, but expository preaching.' Lawson p.19
 Lawson sees Calvin reaching dizzy heights in preaching because he sought to understand Scripture. Not just to teach it but to learn from it. Calvin believed that no-one could be a preacher of the word of God if they were not also a student of the word of God. Preaching Calvin believed must do a work on all members of the congregation including the preacher.

 
Lawson provides us with a picture of a man who was committed to let the text speak for itself. I am sure that Lawson seeks to do the same when he enters the pulpit, which is why Calvin is one of his heroes and mine.

Shalom
Stephen <><

Friday, 6 August 2010

John Stott on sharing the gospel

John Stott has been for the last few decades one of the sharpest succinct evangelical leaders in the church. I just love his little nuggets; In his Ephesians commentary he writes: 

‘All revealed truth is held in stewardship. It is given to be shared not monopolized. If men cannot keep there scientific discoveries to themselves, how much less should we keep to ourselves the divine disclosures? he goes on to say 'once we are sure that the gospel is both truth from God and riches for mankind, nobody will be able to silence us.’ John Stott, The Bible Speaks Today p.121

Those of us who love learning are not to love learning for learning's sake but are called to share what we learn for the benefit of others. Those of us that have been saved have a message entrusted to us to share with others. The gospel is the best news ever let us endeavour to gossip the gospel. This is  a day of good news and we are not doing right when we keep it to ourselves.

Shalom
Stephen <><

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

much ado about nothing

The disagreement between theism and atheism is a disagreement about who made the world. The New Athiests talk about humanistic evolution time+ chance= life as we know it. Chance though isn't really a thing it is a way of describing nothing. In Jonathan Edwards day he said there were only two possibilties for the origin of the universe God or Nothing. John Gersnter the Edward's scholar explains: 
'In other words, either that which is has come from Nothing or from God. The choice is between God and Nothing.
It seems self-evident that if everything came from God or Nothing, it must have come from God. God or Nothing leaves only one choice-God. It would seem that if God has no competitor but Nothing, he has nothing for a competitor. "God or Nothing" and "only God" are synonymous expressions.' He goes on to cite Edwards "'Nothing is the same thing that sleeping rocks dream of". He would say that if one thinks he knows what Nothing is, he has rocks in his head. He also called it "the dreadful contradiction." 'John Gerstner-The Rational Biblical Theology of Jonathan Edwards p.123

Sunday, 18 July 2010

In all things love

One of my favourite quotes is usually attributed to Augustine of Hippo but more likely comes from Richard Baxter.

In essentials unity
In non-essentials liberty
and in all things love.

I like this quote as it sums up how to live out truth in a sinful fallen world.

There are some issues that we need to divide over theologically. For example, Martin Luther said Justification by Faith Alone was the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls. It is one issue by which the Church stands of falls but there are others. The authority of Scripture, the Gospel, the Deity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity are all good examples. Those people who differ with us on these issues are non-Christians and so any relationship with them that we develop is one as a witness to the truth of the gospel. This includes Roman Catholics, liberals, J. W's, Mormons, etc.

As a Baptist living in John Knox's Scotland, there are many of my friends who I passionately disagree with on the issue of baptism but this is a non-essential issue so we can discuss it as brothers. Any discussion  that we have on a non-essential is an in-house debate and we can have fellowship in the gospel.

The call of a Christian is a call to love everyone no matter how much we disagree. Whilst we should recognise the theological heresies of cults and cultists and disagree with the alternative morals of those who live as non-believers, we are to do this not as their judge but as a fellow sinner pointing the way to the Redeemer.

Shalom
Stephen <><

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

what kind of love is this?

When you think of the love of God what kind of love do you think of? When I met my wife she ticked all my boxes, her long dark hair her brown eyes and her tanned skin. Her curves, her smile, her laughter, more than any of that we could talk and talk, a connection greater than any I ever had before. If I was to tell you that the love I have for Joy is like God's love for us then I would be wrong.
God's love is something entirely different about 19 months ago Joy was asleep after eight hours in hospital in complete agony. In the room was a screaming blue/ grey alien looking creature with blotches of blood all over, it didn't look good at all. I was emotional exhausted after watching the pain that Joy had gone through and being unable to do anything about it. The blue/grey creature was someone I didn't love because of the way she looked, or because of the connection we had. Our relationship at that moment consisted in nothing but her screams, she wasn't aware of me, she wasn't interested in anything but herself. Yet at that moment in spite of the situation Joy was in, in spite of the way this creature loved the only emotion I was feeling was love, unconditional love. I didn't love Hannah on the basis of anything she had done but purely because she was my daughter and I was her father.  God loves us because He loves us because He loves us, we showed no interest in Him, and we had nothing in us that would make us attractive to God, yet He loves us.
As for my little girl, they pumped some air into her and wiped her off and I saw that she was beautiful, and that is another illustration in itself.

God Bless
Stephen <>< 

Friday, 9 July 2010

who else can I tell.

Before my little girl Hannah was born, Joy gave me a list of all the people I would need to ring to tell them about the birth. As a guy I avoid ringing people like the plague so this seemed like a  really big chore to me. In fact I remember saying that I have to do everything in this pregnancy (that was a joke)! 

Hannah was born at 8:01pm and I stayed until after 11:00 kissed my girls good night and returned home. I rang my mom and my brother and then as it was 11:50 I rang Joy's family in Colorado, I was excited to them the good news. I worked my way through the list and my next response was, "who else can I tell"? It was 1:30am Christmas morning so I put the details on here, and then thought who else can I tell? So I put the details on facebook! I went to bed that night very excited, in the morning I woke up at 5:10am not even slightly tired and my first thought was 'who else can I tell' at a more reasonable hour I rang the rest of my family and started to work my way through the church directory. When I had exhausted this I still had a couple of hours before I could visit the hospital but I was bursting with excitement. When I saw to strangers talking in the street the one asked the other, did you get anything good for Christmas, I piped in, "I did I had a little girl". This news was good news and I couldn't keep it in, in John 4 we are told of the Samaritan woman, she was an outcast of outcasts and went to the well in the middle of the day. This is an unusual time of day to go and the reason is probably so she can avoid the other women who looked down on her. Then she met Jesus who told her everything she had done, he exposed her sin but He showed Her love and told her about Himself. She went excitedly into the village to tell the good news about Jesus, asking if this man could be the Messiah. If you are a Christian you know Jesus is the Messiah and know that He has forgiven you for your sins, this is good news. Good news is exciting, I wonder do you ask yourself, who else can I tell? 

Shalom <><
Stephen

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Holy, Holy, Holy- various contributors

I have received this book from the Reformation Trust to review, I am not obliged to give a positive review:
In the opening of this book, R C Sproul tells how an introduction to some of the great theologians at college brought him into contact with people who had a profound understanding of God. He writes, ‘I discovered one strand that ran through the works of all these men—they were intoxicated by a profound sense of the majesty and of the holiness of God.’ The same thing it true about R. C Sproul and all of the authors of this book hence the title and the conference from which it is drawn. One of the blessings we are receiving from the resurgence of Calvinism in our day is a greater awareness of who God is and through that a greater awareness of our sinfulness and of God’s amazing grace in saving us.

In this book we are treated to several of the leading reformed evangelical pastors and teachers exploring different aspects of holiness. Sinclair Ferguson for example takes us into the garden with Jesus where we get to see Jesus’ great emotional desire to be with the Father and to share the Father and the Son’s glory with his disciples, this is the greatest thing that we shall ever experience.
Alistair Begg writes about the departure of Jesus and the sending of the Spirit in the fourth chapter. He reminds us beautifully of the unity that Jesus enjoyed with the Father, ‘When we read the Gospels carefully, we see that Jesus’ sense of intimacy with His Father, an intimacy they shared in eternity before Jesus’ incarnation, 'was pressingly meaningful and precious to Him.’p.43. Begg helpfully points out the work of the Spirit in bringing all that has been said and making it understood. It is not the work of the Spirit to bring new revelation in new and novel ways. Begg quotes Calvin on this issue, which shows that his day and ours was no different with people seeking innovation rather than illumination.

In chapter 5 Thabiti Anyabwile points out the utter sinfulness of sin against a holy God, he reminds us that God is not a kindly grandfather, or as he puts it a teddy bear, ‘God is no teddy bear. He is sharp. He has edges. His wrath pierces. His holiness consumes. Those who would commit treason against this God will have this God to deal with on that great day of reckoning.’ P.62
I find that this gets to the heart of the problem with much of contemporary evangelicalism; we do treat God like a teddy bear. This is because we do not see ourselves as we truly are in our sinfulness or God in His immense holiness.
Derek Thomas reminds us that having a high view of God’s holiness is not a badge to be worn as a doctrine but something that should be our passionate concern. This for me was the most challenging chapter in the book. I know from past experience that it is easy to let your head convince you that you are passionate about God’s holiness without it having an effect on the heart. R C Sproul Jr helps us with this as he invites us into his family worship times. He dislikes the term family devotions because it suggests to him a duty rather than something that springs from a grateful heart.

The final chapter of the book by R.C Sproul Sr takes us to the holiness of God as a gospel event; he reminds us that if God exists and is holy then he is a consuming fire. It is through understanding this and our great sin that we understand what is amazing about grace.

I knew I was going to like this book as the subject is one of my favourites and I like many of the contributors. What a great conference it must have been and what a great book!

Shalom
Stephen <><