I had one ear open at breakfast today (15thSeptember) when the Radio 4 Today programme was discussing the Pope’s visit. Various reports and interviews focussed mainly on the numerical decline of the Roman Catholic Church in the UK (ignoring the large increases from Polish and other immigrants). What interested me was the reason given for this decline, which was the uncompromising stance of the church (and especially this Pope – so deeply loathed by the liberal media) on contentious moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and contraception. If only, they suggested, the RC Church relaxed this stance and came more into line with ‘the values of our culture’, then this numerical decline could be reversed.
I hold no brief for the Roman Catholic Church, (and consider the ban on artificial contraception to be a flawed deduction from the Bible), but the liberal ‘logic’ of this report struck me as deeply illogical. Is the answer to numerical decline to take our ethical stance from ‘the values of our culture’? This seems to me absurd. Why bother to join a church, if it believes just what the surrounding culture believes? I can think of better things to do with my Sundays. Besides, there are Anglican churches whose ethics appear pretty much indistinguishable from our culture, and they seem to be declining pretty fast too.
Writing in a wide margin Bible
If you're an ESV user you may be interested to know that Cambridge University Press (who produce fine Bibles) have now added a wide margin ESV to their catalogue. It's not cheap, but if you love wide margin Bibles for note taking, theirs is the best UK text. I use a true-tone Crossway ESV which not only has a wide margin but single column text and, like an old fashioned Bible, each verse starts on a different line – this is great for note taking as it means that there is lots of space around each sentence as well as in the margin. I got mine from amazon UK.
But what do you write with? Some people use pencil – but I find a thin pencil can easily rip the page. Ballpoint is too thick and fountain pen (my weapon of choice) seeps through even "ink-resistant" pages. So I use 0.05mm technical pens – like these by Mistubishi. Ideal.
Conference Bookings Now Open
We are excited to announce that online booking is now open for all of our conferences until July 2011.
- Autumn Joint Ministers Conference : 8 – 11 November 2010
- London Week : 10 – 15 December 2010
- Women in Ministry : 17 – 20 January 2011
- The Preachers Weekend : 18 – 20 Feb 2011
- Spring Ministers’ Wives Conference : 7 – 10 March 2011
- Spring Younger Ministers Conference : 3 – 6 May 2011
- Spring Senior Ministers Conference : 16 – 19 May 2011
- The Evangelical Ministry Assembly : 22 – 24 June 2011
- Cornhill Summer School : 27 June – 1 July 2011
- Summer Ministers’ Wives Conference : 4 – 7 July 2011
Space on our residential conferences is strictly limited, so early booking is recommended.
Wives’ conferences – what’s it all about?
Next week is the second of our two annual wives' conferences. People sometimes ask why a trust concerned with the proclamation of the Word of God should be bothered about such things? Here's why.
- those who are married to ministers of the gospel face a peculiar set of pressures and need targeted and thought through encouragement. It is not enough to be a godly woman when you're married into gospel work. Or, rather, of course it's enough to be godly, but godliness takes a slightly different slant in ministry and needs different focus.
- the state of preaching in our churches is intricately linked to the spiritual well being of those who are called to preach – hence "watch your life and doctrine closely." [This is not a "works" link as though the efficacy of preaching was dependent upon godliness. How could it be so? Nevertheless, Scripture does build a connection.] For every married preacher therefore, his marriage and the support of his wife is critical.
There are more good reasons for hosting wives' conferences, but there are two good ones to start. Both the spring wives' conference and summer wives' conference get fully booked – wives NEED this encouragement. We would love churches to take up the burden of paying for ministers' wives to attend – too many pay for themselves and we think churches need to recognise the important role they play in supporting their man.
Booking will soon be open for 2011. Please note that spaces for those with babies are very limited due to the number of child carers we are able to take with us.
Preorder This Year’s Evangelical Ministry Assembly
Last week's Evangelical ministry assembly, on Spirit-filled ministry, was a landmark in many ways. The sessions were stirring and encouraging, and many of you have asked when the recordings would be available. In response, we are making it possible to pre-order the mp3 CD right now.
It will include
- Two sessions on 'Word and Spirit in John' by Christopher Ash
- Three sessions from Judges by Rupert Bentley-Taylor
- Three sessions – living, preaching and praying in the power of the spirit – by John Piper
- A session on the work of the Spirit in the life of George Whitefield by Vaughan Roberts
- All four seminars from the conference: Does prophecy have a place in the church today? What is the role of the Spirit in the life of the preacher? What place did the Holy Spirit have in the doctrine and ministry of the Reformers? And what can we learn about the Spirit from the African church?
- 'An Honest Conversation' between John Coles, Liam Goligher, Hugh Palmer, and Terry Virgo about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the local church
- And an interview with John Piper.
The mp3 download of the conference will be available later this week, but if you want the CD, do order it now.
Union with Christ
Came across this little summary by G Walter Hansen in the Pillar Commentary on Philippians – it describes how Paul uses the concept of union with Christ together with the preposition with. I found it very stirring.
- Buried with (Rom 6.4, Col 2.12)
- United with (Rom 6.5)
- Crucified with (Rom 6.6, Gal 2.20)
- Live with (Rom 6.7)
- Heirs with (Rom 8.17)
- Suffer with (Rom 8.17)
- Glorify with (Rom 8.17)
- Have the same form with (Rom 8.29, Phil 3.21)
- Be conformed with (Phil 3.10)
Meditate on those and rejoice!
How to preach Psalm 8
Had the joy yesterday of preaching Psalm 8. If you've ever wondered how to do that, or want help to do it, there's a model exposition in Hebrews 2. Hebrews is a great book for knowing how to preach Old Testament passages! So here, for what it's worth is my outline:
- God the exalted creator
- Man the exalted ruler
…but not yet. However……..we do see Jesus. Two key applications (not mine but from Hebrews 2). This means that Jesus is:
- a sufficient Saviour (Hebrews 2.14-17)
- an effective Helper (Hebrews 2.18)
I'll post the audio when it's up on our church website.
Why preach Isaiah?
What is good preaching?
Good preaching is
- Biblical – the Bible, God's word, sets the agenda, rather than the speaker. Anything else is little better than an interesting talk. "Arsenal goalkeepers 1950-1978" is a talk, you might be interested or not. A sermon is expounding the Bible. Ultimately God talks. It's always interesting (even if it's not engaging) because he is talking.
- Intellectual – I don't mean high brow or complex; the preacher must not confuse profundity and complexity. But it must be thought through. This means it must be based on studying God's word to rightly understand its meaning.
- Spiritual – unlike my Arsenal goalkeepers talk a sermon is a sermon because it is spiritual. How else could God be speaking unless something miraculous is going on? This is the theme of our EMA next week. "We ought to be driven forth with abhorrence from the society of honest men for daring to speak in the name of the Lord if the Spirit rests not upon us" (CH Spurgeon). It is the Spirit who ensures that the words of men are also received as the words of God.
- Prophetic – it speaks into situations and is intimately connected with the lives of those to whom it is spoken. This isn't a comment on prophecy (that's a whole different issue) – but true preaching is prophetic in that it connects with people and calls for a response. For this reason, I maintain that every person's favourite preacher must be their pastor – not some internet celebrity. It is only he that engages with you in this truly week-in week-out prophetic manner.
Therefore, the chief tools of the preacher are careful Bible study/preparation and heartfelt prayer. Many, if not most, preachers have deficiencies in one of these areas – if you're like me, quite possibly both! It's basic stuff, but good to remind ourselves what our calling requires of us.
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