Apparently I’m a Worldly Calvinist!

After reading the article ‘The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness’ by Peter Masters (his comments on Collin Hansen’s book Young, Restless, Reformed) in the latest issue of Sword & Trowel I’ve come to realise that I’m a Worldly Calvinist. 

What makes me a Worldly Calvinist?  I’m a Calvinist who likes contemporary worship music.  

Although Masters points out four issues which he says contradicts a genuine Calvinistic outlook the focus is on how the Calvinistic resurgence reported by Hansen’s book is a mix of Calvinism with contemporary charismatic-ethos worship (“worldly-worship variety”). 

So for example: 

Passion conference: “young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments”. 

Resolved: “usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship” “worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers” 

Described large conferences: “at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine”. 

Mars Hill Seattle: “the most ear-splitting music of any”. 

He then goes on to talk about how New Calvinism is encouraging people to become friends with the world but again the issue is in the area of style of music. 

The examples he gives: 

“When a secular rapper named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to give up his past life and his singing style.  But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord.” 

On the book Worldliness (edited by CJ Mahaney) he says that it: “hopelessly under-equips young believers for separation from the world, especially in the area of music, where, apparently, the Lord loves every genre.” 

I agree with Masters concern that we aren’t of the world but I’m not convinced that liking or preferring a contemporary style of music makes you worldly.  Even though I’m not convinced by Masters argument, I did find it a helpful reminder that there is a danger of becoming united to the world.  

Am I a Worldly Calvinist?  It depends whether you agree or disagree with article. 

Read ‘The Merger of Calvinism with Worldliness’ online HERE

Subscribe to Sword & Trowel HERE (which I highly recommend; even though I don’t always agree fully with what Peter Masters says, I appreciate that his writing always gets me thinking). 

The Contemporary Calvinist comments on the article HERE.

Not every Jesus is the real Jesus

Liked this from Kevin DeYoung

“The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?

There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.

There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.

There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.

There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him

There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German.

There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.

There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.

There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”

There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.

This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Saviour of the world, and substitute for our sins-more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.”

Real Lives (DJ Carswell)

Real Lives by D.J. Carswell is a book full of examples that show that the gospel is the power of God to save those who believe in Jesus.  It’s highly readable and great value for money (only £2)!


Real Lives contains the stories of 13 people who have been saved by the gospel.  I really enjoyed reading their stories and seeing God’s amazing grace at work in their lives.

The thirteen people whose stories are told are all real people and are all different, (from a famous footballer, to a backpacker exploring the states, to an alcoholic working in London), but there was one thing they all had in common, they were saved by the gospel and their lives were changed.  

As I read each of the stories, I was struck by the number of different ways that people came into contact with the power of the gospel.  Here are some of ways the people in book did: through a tract; an invite to an event; a work colleague; a biography of a Christian; by a family member becoming a Christian; in recalling Bible verses learnt as a child; being impressed by behaviour of Christians; or just reading the Bible.  

Real Lives is a perfect book to give to non-Christians because each chapter contains an explanation of the gospel, and give evidence that show that the gospel works in the changed life it brings about.  In the final chapter, it also gives a straightforward summary of who Jesus is and what He’s done.

It is also a great book for Christians to read and see God’s saving power at work, and then buy extra copies to give away to non-Christian friends and families. 

Real Lives is available to buy from HERE.  

Check out the great offer for 100 copies of this book as part of The Real Giveaway HERE

Also check out the article by Roger Carswell about doing a ‘Real Lives’ mission HERE.

Youth work in the UK

Notes from a talk given by Ian Fry on ‘Youth work in the UK’ at the Capital Youthworks youthworker training morning, with input from other youth and children’s workers, and likely my take on what he said.  He gave us three handouts, one was a 15 page paper (with 85 footnotes!) to take home and read, plus two single page handouts which formed the two parts to his talk.  For more on this subject check out his talk from the Theology of Youth Ministry Conference.


Part 1: An impressionistic overview of youth and children’s work in the UK

Based on his personal experience and observations.  In my limited (compared to Ian’s) experience of youth ministry I’ve come across points 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 9. 

1. Concern for the outsider - specialist youth club approach which meets their social needs, separate from Christians with focus on fun and games (showing outsiders we’re normal because we know a Nintendo Wii is). 

2. Youth and children’s work is a training ground for ‘real’ ministry.  The notion of being in youth ministry for 10, 15, 30 years is not there.  That’s not to say that this is not appropriate for some individuals. 

3. Historically often done by parachurch (e.g. Crusaders (now Urban Saints), Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade, Campaigners, Scripture Union, Youth for Christ).  Quality youth work done by evangelicals in 40s, 50s, 60s was done by parachurch organisations.  Today they don’t have the influence they once had. 

4. Church-based youth ministry has strong focus on fun element, with fear of losing those from Christian homes the driver.  Pressure comes from Christian parents desperate that their kids don’t leave the church.  Bible teaching is boring, they want games attitude!  Parents are unable to face the fact that their kids aren’t regenerate. 

5. Children’s work often largely reliant on females = functionally the case because often at same time as services making men not easy to recruit.  Sunday School on the whole was implemented by women.  The idea of removing males from the service to look after children is not there.  The biggest drop off of boys is at age 10 and 11 which is no surprise as they don’t want to be taught by women. 

6. The answer to the key question: “What is your vision for youth and children’s work?” is often discipleship but with little idea of what this looks like or it’s often numbers driven. 

7. Parents either sidelined or encouraged to hand-over to the church a la schooling.  The church is expected to bring them up spiritually. 

8. Focuses.  In conservative evangelical circles the focus is on correct understanding and information, and in charismatic evangelical circles the focus is on experience. 

9. Isolation of children and young people from the rest of the church. 

Part 2: What needs to be done?

Some suggestions of how to respond to this.

1. Acknowledge that God in His mercy uses perfections.  This is a way of assessing areas where there is fruit even though it’s not theologically right.  It’s also a relaxant for when I don’t get it right.  God is generous in creation, redemption, and work in my life. 

2. Get a proper vision.  Psalm 78 is probably the best place to go.  Give them a vision of a great God they can know and trust. 

3. Focus on the heart when teaching.  This is one area where we don’t get it quite right.  Not saying don’t make them well informed, but also make sure you engage with the whole of the child’s life.  Apply it to their week.  Application can be both action and admiration. 

4. Aim high/have confidence in God.  Education says only teach what children are capable of understanding.  Rather we want children to experience heart of praise to God which they see as adults worship God.  

We’re not worried about children understanding the offside rule before we take them to see a football match.  Don’t just think in terms of cognitive ability.  Great truths about God is catching!  Have confidence that as you proclaim the greatness of God they will get it! 

5. Involve/equip/encourage/train parents to work in partnership.  You are helping parents.  Encourage parents to ask you what’s going on.  Parents evenings when you tell them what you’re going to be teaching.  Actively encourage parents to be involved in different ways. 

6. Seek integration of children and young people into congregational life and corporate worship.  Don’t do youth services as a way of doing this, which gets young people to perform. 

7. Ministers need to teach regularly on this.  Pastors and vicars need to be behind you and believe passionately that parents have the responsibility.  If you are the only voice you won’t be heard.

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.


The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.


The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

John on Jesus

Observations about Jesus from chapter 1 of John’s gospel.

  • Jesus is eternal. (v1)
  • Jesus is God. (v1)
  • Jesus is a distinct person of the Trinity. (v1-2)
  • Jesus is the Creator. (v3)
  • Jesus is the Life-giver. (v4)
  • Jesus is the light that drives away the darkness of not knowing God. (v4-5)
  • Jesus was rejected by people. (v10-11)
  • Jesus gives new life to those who receive Him by believing. (v12-13)
  • Jesus is God putting on flesh. (v14)
  • Jesus reveals the glory of God. (v14)
  • Jesus reveals a new side to God’s character which is different from that revealed by the law. (v17)
  • Jesus makes God who has not been seen, seen. (v18)
  • Jesus was preceded by John who came to get the people ready for Jesus. (v23)
  • Jesus is the focus of John. (v6-8)
  • Jesus is greater than John. (v15-16)
  • Jesus is the sacrifice that takes away the sins of the world. (v29, 36)
  • Jesus is given the Holy Spirit who will empower Him to do a particular job that was given to Jesus. (v32-33)
  • Jesus gives the Spirit to believers because they have a job to do too. (v33)
  • Jesus is followed. (v37, 40,
  • Jesus is the Messiah. (v41)
  • Jesus is the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about. (v45)
  • Jesus came out of a surprising place – Nazareth. (v46)
  • Jesus shows supernatural knowledge. (v47-48)
  • Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel. (v49)
  • Come and see Jesus! (v39, 46)

British Church History [Part 6: Variety]

Here’s the final talk in a series of six kids talks on British Church History.  The first talk is HERE, second HERE, third HERE, fourth HERE and fifth HERE.  This talk focuses on why we have a variety of churches in the UK today.  This talk has been given in church and also been adapted for a junior school assembly.

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]


Does anyone recognise these building? 

  • All Saints Church, Banstead
  • Banstead United Reformed Church
  • Banstead Methodist Church
  • Banstead Baptist Church 

In Banstead Village there are five protestant churches.  The four I’ve just shown you on the screen plus another church I think we’re all familiar with called Banstead Community Church. 

After Oliver Cromwell, the English Civil War and the conflict over what the official religion of England was, there was an Act of Parliament called the Act of Toleration in 1689.  This meant that Protestants, who weren’t part of the Church of England, were legally allowed to have their own churches and Christian traditions. 

So after this gradually more and more churches which weren’t part of the Church of England started up.  

But why do we have all these different groups of churches or denominations?  Why don’t we have one Protestant church in the UK? 

Well, the church is a bit like a family. 

In my family, we have me, my wife Kate, our daughter Molly, our son Harry, and our dog Piper.  Now each of us has different interests, different likes and dislikes. 

I like watching sport, Kate likes watching documentaries, and Molly likes kid’s programmes.  And I support Crystal Palace, Kate supports Spurs, and Molly supports Chelsea.  Harry likes Piper, and Piper just likes chicken! 

Even though we have different interests we are still part of the same family! 

Like a family, the church family is full of people who have different interests, different likes and dislikes, and who have slightly different ways of understanding some of the verses the Bible.  But because they all trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour they are united to one another as part of the same family. 

In some churches, they will baptise babies, but in other churches they will only baptise people who believe in Jesus.  In some churches, there will only be an organ playing, but in other churches there will be a band leading the music.  In some churches, the minister will wear a dog collar others jeans and a shirt.  And there are lots of other ways in which churches are different from one another. 

But even they are differences they all agree on the most important thing which is they love Jesus and that unites them and makes them part of the same family.  If a church doesn’t believe in Jesus, that only by trusting in Jesus’ death people can be saved, they aren’t actually a church even though they might call themselves one.  Sadly there are lots of churches like this. 

In UK today, there are a variety of churches that people can go to.  In Banstead there are a variety of different churches that we can go to.  But even though there are a variety of different churches, they still make up the one church if it believes in Jesus. 

Why is it good that we have different types of churches?  One answer is because different group of Christians disagreed on the way the Bible should be interpreted.  But another reason, which is the reason for the new churches that are forming today, is to reach different people, people who aren’t interested in the gospel.  The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some”

Different types of churches will be better able and equipped to reach different people with the message of the gospel.  Providing they are not sinning in what they are doing, it’s okay to do church in a different way because ultimately what matters is that some people are saved by Jesus. 

So let’s recap our journey of the history of Christianity, the history of the church in the UK… 

ARRIVAL: The good news about Jesus arrived in England, thanks to Christian Roman traders. 

ATTACKED: The Vikings threatened to wipe out the church, but God used men like Alfred the Great to preserve it. 

ORGANISED: Under William the Conqueror and the Normans the church in England was organised and made central to everyday life. 

REFORMED: In order to divorce his wife, King Henry VIII split the church in England into Protestants and Catholics. 

FREEDOM: In years that followed the Reformation, there was much conflict, not only between Protestants and Catholics but also between different groups within the Protestant church but this ultimately led to freedom to worship in Britain. 

VARIETY: Today we have lots of different types of churches which make up the Christian church in England. 

And we look back on all this, we can see that Jesus command to his followers to tell others all over the world has been obeyed, and His promise to build His church has been kept. 

Thank God that there are lots of places where we can hear the good news about Jesus in England, in Banstead.

Feel the Bible

“As you read and meditate and think seriously about what’s in your Bible, and believe and accept it, then ultimately you will indeed experience it, and you will feel the effect of it.  There’s heart-transforming truth in the Scriptures, but you won’t encounter it by first trying to feel it.”

(C.J. Mahaney, Christ our Mediator)

An incredible story – John Harper

Mark Dever tells this incredible story about John Harper in the opening chapter of ‘The Gospel and Personal Evangelism’:

“John Harper was born in a Christian home in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872. When he was about fourteen years old, he became a Christian himself, and from that time on, he began to tell others about Christ. At seventeen years of age, he began to preach, going down the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in passionate pleading for men to be reconciled to God. 

After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by the Reverend E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London. This set Harper free to devote his whole time and energy to the work so dear to his heart-evangelism. 

Soon, in September 1896, Harper started his own church.  This church, which he began with just twenty-five members, numbered over five hundred by the time he left thirteen years later. During this time he had been both married and widowed. Before he lost his wife, God blessed Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.  

Harper’s life was an eventful one. He almost drowned several times. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived. And at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. If anything, these brushes with death simply seemed to confirm John Harper in his zeal for evangelism, which marked him out for the rest of the days of his life. 

While pastoring his church in London, Harper continued his fervent and faithful evangelism. In fact, he was such a zealous evangelist that the Moody Church in Chicago asked him to come over to America for a series of meetings. He did, and they went well. A few years later, Moody Church asked him if he would come back again. And so it was that Harper boarded a ship one day with a second-class ticket at Southampton, England, for the voyage to America. 

Harper’s wife had died just a few years before, and he had with him his only child, Nana, age six. What happened after this we know mainly from two sources. One is Nana, who died in 1986 at the age of eighty. She remembered being woken up by her father a few nights into their journey. It was about midnight, and he said that the ship they were on had struck an iceberg. Harper told Nana that another ship was

just about there to rescue them, but, as a precaution, he was going to put her in a lifeboat with an older cousin, who had accompanied them. As for Harper, he would wait until the other ship arrived. 

The rest of the story is a tragedy well known. Little Nana and her cousin were saved. But the ship they were on was the Titanic. The only way we know what happened to John Harper after is because, in a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, some months later, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He explained that he had been on the Titanic the night it struck the iceberg. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. “Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near, John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.  “He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’ “‘No, I am not,’ I replied.

“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ 

“The waves bore [Harper] away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again. ‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.  “‘No,’ I answered. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ “Then losing his hold on the wood, [Harper] sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”1 

1 Moody Adams, The Titanic’s Last Hero: Story About John Harper(Columbia, SC: Olive Press, 1997), 24-25.

Christ our Mediator

In ‘Christ our Mediator’, CJ Mahaney wonderfully takes us to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, from His agonised prayer in the garden, to His cry of forsakenness on the cross, and helps us to meditate on its purpose – why He suffered and died, and what He achieved by doing so. 

As we approach Easter, this is a subject we should have at the forefront of our mind (in fact we should have this subject at the forefront of our mind throughout the year).  The length of the book makes it perfect to read during the Easter week to enhance our understanding, our experience, and appreciation of what Jesus has done for us.  


CJ begins by reminding us with the help of Lloyd Jones that as we approach this subject we need to ask ‘Do I believe it?’ before we start thinking about how we feel about it.  He then takes us to the place we need to be to see this good news – our sin and God’s holiness and their incompatibility which results in our punishment, our hopelessness and our need for a mediator. 

The mediator is then introduce, as CJ explains how Christ, God’s own Son is that mediator and for those who trust in Him, the results of His mediation is we have peace with God, we no longer face condemnation from God when our life on this earth is over, and we have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming this grace. 

We are then taken to three key events in the gospel.  

To the Garden of Gethsemane and the cup: “In this garden, our Saviour is beginning to confront as never before the ultimate and deepest agony of Calvary – an agony that will go infinitely beyond any physical aspects of His suffering.”  There Jesus pleads remove this cup: “This cup contains the full vehemence and fierceness of God’s holy wrath poured out against all sin, and we discover in Scripture that it’s intended for all of sinful humanity to drink.  It’s your cup…and mine.”  “This is what bearing our sin means to Him – utter distress of soul as He confronts total abandonment and absolute wrath from His Father on the cross, a distress and an abandonment and a rejection we cannot begin to grasp.” 

Then to the scene of crucifixion and the crowd: “Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.” 

And then to Jesus on the cross and His cry: “He cries out to God, “Why have You forsaken Me?” so that you and I will never have to make a similar cry.  He was cut off from His Father so that we can boldly say, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”.  He’s forsaken so that we might be forgiven.” 

The book closes with CJ appealing to us to preach the gospel, the good news, this grace, this love in action to ourselves daily, to make it our treasure, best and highest thought because as we do our lives can’t help but be filled with joy as we remember what Christ our Mediator has done for us.  (You can read more about this in the rest of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’). 

As Easter approach if you are going to read one book, why not read this one as you will be taken to the heart of how Christ has made a way for you to be intimate relationship with God.  It is definitely worth recommending this book to the young people in your church too. 

Christ our Mediator is available to buy as part of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’ (chapters 2-10) HERE

For more from CJ Mahaney, check out his blog HERE

You can download talks by CJ on some of the topics of this book HERE.

Travel with Robert Murray McCheyne

Every so often I come across a book going cheaply and buy it as one to read at a later date (in fact I’ve got plenty of those on my shelf!)  One of these books was ‘Travel with Robert Murray McCheyne’ and I’m sorry I didn’t get round to reading it sooner. 


One of the unique features of the ‘Travel with…’ series is the travel guide at the end of each chapter about locations that feature in the person’s life.  I’ll be honest, this bit wasn’t of great interest to me, but don’t let that put you off buying this book as the story of Robert Murray McCheyne is fascinating and has lots of useful stuff for pastors, and congregations alike.  

Rather than giving a summary of the book – the story is worth reading yourself – let me highlight some of things that stood out for me as I read it.  

  • Andrew Bonar on Robert Murray McCheyne: “All who knew him not only saw in him a burning and shining light, but felt also the breathing of the hidden life of God.”
  • McCheyne advice to a young student: “If you acquire slovenly or sleepy habits of study now, you will never get the better of it.”
  • Robert began to get up early each morning to seek God, commenting, “Who would not rise early to meet much company.”
  • He called sermon preparation “a pleasant kind of labour.”
  • He knew the dangers of preaching: “May God keep me from preaching myself instead of Christ crucified.”
  • McCheyne did youth ministry. His purpose was to ‘try to entice them on to know and love the Lord Jesus’. His aim was to ‘entertain them to the utmost and at the same time to win their souls.’
  • He was able to preach without notes, but he did not believe this to be a principle.
  • In his prayers he spent much time in intercession for the Jews.
  • He said: “Happy is the pastor who allows no hand but Christ’s to place or to remove him. It is Christ alone who gives all ministers all their success.”
  • Of McCheyne it was said: “For his mind was so full of Christ, that, even in writing about the most ordinary affairs, he contrived, by some natural turn, to introduce the glorious subject that was always uppermost with him.”
  • And: “It was not what you said, nor even how you said it, but it was your look – it was so Christ-like – the face of one shining from being in the presence of the Lord.” 

Travel with Robert Murray McCheyne is available to buy HERE

Another popular biography is by Andrew Bonar which you can read online HERE.