Monday 28 November 2016

Personal Communion with the Lord and Good Daily Devotionals

It is important to cherish and nourish our personal communion with the Lord. How do you do this? Of course our personal communion is never a substitute for communion with the saints in the church. In fact the Apostles' Creed teaches "I believe in the ... communion of the saints". However, Jesus Christ explicitly teaches and exhorts all true disciples to walk in personal daily communion with the Living God.

Matthew 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".

This is an exciting invitation rather than a burden. Personal communion with the Living God. There are however some very good resources to strengthen us as as Christians in personal worship and also in family worship. Two books that come to mind are:

Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Daily Readings by C. H. Spurgeon

Daily Readings on the Gospels by J. C. Ryle

These cannot be props to substitute our personal reading of the Bible and mediation on key Bible verses, but they can support individuals and families significantly. I commend these two resources to you. If others know of other helps that you have found beneficial then do put a comment on this blog post.

Matthew 6:7-8 "“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him".

Friday 25 November 2016

Do you pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work in the church?

We recently had Iain Murray come to preach in Sheffield and it was a blessing. He helpfully highlighted the need of our dependence upon the Holy Spirit in the church. I am sure we all agree that our nation needs a spiritual awakening. Here are two verses for us to consider.

Luke 11:13 "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”.

John 16:13-15 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you".

I have blogged on the church for years, preached on it and prayed for her. We must pray for our own congregation where we are a member, but also for the whole body of Christ as well. We are part of "one body".

The need of the hour in the United Kingdom is urgent and therefore let us pray for an increased effusion of the Holy Spirit. What will such an answer to prayer look like?

1. Additional blessing upon the marks of a true church; which are the preaching of the word of God, the right administration of the sacraments and church discipline, that is the church being well ordered.

2. The Lord's Holy Spirit will raise up elders who will uphold these biblical patterns. Acts 20:28 "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood".

3. It is common in times of awakening and revival, for there to be an increased sense of reverence and the fear of God among God's people. In Isaiah 11:1-3 we learn of the different aspects of the Holy Spirit and one of them is "the fear of the Lord".

These are just some points for us to consider. John chapters 14-16 show us some of the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Holy Spirit, the one whom he calls the helper/comforter and the Spirit of truth. Therefore, increased effusions of the Holy Spirit in the church would lead to increased measure of holiness, comfort and truth.

How we need the blessed comfort of the Holy Spirit in such difficult days? May we pray for the good of the church. May we pray for the prosperity of Zion, as it were. Ultimately, the Lord's purposes are primarily outworked in the government of His church, with Christians in community together, worshipping the Triune God through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Current Trinitarian Discussion and Debate

I was reminded in recent days of the current storm around the doctrine of the Trinity. This has emerged in certain circles in the USA with Liam Goligher and Carl Trueman on one side as it were, with Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware on another. Perhaps of all things that has emerged, it is the overall weakness of Christians and churches in the West on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Grudem and others insist on a notion of the eternal subordination of the Son. This apparently supports their view of marriage and male headship, but does it? In my PhD, I observed that people quickly project on to the inner-relations of the Triune God what they would like those relations to be. In effect, to buttress their own views. Most commonly to support the ordination of women in ministry by asserting that the Triune God is eternally orderless. This is also wrong.

The language of subordination in relation to the Persons of the Trinity, is a term fraught with danger. It is not biblical, it is not confessional and it does not fit within the bounds of Nicene Creed Orthodoxy. For those who want to know more about the doctrine of the Trinity, without attempting to follow lots of online debates, then here is my suggestion for reading and in this order.

1. The Nicene Creed
2. The Westminster Confession, chapter 2 "Of God and of the Holy Trinity".
3. John Calvin, The Institutes, Book 1:13. This is a masterpiece of writing on the Trinity.

For a biblical study, work through Ephesians and Revelation 1:1-5 and chapters 4-5.

Sometimes we need a safe refuge to run to in order to acquire restored spiritual peace.

"Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth" Rev 1:4-5.

Monday 14 November 2016

The Gospel according to Jeremiah

The gospel according to Jeremiah. I have preached through the first 9 chapters of Jeremiah in the morning services at Sheffield Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I have been joyfully surprised about how many gospel invitations there are in Jeremiah. In each chapter the Lord makes plain the folly of covenant breaking, idolatry and sin. In the descriptions of sin, I cannot think of a more contemporary book for British society. I think it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said "if one is biblical, one will always be relevant". I agree. If a preacher tries to be relevant, at the expense of biblical faithfulness, he will end up neither relevant nor pleasing the Lord.

Here are some assessments of sin by the Lord in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 5:23-24 "But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its season,
the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’

Jeremiah 5:30-31 "An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?".

Jeremiah 6:15 "'Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,' says the LORD".

However, in each chapter the call of the gospel comes which is the same from Adam until the end of the age. A call summarised by the Lord Jesus as recorded in Mark's gospel and elsewhere. What is it?

Mark 1:15 "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

We could call the book of Jeremiah, the gospel according to Jeremiah. The call of the gospel shines through as it always does from the Lord's message.

Here are some examples:

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’ ".

Jeremiah 3:22-23 "Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.” 'Behold, we come to you,
for you are the LORD our God. Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel' ".

I commend the Book of Jeremiah. I recommend that you make a start by reading the first 10 chapters of this wonderful book of the Bible. How we need a return to loving the Bible again! So many things can crowd out the written Word of God in our busy lives. May our ears, eyes, mind and lips be filled with biblical truth. May a love for the book of Jeremiah be recovered in our own day.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Is it Nothing to You? A Book by Fred Leahy

Having just read this book by Fred Leahy, let me recommend it. Fred Leahy who is now with the Lord, he seemed to excel in writing on the cross of Christ and all of its implications. This, I believe was his last book that he published (and it is by Banner of Truth) I believe. None the less it leaves a deep imprint, with respect to the glorious victory of Christ, in his Person and his work of redemption for us poor and needy sinners.

This is a short blog post to endorse a worthy book for the profit of Christians. This could also be used as an evangelistic book for someone seeking the grace of salvation. Over the many years I have been a Christian, I wonder where would I be spiritually were it not for the printed page. Not least for the printed page of the Bible.

Above all may we treasure, read and mediate much upon Holy Scripture.

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. Psalm 119:97-98.

Monday 7 November 2016

Pray for the United States of America

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

Colossians 4:2-4 "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

When I was a boy growing up, the United States was a pillar of fortitude, Christian values and an impressive "go get it" attitude. They placed a man on the moon and he read from the Bible. The Christian preacher Billy Graham was honoured all over the world and in the White House. Despite Billy's Arminian methods, he definitely proclaimed a message of the gospel and the phrase "the Bible says ..." showed his authority was God's and not from man. Today, how do people view the United States?

Sadly, when we think of the USA today, Christianity does not come to mind. They are the champion of liberty on all fronts, including the champion of the LGBTQ agenda, of aggressive business tactics, of huge national debt, of political infighting and the legacy of foreign interventions which casts a shadow. Not to mention the radical feminism, the promotion of the abortion of human lives in the womb up to 9 months old, which Hilary Clinton even boasted of in the last presidential debate.

Who could have believed that these many changes would have happened so fast? Furthermore, on a spiritual front, the church is in desperate need of prayer. The USA exports two of the most poisonous messages by cults, namely the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses, nether of which preach or teach a biblical message of salvation. They deny the Trinity, they promote a works-based righteousness, one which makes the Roman Catholics appear lukewarm. In addition, the USA spreads the prosperity message through TV and other forms. Joel Osteen and many other Texas based people deceive the masses with a deceptive message of lies wrapped in a thin Christian veil.

What should we do? I love the United States and I pray for that nation and the church there like never before. It is always humbling when such run-away changes happen, but whatever can be shaken will be shaken, so that only that which cannot be shaken may remain (Hebrews chapter 12 teaches this). No matter who wins the race to the White House this week, things are being shaken. The Bible's message is clear: "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes" Psalm 118:8-9.

There have been two Great Awakenings in the history of the USA and a third is needed urgently. Let me say as a British citizen that Europe is no better politically or spiritually. However, this blog post is intended to stir people to pray for he USA. Revelation 3:18-19 "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent". I know of many godly churches and Christians, but in the big picture, they are becoming a minority.

Let us pray in faith, in love and hope as we call upon the name of the LORD, Amen.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Four Signs of Liberals in Evangelical's Clothing

There was once a time in the 20th Century when the fire of liberalism burned strong. The battle lines were drawn. People knew what the differences between liberals and evangelicals were. Indeed Gresham-Machen wrote a powerful essay called "Christianity and Liberalism". There he asserted that Christianity and liberalism are actually two different religions, and I concur.

However today, liberalism is on the rise again, but now it is within so-called Evangelical circles.

Here are four signs of contemporary liberalism:

1. To believe in evolution, instead of the Bible's account of Creation by the Living God and all in the space of six days.

2. To deny the historic Adam and to assert that he may have been one of the first of some hominids whom the Lord picked. Sadly these strange views concerning Adam have gained remarkable progress and yet those people still want to be called evangelical.

3. To promote women preaching and leading in public worship, contrary to the express teaching of Paul in 1 Timothy and the second chapter. These people get around the Bible by claiming that such a passage is cultural, but this is false. It is a summary statement to represent the whole Bible. Women are not allowed to read the Bible publicly in public worship, to teach or lead men in terms of worship and doctrine.

4. To claim that the 10 commandments are not morally binding for the church and to never mention them.

Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path".