Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Time for a Walk

Today I decided I needed to get out of the study and take a walk for an hour. Little Eaton is set in a valley with steep sides so there are some nice places to walk. Well here I am, prepared for anything:

Honest it was more enjoyable than it looks! Listening to Alistair Begg on worship.

Some views on the way:

Path to Duffield


Friendly Horse

It was pretty muddy...

Tyre Track

Perhaps too muddy!...

Muddy Boots

"When the road is rough and steep..."


Hot drink at the finish, then back to work - essay due Thursday!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The First Sprinkling of Winter Snow...

...in Little Eaton at 11.08 am today.

Knock Them Down, One at a Time.

Susan was with a bunch of Woodlands people at a day seminar for youth workers on Saturday. It was organised by the Good Book Company entitled Understanding and Teaching the Sovereignty of God. How often do you hear a topic like that in youth work today?! I am increasingly impressed by GBC, the more I hear about them.

During our family devotional time later in the evening we got on to discussing God and science. (It didn't have anything directly to so with the passage we were reading, but these times often function as an opportunity to discuss spiritual issues that are on my daughter's mind.) Susan quoted someone she had heard speak earlier that day. Her paraphrase was something like,
There are no Laws of Nature, just acts of God.
What a great statement! I thought it was brilliant. What a great starting point for thinking about the world we live in, and about what science is about! Thinking like this stops us thinking there is "something else" out there to which we owe alliegance (i.e. physical Laws), alongside God.

In other words, it destroys another idol.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Where Do We See Christ?

In one of his chapters in The Federal Vision, Rich Lusk notes how Calvin was accused by Westphal, a Lutheran, of teaching that one can gain assurance of salvation through the doctrine of election. This was a misunderstanding on Westphal's part (and of very many since) of the real emphasis of Calvin's teaching. But, Lusk notes,
For Calvin, Christ is the mirror of election (p.91)
This was one of these statements that made me smile (this is the real test of the pithiness of a statement!) because it captures something very important. Let me explain.

Christians want assurance. They look at themselves in the hunt for evidence that they really are in the faith. So they look at their lives and actions to see if they are really doing the right Christian stuff. But then they are rightly wary of a kind of works righteousness. So they look inwardly at the heart to see whether there is encouragement from their own faith, their own love towards Christ. But our hearts are not a source of comfort. There is much sin there still. Only the most arrogant and willfully blind people can gain any comfort from this exercise.

What Lusk does here in commenting on Calvin is to identify the right direction in which to look. It is not towards self but away from self, to Christ. This is where the metaphor of the mirror kicks in, because it is there, in him, as we look towards him that we see ourselves as we truly are, raised up, alive, seated with him. Then we gain assurance of election to eternal life. This made me smile.

Now, lest this bee seen as approval of Lusk's chapter, I should note that the next lines in his paragraph go like this,
... and of course Christ is clearly seen in his ordinances... Calvin would have us start with the covenantal administration of baptism and work back to the decree.
To me, this seems to spoil the earlier statement quoted above. The natural corollary would be "and of course Christ is clearly seen in his word". Now, Lusk does mention the word later in his essay, but it is a backdrop to the main act - baptism. I don't understand why the word is absent from his view here.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Away from Home

I was "playing away from home" yesterday. I had been invited to preach at Birstall Independent Baptist Church, so the family and I spent the day down there - it is about 40-50 minutes drive from where we live. We had a good time and were well looked after. The church is small (about 16 in the morning service, 10 in the evening) but encouraged and committed to the gospel. It must have been more draining than I realised, though. When we got home just before 9pm I was like zombie! I fought it for a while but eventually went to be bed before 10pm, which is unheard of for me.

Today I need to get to grips with Hebrew. I am studying Ruth. For the last few days I have been trying to break the back of it but my study of Hebrew grammar last year has not really sunk in. This means as I go through the text I am constantly having to revisit various chapters in Weingreen. It's a slow process. Hebrew is easily the most difficult thing I have ever studied.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Scripture Memory

Recently while doing some evangelistic work I realised once again how necessary it is to have a good grasp of what the Bible says, and not just that, but also a good grasp of where it says it. So I did a radical thing - I got my memory verses out and started reviewing them again.

This was one of the benefits of getting involved with the Navigators in Glasgow when I was converted. Scripture memory was a big thing with them, and I have benefitted enormously from it through the years. Many of the verses I learned then are still with me now, clear as day.

I had a poke around the net in a spare moment and discovered this church website. They have taken the Navs' Topical Memory System (a set of 60 verses covering a whole range of topics) and put them on to online flash-cards for memorisation. It's a pretty good site, easy to use and well worth making use of.

Remember: review, review, review!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Behold, Your King!

Yesterday I preached on John 18:38-19:16.

Jesus is before Pilate. The crowd is outside baying for blood, stirred up by the chief priests. Read the passage quickly and the intensity of the scene passes you by. Dwell on it and you cannot but be overwhelmed. The irrational intimidatory cries of the crowd - "Away with him! Crucify!". The calculating arguments of the priests towards one end - Jesus death - and culminating in the blasphemous statement, "We have no king but Caesar". The gross hypocrisy of keeping themselves outwardly ceremonially clean when their hearts are intent on state-sanctioned murder. Pilate - a weak, vacillating, yet brutal fool - resorting to irony, even sarcasm, as his best shot at freeing Jesus. He claimed to have authority to Jesus' face, yet lacked the moral fibre to use it. All of these things illustrate the moral depravity of the scene.

And yet one must marvel at Jesus! There he is at the centre of the commotion - pure, upright. The king, of a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom of truth. There are no surprises here for him. He knows the hearts of men and women. There is nothing coming out of them that he does not know was inside them all along. But it shocks us because we do not know our hearts.

John, the writer, displays for us the outworking of the purposes of God. Though the term "King of the Jews", or "your King" are used in a mocking tone, John reassures his readers that, yes, this indeed was the king. He had to be hung on a tree and be accursed of God (Dt. 21:23) to win his people. Scripture must be fulfilled. He goes there as the champion of his people to cast out the ruler of this world (Jn. 12:31) and and draw them to himself. His weakness is necessary, for it is his true strength.

He takes the place of Barabbas - robber, murderer, insurrectionist, terrorist - who that very day, amazingly, would walk the streets of Jerusalem. Imagine this injustice! Yet here is the lived-out parable - Jesus takes the place of undeserving criminals. "Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood."

It was a great passage to preach on, and to call all to come and bow before the King.

Everything Sounds Like...

I hate to say this but this has been clear to me for some time now. (HT Jon.)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Patrick on John 3:16 and the Love of God

Patrick Ramsey has a couple of great posts on John 3:16 and the love of God. Make the time.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blogroll Pruning

I took a radical step yesterday. I removed a couple of guys from my blogroll. Blogrolls are cherished possessions. They are a window into the blogger's heart and mind, revealing what interests him/her. So they must be carefully looked after and tended like a little garden...

Enough waffle. I noticed that I had not read a couple of bloggers on my roll for some time. I realised the reason why - they simply write too, too much. It's all good stuff, but I would look at their page and almost groan at the length of the post. And there is one of these almost every day! Oh, the burden! So I would quickly pass by.

The time has come therefore to admit reality - as far as my blogroll is concerned they are unproductive branches to be pruned (oops - beginning to waffle again).

So I wish them every blessing, but we must part company. Goodbye Challies and Jollyblogger. Sorry, guys, it's just too much!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Just Saying "Hi!"

OK - hi!

Not much to write about at the moment. Too busy - Like butter spread on too much bread.

(What film is that allusion from, all you film buffs?)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Bonfire Party

Fun all round

Originally uploaded by Dancers.

It's a couple of days late to report, but Bryn and Dorothy at DFC hosted a bonfire party on Friday. Good fun for me and Susan, as you can see.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Turning the World Upside Down

I am currently helping David with some door-to-door work in Belper. Our method is
  • Deliver some leaflets through letter boxes. These are well-produced, glossy affairs. They say something about what Grace Church exists for, what the gospel message is in broad terms, and an invitation to take it further with specific ways of doing this.

  • Follow up with a visit. This has to be done within a week, usually, since people often forget what comes through the door pretty quickly. Though we work together for encouragement, we go to each door as individuals.

  • The visit is low key and friendly, and not a "full-on" evangelistic challenge. We ask if they have seen the leaflet, read it, and what they thought about it. Usually by this stage you know pretty well whether people want to talk further. Most people are not interested, but some do open up a little. Then you can begin to talk about the gospel with them.

Of course, some people like a good bit of banter. This week David and I were out and I met a man who was adamant that there was "not a shred of evidence" for the existence of Jesus, but that there was plenty of evidence for the ancient Egyptian gods! I tried to rectify his view as best I could but he was unmovable. He was willing to believe that Julius Caesar existed, a much less well attested fact, but certainly not Jesus.

In the end I had to accept once again that the real reason that people reject the gospel and the facts surrounding it is not because the facts are not well attested. The real problem is summed up in the natty sentence, The heart of the human problem is problem of the human heart. When people do not want to believe the facts they won't. And they, quite irrationally, do not want to look any further into it. They are content with the view they have. To accept the gospel means big changes. It has implications on belief, decisions, priorities in life, loves, relationships. In other words, your whole world is turned upside down.

It is good to remember this as we meet people and seek to share the gospel. The human hearts that we meet seem to know instinctively the implications of what we are saying. We are not just offering an interesting leaflet, a thought-provoking sermon or Bible study, or nice new people. We are introducing Christ who gives new life and destroys the old.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Found Out!

Oh no! Andy found out about this photo, and now I know all about it after the verbal roasting I got from him over the phone. Sorry, matey! ;-)

By way of amends, here's a better one, with a good bit of testimony to his experience of forgiveness.

What's your testimony of the forgiveness of God?

Derwent FC Website

I have been doing some work this week on a website for Derwent Free Church. I'm a bit of a rookie on this kind of thing and there are plenty of things to sort out yet, but here it is!

(BTW this is a shameless promotion on this blog based upon the groundless belief that Google will push it up the rankings if there are more links to it.)

UPDATE: Ooops. There is a big problem on Internet Explorer for Mac with the text Sorry if it is also true, on PC. But who cares - nobody uses IE nowadays, do they? OK, OK, I'll try and sort it...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Preachers' Decalogue

Sinclair Ferguson offers up the first table of 10 Commandments for preachers here. I was going to quote bits of it, but there were so many bits that you might as well go and read the whole thing.

So. Go on, then.