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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Heroes of the Faith - Three Favourites alive Today

Who not to admire....
Little by little I have noticed how Time magazine has drifted from News to Celebrity. (And even when there is news between the covers it takes such a stereotyped position that I could write it myself, without thinking, or looking: Trump is the Devil, Gay rights are the top priority of western culture, Science is King, and of course, Here is the next world Celebrity.) 

Tragically the church apes the world. Wherever we look in the western Christian scene we find the latest Christian celebrity or the latest must-read book.

....and who to admire
And here is the problem with so many Christian celebrities - they don't look like Jesus in one of the most significant ways that must mark out all true followers of Jesus - they don't suffer, they are not persecuted, they are not hated, they are not despised; indeed very often men speak well of them.

"Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets." Luke 6:26

The majority of big-shots in the Western church must be discounted according to this criterion set by Jesus. And instead we must hunt for men like Jesus and Paul and the apostles who were hounded, hated, lied about and persecuted. 

And these are the men we should honour.

Fitting the bill, here are three of my favourite living servants of God.
RT Kendall

RT Kendall
RT Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel for many years. George Campell Morgan was one of his predecessors and so was Lloyd-Jones. But Kendall was mistreated by one section of the Christian world because he didn't dot their tiny i's or cross their microscopic t's. 

Then he did the unthinkable in the eyes of some - he went out into the street to share the Gospel with lost people! That was the pits in their minds!

I have never failed to be blessed by a sermon or a book written by this great godly man. 

Donald Macleod
Donald Macleod
In some ways I am surprised Donald is among my favourites because he is a theologian, and I have no time for non-biblical offices, like theologians. (There is not a hint in the NT that the church should ever entertain an office entitled "theologian".)

But, after saying that, he served as a pastor in the free church of Scotland and pastor is a biblical title. I remember reading the "Monthly Record" when he was the editor. I was in my twenties and I couldn't wait to receive my copy in the post - just to read his wise, witty and deeply spiritual contributions. 

Well, once again, some in his community hated the fact that he stepped out of their pinhead theological circles here and there and started a witch hunt against him, a smear campaign, involving lies and false accusations, this time with dirty-tricks sexual allegations, believe it or not, all of which were thrown out of court.

Franklin Graham
Franklin Graham
Perhaps the best known of my favourite Christian leaders today is Franklin Graham.  Time magazine recently wrote a damning article against him. They liked the cuddly Billy but hate Franklin. 

Why? They didn't know what Billy believed on moral issues and they didn't have to ask him - because they held the same views. But the times are a changing.

Billy's son is having to minister in a perverse age where Gospel morality is despised - and along with it every true Gospel minister.

A true test of Gospel Giants
So if you are looking for someone to follow, check out their doctrinal fidelity, yes, and then check out whether or not they are hated and lied about. If they are true Gospel men they will also be hated and lied about; only then can you be sure they are like their Saviour and his apostles. Follow them as they follow Jesus Christ.

Amy Carmichael: stars without scars
The saintly Amy Carmichael battled with the same issue in her day a hundred years ago (1867-1951). As she looked around the Christian scene, she came across stars who bore no scars. 

So she wrote this little poem: 
Hast Thou No Scar 
by Amy Carmichael

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Daily Devotions - the value and method

A very old tradition
The idea of taking time out of the day to spend time with God goes back a long way. Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10) As a very busy government official if he didn't carve time out of his schedule, well perhaps he would not pray at all: so he established in three daily slots for prayer. 

"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before." (Daniel 6:10)

The reasons?
Daniel gave thanks, we read. No doubt there was more in his prayers than thanksgiving. We are not told if he read his Bible - but remember Scripture would have been in the form of scrolls in Jerusalem and perhaps only the first five books of the Bible anyway. No doubt he had the Word in his heart.

(i) The example of others
The first reason to carve out a daily time spent with God, let's call it Daily Devotions or DD, is because of the example of men like Daniel. Joshua was instructed to keep God's Word in his heart and mind daily as well:

"do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night..." (Joshua 1:8)

King David said of the blessed man that he mediates on God's law day and night (Psalm 1:2). Not a daily-devotional but a day-long-devotional!

And then we would add the supreme example of Jesus who often set out early in the morning to be alone and to pray: 

"Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:16)

 (ii) The need to be alone with God
A second reason for DD is the need to be alone with God. Spending time with fellow believers is vital, but so is spending time with God alone. Where we can examine our own hearts and develop our own relationship with God is worship, repentance and petition. If  Jesus, the perfect man, spent time alone, so too surely, must we.

(iii) The desire to be with God
Every believer should want to spend time with God, just as a married person wants to spend time with their beloved. There are some quite remarkable examples of this yearning in the Psalms:

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God." (Psalm 42:1)

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (Psalm 84:2)

We may feel further from this standard than we may want to be, but this surely is the desire of every Spirit-born soul.

(iv) The hunger for spiritual food
A fourth reason for DDs is to feed our souls.  

"Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

We are not only physical entities - bodies, which need feeding - we are souls, invisible entities, which also need feeding. And the word is soul-food.

There are many ways to undertake daily devotions - all of which begin with a conviction that this is what we want and need.

(i) Find a time of day suitable to you
First, work out what time is best for you. Are you a morning lark or a night owl? Is there 15 mins you can carve out at lunch time?

(ii) Find a place you can go
"When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen." (Matt 6:6). Jesus is responding to the Pharisees show-off prayer style, but still, the location matters. Find a quiet place if you can, all on your own. That's why a DD is also called a QT, a quiet time.

(iii) Make a plan of Bible Study
What part of Scripture will you study? Will you use one of those plans to read the whole Bible in a year or two years or three years? If you do, alternate NT and OT. Will you use one of those 365 day devotionals which encourage you to read a little Bible, follow it up with a small explanation and end with a prayer? Or will you use one of those "Bibles" already divided into 365 parts? 

(iv) The Quiet Time
Whichever method you use - and you can change it year by year, start with a short prayer asking for wisdom and guidance and light. Then read the Scriptures and ask what God is saying to you for that day. Is there something to learn, some duty to add, something to stop, something to love, something to hate? Take the lesson into your prayers. And in your prayers remember to worship, confess, thank and ask petitions.

No law
Do not be legalistic about DDs or QTs! If you miss a day, don't panic and feel you have to catch up the next day. This is a joy not a duty, a privilege not a law. 

No Christian who takes up this habit will fail to grow in grace and faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, 6 April 2018

It is Manly to Weep

Jordan Peterson
One reason Jordan Peterson is receiving so much global attention is that he is more human than most of your academic types. In addition to devastating arguments he is able to understand the sadness of  people around him - and in particular young men who are oppressed in a feminist world and who are discouraged at every turn by a PC culture that preaches that all the ailments of the world can be traced back to their patriarchal fault.

All this patriarchal stuff is a pack of lies, but the lies are having a devastating effect upon young men in the West today.

See here an example of Peterson's tears. Jordan Peterson in Tears

Jesus and Paul
This clip reminded me of the Lord Jesus, who wept at the grave of Lazarus.

It reminded me of the apostle Paul who every day in Ephesus warned the church elders about wolves who would come into the church after he was gone and try to scatter the sheep - a wolf has zero concern for sheep and 100% concern for personal power.

To be Christlike is to feel deeply. Sometimes that is sorrow, sometimes that is in indignation and righteous anger at sinfulness. 

It reminded me of the apostle Paul who sharing his sorrows in 2 Corinthians 11:29 said "Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn?"

When weak vulnerable sheep are led astray by error or lies or gossip or wolves, Paul felt it inside. The Greek word "inwardly burn" is just as it says on the tin, "inwardly burn". To see someone led astray causes a shepherd's heart to inwardly burn at the wickedness that led them astray.

True men weep.

That is what was so unusual in the Peterson Clip. You just don't see it today.

But hopefully men the church, Christlike men, will weep at sorrow and wickedness and sin.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Life and Gospel go Together

Gospel and Life go Together
The church can go astray in many different ways - Satan will make sure of that. One of the most subtle ways is a growing disconnect between what we believe (our doctrine) and how we live.

What do I mean?

It is possible to be doctrinally correct and pure and yet for our lives not to line up with the Gospel. I am not thinking here about sinful behaviour, speech or even thought. I am referring to a reluctance to gladly endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

Jesus and his Message
Jesus insists that everyone who follows him must deny themselves and take up their cross (Luke 9:23). This means a life of humble self-denial and cross-bearing. If we want to know exactly what this looks like we are to consider the life of Jesus himself, who was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.

There must be something "cross-shaped" about the life of every genuine follower of Jesus Christ.

In our comfortable Western Culture where we are rarely persecuted this cross-bearing must take a deliberate form:
  • we might give sacrificially of our time to serve others
  • we may give sacrificially of our money to help build the kingdom
  • we may be prepared to speak out on issues that are unPC and suffer the consequences for it
Paul and his Gospel
When Paul defends his Gospel he often defends his own life-expression of it. This is most noticeable to the church at Corinth where false teachers and super-apostles were threatening the church. Paul does not merely defend the Gospel, he defends his lifestyle which flows out of the Gospel. The two are connected. He explains how much suffering he has passed through. While the super-pastors of his day boasted about numbers and miracles and power he boasted about the sheer amount of sufferings he had endured:
  • worked hard
  • been in prison
  • exposed to death
  • on five occasions received the notorious 39 lashes
  • on three occasions beaten with rods
  • three times shipwrecked
  • plus, plus, plus (2 Corinthians 11)
His reason for such "boasting" was that Gospel and life go together: the life you lead reveals the Gospel you preach. A true Gospel is revealed by a sacrificial life, a false Gospel by an easy-going life.

How to spot false Christianity and false teachers
It is possible to be 100% doctrinally correct and yet in fact to hold to a false Gospel. If our lives do not reveal the cross-bearing that is the external mark of all true Christianity, then our intellectual attachment to the Gospel cannot be authentic.

This is perhaps the greatest temptation of western evangelical Christians living in an age of ease. It is possible to believe all the right things but to live a life of ease which in point of  fact denies the truth of a crucified saviour.

A sobering self-examination
What kind of Gospel do I really believe? If I examine my life - and most esepcially the cross-bearing, sacrifical aspects of it - how much of the Gospel do I really believe?

Friday, 23 March 2018

Community Church Warndon - Good News

Good News!
It is good news when young and small churches get mentioned in the Christian press. So often the only ones we hear about are those which are judged "important" by the standards of the world. The biblical analysis is this: there is not a single encouragement in the NT to a church because it was large and not one discouragement to a church because it was small.

What matters are things like love, faith and fidelity to the Gospel. And by those standards, CCW are way up there!

Read all about them here: An Adventure of Faith

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Jordan Peterson - Five Reasons to Listen

Jordan Peterson?
Not heard of Jordan Peterson? What planet do you live on!?

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian Professor who has gained remarkable global attention in the last year or so. And for very good reasons. He represents the silent majority of Western Culture - voices that are fearful of speaking out because of political correctness. As far as I am aware he is not a Christian believer, but he is respectful of Christians and in the main his views seem to be shaped by the Judaeo-Christian consensus.

Start with that Cathy Newman interview:
Peterson interviewed by Cathy Newman (1-0)

Next watch the opposition he is receiving today:
Queen's University

Here are five good reasons for listening to this man:

(1) He could be a modern day Cyrus?
God is able to raise up unbelievers to do his will. King Cyrus, a pagan king, allowed the people of God to return to their promised land (see for example Isaiah 45). Could not Peterson be one of God's modern Cyrus's bringing certain truths into the public sphere and exposing lies?

(2) He is exposing the pathetic thinking - and plain lies  - behind PC
In talk after talk Peterson exposes the lies behind PC head quotes. The myth that there is a"Gender Pay Gap" for example (that Gender alone is responsible for pay differentials) is exploded in the Cathy Newman interview - Gender turns out to be just one of many factors why men and women are paid differently.

The way in which Peterson destroys these myths reveals how pathetic all man-made lies really are. It does not take much to unmask them. Lies are light, truth us heavy.

(3) He is remarkably calm in debate
Peterson deals with opponents in a remarkably calm way. He does not get ruffled, he does not get cross. There is much to learn here!

(4) His push for freedom of speech could aid the cause of the Gospel
If Western culture continues to move in its present direction, it won't be long before the Gospel is banned. Peterson argues hard for the freedom for folk to say what they want rather than be compelled by the law to say things.

(5) He needs the Gospel
Peterson's message is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ - and so when you listen to him, pray for him too, that he might come to know not merely the cultural inheritance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ himself.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Apostles Today?

A Growing Issue
Two events recently took me back to the Bible's teaching about Apostles. First, this fine book about a new movement (fad?) passing through some of the more charismatic churches.

Second, a retired pastor shared his concern that someone in his home church was trying to connect the church up with some bigshot preacher in a nearby city - in some kind of apostolic "oversight" arrangement.

Fortunately the church was having none of it. The bigshot preacher says on his website that he has "a growing apostolic ministry amongst a number of churches that look to him as a wise father or master builder."

So what's going on?
Well, historically, the church has always believed that the gift of Apostle, capital A has gone. It was given at the founding of the church for the founding of the church but since the foundational documents of the church are all completed (i.e. the New Testament) these capital A Apostles are no longer necessary.

No-one,  by the way, has a problem with small a apostles. The Greek word apostle simply means sent one. All sorts of Christians can be regarded as sent ones, from missionaries to church planters.

No, we're thinking here of capital A Apostles - like Peter, John, James and Paul.

Some charismatics are saying that capital A Apostles are still around and that in neglecting this gift the church will fail to accomplish her calling to reach the world. They teach that every local church should voluntarily put themselves under one of these so-called apostles.

What wrong with modern-day Apostles?
In a word, they are deceivers and impostors. An impostor is someone who says he is something that he is not, a deceiver is someone who pretends to be someone he is not. Modern day Apostles are both impostors and deceivers, and here is why.

Jesus left foundations to thirteen Apostles
Jesus wrote no books but left thirteen men to the task of establishing the church for all time. Eleven of these were the men who followed Jesus around during his earthly ministry and were witnesses of his resurrection. One (Matthias) was appointed to take the place of Judas - and he too had to be a witness of Jesus' earthly ministry and resurrection (Acts 1). The thirteenth apostle was the apostle Paul who felt keenly being an "outsider" to the Twelve by calling himself "one abnormally born" (1 Cor 15:8). Paul's unusual calling pointed to his unique status as apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8).

All Apostles had to bear at three demanding qualifications
Every capital A apostle had to prove the following qualities:

(i) seen Jesus in person - the risen Christ (see 1 Cor 9:1)
(ii) performed remarkable miracles (2 Cor 12:12)
(iii) were able to point to significant fruit from their ministries (1 Cor 9:1)

All the 27 books of the New Testament were written by Apostles or close associates of Apostles (Luke an associate of Paul, Mark, an associate of Peter). In other words, Apostles wrote Scripture. Of course they did! When they wrote under the guidance of the Spirit, Jesus spoke! Therefore, if there are Apostles today it must follow that their writings are on a par with the writings of the New Testament.

Let us suppose that a modern day "Apostle" says he has seen Christ (number (i)) and let us even say that he says he can point to significant fruit (number (iii)). Although we might investigate both claims and find them wanting, what about the second requirement?

When Paul touched handkerchiefs they could be sent away to heal people (Acts 19) and when Peter's shadow fell on people it healed them (Acts 5). All the miracles of the Apostles were spectacular. They didn't heal headaches and backaches, the blind saw, the lame leaped, the dead were raised.

This second requirement alone rules out every single modern "Apostle." If miracles of the nature of the original Apostles were being performed anywhere in the world today the Internet would be alive with the news and every news outlet in the world would follow that Apostle everywhere he went and record the wonders of his miraculous powers. We would have non-stop TV channels dedicated to him and teams of independent doctors confirming every case.

Where - we challenge - is any man anywhere in the world performing Jesus-an- his-Apostle kinds of miracles? Nowhere is the answer. Why? Because there are no Apostles in the world anymore, they all died out in the first century.

A Growing Menace
Tragically the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is growing. And it is our duty to warn Christians to avoid anyone who calls himself an apostle of the New Testament variety. We have absolutely no need of Apostles today. What we need is to return to the Gospel of the true Apostles and preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Have nothing to do with such deceivers and impostors!