Monday, 14 May 2018

Recovering the Lost Art and Practice of Catechising

What do think of when you hear the word "catechise"? Perhaps for some they think of nothing because they are located in a part of the church which does not use the word "catechise". For others, what do they think? For some this is something restricted to family worship, where parents pass on the Westminster Shorter Catechism to children, but is catechising primarily for children? The answer is no, it is not primarily for children, though they are not excluded.

The church needs to recover the passing on the Christian faith by teaching the faith. We have two magnificent catechisms, the Shorter and Larger Westminster Catechisms and "the dust needs to be
blown off them", as it were, metaphorically speaking. With the new edition of the Westminster Standards for Today published by EP, there is a new format which is fresh, accessible and easy to use. Let us all "jump into the river" of catechising, no matter what kind of church you are part of. This includes catechising for yourself. The question and answer format of the Westminster Larger Catechism means we can examine ourselves more clearly and objectively and enjoy the process as you learn more of the Christian gospel.

Lamentations 5:21-25 is a timely prayer: "Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us".


We want to return to the ancient paths. John Calvin when he published the Catechism of the Church of Geneva stated that in its dedication that this catechism was "nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed by Christians and the true worshippers of God, and which were never laid aside until the Church was wholly corrupted".

The Rev Ronald Christey recounted: "There was a day in Scotland — the best days, some folk think — when a minister or a catechist gathered families together in a home and catechised them — probed their understanding and experience of Scriptural truth, encouraged them to express themselves. Such catechetical instruction was a source of spiritual strength. Where is that done now? Hardly anywhere".

Jeremiah 6:16 'Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’ ".

Monday, 7 May 2018

Teaching the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms

One of my life goals is to disseminate the Westminster Standards as widely as possible. By this I am especially referring to the Westminster Confession of Faith along with the two Catechisms. Without doubt, one of the greatest needs today is for doctrinal teaching. This also includes the need for reformed churches to teach the people in the church the truths of the Westminster Confessions.

People can never be expected to simply imbibe truth, but we all need constant positive teaching. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church requires this as he gave his commission at the end of Matthew's Gospel:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Make disciples ... and teaching go "hand in hand" and teaching means to actively and positively instruct. Preaching is part of worship and indeed it is intended to be the high point of worship. However, there is the need for the church's office bearers to pass on the content of the Christian faith to the church in detail as well. This is why there are many different words for preaching and teaching in the New Testament.

Some of the main verbs for passing on information by authorised office bearers are:

To preach (kērussō)- which means to declare or to herald the truth of God like the representative of a king. This word occurs more than 60 times in the New Testament.

To evangelise (euangelizō)- this word means to bring good news or to announce good news. It is commonly used in connection to the bringing forth of the gospel (Romans 1:1, 1:9, 1:16).

To witness (martureō)
- this verb means to bear witness to facts and it is from this Greek word that we also get the word martyr. However, this verb is concerned with testifying to the facts of the gospel, namely the facts of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus Christ.

To teach (didaskō) - as already mentioned this is a different word from the verb to preach. To teach means to spell out in no uncertain manner, the truth of the gospel, so that people can understand. It is not simply heralding, but in explaining truths.

To preach and teach using a catechetical method (katēcheō): This is found in Luke 1:4 which records "you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" and the word taught is the word to catechise. This important Greek word means "to impart information" (Luke 1:4, Acts 18:25, 21:21, 21:24) and "to instruct" (Romans 2:18, 1 Cor 14:19, Gal 6:6). It is the work of the church in relation to this Greek word that I most want to highlight in this blog post.
Here are some questions for all of us to consider.

What are we doing in the church to impart the information of the church's apostolic doctrine, as summarised in the Westminster Standards?
How can we find avenues to impart this information in the church?
What opportunities can we create in the church's monthly calendar to impart the information of the Westminster Larger and shorter catechisms?

This is my prayer for the rich content of the Christian faith to be passed onto church members. Let us pray for this to happen in our own generation.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Learning to Promote Good Christian Books

Since around 2001, I have been involved in promoting and selling good Christian books. When I have read excellent Christian and Reformed books, I often thought that these books were so good that they needed to be read by others.

There is power in the printed page. Of course this means the Bible as well, but when I refer to the printed page, this also includes excellent Christian books. The question for all of us then is, how can I promote good books? We need to grow as Christians beyond just thinking about ourselves and indulging ourselves only in good reading. How can we encourage others to grow in Christ through quality reading choices.

Sometimes in a conference good books may be offered at a good price and we need to think how perhaps we can give away books to other people, rather than only thinking about our own personal library or reading list.

Here are a few pointers, in order to grow in promoting good Christian books to others.

1. Pray about how you can grow in this area.
2. Recommend books to others verbally and do so with passion and enthusiasm.
3. If you are a pastor, have a quarterly book of month that your church sells. It is better to focus on one book than to have a table of books with a wide choice. We do not want a church book table to look like a jumble sale.
4. The best way for books to be bought and read is by a recommendation, especially publicly. Just ask Iain Murray or George Verwer, men who have moved more books than anyone I know.
5. Buy good books and give them away. Generosity is a Christian grace, one that we can all grow in.

"By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others" 2 Cor 9:13.

6. If you have access to Facebook or Twitter or another forum, including newsletters, use these to promote books. And dare I say do not use them to simply promote yourself!

I hope that in this small blogpost, that it can envision you to change the world through promoting, selling and giving away excellent Christian literature. Go to it and enjoy it!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

"The God of Creation": a great new book by Richard D. Phillips

The God of Creation: Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 (192 pages), published by Evangelical Press

There are other books on Creation and dealing with the issues of Genesis 1, but this one is different. Rick Phillips takes us through the first chapter of Genesis with an absolute confidence that this is the plain, accurate Word of God, describing creation in six literal days of 24 hours. He looks at the alternatives offered and explains clearly and simply why they are inadequate. The science-based criticisms of the Word of God are considered and dealt with. The language used is accessible to most readers, and at each stage the Gospel is clearly explained.

Christians generally will find this book a great encouragement amidst the deluge of pro-evolution propaganda, school students will find themselves strengthened to take a biblical stand against the pressures of the education system. If your evangelistic outreach leads you to someone who wants a clear and rational explanation of why the Bible should believed over against the common understanding of evolution presented in the media, this is the book to give them.

Richard Davis Phillips has been the Senior Minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina (PCA) since July, 2007. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, and a master of business administration degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Prior to entering the ministry, he commanded tank units as an officer in the U.S. Army and later served as an assistant professor of leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 30, and was soon was leading evangelistic Bible studies at the college where he was teaching. A few years later he received God’s call to enter the gospel ministry, and received a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

Monday, 9 April 2018

"The Earth Hangs on Nothing"

I hope that this blog post will be pastorally encouraging. Several thousand years ago Job wrote this in chapter 26:7 "He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing". Isaiah in 40:22-23 under the direction of the Holy Spirit declared the earth to be round though many people thought it was flat for a long time.

"It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness".


I was reading a book by a man called Charlie Duke who walked on the moon on the Apollo 16 space mission. Afterwards he became a Christian and he has travelled all over the place to testify to the gospel and he lets people know that the earth looks beautiful against the blackness of space. Our God created all of this!

You can check out Charlie's testimony by visiting YouTube.

Charlie Duke is from Lancaster South Carolina and his book pointed me to Job 26:7. What a magnificent truth that the earth hangs on nothing and yet it fulfils its perfect circuit year after year being upheld by God's word and power. If the Lord upholds the earth by hanging it upon nothing, how much more our lives and the details of our lives.

My grandma always wanted to go to the moon and obviously she did not. Otherwise you would have heard of her. When she was 74 she heard Charlie Duke give his testimony and she gave her life to Jesus Christ. Who could have arranged that providence for my grandma, except the Lord who holds all things together?

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Westminster Standards in Modern English

Mark 12:37 "And the common people heard him [Jesus of Nazareth] gladly" (NKJV).

Why is this project so exciting in my view? It is very important that sound theology is placed into the hands of church members. It is never enough for ministers and elders to have a delight in and an access to, sound doctrine and not the wider church also. This could potentially produce a new form of clericalism where the leaders have additional "inside knowledge" if truth did not get disseminated into the pew, as it were. Paul the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 4:2 "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God".

Did you notice the phrase "by the open statement of the truth"? It is vital that Christians can have access to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Two Catechisms in plain English and in a format that is easily readable; this is what this paperback without the essays provides. We want children as well as parents to have a copy of the Westminster Standards in Modern English in this paperback version. This new publication by Evangelical Press should serve the church well. It does not tamper with the original text produced by the Westminster Assembly except to change antiquated English phrases with understood words.

It includes no revisions at all,but where difficult words are found we have included square brackets occasionally with the modern English equivalent. Here is short quiz for lovers of words. Can you guess what these ancient words mean which are found in the Westminster Standards: Vouchsafes, supererogate; contemn,
oblation; keeping of stews. They mean: promises; go beyond duty; disdain; offering; and keeping of brothels. This updating of language should “iron-out some wrinkles” and enhance their usability.

Our denomination (www.epcew.org.uk) have a church in Berlin and they are now working hard to publish the Westminster Standards in modern German. Again, these documents are the property of the whole church and such a work of the Holy Spirit to widely distribute them, can only serve to strengthen the church in the years ahead. The previous blog post gives an indication of prices of this book, but let us continue in steadfast and expectant prayer for the establishment of sound doctrine in the English speaking world.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living

After about four years worth of work, Evangelical Press are about to publish the work we have done on the Westminster Standards. They are offering a wonderful pre-order price for the two editions. There is a hard back version which will be in what we call a British Racing Green colour with gold letters and the paper back will have the same colour features.

Hardback: This contains seven essays, along with the Westminster Standards and the contents of that are given below. It will be called “The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living”. The price is £11.00 or $15.00 per copy. These are compared with retail prices of a much higher price which equate to around half price.

Paperback version: This will contain the Westminster Standards (without essays) and it will be called “The Westminster Standards in Modern English”. The pre-order price is £4.99 per single copy or £2.99 for one hundred or more; in dollars it is $6.99 or for orders of 100 or more $3.50. If you would like to pre-order then please email me. If you know me personally you will have my email address. Ideally for hardback, a minimum of three copies would be best and you could buy an order to set up for a church book table or perhaps a book of the quarter for the church.

What is unique about this book with the Westminster Standards? There are three things. First, it is the original texts of the Confession and Catechisms with the proof texts unaltered; Second, the editing is very light which simply seeks to replace any antiquated language into modern English, without changing the substance of the text (for example Holy Ghost is changed to Holy Spirit); and Third, the publisher have formatted the Standards into a really attractive format. One which draws you to want to read its content, in my opinion.

Our aim is to spread the readability and usage of the text of the Westminster Confession and the two Catechisms as widely as possible. Joel Beeke has written a Preface and we have commendations from:

*Chad Van Dixhoorn
*O. Palmer Robertson
*David Hall
*Joel Beeke

I spoke to a professor of the African Bible University in Uganda where O. Palmer Robertson is based and they have requested 120 copies of the paperback for their students and 40 copies of the hardback to give as a gift to the students graduating in May 2018 and for each of the staff members. We will raise support for these to shipped out to Uganda with some additional copies for a nearby orphanage and Christian school. Do pray that this book will be a real blessing to the church at large.

I aim to speak with Graham Hind (managing director of EP) next week to submit pre-orders for the UK and the USA. If you would like to email me a pre-order amount then do email me back, if possible by next Tuesday 3rd April or let me know that you need more time to think. They will be shipped to your church address.

Your prayer is valued for this work,

Kevin Bidwell
Sheffield, England


Introduction

Preface to The Westminster Standards in Modern English

Essays About the Westminster Standards

History

Extraordinary Providences of an Enduring Standard (Richard D.Phillips)

The Westminster Standards in the Making : Stanley Gower, a Westminster Divine (Kevin J.Bidwell)

Worship

The Westminster Standards and Public Worship (David E.Gilbert)

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (George Swinnock, with an introduction by Kevin J.Bidwell)

The Westminster Standards and the Sacraments (Andy J.Young)

Family Worship and Church Government

The Westminster Standards and Family Worship: Maintaining True Religion in the Home (Chad T.Bailey)

The Westminster Standards and Church Government (Guy Prentiss Waters)


The Westminster Confession of Faith in Modern English

The Westminster Larger Catechism in Modern English

The Westminster Shorter Catechism In Modern English