Fellowship of Confessing Churches

I have been keeping my eye on the progress of some men in the Aberdeen Presbytery of the Church of Scotland who are in the forefront of a fight to overturn a decision by that presbytery to ordain a man openly in a sexual relationship with another man. There will be an appeal to the General Assembly to that effect next month in Edinburgh.

In addition, Lochcarron and Skye Presbytery  will be bringing an overture moving

That this Church shall not accept for training, ordain, admit, re-admit, induct or introduce to any ministry of the Church anyone involved in a sexual relationship outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman.

All of this can be found at the Fellowship of Confessing Churches website. I have to admit, I was quite amazed. This group affirms the historic creeds and the Westminster Confession, something I thought long gone in the church I was nurtured in.

While there is much to be concerned about in the Church of Scotland, this is an encouraging development and we should pray for these men who make a stand. You may even want to sign their statement.

Fellowship of Confessing Churches

What Happens When you Die?

I have been following a guy’s photostream on Flickr for a little while. He takes interesting photos. He also writes fascinating commentary on them (though, heed the warning: lots of f-words etc!). This photo is OK but I am really interested in his thoughts on dying, and on the comments that others have added. Surprising, to me at least.

Who says that those who have no Christian belief system are settled and content about death?

What Happens When you Die?

Urban Plant Life

Last week I was able to get to the Urban Plant Life Consultation in London hosted by the London City Mission. The main speaker was Rev Dr  Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Dr Keller has been instrumental in not only the planting of Redeemer but in the establishment of a church-planting movement in New York and beyond.

The mp3 recordings of his three lectures and a Q&A session from that day are now available and have been for a few days. From that page you can also catch up on the previous consultations that began in January.

I find Keller always worth listening to.

Urban Plant Life

Resurrection Life

For the first time in a long time I was angry in a worship service. Perhaps I was wound up by the fact that I am called to preach and therefore I would rather be preaching than hearing, as I was last Sunday. I need to learn to sit back.

However, I was angry and I think I was provoked. The preacher began well and spoke about the death and resurrection of Jesus and our need to repent and believe. This is the gospel and its call.

The preacher said he did not want to minimise the importance of this but…

Ah, a “but”. At this point he began to ask, What does this resurrection life look like? Now I started to get uncomfortable. His argument was that resurrection life consists of experiencing healing miracles. He concluded by urging people to seek this “resurrection life”.

The worst part of the sermon was a story he told about a person going to heaven and being shown around. Seeing some warehouses the person asked his guide what they were. “Those are full of the arms and legs that God wants to give the injured if only they would ask.”

I got angry. I almost stood up to remonstrate! I was agitated. My wife and daughter got agitated too.

Here is the problem: this kind of thinking has no place for suffering. It burdens the hearer with the weight of their lack of faith – it must be, otherwise they would be healed! It calls them to exercise the right kind of faith for something God has never promised. It plays on the suffering of people and only heightens it. This is no answer at all to the needs of man.

Maybe I have a lot to learn about this area – after all I am a cessationist by default. But it seems to me that everyone dies. It is something I have noticed. Which means that at some point, if we do not meet with some grizzly accident, something in our bodies fails irreversibly. How can one consistently believe that God will repair the damage “if only we ask”? It is a message of despair. A stick to beat people with.

The real problem which the Bible identifies is the sickness of our sin. That’s what needs to be healed or fixed. Jesus’ miracles were symbolic of his ability to deal with that problem, and they pointed to him as the answer that we need. He brings about a resurrection which is already, but not yet. We have it in part, inwardly, but not outwardly, as Paul expresses when considering the hardship of his own ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:16 –

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

So, in the meantime we live with suffering, looking forward to the glory to come.

As the preacher spoke on Sunday, I kept thinking about Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8-11,

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

In the end what matters is not that I get a better leg, or a straighter back. What matters is that I get Jesus Christ. What good are these other things if I don’t get him?

Resurrection Life

Alexander Sermons

I owe a great debt to the preaching of Rev. Eric Alexander. Not long after coming to faith in the early ’80s I was introduced to “the Tron”, a city centre church in Glasgow where Mr Alexander was the minister.

I had never been in a congragation as large (~800) and had never heard preaching like it. Previously, I could never have imagined an interesting sermon. All my experience was to the contrary. But in Mr Alexander I found a preacher who was engaging, passionate and doctrinally and biblically faithful. It was under his ministry that I was introduced to the “doctrines of grace” and grew in my knowledge of the broader contours of reformed theology.

It is a measure of their value to me that many of the sermons I have on tape from that period remain regular, occasional listening for me.

All that to say, it is with great delight to have been informed that a website is being built to preserve Mr Alexander’s preaching legacy. You can find a growing collection of sermons at http://www.ericalexander.co.uk/.

Enjoy!

Alexander Sermons

Why Such a Small Harvest?

Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s final letter to his congregation before setting off for Israel contained an impassioned list of the reasons why he thought that so many of of his flock remained unconverted. I am not sure if he was referring to those under his care whom he considered unconverted, or simply all those in the parish in which he worked. I rather think that his vision would not have been so narrow as to limit his thinking to his congregation

I read the letter a couple of days ago and it has come at an opportune time for me as I work here in Solihull. While I would not dare compare myself with a man like M’Cheyne it has been a matter of growing concern to me at the slow progress we are making here. Of course, there is much to be thankful for. There are many signs of grace. Yet I have hoped and prayed for more.

It has been while thinking over the question ‘Why?’ that M’Cheyne’s letter has stimulated my thinking. Let me list the reasons he gives and make a few comments on the way. (These are not quotations, just my summary and commentary.)

One cause is to be sought in your minister.

Failure of the minister to be holy, failure to lay before the people Christ crucified. What minister is without this thought!

But after considering this, he turns to the problems with his people:

Your want of holiness
M’Cheyne saw the need for the people to be “living epistles”. In saying this he was notspurring them to be “loud talkers”. He simply wanted them to be holy in daily life – actions, speech, thought. The followers of Christ are the light of the world. It is easy to lose our “first love”, Christ, and thereby become ineffective.

Your want prayer
M’Cheyne wrote,

When God gives grace to souls, it is in answer to the prayers of his children. … Where God puts it into the hearts of his children to pray, it is certain that He is going to pour down his Spirit in abundance. Now, where have been your prayers, O children of God.

He was calling his people to plead and wrestle with God for the things he has promised. I wish that we would see more of that in Solihull!

Lastly, ever the evangelist, M’Cheyne turns to the unconverted themselves and pleads with them to consider their own death and the certainty of hell. He points out two concerns:

You are careless about the ordinances
That is, the Bible, prayer and church. They have not taken advantage of the gifts offered.

You have been mockers
By this he meant making light of eternal things. How easy this is to do! M’Cheyne points out that this is evidence of a heart hardened against God.

Finally,

you despise the Son of God
This rather summarises all that has been said about the unconverted till now. They are not attracted to him, don’t think much of him, have not listened to the Spirit calling and as a result do not follow Christ. In doing so they trample Jesus Christ underfoot.

These are sobering words, I think. He has not missed anyone! Pastor, converted, unconverted. All are accountable for their lives before God.

Why Such a Small Harvest?