Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Marriage Prep

I have 3 non-churchgoing couples to prepare for marriage this summer and I'm wondering what to do. I'm also looking for a book to reccomend. All tips most welcome.

I was chatting to a minister friend the other day who has prepared a few keen Christian couples for marriage. I think his 4 sessions went something like this:

(1) Covenant

(2) Roles - a.k.a. submission

(3) Communication - a.k.a. don't get a telly

(4) Sex - a.k.a. have a "date night" each week!

Maybe some of his victims can correct my memory!

One friend commented that he thought it might be best to get 2 TVs - avoids a lot of arguments!

The Family Under Siege

It's always great to hear of a gospel church plant, but one of the things I especially love about Emmaneul Evangelical Church, Southgate is the first rate day conferences they're organising to serve the wider church.

If I wasn't already tripple booked, I'd certainly be at this one:


Emmanuel Evangelical Church Family Conference13 March 2010


Revd Ian Fry, Pastor, Fetcham Community Church, Surrey. Ian is a former teacher and sometime Director of Youth and Children's Ministry training at Oak Hill Theological College.

Revd Dr David Field, Elder, Emmanuel Evangelical Church

Christian families are under mounting pressure from the secular world. Anti-Christian dogma is promoted in the media under the guise of ‘tolerance’. Education has become a battleground, and increasingly intrusive legislation is being proposed by our government. Recent proposals have included:

‘Parents will lose the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes once they reach 15.’

‘Home-educating parents will be forced to register annually and undergo criminal record checks.

‘Home-educated children will be interviewed privately by government officials; parents who refuse to allow this will find their children sent to a state school.’

Pressure is also mounting elsewhere:

The British Humanist Association has declared that ‘there probably is no God,’ and demanded that Christian parents stop raising their children as believers in Christ.

A BBC presenter speculated that ‘authoritarian’ evangelical parents could use home education as a cover for child abuse.

Yet there is always hope. Jesus Christ is the risen and ascended King of Kings. He has received from the Father all authority in heaven and on earth, the nations have been made his inheritance, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Until then, the church has been commissioned to maintain the unity of the Spirit, to live as children of light, to speak the truth in love, to nurture our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and to disciple the nations.

Are you ready for the challenge?

10am – 4pm, Saturday 13 March 2010 at The Welsh Chapel, Cockfosters
Individuals £15 · Couples/families £20To book, email

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fruit Song

I just wanted to say how much I'd enjoyed Fruit Song which is a setting of part of Song of Songs 2 by Twelth Day that had it's world premier at the Jones wedding. I don't seem to be able to find it on the interweb.

Marriage Preparation

Many of us spend lots of time, effort and money preparing for our weddings. We would do well to prepare so well for our marriages, which after all are for life not just for one day.

Above all, we must make sure we are ready for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev 19-22). Or rather, has Jesus prepared us for that day (Eph 5)?

(HT: DR @ the RB & DJ Wedding)

A Pure Virgin

The Collect for Christmas Day speaks of the Lord Jesus "born of a pure virgin".

Almighty God,you have given us your only-begotten Sont o take our
nature upon himand as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:grant that we,
who have been born againand made your children by adoption and grace,may daily
be renewed by your Holy Spirit;through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,who is
alive and reigns with you,in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for

You shouldn't take this to mean that Mary was absolutely pure: she was a sinner saved by grace just like the rest of us.

And nor should you think that virginity is necessarily or especially pure. You can be a slutty virgin or a pure husband. In life-long heterosexual marriage (the only kind of marriage there is, by the way) one can enjoy pure sex.

What do Christians celebrate at Christmas?

An alleged exam howler:

When Joseph and Mary had a baby called Jesus. They travelled to Bethlehem by plane and Pontius was their pilot.

Richard Benson, F in Exams: The Best Test Paper Blunders (Marks and Spencer, 2008) p113

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ho, ho, ho

What is Good King Wensuslas' favourite type of pizza?

Deep pan, crisp and even!

Ha, ha, ha!

New Year's Resolutions

I'm not a great one for New Year's Resolutions but I'm tempted to resolve to be!

New Year's Aspirations, yes. Follow through, discipline and long-term commitment leading to success, less so.

Yet, I think aspirations are a good idea. Be deliberate, have something to aim for.

Apparently, "lose weight, get fit, find love" is unlikely to work. You are most likely to succeed if you aim at one specific and measurable thing you really want and continue to focus on it. Some way of achieving it might help! Write down small actionable goals and chart progress. It could encourage you to remember the progress you've made (especially if your commitment is weak) and / or how much remains to be done (especially if your commitment is strong). Telling others of your commitment can help, so feel free to comment! You could even team up with others to achieve your goals. Enlist some cheerleaders.

You've got a few more days to decide!

Get a project

I've commented before on "the power of an hour", that is, what could be achieved if you spent an hour (or indeed 20 mins) a day six days a week on something. For example, you could soon read the works of John Owen or B B Warfield and you would be one of the most educated theologians on the planet. You could become a world expert on something if you kept at it and you did it in a sensible way.

So you may be looking for a project?

I reckon a good one would be to work through the Psalms taking a Psalm a week. How could this Psalm be used in public worship, family worship or personal devotions? How might it provide a call to worship, an invitation to confession, a confession, an absolution, praise, prayers of different sorts, blessings or other liturgical material? What prayers and songs have been or could be based on this Psalm? The resulting work would be a tremendous resource and if you start work on it I'd like to pre-order a copy.

I'm already supposedly working on a PhD on something else (yawn, guilt etc.) and Mrs Lloyd is very well advanced on a child's patchwork quilt.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Good Desires

Good desires include desiring good things in good ways by good means in good order with good reasons and motives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

People who eart vegetables die

Did you know that in the medieval period it was widely believed that green vegetables were poisonous?

Problem & Solution

Warning: this post contains Christmas sermon spoilers.

(1) Our real problem is not climate change but sin. It is the emissions of the heart that make a person unclean.

(2) Our Saviour is not Barak Obama or Gordon Brown, or even ourselves, but Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Although I don't believe in consubstantiation, because I want to think about the relationship between Word and Sacrament and how Christ is present in them, I was interested in this from Malcolm Maclean, Lord's Supper (Mentor, 2009), p51:

One of Luther’s arguments for consubstantiation is that “a spoken word can influence many people at the same time. When Christ is preached, and by a bodily voice (the preacher) brought into a person’s heart, Christ’s presence is real; and this experience can be known by many people at the same time, with each person receiving a whole Christ. This does not mean that Christ has left heaven, rather he is still there and also in the heart of each believer. If one believes this, then it is not difficult to accept that Christ can also be in heaven and in the elements of bread and wine at the same time. What causes the elements to have the presence of Christ is the word of divine authority indicating he is there. ‘Just as he enters the heart without breaking a hole in it, but is comprehended only through the Word and hearing, so also he enters into the bread without needing to make a hole in it.’ Martin Luther, ‘The Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ – Against Fanatics’, Works (Fortress Press, 1959) Vol. 36, pp339-41

Remember, eyes open

Malcom Maclean, The Lord's Supper (Mentor, 2009):

When Jesus instructed his disciples to remember him by means of the Lord’s Supper he was not asking them to shut their eyes and engage in mental imagination in order to recall his death (which is a common response today at the Lord’s Table). Rather he asked them to use the symbols of bread and wine as signs pointing to his death. In doing so, he arranged for the Lord’s Supper to be a visual, as well as a verbal, reminder in a similar way to how the Passover was a visible reminder to Israelites. (p19)

Sermon & Supper

Note to self: it might be worth thinking about the relationship between Word and Sacrament in a Brethren context. Malcolm Maclean describes the Christian Brethren Assembly he belonged to where the Breaking of Bread Communion Service was held weekly, "was not led by a clergyman, and did not involve a sermon (although there were several devotional comments made on biblical passages by a number of individuals)."

The Lord's Supper (Mentor, 2009) p9

I guess the Brethren don't have a formal liturgy either? Do you happen to know what happens? Does 1 Corinthians 11 get read every week?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Distress of 1 Cor 7

I've commented before on the possibility that the present distress on 1 Cor 7 may be the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, here and here. Here is Jeff Meyers making a similar suggestion.


The fact that coveting is idolatry (Col 3:5) brings us full circle with the 10 Commandments. Breaking the last commandment is also breaking the first commandment.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

New Moses, New Solomon

Matthew 2 presents Jesus as the New Moses and the New Solomon.

Wicked kings tried to kill baby Moses and baby Jesus. Both were forced to flee but were able to return when the wicked king had died. Matthew 2vv13-14 allude to Ex 2:15; vv20-21 allude to Ex 4:19-20. Mention of Egypt recalls Moses too. Jesus is the New Moses who rules his people and saves them from their slavery.

As the Queen of Sheba brought gold and spices to the Son of David (1 Kings 10:1-13), King Solomon (cf. Song of Songs 3:6-10), so wise men from the East bring their gifts to the King of the Jews in the city of David. Jesus is someone great even than Solomon (Matthew 12:42), a wiser and more powerful king.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Heaven & Earth, God & Caesar

Some thoughts for our BCP Communion service using the readings for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity (Philippians 3:17-end and Matthew 22:15-22):

Our readings raise the issue of the relationship between heaven and earth, God and Caesar.

In our epistle, we have a contrast between two examples, two cultures: those who are earthly minded and those who are heavenly minded.

The earthly minded are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, their god is their belly, and whose glory is their shame.

And then, in contrast, there is Paul and those who live according to his example.

Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence we also look for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as Jesus is able to transform our lowly bodies, so too he is able to transform this world.

Jesus is able to subdue all things unto himself, including this world and all its powers.

So in the meantime, we are to live as citizens of Philippi, or of Eastbourne, but above all as citizens of heaven.

As the modern song puts it: “There is a higher throne, than all this world has known.”

Whatever our commitments here on earth, we have a higher loyalty.

So the wicked earthly minded Pharisees and Herodians try to entangle Jesus in his talk:

“Is it lawful to give tribute – to pay taxes – to Caesar?”

Show me the tribute-money, Jesus says.

Whose image is on the coin?

Easy: Caesar’s.

So Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”.

Simple: yes, the money is Caesar’s, pay it to him.

But that is to think about the coin in an entirely earthly minded way.

Think again.

Whose image is on the coin?

It’s a depiction of a man.

So whose image is man?

Man is made in the image of God!

The coin bears the image of God.

This coin, and indeed all things belong to God.

Yes, render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.

All things are God’s.

Remember that even Caesar is God’s creature – Caesar belongs to God.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Kings: Caesar is rebel a subject of his Empire.

So we are to pay our taxes – God requires it.

Our duty to God includes all our other duties.

We love God and we love our neighbour.

Our duty to God provides the ground and basis for all our other duties.

If there were no God, then there would be no obligation for me to love my neighbour.

Without God, it might be survival of the fittest and if I could get one over on my neighbour and get away with it, that might be the best thing to do.

From an earthly minded point of view, why not fiddle your taxes if you can evade Caesar’s enforcers?

In the end, Jesus gives us a coherent vision for earth and heaven.

Sometimes Christians are accused of being “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use”.

C. S. Lewis would have disagreed. He said:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

“Aim at heaven,” Lewis said, “and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.

This is an earthly meal with a heavenly meaning.

As we eat here on earth, we commune with the risen Christ in heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We pledge ourselves to live here on earth as citizens of heaven: To render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.

And we have prayed: “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

We commit ourselves to doing all we can to make earth a bit more like heaven.

And we look for the coming of our Saviour from heaven who will subdue and transform all things.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Bible Verses

Here is a fairly random selection of some Bible verses about happiness / the Blessed Life / Joy etc. Various translations. (2 pages of A4 Word Document).

Monday, November 16, 2009

C. S. Lewis Quotes (some on happiness etc.)

On Thursday I'm due to speak evangelisticly on Happiness. Any quotes, gags, tips etc. welcome.

In the course of my preparation, I've come across the following C S Lewis quotes:

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

I sometimes wander whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.

There is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious. It is too good to waste on jokes.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory)
I thought he'd also said some good stuff about joy and the pursuit of happiness and it's elusive nature? How, if we focus on our joy, rather than on God as the object of joy, joy vanishes? Asking "am I happy?" can be a great way to make yourself miserable?

Also at the back of my mind there's some C S Lewis tagged idea about praise and gratitude (and the expression there of) heightening joy? When we enjoy something, we naturally want to share it with others and celebrate it etc.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lying about lying

We not only lie, we even manage to "lie" about lying.

In Churchill's phrase, lies become terminological inexactitudes.

As Alan Clark put it, lying becomes being "economical with the actualité".

Thursday, November 12, 2009


THINK before you speak
Is it True?

(J John, Ten)


Mistakes, jokes, fictional stories, parables, hyperbole, social conventions, and conjouring tricks are not lies. Deception is often part of sports or games and that’s fine. It’s not a sin to throw a dummy pass in rugby! Special effects in films or dramatic illusions in literature are fine even though you might say they intend to deceive.

In Luke 24:28 Jesus acted as if he were going further even though he knew the disciples would ask him to stay and he would. Jesus’ misdirection was a blessing that stirred up holy desire.

Euphemisms, exaggerations, half-truths, spin, stretched excuses, baseless flattery, posing, phoniness, telling looks and misleading silences can be effectively lies.

Some favourite lies include:

Little white lies
Lying about our age
“I was sick”
“I’m not here” – when the phone goes
“I’ve already done it”
“I have it right here”
“It’s in the post”
“I’ll call you”
“I was just about to call you”
“I’ve been meaning to call you”
“It would be great to see you. You must come round sometime. We must do lunch”
“It’ll only take 2 minutes”
“Congratulations! You’ve won a prize in our £1 million draw!”
“I’m fine, yeah, great. How are you?”

We can bear false witness by our actions as well as by our words.

"Does my bum look big in this?"

"Does my bum look big in this?"

How should one answer?

I think it depends what the person is really asking.

They are unlikely to what a precise analysis of the proportions of their posterior, although I suppose just perhaps they might want some friendly fashion advice.

If what they want is a bit of appreciation and encouragement, then I don’t think it’s a wicked sin to affirm that they look lovely, even if their bum is big, and it's not your duty to tell them that last bit!

When we're finished the Passion For Life Prepared for Mission material, we're thinking of studying Galatians in our homegroups. I've been agonizing over what chunks we might tackle it in and I reckon it might go something like this, though I'm not perfectly happy with it.

Introduction to Galatians & Galatians 1:1-10
6:1-18 & Review

Preaching Plans

I hate having to come up with passages and titles for sermons before preparing the sermons (!) but here's my stab at what I'm going to attempt on Sundays in the New Year:

10th Jan AM – The Meaning of Life (Ecclesiastes 1)

13th Jan PM – Father & Son (John 8:12-30)

14th Feb AM – (Valentine’s Day) – True Love (1 John 4:7-21)

21st Feb PM – Paternity Tests (John 8:31-59)

14th Mar PM – Blinding Light (John 9)

28th Mar AM (Palm Sunday) – The King Comes! (Matthew 21:1-11)

4th Apr PM (Easter Sunday) – Why the resurrection matters (1 Corinthians 15:1-34)

25th Apr AM – Living With Death – (Ecclesiastes 2)


If anyone knows of any convincing structures or useful outlines of the book of Ecclesiastes (especially ones that lend themselves to a sermon series maybe of about 6 sermons!) I'd love to hear about them.

This from Barry Webb drawing on de Jong's 1992 work has the look of objectivity about it:

1:1 Introduction

1:2 Motto

1:3-4:16 – Observation

5:1-9 - Instruction

5:10-6:9 - Observation

6:10-7:22 - Instruction

7:23-29 - Observation

8:1-8 - Instruction

8:9-9:12 - Observation

9:13-12:7 Instruction

12:8 Motto

12:9-14 Epilogue

(5 Festal Garments, p87)

But quite what the coherent themes are in these sections (if there are any!), and what the snappy titles for the termcard should be?

All is vanity and a chasing after the wind! Foggy vapour everywhere.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Tongue

Our tongue is less than 0.045% of our body weight

(J. John, Ten, p62)

Cf. James 3:3-6

The Victorious Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration which is awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces.

Yet, it is even more important that we remember The Victorious Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ who laid down his life not only for his friends, comrades or country but for his enemies (Romans 5:6-11).

(Stolen from the Vicar's sermon for Remembrance Sunday which can be found at our church website.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lay Presidency

A friend sent me this interesting article: ‘Lay Administration’ and the Sixteenth Century
Churchman 113/4 1999 by Robert C Doyle

News to me: Luther does seem to countenance the minister devolving the right to celebrate the mass to others, doesn't he? (pp2-3)

The sure mark by which the Christian congregation can be recognized is that the pure
gospel is preached there. For just as the banner of an army is the sure sign by which one
can know what kind of lord and army have taken to the field, so, too, the gospel is the
sure sign by which one knows where Christ and his army are encamped. We have the
sure promise of this from God in Isaiah 55 [vv 10-1 II, ‘My word’ (God says) ‘that goes
forth from my mouth shall not return to me; rather, as the rain falls, from heaven to earth,
making it fruitful, so shall my word also accomplish everything for which I sent it.’ ...2 in
this matter of judging teachings and appointing or dismissing teachers or pastors, one
should not care at all about human statutes, law, old precedent, usage, custom, etc even if
they were instituted by pope or emperor, prince or bishop, if one half of the whole world
accepted them, or if they lasted one year or a thousand years. For the soul of man is
something eternal, and more important than every temporal thing. That is why it must be
ruled and seized only by the eternal word; for ... Human words and teaching instituted and decreed that only bishops,
scholars, and councils should he allowed to judge doctrine.... The ordinary Christian is supposed
to await their judgment and obey it ... Christ institutes the very opposite. He takes both the right
and power to judge teaching from the bishops, scholars, and councils and gives them to everyone
and to all Christians equally when he says, John 10 [v 10], ‘My sheep know my voice’. Again,
‘My sheep do not follow strangers, but flee from them, for they do not know the voice of


Therefore, whoever has the office of preaching imposed on him has the highest office in
Christendom imposed on them. Afterward he may also baptize, celebrate mass, and
exercise all pastoral care; or, if he does not wish to do so, he may confine himself to
preaching and leave baptizing and other lower offices to others - as Christ and all his
apostles did, Acts 4 [6:4].

Nevertheless, Luther is still talking about people being appointed to offices.... I'd like to read more of him on the subject.

The Tyndale quote later on is interesting too (p8).

‘They will haply demand where it is written, that women should baptize? Verily, in this commandment, “Love thy neighbour as
thyself”, it is written
that they may and ought to minister not only baptism, but all other sacraments also in time of
need, if they be so necessary as they preach them.’

I haven't read the whole article in detail and I fear he might be over egging the pudding when he says that "the evangelical Reformers were not unsupportive of lay people administering the sacraments". But I think the basic point that for the Reformed the question is not whether it is possible for a lay person to celebrate the Lord's Supper but whether it is appropriate is important.

I can see that lay presidency might be practically helpful and might de-spookify Communion helpfully but I'm not inclined to advocate for it because:

(1) I think it tends to undermine the connection between the authorised ministry of the Word and Sacrament
(2) It weakens the possibility of church discipline which is connected to excommunication
(3) It undermines the special role and office of the Presbyter which in any case is in a bad way in our circles
(4) It is a departure from the mainline practice of the catholic church and might harm church unity when there are more important battles to fight
(5) Limiting presidency to the ordained is a way of preserving good order

However, I grant that one could imagine ways of off-setting some of these issues and finding helpful orderly ways of regulating lay presidency.

Maybe helpful alternatives would be fewer small and declining congregations or more Presbyters?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Church discipline, theological controversy & the internet

Prof John Frame has some good and useful stuff to say about how we have neglected church discipline and how theologians are often guilty of ignoring the principles of Matthew 18 and of damaging the reputations of others, especially over the interweb. The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R) pp842-3 are well worth reading and almost worth typing out. Look out, he warns, for "the self-appointed modern guardians of orthodoxy".

Many theological controversialists today set themselves up as Internet gurus, declaring brothers and sisters to be excommunicate on their say-so alone, showing contempt for the authority of the church, which alone has been authorized by God to make such judgments, and violating God's standards requiring protection for the accused. Many of these have no scruples about spreading lies to anyone who will listen.

Godly deceit

Prof John Frame gives 16 examples of Bible passages in which someone decieves an enemy without incurring any condemnation, and sometimes even being commended:

Ex 1:15-21
Joshua 2:4-6; 6:17, 25; Heb 11:31; James 2:25
Joshua 8:3-8
Judges 4:18-21; 5:24-27
1 Samuel 16:1-5
1 Samuel 19:12-17
1 Samuel 20:6
1 Samuel 21:13
1 Samuel 27:10
2 Samuel 5:22-25
2 Samuel 15:34
2 Samuel 17:19-20
1 Kings 22:19-23
2 Kings 6:14-20
Jeremiah 38:24-28
2 Thess 2:11

The Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R) p836

Frame adds: “It does appear that the Bible passages listed above, which justify deception in certain cases, all have to do with the promotion of justice against the wicked, especially when they seek innocent life.” (p839)


"Rather than retaliating in kind they are to retaliate in kindness"

a passion for life Prepared For Mission Bible Study notes p70, 73 commenting on Romans 12:14-21

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Presumption of theological innocence

Speaking of the 9th Commandment, Professor John Frame says:

We have the responsibility to put the best construction on other people's words and behavior, unless there is cogent witness to the contrary, what the Bible calls "two or three witnesses." That means we are to give one another the benefit of the doubt, on the principle of "innocent until proved guilty." I suspect that adherence to this principle would substantially reduce the amount of theological controversy.

Doctrine of the Christian Life (P&R), p832

Monday, November 02, 2009


C. H. Spurgeon encourages us to make prayer the key of the morning and the lock of the night. Cf. Psalm 4:8 and Psalm 5:3. (From the Vicar's sermon last night - available on church website)

I'm back!

Just to let you know that I'm back in the study after 3 weeks of jaunts (conference, study leave and holiday) and slowly catching up on emails etc. The moment I have a thought that might be of some interest or use to anybody out there I'll be sure to let you know! :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

AWOL Exploits

This afternoon I'm off to a Proclamation Trust Practical Ministry Seminar (Mon-Thurs) led by David Jackman at The Oast Houses, Northiam, East Sussex. We'll be preaching recent sermons to one another (mine is on John 6:60-71) and getting feedback, working through Galatians and discussing pastoral and church issues.

Next week, Mon 19th - Fri 23rd I'm off to Tyndale House in Cambridge where I hope to write up as much as possible of my research on Calvin's doctrine of the sacraments in general and the Lord's Supper in particular.

Dinner invitations in Cambridge are welcome!

On Sat 24th, I'm off to a study day-conference on 'The Poetry of Paradise' on The Song of Songs in London. Spaces are still available.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hardest passage in Galatians

At the Proclamation Trust conference I'm off to tomorrow, I have to hold forth about Galatians 4:24-31.

I was kinda consoled by the fact that John Stott says of 4:21-31, “Many people regard this as the most difficult passage in the Epistle to the Galatians”. (BST, p121)

Here are a couple of other jottings on that section:

From Tom Wright Paul for Everyone:

Isaac / Ishmael

Promise / flesh

Free / slave

Sinai /

Jerusalem above / present Jerusalem

Bereft, but now fruitful / in slavery with her children

Galatian Christians / Jerusalem-based ‘agitators’

Trusting in God by the spirit / trusting in fleshly identity

Persecuted / persecutors

Will inherit / will be cast out

And because I know you always love a chiasm, this from Longenecker (Word Biblical Commentary, p213) on vv25-26:

A Hagar

B Mt Sinai

C Slavery

D the present city of Jerusalem

D’ the Jerusalem that is above

C' Freedom

B’ (Mt Zion)

A our mother

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Most persecuted man ever

According to Channel 4 news, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Belusconi has claimed to be the most persecuted man in the history of the world! He also complained that with legal challenges, he has already "had to spend millions of Euros on judges", before correcting himself, "I mean, lawyers".

Friday, October 09, 2009

An Evening of Eschatology

You can hear & watch Sam Storms, Jim Hamilton and Doug Wilson discussing the Millenium with John Piper here. They spend quite a bit of time in Rev 20.

Some of my favourite lines were:

Two ministers were talking and one said to the other: “we both serve God, you in your way and mine in his!”

The Millenium, a thousand years of peace that Christians love to fight about!

Not “earth is not my home, I’m just passing through” but “heaven is not my home, I’m just passing through” – heaven is an intermediate state between death and the Final Resurrection consummation of all things.

There are 2 main arguments for postmillennialism: (1) it is a lot of fun (2) Jonathan Edwards believed it

(HT: Dan Green)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What I learnt at IME yesterday

IME = initial ministerial education, training for newer clergy.

Good news: spelling doesn't matter.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Parker on Calvin on Sacraments

From T H L Parker, John Calvin (1975):

The sole office of the sacraments is to turn our eyes to beholding God’s promises; that is, they make the Word perceptible to other senses than the ears. (p50)

Calvin’s theology is, from this first statement of it throughout his life, a theology of the sacrament. God will not encounter man directly but by means of that which is already a human term of reference, the human means of communication and visible symbols. (p50)

Infants ought to be baptized. We should not be so sure that they have no faith. It is clear from Mark 10:13ff. that the Lord calls some from among them to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven. Why then can he not give some foretaste of his blessing? Why can they not see him in a glass darkly? It is arrogant to say that they have no faith. They have a right to baptism, for they have a common faith with adults. (p50-51)

Pastoral Duties - The Calvin Model!

Calvin was much in demand for suggesting brides for young men. Only a couple of months before he had been writing to Farel himself on behalf of such a young man and saying that he could think off-hand of only three girls who are beautiful, virtuous, and well-dowried, although there are certainly two very pretty girls living near him, but their dowries are not large.

T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin (1975) p178

Calvin, Doctor of the Catholic Church

T. H. L. Parker said this of Calvin:

As I have been writing the book he has more and more taken on the character and stature of a doctor of the Catholic church. A 'Reformer'? Yes, certainly, for it is the office of the doctors of the church to reform the church - and ecclesia semper reformanda. But not just 'Reformer' in its historical sense; not just the first of the Calvinists or the Calvinians or the 'Reformed' or the Presbyterians. Rather, at a time when the western church had become provincial, he was a doctor of the Catholic church.

John Calvin (1975) p.viii

Calvin & Barth

T. H. L. Parker said:

... to treat of Calvin now without taking into account both Barth's criticisms of Calvin and also the new light he has shed on many of Calvin's doctrines would be to label oneself as hopelessly archaic.

John Calvin (1975), p.viif

Oh well. "Hopelessly archaic", it is, then.

Like, "Whatever"?

From UPI website:

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Nearly half of Americans surveyed for a new poll said "whatever" was the most annoying word that could be used in a conversation.

The Marist Poll received votes for "You know" and "anyway," but they weren't even close to the 47 percent that pegged "whatever" as something that had definitely run its course.

The breakdown found "whatever" to be particularly tiresome among respondents in the Midwest, Latinos and people under 45 years old.

Phrases that bug Americans include "it is what it is" and "at the end of the day."

The poll, based on 938 responses, had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

HT: Today Programme.

Then there are also incorrect uses of literally and less to get irked by, of course...

Happy National Poetry Day

18 000 votes cast on the Poetry Society website suggest the Nation's Favourite Poets are:

(1) T S Eliot

(2) John Donne

(3) Benjamin Zephaniah

(4) Wilfred Owen

(5) Philip Larkin

(6) William Blake

(7) W B Yeats

(8) John Betjeman

(9) John Keats

(10) Dylan Thomas

HT: Today Programme. BBC Poetry Season website

Nice idea

Marc Lloyd is totally ignorant of all this and hasn't read the article (or indeed Nahum 1 recently!) but likes this idea which he thinks was a little long for a Facebook Status Update. He also likes theological journals free on the interweb.

Thomas Renz, 'A Perfectly Broken Acrostic in Nahum 1?' Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 9: Article 23 (2009)


Responding to recent scholarship which discounts apparent traces of an alphabetic acrostic in Nahum 1 as purely coincidental, this essay argues that earlier scholarship was right to detect a tendency towards an alphabetic acrostic in Nahum 1. But while previously the disruptions to the alphabetic sequence were considered an imperfection caused by lack of concern on the part of the poet or a later redactor or as the result of copying mistakes in the transmission of the text, I suggest that the tendency towards an acrostic and the irregularities belong to a single purposeful design. This design communicates a message of disrupted order and fits well with the remainder of the book of Nahum.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

William Tyndale

The Common Worship collect for the Lesser Festival of William Tyndale, translator of the Scriptures, Reformation Martyr, 1536.

Lord, give to your people grace to hear and keep your word
that, after the example of your servant William Tyndale,
we may not only profess your gospel
but also be ready to suffer and die for it,
to the honour of your name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

CW Daily Prayer, p505

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Harvest jokes

By the wonders of Facebook and Google:

As it's harvest, we can expect the jokes to be corny!

Did you hear about the magic tractor?

It went up the road and turned into a field!

Buttercup and Daisy were chatting as they chewed the cud.
"'Ere, have you heard about this mad-cow disease?"
"Yes, sounds nasty."
"I'm glad I'm a chicken."

Q. What do you call someone who used to be really keen on farm yard vehicles?
A. An ex-tractor fan!

What's the motto of * (insert name of a dodgy airline company)?

'We plough the fields and scatter.'

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Where to start

Warfield once said:

All subsequent attempts to state and defend that [truly evangelical] theology necessarily go back to it [The Institutes] as their starting-point, and its impress upon the history of evangelical thinking is ineffaceable.

"On the Literary History of Calvin's 'Institutes'", Works V, 373-4 quoted in Reymond, Calvin, p15f

Praise for Calvin & The Institutes

The Sorbonne had the Institutes burnt in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in 1542 and 1544.

The RC Florimond de Raemond called it "the Koran or rather the Talmud of heresy, being, as it is, a mass of all errors that have ever existed in the past, or ever will exist, I verily believe, in the future." (1605).

Will Durant, a 20th C American historian called it "the most eloquent, fervent, lucid, logical, influential, and terribe... in all the literature of the religious revolution... developing the thought of [its author's] predecessors to ruinously logical conclusions," whose author, because of his doctrine of predestination, "darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense".

Jacques Desmay called Calvin "the author of a religion of the table, the stomach, the fat, the flesh, the kitchen" in whom the whole Reformation tended to "establish the reign of wine, women, and song." (1621).

Robert Raymond, John Calvin, p14, 136

Calvin's literary output

59 large volumes in the Corpus Reformatorum and 12 more under the title Supplementa Calviniana.

Robert Raymond, John Calvin p13

A big prayer

Some jottings for a sermon in a BCP Communion service using the provision for the 16th Sunday after Trinity.

Eph 3:13-end

Lk 7:11-17

Do you ever think that perhaps at times we settle for too little in our Christian lives?

Our Christianity can be a bit hum drum, comfortable, domesticated.

We can have a so-so “Yeah, okay, fine, thanks”, “plodding along”, mediocre kind of faith.

In the Epistle, we have Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians.

It teaches us the kind of gospel-shaped, gospel-centred, gospel-driven prayers we can pray for ourselves and for others.

And these are big prayers.

Paul has a vast, limitless vision for his readers.

This is a prayer that can lift our sights and re-focus our aims.

Here are spiritual heights to press on towards.

This is a prayer to open our eyes to new spiritual possibilities.

Here is something of the fullness of Christian experience that should be our goal.

It’s a prayer for strength, love and knowledge.

Just notice the resources available to the Christian in prayer:

The riches of God’s glory

God’s riches are greater than the combined wealth of the Times Rich List.

The multi-millionaires in Dragons’ Den have nothing on the living God.

As we come up to Harvest time, we remember that “The world is his for he made it.”

The cattle on a thousand hills are his.

We are enabled by the mighty strength of the Spirit.

The same Spirit of life by whom the world was made, who raised Christ from the dead.

And the goal of this strengthening?

“that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”

Christ lives in the hearts of all believers by his Spirit

This is a prayer that Jesus might be at home in our lives

That he’d make himself comfortable and have the run of the house

That he would be the Land Lord, the honoured guest, the true Owner occupier, not the live-in-help, or a temporary lodger, camped out on a sofa-bed in the corner.

Is Jesus allowed into every room of our lives?

Can he rearrange the furniture and throw out the old rubbish?

Paul prays … that they “may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge”

It’s the children’s chorus, isn’t it:

“Jesus’ love is very wonderful! So high, you can’t get over it; so low you can’t get under it; so wide, you can’t get round it.”

Love for young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, black and white, respectable and disreputable.

It reaches down to the worst sinner.

It goes on for ever.

We know this love “with all saints”

Saints = believers, holy ones, set apart / sanctified by God

We do this not on our own, but in communion with one another, indeed, in fellowship with all God’s people around the world and down the centuries.

We celebrate our unity and common participation in Christ in this Holy Communion.

Did you notice Paul wants them to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge?

You can know it really and truly, but only in part.

You can never know it fully, because it passes knowledge – it’s inexhaustible.

Our little minds and hearts can’t take in the vast dimensions of it.

There’s always more to know.

Paul prays that “we might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

We might think that a blasphemous prayer, if it weren’t in the Bible.

Think of God’s infinite love, power, wisdom, goodness, beauty, truth, glory.

That’s what Paul wants us to be filled with.

We want to offer ourselves fully to God so that God will pour into us all of himself that we are able to hold.

Our cup with be pressed down and overflowing with the fullness of the inexhaustible God.

Streams of Jesus’ living water will flow out from us and give life to others.

All this is not too much to hope for.

Jesus “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us”

As our gospel reading showed us, Jesus is even able to raise the dead!

That’s the miracle that Jesus has done in us, spiritually speaking.

We were dead in our transgressions and sins and Jesus has made us alive with his almighty power.

Jesus has compassion on the weak, despairing and helpless.

In the midst of the ongoing tribulations, a touch and a word from Jesus can transform us with his new life, to the glory of God.

Let’s never settle for anything less.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 Commandments Resources

One day I might get around to posting a list of some useful things on the 10 Commandments, which I'm preaching through. For now, I wanted to remember the existence of this:

Thanks, Dan Green.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Christianity Triumphant

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch writes:

In 2009 it [Christianity] has more than two billion adherents, almost four times its numbers in 1900, a third of the world's population, and more than half a billion more than its current nearest rival, Isalm.

in A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (Allen Lane) citing The International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Quoted in a review in The Spectator for 26th Sept 2009 p32.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Music Meeting Handout

Here's some possible text for the handout for the meeting we're having about Church Music on Saturday. It gives some issues to think about and discuss.

Introduction / some biblical considerations

Eph 4:15 – (1) Speak the truth (2) in love!

Worship in the Bible: (1) all of life – Rom 12:1-2 (2) special corporate gathered Lord’s Day public worship

Music in the Bible – Psalms e.g. 33:1-3; 47:1, 7; 98; 150

(1) Worship God - Heb 12:28; 1 Cor 14:40

(2) Mutual edification / building up / encouragement – 1 Cor 14:26

Ps 103-104

Col 3:12-15; Phil 2:2-4

Eph 5:19-20; Col 3:16

Some questions / issues to discuss…

How can our music better serve the Biblical purposes of worship and conform to what the Bible says about congregational music?

In the light of what the Bible says, what would we ideally like the music to be like?

What might we pray / plan for?

What are (a) the strengths and (b) the weaknesses of what we currently do?

How does our music affect the mood / atmosphere / feel / emotions of the service? Is that what we want?

What next steps might we take?

How could we make our music more attractive to newcomers?

Are there any skills, gifts, resources, people we are not currently using?

What do you think of the current choice of songs? Mix of old and new? Range? Repetition? Content? Music?

Is the music the right speed?

Amount of music in services?

Incidental / background music (before, after, during, communion etc.)?

Are the music practices helpful?


Congregational singing? Clear when to come in?

Instruments? Organ? Keyboard? (Alone or together?) Guitars? Drums? Other?

Does the sound system serve the music? Sound check? Volumes / levels / mix?

Music for children and young people?

Use of CDs / MP3s?

Morning Service?

Evening Service?

Family Services? (Harvest, Christmas, Easter, Holiday Club, Summer)

Special services / events?

How could you serve / help?

Do you have particular songs to recommend?

Any song books / CDs / websites etc. to recommend?