Happy Christmas Eve. In North Africa.
Tomorrow some of the oldest churches in the world (together with some of the newest) will be celebrating Christmas Day – January 7th. I'm thinking of having a day off to celebrate.
More seriously, much of North African Christianity (though small in places) will be celebrating tomorrow. In previous years there have been disturbances, bomb threats and explosions. Let's pray that this really is a peaceful Christmas for our brethren.
I'm writing some church history at the moment, and I've realised how many of the church greats come from that swathe of land we now call Arab. Augustine in particular was Bishop of Hippo (present day Annaba in Algeria – see picture). I wonder how many Christians are there today? Not many, I guess. We have lots to thank God for that came from North Africa, now we should be praying that the gospel goes in again with great power.
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Another Scot lost? Or gained?
Our loss is the United States' gain – yet another Scot is going West. We were going to say at this year's EMA that Liam Goligher is the Senior Minister of Duke Street Church in Richmond, but it now looks as though we'll be saying Liam Goligher is the Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia joining Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson et al across the pond. Happy for Tenth. Sad for Duke Street. It's rather fascinating (though it does feel a bit like curtain twitching) to read the search report (here).
Happy New Year from Philippians…
Happy New Year!
This morning I've started to try to memorise Philippians using Tim Brister's handouts (H/T Tim Challies). I'm not finding it easy, though I know it'll be worthwhile. Part of my difficulty is that the cut outs are all in the ESV. I love the ESV for studying, but it can be a pig to read, and it is particularly clunky at Philippians 1. (Gordon Cheng says he is reading the ESV to his seven year old without problem, but I think he must have wunder-kids, all strength to him!).
I'm tempted to swap my memory notes into the HCSB that I'm enjoying reading along with a friend who is doing the same. Here's the two passages for this week, first in ESV:
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The same passage in the HCSB:
Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Hmm. Not actually heaps better – verse 4 is simply tricky to translate well as there are so many clauses.
Simplicity in preaching
My attention has been drawn to this short piece pleading for simplicity in our preaching. I thought it had a number of helpful observations and practical common sense.
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Happy Christmas, and NO to EMA cuts
Not sure why the good students of the UK might think we are cutting the EMA. We're not. And booking is open!!
May we wish readers a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year and a deep and abiding knowledge that Jesus is both the man who will save his people from their sins and Immanuel – God with us. See you in the new year.
Women in Ministry 2011
If you're a woman in ministry in a conservative evangelical world, you may feel a bit uncared for. After all, we spend ages explaining and thinking through what we mean by women's ministry or women in ministry, but then we just leave you to it!
That's why our Women in Ministry conference is a key part of our conference calendar. Next year it will be held at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire from 17 to 20 January 2011. Speakers include Angus Macleay, Kate Selby and Kirsty Birkett – a really great line up.
- If you're a woman in ministry, do think about joining us – you can book here.
- If you're a church leader and you employ women in ministry, why are you not encouraging and building them by sending them along? Invest in this important area of ministry!
As you read this, I will probably be on final approach to Inverness (see picture, although I'm guessing it's not going to look quite like this on Monday!!). I say probably because more snow is forecast, who knows….?
Anyway, Vaughan Roberts, Sam sam the media man and I are off to see Christian Focus our publishing partner. PT jointly publish titles with them:
- Our Teach the Bible series is now growing, with a few new titles planned for launch in 2012. So far we've launched Teaching Isaiah, Teaching Amos, Teaching Matthew, Teaching John, Teaching Acts, Teaching Romans, Teaching the Christian Hope and Spirit of Truth. More info here. Look out in 2012 for some new volumes from both OT and NT books.
- Our Practical Preacher series currently has two titles: The Priority of Preaching and Bible Delight both by Christopher Ash. We hope to add a third in time for next year's EMA. Watch this space. More info here.
We've started to translate some of the books into Russian with (hopefully) more languages to follow.
It would be relatively straightforward to preach passages without thinking how they fit together. Here's a good example. Hebrews 1.1-4 is a stonking description of the supremacy of Christ. Hebrews 1.5-14 is a good OT exposition of how Jesus is better than the angels – and seeing as angelic supremacy is not a particular problem to tackle today you could just turn that into a sermon on angels. Then have a week's break and preach Hebrews 2 on how Jesus is the perfect man.
That misses the logic and flow of the passage, though. The overall theme is the supremacy of Jesus. No doubt first century Jewish converts thought that angels too were exalted beings and so chapter 1 is necessary to put this right. No, angels are actually servants of men! Now, follow the flow. Wasn't Jesus a man too? OK, I understand that he is better than the angels, but bringing him down to another human hardly asserts his supremacy, does it? True – hence chapter 2 which shows us that Jesus is not just another man….
That, I think, is the flow of thought, and it gives more substance to the preacher who tackles Hebrews 1-2. I think he's going to preach a better sermon as a result. At least, he should….
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Well, it is Christmas….
H.T Tim Challies
It’s all in the headline (NOT)
An interesting case coming out of the European Court of Human Rights this morning. It involves three women from Ireland who travelled abroad to have abortions because they weren't able to have them in the republic. I know that abortion in Ireland is a contentious issue, but what also interests me is the way the media report this case.
Basically, two of the women lost the case and the third won because her life was in danger and the Irish constitution (as I understand it) allows abortions in those circumstances. The court ruled that the woman's rights had been breached not because she was not given free access to abortion but because the state failed to provide access on the basis that its constitution ruled. In other words, this is not a case about abortion per se, but a case about a national state not doing what its constitution requires. Nevertheless, the BBC website headline is telling, if not misleading:
Well, this is a blog about preaching, not about abortion, important a topic though that is. But preachers can give headlines that are also misleading. In fact, we can talk about Christianity this way too. After all, Jesus implores us to count the cost of following him (Luke 9.23-27) but how many evangelistic talks does that make it into? Few, I guess.
Paul's testimony is clear: "we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practise cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor 4.2).
How accurate are your preaching headlines?