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Glory veiled and unveiled
Here’s an interview with my NT colleague, Dr Gerald Bilkes, about his superb new book on Christ’s parables.

Why expostory preaching is the power for pastoral ministry
Michael Milton gives eight reasons.

How to lose friends and alienate Twitter followers
Five social media mistakes.  #1 particularly bugs me.

Young Pastor, Old Member
How should old members relate to young pastors?

A prayer for (and in) Congress
If you had the opportunity to pray with our political leaders, what would you pray? Here’s what Adam McHugh (author of Introverted Church) prayed in the House of Representatives this week.

Reflections on 10 years of ministry
My Pastor gave a wonderful chapel address which I’d love every pastor to hear. Little slow to get going, but the last 30 mins are priceless.


What is truth?

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“What is truth?”

Pontius Pilate’s not the only one who asked that question. I’m sure we’ve all asked it from time to time. It’s certainly a very common question today. And the answers vary hugely.

Many answer, “Science is truth.” They say that the only truth there is is truth that science can prove. The only truth there is is truth that can be empirically verified – it can be seen, touched, heard – it can be demonstrated to be true by scientific experiments.

Others say, “There is no truth.” It doesn’t exist. We can have opinions, feelings, strong sentiments, but there are no such things as “truths.”

More commonly, people say, “It’s impossible to know what’s true.” They are not denying the existence of truth only the possibility of discovering it and knowing it for sure. It may be out there but who’s to say what’s true for sure?

“What’s true for you may not be true for me,” is another response. The idea is that we can all have our own truth, but we must not force it on to others or try to change other’s truths. Truth depends on the person, the place, the time, the situation.

“Everything is truth!” Sounds so ridiculous, but it’s an increasingly popular view. You can have 100 philosophies or 100 religions all saying completely different and contradictory things, and yet these people will say that it’s all true! These are just different roads to the ultimate truth. We certainly mustn’t ever say that something is false!

Or what about “My lie is truth.” OK, no one ever actually says that. But if you think of all the false religions and cults in the world, that’s effectively what their advocates are saying. They are holding on to a lie and yet they are proclaiming, “This is the truth.”

So what is truth? The Bible is the truth. Or, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism 2 says:

The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

What does this answer tell us about the Bible?

First, it tells us that this is Divine Truth

“THE WORD OF GOD which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments… “God has the Truth and He’s made it known in the Bible.

Second, it is Directive Truth.

“The Word of God…is the only rule to DIRECT US.” This is not advice. God’s saying “This is truth. Believe it. Follow it.”

Third it is Delightful Truth

It “directs us how we may GLORIFY AND ENJOY HIM.” There’s delight for God there (we glorify Him), and there’s delight for us too (we enjoy Him).

Fourth, it is Dependable Truth

The next Catechism answer, number 3, states: “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to BELIEVE concerning God…” We are to believe what God has revealed. We are to trust it, depend upon it, lean our whole lives upon it.

And fifth, it is Demanding Truth

“…and what DUTY God requires of man.” The Bible is very practical. It’s not just about what we are to believe but also about what we are to do. God expects us to respond to His Word with faith and obedience.

Thanks again to my son Angus who is filming and editing this series. The previous films on the Westminster Shorter Catechism are:
Introduction: A Summary not a Substitute
Q1: Why am I here?

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Is it right for a Christian to take anti-depressants?
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10 encouraging items about the purchase of this new building
Really enjoyed this, and all the exciting memories it evoked of the time my last congregation put up a new Church building.

Email Zero: Imagining life without email
Very, very tempting!

7 Things the church expects from the seminary
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Hazardous Journeys
Some really beautiful videography here.

Tullian: The Gospel is Jesus
Really enjoyed the Christ-centered answer Tullian Tchividjian gave in the first couple of minutes of this video. Too often we talk of the Gospel as an “it” when it’s really a “He.”

Franklin Graham apologizes to President Obama

Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said that he now accepts Obama’s declarations that he is a Christian. In a statement, issued Tuesday, Graham said:

I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama…I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.

This is the right decision and I admire Graham for doing this. While we are called to compare a person’s profession of faith with the fruits that are evident in their lives (Matt. 7:16-18), I believe that Franklin Graham’s original comments were wrong, and that for the following reasons:

  • It’s one thing to bring your concerns about a person’s faith to that person in private, it’s another thing altogether to raise these concerns in front of millions on breakfast TV.
  • While we can certainly question whether a person’s particular policies and practices are consistent with a Christian profession, it’s a huge step from that to proclaiming that a person is not a Christian.
  • There have been previous Presidents whose lives have been contrary to their Christian claims, yet they have not been treated this way by Franklin Graham or his father. That incongruity is where the unfounded allegation of racism finds its energy.
  • While the seemingly “Christ-less” testimony President Obama told Graham about how he came to faith is very worrying, it was told in private, and should not have been re-told in public.
  • Graham’s criticisms of the President’s faith were not based on Scriptural marks, the fruits of faith,  but on the way he told his testimony.
  • Graham not only refused to say if President Obama was a Christian, he ended up giving more credibility to the allegation that he is actually a Muslim.
  • While saying that he was not in a position to say if anyone was not a Christian, he did just that with President Obama, and then pronounced that Rick Santorum definitely was a Christian.

Three lessons to be learned from this debacle:

1. Train: We have to admire Graham’s bravery for going into the lion’s den and contending for the Christian faith in the public square. But public spokesmen like Graham should also be constantly and thoroughly trained to deal with the tactics of an extremely hostile media. In this interview at least, Graham seemed to walk straight into their trap and, judging by his rambling and defensive remarks, was completely unprepared for the question.

2. Honor: In opposing some of the anti-Christian policies of President Obama, Christians must stand out from the rest of the opposition by continuing to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). And if we honor God in this way, we have the promise that He will also honor us (1 Sam. 2:30).

3. Pray: We should be much more prayerful for men like Franklin Graham, Al Mohler, James Dobson, etc., who have the opportunity and the courage to represent Christ in such a difficult arena. May God give them much wisdom and wise counselors to help them continue to bear witness faithfully and persuasively.

But we should also pray for President Obama and all who lead us that they would all be truly converted to Christ, or that they would follow Him far more consistently.

Here’s the original controversial interview.

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I have friends
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Problem with procrastination?
Gretchen Rubin has the answer: Try doing nothing!

3 Types of Elder’s Meetings
“After much trial and error, exploring what other churches are doing, and studying the Biblical role of eldership, we’ve landed on three types of elder meetings that take place each month.”

How our mobiles became Frankenstein’s monster
“How can we stop our phones becoming Frankenstein-like extensions of ourselves?”

Spiritual gifts inform us of our neediness
Never thought about it this way before. But I like it.

Counseling stories
“Of all the stories in the Bible I find myself turning to in counseling, perhaps there is none that I go to more often than the story of Joseph. For think of all that Joseph suffered that can relate to those around us. Mistreatment by family members. Difficult providential circumstances.  Sexual temptation. Long periods of insignificance and loneliness. Struggles with forgiveness. I have seen the Lord use in dramatic ways the telling of a portion of Joseph’s story.”

Was Abraham a flip-flopper?

As we saw yesterday, Paul says that Abraham, our prototype of faith, staggered not (or “wavered not”) at the promise of God (Rom. 4:20). However, when we read the Old Testament, it certainly seems as if he staggered and wavered. Twice he lied about Sarah being his sister in order to protect himself. And he also committed immorality with his servant.

In each of these incidents it looks very much like Abraham staggered. So how can Paul say he staggered not?

There are two ways of looking at this. The first is to say that Abraham was too much like Jacob. Hebrews tells us that Jacob was a believer who valued the Gospel promise and God’s blessing. However he repeatedly sought it the wrong way. Similarly it could be argued that we can preserve the unstaggering nature of Abraham’s faith by saying that even in his sin, he was seeking the fulfillment of the promise. He was sinning in a good cause – the pursuit of the blessing of the world!

Another way of looking at this, and the right way I believe, is to look at Abraham’s life as a whole. Although Abraham stumbled in a few incidents, and stumbled badly, the general tenor of his life was of unstaggering faith.

Flip-flop or slip-up
Perhaps some of our politicians might serve as good examples. One of the most devastating critiques that can be made of a politicians, as John Kerry found out in 2004, and as Mitty Romney is in the process of finding out, is that they’re a “flip-flopper.” A flip-flopper is someone whose whole life was going in one direction (liberal views on social issues, the role of government, etc.) when running for one office in one place, only then to go completely in the opposite direction (conservative views on social issues, etc), when running for another office in another place. No one likes a flip-flopper.

But there’s a difference between being a flip-flopper and making a few verbal stumbles about your policies under pressurized questioning. All politicians have slip-ups, but they don’t constitute the general direction of his policies and principles.

I’m proposing that we should view Abraham’s sins as “slip-ups” rather than “flip-flops.” They were stumbles (albeit very serious one) under huge pressure, but they did not constitute a total change of direction in his life.

Social and spiritual pressure
We have to remember the pressure Abraham was under. God had given him a new name “Abraham” meaning “Father of multitudes.” Can you imagine what that was like? When he met other nomads, or entered a city, and they asked his name, he would have to reply, “Father of multitudes.” “Oh, really!” they would reply, “How many children do you have?” “Well. None yet!” “None yet! You’re in your nineties!” and so on. What a social pressure.

But what a spiritual pressure too. Abraham’s whole salvation rested on him having a child. Without a child, there could be no blessing for him or the nations. Without the nation-blessing child there would be no crushing of the serpent’s head. Without that devil-defeating child, there was no salvation for Abraham or anyone. This wasn’t about wanting to be a daddy. This was a deep, deep struggle upon which his own and the nations’ salvation rested.

No wonder he stumbled a couple of times. And what an encouragement his stumbles are too, if I may say so. If Abraham was a perfect prototype, he wouldn’t be much help to the rest of us believers who have rolled off the assembly line of faith in subsequent years. He’s a great example of faith, but he’s also a great encouragement to belivers who have stumbled. Faith does not need to be perfect to save. But our faith must be in a perfect Someone to save us.