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The Proclaimer

The first chapters of everything

I have just spent two glorious lunchtimes sitting on our roof in the springtime sun reading Alasdair Paine's new book on Genesis 1-4. It's a great read. Its based on sermons at Christ Church Westbourne and St Andrew the Great, Cambridge and both the preacher's and pastor's heart shine through. I found it devotionally engaging and stirring as well as useful for thinking how I might preach these important chapters. I've done that on a number of occasions, but this book made me want to do it again.

Alasdair keeps asking "what is this passage here for" and, as such, does not get sidetracked by non essential (though still important) issues which often cause sharp disagreement. He's not afraid to say what he thinks about various interpretations, however. He just doesn't let these cloud the primary reading of the text in its context. There will be those who will feel, of course, that this means he's missed the opportunity. Rather, I think it's a good example of model exposition where we let the text speak and draw us to Christ.

My boss warmly commends it, but there are plenty of things I disagree with him on, so I don't feel obliged to do likewise on the strength of his reading. Nevertheless, on the strength of my own, I do encourage you to buy and read this book. It will be an encouragement to you devotionally. And it will help you preach these passages well.

Thank you, Lord, for John Richardson

The best introduction to the book of Revelation is still far and away John Richardson's little primer. Worth its weight in gold, in fact. This week we learnt that John was called to glory, long before you might expect his earthly pilgrimage to have been completed. The Lord knows best. Our prayers are with Alison and we acknowledge our grateful thanks for a persuasive writer, teacher, pastor, theologican and good friend to PT. 

New IT initiative today

We're delighted to announce today a new initiative from PT. We've developed a highly sophisticated IT system that can automatically determine and evaluate Big Idea sentences provided they are made up of ten words or less. Provisionally titled Big Idea Logos Goal Evaluation, we have spent considerable time, energy and expertise designing a system which allows you to submit a 10 word or less Big Idea for any passage and receive back an evaluation scored 1-10, 1 being awful (completely missed it) to 10 being star preacher. With your evaluation you will also receive some pre-recorded encouragements (scores 5 and above) or rebukes (scores below 5). These are added for your personal edification and santificiation. To access this new service, simply send an email with the subject EVALUATE. The email should contain the passage reference and the Big Idea in less than ten words. Our system will automatically reject hypenated words, colons and semi-colons. Please make use of this new service by sending your Big Idea for evaluation to BILGE@proctrust.org.uk.

At the moment this service is in beta testing, so it will only be available until 12:00 noon today.

Why the hermeneutic matters

When working out OT lines of application, it's perfectly possible to get to at least one of the "right" answers (by which I mean appropriate) with the wrong hermeneutic. For example, you could look at parts of Jeremiah and see that his message was rejected and he faced great opposition to what he had to say. It would not be a wrong application (down the line) to say that the gospel we proclaim will be rejected and we should face great opposition.

But that's drawing a right lesson from a wrong reading. And that hermeneutic is going to get you into trouble. For drawing such direct lines leaves you in all kinds of quandries. I would explain, but I haven't time as I just have to go off to the potter's house and buy a jar. See what I did there?

The right hermeneutic matters if we are to get the appropriate lines of application every time and if we are to teach our people how to read the Bible for themselves. In this particular case, we must look at what happens when God's Word, his eternal Son, comes to earth. The rejection of Jeremiah's message foreshadows the rejection of the Son (see the parable of the tenants in Mark 12.1-12). Our own rejection, when it comes, comes not because we are in the line of Jeremiah, but because we are in the line of Christ. We should not be surprised when "men hate us" (Mark 13.13). It's part of what it means to joined to Christ.

Even if we sometimes get the right answer (though not, in this case, the full answer), the hermeneutic matters. It must.

Momentous moment

Today is the day that PT officially switches its shirt supplier from Boden to Joe Brown's of Leeds. I feel I've been here nearly five years and this is the time for this momentous change.

More seriously. (You saw through this, right?). Churches have cultures. Have you noticed? Sometimes pastors and preachers get very wound up about this. And sometimes they're right to do so. But we also need to know that no church can be a-cultural. Every church, even the newest church plant, has a history. Every church is made up of people who (we hope) reflect the area in which the church is situated. That means no church is a-cultural. And we need to lighten up a bit about this. 

Except.

Except where that culture shapes and determines us. Church leaders need to be discerning to spot when the culture of the church itself is shaping the church and therefore when it becomes self-determining. So we are right to react strongly against cultural bases that diminish or detract from the gospel. Those are battles worth fighting. 

But where you get your shirt from?

Unlikely.

The no make up selfie pastor

I've resisted the urge to post a no-make-up selfie. It's insanity multiplied. 

It did get me thinking however about Kathryn Jenkins. She has a nice voice. And she is normally well made up.

But her no-make-up selfie is not. A no-make-up selfie, that is. I'm not a make up expert despite living in a house full of girls, but I can see she's less made up than the picture above; however no-make-up this is not. 

It got me thinking about pastoring. There are pastors who appear in full make up all the time. Not literally, of course, but they present themselves to their congregations as more glamorous than they really are. I hope most of us would reject that approach as deceitful and actually unhelpful for ministry (see 1 Tim 4.15). So most of us know we have to strip away the facade. However, perhaps like Kathryn, we're not prepared to go all the way. That would be too painful. That would open us up to too much analysis. And so we're always wearing a little make up.

Please hear me. I'm not making a case for parading your sins in the pulpit nor making your unadorned self the centre of attention. But to our congregations we need to be those without make up. We need close friends who see us as we really are. We need to be honest with our leadership teams. And though preaching is a high calling where we step into the pulpit with the very authority of God's word, we need to do it in humility, honesty and straightforwardness.

No make up, in other words.  

 

 

An important new book

We're just finalising an exciting new book by Josh Moody and Robin Weekes entitled Burning Hearts. It's all about preaching to the affections, and it's been great reading it, editing it and thinking through this subject all over again for myself. The book is a clear and careful corrective - not calling us to preach emotionally, but to call us back to biblical preaching in its richest sense. Here's a taster:

What are affections? They are not touching, hugging, kissing, or (even) feeling: Affections are the movement of our thoughts, feelings, and will towards a desired object, person or event. An affection is what inclines us to something (whereas an effect is what results from something). Affections are what move us towards action.

When we talk about preaching to the affections, we do not mean preaching that is sentimental, or touchy-feely, or lacking intellectual rigor or content. That is not preaching to the affections; that is empty-headed preaching. Nor do we mean preaching that is lacking in close attention to the text of Scripture, or that skims over the surface of the passage in order to create an easy emotional high in the hearers.

Affections are more than emotions (though they include them). Affections are defined by their result: they are what happens within someone when action is produced. We all know it is possible to feel something and do nothing about it. We also all know it is possible to think something and do nothing about it. But when our feelings and our thoughts are combined with a decisive will-to-action, then the internal event that generates this movement is called “affections.”

Preaching to the affections is “affectional preaching” (not affectionate preaching). Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart. And the heart in the Bible is not merely our feelings, nor merely our thinking, but both intertwined; the heart is the centre of who we are. Because affections are “what move us towards action,” affections are:

  • part of the brain’s response to data
  • necessary for rational functioning
  • no more fallen or sinful naturally than reason
  • orientated towards godly desires in the godly person
  • not proof in themselves that someone is spiritual

The book is deliberately straightforward. It is not long. But we do think it's important. Look out for it at the EMA. 

Demolishing Chalke's lodestars

In the various debates and arguments regarding inerrancy, Chalke has regularly come back to two situations: Numbers 15 and the man gathering wood on the Sabbath and the two apparently conflicting accounts of David's census in 2 Sam 24 and 1 Chr 21. In my morning reading in Job (using Christopher's new commentary out soon) I came across this superb account of the latter:

So the question is, when bad things happen, who does them? This question of causation and agency takes us right back to the heavenly council chamber of chapters 1, 2. We gained there an insight into the true model for understanding the government of the world. This is neither polytheism nor a kind of divine tyrannical monism but rather a Sovereign God who governs the world through the intermediate agency of a number of supernatural forces (“the sons of God”), some of whom are evil. He uses evil to work out his purpose ultimately to defeat evil.

We see the tension inherent in this understanding in two revealing parallel accounts of the same Old Testament event. At some stage in his reign King David sinfully takes a census of the fighting men of Israel, a census that appears to be motivated by a desire for autonomy, to feel secure in his army rather than entrusting his safety to the Lord. So David does something evil. The question is, what supernatural power was at work to cause him to do it?

The answer is stated in two apparently contradictory ways. In the account of the books of Samuel we are told, “the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he [that is, the Lord] incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (2 Samuel 24:1). But when the same event is recorded later by the Chronicler, he puts it in a strikingly different way: “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). So, did the Lord incite David to do this or did Satan incite him to do this? The answer is, both but in different ways. The characteristic perspective of the writer of Samuel and Kings is that if something happens, it happens because God does it. This is Job’s perspective. When the Chronicler says that Satan did it, he is not denying that the Lord did it. The Chronicler is not a dualist. He does not believe that Satan has an existence independent from the Lord or that he can exercise autonomy in his actions. But the Chronicler draws attention to the fact that this action is God’s action by the agency of Satan. It is therefore God’s action in a different way from some of God’s other actions. If we may put it this way, some of God’s actions express his character, while others are the outworking of his longer plan to deal with evil. When God acts in steadfast love and faithfulness, these actions express his character directly. But when evil things happen, God is acting through the agencies of evil powers, and the actions do not reveal his character. They are part of his grand plan to turn evil to good, to defeat evil, but they do not immediately reveal his character.

The book is a truly superb resource and is first available at the EMA. 

The essential Christian library

I've been asked to come up with a list of 12 books that would be part of an essential Christian library. I'm very nervous about such lists because they often (a) reveal more about you than you would wish and (b) I'm always nervous about what might be left off. Nevertheless, in the spirit of co-operation, here's my attempt. My starting point is to think through what books would be useful (no books are "essential") for a thinking Christian - not particularly a leader or preacher, but a mature, keen Christian who wants to grow. I've included a word of explanation with each. But even now, as I write this, I can't help thinking there are better answers. So, no answers on a postcard please. They are in no particular order:

  1. New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition (ed. Carson, France, Motyer & Wenham). This is still the best one volume commentary and, for my money, you still get more for your money with something like this than you do from a study Bible. 
  2. Valley of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers, ed Arthur Bennett. This is my wildcard entry. Much trailed in the evangelical world and much loved in mine. Helps me to pray when I don't feel like praying. Leather edition is vastly superior to the paperback. 
  3. Bible Answers, Derek Prime. A thinking Christian needs to have a systematic book, but which one. I honestly struggled to choose. However, as a starter, I think this is still my favourite. Easy to use, easy to read, trustworthy in content. It doesn't interact with other views in the way, say that Grudem does. Nevertheless, a good volume. 
  4. Guidance and the voice of God, Phil Jensen & Tony Payne. Many Christians struggle with this particular issue and therefore I've included a book on it. I think that MacArthur is also good on this - but Jensen and Payne set the bar. 
  5. Delighting in the Trinity, Tim Chester. The Trinity is such an important topic that I needed to include a book on it. Couldn't decide whether to go with Tim's or Sam Allberry's Connected. Both are good. Sam's perhaps slightly more accessibly, but neither is difficult. 
  6. The secret of contentment, by William Barcley. I really wanted to get some older writing in, but if my target audience is the keen Christian, I've refrained from choosing puritan tones, though that is what I like to read. This is the next best thing - Barcley distilling wisdom from Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson. Discontent is one of the root sins of the age.  
  7. When I don’t desire God, John Piper. I think Desiring God is a great book, but with this one you get the exhortation of that book plus some thinking about when things are broke. I find this an excellent book. 
  8. The Reason for God, Tim Keller. Some of its deficiencies are much trailed, but if you understand this book for what it is, it is a superb apologetic defence of some (not all) of the basics of faith and whether God is really there. I'm always confident handing this onto friends. 
  9. The cross of Christ, John Stott. This is a classic. Deservedly so. My list of 12 needs a book on Christ and the cross, the heart of our faith. 
  10. The footsteps of God, John Legg. I needed a history book for my list, but couldn't decide which. There are great individual bios, but this one I like because it tackles a range of people. I've just tried to make a link and realised that this is now out of print. *Sulk* I was so keen on this particular volume, that I'm not sure what to replace it with. Perhaps this - the Story of the Church by Clouse, Pieard and Yamauchi- a wonderful little hardback with pictures! Yay! One of the most engaging church history books. Update: I've since found out that this title is out of print too! It's a travesty. I'm halfway through writing a simple church history. In the meantime, here's the next best thing (!): Christopher Catherwood's Church History Summary from IVP.
  11. Through the British Museum with the Bible by Clive Anderson and Brian Edwards. Did you know the Bible is true? Of course you did. We know that by faith. But, wonderfully, archaeology helps. I have bought more copies of this book than any other. I keep giving them away. Strongest volume in a strong series. 
  12. For the love of God, vols 1&2, Don Carson. These are now available free through the Gospel Coalition website. Two wonderful devotional books based on McCheyne's Bible reading plan. Still fresh after many readings. Print versions also available. 

I'm already having second thoughts about my list.... I can see some glaring omissions. But such is the nature of such things. So, I shall put my pen down. It's a useful exercise, perhaps you should do it as part of your planning a church bookstall? What would you recommend to your people?

Our friends at tenofthose.com have put the whole pack above into a search string for you. Click here to start reading!