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 certtain 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 languisic 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 a ‘classical’ education. The study of ancient cultures and languages have long proved a safeguard against the intrusion of serious error.

Certainly not every pastor should […]


A Brief Reflection on Ephesians 2:7

“4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

————–

One of the astonishing things to be observed in Ephesians 2:7 is its future scope. Our being raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places is designed to show forth the immeasurable riches of God’s grace. But note when this will be manifested. Paul declares that this will occur “in the coming ages.”

What is it about the riches, nay, the immeasurable riches of God’s grace that will be more clearly manifested in the future? Hasn’t such grace already been made plain?

It no doubt has. So in what way will it be made to shine more brightly?

Perhaps this is simply a matter of our more adequately apprehending its depths. Maybe once we are transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and once we behold […]


What Are We To Do?

What are we to do? I suspect that’s a question many Christians have been asking lately. The rapid sexual descent of our culture either has or will force every Christian to seriously ask it–Christians who might otherwise be content to play the part of the ostrich with their head stuck firmly in the sand. It is remarkable to me that less than ten years ago a presidential candidate couldn’t run on a platform that endorsed same-sex marriage and today there is an all-out societal celebration of sexual immorality. Bob Dylan, who was not, according to my knowledge, a prophet or the son of a prophet was, nevertheless, quite right: “The times they are a-changin’.”

What is a helpful Christian response? Should we stop baking cakes and taking wedding pictures? Should we sign petitions and organize boycotts? Should we position ourselves on the nearest picket line and protest? Should we sit and reminisce about the good ole days? Should we board up the doors and windows of our church building and fearfully hide in our corners? Without deciding the merit of these responses it does seem, at least to me, that many ordinary Christians have found themselves completely unprepared for this cultural […]


Christian Fiction—does it help or hinder great faith?

Three thoughts converged in a mellow mood…

Strand one found me talking with someone who runs a Christian bookshop. She commented that so many Christians aren’t familiar with the great missionary biographies that Christians of a previous generation were—the stories of Corrie ten Boom, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, James Fraser, Amy Carmichael, John Paton, etc. Of course every generation needs its new heroes in a sense, but as she saw it, there was a general lack of reading biography.

Strand two came via email alerts of discounted Christian ebooks. Sometimes there are bargains on great books—but I’ve been surprised at the vast amount of Christian fiction out there. The genre isn’t new to me, but seeing wave after wave of titles is.

Strand three came while I was working on a sermon on Nehemiah 2 about daring faith, and was pondering why we see so little by way of daring faith—people engaged in what missionary David Sitton calls ‘Reckless Abandon‘, and what David Platt calls ‘radical Christian living’.

For me, one of the great catalysts to faith-filled living is the reading of the faith-filled lives of God’s people in the past—i.e. Christian biography. And so three strands converged…

Now I’m not going to hang the […]



Do Justice

In mercy ministry, often Micah 6:8 is used for motivation and guidance for obvious reasons.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?

So many churches and relief agencies want to be merciful and give every indication of being those who “love kindness.” But what about that justice part?

The liberal gospel of the last century has fueled several generations of mercy work in ecclesiastical, missions, relief work, and government quarters. Generally speaking, this influence has created a mercy paradigm practiced in the West that has resulted in such things as aid without accountability, food without thought instead of food for thought, and works that make us feel good but do not help people become good.

However, one cannot be one dimensional in mercy work. To truly help others out of the pit of poverty, a triple-corded “justice-doing, mercy-loving, humble-walking” rope must be offered to them.

In this “I-just-want-to-be-loved” age, that justice strand can be the most difficult one to cultivate and intertwine with the others. What are some ways “doing justice” can be encouraged in mercy ministry? Here are five ideas.

Preserve initiative. Often mercy ministries dim the drive […]


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 […]


In the Twinkle of an Eye

Last Saturday afternoon was a warm, sunny day, full of promise that spring was finally here. Spencer, Miriam, and I were putting up the awning over our back porch, the threat of heavy snows that would damage it now gone and the need for a place of cooling shade growing. With the awning half-draped over the frame, we were enjoying the weather and laughing at our miscues in trying to put the heavy canvas in its proper position.

I left for a moment to get some needed wrenches from the tool shed to finish the job. As I returned, behind the part of the awning still hanging down I could hear that Miriam was upset. She was repeatedly saying, “Oh, no! I’m so sorry!” Thinking somehow Spencer had been injured, I hurried around the green canvas. Spencer was unharmed but stood there stunned as he looked at his mother. Miriam was on the phone with grief, pain, and tears upon her face.

She was hearing the news that our brother-in-law, Jon, had died from a motorcycle accident that afternoon.

How quickly the lives of those we love have changed. Jon was a faithful believer in Christ, husband and father, and servant in his church and community. […]


Avoiding Hyper-Calvinism as We Preach

Could it be that, in heart and practice, many of us in Reformed churches are not preaching evangelistically because we allow our Calvinism to bind us rather than propel us as it should? Perhaps we can learn from a controversy in Spurgeon’s time.

When it comes to controversies and Charles Spurgeon, the conflict he is most known for was the “Down-Grade Controversy” toward the end of his ministry. The Down-Grade was a battle against late Puritan ministers who began sliding toward liberal doctrines, philosophical and moralistic preaching, and less than holy practices. This controversy received its name from Spurgeon who warned: “We are going down hill at breakneck speed.”

Yet, as Iain Murray makes known in his book Spurgeon v. the Hyper Calvinists, Spurgeon faced a lesser known but equally dangerous controversy. In his early ministry he was attacked by reformed ministers because they believed he was offering the gospel too freely.

These ministers taught that in preaching the gospel care should be taken that sermons spoke only to the elect. Thus, they preached (and taught others to do the same) that when people are called to respond to the gospel, they are not to be called to believe in Christ directly but rather they are to ask for faith […]


Outsourcing memory and wired for distraction

If you are scanning this article—stop—you need to read it. Not because I am important, but because your mind matters!

Over the last few years I have had a minor, but growing, niggle about my ability to remember and make connections with clarity and sharpness. Was it simply growing older, or the impact of several general anaesthetics in a short space of time, or was it something else?

I began to suspect my use of the internet/computer/email/facebook was contributing to a disconnectedness and fragmentedness in my own thinking. I would be working at something at my desk, and after a few minutes reading, I’d look up and check my email, follow a link, and then return to reading.

I read a little (Tim Challies’ book, The Next Story) and found that we were indeed rewiring our minds for distraction—consider how often you check your phone—there has been no alert, but we check nonetheless—mid sentence or in the middle of another task.

But there is more to it than simply distraction. I found I was less able to remember what I had read, but was able to remember where to find it—eg. “I read about that recently in such and such a book. It was […]