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?

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.


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.

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.

Stephen <><