Monday, 2 July 2018

Living with the "River Jordan" in Sight

Psalm 114:1-8
When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

This majestic Psalm is sandwiched by Psalms 111-113 and then followed by Psalms 115-118 which emphasises the theme of "Praise the Lord". The phrase "Praise the Lord" interestingly is a plural Hebrew imperative to praise, spoken by the covenant Lord Himself. It is, in other words, a call to worship. Every time you read that phrase, ask yourself, am I praising because it is habit or in obedience to the Person of the Covenant Lord himself?

We notice two main themes of redemption described here, both of great importance.
I. The Red Sea was supernaturally parted
II. The River Jordan was supernaturally parted.

These two historical events paint for us on the canvas of redemptive history the two events for the salvation of every person. First we must be delivered from sin, death and judgment through the new birth which is likened to the parting of the Red Sea; Second we pass through the River Jordan as we die in the Lord (assuming that we are born again and in the Lord). That means that our lives in this world are likened to the journey by faith between the Red Sea and the parting of Jordan.

My application is that we need to spend more time in the church through preaching, pastoring and encouraging one another to prepare for the day of our death. None of us know when that will be. Think of some of the great hymns.

The last verse of Henry Francis Lyte's (1793-1847) "Abide with Me":
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven’’s morning breaks, and earth’’s vain shadows flee:
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Or the hymn "Guide me O Thou Great Jehovah" by William William's:
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell’'s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’'s side;
songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee.


Notice how long ago these hymn writers lived, they had death as a greater reality than we do today. We must think and prepare for the final day of judgment. May this note be found in the preaching we hear, the exhortations we give, the songs we sing.

Romans 14:8-9 "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living".

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Westminster Standards and the Church

The doctrine of the church is as important, as it is exciting. Exciting you may respond. "I have never thought of the doctrine of the church being exciting" many may react. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, and His Scriptures, then you will know that the church is central to all of His contemporary purposes. Contemporary has become a new buzz word in the church. My question is: should a church be seeking to be contemporary or biblically faithful?

Ephesians 5:25-27 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish".

Colossians 1:17-18 "And he [the Lord Jesus Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent".


Jesus Christ is the head of the church, which is his body; now that is significant. As we would expect the Westminster Confession has much to say on the doctrine of the church. Three foundational chapters are Chapter 25 "Of the Church" with 6 different sections. Also Chapter 26 "Of the Communion of the Saints" and also Chapter 30 "Of Church Censures". The chapter on Church Censures teaches the third mark of the church, which is church discipline. I suggest that we all read these three chapters, in order to refresh our minds upon the centrality of the doctrine of the church with the gospel.

It has become a buzz word to talk about "gospel ministry" without this phrase being explained. But in a New Testament sense can we talk about gospel ministry without talking about the doctrine of the church?

Three subjects need to be discussed today.

What is a biblical doctrine for public church worship? What is the church's theology for worship?

What is a biblical doctrine for church government?

What is a biblical doctrine for the doctrines that we hold on every theological subject?

In sum, doctrine, worship and church government are the "big 3" truths for the church.

A book to recommend is the Glorious Body of Christ by R. B Kuiper, through the front cover is poor, the content of the book is excellent. The chapter by Guy Prentiss Waters on Church Government in the book "The Westminster Standards for Today" is excellent also.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Westminster Standards do not Support Arminianism or Hyper-Calvinism

The church, in order to be biblical and orthodox, she needs to be committed to the two "O's". What are these two "O's"?
They are:
Orthodox
Outward-moving in vision

It is not enough to be orthodox in doctrine, but the church must be outward-moving in her vision. Not static! Never static! It is possible to hold orthodox doctrine, so you think, and yet be unorthodox, because you are static and failing to show interest in reaching out to the lost. My two suggested "O's" are not perfect, but they get us all thinking, I hope.

As a younger Christian I read two terrific books by Iain Murray of the Banner of Truth. They were about Spurgeon being against Arminianism and also Hyper-Calvinism. These twin dangers are always around when there is any kind of Reformed recovery. We need to be aware of both. For example you can say that you tick all the boxes about Reformed doctrine and yet hold to sub-conscious hyper-Calvinism where due to a certain view of the doctrine of election that you do virtually nothing to make Christ known. Similarly, you may hold to particular redemption and yet be an Arminian in practice, in thinking that the kingdom of God will expand by the use of man-made methods. The dangers are very subtle for all of us.

However, the character of the Lord is outward-moving. The Lord our Father sent his only-begotten in His love and then the Holy Spirit was sent at Pentecost to spread the gospel and build up the church around the world. The Westminster Standards (the Confession along with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms) provide a biblically balanced theology. We should read the chapter in the confession on the Eternal Decree, but then pray the Lord's Prayer with the explanation of the Westminster Larger Catechism. Here is Question 191 to explain the second petition.

Q. 191. What do we pray for in the second petition?
A. In the second petition, (which is, Your kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may be destroyed, the gospel propagated throughout the world, the Jews called, the fullness of the Gentiles brought in; the church furnished with all gospel-officers and ordinances, purged from corruption, countenanced and maintained by the civil magistrate: that the ordinances of Christ may be purely dispensed, and made effectual to the converting of those that are yet in their sins, and the confirming, comforting, and building up of those that are already converted: that Christ would rule in our hearts here,18 and hasten the time of his second coming, and our reigning with him forever: and that he would be pleased so to exercise the kingdom of his power in all the world, as may best conduce to these ends.


We need to pray and work as the Lord spoke through Haggai in 2:4 "Work for I am with you declares the Lord of Hosts".

Monday, 11 June 2018

The Westminster Standards and Delighting in the Christian Sabbath (Part 2)

How do we delight in the Lord for the whole day?

The Lord’s Day is the whole day and not the Lord’s half day or even less the Lord’s quarter day. This day is a gift from the Lord and we are expected to labour to turn our foot from doing our pleasure on this holy day. It is a day to set aside our worldly pursuits and recreations. This day is different to the other six days. Do you live on this day differently to the other six days? Being planted in a church that is committed to preaching in two services helps us to structure our day around the Lord and his ordinances. These include preaching, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. We need to take extra time whwre possible to nourish our soul spiritually. This may include reading some good Christian book, to take time to recharge by devoting this day to extra Bible reading or personal communion with the Lord in prayer.
Christian fellowship can be a means of strengthening our soul as well. However, we need to heed the Creator’s teaching that this is not a day to “talk idly” (Is 58:13). On this day especially, we should put away converation that does not upbuild, or that is frivilous jesting, or unwholesome arguments or in boasting foolishly. It is not that we cannot discuss normal matters, but mere chit-chat is to be avoided. The “rule of thumb” to uphold this holy day of the Lord as honourable could well be Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”.

How can families delight in this day?
The correct definition of the visible church is “a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world, do profess the true religion, and of their children” (Westminster Larger Catechism question 62). It has been the common practice of the church over 2000 years to have children with their parents sitting through worship services together. It would be wrong to starve children from the primary instrument of communication from heaven, which is preaching. The Lord’s Supper needs to be seen by children, it is a visible sign and portrayal of the gospel. The breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine is a wonderful gift for children as well as all, to understand better the significance of the sufferings of Jesus.
There are some practical matters that could be covered in this subject. Elders, preachers and parents, all need to think through how this day can be maximised. I have heard over the years that some father’s keep their family at home to catechise them, instead of going to the evening service. I am not sure I understand the logic of this decision. I have often maintianed that it would hard not to grow spiritually, if you sit under two well prepared sermons each Lord’s Day. I hope to discuss this whole matter more, in another article, as to how families can delight in this day

Do we call this particular day the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath?

The Westminster Larger Catechism is in my view one of the best Christian documents produced in the history of the church. I would love to see it read, taught and used far more. Earlier I cited question 59 in the Shorter Catechism, but the answer is amplified in question 116 in the Larger. The question asked is “What is required in the fourth commandment?”. Immediately we learn then that this day is seen to be the application of the fourth of the Ten Commandments to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).
The Catechism’s answer then, emphasises that this day is “one whole day in seven” and it explains that it is “the Christian Sabbath, and in the New Testament called the Lord’s day”. Thereofre we see that these terms are interchangeable to explain the same blessed gift from heaven. The church are to feast spiritually every seven days on the gospel of Christ, to meet together according to the Lord’s appointment in His calendar and to congregate publicly.

What better for us to close, than with Psalm 92, the Song of the Sabbath (in the Psalm title): “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God” (92:12-13). You cannot flourish by staying at home on the Lord’s Day, but by being planted in the church, worshipping with the Lord’s people.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Westminster Standards and Delighting in the Christian Sabbath (Part 1)

Delighting in the Sabbath
What comes to your mind when the phrase “delighting in the sabbath” is read or heard by you? Depending on your upbringing, your background, and whether you are a Christian or otherwise, a whole variety of thoughts may well spring into your mind. For some, the very idea of a sabbath, maybe completley foreign, for others it may conjure up thoughts of a dry form of Christianity. How do you consider the practicing of the Christian Sabbath? Have you considered the Lord’s command and invitation to delight in the Sabbath?

Let me lay a biblical basis at the outset and then let us move to considering some practical thoughts as to how we can mazimise our delighting in the LORD through the whole sabbath day. Sadly, an American Presbyterian minister who is a personal friend of mine, lamented to me recently. He said that “this is the first generation in the history of the USA, that the whole church in the USA has not practiced the Lord’s Day”. The Christian Sabbath is also commonly known as the Lord’s Day and they mean the same thing. Imagine that! In one generation a whole nation has undergone a sea-change in religious practice.

Has our nation, the United Kingdom fared better? Sadly no. My father grew up in northern Sheffield in the 1940’s. It was a time when chapel buildings were everywhere. Many people professed a commitment to the local chapel, but few went regulalrly in reality. The Sunday School movement continued at that time, with some fervour, and children like my dad, were joyfully sent to this. For many the parents motive was most often to provide a brief respite for the parents. This is not entirely suprising though, when many husbands worked six days down a coalmine. However, in recalling those days, my dad would retell that Christian religion on Sunday was more a matter of what you could not do. You could not play as a child, or ride your bike, or enjoy the day. It was a day to be endured. But as to what this day was really to be about in a Biblical worldview, very few knew, let alone practicing this day as a spiritual delight.

Such memories by many are common. The light and zeal of the church was at a very low ebb, as nominal Christian allegiance remained. As far as delighting in the Sabbath, that idea would have meant little. However, this biblical truth must be recovered, that is, if Christianity is to uphold the vitals of true Christian religion.

Before we go much further, let us briefly look at Isaiah 58:13-14 and we note that this instruction comes “from the mouth of the Lord” and it begins with the tiny English word “If”. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honourable; if you honour it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

These two Bible verses are full of truth. They are worthy of much meditation. The heartbeat of this message is that an attitude change is required which then will lead to a change in the way you live. It is the same principle in that right doctrine leads to right practice which leads to godly living. Are you preared to have an attitude change? One whereby, as a godly man or woman, you will “call the Sabbath a delight” and “the holy day of the LORD honourable”. Do you do this? Let us examine briefly, five simple questions to help us to understand this truth.

Which day is the Christian Sabbath?
The day, we now call Sunday, was formerly known in Bible times as the first day of the week. The early Christians moved their day of worship, one day forward from the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) because this was the day that the Son of God, Jesus Christ,was risen from the dead. The Bible testifies to this: “And very early on the first day of the week” several women went to the tomb and they found the stone rolled away. The angel said to them “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here” (Mark 16:2, 6).
The early church set about to meet on the first day of the week, by divine command and to remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. They gathered together to hear the Word of the gospel preached, to enjoy the Lord’s Supper, and to give to the Lord in collections (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2). John the apostle was banished to a remote Greek Island as a punishment for preaching the gospel, and he called this day in the book of Revelation, “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10).
As the church grew and matured, their understanding of the Christian Sabbath also grew. The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it simply in question 59: “From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath”.

How do we delight in the Sabbath?
The starting point tp delight on the sabbth is to have a love for good and sound preaching. The high point of worship is preaching. Preaching does something to our soul that no other activity in the church can do. A love for preaching will drive you to find a church that will offer you the spiritual meals that you need to live a godly life. On a side note, never move to a new area without first checking out if there would be a church there for you to grow and thrive.
Remember that Jesus of Nazareth announced that “ the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5). He loved the Sabbath, he looked forward to it and he practiced it rightly. Rightly meaning with an inward spiritual attitude and not simply a wooden or outward conformity. This contrasted with the Pharisees who were simply concerned with rules. Let us learn of Christ and follow his example.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Westminster Standards and Reverent-Simple Public Worship

The New Testament teaches a style of worship which is reverent, simple and full of thankfulness. The high point of New Testament worship is the preaching and reading of the Scriptures, in order to elucidate the gospel of Christ. Here are seven principles necessary, if we are to be biblical in a New Testament sense and therefore in a truly Reformed approach to public worship.
Q. 108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A. The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has instituted in his Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.
This question and answer from the Westminster Larger Catechism is a helpful reminder for us in public worship.

1. Simplicity
"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you" 2 Cor 1:12.

2 Cor 11:3 "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ".

It is amazing how the fallen-ness of mankind struggles with the beauty of simplicity, especially in worship. When will we learn that public worship is not according to our personal taste preferences, but according to the Lord's divine worship pattern revealed in Holy Scripture.

2. Reverence and awe
Hebrews 12:28-29 "And thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire".

3. Without distractions and gimmicks
When we observe the instructions given by Paul to Timothy the emphasis is on preaching. Nothing can replace preaching to pass on the content of the faith. How often churches seek extras to compensate for preaching, but nothing can replace Holy Spirit empowered preaching "out of the Scriptures".

4. Centred on the holy character of the Lord and the one mediator Jesus Christ

"For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time", 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

5. Thankfulness in prayer
"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship" Hebrews 12:28-29.

6. Anchored in Scripture read and explained through Preaching
"And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ”, Acts 17:2-3.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 17:2–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
1 Timothy 4:13 "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching".

7. Led by qualified ministers who are called and qualified men meeting the biblical qualifications of elders
Titus 1:5-9 "For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it".

Perhaps you may go through my small list and think that some things are missing. What about singing you may say? Good point! Singing has its place but the NT makes very little mention about singing in the NT church. Sometimes singing is disproportionately emphasised in sections of the church. Let us keep things in balance. May we desire public worship with preaching as its high point but an approach that resonates with simplicity, reverence and awe.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Westminster Standards and Family Worship

I first learned about family worship from the relatives of my Dutch wife. Observing families The Netherlands read the Bible, sing and pray together, after the evening meals, set me on a new course for life. It has been a joy for our family to read, hear and discuss the Bible after evening meals and this time has been one of the places our children have learned to pray. It is important that children learn to pray and not only listen to the parents pray. This is a safe environment for learning.

An ideal document for family worship is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In the new book called "The Westminster Standards for Today" , there is an excellent essay by Rev Chad Bailey called "The Westminster Standards and Family Worship: Maintaining True Religion in the Home". Chad humbly and clearly explains the blessing of such historic practices and the book is worth the price for this essay alone.

We must pray for the joyful recovery of family worship in our own generation. Family worship must never replace involvement in the church and fathers must not absent themselves from public worship services by excusing that they are stopping at home to catechise their children. Children belong to the Lord and the church has its place to instruct children, beyond the family structures, to support, encourage and disciple children under the oversight of elders and parents.

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" Ephesians 6:1-4.

' “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates' Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Let us pray with faith for a global recovery of family worship for covenant parents and children, for the glory of God!

Monday, 14 May 2018

Recovering the Lost Art and Practice of Catechising

What do think of when you hear the word "catechise"? Perhaps for some they think of nothing because they are located in a part of the church which does not use the word "catechise". For others, what do they think? For some this is something restricted to family worship, where parents pass on the Westminster Shorter Catechism to children, but is catechising primarily for children? The answer is no, it is not primarily for children, though they are not excluded.

The church needs to recover the passing on the Christian faith by teaching the faith. We have two magnificent catechisms, the Shorter and Larger Westminster Catechisms and "the dust needs to be
blown off them", as it were, metaphorically speaking. With the new edition of the Westminster Standards for Today published by EP, there is a new format which is fresh, accessible and easy to use. Let us all "jump into the river" of catechising, no matter what kind of church you are part of. This includes catechising for yourself. The question and answer format of the Westminster Larger Catechism means we can examine ourselves more clearly and objectively and enjoy the process as you learn more of the Christian gospel.

Lamentations 5:21-25 is a timely prayer: "Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us".


We want to return to the ancient paths. John Calvin when he published the Catechism of the Church of Geneva stated that in its dedication that this catechism was "nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed by Christians and the true worshippers of God, and which were never laid aside until the Church was wholly corrupted".

The Rev Ronald Christey recounted: "There was a day in Scotland — the best days, some folk think — when a minister or a catechist gathered families together in a home and catechised them — probed their understanding and experience of Scriptural truth, encouraged them to express themselves. Such catechetical instruction was a source of spiritual strength. Where is that done now? Hardly anywhere".

Jeremiah 6:16 'Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’ ".

Monday, 7 May 2018

Teaching the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms

One of my life goals is to disseminate the Westminster Standards as widely as possible. By this I am especially referring to the Westminster Confession of Faith along with the two Catechisms. Without doubt, one of the greatest needs today is for doctrinal teaching. This also includes the need for reformed churches to teach the people in the church the truths of the Westminster Confessions.

People can never be expected to simply imbibe truth, but we all need constant positive teaching. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church requires this as he gave his commission at the end of Matthew's Gospel:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Make disciples ... and teaching go "hand in hand" and teaching means to actively and positively instruct. Preaching is part of worship and indeed it is intended to be the high point of worship. However, there is the need for the church's office bearers to pass on the content of the Christian faith to the church in detail as well. This is why there are many different words for preaching and teaching in the New Testament.

Some of the main verbs for passing on information by authorised office bearers are:

To preach (kērussō)- which means to declare or to herald the truth of God like the representative of a king. This word occurs more than 60 times in the New Testament.

To evangelise (euangelizō)- this word means to bring good news or to announce good news. It is commonly used in connection to the bringing forth of the gospel (Romans 1:1, 1:9, 1:16).

To witness (martureō)
- this verb means to bear witness to facts and it is from this Greek word that we also get the word martyr. However, this verb is concerned with testifying to the facts of the gospel, namely the facts of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus Christ.

To teach (didaskō) - as already mentioned this is a different word from the verb to preach. To teach means to spell out in no uncertain manner, the truth of the gospel, so that people can understand. It is not simply heralding, but in explaining truths.

To preach and teach using a catechetical method (katēcheō): This is found in Luke 1:4 which records "you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" and the word taught is the word to catechise. This important Greek word means "to impart information" (Luke 1:4, Acts 18:25, 21:21, 21:24) and "to instruct" (Romans 2:18, 1 Cor 14:19, Gal 6:6). It is the work of the church in relation to this Greek word that I most want to highlight in this blog post.
Here are some questions for all of us to consider.

What are we doing in the church to impart the information of the church's apostolic doctrine, as summarised in the Westminster Standards?
How can we find avenues to impart this information in the church?
What opportunities can we create in the church's monthly calendar to impart the information of the Westminster Larger and shorter catechisms?

This is my prayer for the rich content of the Christian faith to be passed onto church members. Let us pray for this to happen in our own generation.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Learning to Promote Good Christian Books

Since around 2001, I have been involved in promoting and selling good Christian books. When I have read excellent Christian and Reformed books, I often thought that these books were so good that they needed to be read by others.

There is power in the printed page. Of course this means the Bible as well, but when I refer to the printed page, this also includes excellent Christian books. The question for all of us then is, how can I promote good books? We need to grow as Christians beyond just thinking about ourselves and indulging ourselves only in good reading. How can we encourage others to grow in Christ through quality reading choices.

Sometimes in a conference good books may be offered at a good price and we need to think how perhaps we can give away books to other people, rather than only thinking about our own personal library or reading list.

Here are a few pointers, in order to grow in promoting good Christian books to others.

1. Pray about how you can grow in this area.
2. Recommend books to others verbally and do so with passion and enthusiasm.
3. If you are a pastor, have a quarterly book of month that your church sells. It is better to focus on one book than to have a table of books with a wide choice. We do not want a church book table to look like a jumble sale.
4. The best way for books to be bought and read is by a recommendation, especially publicly. Just ask Iain Murray or George Verwer, men who have moved more books than anyone I know.
5. Buy good books and give them away. Generosity is a Christian grace, one that we can all grow in.

"By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others" 2 Cor 9:13.

6. If you have access to Facebook or Twitter or another forum, including newsletters, use these to promote books. And dare I say do not use them to simply promote yourself!

I hope that in this small blogpost, that it can envision you to change the world through promoting, selling and giving away excellent Christian literature. Go to it and enjoy it!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

"The God of Creation": a great new book by Richard D. Phillips

The God of Creation: Truth and Gospel in Genesis 1 (192 pages), published by Evangelical Press

There are other books on Creation and dealing with the issues of Genesis 1, but this one is different. Rick Phillips takes us through the first chapter of Genesis with an absolute confidence that this is the plain, accurate Word of God, describing creation in six literal days of 24 hours. He looks at the alternatives offered and explains clearly and simply why they are inadequate. The science-based criticisms of the Word of God are considered and dealt with. The language used is accessible to most readers, and at each stage the Gospel is clearly explained.

Christians generally will find this book a great encouragement amidst the deluge of pro-evolution propaganda, school students will find themselves strengthened to take a biblical stand against the pressures of the education system. If your evangelistic outreach leads you to someone who wants a clear and rational explanation of why the Bible should believed over against the common understanding of evolution presented in the media, this is the book to give them.

Richard Davis Phillips has been the Senior Minister of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina (PCA) since July, 2007. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Michigan, and a master of business administration degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Prior to entering the ministry, he commanded tank units as an officer in the U.S. Army and later served as an assistant professor of leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He came to faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 30, and was soon was leading evangelistic Bible studies at the college where he was teaching. A few years later he received God’s call to enter the gospel ministry, and received a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

Monday, 9 April 2018

"The Earth Hangs on Nothing"

I hope that this blog post will be pastorally encouraging. Several thousand years ago Job wrote this in chapter 26:7 "He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing". Isaiah in 40:22-23 under the direction of the Holy Spirit declared the earth to be round though many people thought it was flat for a long time.

"It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness".


I was reading a book by a man called Charlie Duke who walked on the moon on the Apollo 16 space mission. Afterwards he became a Christian and he has travelled all over the place to testify to the gospel and he lets people know that the earth looks beautiful against the blackness of space. Our God created all of this!

You can check out Charlie's testimony by visiting YouTube.

Charlie Duke is from Lancaster South Carolina and his book pointed me to Job 26:7. What a magnificent truth that the earth hangs on nothing and yet it fulfils its perfect circuit year after year being upheld by God's word and power. If the Lord upholds the earth by hanging it upon nothing, how much more our lives and the details of our lives.

My grandma always wanted to go to the moon and obviously she did not. Otherwise you would have heard of her. When she was 74 she heard Charlie Duke give his testimony and she gave her life to Jesus Christ. Who could have arranged that providence for my grandma, except the Lord who holds all things together?

Monday, 2 April 2018

The Westminster Standards in Modern English

Mark 12:37 "And the common people heard him [Jesus of Nazareth] gladly" (NKJV).

Why is this project so exciting in my view? It is very important that sound theology is placed into the hands of church members. It is never enough for ministers and elders to have a delight in and an access to, sound doctrine and not the wider church also. This could potentially produce a new form of clericalism where the leaders have additional "inside knowledge" if truth did not get disseminated into the pew, as it were. Paul the apostle wrote to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 4:2 "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice 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".

Did you notice the phrase "by the open statement of the truth"? It is vital that Christians can have access to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Two Catechisms in plain English and in a format that is easily readable; this is what this paperback without the essays provides. We want children as well as parents to have a copy of the Westminster Standards in Modern English in this paperback version. This new publication by Evangelical Press should serve the church well. It does not tamper with the original text produced by the Westminster Assembly except to change antiquated English phrases with understood words.

It includes no revisions at all,but where difficult words are found we have included square brackets occasionally with the modern English equivalent. Here is short quiz for lovers of words. Can you guess what these ancient words mean which are found in the Westminster Standards: Vouchsafes, supererogate; contemn,
oblation; keeping of stews. They mean: promises; go beyond duty; disdain; offering; and keeping of brothels. This updating of language should “iron-out some wrinkles” and enhance their usability.

Our denomination (www.epcew.org.uk) have a church in Berlin and they are now working hard to publish the Westminster Standards in modern German. Again, these documents are the property of the whole church and such a work of the Holy Spirit to widely distribute them, can only serve to strengthen the church in the years ahead. The previous blog post gives an indication of prices of this book, but let us continue in steadfast and expectant prayer for the establishment of sound doctrine in the English speaking world.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living

After about four years worth of work, Evangelical Press are about to publish the work we have done on the Westminster Standards. They are offering a wonderful pre-order price for the two editions. There is a hard back version which will be in what we call a British Racing Green colour with gold letters and the paper back will have the same colour features.

Hardback: This contains seven essays, along with the Westminster Standards and the contents of that are given below. It will be called “The Westminster Standards for Today: Recovering the Church and Worship for Everyday Christian Living”. The price is £11.00 or $15.00 per copy. These are compared with retail prices of a much higher price which equate to around half price.

Paperback version: This will contain the Westminster Standards (without essays) and it will be called “The Westminster Standards in Modern English”. The pre-order price is £4.99 per single copy or £2.99 for one hundred or more; in dollars it is $6.99 or for orders of 100 or more $3.50. If you would like to pre-order then please email me. If you know me personally you will have my email address. Ideally for hardback, a minimum of three copies would be best and you could buy an order to set up for a church book table or perhaps a book of the quarter for the church.

What is unique about this book with the Westminster Standards? There are three things. First, it is the original texts of the Confession and Catechisms with the proof texts unaltered; Second, the editing is very light which simply seeks to replace any antiquated language into modern English, without changing the substance of the text (for example Holy Ghost is changed to Holy Spirit); and Third, the publisher have formatted the Standards into a really attractive format. One which draws you to want to read its content, in my opinion.

Our aim is to spread the readability and usage of the text of the Westminster Confession and the two Catechisms as widely as possible. Joel Beeke has written a Preface and we have commendations from:

*Chad Van Dixhoorn
*O. Palmer Robertson
*David Hall
*Joel Beeke

I spoke to a professor of the African Bible University in Uganda where O. Palmer Robertson is based and they have requested 120 copies of the paperback for their students and 40 copies of the hardback to give as a gift to the students graduating in May 2018 and for each of the staff members. We will raise support for these to shipped out to Uganda with some additional copies for a nearby orphanage and Christian school. Do pray that this book will be a real blessing to the church at large.

I aim to speak with Graham Hind (managing director of EP) next week to submit pre-orders for the UK and the USA. If you would like to email me a pre-order amount then do email me back, if possible by next Tuesday 3rd April or let me know that you need more time to think. They will be shipped to your church address.

Your prayer is valued for this work,

Kevin Bidwell
Sheffield, England


Introduction

Preface to The Westminster Standards in Modern English

Essays About the Westminster Standards

History

Extraordinary Providences of an Enduring Standard (Richard D.Phillips)

The Westminster Standards in the Making : Stanley Gower, a Westminster Divine (Kevin J.Bidwell)

Worship

The Westminster Standards and Public Worship (David E.Gilbert)

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (George Swinnock, with an introduction by Kevin J.Bidwell)

The Westminster Standards and the Sacraments (Andy J.Young)

Family Worship and Church Government

The Westminster Standards and Family Worship: Maintaining True Religion in the Home (Chad T.Bailey)

The Westminster Standards and Church Government (Guy Prentiss Waters)


The Westminster Confession of Faith in Modern English

The Westminster Larger Catechism in Modern English

The Westminster Shorter Catechism In Modern English

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Stanley Gower—A Presbyterian Minister and Westminster Divine

The Westminster divine Stanley Gower (bap. 1600?-1660) wrote an attestation for John Owen, for his essay The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. This fact alone should “whet our appetite” to know more of this presbyterian minister, one who was esteemed to be a “puritan divine of considerable eminence” by William H. Goold, the editor of The Works of John Owen. Gower’s life and ministry appears to have been one of growing stature and influence throughout what was a turbulent timeframe. This was seventeenth century England.

Early Days and Preparation (1600–1629)
His entering into University life as a scholar at Trinity College, Dublin in 1621 led him to graduating with a BA in 1625. His simultaneous association with the famed James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh was hardly insignificant. Ussher showed a keen interest in Gower’s progress and he oversaw his ordination in 1627 and installed him as his chaplain. Ussher’s anti-Arminian principles are well documented and upon his appointment as archbishop in 1626 he surrounded himself with advisors of a similar persuasion.
Ussher’s theological mentoring and role as a future sponsor clearly set Gower upon a puritan trajectory from which he never deviated. The seeds for Anglican ministry with presbyterian tendencies, Calvinistic convictions and simplicity in public worship were undoubtedly confirmed in Gower’s mind by Ussher. Prior to Gower’s encounter with Ussher, he had already written the Irish Articles of Religion (1615) when he was professor of divinity at Trinity College, Dublin. “It is widely recognised” according to Robert Letham that Ussher “had a strong influence on the Westminster assembly through the Irish Articles”.

Hill Top Chapel, Sheffield (1630-34/5)
The Hill Top Chapel still stands today in Attercliffe, Sheffield, with the inscription over one of the doors dating the completion at 1629. Joseph Hunter’s History of Hallamshire records that “in the yeare of our Lord God 1629 certaine of the chiefe of the inhabitants being by God’s providence mett togeather, they had a conference about building a chappell”. The opening sermon was the 10th October 1630, and “being the Sabbath-day, divine service was read and two godly sermons preached by the Revd Mr Thomas Toller, vicar of Sheffield” from Jeremiah 7:8-9. This was followed by a collection for the poor.
Stanley Gower was “elected an assistant minister in the church at Sheffield; and in 1630 he was nominated to the curacy of the newly-erected chapel at Attercliffe”. He served there from 1630–35 and therefore he was the founding minister of this new work. There would undoubtedly have been strong puritan sympathies in Sheffield for them to consider calling a disciple of Ussher and most likely he would have provided a prized reference for any new ordinand. However, in the providence of God we should summarise that this was a season of preparation for Gower; he was a Westminster theological divine “in the making”.

Brampton-Bryan and Herefordshire (1635-43)
Stanley and his wife Sarah must have found the Herefordshire countryside refreshing from the moment they arrived. It is apparent from historical records and letters that Gower demonstrated clear principles for public worship, Christian ministry and presbyterian church government at this time. The building blocks for these elements were firmly fixed before he became a member of the Westminster assembly; Robert and Brilliana Harley (his patrons) were just as arduous as Gower in working for church reform. Gower was a non-conformist who repudiated all of Archbishop Laud’s moves regarding episcopacy, worship and preaching.
The non-conformity of Gower was not hidden from the state authorities and in 1637 (maybe 1638) a range of charges were made against him. Eales comments of this document in the state papers which charged him with wide-ranging practices and that Gower’s actions were “long standing non-conformist practices”. Gower had been shaped, moulded, and strengthened under the patronage of the Harley’s and the exercise of his reformed ministry had flourished. He was chosen with John Green of Herefordshire as one of two representatives to the assembly of divines in London, and he moved there in autumn of 1643.

The Westminster Assembly (1643-48)
While Gower is not famous to us today, there is every indication that he was a very well respected and prominent minister at the time. During his time in London “he was appointed as preacher in the staunchly presbyterian parish of St Martin Ludgate and was invited to preach before the houses of parliament on several occasions”. The work of an Assembly member was to be extremely busy for Gower, as it was for many, combining parish ministry with long week days of theological debate and discussion. Chad Van Dixhoorn states: “Of the three main tasks of parliament’s assembly, the first two were revolutionary in nature: ‘setling ... the government and liturgy’ of the church ‘as shall be most agreeable to the Word of God’ ”. Van Dixhoorn clarifies that the “third task of the synod was stated with sharp difference in tone. The assembly was to ‘vindicate’ and ‘clear’ the church’s doctrine”. Gower’s work was set, along with 119 other divines.
Gower was specifically involved in the examination of ministerial candidates and he was an assembly member throughout the time that oversaw production of all the Westminster documents. He was actively involved in the Catechism committee: There were eleven sub-committees appointed to work on the Ten Commandments and Mr Profitt and Mr Gower laid out the general rules for expounding the 3rd Commandment.

Holy Trinity, Dorchester, Dorset (1649-60)

Gower had been called to a place, one which Underdown described as the “the most ‘puritan’ place in England”. In this season of ministry Gower enjoyed a measure of stability, as much as those times probably allowed, and he could lead the people of God to worship in an acceptable manner before God. In Dorchester, the “familiar liturgy had gone. Instead of Common Prayer, Gower ... used the presbyterian service book, the Directory”.
Additionally, the eleven years of stable ministry afforded Gower the opportunity to publish and three works are certainly worthy of mention. These are his preface to the posthumous publication of James Ussher’s Eighteen Sermons Preached in Oxford, 1640: Of Conversion unto God, Of Redemption and Justification by Christ (published in 1659): His preface to Davids Psalms in Metre: Agreeable to the Hebrew by Rev. John White (published in 1655): and last but no means least, his preface to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (published in 1650).

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Portrait of Christian Love

I am currently preaching on 1 Corinthians in the evening services at Sheffield Presbyterian Church. We have now reached Chapter 13, the famous love chapter and we intend to linger on this important passage. Perhaps I will preach 2-3 sermons on this chapter, we will see! Why is it so important for us? This chapter is a magnificent description of the love that is expected to be manifest among Christians in the church. Does this chapter describe you and your love for fellow Christians?

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a


There are 16 qualities of true Christian love described in this passage.

I. Christian love has 2 primary qualities which are patience and kindness.
II. Love is not or does not = 8 things, for example love does not envy or boast
III. The all things love = 5 things beginning with love rejoices with the truth
IV. Conclusion: Love never fails or ends

These characteristics are found in a similar way with the ninefold fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter Five, but the two descriptions are not identical. Here it has do with practical Christianity and in the relationships with one another in the church.

Each of these are perfectly found in the life of Christ and they are produced in the church by the work of the Holy Spirit.

One book I recommend to unfold this subject further is "Christian Love" by Hugh Binning in the Banner of Truth Puritan Paperback series.

One question we should ask according to 1 Timothy 1;5 is this: Is our goal in teaching that of love? If not then we are missing the goal.

1 Timothy 1:5 “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (ESV). The New American Standard Bible translates this as "But the goal of our instruction is love".

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Rev John Cotton and the Purity of Public Worship

Rev John Cotton (1585-1652) was the minister of St Botolph's in Boston Lincolnshire. He was originally from Derby and he was educated at Cambridge University; he later exercised a powerful ministry in Boston, England. Thousands of people would come from afar to hear his preaching from the Bible, in the then, wealthy town and port of Boston, Lincolnshire. However, it was clearly a time of revival, one that was a work of the Holy Spirit. People hungered for the "milk of the Word" and sometimes the sermons would be five hours long. It would be a plain misunderstanding if people were to interpret this as people then, having nothing better to do with their time. They were hungry for the truth of the Word of God.

The minister Rev John Cotton and also the congregation members, they were firmly persuaded of Protestant principles, not only for doctrine, but also for public worship. Non-biblical practices and Anglo-Catholic traditions such as kneeling before images, making the sign of the cross, genuflections before the communion table and other such things were firmly rejected at St Botolph's in Boston. However, the senior Church of England officers and probably no doubt King Charles I, were not happy with this man's ministry. He came under increasing pressure to compromise.

In 1632 legal action was taken against him and this led him to make the bold step to escape to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633, where he became the teacher of the church there. This colony was eventually renamed Boston. It was not only John Cotton, but also a large percentage of that town which moved to the New World in the hope of Christian worship untainted by the world. Cotton became one of the most influential Christian leaders in the early development of worship and theology in New England and the roots of what became the United States. For some he is known for his congregational form of church government which he developed once he arrived in the New World. Though I do not hold to his congregational principles for independency, we must not overlook the principles for public worship which he and others held.

In our own day, many churches seem to think that worship practices are simply a matter of personal taste and preference. But is this the picture of the Bible? No! The Holy Scriptures teach us about the attitude of the church in worship, the content of public worship and the necessity for purity in public worship.

The attitude in worship should be that of simplicity, thankfulness, reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29). The high point of Christian worship should be the reading of Holy Scripture with reverence and the preaching of the Word of God by ordained and training teachers for the church. Novelties and the inventions of men are not to be practiced in public Christian worship. May we pray for a recovery of biblical, reverent and pure worship in our day.

"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you". 1 Timothy 4:13-14. The gift Timothy had was to preach the gospel of God.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

A New Presbyterian Church Plant in Oxford, England

Earlier this year, the presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales voted for Rev Andy Young to be a church planting minister in Oxford, England. Andy is currently the minister of Naunton Lane Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cheltenham. He continues there as minister until the Summer and his family will move to Oxford and regular church planting studies will move "up the gears" from late Summer. This potential work needs much prayer.

To my knowledge, confessional Presbyterianism has had little presence in the city of Oxford over the centuries. During the English Civil War, the Roman Catholic minded King Charles I, set up Oxford as his headquarters.

You will find an excellent YouTube link below, of a web=link video presentation of the church planting work in Oxford. Do forward this to others.

https://youtu.be/qQ8k9a9COYw

If you would like to contact Andy do so at: revandrewyoung@yahoo.co.uk

Psalm 126:4-6

"Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him".

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Recovering the Creed of Chalcedon (451)

The Creed of Chalcedon (451)

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

This creed is basically summarised in the eight chapter of The Westminster Confession of Faith called "Of Christ the Mediator". This creed and the statement in this Confession (8 heading are given) are in urgent need of being revisited. There is nothing new under the sun and current winds of doctrine, not least regarding teachings on the eternal subordination of the Son of God need to be refuted.

If people return to the Creeds, such as The Apostles', Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedon, it would save the church much harm and perhaps wasted energy answered new teachings. May you be blessed as you study these Creeds alongside the Bible.

Monday, 26 February 2018

The African Bible University, Kampala, Uganda

I recently returned from a ministry visit to the African Bible University in Kampala, Uganda. I was invited to preach seven sermons during a spiritual emphasis week to the staff and students. I was impressed by the quality of staff and students.They provide a 4 year University degree, one that is taught which equips Christians for life. Some end up going into various professions, some set up schools in Uganda and some go into pastoral ministry, though ABU is not a specific seminary. The Bible verse that comes to my mind, regarding the long term work of this Christian University is:

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 Did you note that it is the "knowledge of the glory of the Lord", something that was manifested through the gospel when the Son of God came to earth. It is this knowledge that it is to be dis-seminated broadly through the earth.

The website of this University is: http://www.abu.ac.ug

Do check out the website and show it to others. I wish that more British Christians had the opportunity to visit such a place in Africa. Such an experience is humbling and encouraging and it provides a wider lens for Christianity. I met many godly Ugandan Christians who had been left homeless through the death of their parents at a very young age; and they knew something of the Fatherhood of God which is refreshing. They taught me the value of suffering with joy.

James 1:26-27 "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world".

Psalm 68:4-6 "Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land".

Friday, 16 February 2018

The Westminster Standards For Today: A New Book

For the last four years we have been working on producing the Westminster Standards in Modern English. As we teach it in our catechism class, people have commented that the language in places is antiquated and hard to understand. We need to do all we can to make the truth as plain and understandable as possible. A team of people over four years have worked on light editing, but without any change to the substance of the text of the Westminster Confession and the two Catechisms.

It is being published soon by The Evangelical Press. There will be a hardback version with essays and a paperback which just contains The Westminster Standards. Whatever we can do to disseminate these truths far and wide, will surely be profitable for the church. We do not want these truths contained in these documents to be restricted only to a narrow circle of Reformed Christians. These documents are some of the best in the history of the church and they need to be widely read.

Essays About the Westminster Standards

History

Extraordinary Providences of an Enduring Standard (Richard D. Phillips)

The Westminster Standards in the Making: Stanley Gower, a Westminster Divine (Kevin J. Bidwell)

Worship

The Westminster Standards and Public Worship (David E. Gilbert)

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (George Swinnock, with an introduction by Kevin J. Bidwell)

The Westminster Standards and the Sacraments (Andy J. Young)

Family Worship and Church Government

The Westminster Standards and Family Worship: Maintaining True Religion in the Home (Chad T. Bailey)

The Westminster Standards and Church Government (Guy Prentiss Waters)


It is not published yet and I will post a further blog post when the exact publication date is known. Do pray for this publication and its distribution and for spiritual fruitfulness.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A Federal Vision Spiritual Health Warning

Federal Vision is basically based on hyper-covenantalism. It is a fluid movement and therefore it does not easily lend itself to simple definitions. Its false teaching includes teaching that children and infants should be fed the Lord's Supper, even though they have not given a credible profession of faith. Some supporters seek a highly liturgical worship style and other such matters. One of the best books that unmasks this movement is by Guy Prentiss-Waters. It is called "The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis".

The main leaders of this movement (according to Guy Prentiss-Waters) are based in the USA, and they are:

James Jordan
Douglas Wilson
Peter Leithart
Steve Schlissel
John Barach
Ralph Smith
Steve Wilkins
Rich Lusk
Joel Garver
Mark Horne

May we all be aware of spiritual pride which can blind us all. Perhaps one danger is the desire to be super-reformed. If you have been influenced by these teachers then I suggest that you read the book by Prentiss-Waters to ensure that you stay on the historic path of Christianity.

Jude 21-23: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh".

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Has the church lost its way in communicating to the "plough boy"?

Has the church lost her way in seeking to communicate to the ordinary man and woman? William Tyndale (1494-1536), the genius reformer and Bible translator, earnestly laboured to communicate the Bible in the "vulgar tongue" (the language spoken by ordinary people). In his case he laboured to translate the Bible into the English language and he no doubt shaped the English language more than any one individual apart from Shakespeare.

However, this blog post is not about exalting Tyndale, but about learning from the heartbeat of the Reformation. This is encapsulated in a quote by Tyndale, who while at Little Sodbury Manor (in Gloucestershire, England), he stated to a fellow priest, that "he would make a boy who driveth the plough know more of Scripture than the priest himself". The aim of his life was to communicate so that a ploughboy could understand the gospel.

Well, let us ask ourselves, is that our aim in the church today? This does not mean diluting the truth of the Bible, far from it. But it does mean communicating in a clear, simple and succinct way, so that all people can grasp the truth. If I look at my bookshelves and the many Christian books being published, it seems that an academic approach is gaining significant in-roads, but not always in helpful ways. We are not striking a fundamentalist note either here, one that looks down on academic theology, far from it. Men training for ministry, men in ministry, elders and all Christians need to consider whether they are preaching and communicating in a way that Tyndale would approve of.

How many Christian books today are simple yet profound? Not many. Let us all labour for clarity and simplicity. Let us learn from Jesus Christ of whom it was said in Mark 12:37 "... and the common people heard him gladly". Christ's teachings were with vivid and astounding simplicity that is so memorable. Just think of the parable of the sower.

Monday, 5 February 2018

In what way is the new covenant superior to the old covenant?

This question is a very important one. Quite often people ask a different question, which is: "In which way is the new covenant different to the old covenant?". Many times people holding to classical Baptist theology, they attempt to maintain that there is a gulf of difference between the old and the new covenants. This is done to uphold their view of believer's baptism which has no shadow in the old testament for them in their understanding. We hold to a covenantal view of baptism for the baptism of adults who profess faith for the first time and the children of believers. It is important to know that the old testament covenants are the same in substance to the new covenant, but different in their administration.

Which book of the Bible especially handles the old versus new covenant question? It is the book of Hebrews. Note I called it the Book of Hebrews and not the epistle to the Hebrews. It is deliberate because it does not bear the hallmark of an epistle. As a side note I am firmly that convinced that Paul was the author, which is how the church father's understood the authorship of this book also.

Hebrews mentions the word better of Superior many times and this book teaches us that the New covenant ratified through Jesus Christ is superior in every way.

A key word is Superior or better which is κρείττων. It is found in Hebrews:
1:4 Christ is superior to angels
7:7 Melchizedek is superior to Abram
7:19 a better hope
7:22 a better covenant
8:6 better promises
9:23 we are purified with better sacrifices that the old covenant
10:34 a better possesion and an abiding one
11:16 a better country
11:35 a better life
11:40 God had prepared something better for us.
12:24 the blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the blood of Abel


Let us rejoice that we have the covenants fulfilled from the old testament fulfilled through Jesus Christ God's Son in the new covenant. If you would like further reading, may I recommend O. Palmer Robertson's Christ of the Covenants.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Praying for Reformation and Revival

Once each month in Sheffield we hope to pray for reformation and revival. The first such occasion is this week during our midweek meeting. My eschatological position is A-Millenial, but I still believe that we should pray for revival. It is normally people with a Post-Millenial position who are more renowned for praying for revival generally.

Anyways, whatever our theological position, few of us really understand biblically and in reality what revival is. This definitely includes me. We will use the book "Lectures on Revivals" by W. B. Sprague as a base point for information and teaching. Another good book is the book "The Ulster Awakening" by John Weir which has some good pointers. If people know of other good resources, then do put a comment on this blog post.

Above all, we trust that the Sovereign Lord will hear our cry for help across Europe and especially for England. In some areas of our nation, the situation is spiritually desperate. We also pray for the Lord to raise up labourers.

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

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

The Joy of singing Metrical Psalms

As a younger Christian and also now, I have always loved the Book of Psalms. Despite reading and singing it for years, there are many uncharted areas of discovery for me in this lifetime from this divinely inspired book. It was such a precious discovery for myself and our family to begin to sing the Psalms. We sing them in family worship and our congregation includes two metrical Psalms in each worship service.

The tunes are most often designed for congregational singing. I have four metrical Psalm books on my shelf. Sing Psalms (published by the Free Church of Scotland), The Psalms for Singing (Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland), Trinity Psalter (PCA in the USA) and The Book of Psalms for Worship (Reformed Presbyterian Church in the USA).

The one we use mainly is Sing Psalms. It is a huge joy to sing Psalms also for personal devotions and to think the church have done so for 3000 years. This does not exclude the singing of hymns with great biblical content. I hope that you can discover the joy of singing metrical Psalms.

Colossians 3:16-17 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him".

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Salford-Manchester Presbyterian Church: Regular Services begin!

As of Sunday 28th January 2018 there will be morning and evening services which will begin. We are all excited and thankful for this momentous development. Rev Chris Statter is the church planting minister who leads the work and he is really looking forward to preaching morning and evening every week.

The meeting place is River View Primary School, 1 Wheater's Street, Salford M7 1QZ.

The services are 11am and 5pm.

Do pass this information on to people who may be interested.

The church website is: http://salfordepc.org.uk

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Reformation Bible Conference 2018, Sermons Now Online

The 2018 Reformation Bible Conference took place at Hill Top Chapel in Sheffield. We had three main sessions which were Friday morning (5th January), Friday night (and the Chapel was packed), followed by all day Saturday. Listening to the sermons does not substitute the blessing of being there. The fellowship, the opportunity for questions and the overall joy of being together with "face to face" fellowship is something to be enjoyed live.

None-the-less, the sermons are available to be listened to and the link is: http://sheffieldpres.org.uk/sermons

The Sermon Audio link is: https://www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=sheffieldpc

We hope Lord willing, to have a conference next year as well (2019) and this would be the first Friday and Saturday in January. More details to follow, but those present expressed their desire for this.

Do enjoy these sermons!

Friday, 12 January 2018

Essays in Honour of O. Palmer Robertson: The Hope Fulfilled

This book is a Festschrift. This means a collection of essays in honour of a scholar and this one is for O. Palmer Robertson. To be frank, the quality of theological Festschrift's can vary and sometimes be uneven in quality, not so this one. It is one of the most satisfying reads I have enjoyed for a while. I almost wrote that it is one of the most satisfying reads this year, but concerning that it is only early January 2018, it would not be a strong comment.

Different people enjoy reading different material. O. Palmer is renowned for his commitment to preaching, Reformed Theology, the Westminster Standards, Christ centred exegesis, world missions and other matters. These essays focus on these subjects. Richard B. Gaffin expounds Luke 24 and that of Christ in the Old Testament in the New Testament. Chad Van Dixhoorn has a great essay on 17th Century preaching and currently I am reading an essay by J.Knox Chamblin on "The Prophecy of Zechariah in Matthew's Passion Narrative".

It is good to stand for truth, but in doing so we must also stand against error. O. Palmer had to stand against the false teaching of the theology of Norman Shepherd in the 70's and 80's at Westminster Theological Seminary. The influence of Norman Shepherd's teaching still prevails today and this essay by Guy Prentiss Waters will help readers to be aware of currents of false teaching, especially in the Reformed world.

Take and read this book!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Finding Christ in the Old Testament

Luke 24:44-49 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

We could spend several blog post commenting on these words, but I want to draw out several points for us. I hope that these will help us in our Bible reading this year.

1. Christ is revealed in the so-called Old Testament. We must see that the whole Bible is one book and give attention to every book in the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

2. The main revelation of Christ in the law, prophets and psalms are three things: The sufferings of Christ, his resurrection and His program for the proclamation of this message to all the nations.

3. In the three-fold division of the Old Testament, we should recognise the way the Old Testament is divided up.

The law is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This was the meditation material of the God-man Jesus of Nazareth> Psalm 1 In his law he mediates day and night.

The prophets begin with Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, then Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel, then Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Michael, Nahum, Habbakukk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zaccariah, Malachi.

The Psalms is the head book of the writings which also includes Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles.

All these books need searching in order to find the spiritual treasure of the disclosure of Christ in shadow. Take time to read the Old Testament this year and indeed take more time to read the Bible. Fall in love with the Bible and pray for the LORD to open your eyes to the spiritual treasure on its pages.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

31 Chapters in the Book of Proverbs for 31 Days in January

A New Year has arrived! And how we all need the LORD's wisdom for the year ahead, and what better place to go to for this wisdom, than the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.

I can recommend for your personal devotions and for family worship to read, study and discuss a chapter each day of the Book of Proverbs, during January.

It has been amazing for me over the years, that when I have faced deep challenges, that I have turned to Proverbs and the answer has come to me from that book. Many times the answer is different to what I would have thought of, but we need godliness, humility, the fear of the LORD, discretion, patience and maturity. Proverbs has it all!

Here are just some of the major themes in Proverbs.

Seeking out wise counsel for decision-making
Humility
Marriage guidance and children raising wisdom
The fear of the Lord is prized in Proverbs
The Lord hates pride

If I were to choose a few of my favourite verses in Proverbs, here they are:

The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honour and life, Proverbs 22:4.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety, Proverbs 11:14.

In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death", Proverbs 14:26-27.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom, Proverbs 11:12.