Tuesday, 28 September 2010

baby news


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.

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 <><