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Refreshment on Revival

At last…..  almost a month without proper internet access & the stress of moving to a new house. Which reminds me of a few thoughts I had some time ago on Revival from Zechariah 1.1-6….

Exile was now over. The people had returned. State-sponsored rebuilding of the House of Yahweh in Jerusalem had been decreed by Cyrus . The harsh reality of life in the Empire back in their homeland which had not, as yet, lived up to their dreams of restoration. The Jews as a consequence had grown spiritually gloomy and cold. So the Prophet of God is sent to stir up his returned Church. There are at least ten lessons or principles the Spirit gives us which help us think properly about revival…

1. The Church always tends to decline so is constantly in need of revival v4.

2. Church revival comes through the efficacious preaching of the Word of God v1, 3 & 6.

3. Church revival comes with messages which place a stress on sinful behaviour or practice & the need for the grace of repentance v2, 4 & 6.

4. Church revival comes after a period of chastening & acknowledgment of waywardness on the part of the people of God v6b.

5. Church revival is forgotten by previous generations […]

Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am […]

Happily Ever After

Most of us have grown up with a strong affection for books that finish well and fairytales that conclude with ‘and they lived happily ever after.’ Whether it’s ‘Beauty and Beast’ or ‘Snow White and her Handsome Prince’, we don’t enjoy reaching the final page, with a sense of the outcome left hanging or the future appearing bleak or mournful.

With its concrete hope of the future the bible does not disappoint. Though the plan of God starts brightly, the narrative of sin introduces a negative twist, meaning the long journey through the Old Testament, is bumpy at best, if not harrowing and heartbreaking at times. There are lamps to light the route, with bright promises of hope. After the holocaust of Calvary, light dawns at resurrection. From that time on the dimmer switch turns up. Along the New Testament path, there are, of course, tornadoes to hide from and cloud bursts to dampen spirits. As a general trend however, the Gospel beams blaze brighter, as we draw closer to the Day, and as wait in anticipation for the full revelation of glory at the appearing of King Jesus.

I’ve been doing a little research on ‘The End’ of the Kingdom of […]

Ten Truths For Thomas

I’ve just about finished writing an article on ‘Preparing to Preach Isaiah’, and having deposited 4k of weariness onto the treadmill, I’m in a position to type a few brief thoughts on the folly of unbelief and the overwhelming reasons Isaiah provides for faith in Israel’s God.

My targets in this article are Doubting David’s and Skeptical Sarah’s – which in the end basically means all of us at one time or another. in life’s varied faith-shaking circumstances.

Isaiah shows us what unbelief leads to – idolatry, rebellion, moral decay, judgment and exile as he explains in chapter 1 (and at various other points in the book).
Isaiah shows us what is in store for believing people from all nations who stream to Zion in chapter 2.1-6.
Isaiah shows why God really hates unbelief and idolatry because He is Holy, Holy, Holy and has given us a holy calling, so if you are tempted to doubt fall down on your face before God in chapter 6.1-8.
Isaiah makes the most stupendous predictions (in spite of what some continue to insist) of the most remarkable events such as the Virgin Birth of the Saviour in chapter 7.14, the everlasting Government of the Messianic Son of David in chapter 9.6-8, […]

“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 […]