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

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Take notice


'The reason you pray so much and give such little thanks is that you do not observe God's answers. You do not study them. When we have put up a faithful prayer, God is made our debtor by promise, and we are to take notice of his payment and give him an acknowledgement of the receipt of it. He loses glory otherwise'

The Return of Prayers, Thomas Goodwin

p.18

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

For the Pod: Porn free

These are the notes, resources, books and links for Ruth Jackson's brilliant and courageous talk on pornography last Sunday @ HT Barnes. It should be listened to by all who want to be better informed about this cultural pandemic and particularly its impact on young people. Please know this talk is not for the easily-shocked and contains some challenging material. Ruth is a member of our church and is a speaker, apologist, journalist and Deputy editor of Youth and Children's Work Magazine, 


Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Cor 3:17

'Regardless of how messed up we have become or how far we have travelled from our Father's home, God does not forget who we are. We are his children and he is always waiting for us with an embrace and an offer of new life' 

Ian Henderson of Naked Truth

The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention. What do you enjoy day-dreaming about? What is it that occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about?' 

Tim Keller

People who conceal their sins will not prosper,
    but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.


Proverbs 28:13

He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.


Psalm 103:12

'Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. Don't be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you......
for your creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven's armies is his name! He is your Redeemer, the holy One of Israel, the Lord of all the earth'

Isaiah 54

The only way to dispossess [the heart] of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one' 

Thomas Chalmers

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

C S Lewis 'The Weight of Glory

'I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be but by the grace of God, I am not what I once was'

John Newton

Christian Books

Confronting porn- Paula Hall

Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction- Paula Hall

Every Man's Battle Stephen Arteburn (and 'Every woman's battle')

A Parent's Guide to Young People and Porn- Rachel Gardner

General Books

Sex, Likes and Social Media- Harvey and Puccio

Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality

Your brain on porn Gary Wilson

Christian Websites

the naked truth project.com- helpful videao, resources, recovery programs, support groups, conferences, workshops, schools work (UK Based)

click to Kick- support groups from Naked Truth

xxxchurch- online resource for those struggling with pornography (US based)

Your children are watching porn

paulahall,co.uk

romanceacademy.org

covenant eyes.com

There are numersous TED talks on pornography (not Christian):

Why I stopped watching porn Ran Gavrieli

The Great porn Experiment Gary Wilson

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Not about the eyes but the heart

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matt 5:28

'What one generation tolerates the next generation will embrace' 
John Wesley

Quoted in 'Different', p. 117

Tomorrow, we have a sermon on 'adultery in the heart' as part of our series called 'Different: Living the Holy Life' which will address the cultural pandemic of pornography. In preparation for leading, I have re-read MLJ's sermon on Matt 5:28 and this section struck me:

'Above all, this doctrine of sin leads us to see the absolute need of a power greater than ourselves to deliver us. It is a doctrine that makes a man run to Christ and rely upon Him; it makes him realize that without Him he can do nothing. So again I would say the New Testament way of presenting holiness is not just to say, 'Would you like to live life with a capital "L"? Would you like to be permanently happy? No, it is to preach this doctrine of sin, it is to reveal man to himself so that, having seen himself he will abhor himself and become poor in spirit and meek, he will mourn, he will hunger and thirst for righteousness, he will fly to Christ and abide in Him. It is not an experience to be received so much as a life to be lived and a Christ to be followed'  

The Sermon on the Mount, p.240

Feel free to join us at 9.15  or 11 if you are around.

Saturday blog-sweep

Three myths of Co-habitation

Egalitarian and Pro-Keller

The Billy Graham Rule

Your vision may not be what you think it is

Michael Gove next Bishop of Sheffield and Pope Francis to become Anglican :)

To preach like Luther, you must listen like Luther

Do evangelicals have a spirituality?