Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Bassa Heart, Gbile Akanni & Noel Davidson

A Bassa Heart is a biography of Robert Hyslop who left Northern Ireland to go to work amongst the Bassa people of central Nigeria. Having had the privilege of being in Kogi state to minister to some Bassa pastors in May 2011 I was naturally fascinated by this account of how the Lord used one man for the blessing of many. If you are after a literary masterpiece you will be frustrated by this volume. If you are wanting to witness how God works amidst the imperfections of His people then this will encourage you. There was much in this account of an independent missionary that I simply couldn't square with the Scripture - praying for raising from the dead, independency, tongue speaking. However there was much in this biography that warmed and stirred the heart. Robert Hyslop had what any servant of God needs, a heart for the people and a passion for the honour of the Lord. If you have interest in mission in Nigeria this will stir you and inform you. I had that sense in reading that this man was a giant in the faith, sold out on serving Jesus Christ. On reading this book I couldn't help but think of what McCheyne said, that it was great likeness to Christ that the Lord blesses. Mr. Hyslop displayed that likeness in sacrifice, service and faith.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Planting, watering, growing, Edt Hyde & Lems

At the start of 2011 I set out to read as many church planting books as I could. This has definitely been the best. It was the sub title that caught my attention: Planting confessionally reformed churches in the 21st century. The book is a collection of papers, twenty one in all covering every aspect of church planting. There are four main parts to this book: The foundation of church planting; The methods of church planting; The work of church planting and The context of church planting. Michael Horton is the best known of the contributors. Any one interested in church planting needs to read this book. It is scholarly enough to be part of a college course and readable enough for benefit to all. A good book to study with a fellow church planter. Fuel for the fire.
Publisher: Reformation heritage books. £14.00

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Masculine Mandate, Richard Philips, Reformation Trust

Sadly many men have lost their way - some become arrogant and abusive others effeminate and weak - and that is just in the church. This book is a tool for making real men. Real books have hard backs and a dust cover - so this book was off to a good start. The content is first class. Unlike many books for men this one is rooted in the Scripture. The writer takes the principles of Genesis and presses them in to all the avenues of a man's life. There are 13 chapters with good discussion questions at the end. The book is comprised of two parts: Understanding our mandate (1-5) and Living our mandate(6-13). Chapters 1-5 cover the basics of the principle of keeper king. Chapters 6-8 work this out in marriage, 9&10 in the family, 11 in friendship amongst men, 12 in the church and 13 finishes off with a general chapter on servants of the Lord.
Every wife or prospective wife should buy this for her man. Every man who loves his wife or is looking for one should read this book and inwardly digest by the grace of God.
Ideal for a men's fellowship or reading through with another man on a one to one.
My father used to have a saying about a real man - "he had hairs on his chest like shot leaks!" This will put some spiritual hair on your chest.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Message of the Resurrection, Paul Beasley-Murray

This is the last in the series of my reading on the resurrection for this year. This book is part of the IVP Bible Themes Series. The writer takes each of the main NT references on the resurrection and gives a short commentary. This is a very helpful study with good insights from the original language. The sound exegesis is matched by warm application. One or two areas in which I would disagree with the writer especially in a few side references to baptism. This is a well worthwhile read, informing the mind and touching the heart. There is an accompanying study guide at the end which would be fruitful of itself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Preaching Resources on Esther

Just finished a series on Esther. Had hoped to get through in about 4 sermons but became 7. Some resources that I found useful.
The NIV Application Commentary, Karen Jobes. Helpful and a must for preachers.
Esther & Ruth, Reformed Expository Commentary, Iain Duguid. Useful preaching ideas.
The Gospel in Esther, Stephen Sykes. A bit fanciful in places but thought provoking.
Unspoken Lessons about the Unseen God, Derek Prime. Typical Welwyn. Not great deal of depth, useful for devotions.
God Behind the Scenes, Luter & Davis, Expositor's guide to Historical books. I didn't like this at the start but it sort of grew on me. Helpful for some study on Hebrew words and some interesting reflections.
Esther, Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale. Helpful.
Lectures on the book of Esther, Thomas M'Crie. Very helpful solid insights. Reprinted
Tim Keller (Redeemer Central)
Ian Hamilton (Cambridge Presbyterian)
Christopher Ash (Gospel Coalition)
Geoff Thomas (Gospel Coalition)
Andy McCracken (Sermon Audio)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unspoken Lessons about the Unseen God, Prime

This is one of the Welwyn devotional commentaries which I read while preaching through Esther. Nothing deep here, mainly Bible reading note level. Some of the links to Christ are a bit simplistic. Having said that this is a useful devotional commentary for a daily devotions. Not much by way of assistance for preaching.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Planting New Churches, Ed Stetzer

This is supposed to be the A-Z on church planting from one of the leading church planting gurus. It is a substantial volume of over 30 chapters with a mountain of references. Stetzer has obviously done quite a bit of research for this volume but sadly his field of planters seems rather limited with not a hint of a confessional or presbyterian planters in view . While there was much that was interesting in this volume I had some major criticisms. The writer's comment that the reformation church was not a mission church is simply not true. That got under my skin early on in the volume. I did find his section on what makes a church planter and the section on understanding the culture helpful. However the lists of nuts and bolts on planting was rather tedious and a tad American. I am glad that I persevered to the end and found some helpful points to reflect on. Generally a useful read.

QI - not!

Stephen’ Fry’s “Quite Interesting” was far from that on Saturday 12th November when Mr. Fry launched an assault on the teaching of the Bible. Stephen Fry, a well-known and outspoken atheist simply couldn’t help himself spread his bad news, that there is no God.

In jocular manner he stated that there never was a worldwide census as mentioned in Luke 2 and that there was simply no truth in the fact that people had to return to their birthplace under Roman census. Mr. Fry said that Luke’s record was a fabricated idea to make it look that this was a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scripture.

As the merriment of bashing the Bible continued Jesus birth was referred to as something like getting Santa to Lapland.

One would expect a Cambridge graduate and someone of Mr. Fry’s ability to have studied a little deeper before he made such remarks.

For anyone caught off guard by Mr. Fry’s remarks here is something to chew over. Mr. Fry’s remarks are old hat. As far back as 1890 in Schurer’s History of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus, the worldwide census and the return to a home place was questioned. But these objections are so easily answered.

Firstly with regard to Mr. Fry’s remarks that there never was an empire wide census. His statement is simply not true. Augustus was known in history as a very methodical man. It is widely recognized today that Augustus instituted three censuses in this period. (Tacitus Annals 1.11; Dio Cassius 53.30.2). Also other census taking cycles are now known to have been in place from this time. (Buried History 9:113-132). When Luke writes all the world he is not speaking of all the world as we know it but the Roman world and especially the area in an around Palestine. And again it is recognized that regular census taking took place in Syria, Gaul and Spain.

Secondly with regard Mr. Fry’s comment – even if there was a census which there wasn’t they were not allowed to go to home towns. Again – Mr. Fry is obviously not a scholar. The Romans allowed the Jews to keep all sorts of customs even tax exemption every seventh year (Antiquities 14.10.20). And allowing the Jews to go home for census was no big deal and something that they were willing to do to keep the peace.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Mr. Fry. How foolish he looks to be making comments before the nation that are based on outdated and well answered 100 year information.

I am looking forward to the episode when Mr Fry and his friends do the Koran bashing bit.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Losing our Virtue, David Wells

Listen to the preaching in many churches today and you will find something is up! It sounds like the gospel but it is a twisted version to scratch where post moderns are itching. Jesus is that friend who will help you find yourself. Jesus is that guide who will steer your life to productivity and meaning. The God of self is clamouring for attention in churches today and many are falling down to worship. Listen to the worship that is happening and you will find it is more like a concert that adoration of the living God. This book will open your eyes and help you stay on track.
Wells has that wonderful way of helping the reader see into the emptiness of the thinking of our post modern world. In this volume he analyses the moral mess of the American culture and how this has impacted on the life of the church. In this volume he is seeking to help us see where society's views of self are rooted and how these values have impinged on the message of the church. Wells cracks open the therapeutic gospel preached in so many places today and illuminates how this approach is no gospel at all and a help therefore to no one.
Though David Wells writes for culture across the pond his comments are spot on for us too. Any pastor preacher seeking to help the people of God in a way that will last should read and take in this wise analysis. This volume is like a massive breaking system on a runaway train - so climb aboard.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs' handbreadths

In a speech in 2005 the late Steve Jobs said, Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life........ your time is limited.

That was good counsel.

But this wasn't, Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

The message of the Bible is that the only way that we will be satisfied in is knowing Jesus Christ and if you haven't found Him yet keep looking. Don't settle for satisfaction in an iPhone, iPod, or macbook. It is found in being rescued from the guilt and power of sin by Jesus Christ's life death and resurrection. Once you know Him, like any good relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. Once you know Him any work will be great work for it can be done for Him

Like Steve Jobs - you and I will be dead soon. Just a few handbreadths. Now is the time to trust in Jesus Christ. Now is the time to raise yourself from the slumber of life and do something for Him. Don't settle for anything less.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Secret of Communion with God

This is Matthew Henry at his very best. The book consists of three sections: How to begin the day with God, How to spend the day with God, and How to close the day with God. These were originally sermons that he preached and some friends encouraged him to publish as a book. It is wonderfully heart warming and encouraging. If you are looking for a book to stir up your daily devotions then don't look for the modern rubbish of 10 ways to improve your quiet time. Spend some time listening to Matthew Henry and you will find your mind informed and heart transformed. By version was published by Kregel

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Resurrection: The Unopened Gift, Gerard Crispin

This little Day One publication book on the resurrection has been on my shelf unread for years. This year I am trying to read whatever I can get on the resurrection and this is a little gem. Each of the 12 chapters are filled with Bible, good exegesis and clear heart stirring application. I have been reading a chapter at the start of my daily devotions each morning and found it a good primer. The opening chapter dealing with the fraud and swooning theories is particularly well written. While there is much here to stir and encourage the Christian this would also be a suitable book to give to the inquirer.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges has that wonderful knack of clearly and simply pressing home the Scriptures deep into your heart. This volume is not for the faint hearted. Not that there is anything intellectually difficult in any of it, but it gets to you as he confronts the sins that we so easily tolerate. Before the author get to the heart blows he warms and instructs the heart on the basis of the gospel. This is thoroughly Biblical and practical and will benefit everyone who reads it and is ready to go to their knees in confession and repentance. There is also an accompanying study guide that would be useful for any small group to consider.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We can fix it - No you can't

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Your words are filled with good intention when you say to the nation we will fix this broken society but they are arrogant words and words that will add further pain to a society longing to be fixed. Just look at the past - have you or your previous PMs made even the slightest dint on the breakages of our nation. Please look and acknowledge - some of the laws that your government has passed has added to the pain of our fractured land. Acknowledge - as human beings we don't have all the answers, in fact we have very few. But the God of the Bible not only has all the answers but all the power to turn back and really fix our broken land. If your cabinet would sit down with a Bible and read and listen then maybe you would be given the privilege to lead a turning around of the nation that will be noted in history. God does tell us why there is all this mess going on and how it really can be fixed. Your longing for stronger families and community and society is good to hear. And you will be glad to know that God has lots to say on each of those. In fact the whole message of the Bible is God's plan for a new community where the diverse and different live side by side as family. The Bible's message is that Jesus Christ can mend our hearts and bind us together. What our nations needs is not a list of rules and reform but repentance, a humbling of itself before God.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33v12a
Praying for you and the others at No.10

Responding to the Riots

The whole nation and beyond were shocked at the recent riots in London and in other locations throughout the UK. We weep with those who have lost loved ones, their homes or livelihoods.
The response to these events has been interesting. Many of the people of these areas broke out in understandable rage, others resorted to the blame game and the government began its chant of we can fix it. Amidst all the voices that were heard responding to the events - not one voice rose up to communicate what God says about such matters. I guess that is part and parcel of the problem - that so very few in our land have even the slightest notion what the living God says about anything.
So here are a few Biblical directions to guide our thinking:
1. The Bible is true. We didn't need the sinful activities of opportunist and scheming looters to tell us that but their actions confirm what God has said. II Timothy 3 v1ff But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God....
The looters love for self was apparent in every shop front smashed and every item stolen - I love me and I will get for me whatever I like and whatever it might mean for anyone else. A young woman defiantly said - we want to show that we can do what we want - I think that falls in the arrogant category. As we watched the young oversees student be picked up and then robbed - one word echoed in our minds - heartless.
So these sad events don't loosen our faith - they confirm it.
I can't help wondering if such lawlessness is not also a measure of the handing over of God of our nation. A nation that wants to live without God may be merciful shown - this is what it would be like to live without God.
2. What's the sin under the sin. It is obvious that stealing, arson, murder is wrong - the Bible says so. But what is fueling such mayhem. Yes no doubt the economic and social climate does have a bearing on such events. But that is not the root reason that so many would stoop to such atrocities. The root sin is connect to the first commandment - no other gods before Me. The god of sinful man is self - I must have, this will make me happy, if I had that item I would be acceptable. The "must have" pangs of our society is a God shaped thing. And when it is not filled with God sinful man will do anything to fill that aching gap. If only men and women could see - we weren't made for things - iphones, designer labels - but for the living God.
When we get to the sin under the sin - it puts us all on a similar footing with the looters. We are sinners needing the emptiness of our lives filled.
3. Pray for the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible calls us to pray for those in government. How they need our prayers. Pray that they would be humble to see that they can't fix it. Pray that someone will bring them the wisdom of the Word of God and the leaders of our nation would lead the nation in repentance.
And we shouldn't be despondent about the angry mobs. Prior to the revival of the 1700s the nation was in a similar low with regard to crime, violence and morality. Maybe the day is not far off when the transforming power of God will come again to our land.
The looters are not scum, feral, or morons - but human beings, created in the image of God, they have worth and value. We should weep that God is not glorified as He should be and that so many are heading for a lost eternity and cry to God to save many.
And in case any are feeling a little smug thinking - I am better than they are, I am no looter? Really? So you have never grabbed the good name of someone else in a morsel of gossip? So you have never burnt down someone's character by not standing up for them in a conversation when you knew what others was saying was wrong?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

This Momentary Marriage, John Piper

Every now and then you find a book on marriage that is different from all the many others that have been published on this subject - and this is one of them. Of course you wouldn't expect anything else from John Piper. This book like all his books comes from the anvil where he has hammered out what the Word of God says. Even when you don't necessarily agree with his conclusions you can't help but honour a man who so honours the word with deep reflective study.
The basic thesis of this book is that marriage has its ultimate point in something much greater, that it is a parable of something of everlasting permanence,i.e. the love of Christ for His people.
The book comprises 15 chapters dealing with all the usual matters concerned with marriage. The chapters always have some practical insights that many readers will not have previously considered.
While I really enjoyed and hopefully benefited from this book there were several areas where I was not in agreement with the author. The author argues for example that there are never any grounds for divorce and that a marriage can end whenever we find that Jesus love for His church has ended. While not agreeing with Mr Piper's conclusion I think that his arguments should help us hate divorce and should stir up couples to do all that is possible to flee from something that God says He hates.
Being a Baptist pastor the writer fails to see the dimension of God's covenant when it comes to the comments concerning raising children. If this matter, which I believe is of vital importance, can be remembered by the reader then there is much that will be of help in this book.
This book definitely goes on my list of books for people taking marriage preparation or marriage recovery classes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Towards Spiritual Maturity, William Still

An old proverb says that good things come in small packages. This 6o page book by the late William Still proves the case. The book comprises seven short chapters covering the work of Christ and growing in the Christian life. As it says on the recommendations on the back page it is one of those books to be read and reread. There is help here for the young Christian and the maturer believer. It is classic Still, cross centred, God honouring, heart warming and life changing. The chapter on the armour of God is especial helpful.
If you find them cheap on the internet or a box lurking on a bookshop floor and can get them for a good price buy and give away. It is published by Christian Focus.
Here is a quote to whet your appetite, God is the only worker, for all that we do in Him is by His power. Those who seem to serve Him and fight for Him must be morally, intellectually and emotionally convinced that all the glory is His, and that the uncreated God will never share His sole prerogative with His creatures. What He shares are His blessings, and the man in Christ can have His fill of them - certainly more than He seeks. p55
Loads available on Amazon or for those with a Kindle http://www.monergismbooks.com/Towards-Spiritual-Maturity-Overcoming-Evil-in-the-Christian-Life-eBook-p-19675.html

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lament for a son, Nicholas Wolterstorff

This little gem published by Eerdmans is simple and honest expression of the grief of a father for his son who died in a climbing incident. Each page has the outpouring of a grief stricken father. These personal accounts of one man's wrestling with God will help any who grieve to articulate the agony of their own heart. These are brave and thought provoking musings of a father who obviously loved his son very deeply. There is an obvious progression in the book as the father moves from the dark reality of loss to the hope of the resurrection.
There is one area that gives concern in the writings of this father. In several places he would appear to over state the suffering of God as he speaks of God's pain and the anguish of God. While there is no doubt that the God of the Bible understands us perfectly and the God man on the throne of heaven has experienced all that we face we need to take great care not to attribute to God dimensions of our character that may not be the same for one who never changes. I wonder if the writer is straying towards the error of patripassianism. With this significant caveat this book will be of help to any in the midst of grief.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wisdom from Bridges on The Christian Ministry

There is as much benefit in the right choice of books, with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the election of other friends or acquaintances, with whom we may most profitably converse. No man can read everything, nor would our real store be increased by the capacity to do so. The digestive powers would be overloaded for want of time to act, and uncontrollable confusion would reign within. It is far more easier to furnish our library than our understanding. p46

Monday, July 04, 2011

Invictus, John Carlin

This is certainly a case of the book being better than the film. A fascinating read of how Mandela steered and planned his way to the top to lead a nation out of the horror of apartheid. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Language a bit strong for my liking in a few places but it was in the setting of quoted rugby player conversation. As far as lessons. Probably the example of Mandela in the effort that he took to understand people that he might lead the to a better understanding.

The Blind Side, Michael Lewis

A light holiday read. Not very often can someone say that the film is better than the book - but that is my assessment of this book. Don't waste your money on buying this - the film is much better. The storyline of this true story is fascinating - rich Christian American family take in a a poor black teenager who they love and shape to become a leading NFL hero.

Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton

David Powlinson of CCEF fame somewhere recommends this volume. I bought this last year and only got round to reading it on holidays this summer. Of the hundreds of books I have read over the years this is the best written by a long shot. It is a novel following the heartache of a black South African pastor searching for his rebellious son. Many key features of life are illustrated in this wonderful book. While many see it as a classic that traces the racial tensions of South Africa there is much more here by way of Biblical lessons. On every page we are reminded how broken this world really is. The reader is also reminded of the root of all trouble - sin.

Song of the Nighingale, Helen Berhane

This is a short and not very well written book that is absolutely fascinating. It recounts the details of the life of a woman imprisoned in the most appalling conditions in Eritrea. Her crime was sharing her faith in Jesus Christ. While there was a lot of theological head scratching at some things in this little volume one cannot help but be impressed by the desire that this woman has to share the faith. I couldn't help think - would I stand firm in the faith under such conditions?

The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, John Piper

I read this a few years back and read it again on holidays as I ran out of Sabbath day reading and turned to my wife's collection. This is Piper at his best in biographical analysis. This volume covers Luther, Augustine and Calvin. Each biography covers the basics of the life of the individual and then Piper's wonderfully penned applications and challenges from the life of. Much here to challege the pastor who is called to feed the people of God.

I Can Plod, John Appleby

This is a biography of the founder of modern mission, William Carey. It is not wonderfully written but the the power of Carey's life shines through all the same. It is one of those biographies that you will need to read with a pen and paper - the lessons just pour forth. Appleby has a great grasp not only of the life and work of Carey but also provides a thoughtful assessment of the times in which Carey laboured. One thought keeps striking me when I read this book - where are the Carey's of today? Where are the men and women with a passion for reaching the unreached? The lessons from the life of Carey are legion:
1. the Lord blesses hard work.
2. Persistence is vital in the work of the kingdom.
3. To reach the lost great effort will be required.
4. To mission effectively in a different culture a well integrated team is required.
The writer makes a mistake on page 198 - he says in a footnote the word for baptise always means immerse - that is very much disputed.

Taming the Tiger, Tony Anthony

Someone gave me this book as a freebie and like all freebies it sat in my desk for a while, after a few months was put on a shelf and then on a tidy up nearly got dumped. For some reason having put it in the waste paper basket I retrieved it and thought - I will give this a read. And what a read! It is the biography of Tony Anthony, three times world king fu champion. Not the sort of biography I usually go for. I was struck by the mercy and power of God to save and to keep those for whom Christ died. I was reminded that as believers we have a great deal of growing to do and God is faithful even when we fall. I was struck by the grip of grace that God has on His children. I was struck as to how the Lord delights to use his people in bringing others to faith.
Well worth the read. Authentic publisher.

Sermons to the Spiritual Man WGT Shedd

I read the counterpart to this volume (Sermons to the Natural Man) a few years back and found it very beneficial. This volume is exactly what it says in the title - sermons to the spiritual man - 26 of them to be exact. Each sermon has that typical Shedd approach - intensely thorough and imaginatively illustrated. I used this volume as a warm up for my daily devotions. Each sermon contains enough to inform the mind with new insights on the passage or text and stirring application to strike the heart.
My volume was hard back and published by Banner

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

The Cross Centred Life - CJ Mahaney

For 17 years as a minister of the gospel I have exhorted myself and the people of God to live only one sort of life - a life where the cross is in our constant gaze. This little gem by CJ Mahaney is a clear and concise call to the church to focus on the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. This says Mahaney is THE MAIN THING. The book comprises just 85 pages but each one is dripping with thought provoking and practical statement. This little giant consists of seven stimulating sections of compact comment on the cross showing how the cross rescues us from ourselves, performance Christianity and condemnation.
The book is a useful primer to serious life long reflection on the cross. If you read it don't stop at the last page but go on to the Scriptures seeking Him while He may be found. Go on to F.S. Leahy's classic trilogy on Christ and His cross.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Resources on the Lord's Prayer

Just finished preparation on the last sermon in a series on the Lord's prayer. In my preparation I have been making use of the following five books:
Reaching the Ear of God, Wayne Mack, P&R
When Grace comes Alive, Terry Johnson, Christian Focus
The Lord's Prayer for Today, Derek Prime, Day One
The Lord's Prayer, RT Kendall, Chosen
When You Pray, Philip Ryken, P&R
All five are worthy of a place on the bookshelf with Ryken, Johnson and Kendall being the most helpful. If you are into listening to the sermons of others Stuart Olyott is the key one to download.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrating the Saving Work of God, J.I. Packer

Not my usual area of reading but picked up this four volume set over a year ago. Decided it was time it was read. This volume is a collection of 18 theological papers given at various conferences or written up in journals and brought together in this first in the series of Shorter Writings. The whole range of theological study is on offer: the Trinity, Covenant theology, person and work of Christ, justification, universalism, and an extended section on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is unlikely that a Covenanter minister would agree with all that an Anglican brother would write and that is the case for me too. Packer is a master with words and has a head for difficult doctrines and the ability to communicate what he wants to say. By and large I was with him in most things with the odd exception. In one or two places he is a bit more generous to Rome than I liked. But apart from that there is much of benefit in these papers.

Friday, April 08, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

It is well to have a book for every spare hour to improve the parenthesis or interludes of time. p44

Bridges says that skimming books is a "most injurious habit"

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

Bridges quoting from Scott's Life, "With all my discouragements and sinful despondency; in my better moments, I can think of no work worth doing compared to this. Had I a thousand lives, I would willingly spend them in it: and had I as many sons, I should gladly devote them to it." p23

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

Those who will faithfully discharge their duty as ministers of the gospel shall have need to be prepared for sufferings.....Except we realise a high estimation of the Church, the constraining influence of the Saviour's love, and the upholding prop of Almighty grace, what is there to preserve us from sinking in to despondency? p12&13

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

Speaking of the Christian ministry.......

"This therefore is the ordained means of conversion, and of subsequent establishment in every stage of the Christian life; and its necessity must continue, while there is a single sinner to be brought into the family of God, or a single grace in the heart of the saint to advance to perfection." p10

How different the view that ministers and the church has by and large of the ministry today. How many men see their ministry in this Biblical light? How many congregations view the ministry in their midst is this light?

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

"For surely it is the highest dignity if not the greatest happiness that human nature is capable of here in this vale below, to have the soul so far enlightened as to become the mirror, or conduit or conveyor of God's truth to others."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Christian Ministry, Charles Bridges, Daily quote

It has been about 20 years since I read this book and after picking up a copy from the library of the late FS Leahy I decided to read again. Bridges was an Anglican minister from the 1800s. I reckon a chapter a day will do the trick. One chapter one quote.

"Who hath skill and strength proportionate? Who has a mind and temper to direct and sustain so vast a work? If our Great Master had not Himself answered these appalling questions by His promise - My grace is sufficient for Thee, and if the experience of faith did not demonstrably prove that our sufficiency is of God; who with an enlightened apprehension, could enter upon such an awful service, or if entered, continue in it?" p5

Singing the Songs of Jesus, Michael LeFebvre

Anyone who loves the psalms needs to read this book so that you will love them even more. Though just some 160 pages this is no airy fairy light weight ditty. Every line of this gem is carefully thought through and as a book punches well above its weight. The author has a different angle on psalm singing that is both thought provoking and worship empowering.
With psalm singing growing in popularity world wide this is a book just right for the times. The author is keen for the reader to see psalm singing as singing not simply words about Christ and breathed out by the Spirit of Christ but singing with Christ.
Although the writer makes it clear that this book is not a defense for exclusive psalm singing the reader is left with one concluding thought - why would anyone ever want to sing anything else.
Every psalm singing church should press this book into members hands so that they will be filled with encouragement to keep on singing the psalms. Every young person or not so young person looking out into the church and thinking - you know we really need to abandon these psalms for something more popular - needs to take up and read.
Food here not only for your mind but joy for the heart.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism

With the blessing of having a number of baptisms to administer in the life of the congregation I have been preaching a series on baptism, adding a new sermon when there is a baptism. To help in preparation I have been reading and studying up on baptism. I have had this volume on my to read shelf for at least a year and now have finally been through it. It is a collection of papers on the subject of covenantal infant baptism edited by Gregg Strawbridge. It has a good range of pastoral, historical and theological studies. Each chapter stands on its own and can be read without connection to the others. Gregg Strawbridge has managed to enlist some heavy weight reformed writers including Joel Beeke, Joseph Pipa, Richard Pratt and Daniel Doriani. Of the fifteen chapters only the penultimate one by Douglas Wilson gave me cause for concern. If I read him correctly he seemed to be favouring children partaking of the Lord's Supper. Having said that he did have some worthwhile comments to make on how we raise our children.
Anyone who is wanting to seriously study the whole issue of baptism must read this book.
It is published by P&R.

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Steps for Planting Missional Churches

This is a manual for church planting written by Gary Rohrmayer. It is superfically baptistic (ie has statements that my deep thinking baptist friends wouldn't say), congregational, Arminian, in one place quotes one of the Emergent Church gurus and has a liberal dose of church growth guff. One of those five things are usually enough to make me stop reading and look for something better. But in an attempt to do some research on Church planting I persevered with this manual and I was glad that I did for there were many things to glean and twist to my setting. Added to that this man has planted more churches than my denomination has in 200 years so if I can't learn something then there is something seriously wrong with the size of my head!
Obviously in a manual on church planting that is congregational in ecclesiology there is not going to be the realism of the work of a supporting denomination and so the writer has only part of the picture when he writes, "New churches are the most effective means of evangelism......older churches tend to become so burdened with budgets, buildings and pastor and people problems that they have no longer the energy for outreach." While there may be truth in this, and I think I have seen it first hand the other side is - the church planting of my own denomination would simply not have happened without the support of the older churches.
This manual covers the whole spectrum of planting - foundations, gathering a group, building a launch team, designing worship services and ministry strategies, establishing new communities and ministries. While many of the practical application is a bit American there is often something that would carry over to our UK setting. His ideas on preaching were particularly thought prevoking - relying on the help of the Holy Spirit, excelling in preaching, have your preaching evaluated regularly, planning in preaching, answer the questions that are in people's minds, hope should fill every sermon and preach short series.
Anyone interested in church planting I would recommend reading this and drawing out what you can use in your situation. Beware of the theological undercurrents that are simply not Biblical.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Meaning and Mode of Baptism

Doing some reading these days around the subject of baptism as preparation for a series of sermons on baptism. A friend guided me to Jay E Adam's wee booklet, "The meaning and mode of baptism." It is just 56 pages in length so doesn't really count as a book. But this booklet will help anyone who is interested in working out what the Bible says about the how to of baptism. His basic thesis is simple - immersion is not the Biblical mode of baptism and it should be by sprinkling or pouring. Adams leaves no stone unturned in this study and presents his material in a gracious manner. A vital read for anyone serious about understanding what the Bible says about baptism. The booklet is published by P&R.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Generous Justice

Got this book from a good friend at Christmas. He has always the knack of picking something that illuminates the mind and stirs up the heart......
Every now and then you read a book and realize - the contents of this book could seriously change my life. This is one of those books. Tim Keller is setting out the Biblical reasoning why Christians and Churches should have a passion for justice at a local and global scale. It is a small book in size, containing just 8 chapters making up about 190 pages. It is a book that punches way above its weight and size. In the usual masterful manner the author draws together the teaching of Scripture and brings it right in under your radar and then detonates. The impact could not only be life changing but church changing. His thesis is simple - for too long the church has abandon the call of God to minister to those in need. For too long reformed Christians have been deformed Christians by leaving this call of God to those outside the Kingdom. The author is clear - this call is for the church.
Too many Christians say Don't get involved with the poor - sure they bring it on themselves! Keller is dynamite on this and blows this away with a quote from Edwards, "Such a faculty (ie being able to manage your affairs) is a gift that God bestows on some and not on others. And it is not owing to themselves.....This (ie helping them) is as reasonable as that he to whom Providence has imparted sight should be willing to help him to whom sight is denied, and that he should have the benefit of the sight of others, who has none of own."
Basically that means if you know someone who is not good at handling their affairs - then that is no reason for not reaching out in rich generosity.
I would advise any elder and deacon in the church to read this and see where and how you can minister to the needy and have the blessing of God come down on you and the society you live in. Perhaps if we got out of our comfort zones and unlocked the 100s of 1000s of pounds lurking in church bank accounts we could minister as Christ calls us to and have endless opportunity for sharing the gospel which has stirred us to be so generous.
Thanks Dave for another cracker book......

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Raised with Christ, Adrian Warnock

This is the next volume on my reading on the resurrection. Raised with Christ comes with two opening pages of recommendation. And I am glad to say that it does live up to all the words of commendation. It is a well written 19 chapter book that seeks to explain that the resurrection changes everything. The opening chapters cover the details of the resurrection and the rest tease out this life transforming doctrine in to every day life. If you like footnotes instead of annoying end notes you will enjoy the way that the publisher has set out this volume. This is a thoroughly heart warming and informative read. I didn't agree with everything that the author said especially in his comments regarding the work of the Holy Spirit and also revival. He seems to take MLJ's angle on the working of the Holy Spirit. All in all an excellently written and helpful study on the doctrine of the resurrection and a must for anyone wanting to delve in to this glorious truth.