Monday, December 27, 2010

Living the Resurrection, Eugene Peterson, Navpress

Eugene Peterson's writing always has that surprise factor. This volume on living in light of the resurrection is no exception. This is a short volume - just three chapters and then a long appendix on the text from the Message on the resurrection passages. The three chapters each have that usual Peterson twist and each page has that ability to make you stop and read a paragraph again because you simply never thought of it like that before. This is not a major study on the resurrection by any means but a useful thought provoking angle on familiar topics and tying them in to the resurrection eg. work, Sabbath keeping, Lord's Supper and baptism.
Worth a read if you are doing some thinking about the significance of the resurrection but not that valuable if your book shelf on the resurrection is to be limited to one or two volumes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lifted - Experiencing the Resurrection, Sam Allberry

Well yes I was - lifted. Decided to do a bit of reading around the resurrection over the past few months. Nothing too heavy at the start - just wanted my heart warmed and my soul stirred to deeper devotion for the Lord Jesus. And that is exactly what I found when reading and pondering this excellent book on the resurrection by Sam Allberry.
This 142 page book punches well above its weight. After a short introduction on the facts surrounding the resurrection the writer has four chapters: Assurance, transformation, hope and mission. Each chapter includes a well thought out exposition and application of one or several portions of Scripture. The writer has some wonderful turns of phrase. It is heart warming, soul satisfying and stirring. He is keen that the doctrine of the resurrection does what God intended it to do - ignite our lives. My favourite chapter was the third one entitled - Hope. In this chapter he deals with the physical resurrection of our bodies. Anyone wishing to raise their spiritual temperature a few degrees would do well to read this little gem. Here is a super paragraph to whet your appetite.
"The resurrection demonstrates who Jesus is. It is not meant to be just some mega-miracle, or trump card for the existence of God. It speaks powerfully of the identity of Jesus. We can be assured that he is exactly who he claimed to be. And because of that same resurrection, we can also be assured that he achieved in his death exactly what he said he would--we can be assured of our salvation." pg. 34

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Scandalous, D.A. Carson

This recent publication by IVP comprises of five addresses that the writer gave at a Resurgence conference at Mars Hill, Seattle. They focus on the cross and the resurrection:
1. The ironies of the Cross (Matthew 27v27-51a
2. The whole centre of the Bible (Romans 3v21-26)
3. The strange triumph of a slaughtered lamb (Revelation 12)
4. A miracle full of surprises (John 11)
5. Doubting the resurrection (John 20v24-31)
Each of these chapters is clearly subdivided, presumably with the headings that the writer used in his preaching. Each chapter contains the usual exegetical depth that one is used to with Dr. Carson. Each chapter is a wonderful blend of sound detailed explanation of the text with warm hearted stirring application.
This volume would make a useful help for daily devotions and at the same time provide good help for those preaching on any of these passages.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Shelter in the time of Storm, Paul Tripp

Every now and then you come across a book and you think - everyone needs to read and inwardly digest. This is one of those books. It is a series of 52 meditations on Psalm 27. A few of the reflections are poems - but don't let that put you off - they are super and prise open the thoughts. Each of the short chapters can be read in a new minutes but the outworking will take the rest of your life. Each chapter is filled with Paul Tripp's inimitable heart revealing style. As always he gets to the sin under the sin and it looks as if he is reading your mind.
If you are looking for presents for someone for the weeks ahead and you really love them - by them this book. Not only is it filled with nuggets of wisdom on psalm 27 - it will also in a by the way sort of manner teach you how to ponder the Scripture and let it seep into your life.
Cracker book to use as part of your personal devotions, family worship or a study with someone.
I have been raving about this book to family and friends. My raving went off the raving scale when I read chapter 50 this morning, "What gives the psalms their meaning and depth? The thing that the psalms point to again and again isn't a thing at all. No it is a person, and His name is Jesus. It is not as if some of the psalms are Messianic; all of the psalms point to the person and work of the Saviour in some way! Psalm 27 is a powerful example."
That reason alone is sufficient for me to say - there is only one thing that I want to sing on this earth - the songs of Zion and as I sing to pray - LORD - rivet this truth deep into my soul that I may know day in and day out shelter in the time of storm.
Dear Mr Tripp - I doubt that you will ever read this blog - but if you do - please please make it the work of the rest of your days to do the same for all the rest of the psalms.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Church Planter, Darrin Patrick

I have to confess it was the online movie type trailer that made me buy this book on church planting. And like all movies - the book is better. Darrin Patrick is vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network and the founding pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis. Although you will find nothing particularly new in this volume it is draws together many aspects of planting into one volume. I agree with Tim Keller (I am sure he is glad about that!) "Church planters should all read this."
The book is divided into three main areas - the man, the message and the mission. The book commences with a rivetting preface in which he calls men to be real men and not "bans". That is Patrick's way of speaking of men who never grow up and are still playing about with games consoles and not being real men. The second chapter on call to ministry is well worth buying the book for. He says that any man interested in being a church planter should be willing to take hits in decision making. I would take that further - any man considering the ministry in any shape or form - if you are not up for the tough time, the slog, the plod, the pain, the tears, the heartbreak - then forget it - be a postman - at least you will only get bitten by dogs. Other chapters in section one include - qualifications for ministry, what it means to be skilled in ministry and what it is to shepherd the people of God. Chapter 7 on being a determined man is a super chapter filled with Biblical reasoning on why to keep on in the ministry and how to.
In the second section - chapters 8-12 (The Message) you can see that this guy really does know his stuff and has gleaned amongst the "Big boys" for his theology. His chapter on Salvation Accomplishing is John Murray's classic Redemption Accomplished and Applied in jeans and t shirt. In Chapter 10 it is clear that Patrick knows the things to beware of out there - moralism, relativism etc. and once more has some cracker footnotes. In dealing with exposing sin he quotes the Shorter Catechism and John Knox and that in itself gains him kudos. His chapter on Idol Shattering is classic Keller - calling preachers to expose the sin under the sin.
In the final section - chapter 13-17 the writer deals with mission. Chapter 13 did concern me somewhat when he quotes Theresa of Avila and Hans Kung. But don't let that put you off the book. Chapter 14 on the church and mission lacks a covenantal approach, but his classification on types of churches is helpful and challenging. Chapter 15 on contextualisation will no doubt raise a few eyebrows for some but there is much here that is very thought provoking about reaching the masses with the gospel. Patrick does well in keeping away from the dangerous edges of contextualisation. The final few chapters on care and city transformation conclude the book.
All in all - a good read. You will not agree with everything and strongly disagree with some things (E.g. his comments on the Sabbath). But this is well worth the read. Why not team up with a few others to read and discuss.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sad Day for Scotland

Many mornings I feel like weeping when I tune in the to BBC4 news and so was the case today. I woke to hear that the Free Church of Scotland is changing their position on worship. According to the highest court of their church each session is now at liberty to use materials other than the psalms for use in worship and also allowed to use instruments in public worship if they so wish. Why would the BBC cover such information? Like many across the land they think that this is a nice movement with the times. Personally I would be very afraid if the BBC commented with even the slightest tone of favour of anything that I did. What the public wants seems to have won again - after all one of the arguments of the men for change was that somehow singing psalms was keeping people away.
When the church develops a loose approach to what should happen in public worship history seems to show that this is the beginning of times of decline. I trust and pray that this is not the case for the Free Church, but only time will tell.
So very quickly changing to letting a session chose for itself could become a total abandoning of the book of praise (no matter what is presently placed in church order) that Christ has commanded for the exclusive use of His church. Soon the people of God may not know these words that Christ Himself sang knowing that they were filled with Him. Soon the people of God may not know the joy of having these words embedded in their minds for the day of trouble.
What a sad day for Scotland. Thank God some still hold to the Biblical teaching of non accompanied exclusive psalmody. And those who do stand firm - don't ever feel ashamed or that somehow Christ is limited by the singing of psalms - you stand with the vast majority of the history of the church of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 05, 2010

This little church had none - Gary Gilley

This is the third in a series of books by Gary Gilley. And you have guessed it the two previous ones were called "This little church went to market" and "This little church stayed at home." These classic books are no fairy tale laughing matter - but serious truth that the church must grasp. The author has a wonderful gift of putting his finger right on the trouble spot in the modern church. He has a knack of not only identifying what is going on in the church by way of being influenced by the world, but also how to get out of the mess. The present volume divides into three parts: Obstacles to the truth; The way back and Evangelism. In the first section 6 present day threats to evangelical church life are described: Seeker sensitive adjustment, The Emergent church goes ancient, Invasion of paganism, The prosperity gospel goes mainstream, The challenge of pragmatism, and The new atheism. In the second main section the writer describes how only a renewed confidence in the Word of God and pastoring with open eyes are the way back from the mess that the church is in in many places. The final section is a cracker on apologetic evangelism and a must for anyone interested in reaching the lost. Three of the final 4 chapters are written by co author Jay Wegter.
If you are involved in ministry in any form you need to read this book and the two previous volumes. If you are a young person who imagines that your church is fuddy duddy and why can't we do what other churches are doing - YOU NEED TO READ THIS and be thankful to God for what you have. Every pastor preacher needs to read these and be aware of the threats that are out there and can so easily creep into the church.
This book is a wonderful gift to the church for inoculation or recovery. Switch off the TV, log off the computer and read!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Reformed Pastor - Richard Baxter

Each year after the RP minister's conference I try to make a list of things that need seeing to in my life and ministry. One of the points on this year's list was to read again this classic.
I first read this abridged version of the Reformed Pastor nearly twenty years ago when training for the ministry. It is 125 pages of absolute gold dust. It is Baxter's exposition of Acts 20v28 "Take heed therefore unto yourselves." The book has three main sections: oversight of ourselves; oversight of the flock and a third section of pure application. The first two sections each have three subsections: nature, manner and motives re oversight. Every page is littered with sentences worthy of the highlighter pen. Obviously it is primarily for the pastor but since Baxter took time to include a preface for the "lay reader" it is a book designed to be a blessing to all of the people of God. If the Lord spares me to labour on in the ministry for 20 more years I hope to have read this 20 more times. Any man training for the ministry must track this down and read it and reread it until it becomes the warp and woof of your life.
Ps - on the look out for one of these trendy preaching caps and trying to work on the facial hair!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Depression - the stubborn Darkness Ed. Welch

Whether you are someone who suffers from depression, has someone in your family under this dark cloud or are involved in counselling and pastoring, this classic of Ed Welch's is a must. The book is set out in four parts: Depression is suffering; Listening to depression; Other help and advice and Thinking God's thoughts. Welch's approach is Biblical and therefore balanced. As a counsellor of many years the author is obviously drawing on a host of experiences to flesh out the theory. As a teacher committed to the Scripture the writer is making it clear that the answer is not in the pills alone, but much deeper, in having the Word of God shape every corner of the mind.
This book will not only help someone trapped in the spiral of depression and those helping others but will also serve as an inoculation against this debilitating condition.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

God's passion for His Glory - John Piper

This book has the appropriate sub title, "living the vision of Jonathan Edwards." In this book Piper is introducing the reader to Edward's classic "The end for which God created the world." This book is really Piper explaining why he thinks the way that he does regarding the glory of God and the joy we all need.
The book divides neatly into two - the first half is Piper's summary of Edward's book with lots of helpful hints on how to read the latter half of the book with profit. The second half is Edward's masterpiece itself. Piper does a super job in breaking up the text of Edward's book into short readable sections and also inserts some explanations to assist the reader getting in to the groove of Edwards style. Most readers will have no difficulty reading Piper's half of the book, and there is much there to glean. The second half, i.e. Edwards book, is much more of a challenge. The first half of "The end for which God created the world" is quite philosophical and I have to confess that much went over my wee head. But the second part of Edward's book is by and large quotations from the Scripture which I hope went into me head. If you read it and grasp it all be sure to send me a summary. As I struggled with the paragraphs I plodded on remembering what Piper says early in the book - if you are just reading books that you understand you will never learn anything. To learn and grow it is better to be grappling with things just out of reach.
Any young men out there thinking of the ministry who haven't read any Edwards - it is time that you did. If I could wind the clock back 30 years I would give myself to reading Edwards day and daily. All his works are now available online. If you don't want squinty eyes the Yale volumes are now available in paperback. Though there does seem to me something a bit odd about reading such a heavy weight in paperback.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pope's visit - blessing or tragedy?

While many are rejoicing that the pope has visited the UK - all right thinking believers should weep. The system that the pope represents is utterly opposed to the gospel. It robs Jesus Christ of His glory at every turn. Nowhere is that robbery seen more clearly in how sinners are saved. Roman Catholicism boils down to a top up religion. It is quite happy to speak of Jesus Christ dying for sinners. But in Roman Catholicism what He did on the cross just wasn’t enough. It needs topped up at every turn with masses, prayers of the saints, intercession of Mary, penance, indulgences, baptism, anointing with oil. These additions make Roman Catholicism no gospel at all. It is a religion of works that denies the power of the life and death of Jesus Christ. The message of the Bible is so very different from the message of Rome. The Bible says that sinners are declared right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. It was that key Biblical truth that the Reformation brought again to the fore and delivered many from the darkness of the works religion of Roman Catholicism.

Below are ten ways (mainly gleaned from an Evangelicals Now article) that Roman Catholicism differs from the gospel:

1. The Bible - Roman Catholicism has a different Bible. Along with the books of the Bible that we find in ours they add 15 other books. These are called the Apocrypha. The Lord Jesus never referred to these and when the apostles made note of some verses it was only to refute false teachers. Roman Catholicism also puts church tradition on the same level as the Bible. A Roman Catholic Catechism states “Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God.” Catechism of the Catholic Church This is against what the Bible says in II Timothy 3v16&17.

2. The Pope - Roman Catholicism believes that the pope is in the place of Jesus Christ. They refer to him as the “Vicar of Christ.” Vatican I claimed supreme authority and infallibility for the pope and though this was somewhat modified by Vatican II papal infallibility is still part of Roman Catholic teaching. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the true vicar of Christ. The pope is often seen as receiving homage from his cardinals and the people. The pope fits the bill for the Anti Christ II Thessalonians 2v4.

3. Priests - At a Roman Catholic’s priest’s ordination he is said to receive special grace which he can communicate to others E.g. he can hear confession and forgive sins. The Bible makes it clear that there is one mediator between God and man I Timothy 2v5

4. Transubstantiation - Roman Catholicism believers that the bread and wine turn into the physical body and blood of Christ. This is a perversion of Matthew 26v26. The reason that Roman Catholics only receive the bread is in case the cup is spilt and the blood of Christ is therefore spilt.

5. The Mass - This is the key part of Roman Catholic worship. In it the priest offers the bread, the body, as a sacrifice to God. But the Bible says that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross never needs to be repeated.

6. Baptism - Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism make the person a Christian. Their Catechism states, “Through baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God.” The Bible says that personal faith in Christ is the way to be saved Acts 16v31.

7. Penance - Roman Catholicism teaches that the priest has the power to forgive sin and impose some task to test if the person is really sorry and make some satisfaction to God for the sin. The Bible is clear that we have nothing to offer to God to try and satisfy Him.

8. Purgatory - Roman Catholicism teaches that really good Christians go straight to heaven but that the rest go to purgatory to work their passage. Again this is directly opposed to the gospel. In Luke 23v43 the Lord Jesus promised the thief that he would be in heaven in an instant.

9. Indulgences - Rome teaches that because of unused merit built up through Jesus death and the good lives of saints they are able to offer special deals for money given to the Roman Catholic Church. In exchange for money or favours the time in Purgatory can be reduced. It was this wicked practice that Martin Luther spoke out against and kick started the Reformation.

10. Mary - Roman Catholicism claims that Mary was a perpetual virgin, that she was free from sin, was taken body and soul to heaven where she now prays for her church. Again this is contrary to the Bible. Mark 6v3 shows that she had other children. Luke 1v47 shows she was a sinner declaring Jesus as Saviour.

Roman Catholicism is a wicked and anti Christian system - at every point seeking to take glory from the Lord Jesus and His finished work. What makes it particularly dangerous is that it often uses Biblical terms, though with a different meaning.

No doubt there are true believers within the system. We would recognise also that Rome is clearer on some matters than many evangelicals, E.g. abortion and homosexuality. But in the end it is not the gospel that we find in our Bibles and is taking many people to a lost eternity.

As a denomination we hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith’s position on the pope and the system he represents, "There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God."

The majority of the people of this island have been laid astray by this deadly error. Our hearts should break at the thought of so many without God and without hope. May the prayer of Paul be our prayer, Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Romans 10v1

Remember most of our so called Protestant neighbours are Roman Catholics at heart - believing that somehow their religious activities will gain God’s favour.

When we are witnessing to our Roman Catholic friends there are some key things to remember:

1. Roman Catholic people have often a reverence for the things of God that nominal Protestants do not. They will be willing to speak of the things of God - so do so.

2. Don’t launch in to sorting out every error in their theology immediately. Their greatest need is to see the sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Encourage them to read and study the Bible with you. As you do this - they will be able to see from the pages of the Bible why the Lord Jesus is all that is needed.

4. Though most may be suspicious of coming to a meeting - they may well be open to reading a tract.

5. Tell them that you are opposed to organisations like the Orange Order and that being a Protestant Is not equivalent to being a unionist.

6. Speak to them about your own testimony and what it means for you to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way.

7. Speak to them about heaven and why you are sure that you are going there.

8. Love and care for them as you word anyone. Take time to get to know them having them to your home and with your family.

9. Ask if there are things in their lives that you could pray for.

10. Remember that once they are converted there will be many battles ahead for them. Give assurance of the love and support of you and your church.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Counterfeit gods Tim Keller

This is another cracker little hard back book from the preaching and teaching of Tim Keller. It has the apt sub title, When the empty promises of love, money and power let you down. Anyone interested in preaching in a 21st century relevant style should read Keller's stuff. This is super stuff for fueling apologetic preaching with a bite. In this volume Keller covers: love, money, success, power and a most challenging chapter on hidden idols. What makes this book so helpful is that he not only uncovers the idol factory of our hearts but shows the remedy - devotion for Jesus Christ. Not sure if this is available in paperback yet - but if it is - then why not order five and give away to some thinking non Christian friends. It will stimulate some cracking conversation.

Ministries of Mercy Tim Keller

This book has been around since 1989 and only now am I getting to read it. In typical Keller style the parable of the Good Samaritan is unpacked in a way that no one else could. His basic thesis is that as believers we are called individually and together to mercy ministry. This is a call for us to open our eyes and see the wounded and dying all around and to minister to them in the name of Jesus Christ. The book is divided into two main parts - principles and practice. I have to admit I started to read this in the camp of thinking - "don't get caught up in mercy ministry it will lead you away from gospel proclamation." Having read this through once I am now in the camp of thinking, "one reason why we have so little success in gospel proclamation is that we are so little involved in mercy ministry." This is a book I plan to reread and work the principles out into my life and the lives of those around me. This is a book for every deacon to read and inwardly digest. It is a book for every church member to read in order to get involved and spearhead mercy ministry in the church.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

FACEBOOK Stop wasting your life!

This is a call to all RP young people, and perhaps not so young people, who are obsessed with social networking sites.
GET OFF FACEBOOK. I could be more balanced and say - limit your time - but I reckon that for many it is gobbling up your time and there is only one option - flee.
Work it out - how many hours are you spending a week - chatting to friends and acquaintances about absolutely nothing - where you have been, where you are going, what you are wearing? Does it really matter! Is there not something more beneficial that to you could be obsessed with. Why not finish that Christian book that you started three months ago and ought really to have been finished in three days, or visit that elderly person who is so lonely in your neighbourhood.
If you want to use face book -go ahead - but fill it with what matters - not your latest holiday snaps, your latest gadget or clothing - fill if with what you are learning about King Jesus and the things you have been discovering about Him. Fill up your pages with - how can I reach my friends and family?
And you guys who read this - if you are frittering away your time on face book - catch yourself on - isn't there something more manly that you could be doing. Isn't there someone you could disciple?
You see Facebook and every other thing like it is the world's empty shell of the privilege that God gives us to be really involved in other people's lives. We are not to be peeping from a distance - but right up close and personal pressing the life changing word of Jesus Christ into one another's lives. Think of the millions of Christians who must be on face book - hour after hour. Think of the work of the kingdom that could be done if it was invested in making disciples.
Before you sign off take a look and listen to this:

Saturday, July 31, 2010

CrossTalk Michael Emlet

Yet another from the CCEF stable. The book is subtitled "Where life and Scripture Meet." And that is really what it is about - how to take the Word and rightly apply it to the lives of men and women that we counsel. The book is hammering out the historical redemptive approach to the Scripture. The author is keen that we don't just use the usual familiar texts but that we learn how to use the narrative portions as well. The eleven chapters are well peppered with practical examples, if not templates showing how to press the Word into people's lives in a life changing way.
Once more this an excellent book not only to have on your counselling bookshelf but to have read and taken in. To help on the intake - each chapter ends with a good selection of questions which a well thought out. I found the book helpful in applying the Scripture to my own life and how to apply it to others - both in preaching and counselling.

The Trellis and the Vine, Marshall & Payne

I had read some rave reviews of this book and so when I spotted it at the International Conference I decided to lighten Tom's van for the return journey home. The book lived up to the publicity hype. At the start I thought - not much new here - but the author's have that way of sucking you in and then wham I was caught. So much so that I sat engrossed in it for the entire two hour journey back on the boat last night. It is about ministry in the church. The basic premise is that if we do one man ministry in the church the wheels will come off or the church simply won't grow as she should. It is really down to a II Timothy 2v2 approach - training others to make disciples How I wish I had read this 20 years ago when training for the ministry. I kept thinking that this book could have so many provocative sub titles - why Go teams produce so little fruit, why RP church plants struggle, why RP congregations plateau out at 60 people, why reformed churches have ministerial casualties, why we are not getting the men we need in the ministry, why established congregations spend so much energy on keeping the structures of the past in place. If any of these sub title strike a chord - read and buy. You will not agree with all that these guys say - but you certainly will be challenged, perhaps humbled and hopefully changed

The Holiness of God R.C. Sproul

I had been keeping this for my holiday read. I wanted something to prime the pump of my daily devotions, something to stir me when I was tired and weary. This little classic didn't let me down. Eleven chapters of clear and concise Biblical teaching on the holiness of God and how this touches down in our lives. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this was to read. Each chapter carefully crafted and climaxing in a corker of a chapter on holy space and holy time. It is one of those books that deserves a second read with a highlighter pen just to really take in some of Sproul's mind capturing one liners.
Each chapter concludes with 5 or 6 appropriately stimulating questions which would be useful not only for person study but also for group discussion.
I was glad to find that this book was so good because I bought a box full on the recommendation of a friend. If you would like a copy - I am happy to pass one (a book and not a box) on to you the next time we meet - just ask.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God in the Wasteland - David Wells

If you have a head on your shoulders at all you will realize that the church in many places is in big trouble. One committed Christian man said to me recently about his church, which is packed to over flowing each week - "it is a mile wide and an inch deep." David Wells would not be long in explaining why to my friend.
The author is in a league of his own when assessing where the church is at today. With intricate and careful research David Wells pieces together the factors that have shaped and honed the church of today. Granted that he is primarily speaking of the situation in the US. But it is not too difficult to transplant his thesis to the church this side of the shuck.
This book was assigned reading at RTC back in the early 90s. Having revisited it 20 years on I benefited even more this time round. Well's desire is the the church be what God intended her to be. "I want the church to be an alternative to post modern culture, not a mere echo of it."
In a day and age when the church is losing her way big time pastors need to sit up and read this book if they are to be God's men for reform.
Just another quote to whet your appetite "Churches imagine that the less they ask or expect of believers, the more popular they will become and the more contented the worshippers will be. The reverse is true."
It is not a read for the sun or a bedtime browse. But if you can hide away the warnings and grapple with some of the diagnosis - you may well be God's agent of reform in your church, or at least a plug in a crumbling wall.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Seeing with New Eyes David Polinson

Another classic from the CCEF stable. This masterpiece by leading CCEF counselor David Powlinson does what it says on the page - seeing with new eyes. His book divides into two basic sections. The first ties 6 chapters together under the theme "Scripture opens Blind Eyes." A number of these are basic exegesis and application of Scripture passages. The latter section of the book, comprises 9 chapters under the theme of "reinterpreting life." In this section Powlinson deals with many of the unbiblical counseling ideas that many Christians have imbibed.
Any one wishing to develop more pastoral counseling into their preaching should read the first section and anyone wishing to help people out of the fog of much modern day counseling should read the second section. That means it's a must for anyone in pastoral ministry.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Fruitful Life Jerry Bridges

Anything by Jerry Bridges is well worth the read. This one comes in the style of the Pursuit of Holiness. If you want to slip along challenge free in the Christian life then I recommend that you don't read this book or indeed any book of Bridges. On the other hand if you are desiring to grow in grace and deal with the sin that remains within - then take up and read. the book comprises 12 simple chapters covering - yes you guessed it - the fruit of the Spirit. Each chapter takes about 10-15 minutes to read and a lifetime to learn. The author takes each of the fruit of the Spirit in turn and unpacks the meaning with the help of other Scripture. At the end of each chapter there are helpful study questions that get the truth driven in deep. This is a most helpful book to use as part of a daily devotions or study for a small group.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Speaking Truth in Love David Powlison

For any minister, student for the ministry or church member who desires to speak the truth of God's Word into people's lives this book is a must read. It is another volume from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation stable. The book consists of two main sections: Part 1 Speaking Truth in Love and Part 2 We Grow Up Together. In the first section the writer deals with many of the practicalities of counseling - preparation, what questions to ask, how to illustrate your counseling and how to help people who have been to every other counseling avenue under the sun. The second part deals mainly with the role of the church in counseling and the vital topic of how to get more training in the field.
As with every CCEF book I have read I ended this one with the realization - I need to read that again with a pen and paper in hand. I think I have said it before - if you are serious in speaking the truth of God's Word in to people's lives in preaching and pastoring - then buy and read every book that these guys print. I wish I had these books when I was at theological college - perhaps I would have seen more people's lives changed by the Word than I have over these past 16 years.
If I am spared by God to minister for another 16 years I will be making the wise pastoral counsel of CCEF materials the core of my ministering of the Word of Christ from home to home.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Marathon Completed

Yesterday in superb weather conditions James and I plotted our way round the 26 odd miles of the Belfast marathon. Just under two weeks ago I developed a nasty foot injury in the last stages of training and honestly thought I was going to have to pull out. But with daily treatment and no running except for two very short slow jogs at the end of last week we lined up in front of the city hall yesterday morning. Within half a mile my foot was sore. By mile 12 the pain was getting close to the unbearable level - but hobbled on not wanting to go back to all those kind people who sponsored me and said I didn't make it. By mile 17 the pain seemed to lessen, or was simply masked a little with the escalating pain in my right knee and thigh. By this stage I was noticing that James was looking like the proverbial ghost and my attention shifted to keeping him going. By mile 19 I knew that apart from my foot breaking I was going to finish.
And after 4 hours 19 minutes and 57 seconds we crossed the finish line.
So what kept a nearly 48 year old man going for that length of time? On many occasions during the run, as I battled with the pain in my foot and leg, I thought of those for whom facing another day with prostate cancer is a much more challenging marathon and could I not cope with a few hours? The voices of the people along the way was most helpful too with their kind words of encouragement to keep going. But most especially the words that one of the church members gave me on Sabbath evening to him who has no might he increases strength. We repeated it often in the course of the 26 and a bit miles and by His grace we made it.
Thank you to all who sponsored us for The Prostate Cancer Charity. Not to late to donate yet. James and I are now hoping to make the £1000 mark over the next few days.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marathon Challenge

My son James and I are planning DV to run the Belfast marathon at the start of May. We are in the final weeks of training and so far no major injuries. A few weeks back we decided that we should put our pain to some good use, i.e. raise some money for charity. The charity that we are running for is The Cancer Prostate Charity. At present I have one family member and one friend coping with various stages of this common cancer. The stats for the UK are pretty alarming: one man dies every hour from prostate cancer, 35,000 men are diagnosed with this each year.

The deal is easy. James and I take the pain of training for a running the marathon – and YOU kindly donate – and men and their families throughout the UK benefit. We are hoping to raise £500 between us so your generosity will be most appreciated. You can sponsor us in one of two ways: follow the link below and donate on line or the next time you see either of us sign up on our form. All donations gratefully received.

Sponsor Us

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Broken Down House - Paul Tripp Book Note

This is a must read for anyone really interested in living for Christ in a world gone mad. The author uses a vivid illustration throughout of the broken down house. This picture ties all 16 chapters together. The picture is simple - the world is not how God created it in the beginning - it is broken by sin. But thank God through the finished work of Jesus Christ a restoration work has commenced that will one day reach its conclusion.
The author teases out many life applications of living in the now and not yet. What I found particularly helpful was relearning that the church is not perfect yet - it is a work in process. My experience of the ministry is that problems arise in the church because God's people forget that the work isn't finished yet.
Having read through this book once I am now planning to go through it a second time with a notebook and perhaps produce some sort of study guide.
I wish I could afford to by a box of these and give them to all my friends.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blame it on the Brain? - Book Note

If you are interested in any way in counseling yourself or others this is a must read. The author is Edward Welch from the CCEF stable. After three chapters on Biblical foundations there are three other sections covering Alzheimers, head Injury, Depression, ADD, homosexuality, and alcoholism. The basic thesis of the book states - we have to be careful that we are not blaming things on the brain that are just sinful patterns. To that end the author covers things that can be blamed on t he brain, matters that the brain may be blamed for and aspects of life that the brain didn't do. To work out which is which you will have to read the book.
The thing about these books from CCEF is that they are full of Bible and not man made wisdom. Anyone interested in counseling or giving any pastoral counsel should buy and read anything that CCEF publish.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

When I Don't Desire God - John Piper - Book Comment

What a way to kick off the reading for 2010. This is the best Piper book that I have read to date. The title is exactly what the book is about. Each of the 12 chapters has several really quality gems for the warming of the heart. Like all Piper's books it is dripping with his Christian hedonism thoughts. His aim in this book is to stir readers to find all their joy in Christ and what to do when that joy is dimmed in our hearts. For several chapters he discusses fighting for joy and how to do that through the great truths of the Christian faith. The chapters on fighting for joy through the Word, world and prayer I found particularly helpful. The last chapter, When the darkness does not lift, would be of particular help to anyone who struggles with depression. They are many lessons throughout this book for those who are called to pastor God's people not least the quotes in the final chapter from John Newton as he sought to help the struggling Cowper.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Real Men Find Church too Girly

The title is from an interesting article from the Times on 27th January. Apparently church services are now 70% female and only 30% male. The article suggested that girly love songs were the turn off for men along with men wearing frocks. Think of the torture a man would have to go through to sing song 912 in Mission Praise, Oh I was made for this to know your tender feet were made to dance...or 943 There is none like you none else can touch my heart like you...or 980 Draw me close to you...never let me feel your warm embrace. What man in his right mind would sing that even if he wasn't an exclusive psalm singer!
So what will bring men back to church? Obviously only the renewing power of the Spirit of God will make men and women willing to bow before King Jesus. Yet alongside of this God uses means like proper preaching, robust Biblical worship, and Biblical leadership. I don't imagine that the apostles were men with manicured nails, soft voices and all proper. The Lord called rough fishermen to be his instruments for taking the gospel to the world. I can't imagine any of them swinging along in a church service repeating I love Jesus over and over in a mindless manner. No those real men sang real songs, warrior songs, actions songs, battle songs, songs that spoke of heroism, sacrifice and commitment. And the good news is - we still have them - the PSALMS!
And as for preaching. The preaching of the Lord Jesus Christ drew men to be fishers of men. His call was to follow, give up all, go, leave everything, there is a world to reach, sinners to save, no turning back, be radical, fall before His Kingly power. When the preaching of pulpits rings with His Word and His Spirit moves the hearts of men - the pews will fill with men wanting to be the real men that only the gospel will make them.
I am so thankful that as I look round my congregation that it teems with real men.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Anthony Selvaggio's short devotional commentary on Proverbs is well worth the buy. It is published by Shepherd Press and retails for around £8.00. It is not in any way a deep commentary on the passage but a study of various themes in Proverbs. Just short of 200 pages this book would be helpful for anyone wishing to get a handle on Proverbs. There are six parts to the book: An opening section called Foundations where the author has some helpful introductory comments on the book. His section on seeing Jesus in Proverbs is first class and that alone is a good reason for buying the book. The second section is on the theme of work, the third on wealth, the fourth on friends, the fifth on marriage and the sixth on children.
Anyone wanting to preach on this book will find help here especially for the latter half of Proverbs. It is an excellent book for personal devotions also.