Lots of funnily dressed men come to town
No, it’s not the Tour de France. True, 180 sweaty men in lycra does seem to make the news. But we’ve got 1,000 (hopefully not too sweaty) men in chinos, and quite a few women too (not in chinos and definitely not sweaty). Yes, tomorrow sees the start of the Evangelical Ministry Assembly at the Barbican centre in London.
Tickets are available on the door, so you can still come and join us. We’d love to see you. And we’d love to ask whether you would pray with us that we’d have a happy, safe, blessed time. We long to be challenged from God’s word about following Christ and serving Christ.
Some will come with heavy hearts. Please pray that they would be built up and renewed. Others will come doing well. Please pray that they will be moved to keep going and be a help to others. Some may come doubting ministry. Please pray their confidence would be renewed.
Above all we long that men and women would be built up in their great calling to serve and proclaim Christ Jesus.
Some people will even bring a bike.
You may have noticed that the PT material has now migrated to a new website, much easier to use and navigate and mobile and tablet friendly. That means the PT app will no longer be supported. Do enjoy the new site. More about it in the next few weeks, including some of our thinking behind it and how to get the most from it. It’s been reasonably well tested, but even so, let us know any glitches so we can fix them. Enjoy!
Not losing heart
enkakeo means to lose heart or be discouraged. It’s an important Bible word and appears 4 times in the New Testament. The verses are worth considering:
- Luke 18.1. Jesus tells the parable of the persistent widow precisely so that the disciples should pray and not lose heart. This is a tricky parable, but we’re helped because Jesus tells us the application before we start! In order to not lose heart we need a constantly refreshed vision of the sovereignty of God who hears and answers prayer.
- 2 Cor 4.1, 16. These verses are about not losing heart in the apostolic ministry that first Paul, and now we, pursue. In order not to lose heart we need a constantly refreshed vision of the nature of Christian ministry and God’s sovereignly ordained means for revealing his Son.
- Eph 3.13 is about Paul’s suffering, a cause which might affect the Ephesian brothers and sisters. Our own suffering, or even the suffering of others is enough to knock us back, but we need a constantly refreshed vision of Christ as Lord (v11) even in the darkest days.
- 2 Thess 3.13. We must not lose heart in doing good, or, to put it another way, not grow weary of doing good. If our faith is only ever in our heads and does not flow from heart to action it is no faith at all. It is dead, in fact. We need a constantly refreshed vision of gospel living that believes the gospel and applies it to all of life.
Are you losing heart? Right now. We need faith in the God who is sovereign, confidence in the method and message, a clear knowledge that Jesus is Lord and a desire to live out the gospel in every area of life.
Make that your prayer. As I will mine.
These are my abbreviated notes from a short devotional talk by David Jackman.
Pastoral integrity and Job 22
I’m enjoying Job in my personal devotions at the moment, making much use of Christopher’s new commentary which is superb. I’ve got to chapter 22, Eliphaz’s last speech, and it’s a ripper. In it, Eliphaz basically calls Job to repent. You have definitely sinned, no arguments (vv1-11), he says. God punishes sinners and he’s punishing you (vv12-20). But repent, he urges, and God will bless you (vv21-30):
- God will give you his presence
- God will hear your prayers
- God will grant you prosperity
- God will make you a blessing to others
Within the context of the Old Covenant, it all sounds very plausible. There is only one problem, a problem that we know about because of Job 1-2. Job has not sinned. He is innocent.
To call on a penitent believer to repent of sins he is not aware of is to compromise his integrity. The well-calibrated conscience, informed and convicted by the Spirit of God, will prompt the believer to repent day by day of the sins of which he or she is made aware. But to press this believer to repent of sins he has not committed is a grotesque rape of his integrity.
Earlier in the chapter, Christopher has put it like this:
I well remember a leader at a Christian youth event choosing this as a passage for a Bible study and how our hearts warmed to the invitation to make God our gold, to find delight in him and enjoy his blessings. But when we read this text in the context in which Eliphaz says it, we will see that it is not a spiritual invitation to intimacy but rather the pastoral equivalent of rape.
Strong stuff. But important nonetheless if we are to maintain pastoral integrity.
How to get and retain the attention of your hearers
Just re-reading Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students in order to write a contribution for a book and I’m gripped once more by Spurgeon’s chapter brilliantly titled “Attention!” In it, he sets out how to obtain and retain the attention of our hearers. Here are the headlines. Make of these what you will, but there is a lot of godly wisdom here….
- Make sure there is plenty of fresh air. “The next best thing to the grace of God for a preacher is oxygen.”
- Always say something worth hearing
- Let the good matter you give them be very carefully arranged.
- Be sure to speak plainly.
- Attend to your manner of address.
- Do not say the first thing that comes into your head.
- Do not indulge in monotones.
- Vary your speed and voice.
- Do not make the introduction too long.
- Do not repeat yourself.
- Do not give a complete summary of theology every time you preach.
- Avoid being too long (do not go beyond 45 mins!!).
- Spend more time in the study that you may need less in the pulpit.
- Be prayerful! The attention of your people can only be achieved by their being led by the Spirit of God into an elevated and devout state of mind.
- Be interested yourself.
- Use a good number of godly illustrations.
- Surprise people. Do not say what everyone expected you to say.
- Make people feel that they have an interest. “I never did hear of someone going to sleep in the reading of a will in which they expected a legacy.”
- Don’t let people wander around. “Deacons and sextons trotting over the place are a torture never to be patiently endured and should be kindly but decidedly requested to suspend their perambulations.”
- Be yourself, clothed with the Spirit of God.
Next week’s EMA
It's just over one week until this year's EMA. We're starting Tuesday this year to allow me to see the Tour de France in London. Sorry, that should read, we're starting Tuesday this year so we don't get caught up in all the London Tour de France stuff. There's still (just about) time to book. Take in the cylcing as well, why don't you? But can I ask you – whether you are coming or not – to pray?
- Please pray for those who are coming. Pray for divine appointments in God's word and divine appointments in friendships. We dearly desire the EMA to build ministers of the gospel in both our formal sessions and in the informal ones.
- Please pray for those who are not coming. Let me explain. There are – sadly – evangelical ministers who would have delighted to be at the EMA in the past, but for whom evangelical ministry is less exciting that it used to be. For these, things have slipped and they have followed a path away from orthodoxy, sometimes morally, sometimes theologically. Please take a moment to plead with God for mercy for such people. And pray that we would be kept from this door.
- Please pray for the speakers. I'm sure – in fact I know – all the main speakers and seminar leaders would covet your prayers. Please do remember them.
- Please remember those who are making it happen. Rachel, our wonderful conference manager, almost single handedly organises this and our other conferences. No, you can't have her. Please pray for her and for her team including stewards, Bookstore staff and musicians.
- Please also remember to pray for Barbican staff, all – as far as we know – unconverted. Please pray that as they listen in on our sessions, God might be at work in them.
Rejoicing in the holes in the ground
I've spent this week preaching on Ezra at one of our conferences. Even though this is now very familiar territory for me, it still feels fresh, exciting and challenging. For example. Chapter 3 describes the beginning of the temple building project. There's lots here in the detail – for example, the fact that the Israelites build the altar before they even start work on the temple. But let me point you to chapter 3 for a really helpful application for those that minister in church. There are deliberate echoes here with the first temple construction.
Same month. Same materials. Same source. Same workers. Even the same song. "He is good, his love towards Israel endures for ever." Check out 1 Chr 5 and you'll discover that this is the same song they sung first time around.
Only, here's the thing. First time around this song was sung when the temple was complete. This time around, the party begins only when the foundations are dug. Foundations are pretty unimpressive. The stones are not dressed. The wood is not planed. It's not particularly special to look at holes in the ground.
I know I'm cutting a few corners here, but temple building leads us to Christ, which leads us to think about New Covenant temple building where the people of God are being built into a spiritual temple with Christ Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. And here's the challenging application. We need to cultivate a spirit where even the foundations are a cause for great rejoicing. Every small step. Every conversation. Every sermon. Every small step towards conforming to the likeness of Christ in us and others. Every resistance against temptation. Every kind word. And so on.
These things don't appear glorious to the world. But every small step takes us nearer the completion of the temple and so is a cause for great rejoicing rather than the self pity we ministers sometimes indulge in. Yes, we long for greater days, but in the meantime, even the holes in the ground should bring great delight.
So, will you sing with me?
He is good. His love towards [us] endures forever.
Lots of books are variations on a theme. Good variations, but variations nonetheless. I'm a fan of such books if they have something new and useful to say, a new insight or angle that helps us as we see to know Christ better. But What's your worldview by James Anderson is something completely different. It's a book – yes – but with a difference. Part 1 takes you through 21 questions. Depending on your answer to a particular question, the book directs you to another – all with a view to working out your own worldview. These are then detailed and examined in Part 2. I came out as a theist! Phew.
Seriously, this is a useful book. The two parts can work on their own or as part of an evangelistic questionnaire. I can see this as a book which is both fun (being different) and informative. I would happily give it to – and discuss it with – my non Christian family and friends. It's short, punch and well written. Look out for it at the EMA. It's RRP is £7.99, but available at the EMA for £7.
More EMA books. Bonus plus time at the EMA
And there's more… of course there is. We've got 1,250 titles, of which something like 250 are new.Here is another that I'm very excited about. It's Krish Kandiah's Paradoxology. It's a Hodder book and you don't always see Hodder books on your camp bookstall. That's a shame, because this one is great. Krish has captured the paradoxes of the Christian faith in his typical, easy-to-read style. Whilst accessible, though, it is still meaty. It's also very orthodox in case you're wondering. But here's the thing. Unlike other apologetic books, Krish doesn't seek to explain away or argue against these paradoxes. Rather, he says, they are at the very heart of our Christian faith and we should both know them and actively cherish them. It's a book, in other words, to help you worship. I see that it was reviewed in this month's EN by Martin Salter who also, I'm glad to say, likes it. It's normally £12.99 but we'll have it at the EMA for £3 off. You see: it's worth coming just for the books. Everything else is bonus plus.
This year's EMA sees the launch of some new books which are so good I want to mention them in advance. One of these is DayOne's superb new coffee table book Evidence for the Bible. I've been privileged to see some proofs of this book and it's a monster. I love that the DayOne website even has a new category on it "Coffee Table Books". Each page of this book by Brian Edwards and EMA regular Clive Anderson is devoted to a particular find that backs up the Bible's story.
Of course, ultimately, believing the word of God is a question of faith (Heb 11.2), but – given that it is true – we should not be surprised to find treasures in the historical world backing up the Bible's authenticity. This book works in two significant ways:
- first it encourages believers. Read this book, flick through it, dip into it and you cannot help but be encouraged to see how what you have long believed to be true is backed up by archeological finds. It should be on a Christian's coffee table for that purpose!
- second it challenges unbelievers. I can see that working in a couple of ways. Have it at your house and people will dip into it. Are you a doctor? Put it in the waiting room. Or you could actually buy someone a copy. I think it will be effective as an apologetic tool – much like you might give someone a Keller book.
It's beautifully produced and illustrated and I'm very happy to commend it. It's normally £25 (and good value for what it is at that). For £18 at the EMA it's a steal. Buy two!