Monday, December 31, 2012

James Martin, Pioneer Medical Missionary in Antioch

This short and well written missionary biography recounts the life and work of Rev. James Martin a minister and missionary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  His life spanned the 19th and 20th centuries.  While I was reading this book I was preparing to preach on John 12v24 "unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit."  James Martin was a 12 24 man. His life was a burning example of what it means to be a radical follower of the great Radical Jesus Christ.
This little bio is well written, concise, clear and full of the life of a man whose heart was devoted to serving his Lord and Master.  The book recounts the witness of a man sent by a small Irish denomination to reach the lost and needy of Syria and Lebanon.  It is a fascinating, challenging and encouraging read.  One question was constantly in my mind - where are the men of this calibre today? Where are the men who will preach to the unreached, plant churches, set up schools and set up dispensaries displaying the mercy of the Lord?  James Martin could have been an exceptional pastor in the home church or a leading medic - but his heart was in tune with God's plan for the world - to reach those who had not been reached.  O that the Lord would put the same mindset into the hearts of 21st century pastors to go where His great name has not been heard or little known.
Any theological students reading this blog - you simply must read this.  Any young person reading this blog - you must take up and read and pray that the Lord of the ends of the earth might raise up more men with such a love for the Lord Jesus.  Read and fall into the earth yourself and die so that there might be some fruit from your short life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Radical Together, David Platt

Having read the rave reviews I had to buy and decide for myself.  Even the subtitle gets you going in the direction of the slim volume, "unleashing the people of God for the purpose of God."  While written  primarily for a North American audience the point of the book transfers well this side of the pond.  This is obviously a follow on from Platt's best seller, "Radical."  In the book Platt sets out six key ideas to spur the Christian on to live a radical life together in the church.  These are all good and helpful in themselves and well summarised in the titles and subtitles of the chapters:
1. Tyranny of the good - One of the worst enemies of Christians can be good things in the church.
2. The gospel misunderstood - The gospel that saves us from work saves us to work.
3. God is saying something - The word does the work.
4. The genius of wrong - Building the right church depends on using all the wrong people.
5. Our unmistakable task - We are living and longing for the end of the world.
6. The God who exalts God - We are selfless followers of the self centred God.
The book has a helpful study guide at the end which would assist the reader not only for personal study but in discussing with others.
While I enjoyed the book and found it challenging I had that sense that something was missing - God's covenant with God's covenant people binding us to Himself and each other - that is the key truth that makes us radical together.

The Gospel and Sexual Orientation

Well what could you get packed into 67 pages on such a subject?  Basically everything you need to know on the matter of sexual orientation and the Bible.  At least that is what Michael Lefebvre the editor of this masterly volume has managed.  The booklet is the work of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America as they attempted to give guidance to the congregations they served.  "Compassionate scholarship" is the style of this booklet that should be in every Christian home in the western world.  The booklet comprises six main chapters.  The first chapter helpfully sets out the terminology stating clearly where all the words come from. In chapter two the writers set out clearly what the Bible says about the doctrine of man.  The third chapter deals sensitively and sensibly with present day pattern of speaking of gender patterns. The matter of principles for handling the Bible texts is addressed in chapter four before the main chapter five where the various passages are clearly and accurately expounded.  The book ends with a sixth chapter offering pastoral counsel and an extended bibliography.
For too long too many Reformed Christians have been in the dark on this matter.  That need no longer be the case.  Buy in bulk and give to your congregation.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Preaching the Psalms, McCann & Howell

Over the years I have noticed this book mentioned in various footnotes of other books on the psalms so thought that it might be worth a read. The book comprises three sections: Preaching the psalms - why? Preaching the psalms - how? Preaching the psalms - what?  While there were a few interesting comments here and there throughout the book over all it was a bit of a let down.  For me it was a "broadening my horizons read" as many of the people quoted would not be my usual favourite writers.  The main failing of the book in my opinion is missing the fundamental point that these songs of Zion are Christ's songs - His Spirit breathed them out, they are full of His person and work and He sang them.
Out of ten - I am afraid a humble 3.

Monday, December 17, 2012

JC Ryle Matthew

I just couldn't resist the £15 ministers set of JC Ryle's Expository thoughts on the Gospels.  And now I have finished volume 1 - Matthew.  Just the next section each morning as part of the daily devotions.  Better than any daily Bible reading note.  Ryle had that knack of feeding the people of God winsomely and wooingly.  This was a man who loved Jesus Christ and it just flowed from him.
Can't wait to get started on the next volume.
It is not too late to get the set for someone for Christmas.  Not sure if the minister's discount is still in operation  so you can but it for your minister but you can get the set for £55 at any decent bookshop.  This is just a must as far as Christian reading goes.

Not quite Mr. Obama

What was that you said Mr. President?  As the president gave an emotional address following the recent  atrocity in an American school he left the nation with the misquoting of Psalm 147. No doubt many were moved as he called the nation to their duty of giving help and comfort to those who mourn.  But then in an attempt to quote the Bible he omitted the most important word in the text. He said, in the words of Scripture - heal the broken hearted.  But the psalmist says that this is only what God can do - HE heals the broken hearted.  No president no nation, not even the mighty US can bind up the broken hearts of the grieving parents of twenty brutally murdered children.  The only one who can bring the comfort that such a trauma brings is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Yes He uses means and the comfort that we have received from God is to be an encouragement to others - but the rock bottom is that only Him who is God can give grace for such gaping wounds.  Only the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows what it is like to have a son brutally murdered at the hands of the wicked can help. And because of that horrific death God can welcome all who call on Jesus in repentance and faith.
Just in case Mr. Obama reads this blog (Not!) here is the psalm in full for you to read sir. Bow and worship, love and adore.

iPraise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on xthe lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the ifinest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters lfrost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his pstatutes and rules to Israel.
20 He qhas not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
rPraise the Lord!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Planting for the Gospel

This small book written by Graham Beynon and published by Christian Focus is a little primer to church planting.  It comprises 120 pages divided into six chapters:
1. Reasons for planting a church
2. Different models for planting a church
3. Deciding on a model
4. Different methods for church planting
5. Key issues in church planting
6. The early days of planting
I can't say that I benefitted greatly from this book as what he covers is stated elsewhere. Like most church planting books it lacks Scriptural rooting throughout.  The final chapter recounts brief historical sketches of a host of different types of plants.  These are quite interesting.  Though one point did irk me - that someone had a "prophetic word" about the growth of City Church in Dundee. Seems to me that Jesus made all the prophecy about church planting that we need - I will build My church.
In conclusion save your £4.00 for something better and more Biblically rooted.
When will someone write something useful on planting - like Church planting in Acts - that would be worth buying.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Last Enemy

Michael Wittmer's book subtitled "Preparing to win the fight of your life," is to help the believer die well.  Since every single person reading this post is dying you should read this.  The book comprises twenty three short chapters filled with Scripture and pastoral insights.  It is winsomely written, clearly connecting with the big issues around the theme. It is candid and compassionate, clear and concise and above all Christ centred.  All of these things make is so very suitable for the believer who has been sent and arrow from heaven to say that they will soon be required in the Master's house.
This is the book that you can give to that Christian friend who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  But more than that read it yourself and live in the light of it.
I can't recommend this little volume too highly.  A master lesson in pastoral theology.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dangerous Calling

This the the latest book from the pen of Paul Tripp.  The subtitle reveals what the dangerous calling is about - confronting the unique challenges of pastoral ministry. The book comprises three main sections: examining pastoral culture; the danger of forgetting who God is; and the danger of forgetting who you are.  The book is obviously written in Tripp's unique conversational preaching style.  In each chapter it is as if you are in his counselling room as he downloads a lifetime of pastoral experience and expertise. In this book the writer is shockingly open about the dangerous life of the ministry and the sins that so easily beset us.
If you are a minister and want to finish the course you simply must read this.  If you are training for the ministry you must take this deep into your heart and life or you will so easily become one of the ministerial casualties that sadly pepper every denomination.
This should be compulsory reading at every seminary.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Works of John Flavel Volume 1

It was a bit of a marathon but well worth effort.  Volume 1 of Flavel has the title, "The fountain of life, A display of Christ in His essential and mediatorial glory." 42 wonderful sermons on the person and work of Christ.  Flavel is relatively easy to read and not given by and large to endless sub points.  These sermons are theologically stimulating and heart warming.  Some of the earlier sermons you could read through in one sitting, others need to be broken up.  The clearly demarcated headings help in dividing up to read.
Well worth the effort.  Just five more volumes to go.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lessons with Flavel

Commenting on Isaiah 53v7 John Flavel says that one of the uses of this is to press on us Christlike patience in our sufferings.  He suggests by way of practical application that in our sufferings we ought to look in various directions for help.
1. Look upwards when tribulations come upon you: look to the sovereign Lord that commissionates and sends them upon you.  You know that troubles do not rise out of the dust nor spring out of the ground, but are framed in heaven.
2. Look downward - cast your eye downward and see those who lie much lower than you.  Can you see none on the earth in a more miserable state than yourselves.  What is your affliction? Have you lost a relation. Others have lost all....
3. Look inward, cast your eye into you own hearts: consider either the corruptions or grace that are there.  Cannot you find enough weeds there that need such winter weather as this to rot them
4. Look outward - and see who stands by and observes your carriage in trouble.  Are there not many eyes upon you.
5. Look backward,  consult the multitude of experiences past and gone...Is this the first strait that you have ever been in.  If so you have reason to be quiet, yet to bless God that hath spared you so long when others have had their days filled up with sorrow.
6. Look forward to the end of your troubles..... they shall not be everlasting troubles.
7. Look to the right hand  and see how you are shamed, convinced and silenced by other Christians... and yet can not only patiently bear the afflicting hand of God but are blessing.
8. Look to your left hand and there you will see a sad sight..... there you may see a company of wicked graceless wretches carrying themselves under their troubles, but too much like yourselves.  What do they more than fret and murmur; despond and sink... It is time for thee to leave off, when thou seest how near thou art come to them.
...... above all thine eying the great pattern of patience, Jesus Christ; whose Lamb like carriage, under a trial, with which thine is not to be named the same day, is here recommended to thee.  Oh how should this transform thee into a lamb for meekness also.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Church Planting is for Wimps, Mike McKinley

Light and easy read.   More of a biographic study of church planting than a how to manual.   Not the last book you will read on church planting but one that contains many principles whatever your experience of church planting.  What I really liked about this little volume was the honesty of the writer.  The author has a warts and all philosophy.  The open and honest humble approach of the writer is a ray of light amidst the super hero impression given by many who write on this sphere of church life.  While the setting is clearly North American and the numbers on a a grand scale there is much here from which anyone interested in church planting will prosper.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taken up to Heaven, Derek Thomas

Having been asked to preach at a young people's conference day on the Ascension of Christ I thought that this book by Derek Thomas would throw some light.  I wasn't disappointed.  The book consists of eight chapters each one dealing with some dimension of the work of ascension.  As the author admits the material had it origins in a series of sermons preached on the subject.  Derek Thomas has done a good job in the translation of the sermons into this written format. The material is well set out and thoroughly applied throughout.  Useful to use as part of daily devotions.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Next Story, Tim Challies

This is probably the best and only book that you will need to read on the impact of the digital era but read it you must.  The chances are that you have read this blog page on your laptop, smartphone or iPad.  Great tools to thank God for.  But like many good things they can come to control our lives and even weaken them if not used correctly.  Challies covers the while spectrum here - Facebook, surfing, texting, information at your finger tips.  What I like about his thorough approach is that he is not saying - bin your devices - any nutter could do that. Challies goes deeper.  He gets to the Word and applies the Word to the digital world we live in.  If you do Facebook you need to read this.  If you send emails you need to read this.  If you surf the net you need to read this. If you google you need to read this. Get the point - you need to read this.  I guarantee that you will be blessed and challenged.
It made me think.  Why do I need to check my email so often?  Why do I always have my mobile in my pocket?  What does my search history reveal about me?  Why am I so tempted to turn on my computer as soon as I get up?
So as far as repentance goes - I am no longer turning my macbook on first thing.  My email won't be checked so often - once a day will do fine.  I will master my new iPad and not be mastered by it.
Footnote - I saw a man on the beach yesterday who needs to read this book.  He had obviously taken his ten year old boy to the beach for a time of fun together.  As he kicked the ball back and threw a stick for his dog all the time he had his phone in his hand.  I thought catch yourself on mate - you are not the prime minister or the president of the US.  And neither am I - so don't expect instant messages back - I may be with someone more important than the both of us.

The Pleasures of God. John Piper

The publishers state on the cover "voted one of the century's top 100 books by World Magazine." It would be easy with such a build up for a book then to be a real let down.  Thankfully it wasn't. In fact I think that this was the John Piper book that I enjoyed the most to date.  It was first published in 2001 and many of the themes in the book appear in his other volumes.  The book comprises 10 chapters:
The pleasure of God in His Son
The pleasure of God in all He does
The pleasure of God in His creation
The pleasure of God in His fame
The pleasure of God in election
The pleasure of God in bruising His Son
The pleasure of God in doing good to all who hope in Him
The pleasure of God in the prayers of the upright
The pleasure of God in personal obedience and public justice
The pleasure of God in concealing Himself to the wise and revealing Himself to infants
One of the many things that I enjoy about reading John Piper is that you have to think, but more than that, you have to pause to worship the living Lord.  Another factor by which I judge a book is how often I say during the read - I need to preach on this.  It is safe to say that this thought appeared as I read each chapter.
Thoroughly recommended.  Even for the appendix, "Are there two will in God?" it is worth the money

Monday, July 23, 2012

Andrew Murray Men of Faith

While the majority of the population of the UK was applauding the tennis player I picked up this bite size biography of Andrew Murray the 19th century S. African pastor and evangelist.  This Murray was born and bred within the confines of Dutch Reformed Church.  He was a presbyterian who was heavily influences by the Holiness movement.  His deep devotion for the Lord Jesus shines through in every detail that the biographer records.  He was a man blessed with many gifts and graces and appears to have been one of those men with broad shoulders and endless energy for the kingdom of God.  Like most greatly used servants of the Lord this man faced many struggles in his efforts to serve his Saviour. While there is much to stir and challenge in the life of this godly man there are some things that seem a little confusing.  Thankfully the God that Murray served is bigger than our small thoughts of Him and His work with His servants.  One phrase stuck in my mind from Linder's account of Murray's life.  When God gives you a heart for His work expect His blessing.  So plod on.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Praying Life, Paul Miller

Been reading through this book on prayer over the last few weeks and have had a love hate relationship with it.  I wanted to read it because I had read a few rave reviews and also the personal need to develop my private prayer life.  So what do I dislike about it?  I guess it's just one of my pet hates  - but why do American evangelical feel that they have to quote nuns and monks?  Now with that out of my system let me thoroughly recommend that you read this book.  If you are a normal Christian you lament that you don't pray as you ought.  This book doesn't come with a magic wand and hey presto perfect prayer life, but it will inform you, encourage you and help you to see that it really is possible to connect with God in a distracting world.
The book comprises five main sections: Learning to pray like a child; Learning to trust again; Learning to ask your Father; Living in you Father's story and Praying in real life.  There are 32 chapter in total each about a 15 minute read.  The author writes in a warm personal style letting you into his home to see how he and his wife learnt to pray amidst the business of a family life.
If you have a shelf for books on prayer this should be one of them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Facebook photos

Call me an old fashioned nerd if you like but I just can't get this pictures on Facebook lark.  I may be wrong but I have a sneaking suspicion that all the happy smiling faces of my last night out, my formal, my new car, my new friend is fed by the obsession that life is all about me.  It seems that it feeds off the idea that I need as many people as possible to think, whaoh, they are so cool, so popular, so happy, so all together, what a great life they have.  It is called self worship. No actually idolatry.
What about a bit of reality?  Why not my formal that was such a let down, my new car that is costing me a mint to keep on the road, my new friend who has just dumped me.  Oh no couldn't do that - they wouldn't think so highly of me then.
Isaiah didn't do Facebook but I think if he did he would have posted no photo, but just the reality, I am undone.  He saw himself as he really was a sinner before God, ruined apart from the grace of God.  In the light of the glory of Jesus Christ He was released from the obsession with self to serving the only one who really has glory, Jesus Christ.  Here am I send me.
So young Christian, stop trying to build your own glory. Your glory is fading fast.  Soon you will not be that keen to post the sagging wrinkles or your latest wheelchair or zimmer frame.  Be obsessed with His glory and post it for all to see, in a life that is released from itself to serve Him.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Am I Called

When my wife saw this on my desk she commented, "Isn't it a bit late to be reading that."  Am I called is written by Dave Harvey from the Sovereign Grace Ministries stable.  Anyone considering pastoral ministry needs to read this.  If Carl Trueman and Tim Challies write in support of it that is good enough for me.  The book comprises three main parts: Approaching the call; Diagnosing the call and Waiting.
Each of the 10 chapters is well written and flows in Harvey's unique and readable style.  As well as thorough Biblical reasoning for each point being discussed the author has also forwarded many of the chapters with biographical material from some of the giants of ministry.  For these notes alone the book is worth the read.  This is not a heavy read but a thought provoking and enjoyable one.  I wish I had had such a book 25 years ago as I struggled with my call to the ministry.  Reading this has confirmed to me - stick at it!
From now on this will be my standard text for giving to young men both to persuade and dissuade regarding gospel ministry.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Let the Nations be Glad, John Piper

Every now and then you read a book and the instant thought is, Everyone needs to read this.  Well this is one of those books.  This volume by John Piper is all about mission and why mission should be the passion of every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The basic thesis of the book is that mission is all about making God supreme.  The book divides into three main parts:  The purpose, power and price; The necessity and nature of the task; and The practical outworking of compassion and worship.  In typical Piper mode it is saturated with Scripture and well endowed with suitable quotes from the giants of past generations.
If this book is not on every seminary reading list for evangelism then it ought to be.  Not that you will agree with all that you read.  It is a volume to ignite the heart.  It should come with a warning though - "This book might seriously change the direction of your life."  And isn't that what we are looking for.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Man United - No Cup but a message of Hope

Since I can remember I have only supported one team - Man U.  For nearly 50 years I have checked the results and delighted in every win.  Yesterday Man U didn't make it.  Pipped at the post by City.  Although it is hard to stomach I see something bigger - the love and mercy of the living God. Yesterday when City got the winner in extra time against the ten man QPR it was the love of God to the estimated 1.6 billion Man U followers across the world.  Every dreary eyed worshipped of the Reds is learning something new today - that the team that they hoped in for joy and satisfaction simply can't produce the goods.  Though the loyal fans across the world have given homage all season to their mighty men they wake this morning with a terrible ache - we didn't do it.  A dream unfulfilled. A satisfaction never provided.  And it is the love of God to show men and women the world over that no mere man, team or thing can satisfy the ache of the human heart for joy, satisfaction and fulfilment.
God caused City to win yesterday so Man U supporters who have worshipped their team so faithfully might look up and find the One who never disappoints, always produces the goods, satisfies with ultimate victory over our sin that would condemn us to hell if He had not taken the hell that we deserved.  When the final whistle blew yesterday God was declaring - come unto Me, worship Me, follow Me and you will have total joy.  If you are a Man U fan your sad heart at losing is God saying - stop worshipping your idol and turn to My Son Jesus and trust in Him.  If you are a City fan - when your gloating is over so will be your pleasure and you too must turn to Christ, repent of your sin for worshipping anything but the living God.  If you are a Christian use the epic end to the season to speak of the Ultimate winner who never lets His fans down - Jesus Christ.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Loving Christ's Church

Richard Baxter wisely writes that love for the church ought to be in a pastor's heart,
"He needs to delight in its beauty, seek for its good and rejoice in its welfare.  He must be willing to spend and be spent for the sake of the church." The Reformed Pastor
This is a key part of a man's call to the ministry.  Can it be seen that he loves the church of Christ, rejoices in her, thanks God for her, serves her, speaks well of her, is ready and willing to do all in his power to see her flourish.  Of course this is the duty of every Christian.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sing a New Song

Anything from Reformation Heritage Books publishers is worth buying. This recent volume edited by Joel Beeke and Anthony Selvaggio is a fantastic book designed to stimulate the recovery of psalm singing in the twenty first century. The book comprises eleven chapters each written by a different writer. There are some big hitters in the list of writers - Beeke, Johnson and Murray to name but a few. Some of the chapters have an historical flavour, others on the blessing of singing psalms, and one or two from a more technical side. Malcolm Watt's defence of exclusive psalm singing is a belter.
I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. Every right minded RP should fork out the fourteen quid and delight in the privilege of psalm singing. Any reader who imagines that there is just not enough weight to the exclusive psalm singing argument needs to read this too. And not for the chapter by Malcolm Watts but for the other ten chapters that speak so highly of singing the psalms. The only possible conclusion someone could come to is - why would I want to sing anything else.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Forever, living with eternity in view, Paul Tripp

This is another classic by Paul Tripp. If you like his style of writing - Biblical truth inserted straight into the heart before you get the Aoah out - you will love this one. His main thesis is that we must learn to view all of life from the viewpoint that this is not all that there is but that there is a vast eternity to get ready for.
The book is filled with heart warming illustration from a multitude of lives which helps get the truth right up close and personal. A whole host of areas are covered - from family to work. All of which are to be viewed from the vantage point of forever. Well worth the read.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Busy Christian's guide to Busyness, Tim Chester

I joked to wife on reading this book that it took me rather longer than it should to read a relatively small volume, 179pages - "I was too busy." I guess that is the complaint of many today. Certainly it is an issue that I am finding more now nearly 20 years in to the ministry than I did when I started. It seems to be the daily cry of the majority of believers - too busy. Though there is much to help in a practical way in this volume this is no do it yourself guide to relieving the busyness. Chester goes much deeper analysing in the latter half of the book why we are so busy and just can't seem to say no to the boss. What is particularly helpful is the Biblical meditation at the end of the key chapters.
This is a must if you are starting out in working like, caught in the middle or ticking off the days to retirement which I am reliable informed are busier than ever.
I wish I could get my hands on a box of these. I think I could get rid of them very quickly.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Selected Shorter Writings of BB Warfield Vol 1

I bought this set of BBW simply because they belonged to the man who taught me to love the Reformed Faith, the late F.S. Leahy. Having read this volume it was obvious where my mentor gleaned his clear and concise style of writing. As I read this 500 page volume I could hear again in my head his to the point lectures on Systematics apologetics and ethics. This volume is exactly what it says on the tin- BBW's short writing culled from a host of journals and articles. It is composed of 59 chapters covering a variety of subjects - the theology of God, practical Christianity and an amazing final section of tributes to his former colleagues and friends. Chapter 52 is a must for theological students.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Remembering three mighty men

Today I visited the old Cregagh Rd meeting house as part of the Eastern Presbytery's committee responsible for the replanting of a congregation in East Belfast. The task seems so great, the need all around so overwhelming, our resources so meagre. But as I climbed the back stairs from the hall and entered the former session room the memories came flooding back. About twenty years ago I had the privilege of working in Cregagh during my first year placement from the Reformed Theological College. When a young inexperienced raw student entered that room it was a meeting place with God. It was in there prior to the service that three fathers in the faith paused to pray with you - Bob, Stanley and Herbie. None of them were men of great physical stature but even a novice knew that they were mighty men of God. As they prayed it seemed that windows of heaven opened and the veil drew back a little. These were men who knew their God and pleaded that their Saviour would be glorified in the saving of sinners and the building of the church. If those men were not already in their heavenly home and were hearing of this endeavour to replant in their beloved East Belfast they would be saying - Here am I send me. For years they prayed and laboured. And perhaps this response of the Presbytery is in answer to their prayers of long ago.
They are the sort of men that we are after. Men of prayer, men who love the Saviour, men who delight in the church of the covenant, men who will go the distance. If any young or not so young person reads this and you are wanting to do something with your life this is a challenge you can't afford to miss. I don't think we will get the likes of these three mighty men ever again. But they served a mighty God and merciful Saviour who delights to use the frail and weak.
If you would like to know more of the Eastern Presbytery's plans for East Belfast email me at
There was no one in that room today. Maybe it is where you will be, pleading to the same Lord that my three fathers in the faith now serve within the glory of heaven.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Husbands love your wives - thank you Francis.

With horror and sadness over the past week we have witnessed the sinking of the mighty Costa Concordia. While it would be easy to focus on the cowardice of the captain who somehow "fell" into a life boat another man caught my eye and is worthy of praise, 71 year old Francis Servel. While he and his wife prepared to jump he gave his lifejacket to his wife. She survived and he was drowned. She said no doubt with tears, "I owe my life to him." I don't know of the late Francis knew anything of Ephesians 5 but he certainly lived it. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. I guess most of us husbands would like to think that we would do likewise for our darling wives even if we knew that death awaited.
How amazing to think then of the love of Jesus Christ for His bride. His bride wasn't very lovely, very undeserving, but so willingly He gave His life knowing that he would face not the horrors of the salty water but the horrific drowning in the waves of the Holy wrath of God. And He did it because He loved us.
The words hardly seem adequate, I owe my life to Him.

Monday, January 09, 2012

When will my life not suck, Ramon Presson

This is a 2011 production from the New Growth Press stable. The book consists of thirteen chapters of well written comment on how many sadly approach life. The author does a good job in bringing some answers to the malady of our messy world by directing the readers thoughts to portions of Scripture from the life of Paul. The writer's style will either excite and draw you to read and read or annoy the life out of you. This is a helpful book for those who are dealing with people whose lives are broken with disappointment and crises. There is much here also by way of practical help as the writer is counsellor of some experience. Useful book for illustrations for the preacher. Useful book to read with someone who is in the depths. The chapter on contentment is particularly helpful.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Ministers are dying men

Came across this cracker of a quote in Matthew Henry when doing some reading for preaching on Zechariah.
"Ministers are dying men and live not forever in this world. They are to look upon themselves as such and to preach accordingly, as those that must be silenced shortly, and know not which sermon may be the last. People are to look upon them as such, and to hear accordingly, as those that yet a little while have the light with them, that they may walk and work while they have the light. Oh that this weighty consideration had its due weight given it, that we are dying ministers dealing with dying people about the concerns of immortal souls and an awful eternity, which both they and we are standing upon the brink of."
Matthew Henry, Volume 4 p1402, MacDonald