Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A tiny slap on the wrist for Mark Driscoll

The excellent Dr Carson has come to the defence of those who need no defence - British gospel ministers.  You can read the whole of his piece here.  But for your delight and delectation - as they used to say - I post a little extract below:

  • In light of my friend Mark Driscoll's recent comments about pastoral ministry in Great Britain, I wanted to share a few of my own reflections on the diverse ministries that have prospered, or floundered, there. Between 1972 and 1996, I spent nine full years there, scattered over that range of years; and since then, I have been in the UK between two and six times every year. I am neither boasting nor complaining; I'm merely establishing that my knowledge of the country is not entirely superficial. I have no reason to doubt Mark's sincere concern for the gospel in the UK and for young ministers there. Nevertheless, you might be interested in hearing another perspective...

  •  (5) But there is a bigger issue. We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace. I am grateful beyond words for the multiplication of churches in Acts 29, but I am no less grateful for Baptist ministers like my Dad, men who labored very hard and saw very little fruit for decades in French Canada, many of whom went to prison (their sentences totaled eight years between 1950 and 1952). I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue (James 3:1-6).

Note, will you, two things.

First, Dr. Carson calls Driscoll 'my friend'.  That not only establishes a friendly tone, it appeals to Driscoll who has said that he willingly takes criticism from friends.  Good; now, let's seen the evidence.

Second: note how direct Carson is in the last paragraph I've quoted: 'The measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture... to virtues such as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue.'  Ouch!

Come on, Mark - time to stop laughing, stop preening, and put a double guard on your tongue.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Magic

The legendary David Berglas - stopping his own pulse...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Of the reading of several books...

This time last year, I asked the good folks over at genevanet for suggestions of some substantial books to read in 2011.  The were very helpful.  And I didn't read any of them...
This year, these books are my targets to begin with; alongside them, I expect to read many lesser books.

First, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 'Born of God' - sermons on John Chapter 1.  Lloyd-Jones is THE hero for me; I was awakened under his preaching, trained at the seminary he set up and am doing my doctoral research into his evangelistic ministry at Westminster Chapel.  I have at least two full shelves of his books, maybe more; but the publisher promises that this is one of his most significant yet.

Then, Packer on 'Serving the People of God' - vol. 2 of his shorter writings.  Dr. J.I. Packer was my first theological teacher - I'll never forget the impact his 'Introductory Essay' to Owen's 'Death of Death' had on my thinking, nor the sweetness 'Knowing God' had for me on first reading - and still has.

Third, Conrad Mbewe's 'Foundations for the Flock' - a newly published collection of his teachings on church and ministry.  Conrad himself helped me get hold of a copy (from here), and they couldn't have been more helpful - it arrived yesterday, and the 'dipping' has started.  (Definitely a dipping, not a sprinkling - a Baptist reading a Baptist book...)

Finally, Andrew Atherstone's and David Ceri Jones' editing of 'Engaging with Lloyd-Jones' - necessary reading for my doctoral research, but much more than that.  Interesting not least because DCJ used to be something of a Ll-J fanatic, I'm told, but now - well, isn't; while Atherstone is an Anglican who think Lloyd-Jones read the situation well in 1966!  On this one, at least, I plan to let you know what I think, if the Lord wills.  Keep reading.

And that's it for today. A little light-heartedness on Monday, I hope, followed by some serious postings next week.  Meanwhile, the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you this Lord's Day - whether you're preaching or listening, may it be 'as the oracles of God.'

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sin and Repentance

A friend – I should say ‘former friend’ because he won’t now meet with me – left his wife for another woman and, apparently, told his wife ‘I know it’s wrong, but I’ve said “Sorry” to God and moved on.’

Dear reader, it isn’t that simple, is it? Repentance is more – an awful lot more – than ‘saying sorry to God and moving on.’ Repentance is about change of behaviour.

  • Repentance means changing one’s mind, so that one’s views, values, goals, and ways are changed, and one’s whole life is lived differently. Mind and judgement, will and affections, behavio[u]r and lifestyle, motives and plans; all are involved. Repenting means starting to live a new life… Feelings of remorse, self-reproach, and sorrow for sin generated by fear of punishment, without any wish or resolve to forsake sinning should not be confused with repentance.
(From ‘Repentance’ in Sproul’s ‘Reformation Study Bible’

Repentance, then, is not saying ‘Sorry’ to God and moving on. It is saying ‘Sorry’ to God and moving back!

However, once I’d conquered the godly urge to seek FF out and hit him over the head with the biggest Bible I could find, several times, it did get me thinking about my own sin.

I haven’t left my wife – why would I? But (and please, dear reader, do not be too shocked by the confession) after almost forty years as a Christian believer, and thirty years as a pastor-teacher, I still sin. It isn’t, merely, that I am still tempted; I still fall. And, worse it seems to me, it is so often into the self-same sins that I fell into all those years ago. For all my prayers and all my (I think) repentance, if there’s been any progress, I cannot see it. I teach others what the Bible says about avoiding sin, what it says about walking in the ways of God and yet have advanced so very little.

 Am I then hoist with my own petard? Have I been fooling myself about my own repentance, so that I am doomed and damned? What is the difference between me and Former Friend? Unsurprisingly, the Scripture is somewhat helpful:

  •  1John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

  •  2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

 John says some things that are frightening for every believer struggling with sin, for they could be read as if no true believer sins: ‘If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth…Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.’ Wow- no pressure, then.

Yet at the same time, he makes it clear that he is talking about people who do sin. ‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins…’

 The key is in 2:1. Let me paraphrase, just a little, to get to the heart of it: ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not [walk in] sin. But if anybody does [fall into] sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence…

The difference is between someone who fights his sinful nature but fails (on the one hand) and someone (on the other) who chooses the way of sin, or a sin, and walks in it. The first is inevitable (for if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves); the second is impossible (for ‘whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did’).

Unless God grants him true repentance, my FF is in eternal trouble:

  •  Hebrews 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

 So - that's OK then, and I can go on compacently with my own sins?  By no means!  God foribd!  Theological expletive!  Such complacency about my own sin would, indeed, be to walk in sin and come under the same condemnation.  Dear reader, I have no excuse for such complacency.  And nor, I suspect, do you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Leaky Canoneers

Over at Biblical Christianity today 
( http://bibchr.blogspot.com/ ) the inestimable Dan Phillips (always provocative, usually right, sometimes wrong,  rotten taste in music)  has had another go at what he calls ‘Leaky Canoneers’.  (Well, somebody has to.)  It’s a phrase that he uses for those who formally affirm Sola Scriptura but in practice think God is whispering in their ears.  That is to say, our charismatic friends.

What he doesn’t mention – but I think would acknowledge – is that it is not only charismatics who can be guilty.  I know a pastor in Christ who was told on one occasion that his (really very mild) taste in music was demonic.  To the inevitable question ‘How would you justify that from Scripture?’ came the answer ‘I don’t need the Bible for this; my conscience is all the authority I need.’

It isn’t, of course, a new problem and it is one that the authors of the Westminster Confession addressed.  Look how well they put it:

Chapter 1.VI: The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. 

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture, is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

X. The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

Note especially that last paragraph: what do the Worthy Westminsters mean by ‘private spirits’?  They mean that those who ‘just know’ they’re right must submit to Scripture.  Those whom ‘God has told’ they are right must submit to Scripture.  As Dan argues elsewhere – to be forced to submit to anything else is the worst kind of bondage.

Thanks be to God for his holy word!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ring, ring - why don't you give me a call?

Wait 40 seconds...

The viola player is Lukas Kmit; his reaction is humorous, courteous and brilliant.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ruth Rogers/Andrea Bocelli

Ruth Rogers is the current joint leader of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  Here, she duets with Andrea Bocelli.

A little culture for you all!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


On Monday of this week, around 65 men gathered at the Eccentrics’ Conference to hear Stuart Olyott, Alec Motyer and Richard Bewes.  They were disappointed; of that noble triumvirate, only Richard Bewes was present.  Olyott and Motyer were prevented by ill health.

The Ubiquitous Geoff Thomas
So, on Monday and Tuesday of this week, around 65 men gathered at the Eccentrics’ Conference and heard Richard Bewes, Paul Mallard, Paul Blackham and Somebody Else.  Most of the men were younger ministers and it was the first time I’d every attended a conference where I felt like an old man.  Happily, though, the wonderful Geoff Thomas was present to make me feel better; while ever Geoff is in Aberystwyth, I know I’m a young man.

Paul B is well qualified to speak at such a conference; there is no-one quite like him.  He’s full of mad-cap enthusiasm for the Bible (often seeing and pointing out things that are there but you’ve never noticed!), for church history, for doctrine, for the Lord Jesus.  He has a unique way of getting a lot into his talks, too: he doesn’t finish about half his sentences, leaving you to fit in the rest while he goes on to the next thing he wants so say.

I've got the end of my sentence...

Here it is....

I've dropped it
Anybody see where it went?
Richard Bewes, by contrast, is quite a contrast.  Quiet spoken, measured in tone and phrase, he spoke richly of the Rwandan Revival, of which he’d been an eye-witness.  It is, I think, the first eye-witness account of revival that I’ve ever heard.

Paul Mallard
Paul Mallard is, I think, the best  preacher that the FIEC has got at the moment.  He’d been drafted in at very short notice, and preached with his characteristic warmth, clarity and enthusiasm first from Revelation 2:18ff (Thyatira) and then from the first psalm in the Bible (Exodus 15).  He urged the men to be men; warned them that there were times when pastors just had to stand up and fight.  Fine expositions, warmly delivered, gratefully received.  We could have had more of him.

Gentle reader, you will be glad to know that no photos are available of Somebody Else.  He managed, though, to be controversial while talking about the Church.  Some loved what he had to say and were open with him about it; others didn’t, and muttered in dark corners (apparently).  They were particularly annoyed, it seems, with the call to close all Bible Colleges – a call which he hadn’t made.  (Paul Blackham, by contrast, lamented that he hadn’t made that call.  Can’t win, eh?)

It was, however, a very good conference and Steve Levy (pictured here without his More Famous Brother Paul) is to be commended for the vision and for all the work he and his church put into it.  Food was superb, hosts were great.  Church could do with a bigger car park, though…

The More Famous Brother

Friday, January 13, 2012

Engaging with Lloyd-Jones

Having been at the conference that produced this symposium, I've been wanting to do a review of the book, but held back until I could do it properly.  Now, I've read a review that says most of what I'd want to say - it's Jeremy Walker's, here.  I particularly agree with what Jeremy has to say about the comments on Lloyd-Jones' treatment of history - comments that at the conference were made, I think, by David Ceri Jones but taken up and developed here by John Coffey.

I'm a big fan of Lloyd-Jones.  I'm doing my doctorate on his evangelistic preaching. I don't think he was infallible, and am quite willing to say precisely where I thought he was wrong.  I welcomed the conference, the critical analysis and some - emphasise some - of the papers.  One or two of the papers - which haven't found their way into the book - were delivered, to all appearances, by men who'd once met someone who'd heard of Lloyd-Jones vaguely, so shallow were their comments.  Others of the papers were somewhat thin.  Perhaps I'll be back to this when time permits; meanwhile, read Jeremy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Living as we please...

Having been under fire a bit myself from time to time because of what I believe about Christian liberty and the rules of Christian behaviour - here's a summary of Stuart Olyott on Christian Liberty.  You can hear the sermon yourself here - scroll down to TWB20.

As Christians, we may live exactly as we please, provided:

1. We do not disobey Scripture: some things are clearly forbidden, and others clearly commanded.

2. We do not disobey lawful authority - Romans 13

3. We do not do anything to hinder our own Christian life (but note: what hinders yours may not hinder mine)

4. We do not cause a weaker brother to stumble - Romans 14.  But it is important too that we don't allow a tyranny from the weak.  ('Let them be upset!')

5. We do those things which build up Christ's body

6. We do nothing to hinder the spread of the gospel

7.  We do everything to God's glory - 1 Cor 10:31

It's a great disappointment to me that Stuart has had to pull out of the Eccentrics' Conference next week due to (his wife's) ill-health.

But here's an idea:  I've written recently to Jonathan Watson at Banner of Truth, suggesting that they publish a collection of Stuart's 'Shorter Writings' - they've been appearing in Banner, EMW, RT and elsewhere for decades now.  Jonathan's kindly forwarded the suggestion to Stuart himself; how about adding your vote to mine?  You can email Jonathan direct at Jonathan@banneroftruth.co.uk - if both my readers contact him, that'll be a start!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Watch this space...

I'm coming back - tomorrow.  Have you missed me, either of you?