The Friday Briefing 17 (7 December 2018)

What is the greatest of all Protestant ‘heresies’ Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621), a key figure in the sixteenth-century Counter-Reformation, once wrote, “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .”What do you think that heresy is? Dr Sinclair Ferguson explains.

Australian church leaders, prepare your people for persecution
Campbell Markham exhorts leaders in the Australian churches – an exhortation equally relevant to church leaders in many other countries: “Prepare your churches for persecution, and particularly your young people. You have no time to lose. And give them the priceless gift of gospel clarity. No Christian will survive persecution if they do not have a very clear, comprehensive, and precise understanding and conviction about the gospel.”

Hidden gems Nathan Young asks why it is that some people in a local church, though having definite potential for serving in in that church, get passed over. He asks, ”Who are the hidden gems in your church?”

3 classic poems every Christian should read Leland Ryken introduces us to three classic poems which he says “should be read and cherished by Christians today”.

Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away (Communion Hymn) Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty wrote this wonderful hymn specifically for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

What is the greatest of all Protestant ‘heresies’?

Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement. How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies?” And why does Dr Ferguson exclaim “The greatest of all heresies? If heresy, let me enjoy this most blessed of ‘heresies’!” Read Dr. Ferguson’s article HERE.

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Australian church leaders, prepare your people for persecution.

Last year an 18-year-old Australian Christian called Madeline, who worked as a contractor for the children’s entertainment company Capital Kids Parties, had her contract ended after posting a picture on Facebook with the filter ‘It’s OK to Vote No’ (in other words, ‘No’ to same-sex marriage] in the run-up to the Australian Parliament’s vote on whether to legalise same-sex marriage.

Campbell Markham writes, “We live and worship within a growing hostile environment. How are we going to go? How must we respond to this change?” His comments are, of course, relevant to Christians in many other countries.

Markham comments, “I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be legally restricted in their ability to speak out and live out their faith in the public sphere.  . . . . I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that Christians will be forbidden to educate their children the way they want to. . . . . I expect, within the remainder of my lifetime, that professing Christians will begin to be barred from such professions as law, education, healthcare, the academy, and the civil service.”

Markham exhorts leaders in the church: “Prepare your churches for persecution, and particularly your young people. You have no time to lose. And give them the priceless gift of gospel clarity. No Christian will survive persecution if they do not have a very clear, comprehensive, and precise understanding and conviction about the gospel. Only the gospel will hold us up upright under the hail of persecution’s arrows.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Hidden gems.

Nathan Young writes, “Picture a small church with under 15 members, the pastor is working class, as are a couple of the core team members. . . . . This church not only has a desire to reach working class people, but also wants to train and disciple working-class people for future ministry and service. Imagine that a young woman from the local estate starts attending – she’s professing faith but is still uncertain on some theological issues and rough around the edges. She knows the community and has no problems sharing her faith. She might not be a ready-made female gospel worker, but there’s definitely future potential. The question is: why did one of the elders not see that future potential until it was pointed out to him? Of course, this small church is real – it’s New Life Church Middlesbrough, and the short-sighted elder was me.”

In answering this question, Stone makes the following observation, “In his lecture ‘The Inner Ring’, C.S. Lewis starts by talking about the character Boris Dubretskoy from War and Peace. Young Boris learns that in the army there is both the formal structure made up of officers, lieutenants and corporals, but there is a second, unspoken organisation which transcends all of that, where some people somehow belong and some people simply don’t. . . . . Could this be the problem in our churches?” I think Stone has highlighted an important point – and one that perhaps every church leader needs to consider.

Read the whole article HERE.

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3 classic poems every Christian should read.

Leland Ryken introduces us to three classic poems which he says “should be read and cherished by Christians today” – one each by John Milton (1608-1674), Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) and Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889). Along with the text, Dr. Ryken includes some commentary. Read the whole article HERE.

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Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away (Communion Hymn).

This is a wonderful hymn from Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty. It was written specifically for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Townend writes, “When I’m preparing to write a lyric, I usually gather together everything I can find in the Scriptures on a particular theme, so I can get as comprehensive a picture as possible of what the bible teaches. And as I did that, three aspects of communion became clear: the act of remembering and celebrating Christ’s death through eating bread and drinking wine; the expression of being one in Christ through sharing in one bread and one cup; and the proclamation of Christ’s return.”

The lyrics and other information are available on Stuart Townend’s website page for this song HERE.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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