Saturday, May 28, 2016

Calvin's absolutions

Facebook tells me they took the following form:

"To all those who repent in this way and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, I declare that absolution of sins has been given in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'"

Or, in the French Reformed liturgy: "To all those who repent and seek their salvation in Jesus Christ, we declare in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, that God forgives now their sins."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Group Notes on Foundtions by Peter Mead

Foundations: Four Big Questions We Should Be Asking But Typically Don’t

By Peter Mead

(Christian Focus, 2015)

Book Group Questions and Notes

What did you make of the book?

Do you agree that there are big questions which we should ask ourselves which perhaps typically we don’t?

What do you make of the big questions Mead suggests?

Would you suggest other questions?

(What questions, if any, do you think the non-Christians you know typically ask themselves?)

(Identity – who am I?

Purpose – why am I here?

Destiny – where am I going?)

(How might a non-Christian typically answer these questions?)


We all have some kind of ultimate allegiance – a God (p7)

Contrast other religions and Christianity (p8) – They offer some ways in which human beings can solve their problems. Christians believe that our situation is hopeless unless God, in his love, comes to our rescue.


Do you agree that in a sense everyone is a believer? (p12)

Part 1 – The Four Questions

1: Which god is God? (p17ff)

Lystra – Acts 14:8-20 (p19ff)

Athens – Acts 17:16-34 (p20ff)

Do you agree that it is dangerous to assume that we know what we mean by “God”? (p21)

Do you think that when people say they don’t believe in God, we might not believe in quite the God they are rejecting either? (That is, they might very well misconceive the God they reject – perhaps they think of him as a cosmic kill-joy or a kindly old grandfather in the sky, or some kind of force) (p17)

How does Mead particularly think people might often misconceive God?

Single solitary monad, not Trinity

Glory-hungry law-giver (not the whole story, a distortion on its own)

According to Mead, how can we know what God is like? (p25)

Do you agree?

Questions on p26

2: What is a Human? (p27ff)

(How would a non-Christian in Britain today typically answer that question?)

We are God’s offspring – Acts 17:28f

Humanity made in the image of God, not vice versa


Equal but different

1.      A CV World (p33ff)

i.e. concerned about our performance / achievements / what we know / can do / status / success

2.      Life measured by the Family Portrait (p34ff)

Life defined in part by relationships as people made for relationship with God and with others in the image of God

“in him we live and move and have our being” (p35)

Reflection questions (p39)

3: What is Sin? (p41ff) [What is wrong with our world / what’s our big problem?]

A deeper account of sin than sometimes doing wrong things

Paul on sin (p42ff)

Acts 26:18-20

Repentance is not primarily about behaviour but about relationship – turning to Christ (p43)

Back to the beginning – Genesis 3 (p44ff)

Great question: will we trust the Word of God or the devil’s lies? (p45)

Sin is basically relational rebellion (p48) – the heart

The Sin Story – Lk 15 (p48ff)

Sin could take a respectable religious form as in the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son – both are alienated from the Father although one doesn’t go far from home

The Good News for Us All (p52ff)

Reflection questions p55ff

4: What is Salvation? (p57ff) [What is the answer / solution to our big problem?]

The problem summarized (p58ff)

Legal guilt & broken relationship, dead hearts, the absence of the Holy Spirit. Not only forgiveness but also friendship and a changed heart.

Good news worth guarding (p61ff) – Acts 15

Defending the Gospel of Grace (p66ff)

God’s Grace Really Is Good News (p67ff)

Reflection questions (p70ff)

Part 2: Building on the Four Questions (p71ff)

5: Christian Life & Growth (p73ff)

Is the way on in the Christian life the same as the way into the Christian life, i.e. response to Christ by the grace of God in the power of the Spirit?

At the beginning of the journeys: instruction for new believers (p73ff)

Acts 13 esp v49ff – filled with joy and the Holy Spirit

Do you think it’s tricky to fit together deliberate purposeful effort to be godly and the grace and power of the Spirit?

How do they fit together?

(Fixing our gaze on Christ and living in response to him) – p76

At the end of the Missionary Journeys: Instructions for Established Christian Leaders (p76ff)

Acts 20 esp 22-24, 32 – grace to build you up etc.

Reflection questions (p80)

6: The Four Questions Applied (p81ff)

The Four Questions and You (p82ff)

The Four Questions and Evangelism (p88ff)

The Four Questions and Church (p90ff)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Some headings for Trinity Sunday

Romans 5:1-5

(1)   God the Father sent the Son to save us (vv1-2)

(2)   God the Father sent the Spirit to live in our hearts (v5)

John 16:12-15

(1)   The Holy Spirit connects the Apostles to Jesus and his words (v12-14)

(2)   Jesus connects us to God the Father (v15)

And we could add:

(3)   The New Testament connects us to the Apostles, and therefore to Jesus

And stolen from Radio 4 this morning - it's not the whole story, of course, but I thought there was something to be said for this:

God the Father, above us

God the Son beside us / along side us or with us

God the Holy Spirit within us

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Selling their homes....

The church in Jerusalem in the first century sold their homes to meet the real needs of other believers with extra-ordinary, Spirit induced generosity. I once sat through a sermon on how it was a very bad idea to use up one's capital in this way! But as The Revd Douglas Wilson points out, if the Christians had grasped Jesus' teaching that within a generation the temple and the city would be destroyed and they would have to flee, it makes sense that they were so ready to liquidate their assets. After all, house prices in Jerusalem were about the experience a cataclysmic collapse.

Some headings for Hebrews 1:

From the speaker at today's Men's Breakfast:

Christ the revealer, the Son who perfectly expresses the God Father
Christ the ruler of creation, who is its focus
Christ the rescuer / redeemer who saves us from sins
Christ the reigning Lord
(Christ the returning judge)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Alec Motyer's Psalms By The Day (Christian Focus, 2016)

looks really excellent. Intended for devotional use, this book which covers all 150 Psalms in 73 days would be a gift to any preacher too. There is a fresh working translation of the Psalm, a title, analysis into sections (e.g. A, B, C; or, A1, A2, B; or, A1, B1, C1, C2, B2, A2) with headings for each, notes on particular verses and a pause for thought at the end. I'm certainly going to consult it next time I preach on a Psalm.

Nice roomy hardback book (notes around and below the text) with a ribonny thing too! Carl Trueman, Mark Dever and Jonathan Lamb liked it. ISBN 9781781917169, 422pp, RRP: £16.99 but from about £11 delivered on Amazon.

Acts and Church Life

One of the speakers at Bible By The Beach this year helpfully suggested that some of the accounts of church life in the book of Acts are not strictly prescriptive nor merely descriptive but deliberately instructive.

An Ascension Day Sermon Idea

What would you say were the most significant events or the great turning points of history?


For the Christian, that ought to be a fairly simple question. The great events of history are:

New Creation

The author and director and centre of human history is Jesus Christ. We could discuss each of those four great moments with reference to him. But that is another sermon. Or perhaps another sermon series.

What if we zero in on the history of Jesus?

We would have:

His eternal heavenly reign
His incarnation, birth and life
His death
His resurrection
His ascension
and his return.

So, today, what of the ascension, that great moment in the history of the world and in the history of Jesus, which millions celebrate today, but of which millions are ignorant?

Perhaps even as we celebrate it, we don't really grasp it's meaning - we are not gripped by it.

[Discuss meaning of ascension especially in relation to the other moments of Jesus' life and world history]

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Sermon on the Mount

David Cook's headings for Matthew 6:19ff:

Wealth is fleeting
Worry is futile

Maybe one could add:

Worldly display / prayer is foolish

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Some pairs in Revelation

gave some structure to today's sermon & all age talk:

The Lion & The Lamb (Rev 5)
The Bride & The Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21-22)
Heaven & Earth
God & His People
Welcome & No Entry
The Garden & The Garden City