Hearing God’s Voice Today

[display_podcast]A recent interview (well, OK three weeks ago) with Greg Haslam raised again the issue of how God speaks. And given the current interest in the Christian blogosphere in discernment (mainly thanks to Tim), the interview is worth exploring again. I’ve held off commenting earlier, because I wanted to be able to provide a counterpoint example, and until now hadn’t found one. Then, this morning, came the latest Tyndale Bulletin, together with a link to Peter Williams’ interview by Justin Taylor back in August, that provided just what I was looking for.

Both men (Peter and Greg) were describing their change of direction in ministry, and how they had been guided. See if you can spot the difference:

God gave me over fifty personal prophecies that made it clear I would be going there, mostly from men who knew nothing about what was afoot… the Lord had told me that this was ‘For the sake of my wider kingdom purposes in London and beyond.’… I remain officially outside of that movement [New Frontiers], in line with all God told me to do five years ago.

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Should I stay or should I go?

[photopress:keithfalconer.jpg,thumb,right]I was challenged tonight by these words of Ion Keith-Falconer given as he left Scotland to serve as a missionary to Muslims in 1886.

There must be some who will read these words, or who, having the cause of Christ at heart, have ample independent means, and are not fettered by genuine home ties. Perhaps you are content with giving annual subscriptions and occasional donations, and taking a weekly class ? Why not give yourselves, money, time and all, to the foreign field ? Our own country is bad enough, but comparatively many must, and do, remain to work at home, while very few are in a position to go abroad. Yet how vast is the Foreign Mission field! The field is the world. Ought you not to consider seriously what your duty is ? The heathen are in darkness, and we are asleep.

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Life, Death, and Harry Potter

[photopress:hp7_high_1.JPG,thumb,right]Don’t worry, there are no spoilers for Deathly Hallows in this post!

I confess. I’m a big fan of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books – and have been since I discovered Chamber of Secrets nearly ten years ago. I understand why some Christians baulk at the concept of good witches and wizards, but frankly I just cannot see the difference between Rowling’s writings, and those of Tolkein, and countless tales of Merlin and King Arthur which I grew up on.

The Bible is clear, witchcraft is wrong. But if I lay aside every book that contains things that are wrong, I will only ever read the Bible. The doctrine of common grace – not to mention that of common sense – surely demands otherwise. We should be far more worried about books who’s subliminal messages are opposed to Christian virtues than we should about Harry Potter. A great deal of children’s literature promotes lifestyles that are directly opposed to Christian values and morality. It relatively simple to sit down with your young son or daughter and say “Real witches and wizards are not like Harry Potter. Look with me at what the Bible says”. It is much harder to say, “The underlying meta-narrative of the book you are reading runs contrary to a Christian worldview”. In other words, we ought to be much more wary of the devil’s subtle attacks, and his great desire for us to accept as normal that which God says is unnatural. Harry Potter is an easy target, but surely it should not be our primary target.

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Blogging can ruin your life

[display_podcast]Blogging can ruin your lifeI know I promised my next post was going to be about whether charismatics are really New Testament believers, but today’s post from Martin Downes was too helpful not to share. He’s been running a series of interviews with Christian leaders, and today he posted the second part of his interview with Carl Trueman. Carl had been struck by 1 Timothy 1:5-7, where Paul writes:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Those who desire to be teachers, rather than simply desire to teach are in danger, Trueman says. I then goes on to add a timely warning to those of us in this present generation:
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Audio blogging (Podcasting)

[display_podcast]Audio BloggingI’ve decided to experiment with Podcasting, and will be uploading an audio version of each of my posts, for a little while at least. If no-one listens, then I’ll quietly pull it, but it’s little extra effort, and maybe some will appreciate it. This post is not very exciting as a demonstration, but I’ve added audio to my previous post, so that will give you a little flavour of things to come.

I’ve grown to love podcasting, and have my MP3 player set up to download about 10 sermons a week from different sources: John Piper, Alistair Begg, Liam Goligher, Sinclair Ferguson and many others. It’s a joy to be able to listen to these men preach on my way to and from work.

Given the choice of listening to this blog or to these men, I know which I would choose! But I am grateful for those who trust me with their time in reading my thoughts here, and even more so to those who take the trouble to interact with my posts. I enjoy the art of blogging, and have greatly benefited from it. If Podcasting brings in a few more readers who will help me to hone my writing and sharpen my mind, then the extra effort will be more than worthwhile.

My next few posts, by the way, will return to the question of whether Charismatics are really New Testament believers. We’ll look first at the gift of healing, and then I trust at territorialism. I look forward to hearing your comments on those subjects.

Preaching the Whole Counsel of God

[display_podcast]I came upon this sermon of Spurgeon’s during my time in theological college, and it has stuck with me ever since. It is vintage Spurgeon, but the truths ring as clear today as they did in 1859. Here’s an extract, but the whole sermon is well worth reading, if simply to understand Spurgeon’s passion for souls and God’s glory:

[Paul] had preached ALL the counsel of God. By which I think we are to understand that he had given to his people the entire gospel. He had not dwelt upon some one doctrine of it, to the exclusion of the rest; but it had been his honest endeavour to bring out every truth according to the analogy of faith. He had not magnified one doctrine into a mountain, and then diminished another into a molehill; but he had endeavoured to present all blended together, like the colours in the rainbow, as one harmonious and glorious whole… He had, doubtless, sins to confess in private, and faults to bemoan God. He had, doubtless, sometimes failed to put a truth as clearly as he could have wished, when preaching the Word; he had not always been earnest as he could desire; but at least he could claim this, that he had not wilfully kept back a single part of the truth as it is in Jesus…

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How the Bible ought to be read in church

After church this morning, I was taking with a friend about reading the Bible in a church service. It is, of course, not just important what we read, but how we read. Too much Bible-reading in our churches is dull, and makes the Word of God seem lifeless. This is the Word of God!

It is not as if this question has never before been addressed. The Westminster Larger Catechism says:

The holy Scriptures are to be read with a high and reverent esteem of them; with a firm persuasion that they are the very word of God, and that he only can enable us to understand them; with desire to know, believe, and obey the will of God revealed in them; with diligence, and attention to the matter and scope of them; with meditation, application, self-denial, and prayer.

This is the crucial point. The one who reads the Scriptures must not only firmly believe all that he reads, he must convince the hearers that he believes it, too! Indeed, although we often consider the preaching of the Bible to be the highlight of the service, the preaching will ‘merely’ explain and apply the Bible’s message. If the Bible is read well, then the preachers job will be significantly easier. By the time the preacher starts his sermon, the congregation could already been under conviction that what they are about to hear will not be mere words, but an exposition of the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God itself. Perhaps this is best illustrated by John’s Blanchard’s recollections of how, as a newly-converted Christian, he so valued the Scriptures – even when he wasn’t preaching, just “reading”:

My wife and I lived in a small flat at the time, but I can vividly remember my Sunday morning routine. Immediately after breakfast I would go into the bedroom, lock the door, and begin to prepare for reading the lesson that morning. After a word of prayer I would look up the lesson in the lectionary and read it carefully in the Authorized Version, which we were using in the church. Then I would read it through in every other version I had in my possession, in order to get thoroughly familiar with the whole drift and sense of the passage. Next I would turn to the commentaries. I did not have many in those days, but those I had I used.

I would pay particular attention to word meanings and doctrinal implications. When I had finished studying the passage in detail, I would go to the mantelpiece, which was roughly the same height as the lectern in the church and prop up the largest copy of the Authorized Version I possessed. Having done that, I would walk slowly up to it from the other side of the room, and begin to speak, aloud: ‘Here beginneth the first verse of the tenth chapter of the Gospel according to St John’ (or whatever the passage was). Then I would begin to read aloud the portion appointed. If I made so much as a slip of the tongue, a single mispronunciation, I would stop, walk back across the room and start again, until I had read the whole passage word perfect, perhaps two or three times… there were times when I emerged from the bedroom with that day’s clean white shirt stained with perspiration drawn from the effort of preparing one lesson to be read in church. Does that sound like carrying things too far? Then let me add this: I was told there were times when after the reading of the lesson people wanted to leave the service there and then and go quietly home to think over the implications of what God had said to them in his Word.

If only we would treat all areas of Christian service as carefully and prayerfully as John did all those years ago, and as carefully as we expect our pastors to treat their sermons. Father, forgive us for our flippancy.