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“Beautiful Beyond Description”

I’m just back from a Jonathan Edwards conference in Durham. The last talk was superb and I thought I would share its outline with you [plus a few random thoughts of my own].
It called to mind an article I read on a BBC website some years ago on what makes a person beautiful. “True beauty”, said the author, “is about symmetry, balance and harmony”. He went on to illustrate this with precision line drawings and pencil sketches of Leonardo Da Vinci. “Every model” he asserted “when you look at their face, jaw, eyes and cheekbones, will have angles that are symmetrical and identical on both sides” [Just by the way, this is a dim, distant, paraphrase]. What depressed me the next morning, as I looked in the mirror, was a nose bent in the middle and one eye higher than the other – I decided I would settle for a little inner beauty!
Our conference speaker at Durham made exactly the same point. He illustrated balance, with all parts working harmoniously, in the abseiling activity of an arachnid descending from its thread, and spinning its silky web. ‘Thus’, he provisionally concluded, ‘we see the glory of divine beauty in nature through the […]

Do you really preach sin properly?

Recently I’ve been meditating on the books of Romans and Isaiah and, thinking about the importance of preaching sin properly, I have drawn up a list of points to help me which, I thought, it might be worthwhile sharing (even though this list might later need revision or refining).

1st we need to be clear on definitions.

It can be confusing and unhelpful to call sin rebellion. This is certainly truth but is not the best way of approaching the problem. The old definition of lawbreaking or transgression clarifies the matter for hearers. This is in fact one definition the bible gives and nails ‘Sabbath-breaking’ as ‘want of conformity to or transgression of the Law of God’.

2nd we need to avoid redressing sin in more acceptable unbiblcal jargon.

Some are tempted to go down the more culturally acceptable path of dropping terms like sin, iniquity, transgression, error for failure, mistake, fault and so forth. There is certainly a place for illustrating ‘sin-pictures’ with modern language where appropriate. Surely, however, our task is to unpack these good biblical words, so that our hearers appreciate and comprehend how God thinks about sin, even if it might offend 3rd MIllennium sensibilities.

3rd we need to employ the […]

The Mild-Mannered Messiah

The Meekness of the Master

They say that confession is good for the soul – so I thought I better blog and get this off my chest….

…..I was preaching last Lord’s Day on my 1st ‘I wills’ of Christ. I took for my text Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When I reached my 3rd point, on the meekness of Christ in v29, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart”, I really didn’t ‘nail it’. I had intended to say that this relief is obtained when we take up Christ’s yoke of discipleship, and learn to serve and imitate a meek, mild-mannered master. So let me try to explain a little of what it means to be meek like the Master.

Defining the Meekness of Jesus

The lexicon defines this attractive characteristic trait in the following way: meek means to possess a “mild and friendly disposition” or be “gentle, kind, considerate.” It is relational word which involves the manner in which we care for, treat, handle and manage others. If Messiah is meek who would not want Him as Master and to be like Jesus […]

Stopping by Foggy Books on a Spring Day

Having just briefly dipped into B.B. Warfield’s ancient tome, on ‘the Inspiration and Authority of the Bible’, eager to glean some tips on ‘God-breathed’, otherwise affectionately known as ‘Theopneustos’, I thought I would pen a few random thoughts on the difficulty of reading highly-technical scholarly works.

Being a pastor with a side-interest in languages, and having a certain familiarity with Hebrew, Greek and Latin, I have to confess to being a little overwhelemed at the depth of linguistic knowledge required to decipher one of the chapters.

This work, brothers, frankly, is seriously heavy going; the material Warfield covers is beyond the competence of most pastors; without linguisic accumen the arguments are difficult, if not impossible, to follow or carefully weigh; yet, as most recognise, this also is an important book [at least in it’s day] – this stimulated me to muse on the vital importance of godly bible scholars.

It is much to be lamented, and dangerous for the Church, if she does not seek, by all means in her power, to remedy the longterm, slow decline in ‘classical’ education. The study of ancient cultures and languages have long proved a safeguard against the intrusion of serious error into the Body of Christ.

Certainly not […]

The Extraordinary Pastor

The Extraordinary Pastor – An Endangered Species

It was a real eye-opener recently to discover that a significant proportion of preachers are in it for themselves. This fact wasn’t gleaned from statistical analysis: at first I thought I was dreaming when I read Philippians 1.15. “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.” This was what Paul concluded from observing how various Christian preachers behaved while the apostle was imprisoned: some laboured harder to break new ground for the Gospel, taking advantage of the publicity which Paul’s trial and imprisonment brought; others, regrettably, saw an opportunity, out of envy and rivalry, to stir up public antipathy and government hostility, and make Paul’s jail term torturous. It forced me to conclude, reluctantly, that the principle being taught is something along these lines: quite a number, if not the majority, of pastors, ministers, evangelists and preachers, for part of the time at least, are tempted to, or actually do, preach from unworthy motives, to make life harder for others, or increase their own success.

Can it really be true that a disinterested Christian leader is a kind of ‘lesser-spotted dodo’ and thus a very rare endangered species? As I […]

Are You Singing with the Seraphs?

The life and times of seraphs are taken up with song. They cry out day and night as they gaze upon the LORD. They ping-pong praise between them with antiphonal cries. Three things are true of seraphs which never seem to change: these creatures ever flame, their lyrics never vary, their larynx never strains, while they pour out whole-souled praise. Uniquely created, fitted, gifted and appointed to this purpose. It proves that proper meditative sight and contemplation of seraphs contains all the noblest, finest ingredients that satisfy pure hearts – the sight abundantly sufficient to ignite loving spirits with sheer eternal, unending, delight! All this joy oozes from the call-to-prophesy vision of Isaiah in Chapter 6.1-8

The reason for their song is not hard to unearth – this choir of flawless angels dwells before the throne of the awesome Most High King. Immense majesty and God’s glory exhaust descriptive powers. All this even though they refuse, never dare or are not sanctioned, to gaze past their first God-ordained pair, of adoring, veiling wings. Forever in their right minds, if only we could share their thoughts, they blaze with loving worship. The Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Holy One the Redeemer, draws forth tri-fold ascriptions of divine transcendent otherness.

It really is quite […]