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.

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)!

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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 10ofthose.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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.  

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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. 

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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.

God’s Mighty Deeds in Exodus

“Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” (Psalm 150:2) 

If we are to praise God for His acts of power which show His surpassing greatness we need to know what they are.  The Bible is full of God’s acts of power.  Here’s a list of some of them that are found in the book of Exodus.  (The chapter of Exodus is in the brackets). 

  • God’s promise that Abraham’s family would be a great nation is kept as the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly in number. (1)
  • God dealt well with the Hebrew midwives because they feared Him. (1)
  • God preserved the life of Moses both in the three months he was hidden away and through his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter. (2)
  • God heard the people of Israel’s cry for rescue from slavery. (2)
  • God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (2)
  • God saw the people of Israel and their situation. (2)
  • God appears to Moses from a burning bush. (3)
  • God speaks to Moses. (3)
  • God promises to deliver His people from affliction in Egypt and bring them out to the land He had promised them. (3)
  • God chooses to use Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. (3)
  • God promises to be with Moses. (3)
  • God reveals His name ‘I AM’ to Moses. (3)
  • God promises to stretch out His hand so Pharaoh would let the people go. (3)
  • God gave Moses three powerful signs – staff turned into a serpent; leprous hand; water turning to blood – so that the Israelites would believe that God had appeared to Moses. (4)
  • God was gracious to Moses allowing His brother Aaron to speak for him to the people. (4)
  • God tells Moses that people who wanted to kill Moses are dead. (4)
  • God promises to Moses that He will cause Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. (6)
  • God remembers the covenant He made and the promise to redeem the people from slavery and into the land promised. (6)
  • God says He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. (7)
  • God will reveal that He is the Lord to the Egyptians. (7)
  • God turned Aaron’s staff into a serpent which ate the magician’s serpents. (7)
  • God turned the Nile River into blood. (7)
  • God sent plagues of frogs to show that there is none like the Lord our God. (8)
  • God sent plagues of gnats which were seen by the magicians to be the finger of God. (8)
  • God sent plagues of flies to the Egyptians but not where the Israelites were living in Goshen. (8)
  • God sent plagues on the livestock causing them to die, but only on the livestock of the people of Egypt. (9)
  • God sent a plague of boils onto the Egyptian people and animals. (9)
  • God sent a plague of hail showing His power. (9)
  • God dealt harshly with the Egyptians so that people may know that ‘I am the Lord’. (10)
  • God sends plagues of locusts. (10)
  • God drove the locusts into the Red Sea. (10)
  • God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he didn’t let the people go. (10)
  • God sends darkness to the land for 3 days. (10)
  • God gave the people of Israel favour in the sight of the Egyptians, especially Moses. (11)
  • God warns that He will send one final plague, this time the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. (11)
  • God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. (11)
  • God gave instructions for the Passover so that the firstborn of Israel will be kept safe. (12)
  • God gave the Passover as a memorial – a reminder of how God spared their houses. (12)
  • God struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt. (12)
  • God gave the people of Israel favour in the sight of the Egyptians so they received silver and gold jewellery and clothing. (12)
  • God kept His promise to deliver His people after 430 years of slavery in Egypt. (12)
  • God led Israel through the wilderness to the Red Sea in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. (13)
  • God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so the Egyptians pursued the Israelites. (14)
  • God drove the Red Sea back by a strong east wind and made the sea dry land. (14)
  • God threw the Egyptians into a panic using the pillar of fire and cloud. (14)
  • God showed His power to the Israelites. (14)
  • God closes the Red Sea over the Egyptians. (14)
  • God made the water at Marah which was bitter, sweet. (15)
  • God rains bread (manna) from heaven in the morning and in the evening provide meat (quail) to eat. (16)
  • God provides water from a rock for the people of Israel. (17)
  • God gave victory to Israel over the Amalekites. (17)
  • God spoke to the people of Israel through Moses. (19)
  • God came down to Mount Sinai. (19)
  • God warns Moses of potential danger facing the people around the mountain. (19)
  • God teaches the people how to worship Him. (20)
  • God gives commands to His people. (20)
  • God gives laws about alters. (20)
  • God gives laws about different aspects of life with suitable just punishments which shows that He cares about all parts of life. (21-23)
  • God promises to send an angel to guard the people of Israel and bring them to the land He has promised. (23)
  • God promises the inheritance of the land of Canaan by the people of Israel. (23)
  • God gave Moses tablets of stone with the law and the commandments God wrote for their instruction. (24)
  • God gives Moses detailed instructions for the tabernacle where His presence would be among the people. (25-27)
  • God gives Moses instructions for the priests – the appointment of Aaron and his sons and the making of holy garments. (28)
  • God tells Moses that a breastplate of judgment should be made for Aaron for when he goes into the Holy Place so that Aaron would bear the judgment of the people of the Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly. (28)
  • God tells Moses to put bells on the robe to protect Aaron as he goes in and out of the Holy Place. (28)
  • God gives Moses instructions on how to consecrate the priests. (29)
  • God says He will meet with the people of Israel and speak to them. (29)
  • God says He will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. (29)
  • God gives instructions for the alter where atonement is made. (30)
  • God gives instructions for giving so they remember their need for atonement. (30)
  • God gives instructions for a bronze basin for the priests to wash in so that they don’t die. (30)
  • God gifts Bezalel and Oholiab with the skills and abilities needed to construct the tabernacle and all its finishing’s and the garments of the priests. (31)
  • God commands the people to keep the Sabbath for their own good – rest and refreshment. (31)
  • God wrote on two tablets the law and gave it to Moses. (31)
  • God saw the corruption of His people and rightly says He will punish them. (32)
  • God was merciful and in response to Moses’ interceding relented from bringing the disaster on His people He had spoken of. (32)
  • God sent a plague on the people because they made the golden calf. (32)
  • God tells Moses to leave Mount Sinai. (33)
  • God spoke with Moses. (33)
  • God shows Moses His glory but protects Him from seeing His face. (33)
  • God writes the words He wrote on the two stone tablets again. (34)
  • God proclaimed His name to Moses. (34)
  • God renews His covenant with Moses. (34)
  • God promises to drive out the nations in the land. (34)
  • God puts skill in craftsmen so they could construct the tabernacle and its fittings and the garments for the priests. (35-39)
  • God gives instructions for when the tabernacle should be erected and how it is to be made holy. (40)
  • God’s glory filled the tabernacle – God’s presence with His people. (40)

See also God’s Mighty Deeds in Genesis HERE.

British Church History [Part 5: Freedom]

Here’s the fifth in a series of six kids talks on British Church History.  The first talk is HERE, second HERE, third HERE, and the fourth is HERE.  This talk focuses on how freedom for people to worship in Britain was given through the Acts of Toleration in 1689 and the Catholic Relief Act in 1829.  This talk has been given in church and also been adapted for a junior school assembly.

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]

***

Different numbers make us think about different things.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the following numbers? 

  • 1966 [England winning the World Cup].
  • 2012 [Olympics in London].
  • 365 [Days in a year].
  • 12 [Months in a year; Days of Christmas; Signs of the Zodiac; Disciples of Jesus]. 

But here are 3 important numbers that we need to remember: 

6,500.  That is the number of unreached people groups in the world.  Groups of people who have never heard the good news about Jesus.  639 of these people groups have populations of over 100,000 people.  The good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection has been heard in Britain since the first century. 

2,200+.  That is the number of languages that have no part of the Bible translated into it.  The Bible was first translated into English in the 1380s, and was widely available from the 1530s. 

200 million.  That is the number of Christians around the world who face persecution (plus another 350 million Christian face discrimination and restrictions).  And at one time Christians in this country were persecuted too.  In fact until 1689 a church like this one would not have been allowed to meet. 

It wasn’t until 1689 that the Act of Toleration was made which allowed Protestants who were not members of the Church of England (known as non-conformists or Independents) to meet to worship and have their own buildings.  For those of the Roman Catholics denomination this wasn’t given until 1829. 

Before these Acts in 1689 and 1829, people were only allowed to take part in the form of Christianity that the King or Queen of England said they were allowed to, and those who took part in a different form were persecuted, with many being killed. 

The big problem was that the form of Christianity the King or Queen said they were allowed to take part in kept on changing.  Under Henry VIII and Edward VI, England was Protestant.  Then under Mary I it was Catholic.  Under Elizabeth I and James I it was Protestant.  Officially under Charles I the church was Protestant but there was a fear that it would become Catholic again because Charles I had a Catholic wife and appointed an Archbishop of Canterbury who made the Church of England more and more Catholic. 

It particularly worried some of the members of Parliament and was one of the causes behind the English Civil War which Charles lost and was replaced ultimately by Oliver Cromwell who was Protestant and favoured Independent churches so the Church of England was abolished.  Shortly after Cromwell died Charles II was invited to become king by Parliament and he outlawed independent churches and brought back the Church of England which has remained Protestant to this day. 

If Independent churches were outlawed, why are they around today?  The reason is that when James II was king, even though the Church of England was Protestant, he was a Catholic and there was a fear that the church would be through his son, the next king.  So those in the Church of England and those in the Independent churches worked together to remove James II and made William of Orange king and the Act of Toleration was signed allowing freedom for Protestants of all sorts to worship freely in Britain.  150 years later freedom was given to those in the Catholic church.

Hebrews 13:3 says that we are to: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  We can praise God, that in this country we are free to worship God through Jesus in variety of ways.  But at the same time we should remember and pray for those around the world that live in places where they are not free to do and for those areas where it is even illegal to be a Christian.