Friday, 29 December 2017

Enjoying the office of pastor-teacher

As 2017 draws to a close, it is a time of reflection for many of us. Has this year been stress-free for me? No. Has it been trial free? No. Has it been hard work? Yes!

But, in the midst of all this, I can freely and firmly acknowledge that I love doing what I do. That is to pastor sheep in the church of God and in particularly within the context of my own denomination: The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales.

Earlier in the year during a time of study at Tyndale House in Cambridge, I spoke to a PhD research student during one of their famous coffee breaks. These coffee breaks are famous because of the vital interaction that takes place during them among people studying there. I explained that I had a PhD, but the real action, in my view, is to be found on the frontline of pastoring in the church. I explained that in my opinion all the best preachers in church history had been pastors. Just think of John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and so on. This researcher was thrilled to hear that I love my vocation because he thought that many pastors often give the impression that their life is a drudge.

The life of a minister is demanding, varied, challenging, humbling and hard work. But, to think that I get to handle the precious Word of God every day, to be able to herald and proclaim it, to be devoted to a life of prayer for the good of the church, to train men and women for godliness, to educate and mentor young men setting out in ministry. Indeed it is a joy and I love it!

None-the-less, pray for the Lord's ministers and seek out a church where the pastor can truly say that he loves caring for and feeding the flock of God.

Hebrews 13:17-18 "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us".

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Reformation Bible Conference 2018

On Friday the 5th January and Saturday the 6th January, we have our fourth Reformation Bible Conference. This takes place at the beginning of the year and it is intended to nourish the souls of those those attending with good spiritual food through preaching. Additionally, it is hoped that it provides a platform for joyful fellowship. It is intended for all ages but we have always been blessed with many young people in the age range of 16-25's and we expect the same this year.

Rev Andy Young of Cheltenham intends to cover the topic of "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood"' Rev Dr Kevin Bidwell of Sheffield will focus on Christ in Gethsemane, at Sabbath and Golgotha; Rev Dr Peter Naylor of Cardiff has a free hand to cover whichever topics are most fresh to him at the time.

A link on the Sheffield Presbyterian Church website is: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

This conference is open to people from all backgrounds and by no means do you need to be a member of a Presbyterian church to attend. If you hungry for good spiritual food, communicated through preaching, then you will enjoy this time together.

The Program is:

Location
Hill Top
Chapel,
Attercliffe,
Sheffield,
S9 2AD
Disabled Access & On-Site Car Park

Website: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

Friday 5th January 2018

11 am - 11.30 Arrive, Tea & Coffee Served
11.30 - 12.15 Session 1: Andy Young
12.15 - 12.30 Break
12.30 pm - 13.15 Session 2: Kevin Bidwell
13.15 - 14.00 Lunch (Bring Own Packed Lunch/ Sandwiches)
14.00 - 16.00 Walk at Rother Valley Country Park
16.30 - 18.30 Carvery Dinner at Restaurant (around £5-£7pp)

19.30 - 20.15 Session 3: Andy Young
20.15 - 20.30 Tea & Coffee Break
20.30 - 21.15 Session 4: Kevin Bidwell

Saturday 6th January 2018

9.00 am - 9.30 Arrive
9.30 - 10.20 Session 5: Peter Naylor
10:25 - 11.00 Prayer & Church Plants Update
11.00 am - 11.30 Tea & Coffee Break
11:30 - 12.15 Session 6: Kevin Bidwell
12.15 - 13.45 Lunch Buffet Provided at Chapel
13.45 - 14.30 Session 7: Peter Naylor
14.30 - 15.00 Tea & Coffee Break
15.00 - 16.00 Session 8: Peter Naylor

Where to Stay?
Ibis Budget & Premier Inn
(both 2-3 minute walk from venue)

The conference this year provides a wide variety of sessions which will be highly
encouraging and beneficial to families, young people, students and all ages.
This is a free event.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Nourishing your own soul, spiritually

Mark 6:30-32 "The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 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. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves".

iT is important to take time out to nourish your own soul spiritually. As a Christian we must take rest and this period of rest described by the Lord Jesus is more than a weekly Sabbath, which is commanded by the LORD. As someone once said "If you do not come apart, you will come apart". It is not simply resting only to play your favourite games but also to take time with an "open Bible" and to be refuelled and to keep reading even though you may not feel or sense the immediate effect.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 "If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed".

Plan time in the year to keep your axe sharpened, lest you operate in the flesh and carnal wisdom. This manner does not glorify God, neither does it achieve long term God-honouring fruitfulness.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Star of Bethlehem also known as "The Great Christ Comet"

Have you ever wondered how the star led the wise men from the East right to Bethlehem? Listen to what Matthew writes in Matthew 2:1-6:

'Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet':

“ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Numbers 24:17 "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob,and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel".

Then the narrative continues in Matthew 2:7-12 and the word "star" appears four times but it is a mighty sign and a part of the narrative of the birth of God's Son.

'Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way'.

British born biblical scholar Colin Nicholl has done some great study and research into this star and he has written a book combining biblical theology and the involvement of leading astronomers to make you be filled with awe and wonder at the Creator's power as you learn about the star of Bethlehem.

Try can listen to him being interviewed on an audio recording here: https://www.uniontheology.org/resources/bible/new-testament/up0053-the-star-of-bethlehem?utm_source=Union+Update&utm_campaign=f0a4937dc7-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_12_08&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_733d3192ab-f0a4937dc7-291276369

He was interviewed by Eric Metaxas in Oxford as part of "Socrates in the City" and it is recorded on You Tube, the link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mT-8O8S_Fw

Listen to it, learn new things and be filled thrilled with the gospel!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

My Top 5 Christian Books for 2017

Here are some books that I have found very helpful in 2017. You might find them spiritually profitable for the coming season.

1. Matthew Henry "A Way to Pray", updated by O. Palmer Robertson.

2. John Owen, "The Glory of Christ", in paperback by Banner of Truth, but also found in Owen's Works.

3. Jacob Licht "Storytelling in the Bible" (This is not written by a Christian, the author is a Jew from the University of Jerusalem, but its subject is of great interest to any Christian who loves the Old Testament, as all Christians should.).

4. Iain Murray "Seven Leaders".

5. James M. Garretson, "A Scribe Well-Trained: Archibald Alexander and the Life of Piety".

Of course the reading of the Bible goes without saying and nothing should replace the time we spend in reading and meditating of Holy Scripture. The books of the Bible which I have found very profitable this year, have been.

1. 1 Samuel

2. The Book of Titus

3. Mark's Gospel

4. Matthew's Gospel

5. The Book of Joshua

Enjoy taking some time out to nourish your soul over this season, while also thinking of the birth and life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Please put a comment on this blog of Christian books that have helped you this year and give a brief comment why they have been helpful.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Joel Beeke on John Calvin and Preaching

Here is the link of Joel Beeke preaching with anointing, in my view, on John Calvin and practical lessons on preaching.

The link on Sermon Audio: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=102617412575

Enjoy!!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

John Calvin and Preaching

If you are not a preacher you may wonder, what has this post got to do with me? The answer is a whole lot. The primary activity of the Christian church, according to the Bible is the act of preaching and the listening rightly to the Word of God being preached. We are all to be engaged in praying for the fruitfulness of the act of preaching of right doctrine. We are all to be involved in praying for preachers to be raised up to pastor the flock of God (Matthew 9:38-39).

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

Furthermore, we are to listen rightly to the Word of God being preached and not simply having a critical spirit about the every detail of the way the Word is preached so that we cannot receive the Word with joy.

One of the best works on preaching that I have read this year is by Joel Beeke called "Calvin and Preaching: The Power of the Word" and it is published in a book called "Calvin: Theologian and Reformer" by Reformation Heritage Books. I commend this essay for preachers and hearers alike, and if you get hold of it, it should be read more than once for maximum impact. Beeke writes that: "Calvin provided nine reasons why faithful, Spirit-anointed preaching is powerful. They are:

1. It allows the Word of God to set the agenda
2. It proclaims the Scripture authoritatively
3. It co-labours with the Holy Spirit
4. It guarantees the Church's Fruitfulness
5. It impacts the nations
6. It moves people to truly hear God's Word
7. It is experiential
8. It promotes piety
9. It aims for God's glory

If you get a hold of this book, do convert your enthusiasm for preaching with prayer for your pastor's sermon preparation, the delivery of preaching, and that your hearing and receipt of the Word of God would be in a godly fashion.

Monday, 18 December 2017

The Incarnation of Christ and John's Gospel

After preaching two sermons yesterday on the incarnation of Christ from John 1:1-18, two things come to mind. One is the majesty of John's Gospel. It is a part of Scripture which just towers over all of us and yet it fills us with delight, joy, with a sense of awe and reverence; something which is rightly the portion of Jesus Christ from His people.

John 1:1-4 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it".

Such simple metaphors are used by John the apostle to describe God's Son. One's such as the Word, Light and Life. In studying for these two sermons, two commentaries on the Gospel of John have impressed me. They are by William Hendriksen and also by Herman Ridderbos.

On the commentary by Hendriksen, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote: "For myself I have to say that it is the most satisfying commentary that I have ever read on this Gospel". To this I concur. It is a commentary that has stood the test of time and rightly so.

Herman Ridderbos offers an excellent treatment also. Neither are a substitute for a careful study of the biblical text in English and for those who are able also, in Greek as well.

The Tyndale House Greek NT offer their assessment of the text of John 1:18, one which varies in some different translations, depending on the manuscript tradition that they use.

It reads, translated into English in my words:

"No one has ever seen God. The Only-Begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has explained and made him known".

I have translated monogen─ôs, not as the Only Son but as the Only-begotten. This implies the relationship to God the Father and not only to uniqueness as the use of the translation Only Son, as some prefer to translate this word. The Greek speaking church Father's got it right when they understood this Greek term to refer to Only-begotten. This is how the Nicene Creed also expresses this term.

"I believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:". Let us all confess our faith, now and always in "the Only-Begotten".

I commend the reading of John the First Chapter and these two commentaries to all readers and lovers of Holy Scripture.

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.