The Friday Briefing 14 (7 September 2018)

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51) In a sermon on the Passover narrative, Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino says, “Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. . . . . The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

The music and meaning of male and female Dr. Alastair Roberts – drawing on the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis – explains how our creation as male and female is fundamental to what it means to be human. He briefly explores the significance of this for the same-sex marriage debate and for the transgender movement.

Watchfulness requires wakefulness Brian Hedges writes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Why we all need printed Bibles Ian Paul gives a number of important reasons why it is better for us to read printed Bibles than electronic texts on a computer screen, tablet or ‘phone.

Stop making hospitality complicated Brandon McGinley comments, Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

Born in the dead of night (Exodus 12:29-51).

Brian Morgan, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino gives an outstanding exposition of the Passover narrative in Exodus chapter 12. He says, “The emotions experienced at birth are perhaps the most intense that a couple will ever experience. Yet I wonder if such emotions can even approach what God felt when he gave birth to his people Israel. Today we arrive at the climactic moment when, after nine intense labor pains, God gives birth to his people. A nation is born in a day! With a father’s pride, God exclaims, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22). Our text this morning, Exodus 12:29-5, reads like a birth announcement. First, we are invited into the delivery room. The atmosphere is one of extreme urgency to get this baby out of the womb “in haste”. Then we are told the time of delivery (midnight), and we hear a great cry. We learn the sex of the baby (it’s a son!). A spontaneous baby shower follows, where the newborn is lavished with gifts. Then comes the first baby portrait, and we look for family resemblances and characteristics that will shape the future of the child. And finally there is the christening or dedication of the baby.”

He comments, ”Birth narratives are extremely important to nations, families and individuals. They are rehearsed at every birthday as a family’s most treasured memories. If we do not know our birthright, we wander aimlessly, without roots or secure identity. The story of Israel’s birth is even more significant since it gives shape to our birth narrative in Christ, and tells us who we are and what is undeniably ours as our birthright.”

Read the whole article HERE – click on the PDF icon near the top of the page to download the transcript, and on the MP3 icon just below it to hear the audio.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The music and meaning of male and female.

Dr Alastair Roberts writes, “Although the Scriptures address the topic of the sexes on many occasions, it is within the opening chapters of Genesis that its foundational treatment of the subject is to be discovered.”

He explains, “Men and women are created for different primary purposes, purposes which, when pursued in unity and with mutual support, can reflect God’s own form of creative rule in the world. The man’s vocation, as described in Genesis 2, primarily corresponds to the tasks of the first three days of creation: to naming, taming, dividing, and ruling. The woman’s vocation, by contrast, principally involves filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life – all tasks associated with the second three days of creation. Hence the differences between us as men and women are not merely accidental or incidental, but are integral to our purpose and deeply meaningful, relating to God’s own fundamental patterns of operation. God created us to be male and female and thereby to reflect his own creative rule in his world.”

Finally, Dr. Roberts briefly explores the significance of the creation account for two current debates on sexuality. He writes, “Within Genesis 1 and 2, we discover a foundation for reflection upon gender and sexuality more broadly, with surprising relevance to many pressing questions of sexual ethics within a contemporary context. In these concluding remarks, I want to highlight ways in which the teaching of these chapters can be brought to bear upon two key questions in contemporary sexual ethics: same-sex marriage and transgender identity.”

Read the whole article HERE, where you will find a link to the downloadable PDF article.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Watchfulness requires wakefulness.

Brian Hedges, author of Watchfulness: recovering a lost spiritual discipline. writes, ”Watchfulness demands wakefulness.  . . . . There is, therefore, a physical dimension to this discipline.  . . . . But wakefulness in Scripture is more often a picture for mental and spiritual watchfulness. . . . . Believers live in the overlap of the ages. We are children of the future day, children of the light, and yet we live in the present age of darkness, the age of night. But since we are children of the light, we are to “cast off the works of darkness, and . . . put on the armor of light.” [Romans 13.12] We are to throw off the nightclothes and get dressed for the dawning day.”

Hedges concludes, “As people who belong to the day, we must be mentally sober and morally alert, dressed in the Christian armor of faith, hope, and love. To be watchful is to be wakeful.“

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Why we all need printed Bibles.

Ian Paul writes, “It’s not uncommon in churches, when the time comes for the Bible reading, to see people reach not for a printed pew Bible, but for their phones, to read the Bible on a phone app. When I was in a session at New Wine this summer, the speaker at the morning Bible study (Miriam Swaffield) commented that she thought it was better for people to read print Bibles than read them from a screen. It made me sit up, since I say this frequently when teaching in different contexts, but this was the first time I had heard someone else say it from ‘up front’.”

He explains, “Apart from avoiding the distractions of really urgent text messages and social media notifications . . . there are other really important reasons why print Bibles . . . offer a better reading experience.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Stop making hospitality complicated.

Brandon McGinley comments, “Everyone wants to be seen as the type of posh and popular person who ‘entertains’—slicing cheeses and popping corks and carving tenderloins and so forth. But the truth is that there aren’t as many dinner parties as there are people talking about dinner parties: . . . . . Yes, the decline in friendship and the rise of busyness account for some of the retreat from hospitality, but much of the problem is embedded in how we think about sharing meals in our homes. . . . . Having guests, we feel, means putting on a show; we set up the stage and put on costumes and are the stars of the production. It sounds intimidating and exhausting—because it is. But here’s the thing: Real hospitality—the sharing of everyday life with friends, current and soon-to-be—is even more frightening. . . . allowing others to see and experience the everyday imperfection of our lives is simply unacceptable. Until, one day, it isn’t.”

McGinley concludes “Habits of hospitality . . . are downright subversive in our culture of independence and calculation. They demonstrate that it is not only possible but fruitful and beautiful to share life in a substantive way outside the confines of the nuclear family. And, in so doing, they point to the reality of the common good, not just as a theoretical concept but as a practical one that can animate an authentic Christian community.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Friday Briefing 12 (6 July 2018)

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else.”

The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head.”

5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor Andrew Roycroft shares 15 incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation.

Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor) Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. . . . . After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

The essence of femininity – a personal perspective Elizabeth Elliot, pioneer missionary and author, wrote “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions.”

It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools [i.e. state schools] David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools.”

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation.

Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else. Unlike some, the things in Revelation that had the greatest impact on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium. Here are the primary lessons I learned.” Storms concludes, “So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it is too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). . . . . This book is not beyond your ability to understand it and believe it and obey it. Don’t miss out on the blessing that is promised for those who keep what is written in it!”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah.

Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head. Those who know the story of Moses and Pharaoh, plagues and Passover, will recognize the shape of what Isaiah prophesies—but they will also be astonished by the way he presents the denouement. . . . . The arm of Yahweh, as we know, is about strength, power, even violence: the mighty hand and the outstretched arm that rain hailstones like fists and split the ocean. So as Isaiah begins to celebrate Judah’s redemption, we are not surprised to hear that it comes about because “Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations,” and that his servant will be “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 52:10, 13).”

Wilson continues, “Here it comes: the violent showdown we have all been waiting for. We can hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries beginning in the background. But the orchestra goes silent. Suddenly, the concert hall is deathly quiet. . . . . The only sound we can hear is a plaintive cry, and as we peer at the stage in astonishment, we notice that it is coming from a manger, or the graveside of a friend, or a hillside garden, or even a cross. . . . . Here, we learn, is what the arm of Yahweh actually looks like in person: one who bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and is crushed for our iniquities (53:5). That is how Israel will be accounted righteous. . . . . We didn’t think the new exodus would look like that at all. We were so busy looking for God in the plagues or chariots hurled into the sea that we missed him in the fragile baby drifting downstream in a basket, and in the lamb’s blood smeared across the doorpost, and in the two goats who face death and exile to take away the sins of the people.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor.

Andrew Roycroft comments,”Recently Thom Rainer posted some reflections on church member visitation, providing 15 reasons why those in pastoral ministry ‘shouldn’t visit much’. While the risk of being viewed by one’s congregation as a sanctified social worker or life coach is ever present, and while some local churches impose utterly unreasonable visitation demands on their Pastor, there are also significant dangers in neglecting this vital work. Here, rather than critiquing Dr Rainer’s reasoning, I share 15 of my own incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation. I read Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor once every year, and am forcibly reminded from its pages just how far short I fall in this area of ministry. The following are, however, offered as aspirational statements.” Not all churches, of course, have pastors in the sense Andrew Roycroft uses that term. But these 15 reasons apply to all those who exercise spiritual oversight of a local church.

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor).

Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. You don’t need an expensive, staff-heavy curriculum to do great follow-up with new believers. And it doesn’t need to kill your already-over-busy schedule either. After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

For example, the third step is this: “Connect them with a mature believer and the right resources.” Vaters explains: “Right now there are a handful of new believers in our church who meet regularly with mature believers to learn, grow and be discipled. Each one of them does it differently, depending on their circumstance.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The essence of femininity – a personal perspective.

Years ago, Elizabeth Elliot wrote these words – words that are not only as relevant now, but doubtless need to be heard and heeded even more urgently. She wrote, “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity-a reality of God’s design and God’s making, His gift to me and to every woman-and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.” She concludes, “To gloss over these profundities is to deprive women of the central answer to the cry of their hearts, “Who am I?” No one but the Author of the Story can answer that cry.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools.

David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools. Sadly, almost two decades into the 21st Century, biblical literacy is slipping away from us.”

Marcus concludes, “But it is no longer enough to rely on social osmosis or home study of the Bible to give our children the framework needed to study our culture and civilization. Our school systems needs to . . . provide students with the Biblical literacy needed to be ‘decently educated’. Our culture has roots that are powerful. They exert influence on almost every aspect of our daily lives; they nourish our social fabric. No root runs deeper than the Bible, our kids to need to know and understand it.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in writings quoted from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 10 (11 May 2018)

The Friday Briefing will now appear monthly rather than weekly, on the first Friday of each month, starting Friday 1st June. This will allow more time for revision of some existing material on this site, and for adding further material to this site.

What we miss when we skip the prophets Ryan Higginbottom writes, “Aside from missing out on a fifth of God’s word, here are five specific treasures we miss when we consistently neglect the reading and study of the prophets. (These are not all features exclusive to the prophets, but they appear in most of the prophetic books.)”

The Gospel of John and the (re)creation of the cosmos Leo Smits writes, “. . . ‘creation’ is an important theme for the apostle of the Gospel of John. . . . . More and more I am convinced that the gospel of John is built up from the structure of the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2.”

This world is not my home Thomas Smith writes, “It sure feels like home. From the air we breathe to the reassuring pull of the earth’s gravity, from the delight we take in the perfect harmony between the colors of nature to the pleasure given by the sound of rain on leaves or the sight of snowflakes the size of goose feathers, we feel at home here. This is our home, our place. . . . . All of which leads us to investigate further just what the relationship of the Christian, as a human being and as a saint, is to this present creation.”

Reading together, early Church style New historical research by Brian J. Wright shows that early Christians were surprisingly bookish. He asks, “So instead of reading little and gathering infrequently, what might happen today if Christians read a great deal in community like they did in the first century?

“We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history” Lucinda Borkett-Jones reports on the story of the growing numbers of Muslims around the world who are becoming Christians.

What we miss when we skip the prophets.

Ryan Higginbottom asks, “From what Biblical book is your pastor preaching? What are you reading in your devotional times? What book of the Bible are you studying in your small group? Let me guess: An epistle? A gospel? An Old Testament historical book? Some of the Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.)? I’d bet very few of you would answer Ezekiel, or Micah, or Zechariah. . . . .”

“Aside from missing out on a fifth of God’s word, here are five specific treasures we miss when we consistently neglect the reading and study of the prophets. (These are not all features exclusive to the prophets, but they appear in most of the prophetic books.)”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Gospel of John and the (re)creation of the cosmos.

Leo Smits writes, “It is well known that there are references in the Gospels, that are an allusion to the Old Testament. . . . . This is also the case in the gospel of John. . . . . Various New Testament scholars have already seen a reference to the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2 in various parts in the Gospel.” He then gives some examples and continues, “These examples show that ‘creation’ is an important theme for the apostle of the Gospel of John. But could it not be that the writer in his gospel not [only] occasionally returns to this theme in his gospel, but that whole gospel encompasses this? After long and thorough examination, I am of the opinion that this is the case. More and more I am convinced that the gospel of John is built up from the structure of the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2. . . . .”

In his conclusion, he says, “John sees Jesus as the Re-creator, and at the same time as the second Adam, who recreates the world (and especially humans) in (initially) the six days of creation, and subsequently, by his death, to enter the Sabbath and on the new first day (eighth day) to stand . . . as a new creation.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

This world is not my home.

Thomas Smith writes, “It sure feels like home. From the air we breathe to the reassuring pull of the earth’s gravity, from the delight we take in the perfect harmony between the colors of nature to the pleasure given by the sound of rain on leaves or the sight of snowflakes the size of goose feathers, we feel at home here. This is our home, our place. . . . . All of which leads us to investigate further just what the relationship of the Christian, as a human being and as a saint, is to this present creation. . . . .”

“Paul, in 1 Timothy 4:1-5, speaks clearly to this matter. . . . Paul affirms the goodness of the fallen creation (v. 4), the purpose of God in creating these things to be “received with gratitude” (v. 3), and the propriety of Christian believers using these gifts “by those who believe and know the truth” (v. 3). . . . . But there is more to it than this. There is a priestly activity involved in the believer’s use of the everyday blessings of this creation. Because he receives these gifts of God with thanksgiving and in the knowledge that they have come from Him, even these common things become holy. It is consecrated (sanctified) by the Word of God and prayer. . . . . The only valid category which remains for the Christian is the lawful/unlawful one. If God has permitted it, it is lawful; if He has forbidden it, it is ‘off-limits’.”

Smith concludes, “What a wonderful door to life is opened with this truth! I am now free to live, free to obey, free to use this world, free to give thanks to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. I am, in a word, free to be human in the fullest sense of the word! So, while we look for a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells, we live out the days of our pilgrimage here in training and anticipation of this, and we live as priests, acknowledging God in the whole· of our existence. . . . . Let us, then, replace “This World Is Not My Home” with something finer.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Reading together, early Church style. New historical research by Brian J. Wright shows that early Christians were surprisingly bookish.

Caleb Lindgren interviews Brian J. Wright, who has recently published Communal Reading in the Time of Jesus. Lindgren writes, “Brian J. Wright first experienced communal reading more than 15 years ago, which led him into the field of textual criticism . . . . . . . . But when he began PhD work, Wright wanted to step back and ask who was reading what in the first century. . . . his research revealed a vibrant and active culture of communal reading in the first-century Greco-Roman world. . . . .”

Wright explains, “It would have occurred in many different ways. It could have been friends sharing literature. It could have been public figures actually having something at a theater or auditorium. They happened in both formal and informal venues: apartments, temples, synagogues. They were happening everywhere, courtrooms, private homes, schools. . . . . Also notable is the type of reader, that it’s not just the elite. All sorts of people were reading.” Christians, too, were reading communally. Wright says, “. . . Christians encouraged communal reading not as an end in itself but as a way of comprehending the text, promoting unity, of forming spiritually, of becoming like Christ. . . . .”

Wright comments, “Christians are no longer bookish, like the earliest Christian communities. Christians are more self-focused than communally focused, unlike the earliest Christian communities. And so I hear people saying all the time, “I don’t need to go to church.” I think my book provides yet another way of countering that argument because there was extensive interaction among Christians in the first century. There was a broad circulation of Christian writings. . . . . I mention in the book a few communities like that in Jude or in 1 Peter. These would have been bookish communities that were reading literature outside of the Bible, apocryphal literature, Enoch and others.”

Wright asks, “So instead of reading little and gathering infrequently, what might happen today if Christians read a great deal in community like they did in the first century? As I was doing my research, I saw that communal reading was a powerful discipleship tool because it aided understanding. It fostered community. It promoted a healthy interactive discussion of our common confession.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

‘We are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history’.

Lucinda Borkett-Jones wrote (in 2015), “Despite the daily news of the persecution of Christians around the world by Islamist groups, there is another, lesser-known story of growing numbers of Muslims around the world who are turning to Christ as Lord. Missionary David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, charts this phenomenon, which he says demonstrates that “we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history”. The book is the result of two and a half years of research and involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people around the Muslim world. In the study, a ‘movement’ of believers is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community. In total he found 69 movements that had started in the first 12 years of the 21st century, in comparison with virtually no voluntary movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam. . . . . So why is this turning to Christ happening now?” Read the whole article HERE.

Click HERE to access David Garrison’s website, A Wind in the House.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Friday Briefing 9 (4 May 2018)

Christ Ascended for Us Jesus’s ascension will be celebrated in a few days’ time – on Ascension Day, Thursday 10th May. His ascension is not a subject we perhaps think about very much. If we do, we may perhaps think of it as a postscript to His incarnation, life, crucifixion and resurrection. Yet, as Nick Needham makes clear in this article, Jesus’s ascension is hugely important.

The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow This remarkable little book can transform the way you think of Jesus’s ascension.

Gerrit Dawson: Jesus is still a Human Mike Feazell interviews Dr. Gerrit Dawson about the importance of Jesus being human even after His Ascension. As well as teaching about the Ascension, Dr. Gerrit – himself a pastor – also brings a pastoral perspective on what Jesus’s Ascension means for us.

The True Tabernacle In John 1.14, we read, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The word “dwelt” can be literally translated “lived in a tent” or “tabernacled’. Mike Moore writes, ”In his Gospel, John reveals the glory of the Word by showing how every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle corresponded to a glorious quality in Jesus.”

Wanted: people to lead us in the way of wonder Trevin Wax writes, “In an age of disenchantment, a world in which people are starved by superficiality, we need . . . .  . . . theologians and pastors who combine their desire for theological accuracy with the desire to showcase biblical beauty, until we stand in awe—of this world in all of its haunted goodness and of the gospel in all of its long-awaited surprise.”

The film you have been waiting for: Puritan A new documentary, PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God, is due for release early next year. This release includes, as well as the documentary, up to thirty short lessons on Puritan people and Puritan themes, a workbook, and another book introducing the Puritans authored by Michael Reeves and Joel Beeke. Joel writes, “Why would we do this, and why should you be interested? The answer is that, in the providence of God, the Puritans are colossuses in church history. . . . . By the Spirit’s grace, the Puritans will enrich your life as a Christian in many ways . . . .”

Christ Ascended for Us by Nick Needham.

Jesus’s ascension will be celebrated in a few days’ time – on Ascension Day, Thursday 10th May. His ascension is not a subject we perhaps think about very much. If we do, we may perhaps think of it as a postscript to His incarnation, life, crucifixion and resurrection.

Yet, as Nick Needham makes clear in this article (which I reviewed some while ago) Jesus’s ascension is hugely important. When He returned to His Father at His ascension He didn’t stop being a Man. Being human wasn’t just a temporary condition that He assumed whilst on Earth and divested Himself of on His return to Heaven. He is still a Man, and will remain so for all eternity. There is now a Man – a Member of our own human race – in heaven. And Jesus still has a physical body. His body is glorious, incorruptible, perfect. But it is a true physical body nonetheless. This has staggering implications for each of us individually, and for our human race as a whole – as Dr Needham brings out so well in his article.

Dr Needham’s original article is available HERE. My review is available HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow.

This remarkable little book can transform the way you think of Jesus’s ascension. His ascension may simply seem like a postscript to His life here on Earth. But it’s a vital part of His saving work for us. As the authors point out, “Atonement was not complete until Jesus stood before God on our behalf.” Jesus is our ascended Priest and King, our ‘Man in Heaven’ at our Father’s right hand, enthroned in absolute authority over Heaven and Earth!

Our calling and destiny as God’s people is to be His royal family, made in His image to rule over His creation. The authors explain that the ascended Jesus has realised this destiny: “The ascension of Jesus is the foretaste of the ascension of a new humanity to our royal status.” And through His ascension, He has secured that destiny for every one of God’s people: “Those in Christ will . . . be what we were meant to be and what we were born to be.”

Perhaps the authors’ greatest achievement is to set Jesus’s ascension squarely into its context in the whole of God’s redemptive plan from creation to the new creation.

And Jesus’s ascension inevitably raises questions. Where exactly is Jesus now? Jesus is in heaven, yet He’s present with His people. We live here on Earth, yet we’re seated with Him in the heavenly realms. How does this all work in our universe of space and time? Where exactly is heaven and how does it relate to our own world? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth at the end of the age? The authors guide us through this mysterious terrain.

Read the publishers description of the book HERE.

Read my original review HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Gerrit Dawson: Jesus is still a Human.

Mike Feazell interviews Dr. Gerrit Dawson about the importance of Jesus being human even after His Ascension.

Mike Feazell begins the interview by asking: “Let’s begin by talking about Jesus’ incarnation and especially, his incarnation after his death and resurrection – a lot of people think of Jesus as being God in the flesh while he’s here on earth walking and talking and breathing, but once he’s crucified and resurrected and ascended and at the right hand of God, we don’t think of it quite the same way. We think of him, now he is fully God again, but not fully human as well. What’s wrong with that?”

You can see the interview, or read the transcript HERE (read the transcript by clicking ► Program Transcript (click to view): lower down the page). Gerrit Scott Dawson received his D.Min. degree in 2002 from Reformed Theological Seminary. He is currently senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As well as the theology of Jesus’s Ascension, Dr. Gerrit also brings a pastoral perspective on what Jesus’s Ascension means for us.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The True Tabernacle.

“The only building ever constructed upon this earth which was perfect from its very beginning and outset in every detail, and never again needed attention, alteration, was the tabernacle in the wilderness … Every single detail was designed by Almighty God, every part had a prophetic, redemptive and typical significance.” (M.R. DeHaan, quoted by Philip Graham Ryken in his commentary on Exodus, Crossway Books, page 813). Mike Moore writes, “The Tabernacle was the house of God. It was the meeting place of heaven and earth. In Exodus 40, as the Tabernacle was raised and dedicated, the glory of God descended and entered the Holy of Holies.”

“In John 1:14, John tells us, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt [literally, “tabernacled”] among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John chose his words carefully. “The Word became flesh and tabernacled” among his people. John intended to show us in his Gospel that the tabernacle was a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Word of God, and that Jesus is in fact the true tabernacle in whom the glory of God shines. In his Gospel, John reveals the glory of the Word by showing how every piece of furniture in the Tabernacle corresponded to a glorious quality in Jesus.”

Read the whole article HERE. A formatted PDF version of this sermon is available HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Wanted: people to lead us in the way of wonder.

Trevin Wax writes, “In an age of disenchantment, a world in which people are starved by superficiality, we need writers and pastors and artists who can feed us with the wonder of existence. . . . . We need theologians and pastors who combine their desire for theological accuracy with the desire to showcase biblical beauty, until we stand in awe—of this world in all of its haunted goodness and of the gospel in all of its long-awaited surprise.” Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The film you have been waiting for: Puritan.

Joel Beeke writes, “I am excited to announce that Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Reformation Heritage Books, Media Gratiae, and Stephen McCaskell are together creating PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of God. This includes a feature documentary, up to thirty short lessons on Puritan people and Puritan themes, a workbook, and another book introducing the Puritans authored by Michael Reeves and me. Why would we do this, and why should you be interested? The answer is that, in the providence of God, the Puritans are colossuses in church history. . . . . They were imperfect, largely seventeenth-century men seeking to live faithfully in and through very difficult circumstances.”

”By the Spirit’s grace, the Puritans will enrich your life as a Christian in many ways as they open the Scriptures and apply them practically, probing your conscience, indicting your sins, leading you to repentance, shaping your faith, augmenting your prayer life and meditation, guiding your conduct, comforting you in Christ and conforming you to Him, teaching you how to live through affliction to God’s glory, rebuking your pride, increasing your reliance on the Holy Spirit, and bringing you into a more robust assurance of salvation and a lifestyle of gratitude to the triune God for His great salvation.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 7 (20 April 2018)

Why we must understand the covenants to understand the Bible Thomas R. Schreiner writes, “If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures.

Why churches and church leaders need curiosity Barnabas Piper writes, “In order to represent God to the world we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life.”

Why do some pastors deliberately avoid teaching doctrine? Jim Eliff writes, ”. . . I’ve watched an unintentional doctrinal imprecision on the part of many pastors become intentional. . . . . Simply stated it is the “wisdom” of attempting to circle in more people for our churches by unashamedly minimizing, or perhaps nearly eradicating, the restricting influences of doctrine.

The Weight of Glory: C. S. Lewis’s remarkable (and surprising) sermon On 8th June, 1941, in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C.S. Lewis delivered one of the most famous sermons of the twentieth century. Justin Taylor writes, “Do we know that Lewis takes some surprising turns in this address, . . . . But if you could use some motivation or guidance, or simply want a substantial overview of the whole thing, I’ve tried my best to summarize the whole thing, tracing the various places Lewis takes us in this profoundly and edifying meditation.”

Book review: A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester Right through the Bible we find God Himself inviting people to feast at His table. It’s no coincidence that there’s a meal at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible. In this book, Tim Chester picks up this theme of the meal and takes us through Luke’s Gospel. He opens up the meaning of the meal for Jesus and for us, and places this theme in the context of the whole Bible story. And, as Arthur Sido comments: “Tim is calling the church back to a place where deliberate, intentional sharing of our food, our home and our time takes priority in the life of the church . . . .”

He’s still risen What would it be like today if the followers of Jesus suddenly heard – for the very first time – that He had risen from the dead? This video imagines the scene.

Why we must understand the covenants to understand the Bible..

Thomas R. Schreiner writes, “The Bible isn’t a random collection of laws, moral principles, and stories. It is a story that goes somewhere; it is the story of redemption, the story of God’s kingdom. And the story unfolds and advances through the covenants God made with his people. If we don’t understand the covenants, we will not and cannot understand the Bible because we won’t understand how the story fits together. The best way to see this is by quickly surveying the covenants in the Scriptures.” Dr Schreiner then briefly overviews these covenants: the covenant of creation, the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel, and David, and the New Covenant. Read the whole article HERE. Dr Schreiner also overviews these Bible covenants in his book Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World: read the publisher’s description HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Why churches and church leaders need curiosity.

Barnabas Piper writes, “Humans are unique. God did not make anything else in His image. . . . . Author Joe Rigney explains the most significant implication this way: “Being made in God’s image is a vocation, something that we are called by God to do and to be.” A vocation, a calling, a work we are to dedicate out lives to. That means it is on purpose and with a purpose, not just a state of being. . . . . We must reflect God intentionally each day.”

“What this means for the Church, and for churches, is profound. We are a community of image-bearers, each uniquely gifted and tasked to reflect something particular of God. . . . . . . our reflection of God is not passive. . . . . We reflect on purpose, with intention, by taking action. One of those actions is discovery – about God Himself. In order to represent God to the world we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life. . . . . We need someone to teach us and show us what it means to live in godly curiosity. That is the job of church leaders.”

Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Why do some pastors deliberately avoid teaching doctrine?

Jim Eliff writes, ”I have been involved in leading churches for four decades, with an emphasis on church planting in the last few years. I’ve also visited and addressed hundreds of churches around the world and have had the privilege of meeting thousands of Christian leaders. Through this time I’ve watched an unintentional doctrinal imprecision on the part of many pastors become intentional. . . . . Simply stated it is the ‘wisdom’ of attempting to circle in more people for our churches by unashamedly minimizing, or perhaps nearly eradicating, the restricting influences of doctrine. . . . . The problem is, it works.”

He comments, “In all of this acceptance of doctrinal sloppiness and miasma of beliefs, I find that many have totally disregarded a tenet that should be obvious to any Bible reader. I mean this: The apostles began churches with the intent to grow them as solidly as possible by means of a steady and meticulous interest in doctrine. The biblical data is overwhelmingly in line with this conclusion.”

He concludes: “We must be loving and comforting, praying and available, transparent and visionary, but as leaders we cannot dismiss what God insists on. . . . . Therefore give yourself to sound doctrine and make much of it from now on. If you cannot do this, resign. And if you are not a pastor, but a listener, go to those responsible for dispensing the truth with a sincere appeal for them to teach you doctrine without compromise. Tell them you cannot grow without it.”

Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Weight of Glory: C. S. Lewis’s remarkable (and surprising) sermon.

On 8th June, 1941, in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C.S. Lewis delivered one of the most famous sermons of the twentieth century. Justin Taylor, of the Gospel Coalition, writes, “I suspect that this celebrated address is more ‘sampled’ than read straight through and understood in full. Many of us know the famous opening, where Lewis observes that we have settled for mud pies in the slum, ignorant of a holiday at the sea, and that we are far too easily pleased. Or we might know his section observing that we have never met a mere mortal. But what is the argument of the piece as a whole? Do we know that Lewis takes some surprising turns in this address, . . . . But if you could use some motivation or guidance, or simply want a substantial overview of the whole thing, I’ve tried my best to summarize the whole thing, tracing the various places Lewis takes us in this profoundly and edifying meditation.”

Here are two well-known passages in Lewis’s sermon – (passages that have been quoted, in full or in part, innumerable times):

“. . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. . . . . It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

Read Justin Taylor’s whole article HERE. Justin also gives a historical overview of that sermon and tells us about this sermon’s subsequent influence HERE. Read the original sermon HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus, meals, covenants, eating, church, fellowship

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table by Tim Chester.

Right through the Bible we find God Himself inviting people to feast at His table. He invites them to enjoy fellowship with Him, to enter His ‘family circle’. It’s no coincidence that there’s a meal at the very beginning and the very end of the Bible. God offered Adam and Eve the fruit of the Tree of Life (Genesis 2.9,16-17). But they ate from another tree; they refused fellowship with God. From that moment, God wanted to bring mankind back to His table – back into fellowship with Him.

So we find God inviting people to His table. In the Old Testament, there’s the annual Passover meal. When God made a covenant with Israel through Moses, chosen representatives of Israel banqueted with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24.9-11). And among the various sacrifices there was the fellowship offering – the sacrifice that the offerer and his companions ate together in God’s presence. Before His crucifixion, Jesus shared a meal with His disciples – the Last Supper. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper with our brothers and sisters at the central act of our life together as God’s people.

And when God’s Kingdom arrives in its final glory, God’s people will enjoy “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19.9). They will feast with Jesus for eternity – they’ll enjoy eternal fellowship with Him in the new heaven and Earth.

In this book (which I reviewed earlier HERE) Tim Chester picks up this theme of the meal and takes us through Luke’s Gospel. He opens up the meaning of the meal for Jesus and for us, and places this theme in the context of the whole Bible story. And, as one reviewer on Amazon.com, Arthur Sido, comments: “Tim is calling the church back to a place where deliberate, intentional sharing of our food, our home and our time takes priority in the life of the church . . . .”

This book is published by IVP and Crossway. Read IVP’s description HERE and Crossway’s HERE. Read the introduction HERE. Tim Challies reviews it HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

What would it be like today if the followers of Jesus suddenly heard – for the very first time – that He had risen from the dead? This brief video imagines the scene.

See the publisher’s page HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 6 (13 April 2018)

“On the Third Day”: what Jesus and the apostles saw when they read the Old Testament “. . . Jesus Himself pointed to the experience of the prophet Jonah as a sign that he would die and rise in three days (Matthew 12:40). . . . this prompts the question: Are there other “third day” references in the Old Testament that signified Jesus’s greater resurrection? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.”

The Genesis of theology The book of Genesis has been called ‘the seed plot of the Bible’. Here are four theological themes that ‘germinate’ in the first two chapters of Genesis.

The hottest thing at church today “is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus.”

Pastors’ forum: evangelism and discipleship in the local church Nine pastors were asked about practical ways in which they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. Here are their responses.

10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology “. . . archaeological findings . . . have the potential to enrich our understanding and draw us into the world of the biblical writers—giving us a glimpse of the ancient world behind the living Word.”

“On the Third Day”: what Jesus and the apostles saw when they read the Old Testament

”Christ . . . was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15.3–4). Bruce Forsee writes, “Jesus knew that he had come to die, and he taught his disciples not only that he would die and rise again, but specifically that he would rise on the third day. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised“ (Matthew 16:21).

The apostle Paul indicates that the third-day resurrection was even indicated in the Old Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:4 he claims Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” . . . Jesus Himself pointed to the experience of the prophet Jonah as a sign that he would die and rise in three days (Matthew 12:40). If Jonah’s “resurrection” on the third day pointed to Christ’s resurrection, this prompts the question: Are there other “third day” references in the Old Testament that signified Jesus’s greater resurrection? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.” Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Genesis of theology

Nick Batzig introduces four key theological themes that we find in the very first two chapters of the Bible – a theology of creation and new creation, of time and space, of separation, and of sanctification. Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The hottest thing at church today

Tim Challies writes, “According to a new study by Gallup, the hottest thing at church today is not the worship and not the pastor. It’s not the smoke and lights and it’s not the hip and relevant youth programs. It’s not even the organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe. The hottest thing at church today is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus.” Read the whole article HERE.

Read the report of the Gallup poll HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Pastors’ forum: evangelism and discipleship in the local church

Nine pastors were asked about practical ways in which they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. These pastors’ answers are worth reading. This is ‘where the rubber hits the road’ for us and our local church for fulfilling Jesus’s ‘great commission’ of Matthew 28.18-20.

Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

Image from Wikimedia. Image from the website of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; original photograph by Ardon Bar Hama.

Photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The central column contains the text of Isaiah 53.13 to part of 54.4. This portion contains the wonderful prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sufferings for us on the Cross. This scroll is dated from around 125 BC, and was therefore written before Christ fulfilled this prophecy. The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the 10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology that are described in the following article.

10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology

Tim Challies writes: “Biblical archaeology is a wide field offering modern readers fascinating insights into the everyday lives of people mentioned in the Bible. . . . . Here are the ten most significant discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology.” Read the whole article HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Bible story captured in stained glass

Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino, in California, USA, installed the stained glass window, shown below, in 2007. It is 23 feet high, and dominates the auditorium of the church. This window is not only a breathtaking piece of art. It’s also a wonderful teaching tool, telling the Bible story in a series of images through the window. At the centre, and dominating the window, is a cross. Another striking element is the rainbow that flows around the top of the cross, from the first vertical panel on the left, right through and into the final vertical panel on the right. The window was designed by Bernard Bell, a pastor of that church, who called it The Big Picture. He hopes that the window will form and shape an understanding of the great story told in the Bible in both adults and children.

Shortly after its installation, Bernard Bell preached a sermon explaining the window. He said, “Our service today is shaped around our new window. You’ve had a couple of weeks to look at this window, to figure out what is in it. It has been fun to watch you reading the window, especially to see you reading it with your kids. This window is indeed designed to be read, just like the stained glass windows of the old cathedrals in Europe. The Bible is a story, the great story of God’s involvement with the world and of human response to him. This window tells that story pictorially; it is to be read as a story. The window is structurally designed in four vertical bays, but thematically designed as five acts with a prelude. The prelude is God himself. The five acts are the five major stages in his dealings with the world: creation, Israel, Christ, church, and consummation.” Click HERE to read the rest of this sermon; it’s also available as a PDF HERE.

Bernard preached two other sermons relating to this window. A sermon entitled A Window on Advent is available in audio and written formats (including a PDF version) HERE. A sermon entitled Stories and the Story is available in audio and written formats (including a PDF version) HERE.

The window was featured in the local newspaper, the Cupertino Courier. Read the journal’s article HERE.

The Friday Briefing 3 (23 March 2018)

Welcome to the third issue of The Friday Briefing. (If you missed the first and second, they’re available HERE and HERE.) The aim of this weekly briefing is to introduce a wide range of books, articles, and audio and video resources helpful for studying the Bible, for Biblical thinking and understanding, and for Christian discipleship. It will also include quotations that I’ve found thought-provoking and significant. There’ll also be alerts to material uploaded on this site.

The greatest drama ever staged

The gift of pain (Genesis 3.16-19)

We have lost the sense of God

I’m a modern woman who loves my church’s all-male pastor’s rule

Book review: Easter Enigma by John Wenham

The real reason you love music

The greatest drama ever staged

Here is a bracing argument for the importance and dramatic impact of Christian theology from the pen of Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957), an English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, and translator. Written over 50 years ago, it’s relevance remains. She writes: “Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as ‘a bad press’. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – ‘dull dogma’, as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man – and the dogma is the drama.”

”That drama is summarized quite dearly in the creeds of the Church, and if we think it dull it is because we either have never really read those amazing documents, or have recited them so often and so mechanically as to have lost all sense of their meaning. The plot pivots upon a single character, and the whole action is the answer to a single central problem: What think ye of Christ?

Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The gift of pain (Genesis 3.16-19)

Bernard Bell, a pastor at Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino, San Fransisco, writes: ”America should be the happiest country on earth. It is officially founded on the ‘self-evident’, God-given, ‘unalienable’ right to pursue happiness. Yet there is a lot of pain in this country: physical, emotional, psychological. Despite the highest per-capita spending on health-care we rank near the bottom in the West on any measure of health. Despite massive consumption of painkillers the pain persists. Despite numerous counselors the anguish endures.”

”Many who have visited Third World countries on mission trips have been struck by how happy people seem, even though they live in relative poverty, with poor access to health care and no painkillers. Many of us know people who have remained remarkably joyful in the midst of great pain: they don’t deny the pain, but the pain doesn’t paralyze their lives. In short, there does not seem to be a direct correlation between pain, suffering and happiness.”

”We wish the pain would go away, but pain is valuable. . . . . Today I want to rehabilitate pain, not by removing it, but by showing its positive effects.” Bernard concludes, “The antidote to pain is not Tylenol. It’s not relationships, or marriage, or family, or work. It’s certainly not death. The antidote to pain is God. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God uses pain as a tool to keep us from ourselves, to keep us from enjoying lesser things too much, to keep us from being too easily pleased.”

Read the whole message HERE

This message is part of series preached by Bernard Bell entitled Genesis 1-11: Our Story of Origins. The whole series is available HERE. This series can be downloaded in a single PDF file HERE and as a single EPub document HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

We have lost the sense of God

Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, writes: “After my last blog post in which I addressed the issue of believers abandoning going to church on a Sunday in preference for watching a football match, I tossed and turned most of the night. I kept asking myself how believers could do this. I could not understand how even pastors are now joining in this revelry with a clear conscience. I mean, how?

”I was sure that the football craze that had engulfed this generation is only a symptom of a greater disease. But what was that disease? That is the question I was wrestling with. By the time the sun rose, I think that I had an answer. The best way to phrase it is by the title of this blog post: We have lost the sense of God. I know that this sounds like an outlandish accusation but that is because we are comparing ourselves with ourselves. Hear me out.” Read the whole article HERE

You can learn a little more about Conrad Mbewe here HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

I’m a modern woman who loves my church’s all-male pastor’s rule

Katy Faust writes, “I know plenty of women who are incredible leaders and gifted speakers who can expound, exegete, and exhort as well as Keller or Piper, Pratt or Chan. But I don’t believe those gifted women should be lead pastors of the local church. . . . . While I believe the most biblical position prohibits women as elders and pastors, here I’ll try to outline a more pragmatic argument.” Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

Book review: Easter Enigma by John Wenham

This book brings vividly to life the events of the Resurrection that we will be celebrating this Easter. Easter Enigma weaves together the five accounts of Jesus’s Resurrection and His subsequent appearances, and gives us a compelling overview of what happened during those momentous 40 days. This book had an unforgettable impact on me when I first read it. It took me into the events of Jesus’s Resurrection and subsequent appearances in such a way that I felt that I could almost have been there in person when these momentous events took place.

Read the whole review HERE.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The real reason you love music

Gavin Ortlund muses on why we love music. He writes, “As someone who studies theology, I’m interested in the philosophy of music. What does music mean? Is it merely pleasant—’auditory cheesecake’, as Steven Pinker puts it—or does it actually have a significance that corresponds to its effect on us?”

Gavin comments: “If a triune God created the world as a work of art—not out of necessity, but out of love and freedom—then music can be understood, along with everything beautiful in the world, as a faint reflection of the pre-temporal glory of God. It is a tiny echo of what was happening before time and space. What rhythm and harmony are trying to do, however imperfectly, is trace out something of that love and joy that has been forever pulsating between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Read the whole article HERE. And – as a pointer to the joy that music can bring us – here’s a video of the U.S. Air Force Band treating visitors to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to a flash mob performance of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring/Joy to the World.

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Friday Briefing 2 (16 March 2018)

Welcome to the second issue of The Friday Briefing. (If you missed the first, it’s available HERE. The aim of this weekly briefing is to introduce a wide range of books, articles, and audio and video resources helpful for studying the Bible, for Biblical thinking and understanding, and for Christian discipleship. It will also include quotations that I’ve found thought-provoking and significant. There’ll also be alerts to material uploaded on this site.

Three reasons to keep reading the Old Testament

The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15

7 theological issues confronting the local church

The assumption we cannot afford

A golden age in Christian publishing

The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.21-35) – a sermon

Three reasons to keep reading the Old Testament

Aaron Armstrong comments, “The Old Testament causes much consternation among North American evangelicals. Although historically, Christians have embraced the Old Testament as being absolutely essential to the Christian life—I believe the first person to do this was Jesus—somewhere along the way, we got scared of it.” Aaron gives us “three reasons to keep the Old Testament front and center” HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15

After Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the serpent, who had tempted them, (Genesis 3.14-15) and pronounced judgment on Eve (Genesis 3.16) and Adam (Genesis 3.17-19). To the serpent, he said, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, “God’s first act of judgment in the Bible is accompanied by his first promise of salvation, and the salvation will come through the judgment. As the serpent is cursed, he is told that he will proceed on his belly and that he will eat dust (Gen 3:14). Further, enmity is placed between him and the woman, and between his seed and the seed of the woman. This enmity will issue in the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent (3:15).” In his article, Dr. Hamilton highlights “the theme of the head crushing seed of the woman in the Bible.” He continues, “Even if at many points my interpretation of the data is disputed, this study will nevertheless contribute a catalog of the intertextual use of the theme of the smashing of the skulls of the enemies of God.” Dr. Hamilton finds imagery from Genesis 3.15 in many texts in both the Old and New Testaments – in his words, “the seed of the woman crushing the head(s) of the seed of the serpent, . . . shattered enemies, trampled enemies, dust eating defeated enemies, and smashed serpents.”

Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

7 theological issues confronting the local church

Jason K. Allen comments that in every era, Christians are called “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). He writes, “Some struggles recur in every generation. Battles such as the veracity of Scripture or the person and work of Christ are perennial ones. The church, again and again, has to articulate and defend these doctrines. Other battles, such as the Bible’s teaching on marriage, gender, and human sexuality, seem to appear out of nowhere, and require the church to be agile, quick, and forceful in response. Christians are not to be pugilists, always on the look out for doctrinal fights. But we better not be cowards either, unwilling to find one. In fact, Martin Luther—the reluctant reformer—serves as a good role model. Luther challenged the ruling ecclesiastical and magisterial authorities of his day, under constant threat of death, because his “conscience was bound to the Word of God.” . . . . In the spirit of Luther, the church—and especially those who lead it—must continually ask itself, “where is the battle raging? Which truths are under assault? Against what attacks should Christians mobilize and engage?” When considered in this light, seven theological challenges surface for the church to confront.”

Read about those seven theological challenges HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The assumption we cannot afford

Jen Wilkin writes, “We ended another year of women’s Bible study last Tuesday: eleven weeks in the epistles of John and eleven weeks in James. Fifty-four different churches were represented in our enrollment this year. A couple thousand more women podcast from around the country. At the conclusion I was deluged with cards and e-mails from participants expressing their gratitude, reflecting on what they had learned, and, almost uniformly, uttering a confession I have heard so often that it no longer surprises. . . . . Their confession is this: ‘I’ve been in church for years, but no one has taught me to study my Bible until now.’ . . . . . . . it is terrifying to me that so many women log years in the church and remain unlearned in the Scriptures. . . . . Church leaders, I fear we have made a costly and erroneous assumption about those we lead. I fear that in our enthusiasm to teach about finances, gender roles, healthy relationships, purity, culture wars, and even theology we have neglected to build foundational understanding of the Scriptures among our people.”

Jen urges us to “. . . teach the Bible.” She continues, “Please hear me. We must teach the Bible, and we must do so in such a way that those sitting under our teaching learn to feed themselves rather than rely solely on us to feed them.”

Read the whole article HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

A golden age in Christian publishing

Tim Challies sometimes finds himself “grumbling a little bit about the state of publishing today, and especially the state of Christian publishing. Many of the big publishers have been gobbled up by corporations whose primary concern is not the glory of God but the health of the bottom line. Some of the medium-sized publishers seem to collect any and every rambling word of the popular pastors and personalities so they can slap those words on paper. Many of the smallest publishers are churning out books that simply do not deserve to be printed. New tools for self-publishing allow anyone with an idea to commit it to paper and distribute it as widely as they can. And that’s not all that is concerning or annoying. There are the thousands of truly awful, unbiblical books being published each year, and the fact that the bestseller lists are inevitably dominated by titles that are not only bad, but often downright dangerous.”

But he continues: “And yet, when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless.” Tim brings evidence for this HERE

Click here to go back to table of contents

The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.21-35) – a sermon

Mark Stirling, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in St. Andrews, Scotland, gets to the heart of this powerfully challenging parable about forgiveness. In this message, Mark says: “if we don’t forgive other people, then we have failed to grasp the character of God Himself.” He comments: “Over the years that [my wife and I] have been involved in various aspects of Christian ministry, we would say that this issue of unforgiveness is one of the major stumblingblocks . . . towards people . . . becoming the people that God has made them to be.”

Mark points out that simply and humbly to receive from God, knowing that we cannot pay Him back, that we cannot earn our forgiveness, changes who’s in charge of our lives. If we try to pay God back, we remain in control of our lives. But to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness takes our self off the throne of our lives.

Listen to the whole sermon HERE (it’s the fourth message down from the top).

Click here to go back to table of contents

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Book review – ‘Bound Together’ by Chris Brauns

Cover for Brauns C. 'Bound Together'

Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices by Chris Brauns.

Bound Together is a highly readable and engaging book on a vital yet often neglected truth. Here’s the publisher’s commendation: “We are not just isolated individuals. Instead, our lives are woven together with others. We have solidarity with other people—the choices one person makes affects the lives of others, for good and for bad. Because much of the pain we endure in life is in the context of relationships, this truth often strikes us as unfair. Why should a child suffer because of the choices of his parents? And on a grander scale, why do we all suffer the curse of Adam’s sin? Why should anyone be judged for someone else’s sin? In Bound Together, Chris Brauns unpacks the truth that we are bound to one another and to the whole of creation. He calls this, “the principle of the rope.” Grasping this foundational principle sheds new light on marriage, the dynamics of family relationships, and the reason why everyone lives with the consequences of the sins that others commit. Brauns shows how the principle of the rope is both bad news and good news, revealing a depth to the message of the gospel that many of us have never seen before.”

In chapters 2, 3 and 4, Chris explains two vital truths – truths that lie at the heart of the Gospel message.

 People’s union with the first man, Adam. In chapter 2, Chris explains how everyone has been bound to Adam. So, when Adam committed his first sin in the Garden of Eden, every human was involved in that sin. This is what is called the doctrine of ‘original sin’.

 Believers’ union with Christ. Everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ for their salvation is, so to speak, unbound from Adam and bound to Jesus Christ. They are united with Christ. In other words, they are, as Paul often says, “in Christ”. And that changes everything. Robert Letham writes, “Union with Christ is right at the center of the Christian doctrine of salvation”. In chapters 3 and 4, Chris explains what it means for believers to be united with Christ and takes us through images that the Bible uses to illustrate this union.

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California writes: “In Bound Together, Chris Brauns cleverly unpacks two key theological concepts—union with Christ, and original sin—and manages to explain them in a way that any reader can understand. Highly recommended.”

View the publisher’s description page HERE.

Read some reviews HERE and HERE.

Chris Brauns’ website A Brick in the Valley is HERE. I recommend it.

Chris Brauns is senior pastor of the The Red Brick Church, Stillman Valley, Illinois, United States. He is the author of three books and numerous articles. Chris and his wife Jamie have four children. You can read more about Chris background HERE.