Monday 27 March 2017

A Sermon worth Listening to!

At the first Banner of Truth ministers conference in 1962, Rev Kenneth MacRae the then minister of the Presbyterian church in Stornaway, Lewis, Scotland, spoke on the subject of "preaching and the danger of compromise" We have requested permission to upload this outstanding sermon onto our church website and it is now available.

I have listened to this sermon countless times and it has really strengthened my own soul in many ways. I hope that you can enjoy this and feel free to pass this web link to others also.

Monday 20 March 2017

The Westminster Standards and the Christian Sabbath (Part 1)

GEORGE SWINNOCK (Introduction by Kevin J Bidwell)

Question: What is required in the fourth commandment?
Answer: The fourth commandment requires of all men the sanctifying or keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, expressly one whole day in seven; which was the seventh from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, and the first day of the week ever since, and so to continue to the end of the world; which is the Christian Sabbath, and in the New Testament called The Lord’s day.

Question: How is the Sabbath or the Lord’s day to be sanctified?
Answer. The Sabbath or Lord’s day is to be sanctified by a holy resting all the day, not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy) in the public and private exercises of God’s worship: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.

The Westminster Larger Catechism, questions 116 and 117.

An Introduction to the Subject of the Christian Sabbath: Kevin J. Bidwell

Have you ever met someone who has suffered from burn-out? Perhaps you are reading this and you yourself have had to endure the painful steps of rebuilding your life following the after-effect of a burn-out. The recovery process takes time and patience, in order to be fully reorientated after such a trial. As a Christian, we understandably wonder “why has this happened to me?”. While I would not want to diminish other forms of spiritual advice, I want to present before the readers, the too often neglected, yet biblically established truth, of the Christian Sabbath; also known as the Lord’s Day. The practice of the Christian Sabbath is not primarily an anti-dote to stress and burn-out, but it includes that, and I have little doubt of its practical and spiritual benefits for the church. Never mind its sign nature to point to the glory of the Triune God. There was unanimous approval of this doctrine and its practice among the Westminster assembly. The Westminster Standards demonstrate abundant proof of this. Why then has the practice of the Christian Sabbath fallen upon such hard times among evangelicals in our generation?

Perhaps one reason for this current ignorance and neglect is our restlessness, which is in reality the product of sin. However, the lack of exposure to such practical teaching, surely lies at the heart of the matter. Any true Christian desires to obey their Lord from their heart, one informed by a the right standard of teaching. Paul admonished the Christians in the city of Rome: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). It is my aim here, to introduce this subject and to remove the common mistake that to remember the Sabbath is legalism, while also promoting godliness through its joyful observance.

Have you ever met someone, who once the Ten Commandments are mentioned, that they protest that “we are not under law but grace or that these commands are not for the church today?”. With one sentence, such a professing Christian has sought to release themselves from the plain teaching of the Word of God and to walk openly in to a path of manifest disobedience to the Living God. Legalism is adding commandments or rules to the word of God, but the Sabbath day of rest is not a man made rule or addition. It is the plain will and gift of the Lord, one which began in the Garden of Eden and it continues until the second appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”, therefore this day, practiced once each week is a God-ordained seven-day rhythm built for man from the Creator. Who would want to turn down such a gift from the mouth of God? Jesus Christ went on to proclaim that “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28). To submit to Jesus Christ and to confess him as Lord, is therefore to be one who practices the Christian Sabbath as the Saviour did.

The fourth of the Ten Commandments simply requires God’s people to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). This Commandment was not a new one, because it spanned all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The first day that Adam enjoyed in the paradise, was a Sabbath Day of worship, communion with God and rest. However, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Day moved forward, from what is now known as the Saturday (the last day of the week), to what is called today Sunday (the Lord’s Day, which is the first day of the week). This forward-moving of the appointed day of worship signifies the forward-movement from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Sabbath is not abolished, but in the New Testament it is strengthened as the day appointed by Christ, the main day in which he primarily communes with his church (Rev 1:9-20). It was on the first day of the week that Christ Jesus was resurrected (Matt 28:1, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:1, John 20:1); it was in that first Lord’s Day evening that he met with the disciples together (John 20:19); and then the church met on that day thereafter for public worship (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2, John 1:10).

Monday 13 March 2017

The International House of Prayer Movement (IHOP): Weighed in the Balances and Found Wanting

"You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting" Daniel 5:27

A friend of mine called Brett Hoskins contacted me about his concerns regarding a large and growing, USA based parachurch prayer movement. It seems like parachurch prayer movements are a growing phenomena today. A valid question is: what legitimacy do they have? The Bible teaches us that prayer should be under the guidance of men, men who are ordained elders (1 Timothy chapter 2-3 as an example).

Brett's writing is emphatic, provocative and incisive. He is a man I have known for many years. He does hold to a Calvinistic view of Salvation and he is unashamed to profess to be a cessationist. That meaning he believes in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, but not in what the IHOP practice. though IHOP, may be extreme, something of their teaching permeates the minds and actions of many professing Christians. Read what Brett writes, examine is thoughts and examine yourself as well as to the biblical basis of your beliefs and actions or otherwise.

7 Things Wrong With the International House of Prayer (IHOP)

1. A Personal Testimony Gospel
If you follow any of their teachers or students, you will almost immediately notice that whatever it is they believe, it has very little to do with God’s Word, and it seems to be revolving around their own personal stories. Personal Encounters. Divine Appointments. Soaking in the Spirit. Experiencing the Glory. These are phrases that are taught, learned and used by people at IHOP as they tell stories about their spiritual encounters. Most of the time they do not even know what they are talking about. Sermons are mainly anecdotal, while Scripture is twisted and false theology is claimed to be real. The clear aim of their sermons are personal power encounters with the Holy Spirit, angels and miracles.

2. An Obsession With Experiencing God
There is an over-emphasis on experiencing God that is so strong that they do not care how you experience God, just as long as you are experiencing him. In other words, it does not have to be in spirit and and truth (John 4:24). It just needs to be feelings of passion, happiness, intimacy, love, etc. And because the feeling is more important then anything else, as long as you are having the experience and feeling you can believe just about anything you want. You can be a Mormon, Catholic, Reformed or Pentecostal. Your experience is the most important; you can be barking like a dog or shaking like a rattle snake. Who cares what you believe when you’re experiencing “his spirit”? Of course they are experiencing a spirit, its just not God’s Spirit.

3. Dominion Theology (NAR = New Apostolic Reformation)
“The Holy Spirit moves whenever there is a declaration, so they believe. First we say it, and then the Holy Spirit moves after it …that is how we change the atmosphere of a room, a meeting or those kinds of things.” The idea that God the Father gave all authority to Jesus (in other words, the Father does not have all authority) and now Jesus, being in heaven, has given all authority to us (in other words, the Son does not have all authority, we do) is a central point of the NAR. A common thought is “bringing heaven to earth”. It permeates their prayers, songs and conversation. This is a different Gospel than the Kingdom of Heaven the Lord Jesus Christ talked about. Dominionism is the idea that Christians should literally set up a kingdom of God on earth by taking possession of “Seven Mountains”: government, media, entertainment, education, business, family, and religion.

4. A Functional Denial of Sola Scriptura
While IHOP and Bickle would always strongly affirm Sola Scriptura when asked by outsiders (I say by outsiders because its not a topic they themselves talk about), on a functional or practical level, they are more non-Sola Scriptura than many of our Roman Catholic friends. Where Roman Catholicism would says it is Scripture and tradition, IHOP would says, it’s anything you want it to be. You, not the Church (as Roman Catholics would have it), they are receiving direct revelation and fresh words from God which should lead you and teach you what to do. This denial of Sola Scriptura also reveals itself in women preachers and teachers, encouraging the use of tongues in public without interpretation, offering the Lord’s Supper privately, etc.

5. Constant And Acknowledged Blaspheming Of The Holy Spirit
Mike Bickle himself says that 80% of what people say is from God, is not. “You can enjoy it without believing all of it”. In another “sermon” Bickle says, “Most of the stuff people tell me about, I just don’t believe. I think Nope, nope, nope. Lie. HamburgerHelper. Exaggeration. Fake. Hype. No. No. And I’m in the middle of a lot of prophetic people. And I think, no, yuk. Gross. Thats how I feel about most of what I hear. But there are some true ones in the land. But most of what is going on in the prophetic, kind of makes my stomach hurt to be honest. Most of it is embarrassing, ridiculous, peripheral. Completely side issues that aren't even on God’s heart. And I go, what are they talking about? But there is the real.”
Bickle, however much he says he hates the “fake”, is actually a breeding ground for it. He acknowledges the problem, but says he will keep the fake for the sake of the real.

6. Continuationism Run Wild
What makes their continuationism different from the old Charismatic movement, is the idea of “Being like Jesus in power.” They believe they can literally control the wind and the waves like Jesus did if they just have enough faith. They believe they have authority to heal all sickness, raise the dead, appoint apostles and prophets and manipulate the atmosphere. Its word of faith and the health and wealth teachings that have been sophisticated in their presentation.

7. Biblical Illiteracy
The fruit of this “ministry” is the inability of its people to discern right from wrong. Members of IHOP seem to have no power to discern what the Bible is actually teaching, nor to know when Bible twisting is happening. Although Mike Bickle himself claims that 80% of peoples experiences are made up or lies, his followers do not possess the ability to know true from false. Nor are they able to righty divide the Word of God. Any interpretation of scripture is valid. In the end, its not fidelity to God through his Word that these people are interested in. Its rather their own empowerment and feelings of importance. All this, of course, is packaged in Christian vocabulary, songs, and the like.

Friday 10 March 2017

Why is it that Christians are not reading good Christian books currently?

"When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments" 2 Timothy 4:13.

Paul asked for this little known servant Carpus to bring his scrolls and parchments (literally membranes). We are not given information as to what was written on these documents. It is commonly known that written materials were expensive in the New Testament times and therefore the reading of the Scriptures was something that Christians delighted in. Everybody did not have their own copy of the Old Testament, never mind the whole of the New Testament. Written Christian materials were important for Paul, both of the written word of God and no doubt other material as well for his spiritual edification. Reading, hearing, listening and filling our mind with the things of God instead of the things of the world has always been a central component to spiritual growth, sanctification and also the means of propagating the gospel.

Why is it then today that Christians are reading so little of quality Christian books? It is commonly known, especially in the UK that professing evangelical Christians are not reading quality Christian books for their spiritual profit. Here are some possible reasons:

*The internet provides their materials and there is no need to buy books
*The evangelical church is waging or declining and people do not need to keep buying books when their library is full
*The church is spiritually lukewarm and impacted by theologies that over-emphasise personal experience at the expense of solid biblical study.
* Churches and ministers are doing very little to promote the reading of good Christian materials
* An assumption that Christians cannot or will not read anything but a thin easy-to-read book and we must not expect anything else. In other words giving into laziness and accommodating people's personal preferences rather than giving people solid food.

No doubt there could be other reasons and do feel free to make a blog comment to suggest other reasons. It is one thing to diagnose a problem, it is quite another to find the right solution.

2 Corinthians 13:5-6 "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!".

First, we all need to examine ourselves. Are you reading excellent quality Christian books including reading the Bible on a regular and consistent basis?

Second, how can we as ministers and in churches promote the reading of good books? How could your church promote a book of the quarter or book of the bi-month to promote reading and spiritual growth?

Third, when we have conferences or other events, how could you go about contacting a publisher for discount and selling good books at good prices?

Fourth, seek ways to promote the reading of good books. A personal recommendation does a huge amount to get people to buy a book, read it and thereby grow in the Lord.

Proverbs 4:23-27 "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Monday 6 March 2017

George Swinnock on the Christian Sabbath

Swinnock in Volume 1 of his Works is one of the best writers on the Christian Sabbath that I have ever come across. Read two excerpts below.

Esteem the public ordinances the chief work of the day, and let your secret and private duties be so managed that thy soul may be prepared for them, and profited by them. Duties in your closet and family are of use and have their blessing; but to put God off with these, and neglect the public worship, is to rob God of a greater sum, to pay him a lesser. The sacrifice of the Jews on that day was double; they offered sacrifice in the tabernacle, besides their lambs for the daily sacrifice.
It is worth your observation, that the Sabbath and public service are by God himself joined together, and therefore let no man put them asunder [divide them]: “You shall keep my Sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD”, Lev. 19:30. They that despise God's sanctuary, cannot observe God's Sabbath.

I would wish you, therefore, to be present at, and to continue to the end of public ordinances. David would be a door-keeper in the house of God; because a door-keeper is first in and last out. Friend, if thou were feasting with some noble person, you would not rise from table, unless necessity forced you, before all were taken away, and thanks returned. I must tell you, that when you are feeding with the blessed Potentate, it is much below good manners to turn your back upon him, without his leave and blessing.

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 honor 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.”

Matthew 12:8: "For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”.