Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Resources on Mark's Gospel

God-willing we'll be having Bible studies and talks from Mark's Gospel this year on our camp for 11-14 year olds (Danehill 1). Here are some resources I'm thinking of recommending to our leaders. Are any of these rubbish? Is there anything else you'd recommend?

Paul Barnett, The Servant King: Reading Mark Today (Aquila)

Peter Bolt and Tony Payne, Mark: News of the Hour Ten Interactive Studies for small groups and individuals (Matthias Media)

Tim Chester, Mark 1-8: The Coming King The Good Book Guide to Mark 1-8 Ten Studies for individuals or groups (Good Book Company)

Tim Chester, Mark 9-16: The Servant King The Good Book Guide to Mark 1-8 Ten Studies for individuals or groups (Good Book Company)

R. Alan Cole, Mark Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP)

Phil Crowter, Preaching Mark: Talk Outlines For The Gospel of Mark (Good Book Company)

Dick France, Mark: The People’s Bible Commentary (Bible Reading Fellowship) – he also wrote the big fat New International Greek Testament Commentary on Mark as R. T. France (Eerdmans / Paternoster)

William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans) – fat

Tom Wright, Mark For Everyone (SPCK)

Christianity Explored and CY (youth version) material are also (largely) based on Mark’s Gospel (Good Book Company)

See also:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Westminster 2010

In church on Sunday we are encouraging people to sign the Westminster 2010 Declaration of Christian Conscience. You can find details and sign the petition here.

Preaching the Psalms

Today I'm running a session at the Sussex Coast Ministry Training Course for my little preaching group to tee up our term's work on preaching the Psalms. I've grandly entitled my jottings:


Here's my handout:

All the usual things to think about when preaching / speaking plus:

The 5 books of the Psalter – cf. 5 books of the Law – significance?

The Context of the Psalms

- original historical context – how important? the importance of the superscriptions (original) – sometimes unknown - speculation

- original / early use of Psalms e.g. in gathered corporate worship, Psalms of Ascents pilgrim festivals

- in a cycle / group of Psalms, the book of Psalms, in Psalms as a whole – e.g. Ps 1 & 2, 42 & 43

- in the Bible / salvation history – the Psalms as a Christian book

Content & form (e.g. acrostics, parallelisms – synonymous, synthetic, antithetical etc.)

The form / genre / types / use of the Psalms – songs / prayers / laments / imprecatory, Royal etc. didactic?

What do we miss by not knowing Hebrew? – word play / sounds, alliteration, ascenance - translations

Reading poetry (English & Hebrew!): What images / poetic devices are used / how / why?

The mood, feel, emotions, intended effects / response of the Psalm

“Levels” of meaning / application of the Psalms:

- The psalmist – how “unique” or typical?

- the historical speaker of the Psalm

- David(ic) King

- Jesus, the Messiah, the ultimate Davidic King

- All believers (in Christ)

- Us / me

Jesus praying / saying / singing this Psalm / singing or saying it to Jesus

The use of the Psalms today

- private study / meditation / reflection / prayer / singing

- family devotions, small groups etc.

- public – neglected? Eph 5:19; Col 3:16 – for teaching

- sung, said, prayed etc.

How will you have the Psalm read / sung / prayed?

Resources on the Psalms

Derek Kindner, Tyndale Commentary (2 vols)

J. Clinton McCann Jr., A Theological Introduction to the Psalms: The Psalms as Torah (instruction) (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1993)

G. Grogan, Prayer, Praise & Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Christian Focus, 2001)

Tremper Longman III, How To Read the Psalms (IVP, 1988)

Alec Motyer, Journey: Psalms for Pilgrim People (IVP, 2009) – Psalms of Ascent - Ps 120-136

Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David – hints for preachers etc. (3 vols)

Michael Wilcock, The Message of the Psalms, Bible Speaks Today Series (2 vols)

Gerald H. Wilson, The NIV Application Commentary (vol 1) – Psalms 1-72

Sermons & other stuff online:

Mike Reeves on Psalm 1 & introductory comments on Psalms on All Souls, Langham Place website:

John Cheeseman recent sermons on a selection of Psalms -

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Search for Meaning

Some jottings towards a sermon on Ecclesiastes 1:12-26.

Ecclesiastes 2

A Quest for Meaning: Living With Death

(1) A search for significance (1v12ff)

The paths of …

… Study / wisdom / knowledge (1v13, 16-18)

… Pleasure / laughter / wine (2vv1-3)

… Great projects (2v4-6) / riches (2v7-9)

… Entertainment (2v8) / self-indulgence (2v10)

… Work / labour / toil (2v10, 17-23)

(2) Dead ends – vanity / foggy vapour

2v5 – “few days”

2v14f – the same fate for wise and foolish

2v16 – quickly forgotten

2v16 – the wise man too must die

2vv18-19, 21 - Who will get it when you’re gone? - 1 Tim 6:7

(3) A way forward (2vv24-26)

Better to be wise (2v10, 13-14)

Don’t make the penultimate ultimate / confuse gifts and Giver

Death defeated -1 Cor 15:54-58

Matthew 6:19-21; 24-34

Top Earning Dead Celebrities of 2009

This might make an illustration for my sermon on Ecclesiastes 2 tomorrow where I'll talk about the difference death makes to life. There are no pockets in a shroud and you can't take your stuff with you. 1 Timothy 6:7

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What would you rather carry?

Mrs Lloyd tells me that there is a poster up in our local chemist that asks: "Which would you rather carry? A condom or a child?".

The answer is a child, quite frankly! Children are a blessing, are they not? A rather distasteful sad poster, I think.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Why I'd Like To Be An Atheist

While we were on holiday I enjoyed reading Peter Hitchens' The Rage Against God (Continuum, London / New York, 2010) - 168pp, which is a response to the New Atheists (Dawkins et al) including Hitchens' own brother, Christoper, who wrote God is Not Great.

The book is very engaging and readable. Interestingly personal without being egotistical or gushy.

As I remember it, some of it read like a hymn to a forgotten England, an England which was the product of Christendom, the Bible and The Prayer Book and so on.

Peter Hitchens was more or less brought up as a Christian but rejected the faith as a teenager. He is particularly revealing on the cultural atmosphere that encouraged him to do so and perhaps some of the corruptions of Christianity such as baptised patriotism or a cult of Churchill that he was reacting against. Hitchens describes how he thought himself too clever to believe and especially how attractive it was to embrace atheism, since at a stroke duty and accountability were gone. Without God there can be no real should or ought.

Hitchens cites W. Somerset Maughan's hero, Philip Carey, in the autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage. On his denial of God, we read of Carey:

He was free from degrading fears and free from prejudice. He could go his way without the intolerable dread of hell-fire. Suddenly he realised that he had lost also that burden of responsibility which made every action of his life a matter of urgent consequence. He could breathe more freely in a lighter air. He was responsible only to himself for the things he did. Freedom! He was his own master at last. From old habit, unconsciously, he thanked God that he no longer believed in him. [quoted in Rage, p8]

Hitchens says:

... my excitement was undimmed. There were no more external, absolute rules. The supposed foundation of every ordnance, regulation, law and maxim from 'don't talk after lights-out' and 'give way to pedestrians on the Zebra crossing' to 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'. 'Thou shalt do no murder', 'Honour thy father and thy mother' and 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' was a fake. ...

Enlightened self-interest was the evolutionary foundation of good behaviour. I did not have to [do] anything I did not want to do, ever again. I would therefore be 'happy' because I was freed from those things whereof my conscience was afraid. My conscience was in any case not to be relied on where my desires were stronger, or my fears greater than my promptings. I could behave as I wished, without fear of eternal consequences, and (if I was cunning and could get away with it) without fear of earthly ones too. And I could claim to be virtuous. Unlike Philip Carey, I did immediately recognise that some of the virtues could now be dispensed with, and several of the supposed sins might turn out to be expedient if not actually delightful. I acted accordingly for several important and irrecoverable years. (p9)

Rev'd Douglas Wilson is blogging his way through The Rage, by the way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Preaching The Psalms

God-willing, I'm going to share some thoughts on preaching the Psalms with my little preaching group at The Sussex Coast Ministry Training Course on Tues 27th. All hints and tips gratefully received.

Friday, April 02, 2010


I've just finished reading Sam Allberry's book on the resurrection, Lifted! (IVP), which was out this January. I must say I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It's been a very busy week with the Passion For Life Mission and at times I've been whacked out, but I've come back to Lifted! with enthusiasm and gone away encouraged.

Sam has a very lively engaging style. The book is packed with striking expressions, illustrations and anicdotes. Yet there is real theological substance here too.

In a way, the book is a series of mini-expositions and I would have liked a Scripture index so that I could more easily steal the headings!

The resurrection was at the heart of the apostolic preaching and it is often neglected today, sometimes from a wrong-headed desire to keep the cross central, when of course the cross and the resurrection belong together. One necessitates and explains the other. They are not rivals.

The biblical message of this book has the potential to be profoundly life changing. It is worth reflecting on the resurrection as God's affirmation of the physical and bodily, when Christianity is always in danger of being perverted into gnosticism. Or think of Jesus' resurrection body as the pattern both for our resurrection and what we might call the resurrection of the cosmos. This world will be transformed and renewed as Jesus' body was, so all that we do in this world matters.

Here are my jottings from the book:

The resurrection is more than the happy ending of the Easter Story

It’s not just the big tick after the big cross

“The resurrection changes everything. It guarantees our forgiveness, empowers us to change, and gives us a hope for the future and an urgent mission in

the present.”

(1) Assurance

The resurrection shows that Jesus’ payment for the sin of the world has been accepted by the Father.

The payment has been received with thanks.

The resurrection assures us that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Acts 3:15

The resurrection “reveals and confirms his [Jesus’] four-fold identity: the Son of God, the Christ, the Saviour and the Author of life. The resurrection shows Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be.”

(a) Son of God

Ps 2:7

Rm 1:4

(b) The Christ

Acts 2:36 quoting Ps 110:1

(c) Saviour

Acts 5:30-31

(d) the author of life

Acts 3:15

Jn 11:25

The resurrection assures us of what Jesus has done

Rm 4:25

1 Cor 15:17

“the resurrection is the consequence and demonstration of our salvation because death is the consequence and demonstration of our sin.”

Death as the wages of sin Gen ; Rm 6:23

(2) Transformation

United with Christ

Spiritually raised now (Col 3:1), physically raised at Final Day (Rm 8:23)

Rm 4:17

God gives life & new life

1 Sam 2:6

Ez 37

Ps 16:10

Phil 2

God gives us resurrection life. “With it we enjoy a whole host of newness: new life, new perspective, new conduct, new power and new ambition. Resurrection life changes everything.”

New life

Eph 2:1-10

New perspective

Col 3:1-4

New conduct

Eph 5:8, 11-14

Colossians 3:5, 8–10

Acts 4:32–35

New power

Romans 8:9–11

Romans 6:5–14

New ambition

Phil 3:10-11

(3) Hope

Not wishful thinking / uncertain

Rm 5:5

1 Pt 1:3

Mistake 1: The mistake that the resurrection has already taken place (2 Tim 2:17-18)

(a) Wrong to think: We have it all now

Perfectionism, prosperity, health, wealth – believe it and receive it, name it and claim it – if you don’t the problem is your lack of faith

(b) Wrong to think: This is all there is

Mistake 2: There is no resurrection of the dead (1 Cor 15:12)

1 Cor 15:14-19

Jesus is the first of many

“It is clear, then, that the basis of our hope as Christians is the resurrection of Jesus. As we look back at the basis of our hope, we are then able to look forward to what is the content of our hope: bodily resurrection in the future.”

Rm 8:11

Look at nature nature:

(i) put death in, get life out

1 Cor 15:36

(ii) what you get out wasn’t what you put in

1 Cor 15:37-38

(iii) God is, of course, able to give things the appropriate kinds of bodies

1 Cor 15:39-41

Look at the risen Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:49

Philippians 3:21

Continuity & discontinuity with Jesus pre-resurection body

1 Corinthians 15:42–44

Perishable, dishonourable, weak, natural bodies will be transformed

Resurrection hope for creation

Frustration & Promise

Rm 8:19-22


Rev 21:1, 5

Isaiah 65:17

Isaiah 11:6–9


“God says, ‘I will make all things new’, not ‘I will make all new things’.”

Genesis 9:11

Matthew 19:28


1 Corinthians 15:58

(4) Mission

Acts 17:30-31

The exaltation of Jesus

Phil 2:5-11

The reality of judgement

Rm 1:3-4

Daniel 12:2

John 11:25

Acts 4:1-2

The necessity of mission

Mt 28:19-20

Are all religions the same?

In Lifted! (p114, emphasis added), Sam Allberry writes:

It has always struck me as a lazy way to think. It implies a certain distance being kept from each of the religions being discussed – an ignorance, even. It is hard to study the beliefs of Islam and Christianity, say, without realizing that they involve radically diff erent ways of looking at reality. What similarities they share are really only on the surface. At heart they are totally distinct. Saying all religions are the same is just like saying all Chinese people look the same: it just shows that you’ve never properly got to know any. Spend a decent amount of time with a group of people from any racial background and you won’t think they look the same for very long. The insistence that ‘they’re all the same’ may sound tolerant, but in many cases it is little more than laziness.

Notes from Prison

Jonathan Aitken commented that being some kind of half-Christian is about as good as being half-pregnant.

When he was in prison he formed an unusual kind of cell group.

If I jotted down these stats correctly:

1/3 of all prisoners can't read and write.

The average age of a prisoner is 23.

7/10 of those released from prison are back inside within 2 years.

When it rains on the Sunshine coast

Bishop Wallace commented that people often complain to him about the weather in a "can't you put in a good word with the Almighty" sort of way. Wallace responds: "I'm in sales, not management!"