Saturday 31 December 2011

Do you need God's Wisdom in 2012?

Hopefully your answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!". The Book of James teaches us that there are only two kinds of wisdom and these are 'earthly wisdom' or 'heavenly wisdom' (James 3: 13-18). In order to walk in wisdom we need to live in the light of God's revelation found in the Bible and over the years I have grown to love the Book of Proverbs. In this Bible book we have 31 chapters of heavenly wisdom and almost all topics for life are covered. Do you need wisdom in raising children, your marriage, your vocation? You will find something of great benefit for many areas of your Christian life in the Book of Proverbs.

The Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters, therefore it lends itself well for a chapter to be read each day of January where there are 31 days. There are also 31 days in March, May, July, August, October and December. Now, of course it does not mean that we can only read this book in months with 31 days, but this gives a good way to start 2012. As a family we intend, God willing, to read a chapter of Proverbs after our evening meal, when we have a time of family worship. Why not do the same with your family and begin with this year with a time of family worship after your evening meal and maybe use the Book of Proverbs as a source of wisdom for 2012?

Here are three exhortations from the Book of Proverbs:

My son, do not lose sight of these— keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. Proverbs 3:21-23.

The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:33.

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Take Some Time out for Devotional Reading over Christmas.

This post is intended to be one of pastoral encouragement. We live in a busy world, at least for those who live in Western nations that are driven by the need for a successful economy. Therefore, it is especially needful to utilise certain times to ensure that we are spiritually recharged. The Christmas holiday period is often a time of spiritual refreshment for myself, a time during which I can can give to extra prayer but also to reading. Reading that is for my own soul, not simply reading that is for the necessity of a specific purpose. I would like to encourage you all, to take time out during this Christmas holiday to feed your own soul with good reading and personal prayer.

Let us listen to the counsel of scripture on these matters and then I would like to recommend some books for reading, especially for anyone who may not be sure which book to buy or pick up to read.

And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” Deuteronomy 31:10-13.

The first thing that we must consider is to take timeout to read the scriptures. No second-hand remembrance of the scriptures is sufficient. However when Paul was in prison he also asked for additional reading as well. Listen to his Second Letter to Timothy (4:13): 'When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments'.

Additionally with respect to prayer let us heed the imperative of the Lord Jesus Christ from Matthew's Gospel 6:6 'But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you'.

Here are some books to consider reading, maybe over this Christmas season.

Among God's Giants by J. I. Packer (this is only available second hand as far as I am aware).

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Institutes of the Christian Religion: Volumes 1 and 2 by John Calvin

Jerusalem's Glory by Thomas Watson

A Commentary on John's Gospel by William Hendriksen

Sermons on Romans by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Thursday 15 December 2011

Evangelicalism in Crisis ... Again!

In contemplating this blog post, I decided to call it 'Evangelicalism in Crisis ... Again'; for a good reason. The contemporary trends in evangelicalism are no surprise for those who know church history, therefore the addendum, 'again' is necessary. It appears that the second law of thermodynamics seems to come into play in every generation. This law of entropy teaches us, that the natural tendency is towards chaos and disorder. This is the opposite of what God did in Creation in Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 (as an aside, it is observable that the theory of evolution contradicts natural laws, however for those determined to pursue a godless theory, suppressing this truth does not seem to matter!).

How does this apply to the church? In my limited experience across the UK, I hear repeated echoes of the need to reinvent the 'church wheel'; in terms of how we do church. The apparent anguish is caused by not seeing the nation evangelised. Evangelism when it drives the agenda will often lead to wholesale changes in the church. Evangelism does not drive the agenda, Jesus Christ the head of the church drives the agenda (Ephesians 1:22, 4:15, 5:23). One of the buzz words currently used to describe the need to change things is 'missionalism'. This rather nebulous term is often a smokescreen to drive unlimited changes to the traditional understanding of the church. Well, what is the real problem?

My observation is that the root problem is Christians and Christian leaders who lose a grip on the authority and sufficiency of scripture. In discussing with people who promote such new ideas, they commonly make only loose references to scripture and instead views are put forward about such things as 'context', the 'need to be contemporary' or 'connecting with this generation'. After over two decades of following the Lord Jesus Christ, it is my firm conclusion that the gospel is counter-cultural in every age and every generation. Therefore to seek to connect with a current generation can open the door for worldly methods into the church.

Here are four questions to be asked and answered by every professing evangelical.

1. Does the New Testament teach a clear apostolic pattern for the church, one that is reproducible in every generation?
2. Does the New Testament teach a clear pattern for the ingredients of biblical worship?
3. Does the Bible teach the doctrine of the Christian Sabbath, a day set apart for worship, rest and fellowship (with God and man)?
4. Does the New Testament teach a clear pattern for church government?

Can you imagine applying for planning permission to build an extension on your house and telling the council that the architect has no plans? Then you go on to explain to the council that you want to go on a journey to explore the right way forward as you build. Silly as it seems this is how many contemporary church leaders approach the church. By abandoning the historic paths that are committed to preaching, the right administration of the sacraments and a well-ordered church where feeding and caring for the sheep is the main priority, new agendas call for unbiblical changes.

Here are some verses that I have found helpful over the years, especially when faced with new calls, for new methods, for the church to adapt if she is to be supposedly successful.

'And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us' Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10.

'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"' Jeremiah 6: 16.

Let us test all things and use church history as a compass to make sure that we have not lost our way, or worse still to endorse methods that contradict the Lord Jesus Christ, the alone head of the church!