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Preview: Doggie's Breakfast

Doggie's Breakfast

Full of meaty chunks ...

Updated: 2013-01-31T09:48:07.306+00:00


Made the Jump


Well, I have done it. I have been thinking about it for a while now and finally taken the step.

I have moved this blog over to Wordpress.

It's not a Blogspot any more. The old Blogspot will remain but I have switched off comments so that no one wastes time.

So, if you want to follow this blog still, please jump over there, tell your blog reader software etc.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

The problem with Atheism?


David nails it.

Crisis and Cure


One of our regular attenders at SPC said she was going to a conference at which Rev. David Carmichael was preaching. I have heard of Mr Carmichael before - he is minister of Abbeygreen Church of Scotland in Lesmahagow - but have not heard him preach. So, I found and I listened to his sermon "Crisis and Cure" preached at the Scottish Reformed Conference in Hamilton in 2007. (Obtainable from this page, or mp3 directly from this link.)

I can warmly commend it to you. Carmichael observes that the danger to the church does not come from liberals so much as from evangelicals who lost confidence in the word of God and so turn elsewhere for success.

Also, it is rare to hear a preacher preach with such intensity.

GTD and the Gospel


Getting things done is a problem. Busy-ness, though, is not a problem. How is that possible?

There are plenty of motivational blogs and books about Getting Things Done (e.g. here, here). But none of them really get to the heart of things.

I have greatly enjoyed three recent blog posts by CJ Mahaney on the topic (see here, here and here), and there is more to come, I think. We can be lazy and busy at the same time, because we put off what is most important in order to do what we like (don't I know it!). Then we don't get things done. This is the sin of procrastination. It is a heart issue which must be addressed with the gospel.

Looking forward to the next installment.

The Baptism of Christ


I and my family had to be away from SPC last weekend on family business. So we had the pleasure of one of our Assessor Elders (i.e. appointed by Presbytery) the Rev. Richard Holst preach to the congregation.

Richard preached on the Baptism of Christ from Mark 1:9-11, and I would strongly recommend that you listen to it. As Richard says in his preamble, some passages of Scripture have clear application to particular life issues. However, others simply draw our gaze to the Lord Jesus Christ. This sermon certainly helps me do that. You can download the sermon from here.

You Do Not Have, Because You Do Not Ask.


I have had this sentence on my mind yesterday and today as I have gone about my business.

Of course, it is taken from James 4:2. James was writing about worldliness amongst Christians where passions and desires so drove people that they ended up striving and fighting amongst themselves. The underlying principle is that such Christians (and who is not in that number?) have yet to learn dependence on God in life. Hence, You do not have, because you do not ask.

The sentence has come up because I have been thinking about how things are developing at SPC. (They are never distant thoughts, truth be told.) The verse presents a challenge in two ways. Firstly, in the ever present temptation for me to think that our "success" depends on what I can do. Perceived self-sufficiency strikes at actual dependence upon God, and saps the prayer life.

The second challenge is for our church - for those who are committed in membership to this enterprise. There is always the temptation to believe that simply turning up on Sunday is enough. After all, what more can we do? The rationale kicks in as a backstop: in doing this are we not at the same time depending on God for the growth? Well, maybe so, and it is certainly great for people to "turn up". But, here is the question - have we asked for what we want at SPC? Are we continuing to ask God? Have we got together to encourage one another to keep asking God?

God is sovereign. He will do as he wishes, according to his own purpose, and his purpose is good. But God uses means, and one of them is believing prayer. There is no excuse for not asking for what is on our hearts and depending on God for the results.

Five Ways Satan Attacks Our Vulnerabilities


Some thoughts from Genesis 3:1-7.

He Plays on Our Ignorance
The serpent said to the woman, "Did God actually say...?" If we lack a grasp of what God did and does say in his word, then we are vulnerable to this destabilising question. We may think we know, but when tested and faced with a choice which involves choosing to follow God's word or not, that little voice comes in, "Did God actually say...?" If we are unable to say "yes" unequivocally, then we are stuffed.

He Flat Contradicts God

The woman heard the serpent say, "You will surely not die!" We hear voices like this all the time. The Bible says one thing, but our culture says another. Who are we going to listen to? If we do not have a grip on truth, we doubt, and then we are vulnerable.

He Suggests That God Is Not Good
Satan tries to make God look bad. He suggests that God has ulterior motives which are not for our good. The serpent hints at this to the woman. We need to know and believe that God is good in all circumstances and that there is a bigger picture that we cannot see. (Romans 8:28)

He Suggests That God is Holding Something Back that We Think We Ought to Have
The serpent says that the woman will be like God if she eats. He suggests there is something more within her grasp that she could want, if only...

Isn't that how it works with us? Even though we may blessed in so many ways, yet we become open to suggestions from the Tempter. We become dissatisfied and harbour secret resentments against God. Then we are stuffed.

He Offers Keys to Blessing That Leave God Out
The apple represents a route to greatness. How ridiculous! How can a created apple give what she wants? It makes no sense.

In the same way, how can those other things - status, power, wealth, property, pleasure - fulfil what they seem to promise? The fact is they can't. Jesus was tempted in this way in the desert (e.g Luke 4:7,8). He was offered power. The catch was he had to bow down to Satan, and forever become a slave to him. (Impossible for the Son of God, yet still requiring the exercise of supreme self-control.)

No, there is no greater place to be than to humbly walk with your God, even if it leads along a path with many troubles. Like Jesus.

Home Libraries


A good list of tips via Nathan.

Public and Private Ministry


This is something I had not thought about very deeply, and worth considering as we have enjoyed the Lord's day yesterday - the relationship between public and private ministry of the word. The question is: as ministers of the gospel, how do we best conduct ourselves after public ministry so that what we have given to the people by God's grace gets rooted rather than snapped up by birds (Matt. 13:4).

Again, Bonar, after considering M'Cheyne's ministry, reflecting generally on ministry that is used of God:
Whatever he said in the pulpit, men will not much regard, though they may feel it at the time, if the minister does not say the same in private, with equal earnestness, in speaking with the people face to face; and it must be in our moments of most familiar intercourse with them, that we are thus to put the seal to all we say in public. Familiar moments are the times when the things that are most closely twined round the heart are brought out to view; and shall we forbear, by tacit consent, to introduce the Lord that bought into such happy hours? We must not only speak faithfully to our people in our sermons, but live faithfully for them too. Perhaps it may be found, that the reason why many who preach the gospel fully and in all earnestness are not owned of God in the conversion of souls, is to be found in their defective exhibition of grace in these easy moments of life. "Them that honour me, I will honour." 1 Samuel ii.30. It was noticed long ago that men will give you leave to preach against their sins as much as you will, if so be you will but be easy with them when you have done, and talk as they do, and live as they live. How much otherwise it was with Mr M'Cheyne, all who knew him are witnesses.
- Memoir, Bonar, p.82

What kind of leisure?


Bonar on M'Cheyne's life:
... if compelled to take some rest from his too exhausting toils, his recreations were little else than a change of occupation, from one mode of glorifying God to another. His beautiful hymn, I am a debtor, was written in May 1837 at a leisure hour.
- Memoir, Bonar, p.81
I think this is a challenge for us Christians in our leisure/fun/entertainment driven world. I am tempted to think that taking rest means rest from God. Don't I realise that eternal rest is knowing and glorifying God? There won't be opportunity or desire to switch off from God and veg out!

Are we there yet?


That's what I remember saying to my Mum and Dad as a little boy during a long car journey. Often we weren't far into it.

Listening to preaching can be like that. I remember a preacher tackling a 20-odd-verse passage and taking them one verse at a time. The first two verses took five minutes each, and the preacher managed to make it dull. Soon I was extrapolating to a hundred minutes of slow death-by-preaching. Thankfully, it only ended up half that length. But the childhood desire to cry out, "Are we there yet?" was almost irrepressible.

M'Cheyne did not have this problem. Here is Bonar on M'Cheyne's preaching:
"The heads of his sermons", said a friend, "were not the mile-stones that tell you how near you are to your journey's end, but they were nails which fixed and fastened all he said."
- Memoir, Bonar, p.72
O to preach like that! Preparation of the soul, orderly structure, prayer, the blessing of the Spirit of God.

Lessons from M'Cheyne


(image) I am very much enjoying reading Bonar's Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, (though someone should have told Bonar about the gruesome connotations of the title! Is it just me?)

Some lessons come even from his time before being called to his first pastorate as a young man in his early 20s:
  1. He had a desire for fellowship with God. This was not simply a case of stoking himself up in the morning for the rest of the day. Manna was not intended to last. Rather he wanted to meet God and fellowship with him throughout the day.
  2. He studied Scripture. And this was not simply in order that he had plenty to pass on to others. This was for his own soul. He did not want to pass on anything to others from the pulpit if it had not first affected his soul. "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matt 12:34)
  3. He prayed. His he believed his ministry depended on prayer. He would seek solitude in order to pray.
  4. He was conscious of his sin. He used a journal to track the progress of his soul and he regularly expressed his concern about hidden sin. Of particular interest to me was his often mentioned secret desire to be acclaimed for his preaching. What preacher is without this?
More to come, I hope.

Blog Interview


I have been a follower of Guy Davies' blog for some time. It is an excellent example of a useful contribution to Christian blogdom. So, it was a great honour to be asked by Guy to participate in a blog interview. So if you want to know what I think about a few things, go and read.

Oh, and I will forgive you if you find Guy's blog so appealing that you don't get round to coming back here for a while.

Grace in Sweden


(image) We arrived back from Sweden last Wednesday pretty tired after a busy couple of days. I was going to write about our visit, but Richard has captured the substance of it on his blog. I only need add my appreciation of the visit. The picture shows, from the left, David Bergmark (Pastor), Gary Johnson (MTW missionary) and David Leander (Deacon). These three men and their families were the core group of a church plant that has grown to 40 members.

There are 40-people churches that are troubling because they are that size, and there are 40-people churches that are very encouraging. The Evangelical Reformed Church in Tranas is the latter. Solid doctrinally, a strong, thinking, humble eldership and a desire, with plans, to plant new churches (note the plural) to reach more Swedes with the gospel.

A good experience and very encouraging.

What Has John Calvin Ever Done for Us?


(image) The Legacy of John Calvin
David W Hall

P & R Publishing (2008), Pbk, 112 pages

ISBN 9781596380851

An excellent little book published in the run up to the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin in July '09.

Have you ever seen the Monty Python scene where the Jewish zealots are asking, "What have the Romans ever done for us?"? This book reminds me of it. I can imagine lots of people who might ask in the same spirit, "What has John Calvin ever done for us?" Well, David Hall lists the lasting legacy of John Calvin in Geneva for the western world, and it is pretty substantial.

Many of the things we consider as 'givens' of our day were not before Calvin. Geneva was the source of many great ideas we take for granted. In fact Hall states that for the 100 years or so after his death, Calvin was, by head and shoulders, the most influential man in Europe.

Add this to a brief account of his life and a string of appreciative testimonies of writers from various Christian evangelical traditions and you have an excellent little primer on Calvin which whet one's appetite for more.

The only minor drawback is that it is written from an American perspective with lots of references to the Republic.



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News Update


I am about to head off to Sweden for a couple of days to visit these guys. It is a lone presbyterian church plant which is looking for closer ties with the EPCEW. I met the pastor, David Bergmark at the ILF conference back in April this year.

Meanwhile, a few highlights from the last week or two:
  • SPC is now in its fourth year. We advertised in the press, issued invitations to neighbours to come to the 3rd anniversry. To illustrate the problems of reaching people, guess how many came (except for the 7 from other churches)? One. However, the good news is she came back yesterday for the second time.
  • Numbers at SPC have remained steady over the Summer, around the 20 mark. There has been a steady increase since the start of the year, for which we give thanks to God. I often say to people that planting in Solihull is like a car stuck in mud. The wheels are spinning furiously and slow progress is being made, but we wait on God's perfect time for the moment of real traction!
  • We were joined at SPC by Rosemary Grier yesterday, one of the local UCCF staff workers. It was great to have her with us for lunch. I am impressed by how much and the quality of she reads. Of course, this is reflected in her blog, which I thoroughly recommend.
  • I and the family were at City last night where Richard Cunningham, director of UCCF, was speaking. His message from 1 Samuel 14 was superb. I know it was geared toward the many new students that appear at City at this time of year, but it was very helpful to me as a church planter. The sermon should be up on the website soon. It is worth listening to.
Nuff for now.


Pleasure in Preaching


I went to preach 'away from home' at another church last Sunday. It is a church that is struggling to remain viable. At the first service there were six others and me. At the second there were seven ... and me.

I have mixed reactions to such a situation. My emotions get involved too. My automatic reaction is, "C'mon, call it a day!". I have never been someone who thought that supporting a cause that was going nowhere was a good thing. Read the signs and make the hard decision.

However, my heart was in a different place. I had a strange sense of excitement while travelling to the church. I was champing at the bit! I wanted to preach. When I got there, yes there were few, but the experience was good. We sang well, the people were attentive and I experienced a degree of liberty I had not felt for a while.

I don't know what to make of an experience like that. I am happy to respond to any call to preach elsewhere as long as there is no adverse effect on Solihull Pres. I want to preach more that I currently am (at Sol Pres we only have one Sunday service). It is not for me to make the hard decisions in difficult places I have no part in. But should I not be fed up at preaching to small congregations in difficult places?

I don't think so. Paul helps us when he says, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16). When necessity is placed upon a man, he would preach to anything!

I thank God for help in a difficult time. I thank God for the fellowship with brothers and sisters pressing on. No one said this preaching business would be without trial. But the joy of preaching and hearing the gospel overshadows it.

First Baptism


Next Sunday at SPC we will have our first baptism, and it's the baptism of a new baby born to one of our member couples. It is a significant time for our church, and a significant time for me. It will be the first time I will have performed a baptism. I'm looking forward to it.

I am aware that there are lots of views on infant baptism, including rejection by credobaptists, superstition, "it's tradition", and biblical. We have all of these amongst our fledgling congregation. So, in order for the event not to be a surprise or shock, I have sought over the last couple of weeks since coming back from holiday, to do some groundwork. Two weeks ago we looked at the six great post-Fall covenants in the Bible. (Can you name them?) Then last week we looked at infant inclusion in the covenant dispensations and hence the reasons for baptising infants. All the time I have sought to show the biblical rationale, to show that it is not just tradition or out of superstition, while at the same time addressing some Baptist objections. That has been a tall order! I think if I were to do this again I would take longer over it. There were far too many loose ends left hanging, too many concepts to take in. It has shown to me clearly that teaching a congregation is a long term project!

However the reaction has been interesting, stronger than any other I have had, from the extremely positive, to the somewhat agitated rejection. It has been a little tricky to deal with these negative responses in a way that is helpful yet without compromise.

The whole process has been helpful for Susan and me. Before coming to SPC we were members of a baptistic church for ten years, a church we love. We promised to them never to raise the issue of baptism with members for the sake of the peace of the church. We were happy to do this. We know the score: if one choses to join a church one must be submissive on the issues one disagrees with by keeping one's mouth shut, or find a new church. However, having made that decision, for me there has been little opportunity to thrash out issues and objections to infant baptism. I have been able to do that now. It has also been true for Susan. Susan was baptised in a church where there was not much of the gospel. As a result, the understanding she has been left with of infant baptism has ben a bit muddled. It has been helpful to work through some of the issues with her.

So pray for us on Sunday, for the family, the child. Pray that the peace of the gospel would prevail in our midst.

Getting the Most Out of Bible Reading


In recent years I have been using a Bible reading plan to make sure I get through the Bible at least once a year. If you want to know, I have been helped by Don Carson's daily email, 'For the Love of God'. Each day I get an email with the readings for the day and a few paragraphs of commentary from Dr C. The readings are based on the Robert Murray M'Cheyne reading plan with some minor modifications. You can easily find a copy of this plan by googling "M'Cheyne reading plan". There's one here.

While Dr Carson's commentary is good, and I would thoroughly recommend it, I have tended to use the email simply as a prompt for what to read in the Bible. I fear that we can too easily skip over the Bible to get to men's words without doing the work of labouring in the word. Besides, I like reading just the Bible.

For the last two or three years I have been using the email as a prompt for what Bible book to read. A problem with reading four chapters from four different places in the Bible is that it is easy to lose any sense of context and flow of the book in which each chapter sits. I don't want to lose that perspective. So I stick with a book till I am finished. Of course I don't need to use Carson's email for this. Simply making a list of the books of the Bible and systematically working through them would work too. However, Carson/M'Cheyne helps keep the balance through the year of OT and NT.

After coming back from holiday I noticed that Dave Bish had posted a link to another post by Dan Edelen about Bible reading. The post is interesting and takes Bible reading one step further. Why have a one-year Bible reading plan? Why not make it a rest-of-life Bible reading plan? His concern is that even with a one-year plan, people simply do not remember and understand what they have read. Amazing, but possibly true. With Dan's plan there is an emphasis on really wrestling with a book, not verse by verse, but by re-reading books in single sittings, looking for themes, ideas and application.

Seems a good idea and well worth reading his post. As Dan says,

This is about sixty years of discipleship. It's not about getting through the Bible in a certain length of time.

News Update


Let me just update you on what has been happening. We have been back from holiday for nearly a week now. It is a bit surreal. We had two weeks holiday in Spain, thanks to a friend who owns an apartment, where the temperatures were 30C and above. For a Scotsman living in the Midlands that's hot! To be honest, the day we arrived I thought I was not going to survive. Sweat seemed to be pouring from everywhere. However, we learned to slow down and drink lots. The apartment was part of a complex that had a pool. So we had choices: go to the pool, visit the beach, drive to some place of interest. I did a lot of reading and resting. We watched the high points of the Olympics (didn't we Brits do well - most unexpected). Unfortunately our only source of news was CNN which seemed to spend all its time talking about Obama, Georgia or what was 'Coming soon...' and interminable ads. Dreadful.

Occasionally we bought a Telegraph. The shops there serve Brits well. In the region were staying in there has been massive building programs to satisfy the 'holiday home' demand. As a result it is mostly Brits, Irish and Germans around the place in the Summer. Those who are retired come for large parts of the year, school teachers come during the long summer holidays.

Not everything has caught up with the development. Our locality is five years old, but as far as I could see there were no street names. We had trouble explaining where we lived, especially when we were hiring a car.

The main road along the coast was constantly a traffic jam, especially in the afternoon siesta when everyone was going to or coming from the beach, because the roads simply could not cope.

In spite of all this, we had a great time. The apartment was comfortable, the pool was great and quiet. We were well rested.

Having come back, I am discovering it is raining a lot. What's new? But it makes the holiday seem a million years ago already. And I have to dig out my coat. I am all at sixes and sevens. I have had five days home and I do not feel in gear. On Sunday, I preached a sermon introducing covenants in the Bible. The sermon was fine, but I found my conversations throughout the Sunday strangely difficult. I did not seem to be able to concentrate. I seem to be still in holiday mode.

Now it is all piling up - meetings, planning, organising. Looking forward to the coming year at SPC. We are encouraged. Attendance is up by 50-60% on average over last year. Sounds great, doesn't it? What that actually means is that instead of low teens last Summer (I really wondered if we would survive), we are around 20+. We have four families with children regularly attending which is a great encouragement.

However, we still need to make a significant impact in the local community. So please pray for us, that Christ's name may be raised up in Solihull!

Lessons from a Pastor


I recently discovered that David Strain, who used to be minister of London City Presbyterian Church but is now going to a church in the US, had moved blog from here to here.

David leaves some good thoughts for us to think about.

BTW, sorry to see you go, mate!

Time, Gentlemen!


While some would argue that conservative evangelicals should leave mixed denominations (i.e. those which have evangelicals and liberals in communion) without delay, I have always hoped that with some patience, at least with the Church of England, we would see some reform due to their efforts.

However, I have almost lost hope. The recent decision to allow the ordination of female bishops has demonstrated the weakness of conservative evangelicals. Of course, it was an inevitable decision, having allowed female priests in the '90s. The horse has well and truly bolted. Provision for pastoral oversight of those who disagree with the recent decision would have been a pyrrhic victory. But they do not even have that. Now there is nowhere to run and hide. Will the conservative evangelicals stand up and be counted? In particular, will Reform, a group for which I once had high hopes, do anything?

John Richardson calls for urgent action, I must say with a degree of exasperation, from Reform. But as he points out, they have merely issued a press release expressing disappointment, and, according to John, plan to do nothing until the September meeting of the Reform Council.

September! Sorry, you guys. You have lost me. Are you serious about reform or just playing at it? The last chance saloon is here, now.