Friday, December 12, 2008

Studying The Apostles' Creed

Since I started writing the homegroup notes for our church, we've almost always worked sequentially through books of the Bible. Next term we're going to try something different. D.v. we'll have Bible studies which use the clauses of the Apostles' Creed as a launching off point.

The following might be helpful resources:

Tim Chester, I Believe: The Apostle's Creed 10 studies for individuals or groups Good Book Guide (2007)

Michael Horton, We Believe: Rediscovering the Essentials of the Apostles' Creed (Nashville, Word Publishing, 1998)

Alistair McGrath, I Believe: Exploring the Apostles' Creed (Downers Grove, IVP, 1991, 1997)

J. I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles' Creed (Wheaton, Crossways, 2008) - formerly part of Growing In Christ originally published as I Want To Be A Christian

George M. Philip, The Apostles' Creed: What Christians Should Always Believe (Fearn, Christian Focus, 1990, 1994)

I guess it would also be helpful for leaders to look up the relevant doctrines in something like Bruce Milne's Know The Truth or an evangelical Systematic Theology such as Wayne Grudem's.

I'm thinking the study series might go something like this:

(1) I believe in God, the Father almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

(2) I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

(3) suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

(4) On the third day he rose again;

(5) he ascended into heaven,

he is seated at the right hand of the Father,

(6) and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

(7) I believe in the Holy Spirit,

(8) the holy catholic Church,

the communion of saints,

(9) the forgiveness of sins,

(10) the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting.

Here's Tim Chester's outline (with suggested Bible passages) taken from the Good Book Company website:

1. Believing in God
'I believe in God' Romans 1 v 18-25 and John 14 v 1-11

2. The Triune God
'the Father...his only Son...the Holy Spirit' John 17 v 20-26

3. The Sovereign God
'the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth' Psalm 33

4. The identity of Jesus Christ
'I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord' Hebrews 1-2

5. The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
'who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead' Matthew 27 v 11-54

6. The reign of Jesus Christ
'On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead' 1 Corinthians 15 v 1-34

7. The life of the Spirit
'I believe in the Holy Spirit' Romans 8 v 1-17

8. The community of the Spirit
'the holy catholic church, the communion of saints' Ephesians 1-4

9. The work of the Spirit
'the forgiveness of sins' Matthew 9 v 1-13 and Titus 3 v 3-8

10. The hope of the Spirit
'the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting' Romans 8 v 18-39

On 21st January I might speak in our midweek meeting on "I believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: The Apostles' Creed and the Trinity".

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I'm having a problem with a wisdom tooth that is proving rather distracting.

I've got a vague memory of hearing some terrible statistic about the proportion of people in the Middle Ages who suffered from tooth ache. Its amazing they ever got anything done. Though perhaps there were just less wimpy and got on with it.

I wasted a bit of time looking for a striking statistic for you and it didn't pop out of Google, but I thought this was moderately interesting:

Analysis of skeletons from the post-medieval (1843-1854) catholic mission of Sts. Mary and Michael, Whitechapel, London has revealed high rates of dental disease. Eighty one percent of adults showed evidence of dental caries, 90.7% had calculus, 78.6% suffered from periodontal disease, 35.9% had dental abscesses, 77.8 % had lost teeth during life and 54.4% showed hypoplastic defects of the tooth enamel. The teeth of children were also affected with 33.9% presenting cavities of at least one tooth, 12.1% with calculus and 10.2% with enamel hypoplasia.

I'm pleased to discover that calculus means both (1) tortuous and impenetrable method of calculation that some people seem able to do by occult powers of guess-work that they call "by inspection" and (2) tartar.

Right, back to turning the pages of Calvin's The Sinfulness of Outward Conformity to Roman Rites / On Shunning the Unlawful Rites of the Ungodly, and preserving the purity of the Christian Religion. A Letter by John Calvin to his dear and very excellent friend N. S. (1537)

As every schoolboy knows

I think Calvin is a little over optimistic about how well informed people are when he says:

Who knows not that ancient Christians were wont to give the Eucharist to infants at the breast?
Calvin's Tracts, trans. Beveridge, vol 3, p322

(Wrongly, in my view, Calvin disapproves of young children receiving the Lord's Supper because he thinks 1 Corinthians 11:28 means that to receive it aright they would have to examine themselves in a way they are incapable of).

Slippery "Saviour"

This Times Online article includes the video clip from Sky News where Gordon Brown says, "we not only saved the world..."!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Angelic Prayer meetings?

I was surprised to discover that Calvin held that the angels pray for us. To be honest, I'd never really thought about it.

With regard to the Angels a different view must be taken [than that regarding dead believers], in accordance with the different nature of their office. The care and protection of the pious has been committed to them. They must therefore, in obedience to God, be solicitous about our salvation; and they only discharge the duty assigned to them by praying for us.

'The True Method of Reforming the Church and Healing Her Divisions' (1547) in Calvin’s Tracts 3 volumes Calvin Translation Society Translated by Henry Beveridge Edinburgh 1844 (Eugene, Wipf and Stock, 2002), volume 3, p318

James Carey has some more thoughts on angels.

Christian Stamps

Although the Royal Mail website doesn't exactly trumpet the fact, this year, as an alternative to the Panto stamps, you can request the Christian ones (with images of the Lord Jesus and Mary), though in our local Post Office Mrs Lloyd wasn't offered a choice. No doubt they're carefully hidden away under the counter to avoid offense and so as not to spoil anyone's Winterval. The BBC News Story is here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Jesus' Secret Food Supply

Here are some jottings for a sermon I preached yesterday on John 4:27-42. An audio file should appear on our church sermon page some time soon.

Vv10-14: Jesus is able to give Living Water

V32: Jesus has a secret food supply (cf. v8, v27, v31, v33)

What is Jesus’ food?

Jesus’ food is to do the will and work of the Father (v34)

That is what sustains and satisfies him (cf. Dt 8:3).

What keeps you going? Where do you look for satisfaction?

When did you last miss a meal you were so taken up with something else? Would you put yourself out for this work?

What is the Father’s will and work?

What has Jesus just been doing?

Seeking worshippers (v23 cf. v27)

5:17-21; 6:38-40; 9:3-4; 17:4; 19:30

Jesus the Saviour of the World (v42; cf. 3:17)

Look: a great harvest has begun (vv35-38; cf. v30)

Do not delay the work of evangelism (vv35-36)

Open your eyes; look for opportunities

How is this work done / this harvest brought in?

Jesus is sent by the Father (v34)

Jesus sends his disciples into the harvest field (v38; cf. Mt 9:38)

Believers will do even greater works than Jesus (14:12)

Be involved in this great work of evangelism

A partnership in which there are different parts (vv36-38)

The Samaritan woman is involved in the harvest; the Samaritans are part of the crop

The value of personal “testimony”, bearing witness (v39)

Speaks of her own experience about Jesus (v29, v39)

Could you give your testimony?

The priority of Jesus’ words (vv41-42)

Work for this food that lasts and satisfies (6:27-29)

Monday, November 24, 2008

True Humanity

A stimulating morning at SEMS with Philip Eveson speaking on “Made Like His Brothers: The Humanity of Christ”. The MP3 should appear on the SEMS website.

I was struck again by the fact that we so easily think that to err is human. Sinless humanity is totally beyond our experience. But it’s important for us to remember that sin is not of the essence of true humanity. Rather, sin spoils our humanity; it makes us less human rather than more human.

As Warfield commented, Jesus’ was the only strictly normal human development the world has ever seen.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Lord's Prayer (sermon notes)

Here's a Word document with are some jottings I made in preparation for preaching 4 sermons on The Lord's Prayer from August - November '08. The sermons are available as audio files at:

Colossians Bible Studies

Here are some Bible Study notes on Colossians I prepared to assist our homegroup leaders in their preparation. (Word document, 5 studies).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Extra Catholicum

"The label “extra Calvinisticum”, applied to the affirmation that in the Incarnation the Eternal Son of God was united to but not restricted to his humanity, is misleading, to say the least. There is nothing uniquely Calvinist about the doctrine, for as a means of interpreting the Biblical witness to Christ it had a widespread and ancient usage.

There is a direct liaison from Calvin to Lombard and especially to St. Augustine. That he learned the doctrine from other portions of the tradition cannot be proved from his writings, but it was in fact almost universally confessed – from Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia, to Athanasius and Cyril, to St. Thomas and Gabriel Biel….

If one wished to add to the terminological explosion which threatens and delights the theological world, one might coin “extra Catholicum” or “extra Patristicum” as being more appropriate than “extra Calvinisticum.""

E. David Willis, Calvin’s Catholic Christology: The Function of the So-Called Extra Calvinisticum in Calvin’s Theology Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought volume 2 (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1966), p60

See also Peter Leithart's summary of Barth on this.

What can the so-called Extra Calvinisticum do for me?

It's a question everyone's asking, I know!

In case you need a little reminder, the so-called "extra Calvinisticum" is the idea that "the Eternal Son of God, even after the Incarnation, was united to the human nature to form One Person but was not restricted to the flesh.” (Willis, p1). See e.g. Institutes 2.13.4 and 4.17.30.

If you think that God is essentially omnipresent, it seems to me you have to say that if you think that the Human Christ was fully God and that his humanity was not omnipresent.

Willis writes of the intention, role and effect of the extra Calvinisticum in Calvin's thought:

In teaching what came later to be called the “extra Calvinisticum,” Calvin the Biblical theologian endevours, with the force of his humanist learning turned to the service of Christian theology, to safeguard an essential response to revelation which the Church before him also found it necessary to protect. It is him way of taking account of the fact that in Christ God is powerfully for us. It is not intended to evade the Christ witnessed to by the apostolic message, nor is it intended to buttress an allegedly natural theology. On the contrary, the “extra Calvinisticum” emphasizes that the God at work in Jesus Christ is one and the same with the God who sustains and orders the universe. He is the Triune God, as is manifest in the prominent role assigned to the Holy Spirit in the dynamics of the Incarnate life. The humanity of Christ can develop in a special way without transgressing the bounds of genuine humanity because of the gifts which the Logos conveys to it by his Spirit. In the “extra Calvinisticum,” Calvin is asserting that Christ is able to be God for us because he does not cease to be God over us in the Incarnation and because the humanity of Christ never ceases to be our humanity in the movement of God towards us. In Jesus Christ the vindication of the majesty of God and the re-establishment and fulfilment of the humanity of man take place. It is this gracious relationship – Creator-created, Redeemer-redeemed, Sanctifier-sanctified – on which the right ordering of history depends: such is Calvin’s affirmation in the “extra Calvinisticum,” not the philosophical principle finitum non capax infiniti. The “extra Calvinisticum” is not a sign of the discontinuity between creation and redemption, but of the fact that by assuming our condition the Eternal Son did not relinquish part of his empire but extended that empire over lost ground. Election to the body of Christ means being united to Head by the Holy Spirit, and conforming to the image of Christ in the world by the Holy Spirit. The “extra Calvinisticum” provides for Christ’s Lorship over all the world and yet his special presence with and Lordship over the Church, through the Holy Spirit; and, it bestows a Christological content upon the role which the order of nature plays in ethics.

E. David Willis, Calvin’s Catholic Christology: The Function of the So-Called Extra Calvinisticum in Calvin’s Theology Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought volume 2 (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1966), pp6-7

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


It's good to welcome Revd Stuart Dean to the blogosphere at

Romantic Day Out

Apparently Pastor Douglas Wilson will be speaking in North London on 14th February 2009 on "The Future of Children and Children of the Future" at a conference on hope and the family. See Hope to see you there!

Camp Plans 2009

If you know anyone who'll be 11-14 years old in the summer or any Christians who might be potential leaders, we'd love to hear from you.

Danehill 1

previously Romsey 1

Ref No: EV001503

The best week of the year with something for everyone!

Great food, drama and music. Trips to the beach and Chessington World of Adventure. Choice of on- and off-site activities, sports, crafts, swimming. Indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts & rope swing on site. Pool table, table football, table tennis. Lots of fun and laughter. Make new friends. Clear Bible teaching. See you there!

Cumnor House School, Danehill, Haywards Heath, Sussex, RH17 7HT

Saturday 1st Aug – 8th Aug 2009 (7 nights)

Approx 45 places for ages 11 – 14

£206 (Financial assistance may be available in cases of need)

If you came on a CPAS camp last year, the office should automatically send you a brochure. You can request brochures from the website.

For more information see the CPAS website – click “find a venture”:

Bookings open on 3rd Januray 2009. Camp sometimes books up very fast, so apply early to avoid disappointment

Contact Revd Marc Lloyd – 01323 642406 / 07812 054820

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Distress in 1 Corinthians 7

Further to these thoughts, I’m interested in the idea that the “present crisis” of 1 Corinthians 7:26 might be the fall of Jerusalem (and associated events) which Jesus predicted.

Its worth noting that apparently by the time 1 Corinthians was written it already seemed that relations between the Romans and the Jews were deteriorating and the situation was unstable. Paul may well have seen conflict as immanent.

The parallel with God’s command to Jeremiah in 16:1 not to marry and have children in the land because of the terrible times that were coming might also strengthen the case that the fall of Jerusalem is in view in 1 Corinthians 7 since Jeremiah is also concerned with the fate of Jerusalem at the hands of a pagan army.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sermon Illustrations

I'm not very good at sermon illustrations and I'm not really sure how enthusiastic I am about them, but I'm told that Holwick's Sermon Illustration database is well worth a look. A friend tells me that 50% of the time he finds something usable there.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

CICCU talks

The Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU) have made lots of audio sermons available here. I may plagarise some of them in the future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

LORD seeks tart to worship him

An audio recording of my sermon on John 4:1-26 is available on our church website sermons page. Here are the jottings from my handout.

A typical boy meets girl story – Gen 24, Isaac & Rebekah; Gen 29, Jacob & Rachel; Ex 2, Moses & Zipporah; John 4, Jesus & the Samaritan woman

Jesus at a wedding, 2:1-12; Jesus the Bridegroom, 3:29; Eph 5:32

The LORD the husband of an adulterous people, Hosea 1:2

The Samaritan woman’s 3-fold exclusion: (1) woman, v27; (2) Samaritan, v9 (3) notoriously immoral, v6, 6th hour = noon, v18

The good news about Jesus is for everyone – good and bad alike

Nicodemus also needs to be born again of water and Spirit, 3:5

Living water: refreshment, satisfaction, (eternal) life, v13, 10:10, cleansing = Spirit, 7:37-39

We are all thirsty, v7, v10, Jer 2:13 – what is your broken well?

Jesus is the only fountain of living waters, nothing else can satisfy, vv13-14, Ps 42:1-2

A free gift, v10 – just ask Him

We can’t pretend to Jesus, vv16-19, v29, 1:47-50; 2:24-25; Ps 139:1-4. We might as well be honest with him.

It is not where you worship but whom you worship and how you worship that counts; Jesus the New Temple, 2:19-22

Jesus the Truth, v24, 14:6

We can worship God only through Jesus and the Spirit he gives

Jesus thirsts, v7, 19:28, Ps 22:14-15, so that we can drink - water flows from Jesus, 19:34

Jesus says “I AM”, v26, Ex 3:14

A betrothal of belief – engage yourself to Jesus, be faithful to him

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Calvin on the unborn children of believers

“The offspring of believers is born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, are included in the covenant of eternal life. Nor, indeed, are they admitted into the Church by baptism on any other ground than that they belonged to the body of Christ before they were born…. Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause merely of a partial salvation, but bestows salvation entire, and is afterwards ratified by baptism.” ('The True Method of Reforming the Church and Healing Her Divisions' (1547) in Beveridge, Tracts vol 3 p275)

On the making of many books

Alisdair Heron says that:

“Contrary to what might be imagined, there is nothing easier, with access to a decent library and mastery of the elementary techniques of note-taking, than the production of impressive-looking studies running into many hundreds of pages, most of them footnotes, and concluding with a select bibliography of, say, five hundred titles. The difficulty with such artefacts is not writing them, but reading them. (Paying for them is also becoming an increasing problem.)” (pviii)

Heron, Alasdair, Table and Tradition: Towards an Eccumenical Understanding of the Eucharist (Edinburgh, The Hansdel Press, 1983)

I'm not sure its quite so easy, but there you go!

Cf. Christ, Nature, Scripture, Sacraments etc.

For anyone who can't wait for the Magnum Opus, here's a passage that might somehow get included:

“Within the sacrament, the sign’s relationship to “the Word” mirrors Christ’s relationship to God the Redeemer… (p156) [quotes Institutes IV.XIV.3]. Like Christ, the signs are perceptible, but also like Christ, their appearance does not express their meaning transparently, simply, directly, or self-evidently. Like Christ, the signs are “earthly,” simple, seemingly common; like Christ they serve to bridge human blindness and divine revelation, bot not automatically or simply. Like Christ, they belong to the cognitive and somatic complexity of God’s communication with humanity…. Calvin distinguishes a range of divine representations: nature, Scripture, Christ, the elements of the sacraments. All share in representing God to humanity. Nature is a manifestation which originates in God and displays his magnificence and love. Scripture also originates in God, abd articulates in words his will. Christ represents God more complexly, bridging in his person the divine and human, embodying and giving voice to God’s commands and instructions. God designated the elements, made of them “signs”; they do not manifest God in the same way as nature, Scripture or Christ. All share the fact of their physicality, but the ways in which they represent differ. How they function to communicate differs. And the content of their communication differs. Christ and the elements belong most fully to God’s communication of his covenant with humanity.

Those earthly elements “have been marked with this significance by God.” Their meaning is not autonomous of God speaking. The faithful learn to read the true meaning of the elements within the culture of preaching the Word of God. At the same time, the elements themselves provide a cognitive bridge, between the corporeality of human intelligence and God’s speaking. The two exist in interdependence, the one providing the verbal articulation of meaning, the other providing the tactile, visible, audible means by which that meaning is made accessible to humankind. The two sacraments exist in different relationship to preaching. Baptsim initiates the infant into the culture of preaching (Chapter XVI), signalling with the earthly element, water, the covenant between God and man. As children age, they grow in understanding of baptism (section 21). The Lord’s Supper, like preaching, recurs.” (p157)

Wandel, Lee Palmer, The Eucharist In The Reformation: Incarnation and Liturgy (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Stuck on sermon prep?

A couple of people have recommended Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck by Dan Heath and Chip Heath, a secular book which has some insights that are transferable to how to preach more memorably. I might get hold of it and see if I can make my sermons a bit more sticky.

See also:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Would Calvin have worn a chasuble?

Would Calvin have worn a chasuble if he'd been required to do so? A burning question everyone is asking, I'm sure you'll agree. I mention it because I was surprised to read that:

… in writing to the church at Wesel, he [Calvin] insisted that such trivialities as chasubles and candles must not be made an occasion for disunity.” ( ‘The Lord’s Supper in the Theology and Practice of Calvin’, G. S. M. Walker (pp131-148) p143, in Duffield, G. E. (ed.) John Calvin: Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology (Appleford, Sutton Courtenay Press, 1966) citing Calvini Opera from Corpus Reformatorum XV.79-80)

I've wasted some time trying to track down the letter in question (in English!) but I haven't been able to do so.

Apparently Luther said:

Now the elevation of the sacrament, wearing the tonsure, putting on the chasuble and alb, etc., are matters concerning which God has given neither commandments nor prohibitions. Therefore everyone is to have freedom of choice to do these things or refrain from doing them. God wants us to have such freedom, etc. Since the pope does not allow for such freedom of action, but curbs it with his teaching and commandment, he usurps the office of God and sets himself arrogantly in God’s place, as St. Paul has forewarned concerning him [II Thess. 2:4]. He makes sin where God would have no sin, and thereby kills souls and binds consciences.

Luther's works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Volume 40, pp 129-130

Of course it all depends on what meaning is attached to that stuff. It would be a sin to elevate the sacrament that the bread might be worshiped.


With a vernacular service followed at every point by the people, Calvin had restored the primitive pattern of corporate, congregational communion. It is, however, a tragedy that for his spiritual descendants, no less than for himself, the scriptural ideal of weekly communion has not yet been adequately realised; the result has been an unnatural divorce between word and sacrament to which the whole theology of Calvin is opposed. (p143

‘The Lord’s Supper in the Theology and Practice of Calvin’, G. S. M. Walker (pp131-148) in John Calvin: Courtenay Studies in Reformation Theology (Appleford, Sutton Courtenay Press, 1966) Duffield, G. E. (ed.)


I've just enjoyed rereading Matthew W. Mason, ‘A Spiritual Banquet: John Calvin on the Lord’s Supper’ Churchman vol 117 no 4 2003 pp 329-346, which I heartily recomend. Matthew has some interesting things to say on contemporary evangelical neglect of the Lord's Supper and some possible reasons.

Here's the introduction:

Much contemporary evangelicalism neglects the Lord’s Supper. In contrast, John Calvin, whose view was shared by our English Reformers, viewed it as a ‘spiritual banquet’ wherein we feed on Christ. Although he did view the Supper as a memorial of Christ’s death, the centre of Calvin’s Eucharistic theology is the doctrine of faith-union. As believers feed on the bread and wine physically, they feed spiritually on Christ, a view supported by 1 Corinthians 10:16. As a covenant meal, the Supper comes annexed with covenant blessings for those who eat with faith, and covenant curses for unbelievers who partake. Calvin’s view of the Supper is biblically faithful and theologically satisfying, and the contemporary church would profit from its recovery. (p329)

He argues that:

Calvin urged frequent use of the Lord’s Supper because he valued it highly, and if he is correct, our neglect of the Supper is tantamount to hungry people deciding to starve themselves three weeks out of every four when they could be at a banquet. (p330)

Matthew reminds us that Calvin maintains that:

the Lord’s Table should have been spread at least once a week for the assembly of Christians, and the promises declared in it should feed us spiritually…. All, like hungry men, should flock to such a bounteous repast. (Institutes IV.xvii.46, Ford Battles edition p1424)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I will be with you always

I often feel inches away from Christological and Trinitarian heresy. I am trying to puzzle over how we should understand the presence of Christ (especially in the Lord’s Supper) and what Calvin means by this:

What can be imagined more absurd than that the flesh of Christ was in heaven while he hung upon the cross? Yet undoubtedly the whole Christ, God and man, was then also in heaven… Christ, the Mediator, God and man, is whole everywhere, but not wholly, (totus ubique, sed non totum) because in respect of his flesh he continued some time on earth and now dwells in heaven. (‘Last Admonition of John Calvin to Joachim Westphal’, Calvin’s Tracts volume 2, Treatises on the Sacraments, p418)

Or again,

… Christ as mediator is everywhere, and in as much as he is one person, he, as God and man, or God manifest in the flesh, fills all things, although in respect of his flesh he is in heaven. (p452)

I feel am a bit confused as to what it means that the whole Christ is with us but not wholly but I think it goes like this:

The person Christ is everywhere according to his divinity, since as God he is omnipresent. Christ’s divine essence fills heaven and earth (p385).

But Christ is also seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven whence he shall come again in the same manner in which he went, according to his human nature, which, like any real human body occupies a certain amount space in a particular location.

We could add that:

Christ may also be said to be with us by the Holy Spirit since the persons of the Trinity indwell one another. The Holy Spirit is not Jesus but he is the Spirit of Jesus.

Further, the Spirit unites us by faith to the human flesh of Jesus which is heaven. Again, precisely what that means and achieves ....

Christ’s power and virtue, his empire and the secret power of his grace are everywhere (p457).

Any help / corrections most welcome!

Mum's Job Description

From Dr James Dobson's Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for those Shaping the Next Generation of Men (Wheaton, Tyndale House, 2001) p83:

I have the highest respect and admiration for those who are blessed to be called mothers. There are few assignments in human experience that require the array of skills and wisdom needed by a mom in fulfilling her everyday duties. She must be a resident psychologist, physician, theologian, educator, nurse, chef, taxi driver, fire marshal, and occasional police officer. And if she succeeds in each of these responsibilities, she gets to do it all again tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekly Communion @ Mars Hill?

I don't know very much about Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church, but I have just listened to a couple of Pastor Driscoll's sermons. It would seem they have the Lord's Supper at every service. Does anyone know if that's correct or if they talk about it anywhere?

Dear Timothy

Here's a book I'm interested in reading:

Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry edited by Tom Ascol (2004)

As Paul imparted his wisdom to Timothy through letters, this collection of writings from seasoned pastors contains over 480 years of combined ministry experience.

Table of Contents
Establish Priorities (Tom Ascol)
Watch Your Life (Conrad Mbewe)
Love Your Family (Tedd Tripp)
Love Your Flock (Ted Christman)
Memorize Scripture (Andy Davis)
Pray Always (Martin Holdt)
Cultivate Humility (C.J. Mahaney)
Be Courageous (Bill Ascol)
Do the Work of an Evangelist (Mark Dever)
Do Personal Work (Fred Malone)
Watch Your Doctrine (Raymond Perron)
Keep Studying (Ligon Duncan)
Learn from the Puritans I(Joel Beeke)
Learn from the Puritans II (Joel Beeke)
Preach the Word (Roger Ellsworth)
Worship in Spirit and Truth (Terry Johnson)
Train Other Men (Steve Martin)
Care for the Nations (Phil Newton)
Don't Neglect Revival (Ray Ortlund, Jr.)
Find a Place to Settle (Geoff Thomas)
Recommended Reading

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Living Water

Look away now if you're planning to be at Holy Trinity, Eastbourne on the evening of Sun 26th Oct as d.v. I'll be preaching John 4 and I wouldn't want to steal my own thunder.

I've listened to a few online sermons in preparation. Andrew Towner (Co-Mission website) and Jonathan Fletcher (Emmanuel Wimbeldon) both quote this striking passage from Malcolm Muggeridge:

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man.
People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that's fame. I can fairly easily
earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland
Revenue—that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly,
if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that's pleasure. It might
happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded
for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our
time—that's fulfilment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply
these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are
nothing—less than nothing, a positive impediment—measured against one draught of
that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who
or what they are. What, I ask myself, does life hold, what is there in the works
of time, in the past, now and to come, which could possibly be put in the
balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?

Sermon delivered at Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen, 26th May 1968, reprinted in Jesus Rediscovered (Garden City NY, Doubleday, 1969) pp76-82 and also in Seeing Through the Eye: Malcolm Muggeridge on Faith edited by Cecil Kuhne (Ignatius, 2005) 'Living Water' p97

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Rock

I have just heard a clip of Mr Brown in which he said that the "we must in an uncertain and unstable world be the rock of stability on which the British people can depend." Fortunately, the position is already taken.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Abortion Statistics

Since the 1967 Abortion act there have been 6.7 million abortions in the UK

Currently there are around 200 000 abortions a year in the UK

In 0.4% of cases there is a risk to the mother’s life

1.3% of abortions are performed on the grounds of foetal handicap

98% of abortions in the UK are for social reasons

1 in 5 pregnancies in Britain now ends in abortion

32% of abortions are performed on women who have already had at least one other abortion

(statistics from the Christian Institute May 2008 Abortion briefing. Figures for 2006)

Jesus the Saviour of the World

Further to my comments on John 3:17, and see also 4:42 on the fact that Jesus "really is the Saviour of the world", I came across this quotation from Charles Hodge:

We have reason to believe that the number of the finally lost, in comparison with the whole number of the saved, will be very inconsiderable. Our blessed Lord when surrounded by the innumerable company of the redeemed will be hailed as the Saviour of men, as the Lamb that bore the sins of the world.

Systematic Theology volume 3, pp879-80, quoted in Lucas and Philip, Teaching John (Christian Focus and Proclamation Trust Media, 2002) p51.

Lucas and Philip add:

We may hesitate to be so bold as he concerning the specifics of the relative number of those saved and lost; Scripture does not seem to put it in exactly these terms - though may it indeed be so, for God's glory! But surely the thrust of what he is saying is what John is proclaiming here in this great third chapter: God is a saving God, and his great purpose for a lost, rebellious world is a purpose of grace and salvation, boundless and free. Jesus is the Saviour of the world.

See also Lucas & Philip pp56-57.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Calvin on polemics

"That bitter reproaches and scurrilous witticisms are unbecoming in Christians, both sides agree. But as the Prophets did not refrain from derision, and our Saviour himself speaks in cutting terms of perverse and deceitful teachers, and the Holy Spirit everywhere inveighs will full freedom against this class of men, it is thoughtless and foolish to raise the question, whether it be lawful gravely and sternly to rebuke those who expose themselves to shame and disgrace; for this is to bring a charge against the servants of God, whom holy zeal often impelled to harsh and bitter speeches. No doubt every individual is always bound to look well to the cause from which he either takes fire or speaks keenly."

Calvin's Tracts Trans. Beveridge Vol 2, 'Last Admonition of John Calvin to Joachim Westphal' p350

Calvin on private absolution

One of the interesting things about reading Calvin is that from time to time there are things that might surprise us contemporary evangelicals. For example, he says:

The utility of private absolution it is not my purpose to deny. But as in several passages of my writings I commend the use of it, provided it is optional, and free from superstition, so it is neither lawful, nor even expedient, to bind it upon consciences by a law.

'Second Defence of the Sacraments in Answer to the Calumnies of Westphal' (1556) Calvin’s Tracts Calvin Translation Society Translated by Henry Beveridge Edinburgh 1844 (Eugene, Wipf and Stock, 2002)Volume 2 p321

A Passion For Life

A Passion for Life seems to be an excellent initiative through the Gospel Partnerships. At the website you can request email updates of news and download the Vision For Mission booklet. More information and resources are promised soon.

A Passion for Life is about proclaiming Christ's
PASSION for the LIFE of the world in March 2010.

It means:

• connecting with people - making contact with unbelievers in our local communities
• connecting with churches - partnering with Evangelical churches for the sake of the gospel
• connecting with Easter - rediscovering the glorious message of Christ's death and resurrection

This initiative comes from the 'Gospel Partnerships' emerging around the country and is intended to stimulate regional, church-based, gospel centred mission by evangelical churches of all kinds leading to a month of local missions in March 2010. Join us in prayer that churches will unite enthusiastically in this vision, believers will pray and prepare well, and many unbelievers will be saved to the glory of God alone.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Scriptural" Call to Worship for Harvest

As I’m not wildly impressed by the tiny Scriptures snippets suggested in Common Worship Times and Seasons for Harvest, here are some words adapted from the Good News Bible version of Psalm 104 which I thought I might use as a call to worship in our all age Harvest Family Service tomorrow:

Praise the LORD, my soul.

O LORD, my God, how great you are!
you are clothed with majesty and glory….

Vv 13-15:
From the sky you send rain on the hills,
and the earth is filled with your blessings.
You make grass grow for the cattle
and plants for man to use,
so that he can grow his crops
and produce wine to make him happy,
olive-oil to make him cheerful,
and bread to give him strength.

LORD, you have made so many things!
How wisely you made them all!
The earth is filled with your creatures.

All of them depend on you
to give them food when they need it.
You give it to them and they eat it;
you provide food, and they are satisfied.

May the glory of the LORD last for ever!
May the LORD be happy with what he has made!

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
As long as I live I will sing praises to my God.
May he be pleased with my song,
For my gladness comes from him.

Praise the LORD, my soul!
Praise the LORD!

I’m sure the whole of Psalm 104 would feel too lengthy but I think I’d like a bit more than just a single sentence. Is my attempt still a bit long?

What do you think about editing and adapting Scripture for use in worship? I’m very unhappy if it’s done for a lectionary or reading but is it okay if its for a particular purpose in a service, such as praise, thanksgiving or confession? Is some Scripture better than none (provided you don’t make a rule of excluding particular doctrines)?

I have basically edited the Psalm to keep it happy and kinda harvest thanksgivingy and relatively child friendly and understandable. I’ve wimped out from including verses like “may sinners be destroyed from the earth; may the wicked be no more” (v35) and haven’t troubled people with the “hyrax” (v18), but I would certainly be happy to pray v35 in other circumstances and I’ve noting against conies / rock badgers.

I was tempted to change the Psalm to make it more corporate too (“we”s instead of “I”s and so on)?

Perhaps there is a more appropriate passage in Scripture to use that I wouldn’t feel the need to muck about with? I’m keen for our services to begin with a call to worship from the Word of God.

What do you think? Is it okay to mess with Scripture like this? Would a hymn or poem not taken Scripture be better than a “bowdlerized” version? I would probably introduce it as “some words from Psalm 104”.