Sunday, September 30, 2007

Matthew's Totally Bizarre Brethren Adventure

Okay, this was an experience.

I was asked at short notice by a double-booked guest preacher to preach a Gospel message at a Brethren assembly. Very thankfully, one of the elders at my church agreed to come with me for moral support and to drive me in his car. This is a man with a real gift for encouragement. He came with me last time I preached.

The assembly evidently had a real heart for evangelism. When I arrived, they were singing hymns outside their Gospel Hall and giving an open air Gospel presentation.

I was ushered into a back room where I expected to be briefed on the service. However, instead I was attending a prayer meeting.

The service began with a gentleman leading with an hymn. He then handed over to me.

I began praching my sermon, then the thought occured to me that they were not expecting me to start preaching. They were expecting me to lead the service! I ignored this thought and carried on with my sermon on 2 Kings 6:11-17. I believe I preached with power and conviction and my sermon seemed to be well received.

After I had finished, I left the pulpit. There was a long silence. This was perhaps the most embarassing silence of my life.

They were expecting me to lead the service and I had not prepared for it. Why would I have done? I thought I was there to preach.

I hoped that perhaps the congregation might realise my mistake and somebody would jump in with some service content, like an hymn or prayer. Nothing was forthcoming.

I desperately searched the hymnbook for one I knew, but I was totally unfamiliar with this ancient hymnbook. I gave out an hymn number, which it turned out they did not know. Thankfully, somebody suggested another.

After this what next? I went back into the pulpit and gave a long prayer for the lost and for the suffering in Burma.

I then asked if anybody could suggest an hymn that they all knew. There was a long silence before somebody came up with a number.

The hymn was 'When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound.' That inspired me to read an excerpt from 1 Corinthians 15 and to launch into a mini-sermon that I had to make up on the spot.

I then closed in prayer and gave a benediction, ending the sermon after less than an hour.

Evidently, they were not that dismayed by my ministry, because they took my telephone number.

Churches and assemblies, please can I ask you to think carefully about preparing your guest preachers.

The elder who accompanied me said he had never in his ministry been put in a situation like that. We had a great laugh about it in the car and then when we got back to our church, we laughed about it with some of the preachers there.

The elder was very positive about my preaching. He likes my style a lot. His only complaint was that my sermon did not follow the passage very closely. However, he felt that perhaps given the circumstances that was not such a bad thing. It was certainly appropriate for a Gospel service. I think if I had more time to prepare, I would have given a slightly more expository sermon.

Anyway, I hope you will be edified by what I said:

2 Kings
11 ¶ Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?

12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Eli'sha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.

13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.

15 ¶ And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?

16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

17 And Eli'sha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Eli'sha.

In looking at this passage, I want to say something about faith.

The servant in this story is given special vision that he may see the wonderful creatures of heaven, God’s angels in their glory and in their power. But that is not the real wonder of this story. What is amazing in this story is that Elisha knew these things were there without needing the vision. He was able to say with certain confidence that ‘those that are for us are more than those that are against us.’ He had a spiritual insight that went beyond this world. His eyes were open to the things of heaven. The servant got into a panic because his thoughts were only of carnal things. He could not look beyond the material world. But Elisha saw with the eyes of faith that God was in control.

We are told in Hebrews that faith is the substance of things unseen. This is true for the Christian today. We have never laid eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not seen the wonderful kingdom that He will establish upon the earth. We have no seen the glorious heavenly city. The Christian has confidence that these things are certain, though she has never seen them.

Our Lord said ‘Thomas because thou hast seen me thou believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

There are two kinds of faith, the faith of the one who sees, and the faith of the one who does not see. The servant needed to see before he could believe. But Elisha, having the things of God in his thoughts could believe without sight.

That is not to say that a faith with sight is not a real faith. Our Lord told Thomas that he believed; in Greek have faith and believe are the same words. A lot of unbelievers think that faith is blind. That a man who has faith has no reason for believing. This is not so. The Bible that the Christian believes has been shown to be reliable. Nothing in the Bible has ever been demonstrated to be false. The Bible is not a book of stories, but a book of history. It concerns real men that we can read about in the pages of history books. We may not have seen Christ, but we have every reason to believe that He truly is risen from the dead. And if He is then His claim to guarantee eternal life to the believer is confirmed. We must look to Him for life and peace with God.

Just as Thomas looked upon the risen Christ and believed, we look to the pages of God’s Word and see that He is the resurrection and the life, the Son of God who gives everlasting life to those who place their trust in Him. The servant saw his vision and he believed. We look to the promises in God’s Word the Bible. And we see that Christ Jesus offers eternal life. It says ‘these things written that yet might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and in believing ye might have eternal life through His name.’

I would like to say something about the things that the servant sees in this vision.

The servant saw a legion of God’s angels. The Bible does not tell us all that we might like to know about angels, but it does tell us some things.

We as Christians believe in angels. A lot of unbelievers scoff at the notion of angels. They might believe in space aliens, but they don't believe in angels. Other people get obsessed with angels. If you go to most bookshops you can find lots of crazy books on angels. Did you know there is book entitled 'How to get the most out of your guardian angel'? These things are deceptions from Satan. They are of the Occult.

There are spiritual forces at work in this world. God rules a vast kingdom that includes thousands upon thousands of angels. We do not know all that they do, but they do his bidding.

The Bible does not say that everybody has a guardian ange, but we know that they are involved in our lives. Our Lord said that there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents. God’s angels delight in the salvation of sinners. If you turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, angels will rejoice at your conversion.

The chariots that the servant saw were fiery. God’s angels reflect His glory and his perfect holiness. The Bible says that God is a consuming fire. His holiness is unapproachable. It cannot accept that which is impure. But through Christ we are able to approach God and be cleansed, not through fire, but through Hs blood shed on the cross. Through the cross we can be reconciled to God. The apostle Paul says that Christians are made the righteousness of God in Christ. They have come to partake in God’s holiness and are made acceptable in Christ.

We also see that these angels are ready for war. Did you know that there are battles in the heavenly realms? There is war in heaven.

The Bible speaks of principalities and powers in the heavenly realms. These seem to exercise some kind of authority over this world. Just as God has His angels, Satan has his. God has His kingdom, Satan has his counterfeit kingdom. Satan is the god of this world. All of the governments and societies and false religions of this world are under Satan’s influence. That is why so much of man’s activity is directed against God or at least leaves God no part in directing it.

The politics of this world will occupy you with trying to make something of this world. You need Christ, not politics. The pleasures of this world will distract you from Christ. You need Him. The false religions of this world will tell you that you can approach God through your own efforts and by doing rituals.

The philosophy and the thinking of human society under Satan’s system is meant to teach man that he does not need God. That he make whatever he chooses of himself without God getting involved. From such a system we need to be delivered. And that deliverance is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will have the ultimate victory over Satan and his lies. This world will pass away, but Christ is going to establish His kingdom.

The fiery chariots in this passage were amazing. We read about the awesome cherub with the flaming sword in Genesis. We read about the fantastic Serpahim in Isaiah. Great as these angels may seem, Jesus Christ the Son of God surpasses all of them.

We read in Ephesians that Christ is exalted above every principality, every power, every might and every dominion. He is glorified over all. And those who are in Christ are likewise blessed over all. If you are in Christ you are seated with Him in the heavenly realms, far above every principality and power. We might well ask, like the Psalmist, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him?’ We are made a little lower than the angels and yet in Christ we can have the highest place in the universe. If we overcome, we can inherit all things. Let us set our minds on the glorious things of heaven. If we do that, like Elisha, we shall be able to have that discernment to look beyond this world and to the things of God. Let us set our affections on things above, not things below. Elisha had his mind on things above. He had seen Elijah, his predecessor taken up into heaven. Because he had his mind on things above he could look with the eyes of faith and see God at work. It is so easy to get caught up in our own plans and desires and be focused on this world. But this world is going to pass away. We must set our affections on things above, not things below.

If you are not in Christ. If you have not yet trusted in Him, I would urge you to look to the risen Christ. He is able to lift you up and bring you to share in the marvellous heavenly life that the Christian can enjoy. You can know God and have the confidence of being in His heavenly kingdom. I would say to you, look with the eyes of faith and receive that free gift of eternal life in Christ.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Major Panic! Need Prayer!

I have been asked at short notice (this morning) to preach at a Brethren assembly in Birmingham tomorrow evening.

I hate driving to Birmingham and I am worried about finding the place. Not to mention I need to get a message prepared.

Please pray!

Friday, September 28, 2007

I don't like Handel's Messiah

I think I am one of the few Evangelicals to enjoy Classical music while thoroughly disliking Handel's Messiah.

It is just too loud, brash and jolly. It is the Baroque equivalent of 'I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart (except with more lyrics).'

I like sacred choral music that has some solemnity and mystery in it. Give me Tallis, Palestrian, John Taverner or even some Gregorian chant, but not Handel's Messiah, please.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Englishness and Vaughan William's Fantasia on a theme from Tallis(1910)

Fantasia on a theme from Tallis is a piece of orchestral music based on a choral arrangement by the 16th century composer of sacred music, Thomas Tallis.

It is sometimes said that this is an extraordinarilly English compositions.

I must admit that the first time I heard it, it did not strike me as especially English-sounding. It has a mystical quality. It would not be out of place as the theme tune for an Old Testament epic movie.

However, when one appreciates the religious character of much of English history, the mysical flavour of the music captures the essence of an historic Englishness. It is the Englishness of the Oxford movement, the Englishness of William Blake, the Englishness of medieval monasticism and the Englishness of the King James Bible.

People today may not associate Englishness with fervour in religion, but England has a history of passionate religious devotion. This is a side of England which is not always appreciated or understood.

Fantasia projects the image of the landscape of England, the white cliffs, the rolling hills, the gentle forests. All is cloaked in an air of mysticism. The English landscape becomes a land of promise, a western Canaan, a land of legend.


I cooked a chicken and chorizo Jambalya tonight. I love cooking Jambalyas. It is almost my signature dish. I love the variety of textures in it.

My mother is moving out to go to Sussex this week, so it may be the last meal I cooked for her in a long time.

Geographical Dream

I had a dream last night that Turkey shared borders with Belgium and France.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Headcovering: What's the worst that could happen?

Some people say the women's headcovering in 1 Corinthians 11 was purely a cultural requirement and unnecessary today.

Supposing it was. Is there any harm in women wearing it today? What's the worst that could happen if Christian women do cover their heads?

Autumn Food Festival at St. Peter's Garden Centre, Worcester

Being the great lover of food and drink that I am, I attended the food festival held at St. Peter's Garden Centre. It is a while since I went to a garden centre. It is interesting perusing the huge variety of junk they sell. I particularly like the neoclassical garden statues of nymphs and goddesses.

There were lots of stalls selling locally produced food; meat, drink, vegatables, sauces and cakes. I bought a cake flavoured with Guiness, some wild boar burgers and some venison burgers.

There was also a permanent delicatessen at the garden centre from which I got some fine quality potato chips and a bottle of porter beer.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Goddess and the Beast

The Goddess and the Beast

I guess it is a while since I posted anything really fundamentalist.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sadly, they don't make them like that any more

The campus of my university is named after Francis Close, a 19th century Anglican clergyman. This vicar practically dominated the town of Cheltenham. He attended every important meeting that was held and had the ear of every dignitary in the town. His word wielded great influence. Francis Close once delightfully said:

In my humble opinion, the Bible is conservative, the Prayer Book is conservative, the liturgy is conservative, the Church is conservative, and it is impossible for a minister to open his mouth without being conservative.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Times Online: Come on, Mr Cameron, dig for victory

Times Online: Come on, Mr Cameron, dig for victory

article by William Rees-Mogg

Things are not so bleak for the Conservative party. The prospect of a Conservative election win is still a possibility.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Times Online: Wouldn’t you feel safer with a gun?

Times Online: Wouldn’t you feel safer with a gun?

article by Richard Munday

For once an article that rejects the consensus on guns.

Baltika Lager Again

I mentioned Baltika lager, the beer from Russia just a couple of days ago.

It seemed it is becoming more popular over here; I saw an advert for the stuff in a London newspaper yesterday.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Joseph Dillow and Creation

I have started reading Joseph Dillow's book, Reign of the Servant Kings. This book is really hard to come by in the UK, but I managed to get a secondhand copy.

I was fascinated to find in the introduction, that Dillow takes the view that the world was created in the prehistorical past and that Satan fell before the creation week. Over the last year, I have become inclined to take that view. I think it makes more sense of the cosmic significance of Satan's fall, the significance of man's creation and God's plan of forming an heavenly government of glorified humanity.

Times: BBC scraps plans for day-long TV special on climate change

Times: BBC scraps plans for day-long TV special on climate change

For once, the BBC makes a good decision.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Security Threats

It is ironic that on the day the European Parliment is debating removing the EU ban on liquids from hand luggage, a bomb plot is revealed in Germany.

The threat of terrorism is real and it is threatening Europe, even countries like Germany that did not get involved in the Iraq war.

I say we still need rigorous security checks on passengers and their hand luggage at airports.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My favorite lager

The best lager I have tried is definitely Baltika, from St.Petersburg, Russia. It really is very nice and flavoursome.

I have no idea whether it is being imported and sold in Tescos for Russian farm workers or for Polish immigrants who have overcome their historic enmity with Russsia.

Some basic economics

I knew an old godly famer who told me a story that demonstrates a basic economic principle.

This famer once acted as a financial partner to a man who started a business sawing wood. This man once suggested that he could cut down his own logs. My friend told him:

While I am your partner, you will do that over my dead body!

The fact is the man's idea was silly. If he were to cut down his own logs, during that time he could be sawing them. He could never cut down logs with the same efficency as a person who was logging for a living. Plus he would have to invest more time and money on transport.

Division of labour is essential to economic efficency. A man who practices every trade will be a master of none of them.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

How Unfortunate

My grandmother told me that today an Anglican bishop from South Africa preached in her Baptist church. The man had been involved in some protest against Climate Change.

Sadly, the man did not preach from the Bible, but gave a speech about the need for the government to do something to reduce carbon emissions. My grandmother was deeply disappointed at the lack of a sermon. She was also bothered by the fact that the bishop offered no prayers.

Meeting Jonathan Hunt

Today I met Jonathan Hunt, the blogger formerly known as Fatbaptist. He and his wife decided to visit Woodgreen Evangelical Church in Worcester for a change.

Jonathan is certainly a decent chap with a nice loud singing voice.

He is passionate about the church and the needs of churches, taking a great interest in worship, pastoral leadership and preaching. It is great to meet somebody who takes such a delight in the body of Christ.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Isaac Watts and the Trinity

I was having a discussion with Bobby Grow this week on the subject of theology and hymns.

Bobby Grow takes the position that we should never sing an hymn by an author who takes an heretical position on the Trinity.

To be consistent, that might mean abandoning such beloved hymns as 'When I survey the wondrous cross', as Isaac Watts was by no means orthodox on the subject of the Trinity. Jonathan Hunt linked to an helpful article on Watts.

Beware using Charismatic Language

I think it is unfortunate that some Non-Charismatics say things like this:

We need both the Word and the Spirit. We must not fall into the trap of having the one without the other.

The problem with using this kind of language is that it plays into the hands of the Charismatic who seeks experiences of the Spirit independently of the Word. The Charismatics will everywhere call for Christians to seek their special experiences of being 'filled with the Holy Spirit', usually accompanied by tongues and new revelations. When non-Charismatics talk about seeking a greater experience of the Holy Spirit, weak and immature Christians are likely to lead astray by the Charismatic approach. Many non-Charismatic churches have a dissident Charismatic minority who can play on this.

The truth is that we cannot have the one without the other, so it is unhelpful to talk about this as a possibility. If there is cold, dead preaching, without energy or power, it is not because the preacher has failed to seek 'more of the Holy Spirit' it is because there is something lacking in his obediance to the Word or in his faith in God's promises. He may be basing his Christian walk on the law, he may be failing to apply God's Word to his life or his prayer life may be deficent.

If we are truly living according to God's Word, then the HOly Spirit will be at work in our lives without our needing to worry about how to seek more of Him.

Alva McClain on Types

In this connection, I would like to encourage Christians who delight in finding the Lord Jesus Christ on every page in Scripture. Do not permit yourselves to be frightened by those overcautious souls who cry against what they call "too much typology." Doubtless there are some things which may properly be catalogued as "types" and others not. But whatever you may call it, it is the privilege and the highest duty of the Christian to discover and behold the face of the Lord Jesus Christ in Scripture- everywhere! Far better to break a few rules of classic hermeneutics than to miss the vision of His blessed face.

Law and Grace, p.67

I think this is such a wonderful paragraph.