Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How many breaths?


'No one knows how much longer they have in this life- how many breaths, how many beats of the heart, how many opportunities to say 'yes' or 'no'. But we will certainly all stand before our Maker soon enough. And on that day we'll be held accountable for the decisions we have made, and especially for the ways in which we have stewarded and shared the riches of the gospel.......And after more than twenty-seven years as a Christian, I am ashamed to admit how few there may be because of me, how many gospel opportunities I have squandered because I was merely too scared, or too busy, or too uncaring to speak'

Dirty Glory, 218-9

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Catechism

Some time ago I spent time listening to J I Packer preach about Catechism in two talks (here and here). It is, he believes, vital that this practice is recaptured by the church.

He also writes this, which I have been reflecting on:

“I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if
(1) numerical increase is what matters most;
(2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right;
(3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does;
(4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.
I detect four unhappy consequences of this.
First, big and growing churches are viewed as far more significant than others.
Second, parachurch specialists who pull in large numbers are venerated, while hard-working pastors are treated as near-nonentities.
Third, lively laymen and clergy too are constantly being creamed off from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which, just because they specialize on a relatively narrow front, quicker and more striking results can be expected.
Fourth, many ministers of not-so-bouncy temperament and not-so-flashy gifts return to secular employment in disillusionment and bitterness, concluding that the pastoral life of steady service is a game not worth playing.
In all of this I seem to see a great deal of unmortified pride, either massaged, indulged, and gratified, or wounded, nursed, and mollycoddled. Where quantifiable success is god, pride always grows strong and spreads through the soul as cancer sometimes gallops through the body.
Shrinking spiritual stature and growing moral weakness thence result, and in pastoral leaders, especially those who have become sure they are succeeding, the various forms of abuse and exploitation that follow can be horrific.
Orienting all Christian action to visible success as its goal, a move which to many moderns seems supremely sensible and businesslike, is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength; it is a seedbed both of unspiritual vainglory for the self-rated succeeders and of unspiritual despair for the self-rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all round.
The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.”
J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah (Wheaton: Crossway, 1995), 207-209.

These talks on Catechism made a deep impression on me and so it's with interest that I see Tim Keller has now produced a resource called 'The New City Catechism' that takes what Packer says and puts it in an accessible resource for people to use. Here is a sneak peak at the contents.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oils

1. Traditionally, on Maundy Thursday, those of us who are ordained in the C of E recommit to our ordination vows and collect a fresh batch of blessed oils (3 bottles). I think I must have missed the lecture at Vicar Factory about oils :) The Bishop gave an encouraging address to his clergy yet and one I/ we probably need to hear. It was about well-being, self-care, joy, worship and '...quietness, love and peace'. He also made a parallel between eating good cheese and evangelism. He commended us to, from time to time to:

....'sit still without feeling guilty'

2. The baptism pool is up in the church garden. Join with me in praying for warm weather as I am going to be standing in it for a while on Easter day.

3. I have been studying for a message on 2 Thes 1: 11....'we constantly pray for you that our God may count you worthy of his calling'...:

'When was the last time you prayed this sort of prayer fro your family? for your church? for your children? Do we not spend far more energy praying that our children will pass their exams, or get a good job, or be happy, or not stray too far, than we do praying that they may live lives worthy of what it means to be a Christian?'

A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Carson, p.54-5

4. The was an interesting BBC survey of 'Christians' that Peter Ould has done some statistical analysis on.

5. I have for many years been blessed by Oswald Chambers and this review of 'My Utmost: A Devotional memoir' looks interesting. The same list contains a review of 'The Techwise Family' by Andy Crouch which seems required reading for the modern parent, teacher or anyone involved with young people or kids,

6. Darryl has some wisdom if you are preparing to preach this Easter.

7. The dialogue between Matthew Parris and Rod Dreher  is worth checking out in this weeks Spectator and its lead article 'Keep the faith'.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wednesday wanderings

1. 'The writer Donald Miller rightly observes that no one makes a movie about a guy whose dream is to buy a Volvo. To this day the greatest stories of all time are adventures of sacrifice, resilience and risk'

Dirty Glory, p 202

2. There is an often publicized figure that '40% of the clergy of the C of E are due to retire in the next 10 years'. Someone recently told me that that figure is actually nearer 70% but for PR reasons no one dare mention this so as not to cause a panic. I am sure it must be possible to work the real figure out factually?

3. I fell asleep listening to this talk called 'Help me teach the Bible'

4. I have put 'Practicing the power' on my list of 2017 reads.

5. I do agree that there has been a stunning media silence since the massacre of Christians in Egypt.

6. I have this quote in mind as encouragement as we approach 24 hours of continuous prayer from 6am Easter Sat to 6am Easter Morn.It's not too late to sign up for an hours slot! :

When your prayers are accomplished and you are in heaven your joy will surely be fuller for having prayed. For if there is joy in heaven at the conversion of a sinner, as at the birth of a new prince and heir of heaven, then in happy proportion shall we rejoice most when our prayers have had a hand in it and a special interest therein. As with your other works, so your prayers follow you "and the fruit of them (Rev 14:13; Jer 17:10). At the Day of Judgement, you shall rejoice with those who enjoyed the fruit of your prayers, you having sown the seed of their happiness. "Both he that sows and he that reaps shall rejoice together' (John 4:36)

The Return of Prayers, Thomas Goodwin, p 25

If I had $220 to spend on a set of books I'd buy these.

7. Love Does.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

No more sting

.'..There is no true proclamation of the gospel which does not explain, in New Testament terms, the link between human sin and the death of Christ. Indeed, there is no gospel at all unless the death of Christ can be seen to deal with sin once and for all. The fact of resurrection by itself says little about the heart of  the gospel, unless it can be shown that 'the sting of death is sin' (1 Cor 15:56) and that the resurrection of Christ has therefore drawn that sting.'

The Message of 1 Cor, David Prior, p.260