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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Why should a Christian study Job?
Let me be more precise. Why should a Christian make a careful and thoughtful study of the whole of the book of Job, rather than being satisfied with a rough idea of the storyline and a few of the highlights? Why read the whole book rather than just “watch the movie highlights” through a short and often minimalist sermon series?
It’s a good question. After all, it’s a long and demanding book. Parts of it are pretty hard to fathom, and plenty of it is dark and distressing. You and I need good reasons to plunge right in to the detail. Here are seven suggestions (a good bible number!).
Above all, the book of Job will force you to think deeply about God and about Jesus Christ the Son of God.
- Job will press you to think carefully with doctrinal thoughtfulness and depth, about how the universe is governed. Many Christians default either to a monistic understanding of God’s sovereignty that is more Islamic than Christian, or to a practical dualism in which God and Satan are independent powers. Neither is biblical. Job sets before us a universe in which God is completely sovereign, and yet in which he governs the world partly through the paradoxical agency of evil powers.
- Job is God’s antidote to the prosperity gospel and the therapeutic gospel, both of which are rampant in the worldwide church. The prosperity gospel teaches that it is God’s purpose that you have plenty of money, a house, a family, and health. If you already have these things (as many of us do in developed countries) then the prosperity gospel metamorphoses into the therapeutic gospel. This adds that it is God’s purpose that you feel fulfilled and happy. Neither is true in this age. Job shows us why.
- By immersing you in suffering, Job shows you both how to feel something of the sufferings of Christ (in a way that the gospels do not) and how to feel the depths of the sufferings of Christ’s people. This will help you identify with the persecuted church.
- Job is finally full of hope and comfort, for its message rests in the end on the comprehensive sovereignty of God over all creation, and specifically on how his sovereignty encompasses all the powers of evil. To understand something of the majesty and logic of redemptive suffering gives hope to the suffering believer.
- Because so much of Job is poetry, a deep immersion in the book will help you develop your emotional and affectional ‘pallet’ (to use a painting metaphor) so that you will learn to feel, to desire, and to grow more sensitive to all manner of experiences in life. Few of us habitually read poetry. And yet God has chosen to give us much of scripture in poetry. Job will sensitise you to poetry and how it communicates. By immersing yourself in Job you will – as a valuable side effect – learn better to read, for example, the Psalms.
- God will deal with you as you grapple with Job. I have found that grappling with Job over the past several years, on and off, has been a life-changing and life-shaping experience. As I have grappled with this amazing book, God has been grappling with me. If you too will plunge in to Job, I am confident God will deal deeply and graciously with you too.
This post first appeared on the Crossway blog. Christopher's forthcoming commentary on Job in the Preach the Word series will be first available in the UK this summer at the EMA.
Marriage enrichment in Huddersfield
Huddersfield is, apparently, in the centre of the Universe. As some of you will know if you're linked through on Facebook, Mrs R and I are off there on Saturday 29 March to do some marriage enrichment training (which we imaginatively call One). It's hosted by Hope Church Huddersfield, and is for couples who are married or preparing to be married. We start at 10.00 (with coffee from 9.30) and run through to 3.15. There's a resonably long lunch break to allow you to have a lunch with your beloved. The venue is Brian Jackson House (HD1 5JP) and the bargain price is £5. Booking date has passed, but I'm sure if you ask nicely…. email@example.com. More info from Hope here.
Divorce and remarriage
When it comes to marriage, divorce and remarriage, pastoral problems are increasingly complex. Today I'm running a study day chez nous for some of our students on these particular issues. We're splitting the day into two parts. In part one, we're going to try to put together the various Bible passages and come up with some principles. I don't expect we'll all agree on these. But we need to hold them with conviction and good conscience – not other people's views, but our own carefully thought through scriptural positions.
Then in part two, I've got nine real life (names changed) pastoral situations – the very kinds of situations which these principles need to be applied to. This is important as well. It's no good having principles if you haven't thought through how they actually work. This is not to say that the situations must be allowed to drive our theology. Perish the thought! But we must know how the principles work.
Too much pastoralia does part one, but not part two. Other pastoralia is driven by part two, rather than part one. Both need correcting. That's our plan. It's no use, for example, waiting until situations come along to sort out what we think. We can't tell people in difficult and pastoral situations to wait a few months whilst we sort out what we believe.
So, here's my plea. Do you know what you believe the Bible to clearly teach about marriage, divorce and remarriage and do you know how to apply these truths to situations. If not, perhaps next time you need to come along and join us?
The pastor: a man for all the people
For your coffee table…
What's on your coffee table? If you have one, of course. Some worthy travel books and a few battered copies of What Car? Or, to put it another way, when neighbours or friends come round your place, what books do they see? What catches their attention?
I got a sneaky peak this week at a coffee table book that DayOne are producing in the early summer. It's called Evidence for the Bible and is by Clive Anderson and Brian Edwards. It's beautifully presented, and well written. 250 pages of solid coffee table material. I think we are long overdue for this kind of book. Let me tell you why.
- First, there is an increasing amount of archaeology that supports Biblical accounts. As Bible believing Christians, we're not surprised at this, of course. But our friends may be. Presenting the evidence in an attractive, accessible, professional way is a task that is long overdue. Someone who is not a Christian is unlikely to buy this book, but they may happily look at yours. This book can have, in other words, an evangelistic impact.
- Second, as Christians, it is good to reassure ourselves that the evidence for the Bible does exist. It is by faith that we believe the Bible (Hebrews 11.3) not by archaeological digs. However, God in his goodness, strengthens our faith when we see confirmed in the world what we already believe. I've got quite a few books on this sort of subject, but I don't look at them that often – they sit on the shelves with a few thousand others. Interestingly, I have a reproduction of the Cyrus Cylinder on my shelf and that does work in this kind of way. I still marvel at it as I think about Ezra 1. However, I am sure that, if I had a coffee table book, I would look at it all the time and be amazed! This book can have, in other words, a faith-strengthening impact.
Presented as it is, and by its nature, it won't be a snip or steal. But that's fine. It will be priced around the same as other similar books and I think it is a worthy investment. Watch this space for more info. And in the meantime, IKEA will sell you a coffee table for a fiver. Get ready.
Grieving over the loss of a child?
Some of the most intense pain and grief known to man is that of parents who have lost a child. I'm glad to see, therefore, that Nancy Guthrie is over in the UK teaching on Job in Manchester on 3 May (more info here). However, whilst here she is co-hosting a Manchester evening event with her husband for those who have lost a child. Gill Jump would be very interested to hear from you if you would like to get along.