Monday, November 24, 2008

Made the Jump

Well, I have done it. I have been thinking about it for a while now and finally taken the step.

I have moved this blog over to Wordpress.

It's not a Blogspot any more. The old Blogspot will remain but I have switched off comments so that no one wastes time.

So, if you want to follow this blog still, please jump over there, tell your blog reader software etc.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The problem with Atheism?

David nails it.

Crisis and Cure

One of our regular attenders at SPC said she was going to a conference at which Rev. David Carmichael was preaching. I have heard of Mr Carmichael before - he is minister of Abbeygreen Church of Scotland in Lesmahagow - but have not heard him preach. So, I found and I listened to his sermon "Crisis and Cure" preached at the Scottish Reformed Conference in Hamilton in 2007. (Obtainable from this page, or mp3 directly from this link.)

I can warmly commend it to you. Carmichael observes that the danger to the church does not come from liberals so much as from evangelicals who lost confidence in the word of God and so turn elsewhere for success.

Also, it is rare to hear a preacher preach with such intensity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

GTD and the Gospel

Getting things done is a problem. Busy-ness, though, is not a problem. How is that possible?

There are plenty of motivational blogs and books about Getting Things Done (e.g. here, here). But none of them really get to the heart of things.

I have greatly enjoyed three recent blog posts by CJ Mahaney on the topic (see here, here and here), and there is more to come, I think. We can be lazy and busy at the same time, because we put off what is most important in order to do what we like (don't I know it!). Then we don't get things done. This is the sin of procrastination. It is a heart issue which must be addressed with the gospel.

Looking forward to the next installment.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Baptism of Christ

I and my family had to be away from SPC last weekend on family business. So we had the pleasure of one of our Assessor Elders (i.e. appointed by Presbytery) the Rev. Richard Holst preach to the congregation.

Richard preached on the Baptism of Christ from Mark 1:9-11, and I would strongly recommend that you listen to it. As Richard says in his preamble, some passages of Scripture have clear application to particular life issues. However, others simply draw our gaze to the Lord Jesus Christ. This sermon certainly helps me do that. You can download the sermon from here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Do Not Have, Because You Do Not Ask.

I have had this sentence on my mind yesterday and today as I have gone about my business.

Of course, it is taken from James 4:2. James was writing about worldliness amongst Christians where passions and desires so drove people that they ended up striving and fighting amongst themselves. The underlying principle is that such Christians (and who is not in that number?) have yet to learn dependence on God in life. Hence, You do not have, because you do not ask.

The sentence has come up because I have been thinking about how things are developing at SPC. (They are never distant thoughts, truth be told.) The verse presents a challenge in two ways. Firstly, in the ever present temptation for me to think that our "success" depends on what I can do. Perceived self-sufficiency strikes at actual dependence upon God, and saps the prayer life.

The second challenge is for our church - for those who are committed in membership to this enterprise. There is always the temptation to believe that simply turning up on Sunday is enough. After all, what more can we do? The rationale kicks in as a backstop: in doing this are we not at the same time depending on God for the growth? Well, maybe so, and it is certainly great for people to "turn up". But, here is the question - have we asked for what we want at SPC? Are we continuing to ask God? Have we got together to encourage one another to keep asking God?

God is sovereign. He will do as he wishes, according to his own purpose, and his purpose is good. But God uses means, and one of them is believing prayer. There is no excuse for not asking for what is on our hearts and depending on God for the results.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Five Ways Satan Attacks Our Vulnerabilities

Some thoughts from Genesis 3:1-7.

He Plays on Our Ignorance
The serpent said to the woman, "Did God actually say...?" If we lack a grasp of what God did and does say in his word, then we are vulnerable to this destabilising question. We may think we know, but when tested and faced with a choice which involves choosing to follow God's word or not, that little voice comes in, "Did God actually say...?" If we are unable to say "yes" unequivocally, then we are stuffed.

He Flat Contradicts God

The woman heard the serpent say, "You will surely not die!" We hear voices like this all the time. The Bible says one thing, but our culture says another. Who are we going to listen to? If we do not have a grip on truth, we doubt, and then we are vulnerable.

He Suggests That God Is Not Good
Satan tries to make God look bad. He suggests that God has ulterior motives which are not for our good. The serpent hints at this to the woman. We need to know and believe that God is good in all circumstances and that there is a bigger picture that we cannot see. (Romans 8:28)

He Suggests That God is Holding Something Back that We Think We Ought to Have
The serpent says that the woman will be like God if she eats. He suggests there is something more within her grasp that she could want, if only...

Isn't that how it works with us? Even though we may blessed in so many ways, yet we become open to suggestions from the Tempter. We become dissatisfied and harbour secret resentments against God. Then we are stuffed.

He Offers Keys to Blessing That Leave God Out
The apple represents a route to greatness. How ridiculous! How can a created apple give what she wants? It makes no sense.

In the same way, how can those other things - status, power, wealth, property, pleasure - fulfil what they seem to promise? The fact is they can't. Jesus was tempted in this way in the desert (e.g Luke 4:7,8). He was offered power. The catch was he had to bow down to Satan, and forever become a slave to him. (Impossible for the Son of God, yet still requiring the exercise of supreme self-control.)

No, there is no greater place to be than to humbly walk with your God, even if it leads along a path with many troubles. Like Jesus.

Home Libraries

A good list of tips via Nathan.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Public and Private Ministry

This is something I had not thought about very deeply, and worth considering as we have enjoyed the Lord's day yesterday - the relationship between public and private ministry of the word. The question is: as ministers of the gospel, how do we best conduct ourselves after public ministry so that what we have given to the people by God's grace gets rooted rather than snapped up by birds (Matt. 13:4).

Again, Bonar, after considering M'Cheyne's ministry, reflecting generally on ministry that is used of God:
Whatever he said in the pulpit, men will not much regard, though they may feel it at the time, if the minister does not say the same in private, with equal earnestness, in speaking with the people face to face; and it must be in our moments of most familiar intercourse with them, that we are thus to put the seal to all we say in public. Familiar moments are the times when the things that are most closely twined round the heart are brought out to view; and shall we forbear, by tacit consent, to introduce the Lord that bought into such happy hours? We must not only speak faithfully to our people in our sermons, but live faithfully for them too. Perhaps it may be found, that the reason why many who preach the gospel fully and in all earnestness are not owned of God in the conversion of souls, is to be found in their defective exhibition of grace in these easy moments of life. "Them that honour me, I will honour." 1 Samuel ii.30. It was noticed long ago that men will give you leave to preach against their sins as much as you will, if so be you will but be easy with them when you have done, and talk as they do, and live as they live. How much otherwise it was with Mr M'Cheyne, all who knew him are witnesses.
- Memoir, Bonar, p.82