Autobiographical Stuff

Albert Lutz asked me recently to write a paragraph on how I came to faith in Christ for the benefit of those attending Solihull Presbyterian. So I came up with five. I thought I would maximise the time-investment by inflicting it on all you half-dozen or so readers with nothing better to do (though remember, there’s still that volume of Calvin/Owen/Packer/etc on your shelf waiting to be read).

So, here it is…

How were you converted to Christ?

I was brought up in a home where I went to Sunday School but I did not have faith in what I was hearing. However, in my final year at school, aged 16, a good friend of mine became a Christian and he completely changed. He now wanted to read his Bible, pray and talk about Christ. He no longer speculated about spiritual things as we often did before. He was certain about the gospel. I found this deeply disturbing, so when I went up to Glasgow University the following year (1979) to live in one of the halls of residence, I was still thinking about what had happened to my friend.

There were some Christians in the residence who were connected with the Navigators who, in the first few weeks of that first term, tried to visit all the students and speak to them about the gospel. I had a long chat with two guys and got invited to a couple of social events. There was something different about these people. They had a love and care for each other and a certainty about their ultimate destiny which I could not ignore. Increasingly I became concerned about my own destiny. What happens after you die? I knew I was a sinner who deserved eternal punishment for my sins.

I got invited to an investigative Bible study with a couple of Christians and a couple of other non-Christians who had become my friends. The first study was on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I knew the story from my Sunday School days but had not ever thought about the truth of it. As the evidence was laid out and the objections answered I found myself more and more convinced. By the end of the study I knew the resurrection was a true historical event and the implications of Jesus’ resurrection were all too apparent – Jesus is alive today and calls me to follow him.

I spent around a year of wrestling with the implications of all this for my own life. For a short period I called myself a Christian, and for a long period I did not. In that period the two other friends with whom I did Bible study had become Christians and several others in the hall of residence. Eventually the tension was too much to bear. A key verse which had stuck with me was Ps 139:7, 8: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” (NIV) I think I can honestly say that for a whole year God brought this verse to mind every day. As I reflect on this I know that God was pursuing me by his Spirit in his word. At the time I did not like it, but now I see that God was pursuing me with his love, calling me to a new life in his Son, Jesus.

At the start of my second year at university I had a discussion with one of my friends who had since become a Christian. I saw that he too had found security in Christ. His testimony was compelling. I realised that my resistance to God was futile and that I would have to entrust all the difficulties I perceived to him. For the first time in nearly a year I spent some time in prayer, confessing my sins, thanking God for his saving work through his Son, and expressing my faith in Christ. I was now a Christ-follower for good.

In 1982 I was baptised in New Prestwick Baptist Church in Ayrshire.

Autobiographical Stuff

A Long Awaited Update

Prompted by Nat I feel I ought to give some news. What is it – over two week since I last posted something substantial?

I’m still getting my feet under the table, as they say around here, at Solihull Presbyterian. Two Sundays ago (16 July) I preached on Acts 6:1-7 on the appointment of the first “deacons”. I use inverted commas because, as you may know, the word “deacon” does not appear in the text. However, it was diaconal work they were appointed to and is a foundational text to the office. The need for deacons arose as a result of the problems of growth of the church and action needed to be taken quickly to solve the tensions within the church if the preaching of the gospel and prayer were to remain the core function of the apostles. The complaints of the Hellenistic Jews among them and the fact that it was specifically widows that were suffering resonate with OT failure – complaints of Israelites in the desert under Moses leading to judgement, the failure of Israel to pay attention to the law’s provision for widows, orhpans and aliens. Acts shows that the gospel has power, where law alone had failed.

Most people were appreciative, though someone said it was “abrasive”. Well, I don’t want people to be too comfy, now, do I?

In the evening of the 16th I was at Woodlands on Psalm 6 – a penitental Psalm. It is striking that there there are so few modern hymns/songs on this topic. It raises the issues of the reality of God’s wrath against sin, the consequences of death, the need to learn that only God can solve the problems that sin brings, that he brings victory and gives assurance of acceptance when he is approached.

I was extremely nerous about this. It is the first time in a long time that I have preached at Woodlands. Couple that with the extreme heat, then afterwards I felt that I had literally stood under a shower! OK, you didn’t want to know that, but it was true.

Post-graduation July 19, 2006

The ETCW gang who graduated. Which one is me?

On the 19th July I finally graduated. See the picture for proof! Ten of us from ETCW attended along with 180 law students from the University of Glamorgan. It was a good day, though hot – 35C! Water-sellers were having a good day out side the graduation hall. It was quite clear that the results of the ETCW students boosted the average of the assembly, with a high proportion of 1sts and 2.1s. I think this speaks of the maturity and commitment of the students over the younger Glamorgan students. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Afterwards we, with relatives and friends, went to Bryntirion for a buffet meal and fellowship together. We spoke of what we were each about to do, God willing, prayed and Dr. Eryl Davies, the principal (front, right in the photo) spoke briefly on Jonathan Edwards and the need for a strong personal prayer life in the ministry.

On the 23rd I was at Durham Presbyterian. Brian Norton, the minister, had asked me to go some months ago. It was nearly three hours drive away so I didn’t take the family. I had a good time. The congregation is about 45 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. They sing unaccompanied and it was great! It is good to hear Christian voices praising God. I was impressed by Brian’s concern that the congragation love one another, seeing it as the best means of evangelism. I was also impressed by the commitment to having a well taught congregation. Members are encouraged during the week to write down any Bible or doctrinal questions they have through their own reading and bring them to tea at Brian’s house after the afternoon service. A large crowd gathers and a useful (controlled) discussion ensues.

At Solihull I have been trying to get to know some of the men by meeting up with them. I believe a core of “A Few Good Men” in a church is vital. We are going to start some Christianity Explored courses soon, particularly for the Christians. It will be a kind of training for some so that as many people as possible are confident of handling the material and will be confident in inviting friends as the opportunity arises. I’m looking forward to it.

That’ll do for now.

A Long Awaited Update

Amen and Amen

Finally, mark this, that you must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say “yes” to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain. Do not leave your prayer without having said or thought, “Very well, God has heard my prayer; this I know as a certainty and a truth.” That is what Amen means.

Martin Luther, ‘A Simple Way to Pray’

Amen and Amen

Liberals Bleeding to Death

I can’t remember how I found this report, but I did. The writer makes some plain statements about how the mainline denominations in the US are bleeding to death under the evil of liberalism.

When a church doesn’t take itself seriously, neither do its members. Itis hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainlinechurches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and thelike — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it’s morelike 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitousdecline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-statemainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents(and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pewsnever to return. According to the Hartford Institute for ReligiousResearch, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported bythe Southern Baptists

When your religion says “whatever” on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wiseteacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty muchwhat you want, it’s a short step to deciding that one of the things youdon’t want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.

The same could be said of the UK, I’m sure. What amazes me is that liberals themselves cannot seems to see the reality of the second quoted paragraph and doggedly persist in their nonsense. They really are the blind leaders of the blind.

Read the whole thing.

Liberals Bleeding to Death

Quick update

I haven’t died or anything. I just haven’t thought of anything worth saying! I effectively had a week off after my last blog post, but it was quite difficult to wind down after a period of intensive study. I also was unwell for a couple of days. Funny how winding down and feeling unwell seem to go together in my experience!

Last week I began working in Solihull with the Presbyterian Church. Officially I am “Assistant to the Minister” while I go through the whole licensure process. I made three visits mid-week, spending time with Al Lutz, the session (a group of ruling elders made up of Al and three from Cheltenham) and some of the regular attenders. The travelling is a bit of a bind but it is good to get started.

On Sunday we were 17 and Al is preaching through Acts, covering Acts 5 last time. Afterwards, during the Summer months, we have a picnic lunch in the grounds of the school in which we meet. All good.

All for now. Today, there is a  Midlands Gospel Partnership meeting in Hinckley on evangelism in the local church. Must fly…

Quick update