Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Institutes Finish Line

2009 - big year - ran the Newry Marathon and read Calvin's Institutes. I know which one was most painful and which one will have done me most good. This was my second time through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Last time was back in the early 90s at RTC. If I can run a marathon and read the Institutes there is no excuse for anyone else. Not sure if I will run a marathon in 2010 but I have my eye on another readathon - not decided yet if it will be Johathan Edwards or BB Warfield.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How to be Successful

After 47 years of life I have just unearthed the recipe for the ultimately successful life - Proverbs 2 - read it and ask God to let it flow deep into your life. Planning to preach on this on Sabbath 20th December. Here is what Charles Bridges says on this chapter.

And now, what serious reader of this chapter can fail to estimate above all price the privilege of being early enlisted under the banner of the cross; early taught in the ways, and disciplined in the school, of the Bible; and early led to hide that blessed book in the heart, as the rule of life, the principle of holiness, the guide to heaven! Parents, sponsors, teachers of youth; ponder your deep responsibility with unceasing prayer for special grace and wisdom. Beware of glossing over sins with amiable or palliating terms. Let young people be always led to look upon vicious; habits with horror, as the most appalling evil. Discipline their vehemence of feeling, and all illregulated excitement. Keep out of sight,

as far as may be, books calculated to inflame the imagination. To give an impulse to the glowing passion may stimulate the rising corruption to the most malignant fruitfulness. Oh! what wisdom is needed to guide, to repress, to bring forth, develope safely, and to improve fully, the mind, energies, and sensibilities of youth! Young man! beware! Do not flatter thyself for a moment, that God will ever wink at your sinful passions; that he will allow for them, as slips and foibles of youth. They are the "cords of your own sins," which, if the power of God's grace break them not in time, will "hold" you for eternity. (Chap. v. 22.) Shun then the society of sin, as the infection of the plague. Keep thy distance from it, as from the pit of destruction. Store thy mind with the preservative of heavenly wisdom. Cultivate the taste for purer pleasures. Listen to the fatherly, pleading remonstrance, inviting thee to thy rest---"'Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, ‘My Father! thou art the guide of my youth?’" (Jer. iii. 4.)

You can view the book on line at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/20-Proverbs/Text/Books/Bridges-ProverbsCommentary/Bridges-Proverbs.pdf or better still buy a hard back copy. Sell all your silly paperback books just to get this.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Prophets Speak of Him - A. Selvaggio

A 200 page masterpiece summary of the minor prophets. Anyone wishing to get an overview of these books of the Scripture will find Anthony Selvaggio's comments illuminating and heart warming. The historical setting and book outlines are set out in a readable format. But what makes this book well worth the £9.00 is that the author gets to who these books are about - the Lord Jesus Christ. Just flicking through the pages with your thumb will enable you to see that many of the chapter subheadings include the Lord Jesus' name. Any preacher considering preaching on the minor prophets will find this a useful devotional primer. When Anthony Selvaggio titles his book - The Prophets Speak of Him - that is exactly what he shows you. One constant thought echoed in my mind as I read this book - how do we preach these books? Was wondering are many of them really one sermon books - getting to who they are all about.
Well worth a place on your OT bookshelf.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How to Read Proverbs Tremper Longman III

This is a piece of sheer genius as regards to getting a handle on Proverbs. It is published by IVP and comes in at around £10.00. Proverbs is not the easiest book in the Bible to get your head round. There are so many pitfalls that a reader or preacher can fall into. Tremper Longman's book will help you to avoid these. The 174 page book consists of some 12 chapters and two apendices. The 12 chapters are divided into three sections: Understanding Proverbs, Reading Proverbs in Context and Following the themes of Proverbs. This book is really the distilled version of the writer's fuller work in the Baker Old Testament Commentary series which should be on the shelf of any preacher considering feeding the flock from this wonderful book of Scripture. (Though it will knock you back some £25.00)

This How to Read volume is a good first step in getting to grips with Proverbs. Any reader will find great value and benefit.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man

Not the sort of book I usually go for. Published by Ambassador and edited by James Williams. The book is some 230 pages of readable and balanced essays on Bible translation. As the subtitle puts it - a layman's view to how we got our Bible. Given that this book is from the stables of some who would be strongly KJV only this makes for a very interesting read.

Any who are struggling with getting their heads around the versions debate this is a calm and reliable read. It was the gracious tone and the scholarly methods that particularly struck me.

Well worth the £7.00

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book Note John Calvin A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology

This is a cracker book published by Reformation Trust. It's hard back for a start - which is always a winner. It is a compellation of 19 essays summarising the life and teaching of John Calvin. Contributors include Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Eric Alexander, Jay Adams, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, Joel Beeke - it is an amazing line up of scholars. The chapters are fairly short and easily read at one sitting. With the variety of authors this book keeps freshness throughout. Every detail of the teaching of the great reformer are covered. Some chapters are absolutely outstanding with the best left to the very end, The Communion of Men with God by Joel Beeke. The five points of Calvinism are covered, Calvin's teaching on the doctrine of the church, union of Christ, the work of the preacher and much more. If you are wanting a summary of Calvin this is the book for you. If you are wanting a primer for getting in to the writings of Calvin - this will help you see the way in.
Any young person not to sure of what Calvin and Calvinism is about must read this.

One word of caution - just because you have read one summary book on Calvin will not make you a Calvin scholar. Anyhow the man himself wouldn't have wanted anyone to become a Calvin scholar. His goal was pointing sinners to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book Comment Total Church Chester & Timmis

The book has the subtitle "a radical reshaping around gospel and community." The writers are part of the Crowded house way of "doing church." While you may not agree with all that these guys have to say you will find this read challenging and stimulating. In the 13 chapters many topics are covered including evangelism, church planting, discipleship, pastoral care, apologetics. The book is dotted throughout with real life examples of people whose lives have been transformed by this focus on community. In no way do the writers dum down the gospel in their attempt to reshape the life of the church around community. These guys definitely have something to say and the book is well worth the read. It is a little weak on applying the principles they outline re life in the church. But maybe that is not a bad thing as each are then allowed to work out the principles for their own situation. As I read the book I couldn't help think that these chaps were simply redoscovering something that the Reformed Presbyterian Church had survived on for a generation - the people of God living together in closely knit lives proclaiming the good news of Christ crucified. Only thing was the Covenanters called their way of doing church, Society meetings.

Book Comment - War of Words Paul Tripp

Another super rescource from the pen of Paul Tripp. As the title suggests this book is dealing with the words that we use. This book deals with the struggles that we face in our communication. The writer sets out the Biblical view on communication. he shows us what lies at the heart of communication breakdown and how struggles are to be sorted out Biblically. As with all Paul Tripp's books there is no superficial DIY answers but a thorough and God centred approach to watching how we speak with one another. This would be a super resource to use as part of a midweek series to help the people of God learn how to communicate in a more Christ honouring manner. This is a vital read for any pastor wanting to help the people of God in their home and church life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scribbling on the Bible

An exhibit at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow has been making the headlines recently. The exhibit is entitled "Untitled 2009" and is part of the "Made in God's Image" exhibition. The item that is presently causing a bit of a stir was suggested by the Metropolitan Community Church in Glasgow and the main thrust of this group is to state that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is not a sin. Rev. Jane Clarke from MCC Glasgow commenting on the idea behind the exhibit stated, "Many people will tell you there are no LGBT people in the Bible so we invited visitors to the exhibition to write their names in a Bible to show that there are." This invitation led to a host of people writing some rather obscene comments on the Bible, which I will spare you. Another part of the exhibition had a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her underwear.

Many have rightly stated that it is hard to imagine the Koran being treated in this way. So how should we respond to this sad piece of so called "art"? Firstly on the Bible being treated in this way. We should be filled with sorrow that men and women would abuse the Word of God rather than listen to it. We should be driven to our knees to pray that God would open the eyes of the blind that they would see the glories of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be like the psalmist with streams of water running down our faces that our fellow human beings would seek to rewrite and therefore reject the message of God.

And as for those who feel that they are left out of the Bible - there is good news. No one is left out of the message of the Bible. All are included - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God....there is no one righteous not even one. All by nature are enemies of the living God. But the good news is that God so loved the world that whosoever believes on Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

That little word whosoever is so inclusive. It includes all sorts of sinners. Jesus Christ alone can turn away the wrath of God that rests on men and women because of their sin - whatever form that sin takes. That whosoever means that Jesus can transform any life, He can make new creations. So if you are reading this please don't feel left out. God speaks about you in his Word - you are a sinner and His Son Jesus Christ is able to save sinners. There is wonderful good news that corrupt and sinful lives can be left behind and the image of God can be remade in you day by day. Paul wrote to believers in Corinth Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I Corinthians 6v9-11

We should pray that as men and women look at this exhibit they will be overcome with the thought that to seek to rewrite what God has said is utter folly and to listen to the Word of the God, who will not be silenced, is the wise option. We should pray that no matter what brand of sin is ruining people's lives that rather than try to find excuse for it that they will flee to Jesus Christ, repent and find the transforming power of the gospel to leave lives of sin behind.

Friday, July 24, 2009

12000 cubic metres of Soil & Noah

The BBC news is carrying some interesting footage of a field in Durham in which 12,000 cubic metres of soil (15000 tonnes of earth) were washed away in a matter of minutes as a river rerouted across a harvest field. A deep canyon like gash gouged out across the land to the amazement of locals. Not that I need any help to believe in the Flood of Genesis but this catastrophic event in a Durham field shows what can happen so quickly. Why do do the scientists not look at these sudden cataclysmic events rather than driving students mad with the millions of years nonsense and uniformitarianism? I guess the god of this age has indeed blinded the minds of unbelievers, and the Bible is right afterall!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Band of Brothers

So what will you do with all that time at uni? Improve your snooker skills, watch Sky sports? What about something that will prepare you for serving Jesus Christ in a way that even your course won't. Sinclair Ferguson writing on the life of John Calvin says that the sharp mind of Calvin and his abilty to get to the heart of what a Scripture text was saying was founded in an "underground fellowship of like minded men." It was this Scripture focussed fellowship that the Lord used to shape his mind and transform his life. Ferguson writes, "Such brotherhoods are the God's chief instruments in stimulating holy living and advancing the gospel."
Wouldn't it be fantastic that if you left not only with a few more letters after your name but really useful for King Jesus? So why not plan for founding your little band of brothers. Your curriculum is simple - study and memorise the Word, learn the basics of NT Greek and read Calvin's Institutes. Who knows - perhaps from your brotherhoods God will raise up some men with something of the devotion and mind of Calvin.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Brothers we are not Professionals, John Piper

30 short punchy chapters to sort out slipping pastors. Took this on holidays this year and was challenged in every chapter. The chapters cover the full spectum of who we are as men, husbands and preachers. It covers what we should preach and how we should preach. Like all of Piper's writings this gets right under the radar and hits where it hurts. Every man thinking of the ministry or in the ministry should read this book yearly. You will not agree with all that John Piper says. He would not expect you too as long as you have a good biblical reason. The chapters that I found most challenging were the ones on prayer, our giving and keeping my languages up to date. In reality every chapter was a gold mine of helpful thoughts. This is a book to read on your knees, praying for forgiveness and grace to be the pastors that the Chief Shepherd wants us to be.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Leagacy of Sovereign Joy, John Piper

This is another outstanding book in Piper's biography series, The Swans are not Silent. This volume of 155 pages covers the lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin. Though available as free audio downloads from Desiring God, there is something about having the words in front of you to ponder and reread. The introduction alone on learning from flawed saints is worth the £8.99. If you want to learn about these three great men of the faith and how to read biographies and distill them then this series by John Piper is a must.

The 24/7 Christian, Anthony Selvaggio

This 175 page devotional commentary on James published by Evangelical Press is a super little study and useful for any Christian. The scattering of Greek throughout and the well marked footnotes of the 14 chapters is evidence that the writer has studied the passages in detail. Though not every paragraph of James is covered in this little book, most passages are referred to at some level. Any commentary on James ought obviously to have application so that faith can be seen at work, and this helpful commentary has plenty of teased out application. It is worth a place on any bookshelf.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Couldn't Find a Bible

Anyone who has had to take a vow or promise in public can surely sympathise with John Roberts the Supreme Court Chief Justice after his faux pas with the swearing in of President Obama. When the powers that be in Washington decided to do a rerun of the inauguration vows one TV news station reported that a Bible couldn't be found. Surely someone somewhere in the ranks of the many who work in the White House had a Bible and could have hurried it to the Whitehouse Map Room.

Not that I am particularly in favour of taking vows on the Bible but I can't help but think that this was a startling illustration of the tragic state of our world today - the Bible is no where to be found. The one book that has the answers for the US and UK and every other nation on earth is pushed to the sidelines. But again this is no great surprise, it is just what the same Word predicted would happen over and over again, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,“when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,but of hearing the words of the Lord. Amos 8v11

When the nations of the earth have the Word of God at the centre of all that happens in their nations there will be blessings untold. Let's hope that President Obama finds a Bible or we are in serious trouble.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Which Are You?

Came across this clipping which I unearthed some time ago from a March 1967 issue of the Covenanter (yes you have guessed how I while away the winter evenings - not!) The poem sounds a bit naff but if you like this sort of thing it punches well above its weight. If you feel the thumps do something about it.

The poem is entitled, Which are You?

Are you and active member, the kind that would be missed?
Or are you just contented that your name is on the list?
Do you attend the meetings and mingle with the flock?
Or do you stay at home and criticise and knock?
Do you take an active part to help the work along.
Or are you satisfied to be the kind that "just belong"?
Do you ever go to visit a member who is sick,
Or leave the work to just a few and talk about the clique?
There is quite a programme schedule that I am sure you've heard about,
And we'll appreciate if you, too, will come and help us out.
So come to the meetings often and help with hand and heart,
Don't just be a member, but take an active part.
Think this over member, you know right from wrong.
Are you and active member, or do you just belong?

Disclaimer: The publisher of this post has no one particularly in mind at the time of posting, but if the hat fits get rid of it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

When People are Big and God is Small, Edward T. Welch

Edward Welch is a lecturer and counsellor with the Christian Counselling and Educational Foundation in Glenside, Pennsylvania. In this book the writer deals with overcoming peer pressure, codependency and the fear of man. The book comprises some 239 pages and divides in to two main sections. In section one the writer deals with how and why we fear others. In the second half of the book, the main section, overcoming the fear of others is the focus. Welch deals well with the Biblical theme "the fear of the Lord." He has that uncanny knack of prising the lid off our lives to show the factory of idols that lie within. The main argument that Welch unpacks is that we need people for our own sakes rather than loving them for God's glory. The writer's intent is to bring us to the point where we need people less and love them more. This is a book for every Christian to read. It will bring you to your knees in repentance. It is also a helpful volume for anyone wishing to build up a good resource library for counselling. The conclusion to the book is simply wonderful - fear God and keep His commandments.