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Christian Competence

Time is pressing on in sermon preparation, so on this Saturday afternoon I thought I’d share my morning thoughts.

Introduction

Perhaps your feeling tired or jaded in the work. Maybe you feel the burden of the responsibility to preach. “Who” you may wonder “is sufficient for these things?”

Context

In 2 Corinthians 1-2 Paul has been wrestling with this question. He clearly had detractors who were running down his credentials. After laying out his defense, in 1.12-2.11, he asserts that his change of plans was neither whimsical or selfish. Instead he delayed his visit to spare pain to God’s flock.

In 2.14-17 he deals with Christian conquest, for Christ has called them, as ministers, to diffuse fragrance around the globe in Christ’s Gospel victory march.

Next in 3.1-3 he shows that in exercising his powerful, successful mission, through God’s means of grace, he needs no other, human, Christian commendation, for results speak for themselves: Corinthian conversion and church planting is proof enough of divine power at work in Paul’s apostolic efforts. The fruit of New Covenant ministry is seen in the regeneration of the ‘living letters’ that Christ, through Gospel ministry, has written on living ‘fleshy’ human hearts

Then, in 3.4-6, he insists that such apostolic boasting […]

Elders Who Represent Jesus Christ

Elders in the church are chosen to be representatives. In our republic that is the United States of America, governing officials are elected by the people to represent the people. Elders of the church serve as representatives who are elected by the people and from the people (see Acts 6 as an example of officer elections in the New Testament), but they are chosen primarily to represent Jesus to the people. The authority of Christ is administered by elders who represent him. Thus, the members recognize that the risen Jesus is himself the one leading the church even in the present age.

What does it mean that elders are to represent Jesus to the people? Jesus as the God-man is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). He is presently reigning at the Father’s right hand (Acts 7:55-56, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1). He has not appointed one man as his vicar on earth, as Roman Catholics believe. Instead, Jesus, in his humanity, still reigns over his church. Jesus gave the office of elder to supply representative leadership until he comes again. This leadership is always subject to the only final rule for faith and life, the word of God. He has appointed that a […]

Comfort for Christians

Introduction

A number of years ago, I came across a beautifully written, pastorally helpful, spiritually enriching and heart-consoling, little volume by Arthur. W. Pink, published by Baker Books, entitled ‘Comfort for Christians’. What caught my eye, and lured me like a bee to honey, was the sweetest four-page entry on ‘Our Light and Momentary Troubles’: at that particular time this was health to my bones and balm of Gilead to my soul.

That chapter, of course, was a moving exposition, from Paul’s letter to Second Corinthians, which I began to study afresh, yesterday morning, with much profit. In this sacred epistle the apostle handles many subjects, one of the chief of which is the suffering of the believer and corresponding divine consolation. In the very first section, he leads us with cords of kindness to the “Father of all mercies” and “the God of all comfort”. It is to this God of Grace, and the comfort found in Christ, that I want to lead your soul for refreshment of the heart.

Explanation

Before I begin to pin down some principles, with private and pastoral applications, I just want to make a few comments on the text itself.

First please note, that while ‘comfort’ in the […]

God is all you need

Introduction

This morning as we speak the Caribbean territories and the ‘pan-handle’ state is caught in the grip of a hurricane, which, if predictions are correct, will result in dire need. Back here, in case you are not aware, on the western seaboard of the Atlantic, many public figures have criticized the lethargic, sluggish, response of the UK government – while the French and Dutch had troops positioned in advance to deal with the looming crisis, the ministers in Whitehall were sitting on their hands (at least that is the charge), while their overseas territories of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, were left in the eye of the storm, for Irma to do its worst.

Context

Paul writes to the Philippians from prison, with the potential of facing death row, to issue a promise that God would supply all their need. Just like any church or group of Christians, the needs of these believers were great. In addition to the normal round of problems that all of God’s children face, Paul catalogued a long list of urgent needs for both Himself and Christ’s flock, for which He was responsible.

Philippian & Pauline Needs

The recipients of the letter of […]

What Matters Most – Seeking God’s Glory

Over the last week or two, I’ve been taking some time out to study John’s Gospel in more depth. My particular concern and focus has been to get a better handle on the relationship that exists between Jesus and the Father.

This morning I was looking at John Chapter 7.10-24. This section narrates the doctrinal head-to-head between Jesus and the Jews, both the masses and their masters. The debate took place in the precincts of the Temple. Christ had come in cognito, resisting the pressure of his relatives. Now, constrained by the duties of His office, He stands in God’s House to declare divine doctrine in order to decimate human tradition.

What is apparent, throughout this account, is the commitment of the Son to the glory of His Father. This, in fact, is the thing, above all, that distinguishes Jesus Christ clearly from His Judean teachers and hearers. The central section of the passage is found in the statement recounted by John in Chapter 7 Verse 18:

“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is true, and no unrighteousness is in him” (NKJV).

This portion of the 4th Gospel raises […]

Some Encouragments To Frequent Prayer

Out walking our beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog this evening on a lovely summer’s evening.

Here are some thoughts from a conversation that I had with my wife, on the stroll, as to reasons we should delight to pray often.

First God’s Open Access Policy. Round the clock, day and night, the Father’s door is open to hear His children’s prayers.

Second Our Great High Priest. Christ is engaged in continual everlasting intercession for His people in order that their persons and prayers may find acceptance with the Father – Hebrew 4.14-16.

Third Believers Sin Frequently. More than we know, we are in constant need of ongoing confession, cleansing of conscience, and assurance of pardon, so keeping our list short and confession up to date is best – 1 John 1.5-10.

Fourth Saints Need Much Grace. To keep our vows, fulfill our duties, know God’s will, meditate on truth, enjoy Christian fellowship, cherish our relationships, obey the commandments with joy, thanksgiving, devotion, sacrifice and kindness requires more faith than we have and more grace than we seek.

Fifth Prayer Lists Are Long. Luther did not always pray 3 hours a day. Sometimes, he said, that his dog was keener on eating dinner than his master was eager […]

A Call To Closeness

O Soul Are You Weary And Troubled

Perhaps like me, at this time in the year, you’re getting rather jaded. Rest and relaxation is usually ‘what the doctor ordered’. Even more important you need to recharge your batteries and get spiritually refreshed. So, as I blog tonight, I want to encourage you not just to take a time out, but to spend more time with God, to draw closer in your walk.

A Prompt to Closeness

As providence would have it, I’ve just been asked this week to write a short series of four articles on prayer. This is one occasion when I can honestly ask ‘Why me?’. It is true that a closer walk with God has been on my heart for years. Yes it’s been my deep desire for months to devote myself to prayer. I suspect many of us feel mere novices in prayer. I trust that this series will not go directly from head to pen but, en route, will traverse the deep wells of my soul!

Finally Unpacking Book Boxes

About the middle of the week I finally got around to putting up more shelves and unpacking long-boxed books. We moved in the Fall and I’m down to the final thousand […]

Prayer that Cheers

Introduction
Do you feel down in the dumps? Do you struggle with yourself? Does life ever overwhelm you? Has your faith become a drudgery? Are the storms of life upsetting? Is your service for Christ costly? If you take advice from James you’ll certainly get help.

Context
The theme that runs through James is ‘You need a faith that works!’ He’s given some spiritual litmus to see how faith is firing: like how you handle treasures, endure trials and control tongues. His closing comments focus on the need for fervent prayer. To have a faith that works you’ll be often on your knees.

Text
Chapter 5.13 is where I want to take your heart. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Don’t think prayer a chore! God gives it for your cheer. Prayer brings some cheer in your tears. Prayer adds more cheer by your songs.

Subjects of Cheering Prayer
James gives no exemptions. Anyone is all-inclusive. All believers are beneficiaries in the bending of their knees. Husbands, wives, elders, deacons, men, women, parents, children, young, old, princes, citizens may receive this cheering help. Did my list exclude you? Cheer up Christ includes you!

Examples of Cheering Prayer
The apostle stops […]

Mercies in Mission

This is just a brief ‘diary entry’ after day 2 of my current pastoral visit to two missionary families in Nantes, West France.

After waking up late and bleary-eyed on Friday morning (having tried unsuccessfully to stay awake for the UK General Election results the night before), I grabbed a bite of breakfast, a mug of coffee, and headed off to our Team Meeting.

I began our time by reading Romans 1.1-17. I briefly stressed Paul’s note of thanksgiving and desire for mutual encouragement expressed in v7-12, in their saving Gospel faith v16-17, which is located in the promised, incarnate, risen, glorified Christ v1-6:

“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long […]

Boasting Bad – James 4.13-17

Missing A Trick?

In my lifetime I have definitely noticed a difference in the way Christians talk. I was shocked as a late teenager to hear Christian friends rubbing their hands with hollow excitement at the prospect of going to see Bruce Springsteen – look, I like ‘the Boss’ too (at least the throaty relaxed easy-listening parts): but if they believed this was the ultimate goal in life, I honestly felt it was they who were missing out. What was lacking in their conversation in those days was any mention at all of God in all their talk. I’m pleased to report that some of them, at least, have remedied their ways!

It used to be reasonably common to hear Christians say “D.V.”. If it balked at the possibility of actually naming the Lord, and if it was a little highbrow assuming a working knowledge of Latin, at least there as passing nod to God and His providential rule. Sadly, even then, most only mentioned God when dressed up in Sunday best. For the most part the Name was left out of the talk.

The God with No Name?

James 4.13-17, however, warns us that if God should always be uppermost in our thoughts, […]