Why I’m proud to be a library user
There are many excellent reasons to be a proud card-carrying library user in the UK (free). I can go my local library, sip espresso and read The Economist, for example. Oh, and I can also borrow books. But one of my favourites is that most UK libraries (free to belong, did I mention that already?) also offer online access to a wealth of resources useful for the preacher. Here are some I use:
- Oxford Art Online: all kinds of things arty and info about paintings etc
- OED: yep, all 20 volumes
- Oxford Dictionaries: everything else, medical, names, politics, theatre, language – anything you could ever think of
- Oxford Writer's Helps: gets me through sticky grammar moments
- Biographical dictionaries including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Who's Who
In fact, click here to see exactly what I can access. So, the picture is of me proudly holding my library card. You have one too, right? Oh, and in case I forgot to mention – it's free.
Wrong date on training flyer
For those who were at the South East Gospel Partnership day on Saturday and received a flyer about training, you may have spotted that it's got the wrong date on it. The ILPG London preachers day is not Sat 17th March, but
Saturday 3rd March.
Please pass it on!
Slaves not servants, and a free Study Bible
Only managed a bit of the SEGP day with Phillip Jensen on Saturday, looking forward to catching up with some of the audio. But session 1 was a passionate defence of the language of slavery as being entirely appropriate (if we understand it correctly) to translate the Greek doulos. Interestingly, one English translation does bravely take this step. e.g. 2 Cor 4.5 (which was Phillip's main text for the talk).
- For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (NIV)
- For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. (ESV but with footnote)
- For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.(HCSB)
It's one of the reasons I like the Holman Christian Standard Bible. And whilst it's too quirky to use as a church translation (shame!) it's not afraid to translate in such a way! Good on them!
Phillip has been doing the rounds and you can listen to the same talks online from the South Central day here.
Together with our friends at 10ofthose.com I've got a HCSB Study Bible in leather free (RRP £52) to give away to the first person who emails in: email@example.com. More details of the study Bible here but suffice it to say that it's edited by Andreas Kostenberger, Walt Kaiser and Craig Blomberg. Only for UK readers, I'm afraid.
When caricatures don’t help
Christians don't always agree about everything and even within orthodox evangelical Christianity there are differing opinions on some things which must surely come within the realm of disputable matters. What interests me today is the way that Christians disagree about such issues. We need to be able to discuss them, debate them, talk about them and come to a biblical conclusion if we can. But we often do not help ourselves in the way we talk about one another and the doctrines we believe in, denominations to which we belong or approaches we hold dear. In fact, more often than not, we set up rather gross caricatures that are all too easy to knock down and pull apart when, in truth, the caricature rarely fits.
Let me try to explain what I mean taking a very 18th-19th century Baptist disagreement – particular atonement (and it has since rumbled on, see here). For those who don't know (!) this is doctrine answers the question: who did Christ died for, the world or the elect? It is perhaps pertinent to use this example as, within evangelical Christianity there is still a range of views. (I should nail my colours to the mast at this point and say I believe in it, but I'm not using this post to defend it, that is not the point). The caricatures in this case worked something like this:
- those who believed in limited atonement said that those who didn't would end up as universalists, for that is the only trajectory if one believes that Christ died for all
- those who dismissed limited atonement said that those who didn't would end up as introspective, non evangelising Christians
Now, of course, there were (sadly) some from both camps for whom this was true. The General Baptists became a large bulk of what we now know as Unitarians. The hyper-Calvinists arose from those who believed in the doctrine. In one sense, both camps were right to point out the dangers. But the gross caricatures were only true for some at the extremes and assessing a doctrine by the effect it has on some at the limits is never wise pastorally. It creates unnecessary bad feeling; it makes debate difficult; it offends; it hardly gracious.
There are lots of issues for which the same kind of gross caricature applies today. It's true denominationally: "all independents think nothing of other churches" or "all Anglicans would rather have fellowship with Anglo-Catholics". It's true doctrinally, the same arguments above still apply, but it also applies to other doctrines. It's true culturally: "if you have drums you'll just be whipping up the crowds" or "hymn singing will never attract young people" and so on and so on.
Let's be wary of setting up straw men that do little service to robust discussion about the things over which we, as evangelicals, disagree.
Letting our affections catch up with our minds
Lloyd-Jones on the main thing
Here's a little more from Lloyd-Jones on finding and keeping the main message (we would say, theme) of a passage:
The thing I am concerned about is that you make certain that you really are getting the main message, the main thrust and import of this particular text or statement. It is quite astonishing to note how good men can avoid doing this…nothing is more important than we should be sure that we have got at the main thrust of the text amd let that come out….let it lead you, let it teach you. Listen to is and then question it as to its meaning, and let that be the burden of your sermon.
Over the pond? Don’t despair….
It was 1991 when Dick Lucas and around a dozen or so pastors sat down in a room at Tyndale House Publishers in Carol Stream (a suburb just north of Chicago). They studied 1 Corinthians 13 together. Eyes were opened. God spoke through His Word. And what was born in many of those men—including Kent Hughes and David Helm—was a life-long commitment to Biblical exposition as THE way to preach and do ministry for the glory of God. Ten years and several ‘preaching conferences’ later, the Charles Simeon Trust was founded by Kent and Dave and a few others. It was founded out of a conviction to spread God’s Word through training others in expository preaching and Bible teaching—a conviction we have always shared with the Proclamation Trust.
The Charles Simeon Trust’s function, when it was founded, was primarily to manage the growth and spread of the conferences beyond Wheaton. And in the almost 11 years since its founding, we have grown from conference per year to 20 in our present year. Most of them are focused in North America: 13 in the United States, including one for women Bible teachers, and two in Canada. Kenya and India also each host two. These conferences focus on practical instructional teaching, modeling good Biblical exposition, and working in small groups on sharpening our skills in handling God’s Word. And through the years, we have enjoyed the ongoing partnership of the Proclamation Trust by welcoming numerous dear friends to lead our conferences: Dick Lucas, David Jackman, William Taylor, and later this year we will welcome a new friend in Vaughan Roberts.
In addition to the conferences, over the last 10 years, we have also been equipping young men and women in an in-person, year-round, training scheme based in Chicago. More recently, we have brought the best of our training scheme and the best of the conferences together in an online format (available anywhere in the world that there is an Internet connection) called the Simeon Course on Biblical Exposition. Like all that we do, it is practical, hand-on training for those who want to improve in their handling of God’s Word.
For more information about the work of the Charles Simeon Trust in the United States, visit us at www.simeontrust.org.
His masters voice
For various reasons which are too complex to explain I've been flicking through Lloyd-Jones Preaching and preachers again (now, sadly, out of print). There are some real nuggets here and perhaps I will blog on one or two. Some are surprising too. My great mentor used to listen to classical music at the beginning of his sermon work which I always found slightly puzzling until I read this:
Music does not help everyone, but it greatly helps some people.
He then cites the example of Karl Barth who used to listen to Mozart every morning.
I can tell you why Karl Barth went to Mozart. He did not go to him for thoughts or ideas, he went to Mozart because Mozart did something to him in a general sense. Mozart put him into a good mood, and made him feel happy in his spirit. He released him, and set him free to do his own thinking, A general stimulus in that way is often more helpful than a particular intellectual one….anything that does you good, puts you into a good mood or condition, anything that pleases you or releases tensions and relaxes you is of inestimable value. Music does that to some in a wonderful way. So put on your gramaphone record, or whatever it is – anything you know that will help you.
I guess there are lots of pieces of advice one could download from the 'doctor.' This is probably one of the more obscure…! (For the very young reader, this picture is 'His master's voice' – what we would now call a logo. It was a music label sold to EMI. However the name lives on….in the abbreviation HMV).
Grace and the Old Testament
If the Old Testament is part of the unfolding story of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 8.9), then it must follow that every Old Testament book can be couched in those terms. Dane Ortlund (Bible publishing director at Crossway and, I assume, related to the other Ortlunds?) posted an interesting list of titles (or we would call them theme sentences) for each Old Testament book. Seeing as I'm writing about Numbers, I looked up that one first.
Numbers shows God’s grace in patiently sustaining his grumbling people in the wilderness and bringing them to the border of the promised land not because of them but in spite of them.
I like it. Couching everything in terms of one word which reflects one particular (although major) component of the gospel is always going to be limited of course. It will not refect the individual nuances of different books. But the exercise is useful in that it makes the reader (or in our case, preacher) think how the book relates to the gospel of Jesus.
This is an old post, but was tagged by Justin Taylor so it's back on my radar screen. Interesting. You can read the whole list here.
The Corinthian Question
I am about to start teaching 1st Corinthians to the second year students. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the mass of commentaries that have been written on this letter. And it is equally easy to feel confused by the chronology of events. It seems that over a seven year period, the apostle Paul made 3 visits and wrote 4 letters to Corinth: