Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Next Sunday at SPC we will have our first baptism, and it's the baptism of a new baby born to one of our member couples. It is a significant time for our church, and a significant time for me. It will be the first time I will have performed a baptism. I'm looking forward to it.
I am aware that there are lots of views on infant baptism, including rejection by credobaptists, superstition, "it's tradition", and biblical. We have all of these amongst our fledgling congregation. So, in order for the event not to be a surprise or shock, I have sought over the last couple of weeks since coming back from holiday, to do some groundwork. Two weeks ago we looked at the six great post-Fall covenants in the Bible. (Can you name them?) Then last week we looked at infant inclusion in the covenant dispensations and hence the reasons for baptising infants. All the time I have sought to show the biblical rationale, to show that it is not just tradition or out of superstition, while at the same time addressing some Baptist objections. That has been a tall order! I think if I were to do this again I would take longer over it. There were far too many loose ends left hanging, too many concepts to take in. It has shown to me clearly that teaching a congregation is a long term project!
However the reaction has been interesting, stronger than any other I have had, from the extremely positive, to the somewhat agitated rejection. It has been a little tricky to deal with these negative responses in a way that is helpful yet without compromise.
The whole process has been helpful for Susan and me. Before coming to SPC we were members of a baptistic church for ten years, a church we love. We promised to them never to raise the issue of baptism with members for the sake of the peace of the church. We were happy to do this. We know the score: if one choses to join a church one must be submissive on the issues one disagrees with by keeping one's mouth shut, or find a new church. However, having made that decision, for me there has been little opportunity to thrash out issues and objections to infant baptism. I have been able to do that now. It has also been true for Susan. Susan was baptised in a church where there was not much of the gospel. As a result, the understanding she has been left with of infant baptism has ben a bit muddled. It has been helpful to work through some of the issues with her.
So pray for us on Sunday, for the family, the child. Pray that the peace of the gospel would prevail in our midst.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Getting the Most Out of Bible Reading
In recent years I have been using a Bible reading plan to make sure I get through the Bible at least once a year. If you want to know, I have been helped by Don Carson's daily email, 'For the Love of God'. Each day I get an email with the readings for the day and a few paragraphs of commentary from Dr C. The readings are based on the Robert Murray M'Cheyne reading plan with some minor modifications. You can easily find a copy of this plan by googling "M'Cheyne reading plan". There's one here.
While Dr Carson's commentary is good, and I would thoroughly recommend it, I have tended to use the email simply as a prompt for what to read in the Bible. I fear that we can too easily skip over the Bible to get to men's words without doing the work of labouring in the word. Besides, I like reading just the Bible.
For the last two or three years I have been using the email as a prompt for what Bible book to read. A problem with reading four chapters from four different places in the Bible is that it is easy to lose any sense of context and flow of the book in which each chapter sits. I don't want to lose that perspective. So I stick with a book till I am finished. Of course I don't need to use Carson's email for this. Simply making a list of the books of the Bible and systematically working through them would work too. However, Carson/M'Cheyne helps keep the balance through the year of OT and NT.
After coming back from holiday I noticed that Dave Bish had posted a link to another post by Dan Edelen about Bible reading. The post is interesting and takes Bible reading one step further. Why have a one-year Bible reading plan? Why not make it a rest-of-life Bible reading plan? His concern is that even with a one-year plan, people simply do not remember and understand what they have read. Amazing, but possibly true. With Dan's plan there is an emphasis on really wrestling with a book, not verse by verse, but by re-reading books in single sittings, looking for themes, ideas and application.
Seems a good idea and well worth reading his post. As Dan says,
This is about sixty years of discipleship. It's not about getting through the Bible in a certain length of time.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Let me just update you on what has been happening. We have been back from holiday for nearly a week now. It is a bit surreal. We had two weeks holiday in Spain, thanks to a friend who owns an apartment, where the temperatures were 30C and above. For a Scotsman living in the Midlands that's hot! To be honest, the day we arrived I thought I was not going to survive. Sweat seemed to be pouring from everywhere. However, we learned to slow down and drink lots. The apartment was part of a complex that had a pool. So we had choices: go to the pool, visit the beach, drive to some place of interest. I did a lot of reading and resting. We watched the high points of the Olympics (didn't we Brits do well - most unexpected). Unfortunately our only source of news was CNN which seemed to spend all its time talking about Obama, Georgia or what was 'Coming soon...' and interminable ads. Dreadful.
Occasionally we bought a Telegraph. The shops there serve Brits well. In the region were staying in there has been massive building programs to satisfy the 'holiday home' demand. As a result it is mostly Brits, Irish and Germans around the place in the Summer. Those who are retired come for large parts of the year, school teachers come during the long summer holidays.
Not everything has caught up with the development. Our locality is five years old, but as far as I could see there were no street names. We had trouble explaining where we lived, especially when we were hiring a car.
The main road along the coast was constantly a traffic jam, especially in the afternoon siesta when everyone was going to or coming from the beach, because the roads simply could not cope.
In spite of all this, we had a great time. The apartment was comfortable, the pool was great and quiet. We were well rested.
Having come back, I am discovering it is raining a lot. What's new? But it makes the holiday seem a million years ago already. And I have to dig out my coat. I am all at sixes and sevens. I have had five days home and I do not feel in gear. On Sunday, I preached a sermon introducing covenants in the Bible. The sermon was fine, but I found my conversations throughout the Sunday strangely difficult. I did not seem to be able to concentrate. I seem to be still in holiday mode.
Now it is all piling up - meetings, planning, organising. Looking forward to the coming year at SPC. We are encouraged. Attendance is up by 50-60% on average over last year. Sounds great, doesn't it? What that actually means is that instead of low teens last Summer (I really wondered if we would survive), we are around 20+. We have four families with children regularly attending which is a great encouragement.
However, we still need to make a significant impact in the local community. So please pray for us, that Christ's name may be raised up in Solihull!