TV: A Life Waster

Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.
(John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p.120)

This is a toughy! But I can’t but agree.

TV: A Life Waster

Christian Distinctiveness

Why don’t people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in in the same things they do. Our lives don’t look like they are on the Calvary road, stripped down for sacrificial love, serving others with the sweet assurance that we don’t need to be rewarded in this life. Our reward is great in heaven (Matthew 5:12)! “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). If we believed this more deeply, others might see the worth of God and find in him their gladness.
(John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, p. 109)

Christian Distinctiveness

"…it’s actually quite a good blog"!

Praise indeed from those blokes at the BCSE. And Hey! I must have done something right. Honestly, I am not worthy to have had BCSE do some research on me. (Can I be on your blacklist now? Please?) If you want to read their results, look here.

Welcome, if you were reading that article and found your way here. Nice of you to drop by.

The article is mostly about Gareth Crossley and I am one of his “connections”. The bit about me is mostly accurate. Trouble is I don’t really think they are trying to be nice. Strangely, they describe me as having “attacked” them. Well, if you can describe pointing at a man in the street on stilts and wearing a pointy hat as “attacking” the man, then I suppose it was an “attack”. But you need to redefine “attack”. Well, never mind.

Just so that we are absolutely clear: Dr Crossley and Mr Anderson are men I am honoured to be associated with and to have learned from. They mean a great deal to me. No doubt I will not see them in heaven. In the same way as one great Christian leader once said of his colleague, they will be much nearer the Throne than I.

"…it’s actually quite a good blog"!

Lord’s Day

Yesterday was quite a day. I was due to go to Cambridge Presbyterian Church to preach in the evening. This was part of my licensure. The presbytery had commissioned the elders of CPC to act for them in examining me.

We went down for the whole day. We got there about 10am after a 2hr journey. We missed Chad van Dixhorn’s morning lecture on the WCF. You can get the series here. In the morning service O. Palmer Robertson preached – he of The Christ of the Covenants. His sermon was excellent, on how to be a follower. Much is said these days about leadership. Everyone thinks they should be a leader. But the Bible has much to say about “followership”, especially in relation to ordained leaders. It lasted 65 minutes, though it did not seem that long. Dr. Robertson is used to teaching at African Bible College. He must have been thinking african time – 65 minutes is short!

In the afternoon afternoon with the Hamiltons. Susan and I went with him to a service in a residential home for the elderly. 

Evening service. The church building we were meeting in was packed out. There must have been 100+ people there. An interesting thing I learned about CPC: when Ian Hamilton came to that church in 1999 there were ~25 members and ~40 attending.  God has blessed the faithful ministry there.

I preached on John 12:23-26 – on the glorification of the Son of Man. It felt messy and disjointed as I preached. But I know that it is difficult for me to accurately tell. I regularly suffer from preacher’s blues after preaching, and I got it big time last night. Over the years as I have thought about this phenomenon I am now convinced it is a form of inverted pride which must be subdued by God’s grace. I have to preach to myself once more the gospel and repent of the sin.

The work of Christ on the cross is indeed a glorious act, leading to a great harvest! It is when the cross is in view that we see the greatness of our God. It was not the tragic ending of a life with great potential. It was not simply acted out so that the example of Christ exerts a moral influence on us. It was the supreme act of salvation for us displaying the nature of his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice goodness and truth.

Lord’s Day

A Long Day

An interesting and unusual day yesterday. Al and I had agreed to go to the West Midlands Group fraternal of the FIEC in the morning. (The city of Birmingham sits at the centre of the region represented.) Though it is an FIEC meeting they are open to visitors from other evangelical churches, like us. Normally they have a speaker speaking on some doctrinal or pastoral issue. But this time they were discussing FIEC business. Interesting nonetheless. Some random thoughts:

  • A good number there. Always a good sign.
  • A good proportion of young men in training. Another good sign.
  • A clear concern for the propogation of the gospel, partnership and sharing of resources.
  • In the main presentation, a map showed the distribution of FIEC churches round the region. I was struck by how in the urban centre there is only one FIEC church. There are other churches there apparently.
  • I got a distinct sense of ‘hierarchy’ in the FIEC organisation. This was kind of wierd for a group that is founded upon independency. It was a clash I found difficult to resolve in my own mind.
  • I was extremely grateful for the hospitality, welcome and the opportunity for fellowship in the gospel.

I spent a large chunk of the afternoon in Solihull Public Library. I have study to do for up-coming exams. It’s a nice place. It was busy. There were lots of students there, perhaps from the local college. I must be getting old. They looked like kids to me.

I dropped by the local Starbucks later in the afternoon for coffee and some more reading. More ‘kids’. Oh, and one elderly gentleman with a blazer and tie reading the paper.

I suppose it is because of what I am turning into – a church planting pastor – but when I go to the places like the Library, Starbucks or just around town I am constantly thinking, “How do we reach these people with the gospel?” Frankly, I don’t know. In the face of this I can only think of three options: freeze, run or pray.

Evening. Meal with Al and Julie. James turned up as well. Followed by fellowship/Bible study – eight there altogether. Good time, as always. Finally, got home 11:30pm. I find I can’t go to bed straightaway. There are too many things going round my mind. So, bed at 1am. A long day.

A Long Day

The Call of Knox to Preaching

John Knox was called to public preaching in 1547 while in St. Andrews. It happened suddenly when John Rough was preaching. Rough charged him from the pulpit to take up the holy calling! A. M. Renwick writes,

John Knox, completely overcome, burst into tears and withdrew to his chamber … It is worth noting that, while Knox was absolutely fearless before men, his attitude before God was one of profound humility and reverence. Once he was satisfied that God had called him he never flinched in declaring the truth of the gospel to men. Yet so great was his sense of responsibility to the Most High that he almost trembled every time he assembled the pulpit steps to declare the Lord’s message. (The Story of the Scottish Reformation, p.42)

Of course, Knox followed a path that the apostle Paul marked out some 1500 years earlier when he said,

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)

With all the fuss around the net about how to plant churches and creative cultural engagement (which I am not knocking necessarily), it still remains a necessary fact: God must raise up the right kind of men – men of single-minded Christ-centredness and humility.

The Call of Knox to Preaching

I’ve Got Stuff To Do

It’s a busy time. I hope you’d expect me to say that. But the usual requirements plus a tendency to last-minute-ism makes now ‘specially busy.

I’m in the middle of my presbytery exams. I sat three papers already before Christmas: the theology of the WCF, the W. Shorter Catechism, and English Bible knowledge. (Can you name four of the OT cities of refuge? I couldn’t!)

This week I prepare to preach at Cambridge Presbyterian Church. The presbytery has appointed a commission to attend and assess my role in leading and preaching. All part of the licencing process. I’m looking forward to it.

Next week is my final exam on the history of presbyterianism in the UK. This should be the toughest. I have known something about Scottish post-reformation church history, but I knew nothing about the role of presbyterians in England until recently. It is remarkable to see how close the Church of England came to being a reformed presbyterian church. Ah, politics…

Before the end of the month I have to submit two exegetical papers: one on Romans 3:21-26, and the other on Amos 9.

Now I need to read some about the big man, John Knox.

I’ve Got Stuff To Do

More from the Anderson

Another excellent post from David which kills two birds with one stone. The first examines the quality if the BCSE’s standards of research with regard to the Theocratic Masterplan of UK Christians. (Er… if there are any atheists reading, that was an attempt at a little joke.)

For the second, David describes the true nature of Christian witness in this country. As he says, with a sovereign God who rules, “[p]olitics is just not as important as people today think it is.”

Oh, and you might want to read his little parable, Does Richard Dawkins Exist?. Entertaining.

More from the Anderson

Further Explanatory Thoughts on a 2007 Objective

Leaving my last post as I did, I feel like I have left a tap running in the bathroom that I need to attend to. So I must attempt to explain what I meant in that post.

Round about 26 years ago I discovered the gospel of Jesus Christ. This historical man that lots of people talked about, swore by, reckoned the year of their birth by came and suffered and died on a cross. And he rose again from the dead. As I examined the evidence for this event it appeared to me not simply as ‘religious truth’ but a fact of history. The implications followed thick and fast – he was/is divine and my sins could be forgiven. I believed Christ. Indeed he, the living Lord, was calling me to follow him.

Then, as a young Christian, I was encouraged by my Christian friends to develop good habits in the Christian life – read the bible, pray, apply what I was learning. The trouble was that I easily suffered from guilt at failure. The answer it seemed to me was to work harder at reading the bible, praying, applying what I was learning.

Now, I rather suspect that this pattern of thinking and behaviour is more widespread than one would think. I have heard people say things like, “Preaching the gospel on Sunday is all very well, but I need to know what to do on Monday morning”. Or even more startling, “So-and-so has received the gospel and come to faith. Now what he needs is to know how to live the Christian lifestyle.” Perhaps, even worse would be a tendency for preachers deliver sermons that are simply a sequence of how-tos for the Christian life. (I have heard that this happens, though I have not experienced extended ministry of this type.)

What my early experience, and these pseudo-quotes display is a belief that the gospel is only to be preached to the unconverted, but once you are saved you need to leave it behind and move on to “living the Christian life”. You see what I’m saying? It is easy to think that “living the Christian life” can be done without the gospel.

The fruit of this thinking can be quite startling when one’s eyes are opened to it. For example, not long after my conversion some of my new Christian friends were attending a church that had a morning “teaching” service and an evening “gospel” service. The interesting thing was the attitude that they developed to the evening service. They were bored by the “gospel” service. At the time I swallowed this. It seemed reasonable: if I were to hear the Four Spiritual Laws, or whatever, week after week then, sure, I would get bored too.

But there is some thing deeply wrong with this thinking. How can anyone be bored with the gospel? And more importantly, after conversion as I go on in the Christian life and I discover that I still sin, what am I then to do about it? If I have left the gospel behind then all that remains is a list of how-tos which I look up (if I have been disciplined enough to store away somewhere) and select the right one to apply. But this approach has no power. Though I may fight my external behaviour by the targeted use of tips and techniques gleaned from bible examples this does not get to the root of the matter – my deep, ingrained sin. (Of course, all humanity, even you, dear reader, shares the same problem!)

For example, I travel to Solihull a lot, so I spend a fair amount of time in the car. Inevitably, I discover that everyone else is a dreadful driver. Not me, you see. I am perfect. They cut me up. So I get righteously indignant i.e. angry.

Well, anger is a sin in the bible. How should I deal with it? Do grit my teeth and control myself? Do I start breathing exercises to calm me down? Do I try and think nice bibley thoughts? What should I do? These kinds of things may work in a sense – I may look on the outside calm and in control. But I know the sin is still there untouched. I was slighted, disrespected. I had my rights taken away!

The real question is: how does the gospel get to the deep root of the problem? How does the gospel minister to me in such a way that the sin of anger, or any other sin for that matter, is overcome. The gospel is the only thing on offer. Christ must be the answer. Viewed in this way, the gospel must be relevant to the whole of life not simply to “how I get saved”.

Personally, that’s what I want to get into this year.

Further Explanatory Thoughts on a 2007 Objective