Thursday, 11 October 2018

Reading our Bibles biblically and persistently

When was the last time you thought about how to read your Bible? Have you considered recently, is there a better or even more biblical way to read to understand the Bible? I trust that you do read the Bible and that you are committed to reading the Bible, with more attention than you give to texting your friends or writing a post on Facebook.

Let us look at this matter to help readers of this blog post pastorally. I want to give seven points to help you grow in your Bible reading and your understanding of the Bible.

1. Commit to reading the Bible everyday.

2. Do not focus on reading the New Testament only, but instead, to all 66 books of the Bible. The Covenant Lord has given about 75% of his revelation in the so called Old Testament period. Therefore, you need to read books like Lamentations, Ezekiel, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Read them with joy, expectation and anticipation.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

3. Aim to read the whole Bible. You can do this by reading the contents list of your Bible and then choosing what to read and then ticking the book off, once you have read it. Then proceed to read the whole Bible, but with no fixed time period in mind.

4. Pray before you read the Bible and ask the Lord to open up the Scriptures to you.

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Psalm 119:18.

“Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32.

5. Searching for Christ in the Old Testament. This is a fresh way of reading the Old Testament and it is the way the Old Testament writings should be primarily read.

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself, Luke 24:27.

Be reminded that though we search for glimpses of Christ to come in the Old Testament, that we do not neglect to learn the other many lessons that that are there also, such as to live a holy life and to avoid adultery, stealing and idolatry and such like.

6. Ask yourself "in what way is the Lord speaking to me in this passage?". James teaches that the Scripture is like a "mirror" and therefore, the Bible points out our sins and errors. We need to read the Bible to have our sins exposed, so that we can repent and be renewed in faith daily. Many Christians have little idea of the danger of ever-present sin, instead of warring against it everyday, they tolerate their personal sins.

7. Seek to memorise Bible verses. Maybe write a verse on a piece of paper and carry it around to meditate and memorise it, over a number of Days.

In conclusion, listen to the author of Psalm 119:9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

General Means of Producing and Promoting Revivals

This may seem like an unusual blog post title. But, as Calvinists, we should believe that we must be much on our "knees in prayer". As the preacher Augustus Montague Toplady wrote in one of his hymns: "Thou must save, and thou alone". If it is the Lord who saves and him alone, which indeed this is true, then how can we promote a revival?

We are going through a book, over a period of time in our midweek meetings in Sheffield; one by W. B Sprague called "Lectures on Revivals". It is a highly recommended book founded on biblical orthodoxy. This is no Charles Finney erroneous author promoting revivalism. Far from it! The fifth lecture in this book (page 115-152) is delightful and a very thought provoking one, with the title of this blog post.

Sprague highlights five directions to promote and sustain a revival. His chief text is: "With one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" Philippians 1:27. He carefully emphasises that "we are to depend chiefly on the means which God himself has appointed; and we are to expect the greatest and best effect from them".

Sprague teaches five areas that should characterise the administration of the means of grace:

1). Seriousness: That is gravity, soberness. Levity is revolting in a revival of religion. There should instead be deep solemnity. Irreverent attitudes neutralise the message of the gospel and its claims.

2). Order should characterise the church's work

"But all things should be done decently and in order", 1 Cor 14:40.

3). Simplicity

4). Honesty

5). Affection: That is biblical emotions of heartfelt joy and love for the Triune God. It may seem like seriousness and joyful affections seem strange companions but Scripture joins them together.

These blog posts are to whet people's appetite to read further. Let us pray earnestly for a work in our churches that is characterised by the administration of the means of grace in the five directions and manner above. Let us pray that the Lord would raise up labourers who desire such an attitude in the house of God.

Then he [Jesus of Nazareth] said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38

Monday, 10 September 2018

The Life, Works and Letters of John Newton

In recent months I have been praying for fresh reading material. In a measure I believe part of that answered prayer has been a look at the works of John Newton (1725-1807). He is best known for his dramatic Christian testimony as a godless Captain of a slave ship to becoming a born again Christian. Later he became a church pastor par excellence.

During a season of ministry in Olney, Buckinghamshire, he teamed up with William Cowper and they wrote some magnificent hymns together. Cowper wrote many such as "There is a fountain filled with blood" and "God moves in mysterious ways" among many. John Newton is most famous, because he penned the worldwide known hymn "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound". In the hymn book New Christian Hymns, there are 18 hymns recorded by Newton; ones which are firmly anchored in Scripture.

A delight to my own soul has been discovering "The Works of John Newton" published in four volumes by Banner of Truth. Let me whet your appetite. In Volume 1, there is an outstanding letter (number XIII, p 148) called "On Hearing Sermons". It is outstanding and it drips with pastoral and theological wisdom. Letters X-XII are on sanctification which expounds Mark 4:28 "The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear". It is peerless in its quality, do read it!

What more shall we say of Newton the anti-slave trade advocate and much more? I exhort pastors especially to draw from the well of wisdom from this 18th Century lover of Christ and lover of souls.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Is the idea of a "worship concert", actually a biblical concept?

The concept and practice of worship conferences increases in popularity year on year. But do we need to pause, step back and ask afresh some significant questions about their validity? Does our desire for so called worship concerts, reflect something of a desire for spiritual entertainment, rather than a holy approach to the living God according to the Covenant Lord's pattern and precept of worship?

I have so much to write on this matter, that I hardly know where to begin. I spoke to a retired minister friend recently, about the concept of worship conferences. He replied: "Somehow Kevin the two words "worship" and "concert" do not seem to belong together. What would you think?" he said, "if you and I hired the London Palladium and announced that we were going to have some 'preaching shows'". The idea of preaching shows is ridiculous and yet the biblical high point of worship is that of preaching, normally conducted by an ordained minister. Therefore the concept and growth of worship concerts needs addressing.

What questions should we consider? Here are some:

What is the biblical doctrine of worship?
How are we to worship God?
Who is to lead public worship?
Is a concert with orchestras and highly gifted musicians singing songs with Christian content, the biblical way to approach the Living God?
Could music be used as a mis-leading mediator into an experience that is advertised as worship, but in fact it may be nothing of the sort?

These are important questions, of which I cannot answer them all. Worship is normally conducted in the church under the oversight of formal leadership called elders. There is no gift or office in the New Testament church called worship leader, other than that of an elder. But you say, my elder cannot play the guitar. There lies the problem. Worship is not a musical experience or even really about singing. It is about hearing preaching, responding in prayer and the right administration of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

What did Paul do on his missions travels?

Acts 13;14-16 "but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it.” So Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said:
“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen.".

Do we ever find New Testament churches practicing the use of worship concerts? Never! Neither for the entertainment of Christians or as an evangelistic tool. Do we ever find Paul, Barnabas or the LORD Jesus Christ, assembling a musical entourage? No!. Then why has this concept, one without biblical warrant, gained such enthusiasm, momentum and acceptance?

My blogs are intended to make people think and consider. Music has quite a powerful hold over people and this blog post may raise your emotions, but if it does, then we can be thankful. At least it has stirred in you a response. Let us search the Scriptures to stay upon our Lord's narrow path.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

What should a student look for when seeking out a Church?

This is a crucial question! It may be a question that you have never considered. You may be going off to university, just simply assuming that the church you desire will be waiting for you, when you arrive. However, this may not be the case. Perhaps you can ask yourself, what criteria are important in choosing the right church to worship in? Your answer should be based on more criteria, than simply personal subjective taste.

For example, as a student you may want a church that is the same as the one you knew back home, but what if the church back home did not display a biblical basis for a church? Sometimes it is sad to see professing Christians wanting a church with the largest band, no matter what the the content and quality of the preaching is like (Did New Testament churches have large bands to attract people? The answer is a firm no.). So let us look briefly at some biblical criteria for choosing a church.

"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve".
(1 Corinthians 15:1–5).

1. The church should be Gospel focussed. This is sometimes a slogan about being "gospel focussed", but what does the term mean biblically? The gospel is to be preached and to be centred around the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Is Christ and this message spoken of during preaching?

2. Pastoral care. Does the church desire to pastor people? This can be a difficulty with large churches where you come and go without accountability. We need to be pastored as sheep of the Lord. You need to be planted where elders will watch out for your soul, especially during a time of ferment and temptation which can happen, while being at university.

3. Warm-hearted. A biblical church should be serious minded in its worship (not entertainment driven), but also warm-hearted. Welcoming should not be a method run by a well organised team, but part of the life of the church.

4. The Lord's Supper must be administered properly if a church is to be a true church. Feel free to take time to ask the elders some questions before you make your final decision.

5. Do not just follow the crowd and necessarily go where all the other students go. A church needs a robust statement of faith in order to defend the faith. I am a Reformed minister and we hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is our guide for preaching and for the church.

6. Hopefully, the church where you will worship will have a prayer meeting and that you will go to it regularly.

7. Above all, pray for the LORD to direct you, but do not look for mystical confirmations of guidance. If you pray for a doctrinally sound and godly church, we can be confident that our Lord will answer, even if it means you have to travel a little bit further on Sundays.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Are you a student coming to Sheffield and looking for a church?

We would like to invite you to come and worship with us at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. Our website is:

Our aim is to be warm-hearted and serious minded. We have students every year from Sheffield Hallam University and Sheffield University, both undergraduates and post-graduates. We have a car park and we are a few minutes from the Sheffield Arena tram station which is only around 9 minutes ride from the city centre.

This year we have a ministry intern who would be delighted to meet with you. Just go on to the church website and send us an email through the contact page. Why not listen to some of the sermons on the website also? This will give you a taster before you come.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Hearing Sermons Properly!

We think much about sermons because if we go to a church that is committed to preaching (Is there any other kind of church?) then we will hear sermons often. So the question is, how do we listen to sermons? My wife and I sat in an excellent seminar recently on listening to sermons and this theme needs emphasising. I am preaching from Mark's Gospel currently in Sheffield Presbyterian Church and yesterday I preached from Mark chapter four on the parable of the sower.

What title do you think I gave that sermon? It was a single word from Mark 4:3 where Jesus gives an imperative "Listen". However, when we examine this passage note the stress is placed by our Lord Christ on hearing. Look at the list of verses.

Mark 4:3 "Listen" (second person plural imperative).
Mark 4:9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (this is a third person singular imperative).
Mark 4:12 "so that they ... may indeed hear but not understand".
Mark 4:15 "when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown".
Mark 4:16 "When they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy ... and they have no root".
Mark 4:18 "They are those who hear the word, but the cares of this world ...".
Mark 4:20 "But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold".

Seven examples of teaching on the importance of not just listening but "hearing" the word taught. Letting the Word of God address you as it is, God's word. Then we need to accept what it says. For some people reading this blog, you may be going to a church that is not committed to preaching. Therefore, you need to seek a church that is wholly committed to preaching sound doctrine. The high point of biblical worship is not singing, but sitting under the preaching of the Word of God.

May we listen carefully and diligently. Mark 4:24 "Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you".