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Another week of goodies to check out…

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 Harper Kids Talk

Here’s an idea for a kids talk on the story of John Harper who was on board the Titanic…

[Powerpoint for this talk HERE]


Who am I? 

  • I cost $7.5 million to build.
  • I disappeared for 74 years.
  • 2,208 people travelled on me.
  • The movie about me won 11 Oscars.
  • It was apparently said of me: “Even God cannot sink it”.
  • Only 712 people survived when I hit an iceberg (706 on lifeboats, 6 rescued from the water). 

Who am I? [The Titanic] 

Some months later it was discovered that one of the 6 rescued from the water was saved twice that night. 

At a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He said: “I am a survivor of the Titanic.  When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr Harper, of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. 

‘Man,’ he said, ‘are you saved?’ ‘No’ I said, ‘I am not.’ He replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.'” 

“The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, ‘Are you saved now?’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘I cannot honestly say that I am.’ He said again, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,’ and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed.”  

“I am John Harper’s last convert.” 

It’s an incredible story, and from it I want to remind you of two truths from the Bible: 

1. God’s amazing grace to save. 

God in his amazing kindness saved that man not only from drowning in the sea, but all for eternity.  God can save in extraordinary circumstances, and this surely was one.  

He found the words of Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” to be so true.  That man believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, he called on the name of the Lord and was saved because of God’s amazing grace.  God’s amazing grace to save. 

2. God’s amazing grace people urgently need to hear. 

John Harper the other man floating on a piece of wreck, knew of God’s amazing grace.  He knew what would happen to people if they didn’t respond to it.  Other survivors report that as the Titanic went down, he ran through the ship yelling, “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” and began witnessing to anyone who would listen.  And once he was in the water he continued telling people about God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why?  He knew John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”  As the Titanic sank he knew there was something more important than mere survival.  People needed to believe in the Son urgently otherwise God’s wrath would remain on them and they would be punished in hell.  God’s amazing grace people urgently need to hear. 

All of us find ourselves in one of the two positions these men were in.  We either need to respond to God’s amazing grace to save by trusting in Jesus and what He’s done through His death and resurrection otherwise God’s wrath will remain on us as we are punished in hell.  Or we need to be those who speak of God’s amazing grace which our unsaved friends and family, urgently need to hear about.  That’s the challenge before us.

The Biblical Gospel

“Thus the gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s story-line. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that story-line. God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them-an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).”

(Don Carson, The Biblical Gospel)

Shepherding all our people

Possibly my favourite talk that I heard last year was Stuart Olyott’s talk titled ‘Shepherding all our people’ from the Banner of Truth Leicester Minister’s Conference.  He was simply outstanding on the topic of pastoral care.  I’ve posted my notes from it below.  If you can find the audio of this talk anywhere, it’s definitely worth listening to!


Shepherding all our people 

This is an area that none of us are doing very well in.  Our response to this message is not to say “I’ve got to do better!”  That’s a good response, but it should never be our first response.  Our first response should be to say “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”  The good news is that when we do this, the Father will “[feel] compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  Our first response is ‘Father I have sinned’ and He will run and accept you. 

1. Biblical Foundations 

Two keys texts: Acts 20:28 & 1 Peter 5:2f. 

a) What does it means to shepherd? 

To look after people. 

Make sure that they are fed spiritually.  Lead them on the right track.  Keep them on the right track.  Carry the weak.  Bandage the bleeding.  Heal the ill.  Comfort the distressed.  Seek the wandering.  Protect every lamb and every sheep from all those wolves, most of which they can’t recognise. 

b) Who has to be shepherded? 

Everyone.  I have to shepherd every elder, and every elder has to shepherd me, the elders together are to shepherd those in the local church they oversee. 

c) Why do they have to be shepherded? 

Jesus Christ purchased a vast number of men and women, boys and girls, and He doesn’t intend to lose any one of them.  The Bible teaches the perseverance of the saints.  We are kept by the power of God through faith.  The principle means by which we are kept persevering is the life and ministry of the local church led by its pastors and elders.  This means the integrity of our pastoral work is key. 

d) How do they have to be shepherded? 

When did you last sit down and give serious thought to shepherding the flock? 

It’s hard work.  It’s sacrificial work.  It’s emotionally draining work.  It’s unselfish work.  It’s demanding work.  It’s work done with one eye on the future, when all this work will have been worth it. 

It’s not about laying down the rules for people, telling them what to do.  This has already been done by Jesus.  We lead the people of God by setting an example. 

For Christ’s sake we work hard, we work long, we work tenderly to look after every Christian in the church. 

2. What will all this mean in practice? 

a) You must know who is a sheep and who isn’t. 

Do they have a credible profession of faith?  Profession of faith is credible is the person has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Find out by asking them a question: Do you pray?  Why should God listen to you?  Those with a credible profession of faith will answer because of Jesus Christ and what He did for sinners.  But you won’t be able to ask that question if you don’t get close to people.  What is their attitude towards sin?  Does it distress them?  Do they have love for the brethren?  You can’t find out who is a sheep if you don’t get close to everybody. 

b) You must know each individual sheep. 

Do you know their names?  Next to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the name we love in the world the most is our own name.  Do you know where they live?  Do you know their family circumstances?  Could you go through a typical day in their lives?  Do you know what their temptations and joys are?  Do you know where they work and who they work with?  Do you know their cultural upbringing?  What language they speak at home?  Do you know what their temperament is like at home?  What their strengths and weaknesses are?  What their stage in grace is?  Their level of biblical literacy?  Doctrinal grasp?  Level of obedience?  Spiritual gifts? 

You have to get close to people and spend time with them to find these things out. 

c) You must take definite steps to make sure each sheep is looked after. 

  • Preaching 

Is your preaching accessible to all the sheep Christ has given you?  Can all your people understand it?  Is it what Al Martin called ‘Discriminatory Applicatory Preaching’?  Is your application as such that people then think that this word is for me?  A major part of pastoral work is done in the pulpit. 

  • Church 

Does your preaching teach the church what fellowship is?  Fellowship is my life wrapped up with theirs, and their life wrapped up in mine.  We need to encourage our people to understand this concept of a shared life.  Encourage people to spend time with each other.  Not all pastoral work can be done by the pastors.  Preach fellowship, live fellowship, example it. 

  • Eldership Meetings 

Do your eldership meeting start with the minutes?  A better way to start would be after a time of devotion around the Word and then prayer, to begin with the question: Is anyone causing us concern?  After this talk about the congregation in a systematic way, going down the list.  Talk about individuals, not broad categories of people.  Organise regular visiting to members.  Try and get an elder around to everyone every year.  Pray for the congregation together as elders. 

  • Yourself 

Do you pray for the sheep?  [One way to do this would be to buy a notebook, divide it into 5 sections labelled Monday to Friday.  Each section has 4 pages.  Page 1 is 1/5 of the members.  Page 2 is 1/5 of the adherers.  Page 3 is 1/5 of the church organisation.  Page 4 is own personal prayer needs.] 

Be the person of the place.  Be at the start of the different meetings that take place on the church premises.  

Necessary visits.  There are people who are ill who don’t feel comforted until you turn up.  When you hear of bereavement, stop what you’re doing and go straight to the family.  

Systematic visiting.  First time you visit, find out if they have a credible profession of faith.  Second time you visit, find out about their devotional life.  Third time you visit, find out about the serving them do or would like to do.  And so on. 

Hospitality.  Giving someone a temporary place in the family.  Have people round.  Keep an open home.  Be happy that people want to come and sit in your home. 

Be available.  Send out the right vibes all the time.  Why do pastors hide out in the vestry before the service?  Don’t you think that needs thinking about?  Welcome people in their seats.  Be around afterwards.  Sometimes don’t go to the front door, sit on the front row to chat with people. 

  • Other suggestions 

If there are a group of promising men give them training.  Create forums where people can ask questions about your teaching as you do it.  Sometimes let your pastoral visits determine what you preach. 

  • Don’t forget the thoughtful touches that show you care 

Give your complete attention to that person in front of you.  

A phone call, text, email, handwritten note.  Something that is sincere, spontaneous and short.  Spurgeon once wrote 500 of these a week. 

The pastor’s job is to love and teach, in that order!

What does the Bible say about children and young people?

Here are some notes I made on what the Bible says about children and young people: 

1. It is not clear as to when childhood finishes and adulthood begins.   

Leviticus 27:3-5 suggests that a person ceases to be considered a child/young person at the age of 20. 

2. Children are the fulfilment of the creation mandate to be fruitful and to multiply. 

The command to be fruitful and multiply was given both to Adam at creation (Genesis 1:28) and Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1).  Children are necessary if this command was to be obeyed. 

3. Children are a gift from God and a sign of God’s blessing.   

In the book of Genesis it clear that children are a gift from God.  The theme of a barren woman miraculously being able to conceive runs throughout the book.  Eve with God’s help gave birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1).  Abram recognises that God has given him no children (Genesis 15:2-3).  Rachel speaking after the birth of Dan said that God has given her a child (Genesis 30:1).  Jacob says of his children that they are a gracious gift from God (Genesis 33:5).  

Elsewhere in the Bible we are reminded that children are a sign of God’s blessing or a reward from Him.  In Psalm 127:3 we read that children (sons) are a heritage or reward from the Lord.  In Zechariah 8:5 a sign of God’s blessing is that children are playing in the streets. 

Whilst the birth of a child and the happiness of children is a sign of God’s blessing, the death of a child is an indication of a calamity or the worse of curses to an enemy.  The prophet Nahum prophesying about the fall of Nineveh, God’s enemy, speaks of infants being dashed to pieces (Nahum 3:10).  Psalm 137:8-9 speaks of the death of Babylonian children. 

4. Children are valued before they are born.   

God can relate to and deal with a person from the moment of conception (and before).  In Psalm 139:13 we are told that God knits a person together in their mother’s womb.  In Job 31:15 tells us that God made him in the womb. 

5. Children are valued as much as any other age group.   

God is a God of all human ages including children.  In the gospels we read that Jesus healed children (Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5, boy with an evil spirit in Mark 9), Jesus invited children to come to Him (Matthew 19:13-15), and Jesus knows about the lives of children (Matthew 11:16-19 or Luke 7:31-35). 

6. Children have a sinful nature. 

For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and facing God’s wrath, his righteous anger (Ephesians 2:3).  All includes children and adults alike.  Psalm 51:5 tells us that children are sinful from the time of conception. 

7. Children are immature. 

This is implied in a number of passages where the immaturity of childhood is used to illustrate Christian immaturity.  In Ephesians 4:14, Paul talks of becoming mature as a Christian as being no longer infants.  In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul urges the Corinthians to stop thinking like children but to start thinking like adults.  Leaving childish ways behind is a sign of adulthood (1 Corinthians 13:11).  In Hebrews 5:12-13 a baby on milk is used to describe an immature Christian who has not grown up and made spiritual progress in understanding God’s Word. 

8. Children are dependent.   

In Matthew 18:3-4 (or Mark 10:13-16) Jesus tells the disciples that they are to become like little children if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus was telling them that the helplessness and dependence that children have is what He is looking for in His disciples. 

9. Children become accountable.   

Children are held accountable as sinners from time of conception (Psalm 51:5).  But the Bible does teach that there is a time when children are not held responsible for the choices they make.  For example Deuteronomy 1:39 we read of the Israelite children that they “do not yet know good from bad” and because of that they are allowed to enter the promised land.  In Isaiah 7:15-16 we are told that there is a time when the boy (child) does not know enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.   

As children grow up and mature their understanding of right and wrong and ability to make decisions increases, so they become more and more accountable. 

10. Children are part of the community of God’s people. (see Ian Fry, ‘What is Christian Youthwork?’ in FAQs published by The Good Book Company.  p.12-13)

It seems that whenever the people of God gathered for corporate worship, the children and young people were present.  Children were present whenever the Passover occurred (Exodus 12:26-27), when Israel entered into God’s covenant (Deuteronomy 29:10-15), at feast times (Deuteronomy 31:10-12), when the covenant was renewed at Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:35), and at times of seeking God (2 Chronicles 20:5-13).  It was expected that acts of corporate worship would arouse interest of, and provoke questioning by children (Exodus 13:11-14). 

This pattern seems to be present in the early church.  When Paul wrote letters to the churches, he had instructions for children to follow (Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20).  He must have expected them to be present as his letter was read out. 

11. God does great things with young people. (see HERE)   

There are so many examples of God using young people to do great things for Him.  Youth was a time for service and heroism.  

Old Testament examples include Joshua who was Moses’ assistant since youth (Numbers 11:28).  The spies who investigated Jericho were young men (Joshua 6:23).  Jeremiah was called to be a prophet when he was a child (Jeremiah 1:5-7).  David was only a boy when he fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33).  Other examples are Joseph, Samuel, Samson, Joash, Josiah, Daniel and Esther. 

In the New Testament we have Paul’s nephew who warned him about a plot on his life (Acts 23:16-22) or the unnamed boy with the loaves and fish that Jesus used to feed the five thousand men plus women and children (John 6:9). 

12. Children must learn to love and fear the Lord.   

In Deuteronomy 6:2 we read that commands, decrees and laws were given by God to Moses to pass on to the Israelites so that they, their children and their children’s children may fear God.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 the command is to love God with all your heart, soul and strength.  This is to be on the parent’s hearts but also to be impressed upon their children. 

13. Children are to be told God’s Words and God’s Works so that they will trust in Him. 

In Psalm 78:4-7 parents were told to pass on God’s works (his praiseworthy deeds, v4) and God’s Words (statutes, law, v5), to teach these to their children so that would put their trust in God and keep his commands. 

14. Children need to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour to be saved. 

Acts 2:21 or Romans 10:13 tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  This applies to children as we as adults.  They need to trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour to be saved from an eternity in hell separated from God. 

15. God says the prime responsibility for the spiritual nurture of children and young people lies with the parents. 

God places people in families, and the family relationship is important (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20).  Proverbs 1:8 tells us that it is both parents responsibility to pass on God’s truth.  The prime responsibility however falls to the father (Ephesians 6:4; this idea is found throughout Proverbs 1-9).  Timothy is an example of the positive impact a godly home can have on a person (2 Timothy 1:5).  

16. Parents are responsible for teaching and modelling God’s truth to their children. 

God chose Abraham to direct his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by what is right and just (Genesis 18:19).  Fathers are to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the LORD.  Timothy was taught the Bible by his grandmother and mother from a young age (2 Timothy 3:15). 

17. Parents are responsible for disciplining their children as well as encouraging them. 

Children are born with evil inclinations (Ecclesiastes 12:1) so they not only need teaching but corrective, loving discipline (Proverbs 22:15).  Parents are responsible for disciplining their children (Proverbs 29:17).  Discipline is a sign that parents love their children because they want them to escape death and find life (Proverbs 13:24, 19:18).  The command to discipline is given to fathers in Ephesians 6:4 [‘training' is more literally translated ‘discipline']. 

Encouragement is important too.  Colossians 3:21 tell fathers not emitter their child because they will become discouraged.