Monday, 11 December 2017

Preaching and appreciating the Bible as Storytelling

How many of us love to listen to a good story? Have you ever considered how much of the Bible comes to us as storytelling? I am currently preaching on the book of First Samuel and despite snow disruptions yesterday, I preached on the 19th Chapter of 1 Samuel. I doubt that many could tell me what it is about, and yet I was greatly encouraged to hear people saying to me how much this chapter ministered to their soul.

I guess that if a preacher was considering to select a passage to minister to the church, that 1 Samuel Chapter 19 would not be an obvious "go-to" chapter. Incidentally this chapter is about Saul trying to kill David, who then flees for his life and it is full of unexpected twists and turns in the unfolding drama.

Some years ago a friend and fellow minister recommended a book to me called "Storytelling in the Bible" by Jacob Licht. He is Jewish, he is not a Christian, but he brings out many salient and exciting points about how the LORD has revealed so much truth through divinely inspired storytelling.

How many books come to us as storytelling in the Bible?

Genesis
Exodus
Numbers
Part of Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
Samuel
Kings
Chronicles
Esther
Ezra
Nehemiah
Job
Parts of Daniel
The Four Gospels
Acts

The use of repetition is a common tool in these stories, as well as a fourfold repetition in order to build to a climax. Have you ever appreciated that divine revelation communicates truth in such an aesthetically appealing and intriguing way?

What is more is that according to 1 Corinthians chapter 10, there are Old Testament Bible narratives which reveal types of Christ (water from the rock or the brazen serpent, king David), as well as instruction and admonition for the church today.

Over this Christmas period, why not take extra time to read Old Testament Bible narrative to search for Christ on shadow, to learn from the examples and admonitions and to grow in your understanding of the Living God by reading more widely and gleaning from "all of Scripture"?

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Greek New Testament Produced by Tyndale House, Cambridge

Tyndale House in Cambridge have been working hard in recent years to produce an updated Greek New Testament. You may ask "Why?" if a New Testament is already available in Greek. Dirk Jongkind, Peter Williams, Peter Head and Patrick James have given their rationale at the back of this edition in their introduction. This work combines up to date scholarship and the publishers Crossway have made it into an attractive layout, which makes reading inviting and easy.

I have read the Preface and Introduction (which is interestingly at the back) and I am now working my way through Matthew's Gospel. It is too early for me to give my full thoughts thus far, but this edition is a welcome development and I am very thankful for the work of Tyndale House for their work on this project.

We need a recovery of the love of biblical languages by working pastors and ministers. We need to overcome the fear factor of Greek and Hebrew, to learn to persevere and to use the biblical languages daily and weekly to enhance the quality of our ministry and preaching. I hope that this Greek New Testament will help to this end.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Evolution is Outdated and in Crisis

The Bible is timeless. The Bible is inspired by the Eternal and Almighty Holy Spirit. At the time of Moses, he was led by the Holy Spirit to write the Book of Genesis and by divine revelation he penned the first three chapters to record the Creation and origin of everything. These chapters

Genesis 1:1-3 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light".

We learn from the First Chapter of Genesis, that God created everything in six literal 24 hour days and then on the Seventh day he rested. The Seventh day teaches us that Creation is created for a 7 day cycle and one day is for rest and worship of the One True and Living God. This God is approached through the One Mediator who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This Day of rest and worship is now called the Christian Sabbath, something observed by the true church. This is the First Day of the week and it is the day upon which Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.

However, evolutionary theory opposes the idea of the origin of all things being by the God revealed in the Bible. Despite 150 years of discussion, Charles Darwin's Victorian theory still has not produced a definitive answer of the origin of things. In recent times, people are becoming disillusioned with evolution as a plausible answer to explain things scientifically and philosophically. I contend here that evolution is outdated and also in crisis.

Recently, A. N. Wilson has written a book called "Charles Darwin: Victorian Myth-maker" and the Times Newspaper carried a two page article promoting the ideas in the book. Charles Darwin's book written in 1859 "On the Origin of Species" may well have become a very influential piece of literature, but 150 years later with close reflection, we cannot call this book high level science. It is basic, it is flawed at a simple level and it is insupportable in its thin evidence of its findings.

There is an excellent DVD called "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" which provides a documentary whereby recent scientists observe "intelligent design" within Creation. Intelligent design contradicts evolution. These scientists observe cell structures which have a complicated design which cannot be explained by evolutionary development. This observation opposes Darwin's ideas that everything advances by undirected natural processes. These observed cells are fitted with an intelligent "out=board motor" system, one which can never have developed by random processes.

Evolution is in crisis! I have been persuaded scientifically for 30 years that evolution does not fit true science, it does not provide evidence based solutions, it is a theory that is bunk, out-dated, one to fit Victorian ideals. It may have been a theory that supported extravagant Victorian living, one which aids the suppression of the conscience's of sinful people, but it does not provide good scientific explanations.

I continue to maintain the truth of the Bible regarding the origin of all things, but academics and others who may not be Christian, also by the simple force of logic are coming to similar conclusions: Evolution is a theory that is out-dated and it is one that is in crisis.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

God's Ambassadors by Chad Van Dixhoorn

Chad Van Dixhoorn has done us a service with this new book. It offers refreshing insights into 17th Century history and on preaching. This is a great book, most especially for preachers. Any preacher "worth his salt" will constantly be working to improve his exegesis, his communication, his explanations and pastoral helps for the flock of God.

What is to be the overall theme of preaching? It is the knowledge of God. Listen to the words of wisdom in Proverbs 2:1-5. This book will help those called of God to better communicate the Triune God through Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God".

I warmly commend this book and its author.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Christ, the Trinity, and Saving Faith

The various aspects of the benefits of redemption are inter-connected to assurance of salvation in a range of ways. Assurance is a far too neglected topic in the church in general. Paul writes that we are to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:5), but also there is the necessity for strengthening the faith and assurance of the elect of God in the church of God at the same time.

Chapter 14 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is concerned with the subject of saving faith.

Here are seven basic truths concerning true saving faith.

1. It is gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10)

2.We should use the phrase more often “the grace of faith” (Hebrews 10:39). This would place emphasis then on a God-centred aspect of faith, rather on presenting a man-centred concept of faith. It is the grace of God which gives us faith in Christ Jesus.

3. Faith is strengthened through the means of grace; the Word, the sacraments and prayer

4. The Christian believes in the authority of God revealed in the written Scriptures.

5.The authority of the word of God is from the whole Trinity and the Christian has faith and confidence in the revelation of God.

I. The Scriptures are from God the Father: John 17:17
II. The scriptures are from God the Son: John 1:1 The Son is the Word
III. The Scriptures are from God the Holy Spirit: John 16:12-15 and 2 Peter 1:21

6. Marks of true saving faith are:
I. A yielding obedience to the commands of Scripture (Romans 16:26)
II. Trembling at the threatenings (Isaiah 66:2)
III. An embracing of the promises of God for this life and that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8)
IV. Accepting, receiving and resting in Christ alone for salvation (Acts 15:11 and John 1:12)

7. Faith can be in degrees of weak and strong, it will be attacked but true faith will get the victory (1 John 5:4-5), Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus.

I hope that this little study could provide some people a brief outline for 30 minutes of personal Bible study in order to strengthen your faith.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

9th November 1989: On this Day the Berlin Wall Came Down!

One of the great symbols of change and answered prayer in my lifetime was the end of the Cold War. The East German government agreed on this day that the Berlin wall could come down on this day. This symbol of separation and division. This icon of atheistic communism. This wall that seemed to be of iron came down virtually in a day.

Christians around the world had been praying for years about the Cold War and the collapse of the Berlin Wall ... and then it happened. It was momentous, but the reality is that a whole generation have passed who almost have never heard of communism.

This answered prayer should be something of an "Ebenezer" monument to remind the church that "Till now the LORD has helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12) and to expect great things from the LORD. To walk by faith with godly expectation is the fruit of a truly reformed life. Our doctrine and faith are both to be shaped by a living reality of leaning upon the covenant LORD.

Since the Berlin wall came down, sadly much atheistic materialism from the West has engulfed former communist states. There have been advances in places like Albania and other countries but much mission work is needed. Do you pray for the strengthening and growth of the church in Poland, Former East Germany, the Balkan countries, Romania and so forth. If not, the do so.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38.

Isaiah prayed also "Here am I send me!"
We need Christians and ministers to offer themselves again in large numbers to serve the LORD in our own generation.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Concordances, computers and the church

This may seem like an odd blog post title. Well, if you are thinking that, then at least I have got your attention. My involvement in writing this blog a few years ago, began with a desire to simply encourage Christians to move along a more doctrinal and reformed understanding of Christian things. Quite often, people do not know where to turn to get answers to their spiritual questions. Interestingly, there is a search engine on this blog and if you want to get answers on something specific, such as the Trinity or whatever, just use the search engine for your profit.

However, back to our subject; one of the blessings, but also dangers today for Christians can be computers and the internet. Through the internet you can gain access to resources that are simply amazing. Many people move along a biblical, reformed and doctrinal pathway with the help of computers. However, many people come to a reformed understanding of things through self-study and then they think, either consciously or sub-consciously, that they do not need the church or that the church simply supplements their pursuit for self-study.

Here lies an ever-present danger. Self-study is often without people and the challenge of living in relationship with people in the church. Books and blog posts do not argue back, or you can close them if you get fed up. You cannot do that with the church and people in the church, or at least you should not if you are a genuine Christian.

On a different note, I would like to commend something for personal Bible study for everyone. This is a concordance, hard bound copies are the best. I was given a Young's Concordance as a newly converted Christian many years ago and going through key topical themes was a source of huge delight and spiritual growth for me personally. Do you have a concordance? Strong's is another popular one. It may seem slightly antiquated, but one of these would be a great present for someone at Christmas or a birthday. With an open Bible and the concordance, along with a sheet of paper or a laptop, you could spend an evening researching a given topic such as the fear of the LORD, waiting on the LORD, or the imagery of the lamp stand in the Bible for example, and have a wonderful evening of spiritual profit.

Personal study of the Scripture is invaluable, especially in an age of distractions. However, in all of your personal study, do not neglect the church. Do not neglect praying with the saints in prayer meetings, do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together and in sitting under biblical preaching. Preaching is intended primarily to be a "face to face" dynamic. Be encouraged and keep running the Christian race!

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near".

"The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord" (Acts 13:44).