Monday, 19 June 2017

O for a Closer Walk with God

The title of this blogpost is taken from the opening line of hymn by William Cowper (1731-1800). Here is the first verse:

O FOR a closer walk with God,
a calm and heavenly frame,
a light to shine upon the road
that leads me to the Lamb!


And the last verse, verse 6.

So shall my walk be close with God,
calm and serene my frame;
so purer light shall mark the road
that leads me to the Lamb.


I love Reformed theology, Reformed ecclesiology, systematic theology, the whole of the Bible and my historic biblical and Reformed heritage. However, the crucial part of it all, is that we cultivate a loving communion with the Triune God. Our prayer postures in the "secret place" of prayer should include at times kneeling as an act of submission or being prostrate before the Lord as a sign of submission at times and a heart being poured out before the throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 62:8, Ephesians 3:14, Deut 9:25). Look at Moses on Mount Sinai in Deuteronomy 9:25-26 "So I lay prostrate before the LORD for these forty days and forty nights, because the LORD had said he would destroy you. And I prayed to the LORD ...".

How is your communion with the Living God? We need Christians to be refreshed and revived in their personal communion with the Covenant LORD. This does not replace the public means of grace, but it should supplement and undergird the public means by the private means of grace.

Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ: Mark 6:30-32 "The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves".


We need to come apart from the distractions of the internet, TV, sports and so forth, in order to be renewed in our communion with the LORD. Oh to be restored in our first love!

We often talk of revival, but our own lives need to be revived before the Living God with renewed holiness. Holiness meaning being set apart for the Lord Jesus Christ. Iain Murray wrote this in his recent book "Seven Leaders" in reference to the life of John Elias.

"Thomas Charles and John Elias were of one mind on the remedy for this [a spiritual dullness with a loss of vigour in the church]. It is not speaking more about revival or the Holy Spirit, but renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ" (page 41).

Oh for renewed communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit lead and guide the church into renewed faith and renewed communion with the Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

What's missing in English Evangelicalism?

It is indeed important for every church in different countries, to critically examine themselves, including their own congregation and/or denomination. A minister friend who is from another country remarked to me how few English ministers he has met, are interested in theology! As I asked him to explain more, he did. He seemed to "hit the nail on the head" in my view in that theology is not on the radar for ministers, elders and churches in England. We have ideas, doctrine and preaching without theology. A theology-less church leads to a downgrade in who God is, what is salvation and a host of errors enter in to the church when this happens.

What is missing in the English Evangelical Church? In my view it is theology and ecclesiology. One of the principles of interpreting the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture. This leads the church then, to a body of theology, known as the Reformed understanding of Scripture. When theology is not mentioned, never mind ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) as well, in the church, two huge "puzzle pieces" to rightly understand the Lord, salvation and other matters are then missing.

What is the answer to this problem? Someone once said that the first step to solving a problem, is to acknowledge that there is a problem in the first place. Once we recognise this significant theological problem, we need to repent, if this problem includes ourselves. We should pray for a recovery and a love for, the theological doctrines presented in Holy Scripture.

The Seven churches in Revelation present the critique of the Lord (chapters 1-3), of those churches falling short. With the state of the nation in the UK, it is not a surprise that the church is falling short in many areas. In each letter to each church the answer is to repent and for them to amend their ways.

Revelation 2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place, unless you repent".

Revelation 2:16 "Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth".

Revelation 3:19-20 "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me".

For people reading this blog who would like to become more theologically informed, here are some resources for you to make a start.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology

Louis Berkhof, A Summary of Christian Doctrine

J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Seven Leaders: Preachers and Pastors by Iain Murray

"So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet" 2 Kings 13:20-21.

This story is apt for this book. The author hopes that by putting our generation in contact with an array of godly men and their convictions that new life may to come to the church. This book is outstanding!!!

For the author who is now in his 80's to produce another fine quality book can only be attributed to the grace of God.

The seven leaders are:

John Elias
Andrew Bonar
Archie Brown
Kenneth MacRae
M L Jones
W. J. Grier
John MacArthur

For some reason John Murray was missed out but none the less the book says enough. Each chapter is short enough to maintain one's interest and a lifetimes experience and conviction oozes out of each page. I hope the Lord would use this book to stir in our hearts a number of things.

A zeal for genuine revival
A love for sound reformed doctrine
A passion for ecclesiology
An understanding that public worship should be sober and reverent
An appreciation of church history and the present state of liberalism often working under the guise of the label evangelical.

Above all, I hope this book moves all readers to their knees to call upon the name of the Lord for a recovery of truth and preaching in our own day.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Where are the Lord's Mordecai's?

"And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him" (Esther 4:12–17).

I almost gave this blog post the title, "what happens when good men remain silent?". Mordecai is one supreme example of a man who would not be silent in the midst of compromise and the threat against God's people. It seems that at one stage, that Esther was keeping her head down hoping for a quiet ride, but Mordecai gave this vital warning to her, one which we Christians need to hear today:> "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place ...".

Therefore, it is possible to keep silent for the sake of man pleasing and for a life of comfort and ease. Now I am not exhorting divisiveness. Some people are plain divisive and they seek to work for Satan in causing chaos in the church. Note the warning in Romans 16:17-18: "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive".

If you associate with people who do not follow due process, those who seek their own agenda in the church rather than the cause of truth, you need to separate yourself from such people. However, there is the need for men especially to stand up for the truth. What are some the issues today that require men to stand up for the sake of truth?

1. The truth of 1 Timothy 2:12 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man". Worldliness and compromise has entered into parts of the church, one which is promoting women to teach men and also for them to exercise authority over men. This is not permitted by Scripture. Paul writes as an apostle, something representing the whole counsel of God; "I do not permit". The answer according to Paul is that in the church, that women are to "remain quiet". Now this will confront the feminist spirit of the age. The question is, will we bow before the truth of Scripture or not?

2. The matter of a silent genocide called abortion requires the church to "break the silence". The 6th Commandment plainly states that "you shall not murder", yet over 200,000 abortions continue every year in the UK alone and the church remains virtually silent on this matter.

3. The introducing of worldly methods into public worship. The Lord is to be approached with 'reverence and awe' and our hearts are to be filled with gratitude (Hebrews 12:28-29). I suggest reading "Seven Leaders" by Iain Murray, a new book which is published by the Banner of Truth.

May we join in prayer for the Lord to raise men like Mordecai in our generation. They can provoke and exhort us all, including exhorting women like Esther who are in positions of prominence to do the right thing.

Monday, 22 May 2017

"Unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church": Is this true?

Every now and again, new phrases arise in the church. The validity of such catchy phrases vary in their helpfulness; sometimes they are helpful and sometimes they are not. One's such as "once saved always saved", is one that needs unpacking, before it can be taken on face value. A new slogan has emerged in the last couple of years, one which underlies a push for the much greater involvement of women in the life, organisation and ministry of the church. It is this phrase: "unordained women can do everything, that unordained men can do in the church". It is catchy, well thought out, and it is intended to neutralise opposition to suggested changes against the greater involvement of women in the church's ministry and worship. But, what does the Scripture teach?

There are significant pushes from many quarters for change on the role of women in the church. While there are denominations who have pushed for the ordination of women as elders and deacons, contrary to Scripture, some slightly more conservative denominations do not want to follow the liberals that far, but instead they push for a similar agenda with a different strategy. One example of a wholehearted and an open approach to ordain women is the Church of England; they have actively ordained women ministers for the last 25 years and now they ordain women bishops. It is only a matter of time before they install their first woman archbishop. Other denominations who are more conservative, they know that it would not go down well to suggest that women can be ordained ministers, but instead they seek ways to achieve the same goal, but by a different route.

In what way is Scripture plain on these matters?

1. Only qualified, called and gifted men can be elders to oversee the public worship and the work of the church. Titus 1:5-6 "This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife ...". Scripture discriminates against women from holding this office but also against 98% of men in the church. Not all men can hold this office either.

Although an elders wife has an important role, the wife does not hold the office of elder along with the husband. It is not uncommon today to see photos of the husband and wife, both of them called pastors, but this is not biblical.

2. Only qualified, called and gifted men can hold the office of deacon. 1 Timothy 3:12 "Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well".

3. Women cannot exercise authority over men in the work of the church. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor".

I have heard teachers in the church, seek to explain away this summary statement given by Paul the apostle, one that summarises the whole position of Scripture from Creation onwards. Why would professing evangelical teachers seek to explain away such a text? It is because they have an agenda to create space in the church for women to teach, exercise all kinds of ministries and so forth, without them being ordained. However, we must return to Scripture and to first principles to examine such a position.

A push for women to exercise all kinds of roles in public worship, one's such as the leading of the worship, the reading of Scripture, the serving of the Lord's Supper, and the preaching of the sermon, is contrary to Scripture. Therefore the ditto phrase that "unordained women can do everything unordained men can do in the church" is a spiritually unhelpful and a muddied phrase, one that probably masks an agenda to promote women exercising authority over men in the church.

The issue at stake is the matter of the authority of Scripture. Do we accept and submit to the plain teaching of Scripture or are we going to throw off the yoke of the Lord and walk contrary to his will?

John the apostle instructed the church in 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world".

Friday, 19 May 2017

Matthew Henry, "A Way to Pray".

This hardback book, now published by Banner of Truth has been edited and reviewed by O. Palmer Robertson. What a gem this book is! It is the only book I know of, apart from the Bible, that I would recommend it should be used on one's knees. I do not say the Bible should always be read on your knees, but this book is best used in prayer on your knees.

The first four major sections are prayers founded on Scripture on four main headings. These are:

Praise
Confession
Petition
Thanksgiving

I suggest getting on your knees in prayer, putting pieces of paper inside each section, then taking a portion of each of these sections in order in prayer. It will warm your heart as you approach the Living God. This book as you use it prayer, may so warm and soften your heart that you may even rise from your knees without dry eyes. We need helps in prayer and this book is about as good as it comes.

Palmer Robertson has used this book his whole life in his personal communion with the LORD. This indicates the ongoing usefulness of its biblical content in this book. There are many other prayers provided, one's based on Scripture, one's which you can expand, but it gets you started in prayer. There is an expanded directory for the Lord's Prayer as well.

Robertson writes in his introduction: "According to his own notations, Matthew Henry considered another work of his to be so important that he interrupted the writing of his commentary and as a consequence never completed it. That other work was his laying out a method for prayer altogether based on the expressions of Scripture.

I wholeheartedly commend this book to you, as indeed I commend people to take some time to pray on their knees. This follows the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul the apostle.

'And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” '. Luke 22:41-42.

"For this reason I bow [bend] my knees before the Father ... " Ephesians 3:14.

Friday, 12 May 2017

"Preaching made Practical" by O. Palmer Robertson

A new book published by Evangelical Press has come out on preaching. It is by O. Palmer Robertson with a forward by Ian Hamilton. Ian Hamilton writes that this book "could well become a standard text used in seminaries and Bible colleges to help equip men become preachers of the word".

This is a welcome publication. In an age where preaching is so little found and where propositional preaching is not the flavour of the day, this book could help men already called to preach and those considering the call to preach and pastor. Really, preaching and pastoring go "hand in hand". Every pastor has to be a preacher, though he must be more than a preacher.

Listen to Paul the apostle instructing the Corinthians:

1 Cor 1:23 "But we preach Christ crucified"

1 Cor 9:16 "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!".